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Special Needs Foster Programme

Our Special Needs Foster (SNF) Programme is designed for dogs who need extra time and effort, and whose fosterers need increased support and training. This differs from a regular foster situation as it involves a more structured approach to training fosterers. These dogs may not be ready for adoption or we may need to find out more about how they cope in a home environment before matching them with a forever home. Quite often, they are under-socialised and overwhelmed in kennels so they don’t progress as they would in a quieter environment.


Why is this Programme needed?

Covid-19 has brought with it many changes but, for us, it has been the completely unexpected reduction in the numbers of dogs coming to us from the pounds. With the demand for dogs at an all-time high, most people who can no longer keep their dog have been able to find many friends and relations that will happily step up and offer their buddy a home. That is, if the dog is a happy, easy-going family pet, of course……. Nowadays, the dogs that we collect from the pound are the more challenging cases.

These are not “bad” dogs and there is nothing “wrong” with these gentle souls. They still need our help but they simply may not fit the criteria for a typical family pet. They need time and space to decompress before they can learn how to adjust to life in a home. Many will need intensive training on a one-to-one basis to prepare them for their new life ahead. 

And many have come with serious medical issues that need surgery and intensive post-op care before they are ready for adoption. 

Are there specific requirements?

We assess suitability for the Programme on a case-by-case basis but SNFs will generally need to meet the following requirements:

  • Must have a fully secure garden.
  • Any children in the household must be over eight years of age.
  • A quiet household, preferably in a rural environment, but quiet suburban areas with easy access to suitable outdoor areas may be appropriate.
  • Availability to bring dogs for vet visits in or near Galway city if the dog has medical needs.
  • Available for a period of at least six months.
  • Commitment to actively engage in training and communicate with the Foster Team on a regular basis.
  • A willingness to learn.
  • An open mind and heart.

How it works…

The SNF will get full training, tailored to their particular foster dogs’ needs, and will have ongoing support from Carrie, our IMDT trainer.

Although most dogs will need approximately 4-6 weeks in foster, we would ask that people sign up for a six-month period in order that we can really provide the best training for you and help the most dogs.

    • Fill in a Foster Questionnaire so that we have a general idea of your situation.
    • Initial phone call from the SNF Co-ordinator to discuss the Programme and your suitability.
    • If your situation is a good fit for the Programme, you will receive basic training in the form of 1 or 2 sessions via Google Meet with Carrie. This will cover the basics of canine care, body language and behaviour, specifically relating to the types of dogs we are seeing in rescue.
    • Followed by a little Pop Quiz. Nothing frightening! Just so we get an idea of where you’re at.
    • There may be required reading and/or videos to watch in your own time.
    • Then, wait for the call to hear you have been matched with a suitable foster dog!
    • Once matched with a dog, each SNF will be provided with a tailored Care Plan for their foster. Additional reading or videos on topics specific to your foster dog may be needed. Carrie will be available to provide ongoing support and advice during the foster period.
    • The Care Plan will be assessed at least weekly and you will be required to communicate with the Foster Team at regular intervals, to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Communication will likely involve calls, texts and/or emails.
    • APPLY HERE (please include ‘SNF Foster’ in the comments at end of form)

    What types of issues are these dogs coping with?

    Listed below are examples of the types of issues these dogs may be coping with. This is not an exhaustive list but it should give you an idea of what to expect.

    • Under-socialised with people. This doesn’t mean that dogs are a bit shy. This refers to dogs who have missed out on vital socialisation as puppies and as a result, they do not cope well with meeting new people or may even be unsettled and fearful around people who are known to them.
    • For example, a lot of these dogs have likely never lived in a home environment before and may struggle to cope with what we consider everyday noises and visuals, such as, a TV, washing machine, electric shower, etc.
    • Fear of a lead or walking on lead. A dog like this will need to build positive associations around the lead and will need to be trained using only positive reinforcement.
    • Toilet Training.
    • Post-operative care of an orthopaedic patient. This generally involves several weeks of crate rest, during which routine vet visits may be required, followed by a controlled exercise plan once finished confinement. Although these dogs will be physically confined, there is lots that we can do for them to keep their minds stimulated.
    • Skin issues. Monitoring an ongoing skin condition which may involve administering medications, feeding a particular diet and monitoring for skin flair-ups.
    • General oldie issues. An older dog may be a little arthritic and require ongoing anti-inflammatories and monitoring exercise levels. Or they may be losing vision or hearing and fosterers would need to adapt care to this.
    Mervyn 1
    Mervin 3

    Case Study – Mervyn, the Blue Merle Collie

    History: A stray collie was brought to Moycullen Vets immediately following his arrival at the shelter due to injuries from a suspected road traffic accident. He had pelvic fractures and a broken femur, as well as a deep wound on his fore paw.

    Treatment: It was decided that the kindest thing for Mervyn was to amputate the broken leg due to the severity of the injuries. He was confined to crate rest so that the pelvic fractures could heal and the wounds on the front leg needed bandaging for several weeks.

    The Foster Period: Mervyn was lucky enough to be fostered by one of the wonderful Vet Nurses in Moycullen Vets until we could find a longer term fosterer. It wasn’t long before we matched him with Hannah, an experienced fosterer who has cared for dogs with various medical needs over the past few years. Hannah continued Mervyn’s crate rest and brought him for bandage changes at the vets twice weekly. She made sure he was comfortable and as content as possible at home by providing low energy toys, puzzles and lots of affection. Mervyn was also allowed supervised interaction with Hannah’s gentle dogs who Mervyn adored.

    The Happy Ending: Hannah’s care has enabled Mervyn to make a full recovery. He is now booked to his forever home and will soon be packing his bags.