How to Foster a Dog or Puppy: A Comprehensive Guide for First-Time Fosters

person sitting floor giving treats to three dogs

Have you ever considered fostering a dog? Temporary foster care for dogs can be a very rewarding experience for pet lovers. It offers the benefit of bringing a furry friend into your home and offering them love and care until they’re ready to go to a forever home.

Beyond the benefits to foster parents, shelters and rescues benefit greatly from foster care programs. Many shelters and rescues are limited on time, money, resources and space, so volunteering to foster puppies or adult dogs provides huge benefits to help pets during their transition to finding a permanent place to call home. 

What Does it Mean to Foster a Dog?

Fostering a dog means that you’re bringing a dog or puppy into your home to care for them while they await adoption. The reason a shelter or rescue may need volunteers to foster can be for any number of reasons, such as:

  1. The shelter or rescue has run out of room at their facility. 
  2. A puppy who might not be old enough to be adopted needs care. 
  3. A dog that undergoes a medical procedure needs a calm place to recover. 
  4. A dog who may experience stress or anxiety in a physical shelter needs a calm, less frenetic environment. 
  5. A dog who may have never lived in a home before needs a comfortable environment with one-on-one attention.

Finding Dogs or Puppies to Foster Near You

The best way to find a dog or puppy to foster is to inquire at a local animal shelter or rescue organization. Many of these organizations survive and thrive off volunteers, and foster parenting is one of the most helpful ways to lend a hand to shelters and rescues in need of additional support. Finding puppies to foster isn’t much of a challenge either. Most organizations would be thrilled to have your help and often post details about their foster programs on their websites. Simply search for “dogs to foster near me” or “foster dog programs near me” online, and there are bound to be a handful you’ll find. 

How Much Does it Cost to Foster a Dog?

One of the great perks of dog fostering is that all costs are covered by the shelter or rescue organization. So if you’re someone who loves pets but can’t afford to keep one permanently, fostering is a great way to lend your passion for pets while helping a shelter and their pets in need.

Because the shelter or rescue covers the costs of everything from food to supplies to veterinary care, it is truly a win-win for anyone looking to become a dog foster parent.

Do You Get Paid to Foster Dogs?

While shelters and rescues typically cover all costs related to dog foster care, dog foster volunteers typically do not receive payment for caring for the dogs.

Preparing Your Home for a Foster Dog or Puppy

If you decide to bring home puppies or adult dogs to foster, there are a few things to do to prepare for welcoming a puppy or dog into your home.

  1. Learn as much as you can about the dog beforehand. Their temperament can give you clues as to how to structure your routines with the foster dog or how to set up certain areas of your home to create the most warm, welcoming environment. 
  2. Be sure to puppy or dog-proof your home. Put away anything that you wouldn’t want chewed or swallowed. Secure breakable items or hanging cords or wire. 
  3. Ask the shelter or rescue about the dog’s experience with other pets. If you have pets currently in your home, you’ll want to take proactive measures to properly introduce both pets on neutral ground and create safe spaces for them both to live harmoniously together.  
  4. Fostering a dog isn’t a walk in the park as many come into foster situations needing one-on-one care. Be sure you can provide the right level of care especially for those pets who may be recovering from surgery or a medical procedure.

How to Foster a Dog

The first step to fostering a dog is expressing interest at your local shelter or dog rescue. They will likely require you to complete an application to ensure you’re committed to meeting the demands that dog fostering can bring. More often than not, a shelter or rescue would be eager to have you join its fostering program. Your efforts will help them find safe, permanent homes for their pets.

When fostering a dog, your primary job is to ensure the dog receives the care and attention they need. This can be through basic everyday tasks of feeding and grooming as well as giving them exercise through daily walks, dog park visits or playtime. Socialization is also important at this stage, so once they’ve received their vaccinations, finding opportunities for them to interact with other people and pets is essential to their care, as well.

Some dogs may have health or behavioral issues they’re working to overcome. This may require an extra level of care and attention, and your shelter or rescue would be able to equip you with everything you need to ensure the best experience for an ailing or recovering dog. 

Beyond that, you’ll be the eyes, ears and hands for the shelter or rescue organization. You’ll want to share frequent updates with them about what the dog is like, how it’s adjusting to your home and how they behave or interact with people, including adults and children as well as other pets. This information is helpful to shelters and rescues looking to find forever homes for foster dogs. 

How to Foster Puppies

While basic care is a requirement for fostering puppies, there’s much more to puppy care than playtime and cuddles. From feeding to socialization, everything is new to a puppy. You may be asked to work on any number of activities a puppy ought to practice before finding a forever home. This can include: 

  1. House-training – Knowing where, when and how to relieve itself as well as the types of items that are off limits for chewing
  2. Crate-training – Creating a positive association with the crate, so that it becomes a safe space they enjoy and even prefer to spend their time
  3. Socialization – Giving them opportunities to meet other pets and creating positive associations when encountering other pets

To find puppies in need of fostering, a quick search for “foster a puppy near me” is a good way to start searching online.

When Your Foster Dog or Puppy Gets Adopted

This may arguably be the most difficult part of dog fostering – when the dog or puppy gets adopted. By this point, you may have developed a very strong bond after weeks or months of caring for the dog as if it were your own. While it’s certainly not easy to let go, it’s a necessary step in the fostering process and can actually benefit another dog. When you turn a foster dog over to its new owners, that creates an opportunity for you to welcome another new foster dog into your home – helping you support the shelter or rescue once again and save another dog’s life.

Learn more about fostering cats and dogs with Petfinder.