How to Foster a Dog: A Quick Guide

Approximately 3.3 million dogs enter animal shelters in the U.S. each year, according to the ASPCA. While many pet parents turn to adoption to help reduce this considerable number, some individuals are unable to permanently adopt. That's where dog fostering—a helpful form of temporary pet parenting—comes in.

As this arrangement becomes increasingly popular, especially in cities, there's a good chance someone you know has fostered a dog or adopted a foster dog...but how does fostering a dog work? Keep reading to learn how to foster a dog and more!

What is Fostering a Dog?

Dog with family

Dog fostering is when you welcome a furry friend into your home and care for them for either a set amount of time or until they are paired with a new adoptive family.

There are many reasons why a dog may need a foster home. Often, it is because a shelter is limited in space or has been impacted by a natural disaster. Other times, a dog may need extra obedience training before adoption. Some organizations even try to match pooches with peaceful homes when they need special care, such as a dog recovering from an injury or illness, a puppy requiring bottle feeding, or a senior dog needing hospice care.

Individuals in various situations and stages of life may benefit from dog fostering. From college students to seniors who live alone, many people foster for the companionship—without the lifetime commitment of adoption. Fostering can especially be an educational experience for families because it teaches lessons in responsibility, care, and compassion.

What Does Fostering a Dog En-tail?

If you're asking yourself, "This sounds like something I'd like to do, but how does fostering a dog work?" we've got you covered. Fostering a dog comes with its fair share of responsibilities; after all, you're taking on the role of "pet parent"!

Dog fostering is a major time commitment. As a foster dog parent, you are responsible for providing your furry friend indoor shelter, food, water, regular grooming, exercise, and lots of affection. You may need to train your pup depending on their age and skill set. Socializing your dog is also important because it allows them to grow increasingly confident in social settings.

In addition, foster parents may be obligated to take their dog to the veterinarian, attend adoption events, and communicate with shelter employees or potential adopters. While it is uncommon for foster parents to be compensated for their efforts, shelters sometimes pay for a foster dog's medical expenses.


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Foster vs. Adopt a Dog: What's the Difference?

Happy Pitbull

The difference between dog fostering and adoption is that fostering a dog is temporary while adopting a dog is for life. Many people choose to foster before adopting to make sure they're ready for the full responsibility of pet parenting—and that's totally okay! If you're wondering how to know if you're ready to adopt, then fostering is a great way to confirm a furry friend fits in with your lifestyle, schedule, and more.

Whether you want to foster a dog before adopting, or you just want to take dogs into your care until they find the right home, both are perfectly acceptable ways of fostering. Some families love their foster dogs so much, they end up adopting them, too! In fact, this is affectionately referred to as "foster failure." While it's technically true that they "failed" at temporary care, permanent dog adoption is a tremendous success.

Getting Started

Before taking on the charitable duty of dog fostering, you should confirm that you are able to provide a stable, supportive home throughout the entire foster term. You must also be financially capable of supplying your foster dog with all pet essentials. If you already have pets, they should be spayed or neutered and up to date on all necessary vaccinations.

Once you're ready, it's time to reach out to local shelters! Organizations such as the ASPCA are a wonderful place to begin as they often compile lists of groups in need of foster parents. Many rescues also have applications or online forms to fill out to get the conversation started.

For additional information, don't be afraid to speak with other individuals who have fostered, especially those in your area. Social media groups are a fantastic way to connect and learn more about how to foster a dog.

Lending a Helping Hand

It may be a big responsibility, but fostering a dog is an extremely generous act that makes a huge difference to furry friends in need. We greatly appreciate those who care for and nurture dogs until they find their forever homes.  

Lots of kitties need homes, too! Discover the basics about fostering a cat.


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