Fostering a dog means that you’ll take into your house a homeless dog and give it the attention it needs either for a previously set period of time or until it’s adopted and finds a forever home. The actual duration of the stay can vary depending on the dog and the situation it’s in. Some dogs may need to be fostered only for a few weeks or months but most stay in their foster homes until they’re adopted.

Foster dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and shelter workers always do their best to find the best fit for both the dogs and foster homes. Most agencies that faciliate foster arrangements also provide all the food and equipment the dog may need, and cover all veterinary bills. The only things generally not covered are generally transportation for pet matters, and damage to the foster family’s property.

Fostering a dog can be a great decision for dog lovers who can’t commit to owning a dog but would love to help shelters fight pet homelessness.

Why do dog shelters need foster homes?

Foster homes can be of big help for shelters as, unfortunately, not all dogs are able to cope well with living at the kennel. There are many reasons why dogs might need a foster home and some of them include:

  • There isn’t enough physical space available at the shelter for adoptable dogs;
  • They’re too young to be adopted and need a safe place to grow;
  • They’re recovering from surgery, an illness, or injury and need a safe place with dedicated attention;
  • They need daily medication and care due to their old age or an illness;
  • They show signs of severe stress such as pacing or hiding in the shelter;
  • They have never lived in a home before or haven’t had a lot of contact with people and need to be socialized and rehabilitated in order to be adopted in the future.

Of course, not everyone is able to handle these situations. For example, a dog that hasn’t been socialized with humans needs to be paired with a foster home where people have experience with dogs and are able to deal with this situation. The same goes for dogs that need daily medication and even puppies that need special care.


That’s why it’s so important that shelters pair the right dogs with the right foster home so that everything runs smoothly. When this pairing is done right, fostering a dog can be a very rewarding experience. When you take a dog in need temporarily into your home you’re contributing to:

  • Free a spot at the shelter so they can take in another dog in need;
  • Give your foster dog what it needs to be ready for its forever home;
  • Help the shelter learn more about your foster dog to ensure it’s adopted by the right family;
  • Socialize your foster dog to a home environment and even other pets which increases the chances of a successful adoption.

Is fostering a dog right for you?

Fostering a dog isn’t the right option for every home and that’s alright. What’s important is that you take some time to consider if your home can be a good fit. Here are some things you need to ensure in order to be able to take in a dog temporarily:

  • If you have other pets, you’ll need to be able to separate them from your foster dog: you never know how your foster dog will react to your current pets. It may be that everything goes smoothly, but it’s also possible that your foster dog is not properly socialized with other pets and needs its time. That’s why it’s important to have a dedicated space where your foster dog can stay until it gets used to living amongst you and your family (including the furry members);
  • Your house should be dog-proofed: a big part of your role will be to keep your foster dog safe and to do this it’s important to dog-proof your home in order to prevent any accidents. This may mean hiding any cables lying around that the dog may chew on, removing any poisonous houseplants or placing them where the dog can’t reach, and even setting up baby gates so your dog doesn’t access any dangerous areas;
  • If your foster dog has a medical issue that requires medication, you’ll need to be prepared to provide it: when taking in a dog that needs regular medication, you need to be someone that, not only is able to give medication to a dog (either giving a pill or through a syringe) but you also need to remember not to miss any of it;
  • You should be able to get your foster dog to a vet quickly in an emergency: ask the shelter how they would prefer you handle an emergency situation. Some shelters have partnerships with vet clinics while others may have their own vet. This point is especially important if your foster dog has any medical concerns.

If, after considering all of these points, you feel ready and that you have what it takes to be a great foster family for a lucky dog, the only thing left to do is to contact the nearest shelter to you and ask about fostering a dog.

Most likely, they’ll ask you to fill out a foster application, attend a training session, and the staff for the shelter group may ask for a home visit before assigning a dog to you. With that said, every shelter has its own procedure and it’s up to you to follow their directions and coordinate everything with them.


Making sense of it all

Fostering a dog can be an incredibly rewarding experience as long as you’re honest with yourself when assessing if your home is right for this job or not. If after careful consideration, you realize that you’re not ready to become a foster family, that’s ok. There are many other ways in which you can help dogs in need.

Other options include donating food, supplies, and money to shelters, sponsoring, and if you have some spare time and love being around dogs, volunteering at your local shelter. These are all great ways to help!