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HomeLife Blog Fostering a Dog: How to Foster Dogs Blog Fostering a Dog: How to Foster Dogs


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By Savannah Admire
Woman petting foster dog on ground
Shava Cueva / Stocksy
Deciding to foster a dog, which involves temporarily taking care of a dog from a shelter or rescue organization, is a huge commitment, but it can make a major difference in the life of not just the dog you take into your home but also other animals in the shelter. Fostering helps prepare dogs for life with their forever family and frees up space for the organization to take in and care for more animals, saving lives one pet at a time.

Fostering can last a few days, weeks, or even months, and foster dogs come from all walks of life — they may have been abandoned, surrendered, or rescued from a neglectful situation. Fostering is a chance to give a dog a loving home and help them prepare for adoption. It can also be a rewarding experience for you and your family.

If you’ve never fostered before, stepping into this world can be daunting. Read our breakdown to learn how to foster a dog and how you can make an impact in your community.

What is dog fostering?

So, what does it mean to foster a dog? Fostering involves bringing a dog from a shelter or rescue into your home and giving them care and love for a set amount of time or until the dog is adopted.

Many shelters have foster programs to give dogs more individual attention and help them become accustomed to living in a home with people and sometimes other animals. Some rescue organizations, known as “foster-based” rescue groups, don’t even have a designated facility and instead rely entirely on foster homes to shelter and care for their adoptable pets.

Shelters and rescues invest in foster care for dogs for a wide variety of reasons, such as overcrowding in the shelter or giving timid dogs the time and space they need to feel comfortable. Maybe the organization wants to learn more about a dog’s personality, which is much easier in a home setting, or maybe a puppy needs to learn how to behave properly before adoption. Some foster families even care for dogs healing from injury or recovering from an illness.

What is the process of fostering?

If you’re interested in fostering a dog, the process is relatively simple. Reach out to a local rescue group or shelter and tell them you would like to foster a dog. Most organizations desperately need fosters and will be happy for the help. The shelter will work with you to find a dog that fits with your lifestyle.

But how does fostering a dog work? As a dog foster parent, your main job will be providing a safe and loving home for the dog, however long you need to. That means ensuring your temporary pet has all the food, water, affection, exercise, and socialization they need to stay happy and healthy. Shelter workers may also ask you to bring the dog to adoption events, work on obedience training, and report on the dog’s behavior and personality to the shelter.

Why should you consider fostering a dog?

When you take a dog into your home, you’re freeing up space and resources for the shelter to take in another dog in need, all while helping shelter staff learn more about your foster dog’s genuine personality.

“Housing dogs in private homes makes for happy, well-adjusted animals who make an easier transition into an adoptive home than they would coming straight out of a facility,” Eileen Bouressa, executive director of the Animal Compassion Network, says.

If you already have a dog, a foster dog can offer some canine companionship, which can, in turn, help socialize your foster dog, preparing them for life in a forever home with other dogs. Fostering also helps dogs become more accustomed to human interaction and lets you learn a little more about how to care for a dog. And don’t discount those warm feelings you get just from the company of a dog and from doing meaningful volunteer work.

What are the benefits of fostering a dog?

While fostering can be challenging, it comes with numerous benefits — for the dog, other animals in the shelter, the dog’s future family, and your community. The advantages of fostering a dog make for a long list, including:

  • Help a rescue dog become more adoptable and feel comfortable in a home environment
  • Enjoy the rewarding feeling of helping an animal in need and saving a life
  • Try out dog parenthood before adopting a dog yourself
  • Open up space for the shelter to rescue more dogs
  • Reduce the population of homeless dogs in your community
  • Experience the joy and companionship of a dog

What costs are involved in fostering?

Fostering is much-needed volunteer work, but it can be overwhelming to think of purchasing all the supplies a dog requires. How much does it cost to foster a dog?

Fortunately for potential dog foster parents, the rescue group or shelter provides most, if not all, of the supplies your foster dog will need, such as food, leashes, a crate, and even veterinary care. The shelter is your partner in fostering, and the staff will be there to help you out and answer any questions you may have — which is incredibly important for first-time dog foster parents.

While fostering may not cost much monetarily, it will likely take an emotional toll. Saying goodbye to a dog can be hard, especially after spending weeks or even months seeing them every day. But it’s all worth it.

“You’ll love every dog that comes through your door and may get emotional when they’re finally adopted,” Krista Almqvist, executive director at Badass Animal Rescue, says. “It’s important to recognize how critical of a role you play in the dog’s journey to become adoptable and get a second chance at a new beginning.”

FAQs (People Also Ask):

Is there an age requirement for fostering?

Each shelter or rescue group has its own rules in place for fostering, but generally, foster parents should be at least 18 years old.

How long does fostering usually last?

The length of a dog’s stay can vary depending on their needs. On average, most dogs are fostered for about two months, but they can stay longer, especially if they’re recovering from an illness or injury.

Can I adopt the foster dog if I become attached?

It’s not uncommon for foster dog parents to “foster fail” or adopt their foster dog. Fostering can be a great way to test the waters of pet parenthood while still supporting your local shelter or rescue organization.


Emergency Fostering of Dogs From Animal Shelters During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Shelter Practices, Foster Caregiver Engagement, and Dog Outcomes

Fostering Rescued Dogs: An Exploratory Study of the Experiences of Foster Care Providers

A Guide for Foster Dog Parents

Savannah Admire is a writer, editor, and pet parent to two dogs and a cat. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing Animal Crossing, or being an obnoxious nerd about her favorite movies and TV shows. She lives in Maryland, where she constantly debates whether or not to get a third dog.

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