Probably one of the first things people ask me when they find out I foster is how I got into it. How did I go about getting involved? Is there anything I would change? I figured that since this blog deals with fostering as a main focus (along with, of course, anything and everything to do with the greyhound breed) now would be as good a time as any to talk about how I got involved in foster, and how you too could get involved.
In our Western culture, it’s not exactly a secret that we tend to take anything to do with our pets very seriously. We call them our “fur kids”, we celebrate their birthdays, we primp and preen to jog them around a ring for the world to see – we’re a little bit obsessed. In some cases, though, that kind of obsession ends up working for the dog, and for greyhounds, I call these little things “necessories”, or necessary accessories.
Greyhound nails: if you clip them, they will grow.
1. If you are waiting on a haul, it will probably be late. For some unknown reason, hauls usually never arrive at the time – or even on the day – that they say they will. “Hauls” are the colloquial term for a bus/vehicle full of greyhounds that are due to be dropped off to rescue groups. The chances of your haul being late in winter are almost guaranteed (Miss Wic’s first greyhound foster was almost four days late!).
2. Your foster won’t know how to “dog”. While this may seem like a strange thing to say, greyhounds fresh from the track have typically never spent any time in a home. They have never seen stairs, they’ve never slept on beds, seen furniture, or done many things most people associate with dogs. To teach your foster how to be a good pet, expose him to lots of different stimuli – everything from toasters popping to vacuums.
3. Don’t be alarmed if he’s a bit underweight. Track hounds are typically kept a few pounds lighter than we are perhaps used to seeing our pets, so don’t be surprised if your new foster is a bit underweight. Simply feed him a bit extra for the first two weeks to get him up to a normal weight. Note that for greyhounds, seeing the last two ribs is completely normal at a healthy weight. Look for a nice tuck and the very tip of the hips showing. Overweight greyhounds are at risk, so don’t feed too much!
4. Expect your foster to “statue”. Greyhounds tend to freeze – also known as “statue” – whenever they are stressed or unsure of what is about to happen. The first few weeks he spends with you will be his most stressful, as he’s never been away from the track and will need your help to adjust. Encourage him and utilize other positive training techniques to show him what a great place homes can be.
5. Muzzles are not bad and crates are not punishment. Your new foster will be used to wearing a muzzle and sleeping in a crate, and these will both be useful tools for you to have at your disposal. Small animal introductions should be done with both the muzzle and leash on until you know how your foster will react. Your new foster should spend his nights in his crate, which he sees as his special place to wind down, not as a “time out”.
Over the next few days, other challenges unique to your foster will rise to the surface. While fostering can be hard at times, it is truly such a rewarding thing to do. Teaching greyhounds how to live in a home and accept love from their new families is an amazing experience. While a “top 5” leaves out many of the more common challenges, we’ll tackle those another day. In the meantime, feel free to look at the resources listed in the menu above for further information.