How does Fostering help Kennel Stress?

August 4, 2023 | Blog

Angelo(left) and Lucille (right)

Don’t judge the dog in the kennel. 

When you think of an animal shelter, what is one of the first things that comes to mind? Animals in kennels? Loud barking? Weird smells? To be fair, those are accurate statements. The shelter is not an ideal home for any animal, and every animal reacts differently to this environment. For dogs, some arrive, settle in, and get adopted quickly. Others do not handle the stress of the shelter and find it more difficult to be adopted. I want to encourage you to look past the initial behavior of the dog, and realize it’s environmental – not permanent. 

What does Kennel Stress look like? 

Kennel Stress takes on many different forms – and every dog is unique. For example, one dog could be curled up in a ball in the corner of the kennel not moving or eating. Another could be pacing back and forth in a kennel, unable to relax or standing at the kennel front and barking. Sometimes, the only symptom of stress is  not being able to eat and having diarrhea causing unhealthy weight loss. 

Why is the Kennel so stressful? 

Imagine being taken from your home, brought to a shelter, put into a kennel in a room with 40 other dogs and not let out for more than a few hours a day if that – you’d probably be pretty stressed too! The dogs that are barking at the kennel are stressed when strangers keep walking past or the fact that there are other dogs around. Some dogs have barrier reactivity and don’t like being behind a gate. Some dogs were removed from the only home they’ve ever known and are now in a strange place with strange people, dogs, and smells. It’s understandable that some dogs are not able to handle the shelter environment. While we do as much as we can to relieve stress through daily walks, enrichment, and play groups, some dogs are not able to ever decompress in the shelter.

How can You help? 

Research has shown that just one night out of the shelter significantly reduced the stress hormone, cortisol, in dogs. Just getting them out of the shelter helps the stress – making fostering so important to dogs like Angelo. Angelo came to IndyHumane after being surrendered by his owner and was immediately stressed in the shelter. He wasn’t eating, he was having terrible diarrhea, and he was quickly losing weight. We knew we had to get him out of the shelter by either being adopted or going to a foster home temporarily. Luckily, we were able to find him a wonderful foster and he thrived in the home! He started to eat more, he had dog friends to play with and he was finally able to relax and be himself. Angelo was adopted a month later and he’s living his best life in his new home. 

Angelo is not a unique case. We currently have a dog in the shelter that is not going well, Lucille. Lucille is an 8 year old who looks a bit rough right now, but kennel stress can affect more than just behavior. Lucille has allergies that cause her skin to itch. She also had dry eyes that require topical medicine. Unfortunately, her stress has caused both of these issues to flare up, making her even more uncomfortable in the shelter than she already was. Lucille is the sweetest dog and we know if she finds a foster or her very own home, she’ll thrive outside of the shelter.

If you are interested in fostering or adopting, please check out the dogs in our care. And if you see a dog barking at the kennel front or pacing, take a moment and read about the animal. Check to see if they have a video of them playing – anything to see how they are outside of the kennel. You may be surprised to find your new best friend hiding in that stressed dog.