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How to Foster a Dog: New to Pet Fostering 101

how to welcome a foster dog into your home

New to fostering dogs or considering opening your home to foster dogs? Congratulations and kudos to you! If you are new to pet fostering, we have some tips on how to foster a dog until you or the rescue organization finds its forever home.

Welcoming a shelter dog into your home and providing temporary care is a true labor of love. There are several reasons to become a foster parent to dogs and cats in your area, and there are challenges that pet fostering bring to you and your family.

Here are tips for getting started, making the best of it, and training foster dogs.

Things to Consider Before You Foster a Dog

When you sign up to become a pet foster parent, the rescue agency will ask you to complete an application to make sure you meet their qualifications. You’ll also want to review the shelter’s fostering policies and procedures.  

Are you physically and mentally prepared?

Taking on a foster pet can be challenging both physically and mentally. Shelter pets require patience, as in the case of abused dogs or special needs such as dietary or recovery from neglect and illness. Therefore, you and other members of your household must be prepared to be involved in the fostering process. Whether that means:

  • feeding or taking the dog for a walk every day
  • Cleaning up messes
  • Grooming their coats
  • Giving them lots of love and attention during a thunderstorm

As a foster dog parent, you and your family need to be ready to provide care and be open to surprises. Dogs can’t speak, so there are a lot of unknowns that come with rescue pets!

Where will you keep your foster dog (if you have existing pets)?

If you already have pets, you might want have initially set aside separate space for your foster dogs, for a few reasons.

First, although shelter pets undergo thorough examinations, many rescues recommend you place your foster pet into a quarantine period upon entering your home to prevent undiscovered illness to your existing pets.

Second, you may also find that your current pets aren’t huge fans of the newcomer and vice versa. This can be especially true for undersocialized or neglected shelter pets that may react negatively toward other dogs in the home.

Is your home animal friendly?

If you’ve already got pets, you can probably skip this section! You already know how to dog-proof your home.

On the other hand, if you’ve never had pets in your home or are haven’t had them in a while, get ready. Once in your house, a shelter pet needs to explore his new environment. You’d be surprised at all the things a dog might enjoy checking out, such as your shoe collection, garbage cans, toilets, your houseplants, electric wires around your electronics.

Similar to small, curious children, your new foster dog will have to check it out if it’s visible (and sometimes not!).

Here are a few tips for dog-proofing your home:

  • Cover electrical outlets.
  • Make sure sharp objects like tools, breakable knick-knacks, kids’ toys, and games are all put away.
  • Place dangling electrical wires from appliances out of reach.
  • Keep toilet lids closed.
  • Lock accessible cabinets with childproof latches.
  • Keep garbage cans covered or in a latched cabinet.
  • Place medications, chemicals, laundry supplies, and cleaners on high shelves.
  • Remove houseplants that may be toxic to dogs.
  • Use child or dog gates to keep your foster pet in or out of certain areas.

Don’t forget to go through your yard as well.

  • Fence in your yard (if possible).
  • Secure gates and fences.
  • Put a fence around pools.
  • Remove plants that may be poisonous to dogs.
  • Replace, repair, or patch holes around an existing fence.

You also need to have supplies like a leash, collar, poop bags, and a way to keep your foster dog safe while in the car.

Fostering puppies tips

We don’t recommend that first-time pet foster families begin with puppies, but sometimes circumstances demand it. If you are fostering puppies for the first time, here’s what you need to know:

  • Socialize the puppies so they become more comfortable around friends and family and, therefore, adoptable.
  • Don’t yell at or scold puppies. They bark for reasons, so understand what their needs are so you can meet them.
  • Get them on a regular potty schedule as soon as possible — first thing in the morning, after meals, and before bed.
  • The more you handle the puppies, the more comfortable they will be with other people. 
  • As early as 8 weeks of age, they might start to respond to positive reinforcement training. Try giving treat rewards when they sit on command, for example.  

Responsibilities of a Dog Foster Parent

First and foremost, your role as a foster parent is to be a patient, loving, and protective caregiver. It’s your job to learn about your foster dog’s personality and behaviors to help the shelter find them a forever home.

You will need to work on training your foster pet with positive reinforcement and slowly and safely introducing them to new experiences (with permission from the rescue). As a foster parent, you can help the shelter promote your foster dog by sharing pictures and short descriptions across your social media. Once an adopter is found, you need to share what you’ve learned about your foster dog (like his temperament) during the time he lived with you.

How to train a foster dog

The approach to training a dog that isn’t yours is the same as what we’d recommend for your own dog. The only difference is that you’ll need to pass along the training tips to the dog’s forever family. Our dog training guide contains several articles about how to train a dog, as well as tips and tools for training dogs through positive reinforcement. Explore BarxBuddy’s Guide to Training Dogs.

Rewards of Fostering a Dog

Fostering a dog brings many rewards. For all your hard work and dedication to your foster pet you can look forward to these benefits:

  • You are saving the life of two dogs; the one you foster and the one that can now stay at the shelter because your act of kindness opened up a space.
  • No long-term commitment required. Fostering may be mere weeks up to several months versus a decade or more when you own a dog.
  • Existing pets may make a new friend. Over time, your foster dog and your existing pets may become best pals.
  • Learn and teach your children about dogs, different breeds, and what it takes to care for a pet.
  • Use your fostering time as a trial run. If you and your foster pet end up being a great fit, most dog foster programs allow the host family the option to adopt. Ask the rescue ahead of time about their fostering/adoption policy.

From all of us here at Barxbuddy, we thank each and every pet foster parent! Y’all rock!