Obviously the answer is yes to either adopting or fostering a dog, but have you considered the pros and cons of each?
There are rescue centres worldwide for almost every conceivable pet, from cats and dogs, to lizards and rabbits. Their ultimate aim is to find forever homes for the animals in their care, but most, if not all try to find temporary, foster homes for their animals until a more permanent solution is found.
The benefits of fostering are obvious for the dog. Firstly, it helps prevent them becoming institutionalised (a condition which also happens to prisoners). Secondly, the dog will reap the benefits of a loving, albeit temporary home in which they can continue to experience normal family life. The associated routine which comes with temporary foster care in turn makes settling in to a permanent home much easier.
It’s common for families who foster a dog to later adopt them, which gives you time to get to know the dog before making a long term commitment.
So it’s good news for the dog, but what about for you?
Why would someone want to go through loving and caring for a dog only to hand them over to someone else, weeks or even months later? It takes a special kind of person don’t you think. Is that you?
What are the differences between adopting or fostering a dog?
When you adopt a dog you take on the sole responsibility for his or her health and welfare, including the cost. This can be a commitment spanning the next 10 to 15 years depending on the age and breed.
When you foster a dog you become part of a team whose intention is to find him or her a permanent forever home.
When fostering, the dog will live with you and you will have the same responsibility in terms of providing a safe, loving environment in which the dog can thrive. However, it is a shared responsibility and you will have the support of the rescue centre in terms of cost, help, and advice.
If you find the dog has behavioural problems which need to be addressed, then action can be taken before the dog is rehomed. This benefits both the dog, and provides less risk of the dog being rejected by a future family.
Your role in fostering a dog
There are many reasons why dogs end up in rescue centres.
Some can no longer be cared for by their owners because of ill health and even death. Others are removed by animal protection organisations because they are being neglected or subjected to cruelty. Some will be house trained, others may not be. Dogs who have been subject to abuse by previous owners may prove harder work than others, yet more rewarding to you if you can get them back on track.
Your role in fostering is to help the dog overcome any behavioural problems they may have developed due to their previous treatment with love and patience and the help of the rescue centre specialist.
As a foster carer you will be instrumental in helping the dogs in your care become the ideal pet that anyone would want to adopt. Focusing on this goal inspires people all over the world to open their homes to foster dogs, giving the same love and care as you would if you were adopting, knowing that eventually you will be saying goodbye.
Your role in adopting a dog
Adopting a dog from a shelter is a long term commitment, and it is beneficial to you if you ask the shelter as many questions as you see fit.
Most shelters will also ask you a lot of questions. Please do not take this negatively, as any good shelter will attempt to match dogs to the right homes. It’s easy for us to fall in love with a dog, but the shelter will have experience for the dog and are better placed to assess his needs.
For example, the shelter may know a dog is not suitable for a family with children, or may consider the dog better homed to somewhere with more land compared to an inner-city unit. This happened to be the case for me many years ago when I looked into fostering a Border Collie – the shelter did an inspection of my house and decided my yard wasn’t an appropriate size – and that was for fostering, not adopting.
The benefit of adopting a dog rather than fostering is he will become a family member and you will quickly grow to love him in that way. When fostering you always have in your mind it’s a temporary relationship, and you do your best not to become attached.
Other benefits of adopting a rescue dog are you’re giving him or her a new start in life, in a loving home. Maybe the dog misses their deceased or elderly owner, or maybe they just deserve a more loving home.
Adopting a rescue dog is cheaper than buying a puppy, especially with the price of most puppy breeds in the thousands these days, although you will still need to budget for decent food, toys, bedding, and all the other things you’ll want to spoil your new dog with.
When fostering there are no time limits on how long you will be caring for a particular dog.
Some dogs are harder to find forever homes for than others, which can be about breed as well as temperament.
Dogs with long term medical problems or those who are just old are often the ones left in shelters and rescue centres. In these cases foster care could become very long-term, maybe for the remainder of the dog’s life.
Other animals, puppies and kittens for instance may only be with you for a few weeks, just enough time for you to litter or house train and become attached, and then they will go to their permanent home. This is the hardest part of fostering, but for each animal that has been rehomed due to good foster care, there are dozens just waiting, hoping that they will be given the same opportunity.
So every time you have to say goodbye, remember there are always others waiting for you to say “hello”.