Fostering Puppies: Lessons Learned

“I can’t believe I’m fighting a 3 inch tall dog for the mop.” – The Man of the House, this weekend as he helped to clean foster puppy pens.

Almost 2 months ago I wrote a post about fostering puppies: Fostering Puppies: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  This was the first litter I had fostered in over a year, so I was very out of practice, and didn’t

Fostering Puppies: Claude, 6 wks old
Fostering Puppies: Claude, 6 wks old

really have the needed supplies.  Three of those puppies have been adopted now, and are happy and healthy in their new homes.  The other two are still hanging out at our place for medical reasons, 14 weeks old now.

We’ve now have all of the needed supplies to handle fostering puppies again. (I would recommend higher than 24″ if you’re fostering larger breed puppies), small bowls, tiny collars and harnesses, small puppy toys, and blankets, lots and lots of blankets and bedding.  We also have hundreds of photos, and hours of video.  Along with paint chewed off of the trim and cupboards in various places throughout the house.  Especially the kitchen.  We’ve gained a lot of knowledge, along with the puppy supplies.

So, if you’re thinking about fostering your first litter of puppies, let our mistakes help things go more smoothly for you! No use in all of us making those same mistakes.

Fostering Puppies: Lessons Learned

Puppy containment is essential!

Fostering Puppies: Puppy Containment
Fostering Puppies: Puppy Containment

If you’re thinking about fostering puppies, which I highly recommend because it is a wonderful experience, the first thing you will need is a dog exercise pen.  More commonly referred to as an X-pen, or sometimes a .  Believe me, this is a necessary item.  I now own two, that I ran to three different towns to find in frustration one day.

Gating puppies in the kitchen seemed like a good idea at first.  It’s the easiest room to gate off, it’s waterproof, and I thought destruction proof.  I was wrong.  They did gets lots of interaction with both the humans and other dogs in the house, which was a good thing.  But, it became a chore to get any cooking or cleaning done while in the kitchen, and a chore to herd the adult dogs through on the way to the back door.  The only door our dogs are allowed out.  They also chewed on the corner of the kitchen cupboards, and the trim around the pantry door.

I also use a tarp under the X-pen to protect my not quite waterproof floor.  By zip tying it to the pen, it also keeps the puppies from being able to drag the pen around the house.  That was another lesson learned.  A litter of five puppies, even weighing in at only 6-7 lbs a piece, can drag around an x-pen, attached to a large wire dog crate, on smooth flooring.  The tarp keeps the puppy messes confined inside the pen too.  Amazingly enough puppies are great at aiming between the bars of the pen.  Buy lots of zip ties.  I think we went through at least two bags of them, because we kept changing the pen around to try and keep the growing puppies contained.  Two metal X-pens can be zip tied together, one on top of the other, to create a really tall one in a pinch.

Proper feeding bowls.

Fostering Puppies: Stable Puppy Bowls
Fostering Puppies: Stable Puppy Bowls. Claude, the laziest puppy I’ve ever seen, always laid down to eat.

I thought I could get away with using the same type of that my own dogs use, once they were off of their puppy formula and could use a communal bowl.  Boy was I wrong.  Puppies can spill just about anything, and the small, light-weight bowls my dogs use, they could spill very easily.  After talking with one of my wonderful dog rescue mentors, I switched to heavy .

My grandmother is probably rolling over in her grave if she knows that the big antique glass pie pans I inherited from her are now sitting in a giant playpen as puppy food and water bowls.  But, they work great.  They are shallow enough for even small breed puppies, and they don’t spill easily.  They can double as a swimming pool for playful puppies though.  But you’re going to have that with any water dish and puppies.  Claude loved to “dig” in the water bowl, throwing water all over his siblings.  He also always laid down to eat.  Laziest puppy ever!

Dog-proof bedding.

We started out with lots of towels, and a big comforter that came with the puppies from the previous foster.  Tiny puppy claws get caught in terry cloth towels constantly.  This makes puppies scream and cry pitifully, and often.  Fleece and and throws work wonderfully.  They also hold up great to everyday washing, add a cup of white vinegar to the laundry and they smell great when they come out.  Baby towels also work great.  The terry cloth loops are smaller and less likely to catch tiny puppy nails.  The comforter, got torn, and we were constantly pulling batting out of tiny puppy mouths.  Blankets with batting, shouldn’t be used for puppies once they become active.  Our older dogs get blankets like that, but not the babies anymore.

Puppy friendly toys and playtime

Fostering Puppies: Playtime Aftermath
Fostering Puppies: Playtime Aftermath.
Aren’t passed out puppies just the cutest?

Our were much to big and heavy for the puppies at first.  Although our dogs aren’t big, some of them are heavy duty chewers, and require tougher, more durable toys.  Then the foster puppies outgrew our dogs.  The newest litter of puppies, (yes, we’re already fostering puppies again), are just tiny little Yorkies, I don’t think they’ll ever even grow into sharing toys with our dogs.  Small durable are great though.  They really liked the bell in balls, that I got from the cat section too.  Although their all time favorite thing to get a hold of is empty toilet paper tubes.  Which I have in abundance now, after posting the video of the puppies playing with them, people started bringing them to me.

The aftermath of playtime is the sweetest thing you’ll ever see!

Fostering puppies is a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it.  You simply can’t be unhappy, cranky or sad while you’re watching a litter of puppies play, or snuggling sleepy puppies.  Not a day has gone by that they haven’t made everyone in the house smile at least once.

And you get to see them grow up!  What could be better than that?  Having a pristine house?  Yeah, that over-rated.  I’ll take dog hair and waggy tails myself, if it means I get to watch those tiny little furballs turn into adorable playful puppies

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