Published: February 7, 2023  

Last updated: April 26, 2023  

Do you want to foster dogs because you want to save all the dogs? Or because you love dogs and you think it would be fun?

We fostered dogs for many years before taking an extended break. We have fostered puppies, old dogs, scared dogs, sick dogs, and even foster-failed one dog.  

I hope my 15 foster dog tips will help you get started on the right path to becoming a great foster dog parent.

black mixed breed foster dog
Our Foster Dog Prada

1) Choose a shelter or rescue that you can trust

The first important step is to join forces with a REPUTABLE shelter or rescue. Getting involved with a shady organization will only lead to heartache and trouble.

Ask friends, family, and neighbors for recommendations for where to foster. Read reviews online… Google and Facebook pages are great starting points.

Make sure you are ready by asking a lot of questions before committing to fostering a dog

2) Stock up on supplies

Depending on the rescue or shelter you volunteer for, you will need to have a few supplies to help take care of your new foster dog. 

Some organizations will have supplies for you to borrow, so check to see what is available. 

Here are a few of the supplies I recommend having before your foster dog comes home:

  • Collar and leash
  • Dog bowls
  • Dog food and treats
  • Dog crate
  • Chew bones
  • Toys
  • Towels and blankets
  • Nature’s Miracle for potty accidents

Check out my Amazon Shopping list for foster dog homes.

3) Be patient

The first few days will be the most difficult for both you and your foster dog. 

Rescue dogs need time to decompress. They’ve likely just endured hours of transport, have been shuffling between life on the streets and a loud scary shelter, or sometimes never seen the inside of a home before.

Learn more about decompression periods and the 3-3-3 rule for rescue dogs here.

4) Plan on 100% supervision

No matter the age of your foster dog, it’s going to be a lot like bringing home a new puppy.

You have no idea how this new dog will react to your home. Potty accidentschewing, and running away are all possible.

I like to keep all new foster dogs on a leash, even inside the house. I use baby gates, crates, and playpens in my favor when I cannot watch the dog with an eagle eye.

Resources for your new foster dog:

two dogs nose to nose meeting foster dog
Our resident dog Ginger meeting foster puppy Martini.

5) Introducing to other pets in the home

If you have other pets in the home, dogs, cats, birds, etc., keep them separated from the foster dog for AT LEAST 24 HOURS. Two full days is best, allowing both pets enough time to decompress.

Even if your current dog or pet loves other dogs, this separation time is the best way to set up your foster dog for success.

Read How to introduce your dog to a second dog for tips.

6) Set a routine

Dogs thrive on routine; it will help your foster dog adjust more quickly. Get your new foster dog on a schedule right away. Be consistent with feeding, walking, and sleeping times.

7) Set boundaries

Set the boundaries and stay consistent. These boundaries can help your foster dog become more adoptable.

For example, do not allow the dog to jump on you, sleep on your bed or the couch or bark at the neighbors. 

These are behaviors that many people do not appreciate. So setting these boundaries create a more desirable dog, which means your foster will get adopted more quickly. 

8) Set up a quiet and small area

Having a small space for your dog to spend time will help them feel comfortable. A crate is a great tool to give your dog a safe space to go when they need it.

Crate training can help the foster dog get adopted quickly, as many dog parents need to work and the use of a crate can keep them safe.

Learn more about crate training and how it can help your foster dog.

9) Don’t feel sorry for your foster dog

Yes, your foster dog most likely has been dealt a bad hand in life. They could have been through major trauma or just never got to live as a dog should.

But feeling sorry for your foster dog will not help them heal. It’s okay to love them and care for them as if they were your own. But sorrow never helps anyone.

10) Prepare the foster dog for potential adopters

After allowing the foster dog to decompress, focus on giving them life skills to help them get adopted.

Basic commands, walking on a leash without pulling, potty training, crate training, no jumping or barking… all great skills to help dogs get adopted fast.

Foster dog Shiba Inu Mix
Our Foster Dog Taylor

11) Use the rescue or shelter network

Most organizations will have some sort of foster network to help you through this journey of fostering. It’s comforting to know you are not alone.

Talking with others that have foster dogs before can give you advice on situations you may be going through with your foster dog.

12) Don’t fall in love with your foster dog

This is the hardest step of all. Falling in love with your foster dog so much you decide to adopt them… well, it’s called foster fail. It’s inevitable, most fosters decide to adopt at one point or another.

And that’s great if you have found the perfect dog for your family. But don’t foster fail just because you fell in love or feel sorry for your foster dog.

Remember, there are many more dogs out there waiting for a foster home. And the quicker you can get this dog adopted by a loving family, the quicker you can save another dog’s life.

13) Keep notes and paperwork

If you need to take your foster dog to the vet, make sure to keep all the paperwork to give to the shelter/rescue.

Taking notes on behaviors, habits, and other observations can help adopters get to know the foster dog better which can lead to quicker adoptions. Be open and honest with even the bad stuff.

If the dog pulls on the leash or barks at other dogs, tell potential adopters. Hiding information like this only leads to dogs being returned to the shelter.

14) Be prepared for an indefinite timeline

There is never a guarantee on how long it will take a dog to be adopted. It could be days, weeks, or even years before your foster dog finds their perfect family. 

Discuss with your foster network how long they expect this dog to be in foster care. What if you change your mind and can’t keep the foster dog any longer? Will they take the dog back? 

15) Take breaks between foster dogs

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to save all the dogs in the world. But it’s easy to get burned out in the rescue dog world. 

Fostering dogs has been one of the most fulfilling volunteer positions I’ve done. But it is also a lot of hard work, physically and mentally.

You will be able to better help more dogs if you take time for yourself. Refresh your body and mind between foster dogs at least every few months to avoid burnout.

Foster dog tips summary

Take each of these foster dog tips to heart, they will help smooth your journey into the world of fostering. 

Fostering is what started my journey in the rescue dog world, it changed my life just as much as it changed the lives of all the dogs we fostered. 

We have taken an extended break from fostering because right now we have 4 resident dogs in my home. But as soon as that changes I will start fostering dogs again.

Click here if you want to learn more about how to become a foster for dogs.

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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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