Welcome to our hub for all things foster!
NEW: Spread the word about our foster program by posting fliers at your workplace, school or local business!
If you’re unable to print fliers and would like to pick some up, contact us!
Our shelter’s open business hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Please be contentious about when you are calling, if you are calling during non-business hours regarding your foster pet, replies may be delayed. All non-emergency questions and concerns about your foster pet will be answered within 48 business hours.
If you’re in a medical emergency situation, please leave a message at 618-235-3712 Ext. 103 and we will return your call ASAP.
If you have non-emergency medical questions or concerns (questions about vaccines, spay and neuter, or non-emergent medical issues), please reach out to Kat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For non-emergencies send an email to the appropraite Placement Counselor:
For dogs or puppies, contact Canine Placement Counselor, Amanda Roos, at email@example.com.
For cats or kittens, contact Feline Placement Counselor, Melissa Janes, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health and Wellness
What qualifies as a medical emergency?
If you have a puppy under a year old or a kitten under four weeks old, contact our emergency line if your foster(s) exhibit any of the following symptoms:
- sudden lethargy
- vomiting more than once
- diarrhea more than once
- signs of dehydration
- persistent seizures
If you have an adult dog or a cat/kitten over four weeks of age, contact our emergency line if your foster(s) exhibit any of the following symptoms:
- sudden lethargy
- vomiting more than 24 hours
- diarrhea more than 24 hours
- signs of dehydration
- persistent seizures
Immediately contact our emergency line if your foster suffers a traumatic injury of any kind.
How do I tell if my foster is dehydrated?
Carefully check the gums. If they’re dry or appear white, your foster pet may be dehydrated. You can also check the elasticity of the skin by pulling the scruff of an animal up. If the skin holds it’s shape, not immediately retracting back to the neck, your foster may be suffering from dehydration. Here is a video example of both methods.
What symptoms can I treat from home?
Foster pets can experience a range of symptoms for all kinds of reasons. Stress, changes in food, and too much physical activity can create temporary issues with home remedies. Before trying anything below, make sure your foster is not currently on medication.
- Upset Stomach – Dogs can be given 1 teaspoon of regular strength Pepto-Bismol per 10 pounds of weight. You can administer it every six to eight hours. Cats can receive 1/4th of a teaspoon per ten pounds every 12 hours. If upset stomach persists after two doses, contact us. If your foster is vomiting, limit food portions. Canned pumpkin is great for both cats and dogs. Dogs can also be given plain yogurt and chicken and rice.
- Pain – If your foster dog starts limping or favoring a leg, it may be a simple muscle strain. You can administer “coated” (not extended release) Aspirin with food. Give 40mg per 10 pounds every twelve hours. Cats cannot be given Aspirin.
What should I do if my foster is experiencing other non-emergency medical issues?
Please contact us at email@example.com or leave a message for us at 618-235-3712 Ext. 116. We will return your call or email in a timely manner.
Common Behavioral Issues for Dogs
Resource guarding is when a dog guards an item that they consider high value, which is a very common in issue in dogs.
Possible signs fosters will show when an “important” object to them is touched or approached:
- showing teeth
Some common things that dogs guard:
- items they may not be allowed to normally have (trash)
- high value treats (bones)
- resting/sleeping areas (couch or bed)
- their favorite people.
How to manage resource guarding:
- Don’t touch, pet, or disturb your dog while they are eating a meal/snack or chewing on a bone, or toy.
- Feed the dog in a private and separate area, such as a crate. When your dog’s food bowl is empty, lure the dog away from the bowl with a treat. Then, pick it up and put it away. Feed meals at certain times of the day instead of leaving the dog food out all day.
- Do not touch your dog while they are sleeping. If your foster has a history of growling when resting or sleeping, do not allow your dog on your bed or furniture. Provide a dog bed instead.
- If you need to move your dog while they are resting or sleeping, don’t physically pick up or push them. Instead, wake up your dog up with your voice, then call to come. If this doesn’t work, toss a delicious treat (like cheese) away from the dog and resting area. When your dog follows the treat, praise him. An alternative is to allow your dog to wear a lightweight leash in the house only when you are home. When you want to move your dog, just pick up the leash and walk away.
- If your dog steals something, don’t chase or reprimand. Instead, toss a delicious treat away from the dog and stolen item. When your dog drops the stolen item, praise him or her.
- If your dog is not possessive over toys, teaching a game of “fetch and drop” is a great exercise and helps to teach your dog to release items on cue.
- Advise all family members and visitors to follow the same rules. Do not leave food or chews around when visitors are at your house.
- All family members should ask your dog to sit before they do anything for him: Before petting, greeting, leashing, opening the door, playing, putting the food bowl down, or giving a treat.
- Supervise your foster dog at all times when outside, even if you have a fenced yard.
- Keep your dog leashed at all times when off your property.
- Teach your dog to sit and stay before you open the door. Teach all family members to do the same. Our training classes can help with this.
- Make sure all doors and windows are closed when you’re not supervising.
- Provide your dog with interesting things to do when left alone.
- Exercise your dog before leaving him or her alone. A tired dog is a good dog!
Excitable Dog Behavior (Mouthiness and Jumping)
If your foster dog has a lot of energy, he or she may be jumping up on people and/or putting his or her mouth on them in a friendly way. Dogs who jump up and mouth are either trying to play, saying hello, or trying to get attention.
ENCOURAGE your foster dog to play and greet politely. Praise your dog each time he or she does what you ask.
- Teach your new dog to play fetch with either a ball or a plush toy (see our retrieve training handout). Praise for picking up the toy. Praise for bringing it to you.
- Teach your dog that you will not greet him unless he sits. Praise your dog for sitting. (See “Say Please” handout.)
- Whenever you do things that bring on jumping or mouthing (petting, leashing), offer your dog a favorite toy. To make the toy come “alive”, toss it away from your dog.
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. An easy way to do this is to set up play times with other dogs. A game of fetch or tug is also a good way for your dog to burn off energy. See our handout on safe ways to play tug.
DISCOURAGE unacceptable jumping up and mouthing behavior by:
- Turning your back on your dog and becoming a “statue” (stand still, cross arms, and close eyes).
- If your dog does not get the idea, give him a three-to five-minute time out. Either walk out of the room, crate/tether the dog, or put him in a quiet room alone.
- Avoid wrestling games with your dog. Although both of you may like this kind of game, it encourages your dog to play roughly with people.
- You could also try using correction tools such as a shaker can or a spray water bottle.
When walking your foster on a leash, have you noticed your foster display any of the following behaviors?
- snapping or biting
If so, here are some things you can do:
- Fill your pockets or bag with delicious treats before every walk.
- Use a walking tool that the dog responds most to.
- To help your dog focus on something else, teach your dog to “look”. To teach “look”, train your new dog to look at your face by holding a treat next to your eye or on your nose, whichever you prefer. Ask your dog to “look”. When he or she does, say YES! and give the treat. Practice these first inside and then on walks when there are no other dogs.
- Try to avoid dogs for the first week after you take the dog home. Practice the “look” exercises many times on your walks. Also ask your dog to move with you as you put the treats in front of your dog’s mouth. After your dog moves with you, then ask your dog to sit.
- When you see your first dog, use your treats to lure your dog away from the other dog and keep walking. Do this even if your dog is not reactive. When you see that your dog is not being reactive, ask your dog to look at you and sit; then, praise and treat.
- If your dog is reactive to every dog you see, most likely you are getting closer to the other dogs than your dog can tolerate. Try to increase the distance from the other dogs so that your dog is not reactive.
Potty Training Issues
It’s important to gather as much information about the dog’s potty-training issues as possible and it may be helpful to talk it out with staff at BAHS.
There are LOTS of questions to think about that will help you come up with an individualized solution for the dog:
What kind of accident are happening and where? The MOST common problem with potty-training is “too much freedom, too soon.” If you discover that your seemingly perfect new foster has been pooping in the guest-room closet for 10 days, you don’t have a dog problem, you have a PEOPLE problem, and it’s time to start potty-training all over (with access to that part of the home now blocked off to the dog).
When you get your new foster dog home, take them to their designated potty place right away. Take them out frequently the first few days until they get a sense of your routine. Work on crate-training so your foster can be crated while you’re out of the home or asleep.
Are you going outside with your foster EVERY time they go out in the yard until they are potty-trained? What have you observed about your foster outside? Do they seem fearful of anything? Is another dog hassling them? Are they playing so much they forget to potty outside? Do they seem to have a surface preference (grass, concrete, dirt, etc…). Do they eliminate more reliably (or only?) when on or off-leash?
If the dog is having frequent small urine accidents, especially if it is squatting frequently or you notice any blood in the urine, contact us.
Problems with urinating in the house can be medical or behavioral. Watch how much water your dog is drinking and how often. Do they frequently empty the bowl? Some young or nervous dogs will over-drink water out of habit and sometimes need their water intake limited to certain times of the day in order to not have a full bladder nearly constantly. Be very careful if you try to limit water to make sure that the dog does remain hydrated, especially if it is hot out or the dog is very active.
Separation anxiety occurs when a dog becomes upset when being separated from their guardian. This
could be when the guardian leaves the home or even just the room.
- Symptoms of separation anxiety
- Escape attempts (out of crate, room, or house)
- Chewing, Digging and Destruction, usually in an effort to escape
- Chewing on walls, door frames, window sills; digging at floors and doorways.
- Self Injury, usually in an effort to escape
- Prolonged barking and howling when left alone
- Defecation and urination when left alone
- Coprophagia (consumption of feces) when left alone
- Drooling, pacing, and other anxious behaviors that occur when guardians are preparing to leave
- the house.
Although some of these symptoms may indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite house manners,
they can also be symptoms of distress. If these symptoms only occur when a dog is left alone, they are
most often attributed to separation anxiety.
For mild separation anxiety:
Counterconditioning often reduces or eliminates mild separation anxiety. Counterconditioning is a
treatment process that changes an animal’s reaction to a stimulus from negative to positive. With
separation anxiety, the stimulus is being alone or anticipating being alone. Counterconditioning focuses
on developing a positive association between being alone with good things. With dogs, delicious food is
usually the best good thing.
To develop this kind of association, every time you leave the house you can offer your foster dog a puzzle toy
stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish. For example, try giving your dog a
Kong stuffed with something really tasty. A Kong can even be frozen so that getting all the food out takes
even more of your dog’s time. Be sure to remove these special toys as soon as you return home so that
your dog only has access to them and the high-value foods when he’s by himself. You can feed your dog
all of his daily meals in special toys. For example, you can give your dog a Kong or two stuffed with his
breakfast and some tasty treats every morning before going to work. Keep in mind, though, that this
approach will only work for mild cases of separation anxiety because highly anxious dogs usually won’t
eat when their guardians aren’t home.
It’s also important to Provide Plenty of “Jobs” for Your Dog to Do
Providing lots of physical and mental stimulation is a vital part of treating many behavior problems,
especially those involving anxiety.
- Give your foster dog at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity (for example, running and swimming) every day. Try to exercise your dog right before you have to leave him by himself. This might help him relax and rest while you’re gone.
- Play fun, interactive games with your dog, such as fetch and tug-of-war.
- Take your dog on daily walks and outings. Take different routes and visit new places as often as possible so that he can experience novel smells and sights.
- If your dog likes other dogs, let him play off-leash with his canine buddies.
- Frequently provide food puzzle toys.
- Make your dog “hunt” his meals by hiding small piles of his kibble around your house or yard when you leave. Most dogs love this game!
In cases of more severe separation anxiety, please contact us.
Dogs who are afraid of unfamiliar people may look away, put their tails down, hide, cower, or tremble when they see some people. They could also stiffen, stop walking and stand still, lunge, growl or bark.
If the person they are afraid of reaches out to pet them, they may snap or nip to keep the person away.
Dogs who are afraid of people tend to be very friendly toward the people they know. Just because your dog is friendly to you does not mean they will respond nicely to meeting new people.
How to Manage Stranger Danger
Create a Safe Space – Because dogs that are afraid of strangers may bite out of fear, it’s your job to make sure that everyone stays safe around your dog. Make sure your dog has a spot in the house that is “theirs”. It doesn’t need to be a large space; it could be a small room, a crate, or a sectioned off area in a room using baby gates. Make sure no one goes in this area without checking first; the dog must feel like it won’t be interrupted or surprised to feel totally safe. If the dog can jump a baby gate use an area that has a door that can close. For major stranger danger, you might even want a lock on a door that only you can open, so that you can feel secure that repair persons or children visiting over the holidays won’t accidentally walk into that room.
Use a Muzzle – A muzzle can be a helpful tool to keep everyone safe while you’re working to improve a dog’s social skills or trying to manage aggressive tendencies. In particular, a muzzle protects the dog who’s wearing it, since the fallout from a bite can include quarantine, legal action and euthanasia. If you’d like access to a muzzle, contact us.
Taking a “Stranger Danger” Dog to Outside Places
- Don’t take your foster dog places where there are many people you can’t control (patios, parties, parades, ballgames). Most likely your dog will be more afraid and neither you nor your dog will be able to have a good time.
- Keep your dog within a reliable, conventional fence (not invisible) while on your property if possible. If you do not have a fence never let them off leash in your backyard and off your property.
- Supervise your dog when outside. When supervising, you should be able to see your dog at all times. If your dog begins to bark, immediately call him or her into the house.
- Keep a dog who may be a bite risk double-leashed whenever you are out of the house. This can be a collar and harness combo, a sliplead and collar/flat lead, etc.
- If your stranger danger dog is small or fluffy, you may have to practice being assertive in explaining to oncoming people “they don’t like strangers or “they are in training and CANNOT meet new people right now.” In a worst-case scenario, shorten the dog’s lead and put them behind you so that you are between the dog and the scary stranger. You are the last defense your dog may have against having to use their mouth to keep a person away and it’s a very important job to protect your dog from getting itself into trouble.
Meeting New People
In a controlled environment, with your dog wearing a leash that you can grab or step on quickly if needed: Have all people your dog is afraid of sit with their body turned sideways to the dog whenever possible and not make eye contact or look directly at your dog. Then have the person toss delicious treats to your dog. If your dog eats the treat readily, then the person can hold a treat in an open hand to see if your dog will approach and eat it. If the dog gives any warning signals (growls, shows teeth, or barks) DO NOT ATTEMPT.
Ask all new people not to look directly into your dog’s eyes or approach. These actions can be very scary to fearful dogs. Ask all new people not to pet your dog unless he or she approaches them and asks to be petted. A dog may ask to be petted by leaning into or nudging a person. If your dog likes to play, give a favorite toy to a new person. Ask the person to throw the toy for your dog. Sometimes it helps to ignore your dog’s fearful behavior.
Don’t push your dog! Forcing the fearful dog to accept petting from people before being ready can increase the dog’s fear, and, worse, end up with the dog snapping or biting the person. Let your dog tell you when he or she is ready. Look for approaches, eating treats, tail wags, and willingness to play. And never discourage your dog from growling. A growl is your dog’s way of saying “I’m scared and I need this thing farther away from me.” If you train a dog not to growl, you may not know they are afraid until they communicate their fear by biting.
Common Behavioral Issues for Cats
If your foster cat is attempting to run out the door, try the following:
- Keep treats on you or near the door. Throw one away from the door so the cat will chase after it and give you an opportunity to slip out.
- If this doesn’t work, your foster can be enclosed in a secure room before you leave your home.
- Make sure all doors and windows to the outside are secure.
- Play with your cat and give them plenty of stimulation.
- If the cat is open to it, you can try using a harness and taking your foster cat on a walk. Ask us to supply you with a harness and leash if you’d like to try it.
Not using the litter box
If your foster cat is having problems using the litter box, try the following:
- Call our non-emergency line to arrange a urine sample analysis to make sure your foster isn’t suffering from a urinary health issue.
- Try switching to a new litter. We can supply you with options.
- Make sure the litter box is cleaned frequently.
- Try a new kind of litter box. Ask us to check our inventory for alternative boxes.
- Make sure the litter box is in a safe place away from loud noises or nosy dogs.
- Have at least one box per cat, two if you’re being extra cautious. We can provide extra boxes.
Not getting along with other animals
It takes time for a cat to adjust to living with new animals. Try the following when integrating your foster cat:
- Keep your foster cat enclosed in their own room for one to five days. This will give your foster a ‘safe space’ marked with their scent and allow the other animals to adjust to another presence in the home. Follow your foster’s lead on when to let them out. If they seem calm and curious after a day, you can allow them into other parts of the house. If not, give them more time.
- When introducing other pets, never force the cat into the situation. Allow them to approach at their pace and give them access to their “safe” room at all times.
- When introducing a dog, have your dog on a leash and make them sit while around the cat. Reward them for calm behavior.
- It’s helpful to have tall spaces and spaces to hide. This can include cat trees, shelves, boxes, closets, etc…
- If the cats are locking eyes in confrontation, dangle a blanket between them to break eye contact and allow them to run away.
- Be patient! It takes time!
Hissing, growling, stiff body language, and hiding are all normal. If your foster animal is injuring another pet or being injured by your pet(s), call us to arrange a return.
Hiding and fearful behavior
Some cats are slower to adapt than others. Calm and patience are the key to coaxing shy cats out of their shells.
- Allow cats their hiding places. Never force them out.
- Coax with treats, catnip, and toys. Sit calmly nearby without making eye contact, offering things they enjoy.
- Never put your face close to a cat’s face. This is very frightening to a timid cat.
- When petting, allow them to smell first and gently pet around neck and ears.
- Make sure the environment is relaxed and relatively quiet. TVs and music are fine, but yelling children may not be a good match for a nervous foster.
Clawing up furniture or carpeting
Scratching is a natural instinct for cats to help keep their claws in good shape and release their scent. Work with this instinct, not against it, by trying the following:
- Have plenty of scratching material and put it where you’re most worried they’ll scratch–the nice couch, the fancy rug, etc… We can provide you with posts and other scratchers.
- Make the scratching material enticing with catnip and treats.
- Use double-sided tape on areas they’re scratching. The texture should condition them not to scratch those areas after a period of time.
- Trim their nails. We can show you how to do this.
If your foster is biting you to the point of injury, contact us immediately. If the behavior is more like light or playful “nipping,” try the following:
- Use a spray bottle to spritz the cat when they nip. Make sure the cat doesn’t become fearful of you or strike back if you choose this option.
- Play more with the cat. Some nipping is about satisfying the hunting instinct. You can curb he pouncing bite by giving them more mental stimulation through daily play.
- If the cat is only nipping when jumping out of a hiding place, block off that space.
Marketing Your Foster
If you have pictures, videos, or bios for your foster(s), please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing a Bio
The goal of the profile bio is to create an emotional connection between your foster and the potential adopter. Below are some tips to get your create juices flowing:
- Make it unique and tailored to your foster. The story of what makes YOUR foster special out of the thousands of pets they might see online!
- Avoid “STOP” signs. Highlight the great things about your foster. The goal is to bring in interest. Marketing is not the adoption counseling. Potential adopters can learn about the foster’s quirks after they have connected with BAHS.
- Start with an eye catching opening line.
- Keep it short yet engaging. Think of this as a dating profile. Get them to swipe right!
- Review the bio often. If it no longer tells reflects your foster, it might be time for an update!
Taking a Great Photo
The picture is the first thing people see when they visit our website. It is often our adoptable animals’ only chance to make an impression on potential adopters. If the dog or cat has a poor photo, browsers may move on to another without even clicking or reading your foster pet’s description. A good photo is often the difference between an animal who generates inquiries and one who doesn’t. Here are some photography tips:
- Take a lot of photos. Sometimes you’ll end up with only a few usable pictures out of a dozen or two.
- Utilize the light. Natural light is better than flash. For animals who can be outside, put them in a shaded place with light behind you. For indoor pets, have them facing a window. Make sure you aren’t casting a shadow on them.
- Avoid background distraction. Your foster pet should take up most of the frame.
- Have the animal make eye contact with the camera. You can do this by dangling a toy right above the camera, holding a treat above the camera, or using squeaky toys to catch attention. A friend can help make noises right behind your head so the animal is looking in the right place.
- If you’re able, try to get at least one close up on the face and one of the pet’s entire body.
- Anything is better than nothing. Do your best and send us what you have!
Spread the word about your foster through your own social media while tagging BAHS. Word-of-mouth can be a powerful tool!
Here are some other useful articles on foster marketing: