Interested in becoming an integral member of our volunteer team? We bring new puppies into our training program every year and our program is built on a strong base of volunteer primary and secondary foster families. These families and individuals open their homes and hearts for two years while our puppies in training work toward placement with their future recipient.
Is it sad giving your puppy up at the end of two years? Of course.
However, is it incredibly fulfilling and worth it? Yes!
All our fosters tell us they feel an amazing sense of pride when they see the puppy they love and have put so much time into, go out into the world and help a child. Witnessing the connection between your adult dog and a child who needs him/her is overwhelming and rewarding. The feeling of pride you’ll get seeing a life forever changed thanks to your time, effort, and love, is unlike any other experience.
If you think you and your family are good candidates for this program, we would love to talk further and meet you in your home. Please contact us for an application.
Our puppies live with foster families on nights and weekends prior to placement with a recipient. Below are some Frequently Asked Questions for people interested in becoming part of this fantastic program. But first, here are some of the initial requirements to become a foster:
- Family lives near Narberth, PA so they can drop off/pick up the dog Monday – Friday.
- Family commits to attending 4-6 hours of training class prior to the arrival of their puppy and continuing classes every week and then every other week as the training period progresses.
- Family commits to fostering for up to 2 years, assuming the dog graduates from the program. If the dog is released, this time frame could be shorter.
“Watching Kelly enthusiastically master new skills made me such a proud “mama”. Over my time fostering, countless people commented, ‘What a generous thing you are doing!’ Truth be told, Kelly (and this entire experience) gave me so much more than I gave her! I am forever grateful to Kelly and to Paws & Affection for affording me this life-changing opportunity.”
L. Rose, Primary Foster to Kelly
“Fostering a dog through P&A has been an incredibly rewarding experience for our family. It’s been fascinating to not only see how much these dogs are capable of from a training perspective, but it’s also incredible to know how much of a difference they will make in a child’s life. We regularly get asked if it’s hard to give the dog back. The honest answer to that question is, of course, yes. But once you get an opportunity to see the bond that your dog has with her forever person and see the joy it brings to that child, it becomes one of the easiest things in the world to do. We’ve fostered and graduated three dogs through P&A and are currently fostering a fourth!”
J. Gibbon, Primary Foster to Nikki, Maggie, and Winni and Secondary Foster to Wheeler
“I have had 5 dogs (4 of whom were labs) before Toby and can honestly say that this was the greatest experience yet! The training support that P&A gives the fosters before and during is invaluable! Having the built-in community of the fellow foster families is a beautiful thing. We felt so very supported. P&A gives us all of the joy and takes away so much of the anxiety of having a puppy in the house. I wish I’d had this kind of community when I brought my first human baby home!”
S. Garton, Primary Foster to Toby
“The experience taught our kids about responsibility, time management, patience, and sacrifice for a good cause (and of course they were absolutely in love with their “baby sister”) …Paws & Affection provides an outstanding support network for being a foster family, not only from the back-up foster, but also from the smart, dedicated, and wonderful women who run the organization and train the dogs.”
M. Chou, Primary Foster to Snickers
“Being a secondary foster for Maggie was an amazing experience for our family. Our middle daughter was first a teen volunteer for Paws and Affection and encouraged us to apply. We loved being part of the team and watching Maggie grow and learn. Not only is she an amazing dog, Paws and Affection is an amazing organization!”
J. Kintisch Secondary Foster to Maggie and Chauncey
How long does the foster puppy live with us?
The puppy in training lives with you nights and weekends for the duration of his/her training period with Paws and Affection. The goal is to foster the dog from 8 weeks old to 24 months old, but that is only a guesstimate. Some dogs tell us they don’t want to do this job prior to turning 12 months and some tell us they need more than 24 months to be ready.
Where can we take our foster puppy?
Once s/he is potty trained and ready, and you’ve passed our certification showing you’re ready as well, s/he can begin accompanying you in public. As the puppy grows older and moves through adolescence into adulthood, the places you can take your dog increase. Our puppies wear vests that say, “service dog in training”, which, by Pennsylvania law, allows them the same access to public spaces as full service dogs. Our dogs will spend their life with an active person and must be comfortable in any and all situations. The more different experiences they have, the more successful and well adjusted they’ll be when matched with their child.
Is it okay if we have other dogs in the house?
Yes, but we will want to meet your dog and make sure adding a puppy to the mix won’t cause either of them too much stress.
Is it okay if we have small children in the house?
Absolutely. This is a realistic situation for the future lives of our dogs. We realize it may mean a bit of chaos, but that is good for our dogs to experience.
What does the puppy do during the day?
Our puppies spend their days at our facility learning basic manners and service dog tasks, as well as napping, playing, and hanging out with P&A staff and volunteers. In addition, they go on many socialization adventures taking trips to the city, riding on trains, walking on trails, visiting stores or malls, riding elevators, visiting schools or hospitals, etc.
How does the dog get to and from Paws and Affection each day?
The foster family is responsible for getting the dog to and from our facility each day. Drop off is between 7 and 9 AM and pick up is between 5 and 7 PM. Once fosters get the dogs on Friday afternoon, they stay with them until Monday morning when they drop them off.
What are the desired characteristics of a foster family?
Foster families provide a safe and loving environment for the puppy while also having an active lifestyle that is inclusive of a service dog in training. In addition, the family needs to live or work close to our facility because the dog is dropped off and picked up each day. A willingness and desire to work with a dog in a bond based manner without mandating or commanding any behaviors is critical. We believe strongly in relationship based training and dog’s strongest relationships are with their fosters early on.
What if we are going away and the dog cannot come with us?
Each dog has a secondary foster who takes them when the primary foster goes away. The secondary foster also takes the dog one weekend per month, regardless of travel plans, so a relationship is formed and the dog feels safe and comfortable in both homes. This offers a break to the primary foster as well. However, if you have a family vacation and want your puppy to come along, we encourage this. After all, everyone needs a vacation from working and learning, even our dogs!
What is the difference between a primary and secondary foster?
Each dog has both a primary and secondary foster family. The primary foster family has the dog most of the time, but the secondary foster family commits to taking the dog one weekend per month and is the first person the primary family contacts if they are going away or need day-to-day dog care support. If the secondary foster is unavailable, the P&A staff makes arrangements for the puppy to have backup care during that time.
What kind of training does a foster family receive before the puppy arrives?
We require both primary and secondary foster families to take orientation classes where they learn what we teach, our training philosophy, and how we communicate with the puppy. In addition, we cover basic dog behavior, health, and safety.
Once the puppies are living with us will we have continuing education?
Yes. We meet every week in the evening to share what the puppy has learned so you can reinforce it. This is very important, as you will become an integral part of our training team, and we want to make sure everyone involved with the dog is on the same page. We are available for questions every step of the way and exchange information regularly.
Will the puppy be house-trained when he or she arrives in my home?
No. These dogs are only between 8 and 10 weeks old when they get here and have lived with their mother or in a kennel atmosphere up until this point. We help you train them, but you need to be prepared that there will be accidents at first.
Do we stay in touch with the puppy after placement?
You are invited to the graduation ceremony where the dog and the recipient are matched. This is where you meet the recipient and share in the magic you’ve created. While giving up your dog is hard, the benefit far outweighs the difficulty. Plus, once your dog is placed, you can get another one and begin the glorious process all over again!