Dogs that have been injured, traumatized, or who are sick may need the nurturing environment of a foster home as opposed to a shelter. Similarly, dogs that need a lot of individual attention or who are too young to be adopted are also candidates for fostering. In other cases, dogs that have a lot of energy are sometimes sent to foster homes where they can be trained before being put up for adoption.
When you foster a dog, you free up space in the animal shelter so more dogs can be saved. You also give the shelter’s care team more time to learn about the dog and find the right match for a permanent home. Ultimately, you do a good deed for a living creature and reap the emotional and mental benefits of giving back.
Before you jump onto the fostering bandwagon, here are 10 things you should consider:
1. Do you have the time?
Dogs that are sent to foster homes need a lot of TLC and personal attention. People who have 9 to 5 jobs may not be the best candidates for this, since it means leaving a dog at home alone when the dog really needs support and companionship. So before you foster a dog, it’s important to consider: Do you have the time? Alternatively, if you work nine to five, do you have a partner who could fill in for you?
2. Do you have the energy?
Dogs are great providers of warmth and comfort, but when fostering, it’s you that needs to provide emotional and physical support. People who foster dogs may be asked to transport the dog to adoption events and the vet, participate in training, speak with potential adopters, and stay in touch with the shelter. Then, of course, there are the regular walks that every dog needs! In other words, when you foster a dog, you can’t just sit back on the sofa with your feet up. There’s a lot of work involved, so make sure to ask yourself if you have the energy for such an undertaking.
3. Do you have the budget?
When you foster a dog, you bring another member into your family. And what do family members do? They eat! While the cost of dog food won’t necessarily break the bank (you can find large bags for about $20/$25), bear in mind that you may also want to buy treats, toys, crates, etc. Medical expenses are usually covered by the shelter, so at least you don’t have to worry about that.
4. Do you have the patience?
Whether your dog needs to be trained, rehabilitated, or showered with love, patience is required for each endeavor. If you lose your patience easily, you may become frustrated when things don’t go exactly as planned.
5. Can you dog-proof your house?
Toddlers aren’t the only ones who can make a mess around a house! Fostered dogs can have accidents inside or get into things they shouldn’t be getting into. If you’re considering fostering, bear in mind that creating a clutter-proof environment will help both you and the dog in the long-run. You won’t risk having your furniture or carpets ruined, while your furry friend won’t get frustrated with too many things in their way.
6. Are you willing to administer medication?
Not all foster dogs are sick, but there is a chance that the one you get will need extra medical attention. Are you comfortable taking care of a dog’s medical needs, including giving medication and visits to the vet?
7. Do you have other pets?
As an animal lover, which you probably are if you’re considering fostering, you may already have other pets in the house. For foster dogs, the ideal situation is to be the only pet in the house. This is especially true in the beginning, during which a 14-day quarantine is recommended for the dog to prevent spreading illnesses. (Though dogs are checked by a vet before being put up for fostering, the quarantine is an extra preventative measure.)
If you have other pets, are you able to keep the foster dog in a separate room? If kept separate, will you still be able to dedicate enough time to your temporary ward? This aspect of fostering bears consideration, since you really need to be able to give your all.
8. Are you flexible?
Depending on the dog and many other factors, foster parents can end up caring for their pet for just a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. Are you okay with not knowing how long the fostering period will be? If you’re not a particularly flexible person, it’s important to understand this aspect of fostering.
9. Can you kids handle giving up the dog?
As an adult, you know that parting with a fostered dog will be hard, but you can handle it. Kids, on the other hand, may not be able to handle the trauma of creating an attachment and then breaking it. If you have kids, this is something to consider before fostering.
10. Are you prepared for ‘fostering failure?’
It’s not only kids who can form fast attachments. Adults can too. If you become very attached to your foster dog and decide to adopt it, it’s known as a “foster failure.” While the goal of finding a permanent home for the dog has been met, shelters consider this a failure since it means you won’t be able to foster other animals in the near future. Are you prepared for the possibility that you’ll get so attached that you’ll end up adopting?
How to Foster a Dog
If you’re interested in fostering or even adopting a dog, you can contact your local animal shelter and find out how. Many shelters have foster programs and are always happy to recruit another foster family. Although fostering a dog involves a lot of hard work, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences you can go through, a truly altruistic way to do something good for others and for yourself as well.