10 things you need to foster a dog

We haven’t been fostering very long, but these 10 essential things have been SO helpful to us in our dog fostering adventure. So, here are some items to have on hand for your venture into the world of dog fostering.

Last day with Brando
A foster home is always full of crates. Foster Brando and Pyrrha.
  1. A crate. Crates will be your lifesaver! Crate training keeps a dog safe when you can’t watch them, prevents them from tearing up your house until they know better, separates dogs when necessary, and gives adjusting fosters a sense of security. Many fosters will be unused to crates, so it may be rough at first, but make the crate a happy place for sleeping and receiving good things. We give our fosters treats once they’re in their crates and reward them warmly when they are calmly crated. Never use the crate as a place of punishment! We love crates, and our dogs do, too!
  2. Baby gates. A corollary to crates, baby gates will also save your sanity as a new foster parent. Since you don’t want your dogs to always be crated, baby gates in key areas of the house will help you keep dogs separate while feeding or when you can’t keep an eye on one of them. We have a baby gate to our kitchen walkway, and it has been a huge help. We have this gate, and I really love it. The swinging door makes it much more convenient for humans, too!
  3. Martingale collar. I am a huge devotee of martingale collars, like the ones made by Premier. If you foster shy dogs, as we often do, being involved in German shepherd rescue, martingale collars will be immensely helpful to you. A nervous dog cannot back out of these collars, but they do not endlessly and dangerously tighten, like a choke collar. Love them. I have a martingale collar in every size for all of our fosters! (Note: We often just use martingales for walks and outings. They can catch on things if they are too big for the dog or during dog-on-dog play.)
  4. ID tag. Make some generic ID tags with your name, contact information, and address for your fosters, particularly if your rescue does not provide this for you. Make sure your foster is wearing this tag at all times! Jeffers Pet has some very affordable ID tags in a variety of sizes, and I bought a number of them with our info on it for our fosters to have, while we are waiting to get tags from Southeast German Shepherd Rescue (SGSR).
  5. Kongs, sterilized hollow bones, or other stuff-able toys. Dogs are going to get bored, and new fosters are likely going to be anxious about their new environment. A Kong or a hollow, sterilized bone, stuffed with something like kibble, canned pumpkin, or peanut butter is a great way to keep a dog occupied, happy, and out of trouble.
  6. Vehicle restraint. If you can’t fit a crate in your car, find an alternate method of restraint for a dog in your car. I made the mistake of assuming that other dogs would be as calm as our dog is in the car. Not so! (Brando, particularly, was a NIGHTMARE in the car.) Get a car harness that straps down or buckles into the seatbelt. Or get a grate that prevents the dog from clambering up into the front seat and endangering you while you drive. If you’re like us, you’ll probably be transporting your foster often, so a trustworthy method of vehicle restraint will be very helpful to you.
  7. Lots of old towels and blankets. I’ve given up on expensive dog beds. Our dog and our fosters like to rip them to shreds, and they can often be difficult to wash. Instead, I’ve been going to thrift stores and buying lots of old, cozy blankets and old towels to put in their crates. These can provide just as much comfort as a dog bed; they’re inexpensive; they’re easily replaceable; and they’re easy to clean in the event of accidents. (Old towels will also be very helpful in the car and around the house on wet, muddy days.)
  8. A trustworthy local groomer (or self-serve grooming station). Fosters often come in reeking of what we like to call “the shelter stank.” (You’ll know it once you’ve smelled it.) A reliable local groomer or a self-serve grooming station will be your best friend. Grooming makes a lot of dogs, especially rescue dogs from uncertain backgrounds, very nervous. We don’t have a great set-up at our home for bathing indoors, and so our local self-serve grooming operation has been a godsend. We’re huge fans of Wash & Wag!
  9. High-quality food. Most rescues have been eating pretty poorly. As SGSR recommends, we get our fosters on a high-quality kibble immediately. Grain-free kibble is important to me, so we are always researching what’s best for our dogs. Even though we can’t afford (financially or time-wise) to feed our dog or fosters raw, we are passionate about improving their health right away through a four- or five-star kibble. Dog Food Advisor provides great information and reviews on dog kibble.
  10. PATIENCE. And this is the most important thing of all! Foster parents need lots and lots of patience. But you probably knew this already. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding work. There’s nothing quite like helping a dog transform into a happy, healthy, functional member of a family!
Laszlo in the evening
Foster Laszlo with a toy.

For those more experienced fosters out there, what do you recommend? Anything I’ve missed on my list?

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A collection of classy and cozy collars

Tory Burch dog collar. Yeah, right.

The SPCA introduced me to one of the greatest pieces of dog gear: The martingale collar. Almost all of the dogs at the SPCA are fitted with a Premier martingale collar when they arrive. These collars, which tighten without choking, have saved me from losing an unruly and bucking pup many times. They are most useful for hounds, or for breeds with long necks who are easily able to slip out of standard collars, but I’m a huge fan of them and plan on getting one for my future dog, regardless of his or her breed or breed mix.

While we’ll probably just end up getting the standard, unfussy cloth martingale collar, here are some pretty collars I can daydream about…

2Hounds Design, $36.

Victorian Bronze martingale collar from 2Hounds Design, $36. 2Hounds has so many gorgeous, embroidered martingale collars. I know they’re typically just used for greyhounds, but I’d put one of these beauties on any dog.

Classic Hound martingale collars, $32.

Geo Flax martingale collars from Classic Hound, $32 for the large. I like the fabric on this collar a lot; it’s retro/trendy without being garish.

Classic Hound martingale collar, $34.

Desert Winds Blue martingale collar from Classic Hound, $34 for the large. Also really pretty. Apparently, I’m very partial to Eastern-inspired embroidery. These are probably only appropriate for lady dogs, though?

Stunt Puppy collar at Olive Green Dog, $22.

Stunt Puppy Biothane waterproof collar, $22 at Olive Green Dog. The promise of a stink-free collar is pretty tempting. It’s also apparently “one size fits most,” which is kind of amazing–but I think it is primarily for medium to large dogs.

Tuff Stuff collar from Olive Green Dog, $22.

Tuff Stuff 2″ leather collar in burgundy from Olive Green Dog, for $22. Now THAT’S a manly collar.

Bold Designs collar, $39.

Bold Designs collar, $39 at Olive Green Dog. Another manly collar. I like the brass/gold detail. It looks very sturdy.

Martha Stewart houndstooth collar, $12.

Martha Stewart Pets Houndstooth collar, $12 for the large at PetsMart. Very classic.

FOUND collection waxed canvas collar, $48.

FOUND collection, blackwatch plaid waxed canvas collar, $48 at Olive Green Dog. I just love everything the FOUND collection does. Especially that absurdly expensive rope leash. This collar is also absurdly expensive. I don’t buy clothes for myself that cost that much.

Do you have a favorite collar you’d recommend?

Pup links!

Dog walker in Central Park. Source: LIFE Magazine Archives.

Happy almost-Thanksgiving to U.S. readers and pups! Some canine-centric links from around the Web this week…

The Smallest Acts of Kindness. In this season of gratitude, it’s nice to remember that even the smallest acts of kindness can have a big impact. (Modern Dog Magazine)

Meet My Evil Bathtub. These photos are endearing and funny, mainly because Chix’s displeasure is written all over his face. I’ve never met a dog who loved getting a bath. (Love and a Leash)

Orvis: Pre-Race. A cute, short video of our wedding photographer’s lab, Orvis, on race day. (Meredith Perdue)

How to Measure Your Dog for a Martingale Collar. I’m a big fan of martingale collars–we use them a lot at the SPCA, owing to our large number of hounds–and they have saved my sanity on many occasions. This is a great video tutorial from the makers of beautiful martingale collars, Classic Hound. (Classic Hound)

How to Prevent Dog Leashes from Becoming a Pain in the Neck. Some tips on mitigating the problems that often occur on leashed walks. (Inquisitive Canine)

Cancer Part 4: Hemangiosarcoma. This series of sobering posts about canine cancer has been eye-opening. My attention was caught by this one in particular, because my research of the GSD has indicated that hemangiosarcoma is an unfortunately common cancer among the breed. It sounds dreadful. But it’s good to know the facts. (Borderblog)

Recognizing the Signs of Bloat (Video). Another serious topic, but one that people with big, deep-chested dogs are always aware of. I’ve also read about this being a quick and terrible killer of GSDs, and so this video and the corresponding facts were very helpful. (The Bark)

Healthy, Homemade Sweet Potato Chews for Dogs. An easy recipe for roasting yams for your dog. (Raise a Green Dog)

Pup links!

Casey, who belongs to designer Betsy Maddox. Source: Design*Sponge

Dog-related links from around the Web this week!

Tips for the First 30 Days of Dog Adoption. Practical and accessible advice for that first month with a new dog. This is a list I’ll certainly be returning to. (Petfinder)

Best Advice I Can Possibly Give. Thoughts on what it means to be an advocate for your dog. (Success Just Clicks)

5 Rainy-Day Workouts for Dogs. A few ideas for how to keep your dog busy in the house. (Exceptional Canine)

Nail Clipper Desensitization. A step-by-step process of trying to get an anxious GSD to reduce her fear the dreaded nail clippers. This is one aspect of dog grooming that I am not looking forward to, so I appreciate articles like this one! (Peaceful Dog)

Guess the Genotype: Breakdown of Alleles. A scientist’s cleverly organized explanation of the genes that make our dogs look the way they do. (Musings of a Biologist and a Dog Lover)

Creative Peeps 03: Carole + Chai. An interview with the designer of beautiful martingale collars from Huggable Hound. (Pawsh)

Friday Under Fifty. Trendy dog products, hand-picked by Dooce herself. (Dooce)

Zara’s Dog Love. Cute and yet understated canine-centric T-shirts from Zara. (A.G. Out Loud)

The Dogs of Occupy Wall Street. Even the pooches are getting in on the protesting! Some of these signs are hilarious. (The Hydrant)