UBS relies on fosters to acheive our mission of helping stray dogs find their homes.  The following guidelines are intended to make life easier for foster families.  

UBS Foster Guidelines

Useless Bay Sanctuary is a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to assisting stray dogs wandering in the Puget Sound region. We rely on foster families to temporarily house any dog we find while we search for the dog’s owner. We want to keep these dogs healthy and safe. We also want foster families to enjoy this rewarding experience. A clear idea of what to expect can help avoid misunderstandings that might result in unnecessary risks to the dogs or the foster families. If you have questions at any time, please write to us at or call the number of our Foster Coordinator, which should have been provided to you. The kindness of a foster family can have a huge impact on the future of a dog who has already seen too many hardships in his life.

Safety for you and the dog:

1.    Calming signals.

2.    Avoid bites.

3.    Prevent escapes.

4.    Vaccinations.

5.    Household hazards.

6.    Traveling.

Calming signals. These are behaviors dogs often use on each other to help diffuse tense situations and help both parties relax.  Generally speaking, dogs calm each other by turning to the side, avoiding direct eye contact, sitting in a relaxed position, yawning, and licking their lips.  Please see Turid Rugaas for more information on calming signals.   When you meet your foster dog, you may be excited to see him.  It is not uncommon for people, especially children, to stare directly into a dog’s eyes, squeal with excitement, and pat that dog on top of the head.  Some dogs will be okay with such behavior, but a UBS foster dog will likely be stressed, nervous, and frightened by the sudden change in circumstances.  Eventually, your foster dog may enjoy such happy human gestures, but avoid them until the dog gets to know you.  For the first hour that a foster dog is in your home, it would probably be best to just sit quietly in a room and pretend to ignore the dog as he explores his new surroundings.  Let him come to you in his own time.  If he’s happy and friendly from the start, calming signals won’t be necessary, but don’t expect all dogs to be happy and friendly when thrust into strange situations.

Avoiding bites. Most of the dogs we place into foster homes have a very low risk of biting anyone. If a dog has a history of biting we will disclose that.  Most bites occur, not because a dog is vicious or dangerous, but because the dog’s space was not respected or the dog’s needs were ignored.  While bites are rare, the bites we have witnessed have really been a last resort at communicating, a way of getting people or dogs to pay attention. By avoiding surprises, and reading a dog’s body language, you can avoid putting a dog into a situation where he feels he has no other recourse than to express his fears or frustrations with a bite. Not only is a bite painful and potentially dangerous to the recipient of the bite, but the dog that was forced into a biting situation will have to carry that black mark on his record, possibly making him harder to adopt.  Give a dog time to adjust to new situations.  Introduce the foster dog to your animals in a controlled manner, perhaps one at a time if necessary.  Depending on the dogs being introduced, it may be wise to have two people present at the introduction, in case of trouble.  Introduce the foster dog to new people in a controlled manner–the foster dog can’t be expected to know who is a stranger and who is a friend without being told by you.  As an example, one foster dog in a new home got settled in okay, but when the father came home from work, the dog didn’t know this stranger actually lived there, and he nipped the father while protecting the daughter from what he thought was a possible threat.  What was obvious to the people involved came as a surprise to the dog.  Nervous foster dogs generally don’t do well with surprises.  In a couple of days, your foster dog will probably be settled in and acting like he has always been a member of your family.  Some dogs will be happy and friendly from the first moment, but some dogs take time to adjust. 

Prevent escapes.  The dogs that UBS helps probably come under our care because they escaped from somewhere.  Before we bring a foster dog to you, we will take measures to reduce the risk of a new escape.  We will have pictures of the dog for identification and for potential use on a Lost Dog poster.  We will have stored a scent article of the dog so that our tracking dogs, Kelsy and Fozzie, can follow the scent trail of the dog if he goes missing.  We will provide the dog with ID tags, a Martingale collar that won’t slip off, and in some cases a harness for extra security.  If the dog is a high risk of trying to escape, we may recommend he be walked on two leashes, one attached to a collar and the other attached to the harness.  Some foster dogs may come with a GPS collar, just in case.  If so, you will be responsible for making sure the tracking unit is properly charged.  Before you receive a UBS foster dog, a representative of UBS will visit your home to assess potential escape routes.  Most escapes occur when a dog is in unfamiliar surroundings and is spooked by something unexpected.  Please ask, if we haven’t already told you, how likely it is that this foster dog will try to escape.  You may need to take extra precautions, such as visitors coming in and out through the kitchen or the garage in order to have a second set of doors between the foster dog and the outside.  If a dog escapes, please notify us immediately at 206-552-0304.  The sooner we mobilize the search effort, the better our odds of a successful recovery.  You may find the dog next door in just a few minutes, but we would rather be called in any case.  The foster dog coming to stay with you probably won’t have a microchip because we want to search for a dog’s owner for 30 days before making any alterations to the dog.  Please read this extended article on preventing escapes:

Vaccinations.  Before you foster for UBS, it would be a good idea to make sure your dogs are up to date on their vaccinations.  In some cases, the foster dog will be vaccinated before coming to you.  In other cases, we may ask you to take the dog in for vaccinations shortly after he arrives at your home.  UBS pays for all veterinary care for our foster dogs.  Most of our dogs are very healthy, and they may have had vaccinations already in their previous homes, but we don’t know their history in most cases.  If you see any sign of illness or a health issue of any kind, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Household hazards.  A UBS representative will visit your home before the foster dog arrives.  One purpose of this visit is to check for any obvious hazards to a dog, such as a pool with no fence around it, or structural, mechanical, or electrical defects in the area where the dog will be staying.  If you have years of experience caring for dogs, you will likely already be aware of potentially dangerous foods, such as grapes, chocolate, onions, alcohol, etc.  Please try to limit the amount of “people food” your foster dog gets.  He should be receiving a quality dog food.  In general, our fosters pay for the dog food given to the foster dogs.  If that will be a problem for you, please talk to us about UBS supplying food for the dog.  If mushrooms grow in your back yard, alert UBS to this situation, as many mushrooms are poisonous to dogs and people.  If you live near a busy street, take extra care that your foster dog is under control.  The foster dog should never be outside without a leash anyway, but take extra care around high traffic areas. 

Traveling.  When possible, transport the foster dog in a kennel or with a harness attached to a seat belt.  Try to limit the number of trips the foster dog takes in your car, as this is a potential avenue of escape.  Some escapes happen when dogs accidentally get out of the car at unfamiliar locations, such as the grocery store.  As part of your fostering responsibilities, you may be asked to take the dog to the vet.  Many dogs don’t like to visit a vet, and for your foster dog, this will be an unfamiliar place.  If possible, use two leashes, one attached to a harness and one attached to a collar, just as a precaution. 

As a foster for Useless Bay Sanctuary, your primary responsibility is keeping the dog safe and healthy.  Beyond that, we hope you will enjoy having your foster dog and that you will help this dog become the kind of healthy, happy, fun dog that someone would want to adopt.  Although the following actions are not required on your part, we certainly hope you would enjoy providing these services for the foster dog.

1.     Have fun!

2.    Take pictures.

3.    Train new skills.

4.    Help a dog discontinue any bad habits.

5.    Socialize the foster dog in controlled settings.

Having a UBS foster dog should be fun for you and your family, and the dog, too.  You probably volunteered to foster because you agree that dogs are wonderful.  We encourage you to play games with your foster dog.  Some like to fetch, some like to find hidden treats with their noses, and some like to snuggle on the couch with you as you read a book.  We want your time with a UBS foster dog to be pleasant and memorable.  As long as you can undertake an activity safely, and the dog seems to be enjoying it, then we encourage games and play.  If you are thinking of taking the foster dog for a long hike in the mountains or a trip to the ocean, please discuss those plans with us first.  In general, we do not want you to take a UBS foster dog to an off-leash dog park for a number of reasons, including the possibility of escape and the risk of negative interactions with other dogs.  We don’t know the background of the dogs that come under our care, so they can be unpredictable in intense situations such as meeting many strange dogs at the dog park.  If you really think your foster dog would do well at an off-leash park, and it would be beneficial for the socialization of the dog, then please discuss it with us to see if it would be appropriate on a case by case basis.

Please take lots of pictures of your foster dog having fun.  Great pictures of a happy dog will help if we need to find a new family to adopt this dog (if we can’t locate the original owners).  UBS will have already taken a few pictures of any dog we bring to you, but often times a dog will look less than happy during times of transition and uncertainty.  We love to see pictures of dogs in foster homes relaxed and happy, playing, and goofing around.  Help us help our dogs by providing visual examples of how much fun these dogs can be. 

We ask that you use only positive training methods with our dogs.  We are not fans of Cesar Milan, nor do we believe you need to be the alpha dog in your dogs’ pack.  Certainly prevent your foster dog from engaging in dangerous behavior, but for everyday training, you can accomplish so much more with treats and praise.  If you can train the foster dog to Sit, Stay, and Come, these skills will help if we need to find a permanent adoptive home.  If you can train your foster dog to balance ten cookies on his nose while you shoot a video for YouTube, then your foster dog will be adopted in two seconds!  Please ask if you have any questions about training methods, or difficulty with a particular problem.

Your foster dog may come to you with inappropriate behaviors, such as chewing the wrong things or eliminating in the wrong place.  If your foster dog has an accident in the house, try not to make a big deal out of it.  It might just be a matter of getting used to a new schedule.  If it happens more than twice, then be sure to help this dog get out of that habit by taking him outside often and praising him for eliminating in the right place at the right time.  Scolding a dog for making a mess in the house will probably not fix the behavior.  If you have problems with inappropriate behavior from your foster dog, please let us know immediately so we can work with you to solve it. 

Chances are, if you volunteered to foster a dog for UBS, you already have pets.  We certainly encourage you to promote positive interactions between the foster dog and your pets.  A dog that can get along with other dogs and cats stands a much better chance of finding a family to adopt him.  If you plan to socialize your foster dog with dogs in the neighborhood that you meet while walking down the street, please do it in a careful, controlled manner.  Be sure to ask the owner of any dog you meet before you allow your foster dog to greet the approaching dog.  In most cases, you will want the dogs to greet without having to put a great deal of tension on the leash.  If a dog is straining at the leash, that tension is transmitted to the situation, and dogs that might normally greet each other peacefully may be goaded into snapping and snarling.  If possible, meet a new dog by walking along in the same direction and coming up alongside the dog.  Coming at each other head on can increase the tension for the dogs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If your question isn’t answered below, please don’t hesitate to ask.  Call your Foster Coordinator, or write to us at

Yes.  If we can’t find the owner in thirty days, we will be looking for a new home for the dog.  In most cases, we will be delighted to have you adopt the dog you are fostering.  Fosters still need to fill out an application to adopt the dog, but all other things being equal, fosters are given priority because of the bond they have formed with the dog.  The usual fee for adopting a UBS dog is a $250 donation to the nonprofit.  This fee does not entirely cover the average cost of vet care for a UBS dog, but it helps to offset our costs.  If you would be willing to make that donation when you adopt your foster dog, we would sure appreciate it.  However, if you have fostered a dog for several weeks, then we will waive the adoption fee and, if approved, you can adopt your dog at no charge.  The standard adoption agreement will still need to be completed by you.  That includes a clause that, should you at any time in the future decide you can’t keep the dog, you will notify UBS before you rehome a dog and give us a chance to find a new, screened, approved home for the dog. 

No. UBS will cover all veterinary expenses.  Please contact us before you take a UBS dog to the vet, if possible.  If it is an emergency, and you can’t get a hold of us right away, UBS will certainly reimburse you for the cost of emergency care when you provide us with copies of the receipts.  If emergency care is going to be very expensive, over $1,000, then please keep trying to contact us as soon as possible at 206-552-0304.

Preferably a premium food with quality ingredients, one that does not include chicken meal as the first or second ingredient.  I feed my dogs Natural Balance, whose ingredients are:  Sweet Potatoes, Salmon, Salmon Meal, Canola Oil, Potato Fiber, Natural Flavor, Salt, Salmon Oil, Flaxseed, etc.  UBS fosters usually pay for the food for the dog.  If you would like to foster a UBS dog but can’t afford dog food, please talk to us about making arrangements.  We can probably bring you a month’s supply of food.

Yes. It is very important that your dog is wearing a collar and ID in the event he should wander off. 

Yes. We may try to provide solutions that will make fostering the dog easier, but if it is not working out, we will absolutely take the dog back as soon as we can. 

If you know of someone who wants to adopt this dog, please put them in contact with us.  Under no circumstances can you send the dog to a new home without first receiving our express approval.

Please let us know in advance, and we will make arrangements for the dog to stay somewhere else.

Please keep calling and emailing until your question is answered.  If we don’t respond right away, it does not mean we are ignoring you.  Your email might have been caught in the spam filter, or perhaps we were busy on another case.  We definitely do want to answer your questions and concerns in a timely manner.  We are an all-volunteer organization, and some of our key volunteers contribute over 100 hours a month helping stray dogs.  We try to respond to our fosters as soon as possible. ion Content

Please contact us immediately. 

While it is important to separate fighting dogs, try to do so without risking injury to yourself.  Grab a cushion, a broom, or a chair and wedge it between them.  Throw water on them or spray them with a hose.  If two people are present (which would be ideal if two larger dogs are meeting for the first time), each person should grab the back feet of a dog, and pull the dogs apart.  Keep pulling in this fashion until one of the dogs is in a separate room and a door is closed between them.   In general, unless you are experienced and capable, you should not put your hands near the heads of two dogs fighting.  Chances are that the dogs will make ferocious sounds and actually not hurt each other at all, but if you stick your hand into the fray, there is a good chance you will be bitten.  The best strategy is to prevent fights by avoiding circumstances that can trigger them.  Fights are often started by conflicts over food, so you may wish to give food and treats in separate rooms.  Once everything is under control, and you’re sure the dogs are okay, please let us know about the situation. 

The majority of dogs that UBS has helped so far–about 100 dogs in 2 years–have been easy to deal with and a joy to be around.  A few dogs have been very challenging in one respect or another, but even those dogs had their good qualities.  Chances are, the dog you foster will be little or no trouble.  However, it is better to be prepared for trouble than to be caught by surprise.  By anticipating problems and avoiding them, we hope to make the foster experience better for you and the dog.