Dog Foster Care

"Why in the world is there a need for dog foster care?" you ask! Do I want to foster a dog? What does it take to foster a dog?What type of dog will I foster? Fostering means giving up the dog, right? These are just a few of the questions that might come to mind.

As a volunteer you would be responsible for providing temporary care for a dog in your home until a permanent forever home can be found for him. Don't use a foster situation to "test out" a dog. Foster a dog only if you are prepared to give him up.

If you're hesitant about adopting a dog, you may want to be a foster dog volunteer to see if having a dog in your home and life on a full time basis is right for you.

What types of dogs need foster care?

  • They could be dogs surrendered by their owners, puppies from puppy mill rescues or dogs taken from shelters. If you work with an animal shelter, the dogs will most likely be medium or large sized, adolescent mixed breed strays.
  • You might also get some purebreds (about 25% of all dogs in shelters are purebreds)
  • Litters of puppies that aren't old enough to be adopted, young puppies until they are eight weeks old and can be spayed or neutered.
  • Dogs that are nursing babies.
  • Dogs that are being treated for illness or injury.
  • Dogs that have been in a shelter for an extended time and need more one on one attention. A dog that lives in a loving home becomes more socialized, making him a better candidate for adoption.
  • Medium to large dogs that need some behavior modification and training to make them a better pet.
  • Special needs dogs that are deaf, blind, or have some other disability that may result in them being hard to place in a permanent home.

Lifestyle changes such as:

  • Moving temporarily to a no-pets apartment
  • Military deployment
  • Unemployment / layoffs
  • The owner's medical issues (major surgery, hospitalization)
  • Incarceration
  • Fire or natural disaster
  • Domestic abuse
  • A word of caution here: If you need a temporary home for your dog for any of the above reasons, remember, this is temporary; if you don't know when you will be able to take your dog back, it's best to find a permanent home for her. It costs money to care for a pet and no one should use dog foster homes as a place to board their dog.

    There are boarding facilities for long-term situations. A good boarding facility offers reduced rates for long-term boarding, a home setting or home-like environment, walks, playtime, attention, and exercise at no additional cost.

    The only situation that might warrant long term fostering is military deployment where the owner has no control over how long he'll be gone. If you'd like to help our military personnel, consider fostering their dog while they are away. Then return the dog to a grateful owner when he or she returns from serving our country.

    Be prepared to treat your foster dog as if she were your permanent dog. That means training, exercising, and all other care a dog requires. Make sure your own pets are fully vaccinated before taking in a foster dog.

    Puppy Foster Care

    Photo courtesy of Owen at flickr

    Dog foster care home

    Is becoming a volunteer to dogs that need a temporary home right for you? Do you have the space, the time, the patience; the heart to give her up? Do you have other pets in your home that your foster dog will need to get along with; other dogs, cats, bunnies? Your foster dog may get along with other dogs, but what about your cat?

    Many of the dogs that need temporary foster homes are not cute, quiet, and easy to place. Instead you need to be prepared for the untrained, adolescent, shy, sick, or ordinary-looking ones.

    Let me stress again that dog foster care is not a way to get a free dog. It is not a trial period before adoption. Fostering is a way to volunteer your time to help a dog that really needs you. It's unselfish and admirable.

    I'm not sure I could be involved in dog foster care. Once I took a dog in, I'm not sure I'd be able to give her up. I get attached too easily. I adopted a kitten once and was terribly allergic to her. But I could not give her back. My kids would be devastated; I'd be a wreck, and the poor kitten would have to go back to her cage. Luckily, I got used to her and the allergies went away.

    Dog Foster Care

    Photo courtesy of

    How do I get involved in dog foster care?

    Ideally, you should have some experience with dogs and be somewhat familiar with basic dog care and training. The organization that you work with may require some additional training or an orientation. Do some research before deciding what organization to work with.

    If you're not sure where to begin, start with your local humane society. Find out about their policies including how they select dogs for foster homes and what kind of support they offer. Will they help you with training? What is their policy for returning a dog that is not a good fit for you? If you want to be involved in choosing the permanent home for your foster dog, make sure they allow that.

    Giving Back Your Foster Dog

    Did you fall in love with your foster dog? Don't want to give her back? You must be prepared before you get involved in fostering a dog. Know that the dog will only be with you on a temporary basis. Try to think of her as someone else's; a dog that you are just caring for while the owner is away. Being a foster parent involves understanding the purpose of dog foster care.

    If you'd like a more permanent foster care experience, consider fostering a very special dog; a dog that is used for breeding future seeing-eye dogs, foster a guide-dog mom, or become a guide dog trainer, where you raise the puppies for the first 14 to 18 months until they are old enough for formal guide dog training.

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