Puppies do not have fully developed immune systems, so we place all canines under the age of six months in foster homes.
This helps protect them from diseases other animals may bring in. It also enables us to monitor their health and ensure we can provide any necessary medical treatment before they go into a new home.
In a foster home, they receive the socialization and love they need to flourish. The duration of the foster period is typically about two weeks.
Stock Up on Supplies
PAWS Chicago will provide:
- Collar and leash
- Any necessary medications
You will provide:
- Food bowls: You will need two bowls—one for wet food and one for dry food. The more dogs you have, the more bowls you will need.
- Water bowl: Use ceramic, porcelain or stainless steel bowls, which are heavy and impossible to tip. Do not use plastic; it is difficult to disinfect. It’s important that every dog has access to clean water at all times.
- Bedding: Old towels make the best bedding! We suggest making a nice, warm sleeping area in your foster pup’s crate.
- Toys: Disposable and easily sanitized toys are a must! Good choices include Kong-brand toys stuffed with treats and edible toys.
- Pee pads (optional): Most foster dogs will need some help being housetrained. Keeping pee pads next to the door can isolate unwanted elimination to one area.
Set Up Your Foster Room
You will need to keep your foster dog in one room. The foster room is where your foster will eat, drink, sleep and play.
Choose a room in your home that can be easily temperature controlled (no drafts or open windows). We highly recommend that this room have floors that are easy to wipe up and mop. The room should also be able to withstand messy puppies and playful dogs who may knock over a food dish, spill their water or tear up their pee pads.
Make Sure It’s Safe
Puppies and dogs are curious, playful and often mischievous. Don’t leave anything out that your foster pet can chew, swallow or break (electrical cords, hair ties, glassware, etc.). Look for places where your foster can hide and be sure to block access to those areas.
One tip: Lie down on the floor and look at your safe space from your new foster’s point of view to ensure it’s completely safe.
Caring for Your Foster Dog
Keep your foster dog isolated from any other animals in the home unless otherwise discussed. One significant aspect of fostering underage puppies is that you are dealing with animals that have not yet developed immunity to a variety of potentially fatal canine diseases. While you might be anxious to take the puppies out, they must not walk on any surfaces (such as parks or sidewalks) where another dog may have urinated or defecated. Even if it appears clean, it may still be harboring contagious diseases. So it is imperative for puppies to stay in the home until they have been fully vaccinated. The most common symptoms of illness in a puppy are vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and lack of appetite. If your puppy exhibits any of these symptoms, please contact our Emergency Line at 773-354-6520.
- Health checks
It is crucial that you monitor your foster dog’s appetite, attitude, energy level and appearance every day. We encourage our foster parents to keep a log. If something seems off or different, it’s easy to go back and pinpoint when the problem began.
We ask that you weigh your puppy at the same time each day and keep track of any gains or losses. Ideally, puppies gain 0.25-0.5 oz. per day. If your puppy is not eating or is losing weight, please contact our foster team right away. We will likely need you to bring your puppy in immediately for a medical check.
Dogs should be fed at least twice daily. Please feed your foster dog the food we have provided. If he refuses to eat his food, please contact us. We will help you determine your next steps. Wash his wet food dish between servings. If you have multiple foster pets, always be sure to feed them in separate crates or separate parts of the house. If your foster dogs (or your foster and resident pet) are fighting over food or toys, contact us immediately.
At the beginning, take your adult foster dog outside 20 minutes after he has eaten or has had water and every hour that you are home. Take him to a designated “potty spot” and praise him every time he goes with a happy voice and a treat. Note stool consistency. If you can’t supervise your new foster dog, he should be crated.
All foster dogs crave playtime. We recommend at least four 20-minute play sessions spread over the course of the day. Include fetch, hide and seek and scavenger hunts. Change your foster’s environment daily by adding new objects and toys.
Training is another important part of fostering. For puppies who have received their second vaccine and have no contagious illnesses, we host free foster classes at our Training Center (1933 N. Marcey St.). Call 773-475-3302 to sign up.
Encourage affectionate behavior with food treats or play sessions. Puppies should meet new people as often as possible. Use the Socialization Checklist to ensure your puppy is being properly socialized.
Puppies will need routine visits with our veterinarians regardless of their health. They need to be vaccinated every two weeks. Please check with your foster coordinator to find out when they need to be brought in for their next vaccine.