The purpose of fostering a greyhound is to ready the greyhound for family life. While you work with your foster dog, you will form a bond that will last until after the adoption.
Foster families find it easy to fall in love with their charge, but remember that the dog is in a state of flux. He's looking forward to a more permanent situation--his new home. Seeing situations from the dog's perspective will help your foster dog through this critical first step. The foster home is more school than it is home...you are evaluating the dog for us.
The first thing to remember about your new foster hound is that he, most likely, has never been for a car ride before. Jumping into the back of an SUV is a scary prospect for some hounds, and getting them to lie down in the back seat of a car may be downright impossible. You should not have any other pets with you when you come to pick up your foster hound. At this point, all of your energy should be focused on the hound that is feeling out of place.
When bringing your foster dog home for the first time, keep him or her on a leash. The introduction to the family pets is a time that demands caution. The best place to introduce your pets to your new student is outside, on somewhat neutral territory. Let your dog and the foster dog sniff each other; remember you are bringing a new dog onto your dog's territory.
If all seems calm outside, it is now time to progress inside. If your dog is not territorial and seems to accept the foster hound, you can remove your pet's leash. It may be a good idea to keep your foster hound leashed, for now, to help with any housetraining issues that may initially present. Let your foster dog wander from room to room, watching for any signs of trouble. Male dogs may be inclined to "mark" the new territory; a sharp "NO" will usually stop the activity. Do not put your pet and foster dog in the yard together without supervision. Also keep muzzles on while the hounds are turned out into the yard.
Remember to keep up good gate security. A foster dog does not know its "area," and if he or she gets out, nowhere will be familiar. Keep a good eye on your foster dog the first few days he or she is in the yard. Do not attempt to tie or tether your foster dog to a tree. Likewise do not use a pulley system. Greyhounds go full speed in two strides, and they can break their necks when they reach the end of their rope.
When the foster dog meets the family cat for the first time, he will want to sniff the cat. If the cat runs and the dog begins to chase, yell out "NO"--that should stop the pursuit. You may need to repeat this lesson until the dog understands that chasing the cat is not permissible.
Protect all other small animals by keeping them caged. Scurrying small mammals look like play things and will be injured or killed if a greyhound decides to play with them. Birds, even large parrots, can be hurt or killed by a curious greyhound. If the dog does not grab the bird, it may become startled enough to take flight and can smash into a window or wall.
You should provide a separate feeding area for the foster dog so there is no aggression at the food bowl. Feeding the dogs the same food in different areas will keep feeding time civil. Remember to feed the recommended high-quality food that our group supplied or recommends. A dog may also become possessive over a toy. If that occurs, remove the toy. When you must leave home, make sure that you separate your pet and the foster dog. Make sure that the crate for the foster is either in a different room your pet cannot enter or you can provide a sight barrier so that the crated animal does not become defensive.
Take a few moments at the end of each day to fill in and review the "Foster Dog Information Form." It will provide reminders of points to be made at the time of adoption.
The paramount duty you will face is housebreaking. The dog must learn that the house is not the turnout pen. During the first day, send the dog out often and accompany her or her on these "outings." Choose a word such as "potty" or "out" to associate with being let out for eliminating and use it consistently. Dogs usually need to go after eating, napping, or exercising. The moment the dog GOES, praise him or her and perhaps offer him or her a treat.
Because of their regimented kennel life, Greyhounds will not give you a "potty" signal. Be diligent and watch your charge for pacing, whining, panting, or sneaking off. Be aware that greyhounds associate the leash with racing or exercise and not "potty"; some will not eliminate on a leash. A secure, fenced place is helpful with these dogs. Expect numerous accidents!
Since these dogs have led KENNEL lives, things such as TVs, stairs, ringing phones, and other normal household sounds may startle your foster dog at first. Stairs can be overcome by moving one paw up a stair at a time. Gentle encouragement and treats can be used as an incentive for coming up and going down stairs. Going down tends to be more difficult. Hold onto the collar so that the decline is at a more controlled pace.
Windows can be a difficult situation. A squirrel on the outside of a picture window or sliding glass door can be an attractive target. Taking a front paw and rapping on the glass or touching the dog's nose to a window pane is a good way of introducing a dog to this kind of barrier. With very motivated dogs, a piece of tape may have to be placed on the window to impress upon the dog that there is a barrier present. Mirrors or reflective surfaces can have the same effect, so watch your dog.
When you leave your house, it is a good idea to restrict your foster dog's area. A crate is an appropriate and good method. The dogs are used to a crate, and they do not find it upsetting to spend time in one.
As a rule, most people have an eight-hour work schedule, and most dogs can accommodate this period of time. If possible, having someone let the dog out at a halfway point is desirable. If a crate is not available, a small area with a baby gate can be substituted. Some greyhounds have been known to jump baby gates, so test this method out before you rely upon it.
Part of the job of fostering is to handle the dog. Touch feet, ears, tails, and other areas to check for sensitivity. Some dogs do not want these areas handled, and it is a good idea to know so that the adopting family can work with this.
If the dog is sensitive and not showing signs of aggressive behavior, praise the dog while touching the sensitive spots. Letting a sleeping dog lie is a good rule of thumb.
Watch for signs of track dreaming. Remember to call the dog into an awake state before touching.
Putting a comfortable mat or blanket on the floor in your room (in an enclosed room, so the dog cannot wander at night) is the best way to teach your dog his bedtime.
Your foster dog does not have to spend the night in a crate and shouldn't. Because your dog is going into someone else's home, inviting him or her into bed is a bad habit to start. The adopting family may not want the dog in bed with them. Likewise, restrict your foster dog to a soft blanket or comfortable mat on the floor, instead of letting him or her on the furniture. It will make life easier for the new adopting family.
One other evaluation of the foster dog is personality. Adoptive families rely on us to tell them about their dogs. Since most greyhounds are second pets, it's beneficial to know how social the dog is.
Dominant behavior and how the dog plays with another pets are good clues as to how a dog will do with other animals. Guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, birds, and other small animals may or may not attract the dog's attention. It is a good rule of thumb to keep these animals confined and out of harm's way. If you are a "CAT-FRIENDLY" foster home, watch to determine whether the dog and cat are getting along and that the dog does not seem over-interested.
Children and greyhounds must be supervised at all times. These dogs are very good with children, but things happen. If you must leave the room, take the child OR the dog with you. Your foster dog may need some time to adjust to family life. Most are playful and enjoy children; however, a TIMEOUT spot for the dog should be found. The dog should be able to go to this area and be left alone. Children should respect this area and should NEVER disturb a sleeping dog. Wrestling on the floor and tug-of-war games can escalate into a dangerous situation. The dog is bigger and stronger than a child and should NEVER be underestimated.
Sometimes a dog can try to control his situation through intimidation. A dog on a couch who snarls and shows teeth can be removed by placing a leash on the dog and using a stern "OFF!" command.
There is a fine line between aggression and bluff. If you are in doubt about the dog's behavior, consult a Greyhounds Only representative. In most cases, this can be dealt with before there is a major problem. If necessary, use a muzzle if you think the dog will snap or bite.
A shy greyhound needs to learn that he or she can trust you. Patience and firm assurance are the best ways to deal with these animals. In time the dog will learn that his or her situation is friendly and that no one will harm him or her. Negative reinforcement should NOT be used on these dogs. A verbal reprimand, if needed, is all that is required. Leaving the dog to hide at all times is not good. Coaxing her to socialize will help to overcome the shyness.
While walking a foster dog on the street for the first time, WATCH CAREFULLY! There are many new sounds, sights, and smells for the dog to experience. Make sure that the collar is well-fitting before stepping outside. HOLD ON TIGHT and watch what is around you. Squirrels, cats, birds, and small dogs can attract the dog, and the dog may want to chase. Cars can frighten the dog, and he may bolt or jump backwards. Walking a foster dog should not be relaxing. It is a learning experience for the both of you. For first-time walkers, a SNAP-BACK can be used. Call the GO line to get one.
Car trips can be a fun part of a pet's day. Your charge should be riding in the back seat, and in time he will relax, lie down, and enjoy his trip. A leash should be on the dog so that when your trip ends, he can be taken out of the car safely and easily. Never leave your dog in a car on very hot days or even cold days.
If you are fostering a "special needs dog," follow the veterinarian's orders carefully. This dog is usually under a vet's care for a serious condition or injury. You may be called on to take the dog for periodic vet appointments. You should consider this when agreeing to foster a special needs dog. Greyhounds Only takes care of the vet bills while the dog is awaiting adoption and until the dog is healed.
Diarrhea is a common ailment of recently retired greyhounds. There are shifts in routine, diet, and surroundings. These things are upsetting to the dog's digestive system. Parasites can also cause diarrhea, and you may see worms in the dog's stool. Don't panic! Call a Greyhounds Only representative, and he or she will be able to assist you. The dogs are wormed on the track, but sometimes a second treatment is required. In the case of non-specific diarrhea, a diet of rice, browned ground beef, and cottage cheese can help the "runs" go away. When the stool is formed, go back to the normal diet.
If there is an emergency, consult your Greyhounds Only representative. Some injuries may look bad but do not need veterinary care. In the event of serious injuries, get the dog to a vet. We do have vets who specialize in broken legs and other greyhound injuries. If in doubt, call us.
Greyhounds get a few treats in the kennel that are considered special treats. A greyhound can get defensive if you try to take the special treat away (treats such as rawhide chews, marshmallows, and peanut butter sandwiches.) The dog will warn you with a growl. Say "NO!" and be very careful when reaching for the treat. A dog will usually outgrow this behavior when he or she realizes that there is no competition for the treat.
In the event that your cat-friendly dog is NOT cat friendly, do not attempt to train the dog to get along with your cat. Call a Greyhounds Only representative and keep the dog and cat separate.
If your foster gets loose, call the local police and hit the pavement looking for the dog. The dog should be wearing a collar with a Greyhounds Only Foster tag on it at all times. Most often the dog is recovered with no harm done.
In the event of a dog fight, do not attempt to break it up! Spraying the dogs with a water hose usually does the trick. Assess the damage after gaining control of the dogs and provide first aid as necessary. This is not a common occurrence.
The kitchen is one of the first rooms the dogs learn about. Human food is small and good-tasting. Giving dogs human food leads to begging. Don't fall for those big brown eyes and start a bad habit. The best treats to give are "dog treats." They are made with a dog's digestive tract in mind and are easy on the dog's stomach. Remember not to over-treat!
Your first meeting with the foster dog's new family is usually over the phone. They will want to know what the new member of the family looks like and what his personality is like.
Be truthful about the dog, tell funny anecdotes, and disclose any problems. Let them ask questions and give them full answers. Arrange a meeting with them. They will be anxious to meet their dog. If everything goes well and the adoption is set, be prepared to help with the adoption and help your foster into his or her new life.
Be ready to help talk the adopting family through problems and visit if necessary. Although you miss the dog, realize that he or she is getting love and attention and has a good home. The dog will remember you when he sees you at a later time, and you will be amazed at how happy and at how good the dog looks.
Now you're ready for your next foster dog...