There are very good reasons that prospective pet parents may not be cut out for puppyhood. Not only does it take most of your time and commitment, it physically saps your strength.

I often advise people looking to get a new dog on whether puppies are suited to their lifestyle and energy. Not being home on a regular basis affects potty training, bonding, relationships, exercise and social skills.

As a foster parent for an adult dog you may be able to provide exactly what’s necessary time-wise without the long term commitment. In some cases it is a great testing ground for whether your family is ready to own a pet.

What does it take?

A safe haven, being able to walk the dog daily, and in some cases teach basic skills or at least find out what the dog already knows. Sometimes it means potty training and other times not. Give the dog normal daily life experiences such as riding in the car, handling them every day, massaging, trimming nails, bathing, leash-walking, and introducing to kids, dogs, noisy environments and everyday household experiences.

Fostering enables a dog to get a home because you took the time to acclimate the dog to a real life. Many of these dogs have been in shelters or have been stray, and don’t know what any of that means. The simplest experiences for you may be traumatic for them.   

Fostering expenses such as food and medical needs are paid for by the rescue group you foster for. Primarily, you give attention and love and safety.

What else?

Many dogs do not do well in a shelter environment. We see postings all the time about dogs that are so stressed in a shelter because of the noise and activity that they literally are hyper or the opposite: they just shut down and are non-responsive. They hide, stop eating, and don’t relate to people. Getting dogs out of that stressful environment is the best thing a foster can offer for some of these dogs.

Unless the dog is special needs case for health reasons, fostering doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment, but it does usually entail bringing the dog to adoption events or back to the rescue for showings or events. Anything that makes that dog more adoptable gives them a chance at a happy life.

Dogs that have been turned in to shelters from a home are the ones most often in shock. No one can explain to them how they got there or why. They have known a loving home, and then all of a sudden they are abandoned. Those dogs can be the most stressed in a shelter, and need to be gotten into a foster or adoptive home ASAP.

Contact your local shelter if you feel you can open your hearts and homes to a dog in need, whether an adult or senior. This may be the most meaningful volunteer work you do for the dog and for the community.

Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy.