Before committing to fostering a dog, let’s talk about the pros and cons of fostering a dog.

We started fostering dogs in 2014 because I wanted a way to help save dogs from being euthanized; and it was a way to teach my daughter about different dog breeds, personalities, and challenges before she got a dog of her own.

Fostering a dog can be a rewarding act of kindness. In fact, I feel we receive more from fostering than we can ever give. But it can also be challenging at times.

small white dog walking outside on dirt path

9 benefits of fostering a dog

1. You are saving a dog’s life

There is no doubt that when you foster a dog you are not only saving one dog’s life but two. The dog you are fostering allows another opening for another dog to be saved. Shelters are full and sometimes need to make the tough decision to euthanize unadoptable dogs. If you take a foster dog, it opens up space for another dog to stay. 

2. Learn about many different types of dogs

Dogs of all breeds, personalities, and ages need foster homes. This is what lured me into fostering. I love getting to know each dog and what makes them unique. It has taught us so much about dog behavior and made us better dog parents to our resident dogs. 

3. No long-term commitment

Fostering can last as little as a few days or as long as several months vs 10-15 years owning a dog. if it doesn’t work out you can always find other ways to volunteer and help dogs. 

Humane Society, shelters and rescues need volunteers in many other facets. I volunteer for my local Humane Society each week for 3 hours. I get to take the dogs outside, play with them and have quiet time with them, then go home to my dogs. 

So if fostering isn’t your thing, then ask the shelter how you can help in other ways. 

4. Your resident dog will make new friends

Dogs are social animals, some more than others. Many times your resident dog will learn new things from the foster dog.

Brandy, whom volunteers for Triangle Beagle Rescue, recently reached out and told me that her dog Molly learned all of this from her foster dogs:

  • Aston taught her toys can be tossed around and used for more than a tug of war. 
  • Elsa taught her that zoomies are more fun with a friend. 
  • But sweet Poppy has made the biggest impact. Molly has learned patience. That not every dog wants to play immediately and Molly was okay with that. The greatest gift of all is that Poppy has taught our Molly that snuggles can be a good thing. She even got Molly to snuggle not only me but with her! I was in shock and can’t wait to see what other fosters can teach our wild Molly girl. 
two beagle puppies laying on foster mom's lap
Molly is on the bottom with Poppy on top.

5. You become part of a community

Getting involved in fostering connects you with other dog-loving people. You will make new friends that you may never have met otherwise. You will learn from each other, lean on each other when your foster dog causes trouble, it will become a new family of sorts.

6. A learning experience for your human children

The benefits of children and pets are endless. Dogs teach kids responsibility, compassion, and encourages your kids to go outside.  

Getting the kids involved gives them a sense of purpose. My daughter has become a young dog whisperer of sorts. She takes the dogs outside every day and has gotten involved in dog agility because it.

7. Option to adopt to your foster dog

Fostering is a great way to do a trial period with a dog and learn if it is a good fit for your family. You will need to check with the rescue/shelter first, but most will allow you the first option to adopt your foster. 

Recommended reading: Foster Fail

8. Volunteering provides many mental health benefits 

Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress and anxiety. It makes you feel good, increases self-confidence, provides a sense of purpose which in turn helps combat depression.

I have a friend that says fostering has saved her life. She battles depression and her foster dogs can always make her smile.

9. Your heart will grow 3 sizes

It’s true, foster dogs will fill your heart more than you can imagine. You love them, you nurture them, help them grow and find the perfect forever family for them. It’s one of the most fulfilling act of kindness I can imagine. If it wasn’t for the fact we have a resident dog that thinks otherwise, I’d have several foster dogs all year long!

Dog Chewing on wood basket

5 disadvantages of fostering a dog

1. Dogs may chew if left unattended

True story… our foster dog, Maggie, was in my office with me while I was working when I realized it was very quiet. I looked down and she was chewing on a cord for headphones. Luckily it wasn’t electrical but it happens to be a $200 set of headphones that belong to my son. 

I’ve heard stories from others that foster dogs have chewed their carpet, doors and even their car seats. So be prepared, it happens. Be extra vigilant and always have an eye on your foster!

Recommended reading: How to stop a dog from chewing

2. Potty accidents happen

Because some rescue dogs have never lived inside a home, they never learned it’s not okay to potty inside. It’s also common for dogs to have setbacks, even if they are potty trained. The good thing is that potty training can pretty simple to achieve. 

Keeping an enzyme cleaner and our little green machine handy when we have a foster puppy in the house is mandatory. 

Recommended reading: How to potty train your puppy fast and easy

3. Many foster dogs come with baggage

It’s common for a foster dog to need some rehabilitation after being rescued. He may have never lived inside a house before or was abused in his past.

While this can be challenging to work through, it also can be extremely rewarding. You will watch this dog grow in so many ways, it will warm your heart! 

Check with the shelter or rescue to make sure they have the resources to help you through any issues that may arise.

Recommended reading: How to foster a dog

4. Foster dogs sometimes come to you sick

It’s unfortunate but we’ve had foster dogs with worms, Lyme disease, coccidia, and allergies. As a foster home, you need to be aware of these possibilities and keep a watch for signs of illnesses.

I have learned that the first thing to do is look at the dog’s poop. Look for any signs of worms because this can be easily transmitted. 

5. You may get your heart broken

It’s true, letting go of your foster dog some times can be heartbreaking. It’s hard not to get attached after spending any amount of time with a dog. But keep in mind he is going to a great forever home, and when he does, you can save another dog!

Recommended reading: How to foster a dog

Fostering has been a life-changing experience for my family. I highly recommend trying it out. And because this isn’t a life-long commitment, if it doesn’t work out you can always find other ways to volunteer and help dogs. 

Please share your experiences as a foster family in the comments below. It could help someone else decide whether it’s the right choice for them. We all learn from each other, so please don’t be shy!

What’s Next?

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. I could use advice about transition of foster dog to adopter's home. Dog is bonded to foster. Foster will transport dog to new home. We've thought of a adopter giving dog favorite treats and going on brief walk with foster parent. And dog seeing foster leave so it's like being left with vet (which theydon't mind). Foster has not done this before and wants this shy, bonded dog to have easiest transition possible. Ideas? Thanks!

  2. Never again. It’s not rewarding. It’s a nightmare in every possible way. Broken heart, wishy washy adopters, running all over the place trying to get the dog adopted. Rescue didn’t have their act together. Do your homework with the actual rescue you are fostering with. What are responsibilities as far as getting the dog adopted? Very important. I had to go to the adopters, which is wrong. I was run around and then eventually broken hearted as I heard nothing of the dog again.

    1. I’m truly sorry to hear about your experience with fostering a dog. Fostering is an emotional journey, filled with highs and lows, and it sounds like you were let down by the process and the rescue organization.

      It’s crucial for rescue organizations to have clear communication and support systems in place for their foster volunteers, including the adoption process, to ensure both the animals and the volunteers are cared for and respected. Your advice to do thorough research on the rescue and understand the responsibilities and support system in place is invaluable for anyone considering fostering.

      Thank you for sharing.

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