5 Tips for First-Time Dog Foster Parents

by Sundays

Big dog resting on a couch covered in a blanket

Whatever your reason for wanting to foster a dog, we’ve got some insider tips on what to expect and how to get the most out of the experience. 

Fostering a dog is so worthwhile for so many reasons. 

It’s the perfect option for anyone who has already met their pet quota and can’t give a “forever” home to another pup. It also works out great if you’re just not in the right spot financially to give a pet the care they might need. Or maybe you were thinking of donating or giving back somehow to a local pet shelter, but you don’t have the extra funds or time to volunteer. 

Whatever your reason for wanting to foster a dog, we’ve got some insider tips on what to expect and how to get the most out of the experience. 

Tip 1: Ease into fostering a dog.

We get that you’re excited and eager to get that deserving pup out of the shelter and into your home. But before you go all in, check to see if they have other options that you can pick to ease into the experience. 

Many animal shelters have a program where you can take a dog out for a day to go on a playdate. And they will always need people to take in another volunteer’s foster pups when they go on vacation or short trips. Another unique program that you might find is fospice (foster + hospice). These animals don’t have much time, but they need tons of love and snuggles while they are here, and the shelter will pay for all of their medical expenses.

So it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision. See what options are out there, and decide what level of commitment fits for right now.

Tip 2: Understand the general assignment.

Any dog foster program should have a set of instructions or some sort of training for foster parents. Some will even assign a person to you that you can reach out to when you have questions or need anything. They might also have a social media group where you can post questions or ask for help. Read all the foster materials and even reach out to other dog foster parents to see what it’s like. 

Some questions to ask are:

  • Are you responsible for posting on social media about your foster?
  • Do you need to transport your foster dog to adoption events and stay for the event?
  • How does it work when someone is interested in your foster dog? Do you coordinate a meet-and-greet?
  • Should you be working on any basic training, socializing, or potty training?
  • Do you need to give your foster dog medications or special treatments?

Tip 3: Find out what you pay for vs. the shelter.

Always ask which expenses you will need to pay for, and what the shelter will cover. In general, a foster pet’s vet bills will most likely be covered by the shelter. They will probably also give you the basic necessities if you don’t already have them, like bowls, a leash and harness, and a bed. 

The one thing you will probably have to buy on your own is the pup’s food. This really helps out an animal shelter that relies on donations and volunteers. So make sure you have the funds to cover what you are expected to take care of. Also keep in mind that they may need a specific diet or food.

Tip 4: Do your best to prepare your foster pup for their forever home.

Find out as much as possible about your foster dog from the shelter, and ask what you can do to give them the best chance at getting adopted. 

It might be working on their anxiety, teaching them basic cues like sit and stay, socializing them with new people and other dogs, potty training, and even getting to know them so you can give an accurate description of their personality, whether they are good with kids and other pets, and what living situation would be best for them. 

A lot of people worry that they might get too attached and be heartbroken when their foster pup gets adopted. When you foster a dog, remember that you’re helping them get a chance to go to their forever home, where a loving person or family is waiting to care for them. 

You may find out that it’s too much for you emotionally, and that is okay, too. You might end up adopting the dog you foster, and then you can look into the options of helping out by taking dogs out for the day or even walking the dogs at the shelter. 

Tip 5: Know that the first week will be an adjustment period.

Any dog that ends up at the shelter probably has a past that involves being on the streets or suddenly leaving a home and family that they loved. Keep this in mind when you first bring home your foster pup. They are most likely going to be scared because they are in a strange place with a stranger where they don’t know the rules and don’t feel safe yet. You may get lucky and they might settle right in, but don’t expect that. 

Think of the first week or two as a get-to-know-you period where they will be mishaps and misunderstandings until your foster dog starts to feel safe. Set up a routine for walks, mealtimes, and bedtime so they know what will happen when. Give your foster dog a quiet spot to relax and get used to your home before interacting with other pets or children.

If you run into any issues or have any concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to other foster parents or to the shelter for advice or help. You are all working toward the same goal.

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