How to Become a Dog Foster Parent and What to Expect

Reviewed By Kyoko •  Updated: 11/19/20 •  9 min read
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Have you ever considered fostering a dog in your home? Becoming a foster dog parent can be one of the most exhilarating and fulfilling things you can do. Perhaps you have some questions about how fostering works—then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done some research to help you learn a little bit more about fostering, what it takes and how to find foster dog programs in your location.

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Pet Foster Programs

You may have heard of pet fostering, but exactly what is it? Fostering a pet is the process of becoming a temporary volunteer pet parent to a pet in need. These pets may have become homeless, strayed, or even have been given up by a loving family. They’re generally turned in to pet shelters that then work to find these pets new homes. When you become a foster pet parent, you temporarily provide a loving home to such a pet.

Pet foster parents can work with animals of all types—from farm animals, to cats, cat, pocket pets (such as gerbils or hamsters), birds, reptiles and more. These animals may find room in a shelter, but most shelters are already filled to capacity and then some. In these cases, some animals must be euthanized to make room for additional unwanted pets. However, if the shelter has a foster pet program, then you can help save the life of a pet by giving him a home and care he needs. In other words, you can prolong his life until he’s adopted by a furever family.

In addition, fostering gives you a chance to see if owning a pet is right for you—whether it be a dog, cat, or another type of pet.

If you become a dog foster parent, you’d have the chance to see if a specific breed works for you or not, without the long-term commitment of being a pet parent

As you can see, becoming a foster parent can help shelters and homeless pets. You’re making room in the shelter, while also giving a pet a loving home and a chance to eventually become adopted. These are all good things—and pet rescues with fostering programs are always in need of more foster parents.

What Should I Expect as a Foster Dog Parent?

You may be asking how to foster a pet—we’ve got some answers for you! First, you’ll need to understand that foster a dog is a serious commitment. You’ll be responsible for all of the dog’s care, which will involve not only feeding and walking, but training and even health care. You’ll also need to be patient and understanding, as shelter dogs come from all different types of backgrounds. You may never know the full story of the pup you’re fostering and will need to be patient as you and he work through whatever quirks he may have. Becoming a foster parent takes a lot of love, care and patience.

In addition, you’ll need to consider your family and other pets you may already have. Will they be OK with fostering a dog? Will your current pets accept another dog into their family? Does anyone in your home have animal allergies? Will the addition of another pet make their allergies worse? Do you have the time and energy that fostering a dog takes? These are a few of the considerations you’ll need to address before becoming a dog foster parent.

Not only will you need to consider the dog breed you may like to foster, but what about puppies? Will you be able or willing to take on a puppy? Will you be around to give the puppy the time and attention he needs, help with potty training, etc.? What about dog training—what if your foster pup needs some professional training? Will you have the time to devote to attending training and then be able to keep up the training efforts at home? What about taking a senior dog? Would you be willing to foster a senior dog that might not live long enough to be adopted? Would you accept a dog that has health problems and need regular vet visits? You’ll need to think about these things before being a pup foster parent.

How much do you get paid to foster a dog? Some shelters or organizations may be able to pay you for fostering a dog. However, most don’t have the funds available to do this. Even so, some dog fostering programs will take care of all the expenses involved, including food, transportation costs, vet care, etc. Other programs may require you to take on some of the financial burden.

In addition, some programs may have you sign up and fill out forms, so they can check your background before you’re able to join the program. You may even be required to sign a contract, etc. Also check into the length of time you’re expected to keep a foster pet. So, be sure to completely understand what the shelter takes care of and what you’re responsible for before committing to a foster program.

Fostering a Dog for the First Time

Once you’ve determined you can become a dog foster parent, it’s time to look for a dog foster program. To find a local program, do a quick Google search. Type in the phrase “foster dogs near me” or “foster dog programs near me,” then hit enter. Google will bring up a list of programs in your area and possibly even a map, making it easy to find a dog foster program near you.

Another option is to use a site called PetFinder to locate a shelter in your area that has a foster dog program. PetFinder is site that helps people find pets to adopt in their area. Not only that, but you can use the site to find dog fostering programs in your area. This is a great site that helps pet parents find their fur babies and vice versa!

When you’ve found a program, you’ll need to contact the shelter and/or visit their website to learn more about their fostering program. Each program has its own qualifications and requirements when it comes to becoming a dog foster parent. Don’t hesitate to contact them with any questions, including how to get involved.

Next, you’ll need to make sure you have the necessary dog care equipment at home. This includes:

These are some of the basics you’ll need to get started. Next, you’ll want to ask the shelter some questions, too.

The next step will be in choosing a dog to foster, taking him home and giving him lots of love and care. Remember, that all dogs are individuals and will have pasts you never completely know. As a result, each dog will come with his own set of issues and needs.

Be patient and loving as you learn about one another. Help him to fit in by making him as welcome and comfortable as possible

Fostering Leads to Adoptions

What happens when your foster dog becomes adopted? This is the ultimate goal of fostering a dog—to help him find a new family and home of his own. This can be difficult for those who have become foster parents and fallen in love with their foster pup.

Sometimes the dog may not have fit in well with your lifestyle or family. You’ll be sorry to see him go, but at the same realize it’s best for you both. Other times saying goodbye will be very difficult. The good thing is that you will have done your work well and provided a temporary home for a dog that may otherwise have been euthanized due to an overcrowded shelter.

A foster parent and foster family may decide to adopt their foster dog. There’s a term for this, it’s called “failed foster.” While it sounds negative, the outcome is a family with a happy dog they want to keep! Either way, the dog will be adopted and have his own forever home with a loving family who knows him well. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s OK—you haven’t failed…you’ve excelled and fallen in love with your fur baby! Go ahead and adopt him and you’ll have a loving canine companion for years to come!

Becoming a foster dog parent has a lot of responsibilities. Not only will you need to determine what type of dog or breed, but you’ll also need to consider if a foster dog will fit in with your family and current pets. This is a huge commitment and should be given serious consideration.

Do the research to find a program near you, prepare your home and family, and then find the right foster pup. Be sure to completely understand the program you’ll be getting involved with. Ask about who pays for what, will the shelter help with veterinary and other costs, etc. Don’t forget to ask about who to contact for questions or concerns with your new foster dog. And more than anything, give your foster fur baby all the love, care, and attention he needs. You’re helping him to become adoptable and find his forever home and family. It might even be that you and your family decide to adopt your foster dog! If so, the story will have a happy ending no matter what! All dogs deserve this happy ending!

Related Sources: USA Today AVMA Arizona State University

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Kyoko is from a family of 3 and moved to New York with her parents and siblings when she was 13. Kyoko is fond of spending a great amount of time with pets, specifically her beagle Luna and cat Missy. Her boyfriend often complains that she spends too much time giving attention to their animals. Kyoko has written dozens of articles concerning pets and is aiming at owning a pet shop one day!

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