Guide to fostering a rescue dog

The responsibilities of a dog foster parent

The purpose of a foster home is to provide a safe, loving home environment for a rescued dog. This consists of caring for the foster dog as you would care for your own dog by offering food, affection, socialization, and exercise to keep the dog happy and healthy.

As a dog foster parent, your responsibilities may also include:

  • Transporting the dog to and from adoption events.
     

  • Participating in obedience training classes and/or at home.
     

  • Reporting back to the Dog Rescue with information about the dog’s personality and behavior.
     

  • Meeting with potential adopters to tell them about the foster dog, to help determine if they are a good match, and to provide a home check ensuring the home is ideal for a smooth transition for the rescue dog.


Commitment levels and time with the foster dog vary depending on your schedule and the rescue's needs, and when you start fostering, the rescue will help match you with a dog that suits your home and lifestyle. First-time foster parents can get their feet wet with "less needy" dogs. The more invested and experience in fostering, the more willing and able you will be able to take on challenges.

Regardless of the type of dogs you foster, all foster homes provide a valuable service of socializing a dog and getting to know its personality. The information you provide through building a relationship with the dog is key in helping find its forever home.

What type of dogs are fostered?


Rescues typically take in the following dogs:
 

  • Dogs that are surrendered by owners who can no longer look after them
     

  • Private breeder surrenders
     

  • Stray and abandoned dogs

Each dog's behavior will vary based on how they were treated. Some dogs will have low confidence, some starving love and attention and others could be on the aggressive side. Dog Rescues will ensure the dog and its temperament is matched with the right foster family.

The cost of fostering


Fostering is volunteer based and you do not get paid to foster animals. Most rescues work with a tight budget, with funding coming from donations and charitable events. 
 

Rescue foster programs prioritize the needs of the dog and will try to ensure that foster homes have the resources they need to be successful, from food to leashes, beds/crates to veterinary care and training.

Fostering a dog is extremely rewarding, such as seeing a rescue dog bloom into a happy, loving pet, however it is not without its challenges. Foster dogs in most cases need to learn the basic rules of living in a house, including:

  • Housetraining
     

  • Greeting behavior with humans
     

  • Playing behavior with other dogs
     

As you grow your experience as a foster, you may be asked to take on dogs with more behavioral challenges and medical needs.
 

For many, the largest dog fostering cost is emotional. It can be difficult to say goodbye to a dog after spending weeks or months caring for it, and the foster family may experience sadness or foster guilt.

 

Remember, fostering is about saving lives, nurturing and letting the foster dog go to a forever home. You free up space for another dog in need and in time, saying goodbye gets easier, and the feeling of helping a dog find its forever home becomes addictive.

Preparing Your Home to Foster


Taking in foster dogs requires preparation, whether you already have dogs in your home or not. Foster dogs come with very little and need their own toys and supplies to help settle them in and feel at home.
 

While rescues receive donations of supplies and toys, sometimes the needs are greater than the supply. Consider the following purchases:

The Rescue will provide you with guidance on exactly what is needed.


 

A dog foster home will need to go through a level of dog-proofing:
 

  • Ensure electrical cords are out of reach, or covered to prevent chewing.
     

  • Cover garbage cans to keep out curious noses.
     

  • For cabinets containing cleaning supplies and medications install childproof latches.
     

  • Ensure the toilet seat lids are closed 
     

  • Ensure houseplants are out of reach
     

It is vital to look at a dog’s eye-level and identify safety hazards and escape opportunities in your backyard fence.
 

You will want to check with the rescue about their rules for fostering a dog. Some will not allow the dog to be free in your yard unsupervised, due to the flight risk a foster dog represents.

Fostering dogs with emotional or behavioral issues

There are lots of reasons why a dog may end up with a Dog Rescue. One reason could be that they came from an abusive home. If so, put yourself in their shoes, where if almost every human you have been in contact with has mistreated or ignored you, you’d be nervous and suspicious around them too.

Not every dog fostered will have suffered from a broken home, but those that have desperately need good foster homes. Common misbehaviors shown by once-abused dogs include:

  • Poor housetraining. The previous owners may have left the dog unattended for days at a time with no real potty area or set-up. Some dogs could have spent their whole lives outside and do not understand the difference between being indoors or outdoors. 
     

  • Territorialism with food. It is possible that a foster dog was previously malnourished due to underfeeding or competing with other dogs for limited food or water. This can lead to them to growl and being aggressive when people and animals are around their dish, thinking that they will having their food stolen.
     

  • Biting. Certain advances towards the dog may make it feel threatened because in the past the approach led to abuse. The dog could have spent most of it's life outside and having escape routes, which now makes them anxious. They simply are not used to people approached by people offering them affection and/or being confined to a house and fenced yard.


A rescue dog may need to learn to trust people again, which is why the role of a foster parent is so important. A foster parent's role may be the dog's first consistent source of love and understanding and will need shown they have nothing to fear, even when they do something unwanted. For example, a nervous bladder is made worse by yelling, so instead reinforce proper potty behaviors.

Settling a rescue dog at night

For a dog who is not used to a loving home, separation anxiety can be common for rescue dogs. In the first few weeks do not overly comfort the foster dog. Doing so may create a feeling of helplessness and could introduce a new feeling in your dog where they can't cope with life when you are apart.


The foster dog may want to sleep in the same room with you, so if you want them to sleep in a separate room, start as you want to continue. Ensure an emphasis is placed on calm direction, and giving and maintaining house rules.

Providing a foster dog with lots of opportunities to exercise and have familiarity with their new surroundings can be a great way to bond and help them have a feeling of safety and relaxation. 

Fostering Rewards

What makes dog fostering so great and why is it addictive? 

  • You are saving a dogs life.
     

  • You are provide a loving home to a dog who previously may not have had one.
     

  • It gives you those warm, fuzzy feelings only volunteering can provide;
     

  • It brings the companionship and fun of a dog into your life.
     

  • The joy of seeing a rescue dog blossom into a loving companion, and sending them to a happy family who found their match thanks to you.


Disclaimer Alert! Fostering does come with one big hazard, and that you may fall in love with the dog! We all do! “Foster failures” and wanting to adopt the foster dog is not uncommon in the dog rescue world.

 

How to Get Started

If your ready to foster a dog, connect with a Dog Rescue by searching the web for rescue groups and shelters in your area. Social media, such as Facebook Groups, can be a help you determine if the rescue you are considering is the right match for you. 

 

We, at Cupcakes Pommy & Friends Rescue are also happy to provide guidance for getting started, even if you are not based in Manitoba, Canada.