How to Foster a Dog for a Rescue or Shelter?

Have you thought about taking in a foster dog? Fostering a dog from a rescue or shelter is really rewarding for both you and the dog who needs help. But – you might wonder, how do you start and what does it really involve?

Fostering a dog involves providing a temporary home and preparing them for a forever home. And this journey encompasses daily care, emotional support, medical attention, and crucial training. It’s about creating a nurturing environment for recovery, behavior assessment, and building confidence.

To guide you through the rewarding experience of dog fostering, we have provided detailed information & helpful tips. We’ll cover how to become a foster parent, what you’ll need to do, and the big difference you can make in both your and your dog’s life.

Understanding Dog Fostering

Dog fostering involves temporarily taking a dog from a shelter or rescue into your home, and providing them with care, love & essential needs. And, this is usually for a certain time or until the dog is adopted by a forever family. Dogs might need fostering for different reasons. They could come from shelters, be given up by their owners, or be found as strays. Here are some common reasons for fostering dogs:

  • Space Management: Fostering helps reduce crowding in shelters and this makes space to rescue more dogs.
  • Behavioral Assessment: It allows rescue groups to understand a dog’s personality and behavior in a domestic setting.
  • Manners Training: Young, active dogs can learn basic manners before they’re adopted.
  • Confidence Building: It’s a chance for shy or scared dogs to become more confident in a caring place.
  • Recovery Support: Fostering gives a healing space to dogs getting better from sickness, injury, or surgery.
  • Special Care: Senior or sick dogs receive essential hospice care in their final days.
  • Emergency Safety: During disasters, foster homes are safer than shelters.
  • Young Puppies: Puppies that are too young to be adopted stay in a safe place until they’re ready for a permanent home.

Differences Between Fostering and Adopting a Dog

The primary difference between fostering and adopting a dog lies in the commitment’s duration and nature.

  • Fostering is short-term. This arrangement is typically for a set amount of time or until a permanent family adopts the dog. And, it’s an important step for dogs looking for permanent homes and usually doesn’t last long.
  • Adoption – on the other hand, is a lifelong commitment, offering a permanent home and forming a deep, lasting relationship with the dog.

The Process of Becoming a Foster Parent

Embarking on the journey of becoming a foster parent for a dog involves several key steps, each crucial in ensuring the best possible care for the canine companion you’ll be hosting. Let’s delve into the process:

Step 1. Connect With a Rescue Group

First, find a rescue group or shelter to foster with. Use websites like Petfinder and the ASPCA. They have lists of places looking for foster homes. And, you can also search online for local shelters and rescue groups. Facebook groups & other social media can also help you find a good match in your area.

Step 2: Application and Approval

Next, you’ll fill out an application form. This is where you share details about where you live, who’s in your family, and your experience with pets. Honesty is vital here as the information you provide helps the shelter or rescue group match you with a suitable foster dog​​. 

They might check your background and talk to people you know to see if you’re a good fit for fostering. Many organizations will also want to inspect your home. This is to make sure it’s a safe place for the foster dog.

Step 3: Matching with a Dog

Shelters find the right dog for each foster home. They look at your experience and the dog’s needs. And you might get to look at pet profiles online or the shelter might pick a dog for you. It’s important that the dog gets along with your pets and family. 

The shelter might want your pets to meet the foster dog to see if they get along. Factors Considered by Shelters:

  • Compatibility with other pets in the home.
  • Whether you’re allowed to have dogs where you live.
  • Access to transportation around the clock for emergencies.
  • Your skills in handling and training dogs.
  • The dog’s size and how active they are, compared to your lifestyle.
  • Any special care the dog needs, like medical help or training for behavior.
  • The space you have and your living situation.
  • How long you can foster and if your schedule is flexible.
  • Availability at home for part of the day.
  • Your commitment to training and socializing the dog every day.

Step 4: Preparing Your Home

Before the foster dog comes home, make your house safe. Remove sharp things and anything toxic. And hide wires and keep the dog away from places like medicine cabinets. 

Get things you’ll need – like the right food, a crate, bedding, a leash, toys, grooming stuff, and any medicine the dog needs. It’s also good to have a first-aid kit for emergencies.

Responsibilities of a Foster Parent

In the journey of fostering a dog for a rescue or shelter, understanding & embracing your responsibilities is key. It helps you create a nurturing environment for the dog staying with you temporarily. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Daily Care

A big part of fostering is the everyday care you give. And, this means feeding your dog regularly to keep them healthy, giving them plenty of exercise for their physical health, and always checking on their health. 

Also, watch for any changes in how the dog acts or looks, these changes might show the underlying health problems. Your foster dog depends on you every day, just like a permanent pet would.

  1. Medical Care and Emergencies

As a foster parent – you’re in charge of the dog’s medical care and you’ll need to take them to the vet for check-ups, shots, and any special health issues. If there’s an emergency, you must act fast and get in touch with the shelter or rescue group. 

You also need to work with the shelter or rescue group when taking the dog to the vet. This makes sure the dog gets the right treatment at the right time.

  1. Emotional Support

Providing emotional support and stability forms a significant part of the fostering process. Dogs from shelters might need time to get used to a new place. So your job is to make a stable, loving environment for them. 

And this helps them feel safe. This kind of support is key in helping the dog deal with fear or worry. It also helps them slowly get used to living in a house.

  1. Help Train Your Foster 

Training plays a critical role in the dog’s development & increases their chances of finding a forever home. Basic training like teaching them to sit, stay, come, and lie down is essential. Leash training is also important for safe walks. 

And crate training gives the dog a safe, cozy spot. Meeting different people and animals, and seeing different places is good for them too. And it builds their confidence and helps them adapt.

  1. Reporting Back to the Shelter/Rescue Workers 

A crucial responsibility of a foster parent is regularly communicating with the shelter or rescue workers about the dog’s personality and behavior. Notice and share any special traits, habits, or behaviors they have.

What you find out helps make a full profile of the dog. And this profile helps the shelter find the best forever home for the dog. It also prepares future owners, making it easier for the dog to settle into their new home.

  1. The Role in the Adoption Process

As a foster parent – you have a big part in helping the dog find a permanent home. This means you might go to adoption events. There, you could need to bring the dog and talk to people who might adopt them. Your insights into the dog’s personality, behavior, and compatibility with different family environments are invaluable in matching them with the right forever home. 

This information is important for people thinking about adopting a dog. It helps them understand the dog better and plays a big role in the success of the adoption.

Financial Aspects of Fostering

Fostering a dog is very rewarding, but there are some costs to think about. You won’t get money for fostering yet – most shelters and rescue groups cover important medical care. This usually includes shots, checkups, and treatments for heartworm and fleas. Other necessary medical things are often covered too.

But, you have to pay for everyday costs like:

  • Meals
  • Grooming
  • Toys
  • Treats

Each rescue group has its own rules about costs. So, it’s important to know exactly what you’ll have to pay for before you start fostering. And you might spend between $100 and $200 at first. Then, it could be about $50 to $70 every month to take care of the foster dog. These costs can change depending on the dog’s breed, age, and health.

Rewards of Fostering

Fostering a dog is an experience that offers a myriad of heartwarming and fulfilling rewards – enriching both the lives of the foster parent and the canine companion:

  • It is an incredibly rewarding experience. You get emotional, educational & social benefits from it.
  • It’s a chance to save a dog’s life and help them find their forever home.
  • This journey fills your life with love and friendship. And it also teaches you a lot about how dogs behave and how to care for them.
  • Fostering teaches you to be responsible, kind, and patient, and it’s a heartwarming thing to do.
  • Plus, it connects you with other dog lovers. This means you get to meet people and have support.


Taking in a foster dog from a rescue or shelter is a really rewarding journey. You’re doing more than just giving them a place to stay – you’re also helping them have a better future. We know how much this kindness means to these dogs. Every day you spend with your foster dog, you’re showing them love, and trust & what a caring home feels like. Whether you’re already good at caring for dogs or you’re new to this, your contribution is invaluable.

Want to get your dogs ready to foster another dog in your home?  Or need help with a foster you took in?  Give us a call!  


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