Fostering saves lives.  We hear that statement a lot, but what does it really mean and what does it take to foster a dog and save his life?  How do you know if you have what it takes to be a good foster parent? 



Most shelters are over-crowded.   There is only so much kennel space, staff, and funding to care for the never ending influx of animals that arrive at shelters day after day.  Over 3 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters each year.  That is a devastating statistic. There are more homeless dogs and cats than there are available homes to adopt them.  Fostering plays a key role in saving the lives of these animals.

My sweet foster dog Dusty, continually passed over for adoption simply because he had cherry eye.  I had it corrected myself & he stayed with me for 2 weeks.  He was adopted days after returning to the shelter!

Dogs Need To Be Fostered For Various Reasons


One way fostering saves lives is by freeing up space in shelters.  When an animal leaves the shelter to be fostered, it makes room for one more animal to be housed and cared for in an over-crowded shelter.  Shelters can then save even more dogs.

A shelter dog may have a contagious illness such as an upper respiratory infection, and need to be isolated from other shelter animals to prevent an outbreak of the illness throughout the entire shelter.  Most shelters have isolation kennels, but when they’re full the dog must be isolated elsewhere.  Fostering can play an important part in caring for a dog or cat that needs to be isolated from the shelter population. One of my foster dogs, Rudy, had a terrible case of kennel cough and needed to be removed from the shelter population to prevent infecting the other dogs.  You can read about him in my post My Favorite Foster Dog: Rudy’s Story.

My foster dog Rudy relaxing in my yard following a terrible bout of kennel cough

Shelter life is stressful; it’s loud, scary, and confining.  Some dogs don’t adapt well and may shut down if they aren’t adopted quickly.  They need a break from the chaotic shelter environment.  Fostering in a home gives them a place where they can feel safe, get some quiet time, calm down, and regain their confidence and resilience.

Some shelter pups have behavior issues.  These may be issues they’ve always had or they may be a result of being in a shelter environment.   One of my foster dogs, Howdy, was displaying aggression towards other male dogs.  This jeopardized his ability to be put up for adoption.  The staff recognized that his reaction was simply a result of being terrified of the other dogs. 

I took him home with me to foster. In our calm household with my two friendly relaxed dogs, Icy and Phoebe, within days Howdy was a happy little dog.  His true personality came out and he was the sweetest boy!  He re-entered the shelter after a week and did great with all the other dogs there.  He was adopted within two weeks! 

Sometimes the behavior issue might be unruly behavior because the dog never had any training.  A few days of basic obedience training can do wonders, making the dog more appealing to an adopter.

My foster dog Howdy, whose only crime was being afraid of the other boy dogs at the shelter


A foster parent takes a dog into their own home to provide care and shelter.  You provide a safe haven, feed them, take them for walks, play with them, and most importantly you LOVE them and make them feel like a pet again!  I like to think I give my foster dogs hope for a new life. 


You don’t need to be a dog expert to foster.  A brief orientation session from experienced shelter staff or volunteers will give you all the basic knowledge you need to become a dog's foster parent.   

** Can you foster if you work full time?  Yes!  After all, most pet owners work full time.  The person who adopts your foster will probably work as well.

** Can you foster if you have children or other pets in the home? Absolutely!  The person who adopts your foster may have kids and pets in their home too.  You’ll be able to provide valuable insight into how well your foster dog gets along with kids, other dogs, cats, and other pets.  This is valuable information and often prompts someone to choose your foster dog because they can feel confident the dog will be a good fit for their family.

** Is there a cost to become a foster parent?  Usually not, but ask if you have to pay for food or anything else yourself just to be sure.  Most shelters provide the food and basic supplies needed to care for your foster pet.  If the dog is ill they’ll provide the necessary medication as well.

** Some people have told me they could never foster because it would be too hard to give their foster dog up.  I’d be lying if I said that never happens.  Many times you do fall in love with a foster dog, but the ultimate gift you give them is the opportunity to start a new life with a new loving family.  Isn't that worth a few tears? 

I loved all my fosters, but I know that I can’t keep them all and I know that when I send my foster dog off to his new life it frees me up to save the next one, and the next one after that.  The joy of saving each dog’s life lives in my soul forever!

Do you want to foster a dog or other animal and save a life, or have you fostered before?  If so, tell us about it in the comments.


Sheltie Times said...

Both our dogs were fostered and it goes beyond even those things you mentioned. It gives a chance for the dogs to be evaluated. What kind of home would be best for them? Are they good with kids? Other dogs? Children? These are things that are hard to evaluate in a shelter situation. In a home situation, you have a better chance to see what kinds of issues might make a better match. You can also work on certain behaviors that would make a dog more adoptable.

Bailey was a puppy in Sheltie rescue. His Mom had him completely housebroken when he came to us. Imagine getting not only a puppy but one that come housebroken? We thought we won the lottery.

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

These are great points, Bailey, I totally agree. Time spent in a foster home can be so beneficial for a dog. Wow, getting a housebroken puppy definitely qualifies as winning the lottery! Thanks for sharing.

Life with Dogs and Cats said...

I would love to foster, but it's not in the cards...for now. Someday.

--Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

Unknown said...

Some great info here! Thanks so much for sharing!
I don't think people realize just how much being a pet foster actually helps animals in need.
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

When you're ready it will happen, the important thing is that you want to help when the time is right. Thanks for stopping by Susan!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Thanks Jenna! Yes, it really is critical, I see it every day at the shelter. My last foster, Howdy, just got adopted the other day and I'm so thrilled for him! He had some challenges to deal with. I'm picking up my next foster on Wednesday, I'll blog about her later in the week.

M. K. Clinton said...

Pierre was "staying" with us until we could return him to our daughter. Now he and Bentley are best buds and he has a huge part of my heart. He will always be her baby but he is not leaving us. ♥ I'd love to foster but I don't have the time or room for three pups. ♥

Impurrfectlife said...

Thanks so much for sharing these tips. I signed up to be a foster parent at the animal shelter I've been volunteering for recently so this post helps to know what to expect and how my contribution helps! :)

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