Download an application to foster
We are always
in desperate need of foster homes. Rhodesian
Ridgeback Rescue will pay for food, supply bedding, reimburse
for mileage or gas (not both), and can even lend crates and/or
dog runs. Foster families will also receive the first option
to adopt the dog they foster. If you are interested
in fostering, please read more about the process below.
by Elizabeth Akers
Foster homes are those family homes that can
allot the time and space to keeping a rescue dog while it
is being vetted, evaluated, cared for and trained. The foster
will usually keep the dog until it is ready to go to a new
Foster parents will be asked to pick up dogs
from homes or shelters, transport dogs to veterinary appointments,
sometimes show dogs to potential owners, or simply just house
them. Foster families do not complete adoptions to new homes.
The foster home should have a fully fenced yard.
If there are one or more dogs in the home there should be
a safe place for the rescue dog to be kept, separate, from
the family dogs at least for a while. It is important that
the rescue dog have its own space one where the dog will not
feel threatened or challenged by the other dogs. Do NOT assume
that the rescue dog will be grateful to you for taking it
into your home it will not! It will want to be home with its
own family. Once it realizes that it is staying with you,
the dog will typically mourn the loss of the original family
for some time.
I have always tried NOT to integrate the rescue
dog into my home by not allowing it all the mod cons of the
house dogs, the rescue dog will hopefully be kept a bit at
arm's length, thereby not being too badly traumatized when
it is time for the dog to move on to the new home. You want
an invisible wall between your family and the rescue dog,
but one that is malleable. Each rescue dog will bond to the
foster person that is natural, the trick is to keep a distance
that will allow the dog to go to a new home and bond quickly
with a new owner it is a fine line for a foster family to
The rescue dog should be fed separately; I usually
feed dry food with a cup or three of lukewarm water. I find
that the wet food (not canned) helps their digestion and stress
level too. The dog should sleep in a crate or a dog run so
that the invisible wall is kept up. By maintaining this wall,
the dog soon learns that it is in a safe place and that all
good things come from you.
The dog needs boundaries and rules once you
have set those, the dog may be able to relax somewhat. To
invite the rescue dog onto your bed or the couch is confusing
for the dog and it will probably settle in as if your home
is permanent. Suddenly all things change again when it is
sent off to live with new parents where the rules are again
different. By making the dog a part of the foster family,
it is possible that during the first few weeks in the new
home the dog will be more mistrustful than normal because
it does not know if it going to stay or go away again.
By all means once the dog has been in the foster
home for a few days, the family can take it for walks with
the rest of the pack, making sure all the dogs are safe from
the petty squabbles of pecking orders. I find it easier all
around to just keep them separate till it is time to move
When you first take possession of the rescue
dog I think it is imperative to gauge the dog's attitude toward
you e.g. if you were to walk up to a strange dog like one
of the well rounded, well trained dogs we see in parks, you
would not think twice about reaching out and patting the dog,
touching it on the head, better yet, I would hope that each
and every one of us would first ask the owner/handler of the
dog in question whether or not it was okay for us to pat their
dog! The dog in question would in all likelihood, be friendly,
lean against you, lick your hand and accept a cookie. In most
cases a rescue dog would do none of the above when you first
meet it. There are always exceptions to the rule though!
A rescue dog knows something "bad" is happening.
It may have spent the past week or six weeks or months in
the middle of a troubling divorce, people yelling at each
other, household goods being moved; the dog may have been
kenneled while the owners pack up the house; the new baby
may have come home after six months of redecorating and activity
and being kept in the house, suddenly the baby is there and
the dog is put outside you would be surprised at how OFTEN
that happens. Then, when the baby is asleep and the dog is
allowed in, the dog tries to sniff the baby and is told to
leave it alone and then ends up back outside and one wonders
why the dog may be resentful of this new baby?
So, with all this background, you are going
to meet the new rescue dog for the first time. Again, one's
inclination is to first walk up to the dog and feel sorry
for it that it is losing it's home, so one tends to ooh and
aah and say sorry to the dog. Don't do it!! IGNORE the dog.
Try taking some really juicy treats with you
in your pocket, hold a few in your hand, shake hands with
the soon-to-be-ex-owner and ask questions, lots of questions,
don't even look at the dog well, you can keep the dog in your
peripheral vision, but do not make eye contact with the dog,
simply ignore him or her. Talk to the owner for as long as
it takes for that dog to become inquisitive about you, the
dog will check you out and of course the first thing the dog
will do is smell the yummy food in your hand. Keep it there
Wait until the dog is really nosing your leg, arm, or hand,
then offer the tidbit to him, still not looking at the dog.
Be aware though that the dog's body language is not saying
your head is about to be removed!!
Once the dog feels safe and has checked you
out thoroughly, that dog will then give you "permission",
for want of a better word, to pat and touch it. I find that
scratches behind the ear alongside the cheek are best rather
than the dominant position of putting your hand on top of
the dog's head to pat it.
The three facial areas for patting or stroking
On top of the head and over the top between the ears = very
dominant on your part
Under the chin, and down the throat area = very submissive
on your part
Alongside the face, down along the under part of the ear,
along the cheeks = very neutral territory.
RRs have a large "personal" space. Remember
how you feel when a stranger comes up to talk with you and
gets right in your face. Each time you try to take a step
backwards to get a bit of space between you and the other
person, the stranger gets closer. Well, RRs are very much
"space conscious" dogs. So, do give them their space until
they have checked you out. These dogs are not the well-trained,
happy dogs in good homes. They may be well trained in their
own environment, but these dogs are going from one home to
another or a kennel and are stressed and tense and mistrusting.
Give them some space.
I have used Turid Rugaas' Calming Signals on
the dogs I meet they work well and I highly recommend her
tapes and books for those of you wanting to know more about
body language and signals for the canine world.
Sequence of events leading to a dog being placed
in a new permanent home:
A call comes to rescue that a dog needs to be
rehoused or picked up from a shelter.
"Rescue" calls volunteers who have offered to
foster dogs, keeping in mind the experience level of each
foster and the needs of this particular dog.
The dog is picked up and delivered to foster
or foster goes to pick up dog in which case foster loads the
dog in car (sometimes in crate sometimes loose in car) and
takes dog home. Remember, these dogs are stressed and you
are a total stranger to them. I find it much easier to let
the dog ride loose in my vehicle, often with a leash still
attached, than to try and force a strange dog into a strange
crate. I never know whether that dog has ever seen the inside
of a crate before, so I am not about to make it more stressed
by pushing it into a crate!
The dog is introduced to the foster home, walked
around the house and yard. The dog is shown where the water
and sleeping areas are; the dog may be allowed to see other
dogs in home through a fence or other arrangement. Later,
the dogs may be allowed to play together. It is important
not to integrate the rescue dog entirely into your home.
Once a vet appointment is confirmed; the rescue
dog may be taken in to be spayed/neutered across the next
few days. The dog will be microchipped at that time.
The foster will relay to the rescue coordinators
their evaluation of how the dog behaves while eating, playing,
walking, in the house, in the car, at the vet and any other
information pertinent to the well-being and placement of the
dog. Rescue coordinators will also evaluate dog at some point.
Once a dog is ready to be adopted, fosters may
be asked to meet prospective owners it is important that all
prospective owners are met at a neutral location away from
your home. If the prospective owner is found to be acceptable,
the dog may go home with new owner. All records will be forwarded
to the new owner's veterinarian.