Dogs on the Homestead
Dogs can make a wonderful addition to your menagerie of homestead animals. However, an untrained dog on the homestead can spell disaster for your livestock. Poultry and rabbits are especially prone to attacks by dogs that haven’t learned to respect their boundaries. Some breeds are especially difficult to break of their hunting instincts.
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Dogs that have been bred to hunt small animals may not work out well with chickens and other small livestock. Any dog may need a great deal of training to prevent issues and keep peace on your homestead.
Many homesteaders choose a breed of dog that is renowned for their abilities as livestock guardian dogs (LGDs). Breeds such as Great Pyrenees, Sheepdogs,and Border Collies can be trained from an early age to live with the flock or herd that they are bonded to. They will protect their herd with their life and would be lost without them. If you are interested in adopting a dog for this purpose, check online for a rescue group for that particular breed.
Fostering a Dog
Fostering dogs is not the right fit for everyone. Foster dogs typically have been dropped off at shelters by families that could not, or would not, keep them. Many times these dogs have been neglected, abused, or have had no training. Bringing home a dog that could have problems takes a leap of faith, and a great deal of patience. They might be house trained, or they could have been shut in a crate their whole life, because the owners didn’t know how to train them. Sometimes a foster or rescue dog has been trained to obey simple commands. Other times they have had no training and will need to learn not to jump, bite, or shred your couch.
Before you bring any dog home, be sure you know how to train and care for a dog. Never play tug of war or rough house with a dog. They won’t understand why they can’t play with your best sweater or get wild with a small child. If a dog tries to nip or bite, you will need to spend extra time working with them to discourage this behavior. When the dog bites or mouths your hands, pull your hand back suddenly and yelp sharply. Then ignore the dog for about 20 seconds. This mimics a mother dog’s behavior when her pup bites.
Remember that it isn’t the dog’s fault that it hasn’t been trained. Don’t hit the dog to train it. This will only create fear and further behavioral problems. Be patient and reward good behavior generously. Give bites of food or treats when your dog learns to sit, lay, stay, or ‘crate.’ Slowly replace the treats with petting and attention. Be sure to give the dog attention and socialize it with other animals and people. Never leave your foster dog alone with children, the family pet, or your livestock.
If you have the time, energy, patience, and attention to give a foster dog, check for local animal shelters that are in need of foster families. Find out if they cover the cost of food and medical attention for foster pets. They will likely have an application for you to fill out, and there may be an interview and home visit required before you start. Make sure your home is pet proof before an animal comes home with you. Decide if you have time for a puppy or special needs pet, or would it be better to foster animals that are older and calmer. Be honest about your limitations with the staff at your animal rescue so they can find a pet that is a good fit for your family.
Most animal rescue groups are in need of good foster homes. There are thousands of pets dropped off, abandoned, or lost that need a loving home until they find a family to adopt them and love them. If you are able to help pets, they will reward you with unconditional love…and that’s a very good feeling!
Update: Now that we have two dogs and one cat, I am no longer fostering pets on our homestead. It was a learning experience and I am happy that I was able to foster for a while. The rescue group that I fostered through is no longer active. I would highly recommend PAWS if you would like to foster pets in your home.
Have you ever fostered pets? Do you have any advice for prospective foster families?
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We fostered two 4 week old kittens for Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Rockford, IL. They had been left in a box at the front door of the shelter in frigid temperatures. Obviously kittens are different than a puppy or dog. These kittens had to be bottle fed every 4 hours when we first got them and needed round the clock care. Our biggest concern was how our family cat would do with them – we never left them alone together without supervision and blocked the bathroom off for a safe zone for them. I guess the biggest obstacle for us was not realizing how hard it would be to bring them back to the shelter. You can’t help but get attached to them – depending on how long they are with you – they become a part of your routine and your family. The kitties had a hard time adjusting for the first few days when we brought them back – they weren’t use to being separated or to being in a cage for long periods of time. The shelter staff have many animals to attend to so they won’t be able to give the same amount attention to the fosters that they received in your home. The kittens have settled in fine now and are almost ready for adoption. The best part for fostered pets is that they have a story and information that can be shared with potential families so they can make the best possible decision about adding these pets to their family. Information like if they are good around other cats/dogs, have been around children, their temperament, and social skills can all be valuable to the new family. Fostering is hard work, time consuming, and sometimes heart wrenching – but knowing that you are giving these animals the best new beginning in hopes of finding their “furrever” family is worth it all.
Those little kitties were so lucky to have your family take them in and give them the attention they needed. Such little sweeties! I hope they find a new family soon. There are so many pet that need homes. I hope that some of my readers are able to give a home to some deserving pets!