Wondering if You Should Foster a Dog? Yes – And Here’s How!

Note: This is an abbreviated version of an article originally published on K9 of Mine, re-published here with permission. You can read the original piece “How to Become a Dog Foster: Providing a Temporary Home for Canines in Need!” at K9 of Mine.

Fostering a dog is a great way to help out shelter & rescue dogs in need – plus it allows you to spend time with a great four-footer without the full lifetime commitment of adopting a pet. 

Every dog deserves a place where they can feel loved and cared for while waiting for their forever home!

Becoming a foster dog parent is incredibly rewarding, but there are a few things into consideration before committing to taking in a shelter pup in need. Don’t worry – we’ll explain everything you need to know!

How Do Fosters Help Shelter Dogs? 

Becoming a dog foster is one of the most impactful things you can do for a local shelter. Foster homes are in need for a variety of reasons including: 

1. Shelter space is tight, and fosters can free up room

Fostering a dog allows a dog to move into your home, freeing up room at rescue organizations — including both “kill” and “no-kill” shelters — so that your local shelter or rescue can take in more dogs who need help. Without caring foster homes, many shelters would be unable to take in new animals. This can result in neglectful owners dumping dogs on highways, or worse.

2. Foster can provide hospice care

For poor pups on their last leg, a dog foster can provide a warm, loving, caring environment for the dog to spend his final days. No dog deserves to leave this world in a stressful, loud shelter environment.

3. Fosters provide a safe space for puppies (until they’re old enough to be adopted)

Foster homes allow puppies to grow up in a relaxing environment, away from the noise and chaos of shelter life. Puppies are like little sponges, and spending their first months on earth in a stressful shelter environment can have a significant and undesirable impact on their disposition as adult dogs. 

A shelter provides minimal chances for exposure and puppy socialization with the larger world, which can result in a fearful, nervous adult dog. 

Fostering a litter of puppies can mean setting up a whole group of dogs for success! 

4. Fosters allow shy dogs to blossom

Shy and timid dogs desperately require a quiet, peaceful environment to help blossom and come out of their shells. Dog fosters allow sensitive canines to get away from the loud kennel environment and provide these pooches with the patience and care needed to feel safe and show their true colors. 

Foster parents of shy dogs will want to focus on building the dog’s confidence through various exercises and gentle training activities to help a nervous dog feel more at-ease and sure of themselves.

5. Fosters provide extra care to sick dogs while they recover

Dogs recovering from sickness or injury are often placed in a foster home to help the dog heal and recover more quickly while also keeping the shelter hygienic and limit the risk of exposure to other dogs. 

6. Fosters can collect more information about a dog’s behavior and demeanor in a home setting

Foster homes offer an excellent opportunity for shelters to better understand a dog’s behavior and general habits. How does a dog handle cats, other dogs, or kiddos? Is the dog potty trained? Does he like toys? Does he prefer to be left alone or is he a huge cuddle bug?

Collecting this information for the shelter will allow the organization to share this info with would-be adopters and help a dog get matched with his perfect home. 

7. Fosters provide a haven if shelters become temporarily unable to care for animals

If a shelter is affected by a natural disaster, canine foster parents can help keep dogs safe temporarily while the shelter is repaired and made habitable. 

Ultimately, foster homes give dogs a better place to live. Dogs in foster homes receive much more individualized attention and care than they might otherwise receive in a crowded shelter.

Many dogs behave much better in a quiet foster home than they do in a shelter, thereby increasing the chances that they’ll find a forever family. 

Fostering a Dog: The Good and the Bad 

Fostering a dog is like any other experience, with advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore some of the key pros and cons.

Pros of Fostering:

  • You get to spend time with a dog. The best part of fostering is that you get to spend time with a new furry friend! You will be helping the dog grow into their best self, which can be very fulfilling.
  • You’ll be supporting your local animal shelter or rescue. One of the greatest advantages in fostering a dog is the help it will provide in supporting your local shelter or rescue. Shelters and rescue groups rely on the generosity of animal fosters in order to help dogs in need and free up space. This is a great way to support your local community!
  • You’ll help a dog find their forever home. Fostering can feel bittersweet at times, but there’s nothing more rewarding than handing off your foster dog to his forever family, knowing you made a pivotal impact on a pup who needed help.
  • Foster dogs can keep your own dog company. Foster dogs are an awesome way to give your own pup some company (if you have a pet at home). In some cases, having another dog in the home can be a game-changer for dogs suffering from separation anxiety (although it won’t be a fix for all dogs). Foster dogs are also a great option for anyone who is not quite ready for the lifetime commitment of a pet, but wants to give dog ownership a trial run.

Cons of Fostering:

  • Saying goodbye can be tough. When it’s time for a dog to move on to their forever home, saying goodbye can be emotionally difficult. While this can feel sad, you can be happy knowing it was YOU who helped a dog in need find a wonderful home. 
  • Foster dogs aren’t always easy to care for. Shelters and rescue groups do their best to provide fosters with information regarding a dog’s background, but in many cases shelter dogs come with an unknown history. Some have challenging issues, such as living formerly as a yard-only dog, or other past trauma that can make life difficult for them. Be ready to show kindness and compassion towards your canine guest, and help them adjust to their new life while preparing for a better future.

What Does a Dog Foster Do?

Dog fosters are wonderful people who make a huge difference in the lives of dogs. Dog fosters play a big part in giving shelter dogs a good life, while also making room in shelters so more dogs can be saved from being put down.

But what – on a day-to-day basis – does a dog foster parent do?

In addition to basic caretaking responsibilities, dog fosters will be responsible for the following:

Basic training and manners. Ideally, you’ll spend some time teaching your foster dog basic manners and obedience training for in-the-home. This isn’t required, but it’s highly recommended and part of what’s expected of a responsible foster. This may involve potty training, basic commands like sit and stay, etc. Some shelters will even cover the cost of classes for you to learn about dog training while helping your new buddy. Just make sure you’re always using humane, compassionate, positive-reinforcement based training strategies that won’t frighten your visiting pooch.

Collecting dog data for the shelter. Foster homes give shelters the opportunity to learn more about a dog’s behavior in a home setting. Be ready to provide detailed information about your foster pup’s personality, preferences, and behavior. A foster parent’s data collection will help ensure that the dog gets matched with a good family fit.

Fosters help find forever homes. The most important job of a pet foster parent is to help their foster find their forever family! This often will involve taking the dog to shelter-organized adoption events and speaking with potential adopters to determine if they’re a good fit for your pooch. There’s a full guide on how to get your foster dog adopted at K9 of Mine with more tips on promoting your pup!

How Can I Become a Dog Foster? 

The basic path required to becoming a dog foster can vary depending on the specific shelter or rescue you are working with. However,  some of the most common requirements include:

  • Fill out paperwork about your living situation. Shelters usually want to get a better understanding of your experience with dogs, your living space (do you have roommates? Do you have a fenced-in backyard?).
  • Complete a basic dog-care course. Many shelters have a short, simple online course or video you’ll be asked to watch to ensure you understand how to properly care for your foster dog.
  • Attend an orientation. Most shelters will have some kind of orientation to get you up to speed on the rules and regulations around the organization’s foster program.

Becoming a dog foster is a great way to help out your local animal shelter while getting to spend time with some amazing doggos! Help deserving dogs find their forever homes while learning about a variety of different dogs.

We hope this foster guide has been helpful – reach out to your local animal shelter or rescue today and ask about becoming a foster today!

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