Dog Fostering: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is fostering a dog a good way to determine if you might want to become a full-time pet parent?
Sometimes! Just be aware that fostering rescue dogs can be more challenging than a typical pet adoption, because these dogs may not have been cared for properly in the past. This means they might have more behavior challenges, or may need more care and attention than a typical dog at first. If you think you are ready to give a rescue dog all the attention, care, and patience they need and your local rescue organization or shelter agrees, you may be chosen as a foster pet parent even if you’ve never had a dog before!
Q: How is fostering a rescue dog different from a normal pet adoption?
Rescue dogs might come from circumstances where their previous humans could not or did not give them the love and care they deserve. For this reason rescue dogs might me more likely to be afraid of humans or other dogs, or have greater difficulty following the rules than a typical dog. Part of your job as a foster pet parent is to help your foster dog to learn that they can trust humans to love and care for them, and to learn the rules they’ll need to follow to be adopted by a forever home.
Q: Am I too busy to foster a rescue dog?
Dogs need routine and consistency just like children do, and rescue dogs may need a little more love and care than a dog who has lived with you for years and knows you very well. For that reason, we recommend that families seeking to foster rescue dogs have someone who can be home to care for their pup in the evenings, and even someone who works from home or is available to take the pup out over lunch if possible. Your local rescue agency or shelter will ask you some questions to help determine whether you have time for a foster dog.
Q: I have one or more dogs already. Can I still foster a rescue dog?
Absolutely! In fact, shelters and rescue agencies often prefer foster families who have previous experience caring for dogs, and who can help teach foster dogs to get along with other dogs. Sometimes dogs may not get along with each other, so your local rescue agency or shelter will help you test things out to determine if the dogs who are already part of your family and your potential foster dog can get along.
Q: What should I do to prepare for the arrival of my foster dog?
As when adopting any dog, it’s a good idea to have the basic supplies available, and a basic knowledge of how to help a new dog feel safe and learn the rules of your home. It’s an especially good idea to already have a clear idea of what rules you need your foster dog to follow in your home, so that your foster dog doesn’t learn one set of rules only to have them change a few days or weeks into their stay with you. Changes to the rules may cause anxiety and failure to follow the rules in a foster dog, just like in another dog or in a child.
Q: I have a question about my foster dog’s behavior. Who can I ask?
Your local shelter or rescue organization should have an expert on staff who has been working with foster dogs for years. Never hesitate to ask your shelter or rescue agency any question. It’s better to be proactive and make sure that your foster dog’s needs are being met than to find out later that they have a behavior or expectation that will cause problems for their forever home.
Q: My foster dog is growling, or one of my dogs is growling at them. What should I do?
Tell your rescue agency or shelter immediately. This can happen with new dogs in a home, and can be especially common for rescue dogs who may have higher levels of anxiety than other dogs. Your rescue agency might want to start specific training or other interventions immediately to prevent this growling from escalating into aggression that could endanger your foster dog or someone else.
Q: How can I help prepare my rescue dog for their forever home?
By providing care and consistency, you can help your rescue dog learn to trust humans and other pets, and help them learn to follow the rules of a household to keep everyone happy. You may wish to give your rescue dog the chance to play with lots of people and pets so that they’ll see that people and pets are safe. Never hesitate to reach out to your rescue agency or shelter if you have questions about how best to help your foster dog.
Q: What if I want to keep my foster dog forever?
It’s not uncommon for pet foster parents to grow attached to their pet and decide that they want to be their forever home. Rescue agencies and shelters will usually allow this, since their ultimate goal is to find a forever home for these dogs. However, it’s important to remember that foster parents are still needed for new dogs who might need some love and care before they’re ready for a forever home!
Q: Why was my application to foster a rescue dog turned down?
When evaluating applicants to foster rescue dogs, rescue agencies and shelters take into account factors like how busy the family is, whether everyone in the family really wants a dog, and how many pets and how much experience with pets the family has. If the agency or shelter is concerned that your family might not have time for a new dog, or might not have the experience needed to care for an especially sensitive rescue dog, your application might be turned down.