If you are reading this it is because you are thinking of becoming a hero; you are ready to flex your life saving skills and be a champion for a pet in need.  AWESOME!

Foster families are always needed as part of the lifesaving efforts happening in animal shelters and rescues all across the country. We encourage you to explore the world of fostering and join the tens of thousands of people making a difference for puppies and dogs in need!

While it may seem like you need a lot of experience or special talents, that’s just not true.  Can you share your home with dog?  Can you keep a dog safe?  Can you open your heart to the love of a furry friend?  PERFECT!  You are qualified!

You probably have a lot of questions, and we know that it can feel overwhelming to start something new, so we’re here to help. Many people jump into dog fostering and just learn as they go. That’s honestly how most of us got into it, and now we’re seasoned veterans with all sorts of tips and tricks up our sleeves.

As veteran foster parents, we get the opportunity to share what we’ve learned with you right here, before you jump in, so we flatten your learning curve and you can hit the ground running as a successful foster caregiver.

Things to Consider Before Getting Started


Why do you want to foster?

shelters? Are you ready to be a short-term home to a dog, a bridge between their past and future lives? Fostering is not meant for you to start adopting all the dogs yourself! Rather it’s meant to help many dogs over a long period of time to find their homes. Not that adopting your foster dog never happens, of course (it’s certainly happened to us!). But if you know now that you’re looking for a fur friend to be a permanent part of your family, adoption is probably your best bet. If you’re on the fence, chat with the organization you’re thinking about fostering for and they can help guide you to the best path for you.

Fostering a dog is a time commitment.

Sometimes fostering a dog is as simple as providing fresh food, clean water, walkies and snuggles. But very often the dog you are fostering also needs some help from you. It could be that they need to build confidence, learn some doggy manners, or recover from an illness or injury. If they are just babies, they will need someone to feed them and teach them how to go potty outside. Whatever your foster dog needs, it will involve some of your time.

Talk to the organization you’re interested in fostering for. Let them know your schedule, your general dog handling experience level, and the type of commitment you’re looking for. They know their fidos and will be able to find a perfect match for you!


There may be a cost involved.

Some shelters will provide you with basic supplies for your foster dog, such as food, a crate, collar and leash, and some toys, as well as coverage of all medical costs, from normal vaccines to advanced veterinary care. Other shelters will rely on foster parents to provide the basics of food, litter, etc., while the shelter handles all of the medical costs. And some can provide basic supplies and normal medical care but cannot cover advanced veterinary issues.

It’s important to ask questions of the organization you’re considering fostering for, and to work with a shelter or rescue whose ability to provide resources lines up with your needs for fostering.

Keep in mind that the more support you are able to provide to the shelter or rescue, the more money the organization can put towards saving more lives, and it may be tax deductible as a donation but check with your tax preparer.


You will likely need a car. Or a bike with a cart. Or a dog bag for the subway.

You will want to be prepared with a way to get back and forth for general medical care if necessary, and especially if emergencies arise. Some shelters and rescues are recruiting volunteers to assist with transporting foster dogs and supplies to you, but you’ll want to ask about transportation up front.

Foster dogs aren’t yard dogs.

You will need some space inside your home for your foster dog. There are very few dogs that will be allowed to remain outside for hours on end, and rescues and shelters usually outline this in their rules. Even if your house is small, it’s bigger than a kennel! A spare bathroom, bedroom, or a finished basement area can make great foster spaces depending on the size of the dog and how often you can spend time with them. Be sure to dog-proof the space by putting away valuable items and blocking off any areas where the dog might hide that you can’t safely and easily reach.

Everyone plays a part.

Is your everyone in your home ready for a dog? Are they going to help? How will it change everyone’s schedules and routines? It’s important to be considerate to all household members and understand their expectations. Fostering can be a wonderful household activity and it can help kids (and adults) learn compassion and responsibility. Plus, it’s fun!

Consider your personal pets.

Fostering will take time away from your resident pets, but you can find a good balance. Do you plan to introduce your foster dog or puppies to your resident pets? If so, discuss this with the organization you’re fostering for so they can tell you about any policies or procedures they have. Keep an eye on your resident pets, whether they interact with the foster or not, to make sure fostering doesn’t stress them. Your pets are your number one priority. Keep them safe by making sure they are current on their vaccinations and don’t leave them unattended with your foster dog for any length of time.

You will be an advertiser.

Many organizations will rely on you to play a role in the marketing of your foster dog for adoption. Talk to them about their expectations. Be prepared to take lots of cute photos and videos! Don’t let this part scare you! You can always tap into friends, kids, and the organization you’re fostering for to help with this part! It does make the whole process a bit easier when the foster parent is open and willing to help. And adopters will want to meet your foster dog, so chat with the organization you’re fostering for about options for meets.

TIP: With social distancing changes due to the COVID-19 crisis, virtual meet and greets using video apps like Facetime or Skype have proven to be a very valuable, efficient, and reliable way to find the right fit for your foster dog.


You will need to pace yourself.

Like many other things in life, being a foster parent is a marathon, not a sprint, and it can have a positive impact on your community. Over time and experience, you will learn your limits in fostering. Perhaps it will be limited to the number of dogs you foster each year, or at one time, or the personalities or needs of the dogs you can foster. You need to determine your own limits and respect them to prevent stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout. Doing this will also allow you to be a better foster parent in the long term.

Everything isn’t perfect all the time.

We wish fostering was always happy and fun, but try to be prepared for possible setbacks, frustrations, and heartbreaks. Sadly, sometimes puppies and adult dogs come to shelters or rescues with serious issues. Many will survive thanks to you! But if you lose a foster dog to illness, please don’t ever blame yourself! You gave them a chance and a loving home.

Now, let us tell you about the highs! Fostering is truly a selfless act of kindness, BUT there is an added bonus. There isn’t a better feeling in the entire world than watching a foster dog grow into a well behaved, healthy family member in your care, then find their home. Foster care provides the bridge that so many dogs need to survive. It has changed the course of the animal welfare movement, saving millions of lives so far. And you can be part of it!

The Many Benefits of Fostering

  • You get to become a life-saving hero!
  • You can help change the course of animal welfare
  • You will feel sense of purpose
  • Pets are good for your health and can help you heal
  • Fostering is entertaining and fun!
  • You have so many options and opportunities to learn something new!
  • You will be an inspiration to your friends and family!
  • You get a friend who will always listen
  • You get an incredibly rewarding experience! 
  • The icing on the cake, you get to see your foster with a loving forever family that will love them as much as you do!
  • Your home is so much better than a shelter!
  • You create more space in the shelter for more pets to get a second chance!
  • You learn more information about the cat to help find the right adopters and to pass along to the shelter
  • Illness, injury or stress that can better be managed and cared for in a home environment – cats will stay healthier, more relaxed