How Dog Fostering Works: Benefits, Costs and What's Expected

By Everything Shih Tzu November 12, 2019

There are many dogs out there in need of good homes, and the shelters can’t keep up with the demand.

This is why dog fostering is so important.

Woman holding Shih Tzu face between her hands

For many animal lovers, the thought of the countless number of dogs and cats that occupy shelters across the country is downright heartbreaking.

You may wish you could adopt a bunch of them just to make sure they have a place to call home, but what if you don’t have the finances or the means to care for your own pet long term?

This is where fostering a dog may be a great alternative.

How does fostering a dog work?

When you foster a dog, you work with a shelter or rescue by taking animals into your own home.  You provide the dogs with love, care, and a place to stay, while trying to find them forever homes so that the shelter has available space for more animals.

If you are interested in helping homeless animals, but perhaps you are unable to take on a long-term pet, either due to financial reasons, or future changes in your living arrangements, then fostering could be an excellent way for you to be of service.

Before you decide, it’s a good idea to know exactly what fostering entails.

It does take some time and effort, the extent of which is determined by a few different factors.

Read on to learn all about how fostering a dog works and see if it is something you can see yourself doing.

What Is Involved in Fostering a Dog?

Basically fostering a dog involves caring for dogs in your own home so that they don't need to stay in a shelter.

As a foster you would partner up with a rescue and choose which dogs you are willing to take in and care for while you help to find these dogs a forever home.

Although it may seem unfair that you get to choose which dogs go and which dogs have to stay in a shelter, it's important to remember that any dog you take in is a step in the right direction.

Fosters ultimately need to select dogs that they know they will be able to handle in their own living arrangements.

For example, if you want to foster, but you live in an apartment complex that only allows dogs that are under a certain weight, then this will influence which animals you can bring into your home.

As a foster you're responsible for making sure that every dog you care for gets everything he needs, including vaccinations and any necessary medical attention.

You also play a key role in each dog's adoption since you'll be making sure the dog is properly socialized and trained in order to facilitate the adoption process.

You may also need to perform house checks of potential adopters and bring your foster dogs to various adoption events.

Fostering a dog involves a lot of dedication and a drive to help animals in need.

It takes patience and a certain degree of flexibility.

To a certain extent, you need to be willing to have your life turned upside down now and then.

How Does Fostering Help Shelters?

Did you know that the government-funded shelters are required to take in all dogs?

This may seem like a noble act, but it comes with a big complication.

The problem lies in when these shelters inevitably run out of room.

When this happens, the shelters will often turn to the various animal rescues to take in some of their furry residents in order to free up additional space.

Unfortunately, a lot of rescues are also at a maximum because there are simply too many homeless dogs and cats.

A big reason for this is the lack of awareness of this issue, and therefore people neglect to spay and neuter their pets.

Some shelters will actually spay and neuter your pets for free, or at very little cost because they recognize that it helps the bigger picture.

People that choose to not spay or neuter their own pets for various reasons, possibly because they have no intention of their pets reproducing, still risk adding to the overpopulation issue.

What if a pet runs away, mates and then, just like that, another litter of pups without a home?

There is also the awful truth of backyard breeders and puppy mills that crank out more dogs for more money.

Many backyard breeders aim to have exclusive, designer breeds, that in reality aren’t even actual dog breeds.  And the horrendous puppy mills focusing on stocking the crates of pet stores, that are solely looking to make a profit, and think nothing of the fate of these poor dogs.

This all results in a severe lack of space in the shelters, and sadly, some dogs end up getting euthanized.

This is why it is so critical to have people who are willing to volunteer their time and compassion and be a foster.

When shelters have volunteers who are willing to foster animals, then that takes those animals out of the shelter, thereby creating more space for other animals in need.

It also frees up resources and supplies that can be used on these animals, keeping the shelters from becoming bogged down and maxed out.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Fostering?

In addition to the relief that fostering provides to the animal shelters, the dogs also gain a lot of benefits from the foster system.

Shelter environments are stressful for many dogs and some animals can become aggressive or depressed.

Also, many shelters are outdoors, which means animals are subjected to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, which can be especially hard on older animals.

Older animals are often the ones that are most likely to remain in a shelter, as puppies and pregnant dogs are often pulled from these conditions first.

Rescues are able to select the animals that they want to take in, as well as fully check out all potential adopters; something that the shelters do not have the time or resources to fully do.

Fostering helps to ease the strain on these resources, allows for more time and energy to be spent on finding suitable homes for the animals, and most importantly, fostering saves a life.

What's It Like to Foster a Dog?

When doggy foster parents were asked to describe what it was like to foster a dog, the answers were very similar: busy, active, non-stop, and hectic.

Many foster parents admitted that on some occasions you might even feel like pulling your hair out, but foster parents also said that through it all, the biggest takeaway of fostering a dog is that it is rewarding.

If it wasn’t such an incredible experience, then people wouldn’t do it.

The fact is, to see these dogs blossom and their true personalities emerge is indescribable.

Dogs may not be able to communicate with words, but they definitely can express themselves in other ways, and foster dogs have a lot of love to give.

They shower their temporary pup parents with affection as they start to adjust and settle into their surroundings.

Sometimes, fostering can bring with it some heartbreaking moments.

It is hard to imagine how these incredible, sweet animals got into some of the situations that they come from, such as abuse, or perhaps they were out on the streets for years, just trying to survive.

It must be terribly confusing for these animals when they are shuffled from place to place.

Some pups may come to a foster home emaciated, losing hair, or with minor behavioral issues.

This is where the rewarding aspect of fostering really shines through -- when you can take dogs from these terrible conditions and completely turn their lives around through love and patience.

How Long Can You Foster a Dog?

There is no hard and fast rule about how long you can foster a dog.

You can foster until you find the right home for the dog, so in some cases, you may foster for a few weeks, while other times it might be for several months.

The important thing is that you are willing to foster until you feel like the dog is ready to be introduced to a potential adopter.

You don’t want to rush the process and bring a dog to adoption events if you feel he is not ready.

If you jump the gun, it could hurt his chances of finding the right home.

For example, if you are fostering a dog that is a little tentative and still unsure around new people and strange situations, then you should take a little more time to slowly acclimate her to these things before bringing her to adoption events.

Other dogs may have to undergo certain medical requirements first, like heartworm treatment or certain vaccinations before they can be adopted.

The goal should be to make the best decision for the dogs when it comes to placing them into a home, this includes completing a thorough background and house check of any potential adopters.

You don’t want to save them, only to put them back into a similar situation or environment as to where they came from, so take your time.

The rescue that you are working with will probably have very specific criteria concerning adopters, as well as a certain process to follow.

How Many Dogs Can You Foster at Once?

There is no rule of thumb as to how many dogs you can foster at one time.  It is more a question of how many dogs can you truly care for at one time.

How many dogs can you handle?

For some people, two might be the limit, and others might be able to handle six dogs.

It all depends on your schedule, available time and patience.

If you know you don’t have a lot of time, for example, fostering four puppies that are super active and need to be house trained might not be the best idea.

However, four older dogs that are already trained could be perfectly doable.

How Much Does It Cost to Foster a Dog?

It does not cost anything to foster a dog.

All medical expenses, food, and any other necessary supplies, like a crate or playpen, are supplied by the rescue.

You can pay out of pocket if there are certain items that you choose to get for your foster dogs, such as extra toys and treats, but these are completely up to you.

If finances are a big factor in whether or not you can adopt, then fostering could be a good solution for you.

You can help animals in need, while reaping the benefits of having a dog in your home, without undergoing the expenses.

Although the rescue takes care of the expenses, you still need to remember the indirect costs of fostering.

Things like an increase in your utility bills because you're bathing six dogs every month, or the cost of some new slippers because an inquisitive pup used your old pair as a chew toy, are not things that are likely to be reimbursed by a rescue.

Do You Get Paid to Foster?

Fosters do not normally get paid.  It is first and foremost a volunteer position.

The idea of fostering is that you are helping out the shelters and rescues, and donating your time and energy to the efforts of animal welfare.

Therefore, to be paid would be counterproductive to the rescue efforts.

Can You Adopt a Dog You Foster?

It’s no surprise that after fostering a dog, getting to know it, and caring for it, that you would become attached.

If along your journey as a foster, you begin to form a special bond with a certain dog and decide that you want to be its forever home, then you can most certainly adopt it.

If you do decide to adopt, make sure you know what to expect from having a permanent pet, and then you will begin the adoption process just like any other potential adopter.

Although, since your rescue has probably already checked you out before you were able to foster, you most likely will be able to forego the background/house check portion of the adoption process.

You also can probably skip things like reference and get checks, although it is ultimately up to the rescue.

One additional thing to consider is how adopting a dog will affect your future as a foster parent.

Will you continue to foster, or will you turn all of your attention to your new furry family member?

What Are Your Responsibilities as a Foster Pup Parent?

Your main responsibility as a foster is to make the necessary vet appointments for the dogs’ age-appropriate shots, take them to the vet for well visits and any other health concerns, and of course make sure they are properly fed and loved.

Another big component of a foster’s responsibilities is aiding in the adoption effort; taking dogs to adoption events, house checks, and working towards finding the pups’ new forever are all essential duties.

Should You Foster Instead of Adopt?

If you are on the fence about whether or not to adopt, then fostering could be a good first step to help you decide if you are ready for a dog full-time.

It can also be a way for you to discover what type of dog is the best fit for you.

You may learn through fostering that you are not ready to take care of a small puppy and consider adopting an older dog.

Dog lovers will always wish they could take care of every dog in need, but saving a dog one life at a time still makes a difference.

Fostering a dog can be an excellent way to help a dog that is in need of a home.

It can help a dog become more confident and relaxed, which enables the dog to be more eligible for adoption.

You also reap the benefit of doing something outstanding for homeless animals.

If you’re considering adopting a dog, but are not yet sure of the long-term commitment, then fostering can be a good way for you to discover if you are actually ready to have a dog full-time.

Just make sure that you are prepared to do everything you need to for your foster while you are taking care of him.

To learn more about dog fostering, adoption, and all things Shih Tzu, make sure to check out the rest of our blog!

Wherever your dog journey takes you, we wish you the very best!

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