Fostering a Dog

Young women holding a dog at a shelter

Fostering has so many benefits beyond giving a dog a temporary home while they wait for a permanent placement. Foster dogs can enjoy more hands-on attention than they could receive in a busy shelter. Plus, they get a chance to acclimate to a loving home environment and learn appropriate behaviours.

When you care for a foster dog, you also open space and resources for another dog in need at the shelter. For these organizations, fostering can serve as a valuable resource to help them save as many dogs as possible.

Additionally, fostering a dog can serve as a trial run for you and your family. You get to experience the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities first-hand, including taking them out for daily walks, providing their meals, and cleaning up after their messes. It’s a useful way to help decide if you’re ready to have a dog in your home for the long haul.

Quiz: Is fostering a dog a good idea?

Take this quick quiz to sniff out whether you should foster a dog. Give yourself 1 tail wag for yes and 0 for no.

1. Do you have experience caring for dogs?

Yes (1 wag) or No (0 wags)

2. Are you able to walk, feed, and entertain a foster dog on a regular schedule?

Yes (1 wag) or No (0 wags)

3. Are you willing to shower a foster dog with love and attention?

Yes (1 wag) or No (0 wags)

Add up your wags for your answer:

3 wags: You’re in a great place to consider welcoming a foster dog into your home. You can get started by reaching out to shelters in your area to learn about their foster programs.
1 to 2 wags: You should think carefully before you dive into the process. Be honest with yourself about whether you have the time and inclination to care for a foster dog at this point in your life.
0 wags: It’s OK if you’re not up for fostering right now. There are other ways you can help shelters, such as volunteering your time, donating money, or collecting and dropping off supplies, such as blankets, towels, food, and cleaning products.

What to ask the shelter before fostering

The most important things needed for fostering a dog are a welcoming home with ample space and a commitment to taking great care of them. If you live with family members or roommates, you’ll need to get their buy-in, especially if you want them to pitch in on tasks like walking or feeding the pooch.

The process and requirements provided by foster programs vary by shelter. Make sure you know what’s expected by getting answers to questions like these:

  • How long will you need to foster the dog? Time commitments can range from weeks to months, depending on the foster program and the dog’s situation.
  • Will they give you supplies? Some shelters will send you home with a foster dog starter kit that contains essentials like a collar and bowls.
  • Do they cover veterinary expenses? Find out the shelter’s policy on reimbursing you for health care needs, including emergencies and routine care such as flea and tick prevention.
  • You’ll also want to understand the protocol for accidents and illnesses. For instance, the shelter may require that you take the dog to an onsite or preferred veterinary clinic.

Once you’ve selected a shelter, they’ll have you fill out a foster application, which typically includes information about your living situation. They’ll want to ensure they’re placing the dog in a safe, comfortable home and that you’re able to properly care for them.

How long do you foster a dog for?

The length of time depends on the shelter’s program and the dog’s situation. Some programs want you to commit to a set amount of time, such as 6 to 8 weeks. If the dog is too young to adopt or getting over a health condition, you may need to foster them until they reach a certain age or stage of recovery.

Types of dogs you can foster

There is a common belief rescue dogs are surrendered because of their bad behaviour or may have a permanent injury. Although it’s sometimes true, there’s a lot more to it. Pets are usually surrendered because their owner can no longer handle the time or financial commitment.

It’s important to understand a dog breed before adopting one to make sure they’re a right fit for your lifestyle and you can handle the level of training they may need. For example, some breeds like German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds and Border Collies have a lot more energy and require more training than other breeds. If they don’t have a job to satisfy them, they may work out their energy with destructive behaviour.

You’ll likely be surprised to learn the top 10 dog breeds found at shelters. Most of these dogs just need more training and understanding!

If your foster dog isn’t the right fit for your lifestyle, you can return the dog to the shelter and they will find a better match for you.

Training a foster dog

If you’re fostering an adult or senior dog, they may not need much training. Puppies and younger dogs are another story. You might have to house train them, encourage them to rest in their crate, and teach them basic commands like sit, stay, down, and drop it.

Training takes patience and effort on your part, but it can help a foster pup’s chances of getting adopted. You should use positive reinforcement like treats and praise as you work on different behaviors. Reach out to the shelter if you need guidance.

How to get your foster dog adopted

Some shelters handle most of the marketing and community outreach needed to get a foster dog adopted, but they may ask you to help in specific ways. For instance, you might need to send them photos or videos of the dog for their website and social media accounts, bring the dog to local adoption events or interview people who are interested in adopting them.

One advantage of fostering is that you can expose your foster dog to a wide range of potential adoptees. You can introduce them to friends and family in your home, stop and say hi to neighbours as you walk around the block, or talk with dog-friendly people at coffee shops or parks. You can also use your own social media accounts to spread the word.

What happens If you get attached to your foster dog

So, what happens if you fall madly in love with your foster dog and can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye? It’s not uncommon for dog foster parents to want their furry friend to become a permanent fixture in their family. Ask the shelter about their adoption policies before you take home a foster dog in case you end up in this situation.

Keep in mind the downside to adopting your foster dog is you probably won’t be able to take in another foster. It’s wonderful that you’ll be giving your foster dog a loving home, but it also means one less resource for the shelter.

We hoped this helped you see just how easy fostering a dog is! While taking on a foster dog can be a great way to see if you are ready for the full-time commitment, it will also benefit so many lives: yours, your foster dog and another dog that can be rescued because there’s a free spot!

Originally posted on an external publication