Our Brand Ambassador Krista Rodrigues has been fostering dogs for six years and we recently asked her how she brings her foster dogs into her outdoor adventures. Enjoy!
Fostering a dog awaiting adoption is everything you might imagine: fun, rewarding, educational, challenging… We have been fostering for six years and we would not be who we are and have the bond we do without having been a foster family. There are a whole host of sub-topics to this wonderful experience but my favorite part of fostering is bringing the pups into the great outdoors and I’ll try my best to focus on that!
Like with one’s own pups and experiences, there is a learning curve (for all involved!) and embracing that helps make fostering fun for everyone. My favorite phrase is, “set them up for success.” We do so by making the transition as easy as possible. For example, we make lots of potty runs, establishing a pattern as early as possible; keep excitement low during initial pack interactions; get outside often, establish boundaries quickly; and acclimate her to the crate for a safe place when she is alone. It sounds like a lot but it’s all interconnected!
That learning curve carries over into outdoor activities. The biggest adjustment for me is that fosters are leashed whereas mine are generally off leash. Working on leash training right off the bat helps. So does the right gear. We have collected so much over the years: long leads, slip leads, bungee leads, backpacks, head haltis, front-clasping, and traditional harnesses, etc. that all help enhance both pup and handler’s experience and meet any situation. We’ve also learned to test a foster’s enthusiasm for hiking and manners on a smaller peak before tackling the bigger ones. Like with my own dogs, I match the adventure to what I anticipate will be most enjoyable.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire are a rooty, rocky, ledgy bunch and we have finally found a system that seems to fit hiking its peaks with fosters. I fit the dog into a harness (we have the Ruffwear Web Master), hook her to a tough bungee lead (I like the durability and price point of the Ultra Paws Tow Line) attached to my waist. It gives her plenty of room to get ahead for rocky pitches but is also easy to reel back in. The bungee absorbs the energy when she lurches ahead (another danger I hated about leashes) and, being hands-free, I have my hands for balance, etc. without the fear of losing her. There are lots of methods out there and what I’ve learned is an added benefit to fostering is improving my own adaptability and creativity.
The little added effort is worth its weight in kibble; taking your foster dog on adventures is so much fun! They are so excited, whether they’re hitting the trail or digging on the beach. It brings them closer to you and your dogs, tires them out, builds confidence, and is a fantastic means of positive PR and socialization. Do you know how much people love to see a set of well-mannered dogs merrily making their way to a summit donned in backpacks?!
My biggest piece of advice and this is true of any experience shared with a four-legger, is to be calm and focused on success. So much of how a dog acts is derived from the energy their comrades and handler project (another great reason to involve them in excursions, we exude happy energy!). Celebrate every victory – this is an empowering experience for everyone involved. If nothing makes you happier than being outside with your pups, fostering will only enhance that as you bring a formerly “unwanted” dog up to a mountain summit or onto a canoe for the first time and blow her mind!