There are so many reasons to foster a dog or cat. The unconditional love, the companionship, the neurochemicals released when you pet a dog or cat. But once you’ve decided to become a foster home, what can you do to make sure your cat or dog stays healthy and happy?

Here are 5 ways to show your foster pet a good time:

1. Teach a New Trick

Did you know that most behavior problems in dogs and cats are due to stress, fear or boredom? They say a tired pet is a good pet, but that’s not quite true. A happy, healthy, mentally stimulated pet is a good pet. And what better way to stay mentally sharp than to learn new tricks? Learning tricks gives pets confidence, and it increases the bond between pets and people. And when it’s time for your foster pet to go home to their owner, they’ll know a new trick!

Of course, you want to make sure training is a positive and fun activity. Training sessions should last 5-10 minutes, and it’s always a good idea to end with play time or a walk. If you notice your pet becoming frustrated when learning a new trick, just give them a break and then try some easy commands to build their confidence (sit, down, come, stay).

For an introduction to positive reinforcement training, check out these videos from Nashville’s own Agape Animal Rescue!

And contrary to popular belief, cats can learn tricks too! Here are 3 easy tricks to teach your cat.

2. Go on a “Sniff Walk”

It’s easy to think that dogs like walks for the same reason that people like to walk, jog or run: For physical exercise. But if you’ve ever walked a dog, you know there’s a very different reason they like it so much:

The smells!

Dogs have up to 20 times the number of scent receptors in their noses than humans. It’s like we are watching a grainy black-and-white movie on an old tv, while they sit in a full color, omni-max theater with 3D glasses.

Dogs also have a fascinating technique for getting the most out of every scent. If you’ve ever watched a dog tracking a scent, you’ll notice they huff air out of their nose as they go. This blows scent particles into the air so they can better distinguish and smell them.

Between the grass, flowers, leaves, and garbage – not to mention all the scents left behind by other dogs – a walk can be mentally stimulating, and leave dogs happy and healthy.

Here’s a good article about how to take a proper “sniff walk.”

3. Give them a bath!

Just kidding. It’s a rare dog that actually enjoys a bath, and we specifically ask our foster homes NOT to bathe cats. We’ll leave that to the groomer.

But a kiddie pool on a hot day can be a great way to cool off, especially for the dog that likes to splash in the water without getting soaked.

(Sorry, cats. No going outside for you.)

4. Bake them a special treat

If you’ve been to a pet store in the last five years, you’ve probably seen those fancy treats by the counter that look like the window of a French pâtisserie. Depending on your foster pet’s allergies, these can be a great reward, and an easy way to show your pet some love.

But did you know you can bake these treats at home, too? Here’s a great recipe for a peanut-free doggie treat. Want to make it gluten-free, too? Just sub in gluten-free flour.

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget our feline friends. Here are 5 DIY cat treats you can make at home.

5. Pet Them!

As much as we like to pet dogs and cats, don’t forget that they enjoy getting pet, too!

But there is a right and wrong way to pet a dog or cat, especially when they are anxious or meeting a new person. Many of the places humans love to pet dogs (head, belly) can actually make dogs more anxious. If you’re just meeting a new dog, try petting their chest or their back, and see if they like it. For cats, the best thing to do is hold one finger out and let the cat come to you. If they want to be pet, they will let you know by rubbing their head against your hand.

The Consent Test

Just like people, dogs and cats let you know when they want to be pet – and when they don’t. It’s our job to learn when they are telling us “yes.” Watch this video to learn how dogs use subtle cues to indicate when they do and do not want to be pet:

Ready to bring home your first foster pet?

Sign up in 15 minutes or less at pawsternashville.org/foster. You decide how long you want to foster, and we provide all the supplies you’ll need to care for your foster dog or foster cat.

Other Ways to Help:

You can volunteer.

Pet Connectors help coordinate foster stays and support foster homes. Pet Chauffeurs transport pets to and from foster homes, vet appointments, groomers, and back to their owners. We are also looking for volunteers with skills in social media, marketing, and any other aspect of running a nonprofit!

You can give to Pawster Nashville.

Make a gift of $100, $50, or $25 to keep a family together, and keep another dog or cat off the streets. You can also make an in-kind donation using our Amazon Wish List.

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