Fostering dogs (or cats) for a shelter or rescue saves two lives at once. It saves the dog you welcome into your home (and heart) and it also saves the dog who now has a spot in a shelter (instead of being euthanized or turned away due to lack of space).
More than that, though, you are giving a dog a safe place to rest, get healthy, and prepare to be adopted. As a foster, you’ll get to know your foster dog and be the best person to tell potential adopters what your dog is really like living in a home environment, which makes a good match more likely.
Worried you won’t be able to give up your foster dog? I won’t tell you it’s ever easy, but I will tell you that the reward of saving another life will make it possible. Think of it as ‘babysitting’ until the dog’s forever family comes. And if you’re still having a hard time letting go, take a peek at all the dogs still looking for foster homes. As I’ve told my own children all along, “If you don’t let this one go, we can’t save another.”
Have you ever thought of fostering a dog for a shelter or rescue? Let me talk you into it….
Benefits of fostering
If you’ve been contemplating a gym membership or are plagued with guilt because you can’t get your butt off the couch, fostering can help! No matter the weather or your mood, that foster dog needs exercise and it’ll help you get some in the process. Fostering is a great fitness plan for anyone.
4. Family Fun and Entertainment!
Welcoming new dogs into your home on a regular basis means you’ll have a steady stream of entertainment. The antics, quirks, silliness, and fun vary with every dog. It’s also something you can do as a family which will create memories and a legacy that will last a lifetime. Saving dogs together is seriously bonding. It’s not just fun, but it will teach your children not only how to care for a dog, but how to make a difference in the world.
5. A whole new network of friends who quickly become like family.
This was one benefit I hadn’t expected, but working with others to rescue dogs quickly builds a community and a commraderie that is comforting in today’s world. The people I’ve met through the rescue– other fosters, administrators, volunteers, and adopters have quickly become friends and even family to me.
We’ve all got our excuses, to let me tackle a few of yours…
2) What if I get a difficult dog?
Most rescues and shelters have experts who screen dogs before placing them in foster care. Before you take any dog, be sure to ask how the dogs are screened. In over 100 dogs now, I’ve yet to get a dog I truly couldn’t handle. I’ve never been bitten (knock on wood) or scared, and the only thing that has overwhelmed me is pee on my carpet. But really, it’s just carpet, right? And here’s your out – a foster dog is not your dog – you can give it back. How nice is that?
3) I might get stuck with a dog long term.
We’ve been more than amazed that all of our dogs have been adopted pretty quickly. That’s the beauty of the foster system, you’re able to paint a clear picture of what the foster dog would be like in a real house thereby attracting the right kind of adopter.
Dogs in shelters are many times overwhelmed and reactive – think how you might feel if you were suddenly placed in a prison-like environment foreign to everything you know. You’d be freaked out too, right? You probably wouldn’t be acting like yourself.
When we step up to foster a dog, we commit to keeping that dog as long as it takes, but another question you might want to ask a shelter or rescue you are considering fostering for is how long is the average stay in a foster home? Also, does the rescue/shelter have a system in place for when a foster caregiver goes on vacation or needs a break?
It’s unlikely that you’ll be involuntarily stuck with a dog unless you choose to foster-fail and that will all be on you. I’ve learned it’s a very common thing amongst fosters, but I would encourage you to be realistic about how many dogs you can properly care for in addition to fostering.
4) It will cost money.
I will tell you that it won’t, but then it might. We’ve spent plenty of our own money, but we’ve done so willingly. Most shelters/rescues are tight on cash but most also get plenty of donated food and supplies and will likely pass those along to you. If you do spend your own money – be sure to keep a record and reciepts because it’s all tax-deductible!
In the end, sure, we spend some money. But who doesn’t spend money on something they love?
5) I work full-time and the dog will be alone all day.
I’m lucky because I work from home and many of my fosters can hang out with me as I work. Their company is welcome. But most fosters work out of their home and crate their foster dog during the hours they are away. On average dogs sleep up to 20 hours a day, and sleep is an excellent activity while crated! Plus, most adopters have jobs and will need to crate their new dog a portion of the day. By crate-training a dog you are helping make it even more adoptable and more likely that an adoption will stick.
6. It’ll be too hard to give the dog away.
This is the most common excuse for not fostering. I get it. I do. I’m not gonna lie and say it isn’t sometimes very hard because sometimes it’s serious hurt. BUT (and this is such a huge but), are you prepared to not foster because it’ll make you sad while dogs are being euthanized in shelters all over our country simply because there isn’t room? That should hurt a lot more than the pain you may experience saying good-bye to a foster dog.
Nothing worthwhile is easy. Plain and simple. You can save lives. And to do that you have to give up a little piece of your heart. It’s worth it. Promise.
Frequently Asked Questions
2. What happens if my foster dog gets sick or hurt?
This is the part where its nice to have a village behind you. More than likely your shelter or rescue have a veterinarian associated with them and you can utilize their services. There may also be one on staff to answer questions. I’ve found that many times other foster moms have the best advice for me when I’m worried that there is something wrong with my dog. And best of all – medicine and veterenary care is paid for (often at a discounted rate by generous veterinarians) by the rescue/shelter.
3. Do I have to find the adopters for my dog?
Nope. That task is handled by other people. They’ll want you to tell them about the dog so they can market it well and probably ask you to take some pictures. If you aren’t handy with a camera, many rescues/shelters have volunteer photographers who will help you with that. You may have to transport your dog to an event, the shelter or another location to meet their potential foster (or invite the adopters to your home like we do), but the details and the marketing are up to the rescue/shelter. If you’re like me, though, you’ll want to help your dog find its family quickly, so you’ll probably want to post on social media, tell others about it, or maybe write a book. (kidding.) (mostly.)
4. What about my dogs?
You can choose to let your dogs interact with foster dogs or not. For me, it’s been helpful to bring in young playful dogs to keep Frankie entertained so he doesn’t get on Gracie’s nerves (she’s old and grumpy). We use a system of babygates to keep the dogs seperate until we’re sure they’ll all get along. Puppies are quaranteened upon arrival away from my dogs until we’re sure there’s no risk of them carrying any kind of contagion.
5. How do I find a reputable rescue or shelter to work with?
Ask a lot of questions. Do your homework. Don’t apply to foster until you’ve found out where the dogs come from, what their foster guidelines are, how many dogs they adopt out each year, the average time a foster dog stays in a foster home, and how the organization will support you should you have any issues with your foster dog or if you have to go out of town. If possible ask to speak with an experienced foster or visit with them.
One great way to get to know an organization is to start by volunteering. Walk dogs at your local shelter or work adoption events for your local rescue. Get to know the people you would work with (and remember that sometimes dog people are a bit dog-centered!). Many shelters allow dogs to go for a ‘day out’ or a ‘sleepover’. That’s the perfect way to get your feet wet with fostering.
Still have questions? Feel free to email me – firstname.lastname@example.org