Introduction to Fostering

You want a dog—specifically a Labrador Retriever…

But, maybe now is not the time for you to own a dog permanently. You travel too much. Your job requires long hours from time to time. You’ll be moving soon and a dog may not be welcome at your next place. Or, maybe you have a dog or two and would like to occasionally bring home a canine playmate. You might even want a permanent Lab companion, but you just aren’t sure what kind of personality would be the best match.

How About Becoming a Foster Home?

With the Labrador Retriever being one of the most popular breeds, it is no surprise that there are more labs to rescue than many other breeds. Not a day goes by that LRR doesn’t receive a number of phone calls begging us to take an owner give-up, a shelter dog, or a stray whose owners cannot be found. Often, we must put dogs on waiting lists or reluctantly turn them away simply because we don’t have a foster home available. <div class='pullquote'>Our foster homes are our most important link in our rescue chain.</div> Without their hard work and assistance, we could not save, rehabilitate and place these homeless labs.

The majority of these dogs are family pets that had to be given up due to unfortunate circumstances. However, it is not easy sometimes. Rescue dogs can be very demanding of time and attention. Many of these dogs have never been given any love or obedience—in fact, more often than not, it is quite the opposite. Many pet owners surrender their labs because they are “uncontrollable”, “too noisy”, “too big”, or simply “too much trouble”. The cute Lab puppy they bought on impulse is now a 70 pound chewing machine without house manners, so it is kicked outside to live its life on the end of a chain or worse. For a Lab, a breed of dog that longs to be with people, this is unbearable. So, it barks, breaks its chain, digs, and becomes a nuisance until its owners no longer want it.

That’s where LRR comes in. Each Lab comes through a special intake home for initial medical and behavioral evaluation. If necessary, the dog is altered, shots brought up to date, heartworm tested (and treated if positive), put on heartworm preventative, and given any other routine or emergency medical care. Rigorous temperament testing is done to determine what, if any, behavioral modifications might be needed before placement. Then, dogs are sent to foster homes, which we often call our “finishing schools”, for continued nurturing until the Lab is ready to be placed.

What do foster homes do?

Foster homes provide more than room and board—they provide an environment in which the Lab can continue to grow healthy and happy. We try to match foster dogs and homes based on the preferences and skills of each home. For example, those who enjoy obedience training will get the more unruly labs; those whose strength is nurturing will foster labs in need of lots of hugs or special care. We have foster homes that “kid test” and “cat test”, those that live in homes with big fenced yards, and those that live in homes where the dogs must be walked.

Our objective is to simulate the environments in which our fosters might live permanently so that we know best where the dog is the most comfortable. While at the foster homes, the labs continue to be evaluated, so our Adoption Coordinators can make the best matches between adoptive homes and labs. If the dog would be happier as a service or working dog, you can help us test for and discover those too!

Because our goal is not to simply find homes for these labs, but to also meet their physical, mental, and social needs before placing them, our labs average five to seven weeks in our system, more if necessary. Each Lab is with us a minimum of two weeks to be sure we know the Lab as well as possible before placing it. That time may be spent at one foster home, or several, again depending on the individual needs of each dog.

Working with these dogs can sometimes be frustrating and very time consuming, but seeing your “diamond in the rough” foster go to its new home a happy, well adjusted Lab is incredibly satisfying and rewarding. Our foster homes tell us their experience has made them better and more knowledgeable dog owners.

What should I expect?

As in the adoptive process, once your application is received and reviewed, a telephone interview may be conducted, followed by a house check. If approved, we will contact you about fostering your first lab. As a foster home, you will also participate in foster home workshops, picnics, meetings and activities, including our annual LRR Reunion Picnic and informational/educational events where LRR has been invited to promote rescue, labs, and responsible dog ownership.

We provide all medical care for the Lab. Our foster homes donate their home, time, food, love, and all the other necessary ingredients for a healthy happy Lab. Our foster home program is flexible—we work around your schedule. When you are available to foster, you let us know. We do ask that when you are available to foster, that you foster the same LRR Lab for a minimum of two weeks (unless they get adopted sooner than that!). This allows you time to create a thorough evaluation of the dog that potential adopters read and cuts down on the stress of the dog being moved too often.

While a Lab is being fostered in your home, approved LRR adopters will schedule mutually convenient times to come to your house and look at the dog. You will review with them the foster home evaluations and information packet of materials that come with the foster Lab. They will also get a chance to play and interact with the dog to see if this dog is “the one”. You may be asked to assist the Adoption Coordinators in finalizing the adoption of the Lab.

As a foster home, you are not directly involved with the selection of the adopter of your foster LRR Lab. The Adoption Coordinators are responsible for this and, more importantly, for approving applications from potential adopters. As a foster home, it is very common for all your neighbors and friends to show an interest in your new foster Lab. Please remember to direct all interested parties to our website or our Labline (301-868-3524) for application information, for this is always the first step in applying to our adoption program.

If you are considering adopting a Lab yourself, fostering is a great way to discover just what temperament of dog is best for your household. We require our foster homes to foster at least three LRR Labs before becoming eligible to adopt from us. After you have satisfied this requirement, depending upon the circumstances, you may have first choice of adopting a future foster Lab. Many of our foster homes continue to foster our Labs even after they have adopted one of their own - we love that!

In a nutshell, you supply the love and TLC, and we supply all medical care. You need not be a canine expert; just an unabashed Lab lover!

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