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Thank you for taking an animal who needs you into your home. With every animal you take into your care we ask that you remember the following.
As animal lovers like you know, any animal that comes into your home can pose a risk to people, animals, and your property.
You are taking an animal out of a situation they may find stressful in the shelter and into a calm home environment. It may take days, or even weeks, for your foster to decompress and begin to feel comfortable in a new environment.
To successfully introduce a new animal into your household, plan ahead and be patient. Learn more with specific tips for making the process easier.
Thank you for taking an animal who needs you into your home. With every animal you take into your care we ask that you:
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As animal lovers like you know, any animal that comes into your home can pose a risk to people, animals, and your property. Moving to a foster home is a big transition. Your foster animal may respond to situations differently than in a shelter environment and sometimes these responses can be unpredictable.
Foster families, members of the household, or visitors could be injured by a foster animal. While it is rare, people in your home could contract a disease and/or parasite from a foster animal. We never send out animals with known transmissible diseases without the consent of a foster parent who is prepared to address the particular medical condition.
Resident animals can also contract a disease and/or parasite from a foster animal. Any HRA animal with a known disease or parasite will be treated accordingly by our medical team and will not be placed in foster care without the foster’s permission.
However, as a precaution, we always recommend you tell your vet you will be fostering an animal from a shelter environment to determine the best care plan for your resident animals. It is also good practice to keep resident animals separate from fosters for at least the first week in the event your foster breaks out with any communicable diseases--such as a cold--that were not evident in the shelter.
Resident animals, as well as animals outside your home, could be injured by a foster animal. However, you can almost always prevent problems if you follow the guidelines recommended by HRA. For tips, check out our protocol for introducing foster and resident animals.
HRA never knowingly sends aggressive or dangerous animals into foster homes. Our behavior team conducts evaluations before determining that an animal is safe to go into a home. Additionally, our foster team does everything in our power to set animals and fosters up in a successful environment by providing pertinent information and support to help fosters and their animals succeed.
However, moving is a big transition and an animal’s behavior in the shelter does not always correlate with their behavior in foster care. Therefore, foster parents should remember that all animals can bite, which is when teeth cause punctures that break the skin. If a bite occurs involving an HRA foster animal, please follow these instructions.
You are taking an animal out of a situation they may find stressful in the shelter and into a calm home environment. It may take days, or even weeks, for your foster animal to decompress and begin to feel comfortable in their new environment.
Time and patience are what your foster animal needs most in the first few days. Except in instances of aggressive behavior, please give your foster animal at least 48 hours to settle in so you can get a better sense of their personality. You are always welcome to reach out to the foster team if you need guidance or have any concerns.
It's helpful to create a plan to help your foster settle in. The following guidelines can help you make the transition as seamless as possible.
Establish a Routine
Animals crave predictability. Stick to the same times when feeding, walking, training, and departing your home.
Provide a Private Spot for your Foster
Animals, like people, need time to themselves. If you're fostering a dog, create a spot with a crate and/or mat that is the equivalent of a person’s bedroom so that they can get away and relax. You can use a pheromone diffuser or collar to reduce stress.
If you're fostering a cat, we recommend confining them to a bathroom or bedroom when you first get home. This gives them a chance to decompress and locate their litterbox. After a couple of days, slowly introduce them to the rest of your house, room by room, making sure they always know where to find a litterbox. Give them plenty of places to perch and observe the activity in your house, as well as a bed or box where they can escape. You can use a pheromone diffuser or collar to reduce stress.
Limit New Interactions
In the beginning, keep your new foster animal's world relatively small with a discrete number of positive, controlled interactions. They're learning the routine and building a relationship with you. However, your friends, family members, and neighbors are still strangers in the beginning.
Let your foster animal explore slowly, incorporating more territory gradually. Keep in mind that your foster may have never seen common household items, so it’s better to proceed cautiously since it’s much harder to “undo” a negative association.
Build positive associations by feeding your foster animal yummy food after she notices an object of concern. Remember that even “looking” is a behavior and reward your foster with a delicious treat just for looking at new people, places, or things.
Begin Positive Reinforcement Training
Begin training exercises early to help establish a good relationship and communication with your foster animal. This will also help your foster learn in a home setting. Keep your training sessions short, about 5 minutes, a few times throughout the day. If your foster animal is working on losing weight, you can always shift some of their daily meal calories to training sessions. Marker or “clicker” training is the fastest, clearest way to establish communication.
Introduce Resident Animals Properly to Minimize Stress
Before your foster meets other animals, check out our tips for successful introductions. Remember that many animals like certain animals and not others. After all, do you like everyone you meet? Many dogs also find leash greetings uncomfortable, so limit or avoid these greetings until you learn more about your foster’s stress signals.
Body Language & Positive Associations
Since animals communicate with the slightest of body movements, you’ll need to learn your foster’s body language. What do their ears look like? What does their mouth do? What about the tail position? What is the demeanor of their entire body? Departures from typical or calm behaviors mean your foster animal is concerned.
Make positive associations with what concerns your foster by using food. Feed treats immediately after your foster animal sees something of concern, often called a trigger. Trigger > your foster looks > feed. This sequence is crucial.
Also, it's helpful to distance your foster from any triggers while creating positive associations. You can slowly decrease the distance between the foster animal and the trigger as your foster becomes comfortable. Continue the training sequence as you decrease the distance to the trigger.
Let your Foster Initiate Interaction
Never force an interaction between your foster and a new person. Remember that many animals—like people—don't enjoy strangers touching them. Provide a “stranger” with tasty treats for introductions. Let the person gently toss a treat to your foster. The person can then simply leave a hand extended for your foster to investigate. If your foster solicits attention, the person can gently pet your foster dog on the chest or allow the foster cat to give a head bunt. Even when a foster animal solicits attention from a new person, it's always best to proceed slowly.
Seek Help & Ask Questions
We want to support you and your foster animal so please don’t hesitate to reach out to your case manager. We can provide you with many helpful training resources. Like anything else, there’s a lot of information on the internet. However much of what you find online is contrary to the science of learning. Some animal behavior web sites promote punishment-based training techniques, which may suppress some behaviors temporarily, but will not fix the underlying cause. In the end, these techniques may make the behavior worse in the long-run. Instead, we want to make sure our training reinforces behaviors you like from your foster animal. Tell your foster what pays! For example, reinforce four-paws-on-floor if your dog likes to jump on people. Train alternative behaviors to replace undesirable ones. Otherwise, your foster animal will continue to do what makes sense or comes naturally.
Part of what makes fostering fun is being able to play and bond with an animal. Playing fetch or taking a foster dog on a long walk is enjoyable and can help burn off nervous energy. Playing chase with laser pointers or puzzle toys can help a foster cat adjust to a new environment.
Playing, feeding, and interacting with your new foster builds a bond. Take it easy in the beginning and get to know each other. Once you've built a good relationship with your foster, you can start to bring others into their life.
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