Children and adult foster dogs

 

Over the years, we have successfully placed many animals in foster homes where there are children. Indeed, this can be an excellent learning opportunity for the children and the dogs themselves! We always do our level best to match homes with an appropriate foster dog and, if there are children in the home, to only place dogs we know to be child friendly. However, moving to a new home is stressful and overwhelming for dogs, which can affect the way in which they react to things, and one can never entirely predict how they may react.

We, therefore, strongly advise that any interactions between your children and the foster dog be supervised, and that you adhere to some basic rules and guidelines. These are in place in order to protect both your family and the dog. Please bear in mind that, if a foster dog bites someone or behaves aggressively (especially towards a child), this could mean that we are unable to rehome the dog – which could ultimately mean that the dog ends up being put to sleep. This would be very unfair if the dog was actually reacting to being provoked.

We fully understand that children have different ages and stages, and that some may not be ready for a foster dog yet. If you feel that your children may not be able to cope with the rules, please tell us upfront. It may, then, be best to postpone fostering until they’re a little older.

Please read through the following with your child/ren and ensure that they fully understand what is expected of them.

  • Treat the foster dog as you would like to be treated – with kindness, patience, and respect.
  • Interact with the foster dog calmly, e.g. playing catch or petting them. This helps develop the dog’s social skills in a safe way.
  • Pick up all your toys, shoes, clothes, etc. – anything you don’t want a dog to chew, especially if you’re fostering a young dog (dogs usually finish teething at around 6 months). Although adult dogs are usually over the chewing phase, they may simply not yet know the difference between a toy you give them to chew and a child’s toy left on the floor.
  • The foster dog may not yet know how to play or fetch a ball as the chances are good that nobody ever played with them in their previous home. Some may never play, while others will soon pick it up. Keep trying but don’t be disappointed if they don’t want to play with you.
  • (Age appropriate) If the dog is calm enough, you can try teaching it to sit on command or give paw. Teaching the foster dog a trick is fun and could improve its chances of finding a forever home.
  • If your friends come to visit, you should explain the rules about your foster dog to them.
  • NEVER interfere with any dog when it is eating, chewing a bone, or playing with a toy. It is also best to stay away from its bed, even if it is not sleeping.
  • LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE. This means that you should not wake the dog up when it is sleeping. Even very nice dogs can get such a fright that they may snap at you or even bite.
  • Do not chase the foster dog, or even run around it and scream in an overexcited way. Some dogs may find this scary, while others may get so excited that they start jumping all over you or even nip in excitement.
  • Do not corner the dog to try and play with it, and don’t squeeze it or kiss it in the face. Some dogs tolerate this but many do not – and some dogs will bite.
  • We recommend not allowing children to walk the foster dog. They may not be strong or experienced enough to control the dog if there’s an encounter with another animal or people. They can ‘help’ you but, ultimately, an adult should be in control of the leash.
  • Do not tease the foster dog in any way! This is unfair to the dog which is in your home to learn how to be part of a family, it will learn bad habits, and may even bite. If the dog is teased until it bites a child, we cannot rehome it.
  • Do not sit, stand, or lie on the foster dog, try to ride it like a horse, or pull on its face, ears, tail, fur.

IMPORTANT: CAUTION WHEN FEEDING!

It is a really good learning opportunity for children to get involved in working with the foster dog, such as feeding, training, or giving rewards. However, please be aware that some dogs get overexcited and can snatch food or toys out of people’s hands until they’ve been trained not to.
Some dogs can also be very protective over food bowls and get upset if people approach; they may even growl or snap. This does not mean that the dog is aggressive or dangerous – it is just scared that its food will be taken away and is trying to protect it.

Although the dog may not intend to be scary or deliberately hurt someone, these things may be upsetting for children, and even an accidental nip can hurt, especially if you are fostering a large dog.

Therefore, we recommend that an adult does all feeding of the foster dog and that you not leave children alone around the dog when there is food involved.

Your children can still be involved by helping you to prepare the food and clean the bowls afterwards (don’t take away the empty bowl while the dog is still standing there; wait until the dog has left the area). Once you are 100% sure the dog has no resource guarding issues, then (assuming your children are old enough), you could progress to allowing children to put the food bowl down for the dog – supervised by you, of course.

If the dog shows signs of resource guarding, snaps at or bites someone, or behaves aggressively, please contact us immediately, particularly if this is directed towards a child. We may be able to assist with behavioural advice and rectify the situation if we are advised of it early on. We understand that people sometimes feel bad and hesitate to notify us but please do not delay – these situations tend to escalate quickly, eventually becoming near-impossible to resolve.

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