- Fostering gives a dog a second chance at life.
- Fostering a dog is a wonderful, life-affirming project for the entire family (although singles and couples can foster, too, of course).
- Fostering a dog costs next to nothing.
- Fostering a dog is fun.
- Fostering a dog is very rewarding – to see a scared, shy, stressed underweight dog start to relax and realize he is safe, warm, loved, and fed every day, is the best reward! Their gratitude and love for you will become very clear.
- Fostering can be done anywhere – in a city or suburb, a house or apartment.
- Fostering a dog can take place whenever you are ready.
- Fostering a dog offers the company of canines to those unable to make a long-term commitment.
Please read all the information on this page before completing an online volunteer form (found at the bottom of this page).
What kind of training do I need?
Ideally, a foster volunteer should have some general experience with dogs and preferably have some experience with German Shepherd Dogs. You should be familiar with basic dog care and training.
Advantages of fostering a rescue dog
Fostering a dog for Serendipity German Shepherd Dog Rescue provides you with the opportunity to help needy German Shepherd dogs in the community. You will receive support from a well-established group in the form of supplies and equipment, and we also assist with behavioral and training information. A foster coordinator available to answer any questions and help if issues arise. You can focus on what you really love — direct care of the dogs — and leave all the extraneous stuff to the Directors of the organization. In the event that you can’t keep a foster dog (for example, if there are personality problems with your other animals, or even something as simple as a weekend trip you want to take), it’s good to know there’s someone out there who can take the dog back, either permanently or temporarily.
Before you commit to fostering a rescue dog
You need to be sure that fostering a German Shepherd Dog is a good fit with your lifestyle, schedule and home/family obligations. Are all members of your family fond of/experienced with the German Shepherd Dog breed? Are they OK with having a big dog that sheds and needs attention in your home? Do you have the time and enthusiasm to spend exercising and perhaps working with a dog that may be basic training, housebreaking, socialization etc.?
Serendipity GSD Rescue foster coordinators will be happy to explain our group’s policies and procedures – how the adoption process works, and what will be expected of you. A foster family will be required to sign a foster contract which simply lays out the legal requirement and responsibilities of both SGSDR and the foster family. We are happy for you to be involved in the process of finding a perfect new family for your foster dog and you can be as involved as you wish in the process of meeting potential adopters and finding your beloved foster dog a new home. However, ALL adopters must go through our adoption approval process.
What kinds of dogs will I foster?
If you work with Serendipity German Shepherd Dog Rescue, you could get dogs of all ages, temperaments, and backgrounds. Most will be adults or seniors. They might be owner surrenders, puppy mill rescues, or dogs pulled from shelters. Regardless of the source, you will have some dogs that will be a challenge to foster. Some of them might have behavior problems that led to their surrender. Others might be sick. Some will not be housetrained. But there will also be dogs that are sweet, well-behaved, housetrained, and fun to have around. Your foster coordinator will work with you to make sure that the foster dog you receive is compatible with your family life, experience and other animals within your home. German Shepherd dogs are very smart – they quickly learn the rules and what is expected of them.
What should I do before bringing the foster home?
Your own dogs and your foster dogs should be vaccinated for rabies, distemper, parvo, and other common diseases, as recommended by your vet. The bordatella (kennel cough) vaccine is also recommended as this can be contagious, and it isn’t wise to unnecessarily risk your own pets’ health. It would be ideal to keep incoming dogs separate from your own pets for a period of time if you have the space to do so but this isn’t always realistic since the foster dog will be living in your home as a member of the family. Serendipity German Shepherd Dog Rescue will fully vaccinate, neuter/spay, de-worm and microchip your foster dog prior to placing him/her with you.
SGSDR will provide each foster dog with a well-fitted collar and ID tag. You may wish to also get a spare ID tag with YOUR name and address and phone number on it and fit this to the collar in addition to the rescue ID tag. Remember that this dog doesn’t know you yet and might get spooked and run. Take all possible precautions. Better safe than sorry!
You will have to treat the new dog like a puppy at first. Puppy-proof the house before he arrives. If he is young or has not been raised in a house, he might be destructive and not housetrained. SGSDR recommends that all foster dogs are crate-trained and will provide you with a crate if you do not have one. You should set up the crate with bedding that can be easily cleaned or thrown away if soiled or chewed (like old towels).
If you choose not to use a crate, you should have a small, dog-safe room (like a laundry room) for when you cannot watch the dog. If you use an outdoor kennel for unsupervised time, make sure it is very secure (a cover or top is recommended) and be sure to provide appropriate shelter, shade, bedding, and clean water.
How do I introduce the foster to the resident animals?
Serendipity GSD Rescue volunteers will have already found out whether your foster dog gets along with other dogs and cats. If you aren’t very familiar with dog to dog communication, you should do the introductions under the supervision of someone who is – like the Directors of the rescue who are always happy to help. In the meantime, it’s well worth it to become a student of canine communication. Spend time in dog parks watching how dogs interact. Invest in some books and videos on the subject.
You should introduce the foster dog to your own dog in a neutral location if possible. If you are concerned about either of the dogs’ potential reactions, you might want to try introducing them on opposite sides of a chain link fence.
Foster dogs are best introduced to incumbent pets one at a time in a fenced yard, starting with the friendliest, most stable dog first. You know your own dog better than anyone else, and you will soon be fairly astute at predicting his reactions to the various fosters that you bring home. Unless you have reason to suspect bloodshed, you can expect most dogs to work things out pretty quickly without any major issues. You will notice a lot of circling and sniffing. You may initially see some posturing and growling but in most cases it will be mostly noise, and usually sounds much worse than it really is. If the dogs approach each other stiffly with a direct stare, ears erect and tails held high, you may be in for a serious confrontation and should intervene. If the dogs seem basically okay with each other but still slightly uncomfortable, a leash walk side by side often seems to help. You may need to enlist a helper and start with the dogs under good control at a close heel and several feet apart. After a while the dogs will start to relax and this can be a good start to their relationship together.
Soon the dogs might begin to play with each other. If not, they will usually at least tolerate each other’s presence. Even if the dogs seem to get along, it’s a good idea to keep them separated when you are not around to keep an eye on things. Crates are a worthwhile investment, even if you haven’t used one with your own dog. Baby gates are also good to have on hand. We also advocate letting the foster dog drag a lightweight leash so that control can easily and quickly be regained if needed.
If you have cats or other small animals, please be careful. Use common sense and think about what the various breeds have been bred for. If you wish to introduce your foster dog to your resident cat, keep the dog on a leash. Small pets should have their own safe, dog-free retreats in your home. Baby gates are good because your cat can jump over (or sneak under) them. There are also some gates on the market that have small kitty access doors. Be sure the cat’s food and litter-box are in a dog-free zone, or you might find that your beloved kitty is not eating or going to the bathroom because it’s trying to avoid the scary new dog. Above all, never leave them alone together.
What are my responsibilities?
You will need to provide basic care such as food, water, shelter, grooming, and exercise. Your foster dog will need his own leash, collar, bowl, and toys. We try to make sure incoming dogs are bathed and groomed (especially before surgery) but you may wish to give the dog another bath when he arrives – shelters are smelly places. If the dog is sick, you might have to give medications or transport the dog to vet appointments. The cost of vet care is covered by SGSDR, and all arrangements must be made through your foster coordinator. If you choose to take the dog to a different vet without approval, you may be responsible for paying the bill. This is because SGSDR, like most rescues, has made arrangements with specific vet clinics who will treat all our rescue dogs at a reduced fee.
It’s also important to provide some training. Housetraining is an essential skill for the dog to master. Crate training is useful, especially for young, destructive, or un-housetrained dogs. Basic manners such as appropriate greeting behavior, walking nicely on a leash, and coming when called will make your foster dog more adoptable and help to ensure his success in his new home. You might make the dog more appealing to potential adopters by teaching a fun trick, like shake hands, fetch, or take a bow. By far the most important thing you need to provide is love and attention. Whether your foster came from a loving home or an abusive situation, he will probably be confused and anxious, especially at first. Spend time cuddling, fetching, playing tug, and just hanging out watching TV together. Be patient; it might take him a few days or weeks to really settle in.
How do I find permanent homes for my foster dog?
SGSDR will post a page on Petfinder.com with photos and a few paragraphs about your foster dog, and that is where we usually get most of our adopters from. If you want to assist further, you can put up posters at local veterinarians’ offices, pet supply stores, community bulletin boards, dog parks, dog training clubs, etc. Some dogs will only be with you for a few days. Others will be around for months, and you might start to wonder if they will live with you forever. Be patient. The right home will come in time. All adopters of Serendipity GSD Rescue program dogs are screened before they are allowed to meet your foster dog. We ask for references from their current – or past – vet, as well as personal references who can vouch for the applicant’s suitability as a dog owner (and we do call them!). We look for applicants who have a suitable home / yard / family life most suitable to the particular dog they are interested in. We make sure that past or other pets in the home are current on vaccinations, heartworm testing & preventive, and are neutered or spayed. If there are any concerns that we cannot rectify, then we decline the application. If all looks good initially, we will conduct a telephone interview and then do a home visit/evaluation before approving or denying any application for adoption. We fully support our adopters and follow up after the adoption to make sure that all is well.
How do I know my limits?
Although we need and greatly appreciate our foster families, we do recognize that you have other commitments that must take precedence at times — family, job, your own pets, vacations etc.. If you try to do too much, you will burn out. You need to be selective about which dogs you will take and be realistic about how many you can keep at one time. Above all, don’t feel bad about wanting some time off between foster dogs. You deserve it!
Then again, getting a new foster always helps to heal the pain of giving up the last one….
I’m ready! How do I get started?
Complete an online volunteer form! We look forward to having you join our team!