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10 Ways To Make Your New Foster Dog Feel At Home

Warning: These tips may result in some serious tail wags.

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Bringing home a furry foster friend is equal parts exciting and nerve-racking. While visions of snuggles and playtime dance through your head, you probably still have a few unanswered questions. And it's totally normal for you to feel a bit apprehensive about how your new friend will adjust.

A puppy sleeps beside its plastic bed.
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Luckily, there are a ton of things you can do to help your new bestie out. From making sure they have a cozy place to rest, to ensuring they have healthy meals to build their strength, here are just a few ways to make your new foster dog feel right at home. 

1. Prepare a safe space for them.

Doberman puppy lying in its bed inside a dog crate.
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Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your new foster dog is to prepare a safe space where they can relax. This space should be indoors, quiet, and well ventilated. As not all foster dogs are house-trained, it's probably a good idea to choose somewhere that is easy to clean, too!

2. Get as much info as you can ahead of time.

A veterinarian listens to a dog's heart with a stethoscope.
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Make sure you reach out to the foster organization prior to bringing your new pal home. Have a list of need-to-know items ready to go so you don't forget to ask about anything. Some suggestions for what to ask: Does this dog require medications? Do they enjoy spending time with people or are they more the lone-wolf type?

3. Wait to buy toys.

A cloth bear toy has seen better days, with a missing eye and stuffing leaking out through a few large holes.
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Buying toys before you get your foster dog is so tempting! I know you want to spoil them from the moment they get home but it's a good idea to wait until you get to know your new friend a bit better before you go toy shopping. Are they a bit skittish? Probably no squeaky toys then. Did they shred their bed to pieces? Maybe no stuffed toys just yet!

4. Have a plan for outdoor-time.

A woman kneels to pet her dog in a park.
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Outdoor exercise is incredibly important for dogs. Depending on your foster dog's temperament and history, it's a good idea to modify their outdoor-time for maximum enjoyment! Are they aggressive with other dogs? Alone time is probably a good place to start. Nervous on a leash? Set up a secure, fenced-in area where they can play freely. 

5. Prepare healthy, yummy meals.

A dog looks lovingly at a bowl of meat and vegetables.
Kabo / Via kabo.co

We all love comfort food, am I right? Dogs are no different! One great way to make your new dog feel at home is to prepare delicious meals that provide them with the nutrients they need to thrive in their new environment. There are a ton of great options out there these days. Check out Kabo's luscious lamb recipe, for example. Is your mouth watering too? No? Just me then... 

6. Dog-proof your home.

A dog frowns at the camera while standing over a pile of newspaper that he's just torn up.
Carol Yepes / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.ca

Once you make the decision to foster, your home is not just your home anymore. You now share with a four-legged roommate, which means you're going to have to make a few changes around the place. Make sure you move all plants up high where the dog can't reach them and tuck away all your small knickknacks for the time being so they don't get eaten. You can even buy latches for your trash cans to keep little paws out of that oh-so-temping garbage!

7. Take it slow with friends and family.

Little girl sitting on a sofa with a puppy.
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Sharing your furry friend with your loved ones is absolutely one of the best parts of fostering. Unfortunately, a lot of foster dogs come from not-so-healthy environments, which means they may come with trust issues. It's a good idea to take it super slow when introducing your newest family member — one at a time is usually best, until you have a good idea of how your dog reacts. 

8. Establish a routine.

Dog holding red leash in its mouth.
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.ca

Just as you enjoy your daily routines, dogs can really get into them as well. With a foster dog, this is especially important to help them settle in, as their past lives may have been somewhat unpredictable and chaotic. Start simple by setting times for walks and meals each day. Stick to these times as much as possible and then build on them by scheduling other activities, like playtime or brushing. 

9. Prepare medications ahead of time.

Man sitting at a table as he examines a few prescription bottles.
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If you read the second item in this list, you already know that you should gather as much information as possible from the foster organization. That includes any and all health concerns and medications for your new doggo. While some dogs have conditions for which they will need daily medication, other dogs might just need a few weeks on a dewormer or an anti-flea pill. Hot tip here: Hide your dog's medication in their favourite snack to help it go down easier. 

10. Respect their boundaries.

A dog looks over the back of a couch with a skeptical look on its face.
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I'll leave you with this great tip for new dogs (I hear it works great on people, too!). Respecting your dog's boundaries is key to helping them feel at home. That means putting their needs front and centre, even if it's not ideal for you. Foster dog cowers among groups of people? That means having friends over will need to be postponed for the time being. Do this, and you'll be well on your way to gaining your dog's trust and making a fur-ever friend along the way!

I hope this list helps smooth the transition into foster-parent life and eases what may otherwise be a ruff time. Looking for more information on fostering a dog? Check out Kabo's article here.

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