Rescue Dog Foster Care Guide

"My foster folks helped me become the good dog you know today."
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Foster dog volunteers give homeless pups suitable living environments while they’re waiting to be adopted. Otherwise, the dogs would spend most of their days crated or kenneled. Foster dog volunteers prepare dogs for home life while freeing up space in shelters and rescues. If you’re interested in pet foster volunteering, you'll find the experience rewarding. In some cases you'll be saving a dog’s life.

Giving Up the Foster Pet

Some folks are reluctant to foster because they’re afraid they’ll become too attached to the animal and refuse to give him up. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. It can be difficult to give a foster dog away to his permanent home, but it gets easier with time. The sadness you might feel becomes replaced with a feeling of satisfaction knowing that the dog you fostered probably will go on to lead a happy life. Plus, you get to foster another right away.

Get Started

Visit a shelter or rescue organization near you and inquire about being a foster volunteer. Procedures differ from one group to another. You may have to undergo training, fill out an application or accept certain terms to gain approval. You’ll likely be expected to have a place set up for a dog to stay while he’s getting used to your home, such as a family room or kitchen. You might want to keep the dog confined to an area using baby gates until you’re sure he’s housebroken.

Find Out Information

Ask questions when you visit the shelter or rescue. Find out who pays for any vet bills, dog food and supplies. Ask for instructions on how to find people to adopt the dog. You might be expected to take photographs of the dog, write a biography and post online, or you might be expected to bring the dog down to adoption days sponsored by the shelter or rescue.

Get a Dog

After you let the shelter or rescue know your experience with dogs and what types of dogs you’re interested in fostering -- for example, big, adolescent dogs who need plenty of exercise; small lap dogs; dogs who need obedience training and so on -- the shelter or rescue should contact you when it has a good match. If you have a dog at home, it’s a good idea to bring her to meet the new foster before bringing him home. If the two don’t get along, wait for another dog to foster.

Dog Training and Behavior

Keep the excitement level low around your house until the foster becomes acclimated. Your goal is to ease him into your home, not frighten him. It takes most fosters about a day to settle in. The average time to keep a foster is around two months. You can give a dog a good foundation in that amount of time, such as teaching basic commands, housetraining and crate training, and teaching manners, such as no jumping on people or begging at the table. If your dog shows aggression, such as growling or biting, call the shelter or rescue.