Black and white rescued dog looking tentative as foster parent wraps him in a blanket.

How to Foster a Rescue Dog — 7 Tips for New Foster Parents

Last updated on January 26th, 2024 at 08:19 pm

Fostering a rescue dog is a decision that can fill your life with both challenges and profound joy. It’s a journey embarked upon by those who have a deep love for animals and a desire to provide them with a nurturing transitional home. By opening your heart and home to a dog in need, you’re offering much more than shelter; you’re giving them a chance at a better life and the possibility of finding a forever home with a new owner.

As you consider taking on this compassionate role, it’s essential to understand the commitment involved and to prepare both emotionally and for the practical aspects of daily care.

Embracing the role of a foster parent for a rescue dog means being ready to walk through a series of steps that ensure the well-being of your temporary furry companion. From the initial application and understanding the unique needs of your foster, to creating a safe space and saying farewell when it’s time for their new home, each phase demands dedication.

Preparing your home and heart for the fostering experience requires patience, adaptability, and an abundance of kindness.

Key Takeaways

  • Fostering a dog involves a thorough preparatory process before welcoming them into your home.
  • Understanding a foster dog’s needs and the fostering requirements are crucial for a successful experience.
  • The fostering journey concludes with a heartfelt goodbye as the dog transitions to a permanent home.
Read more: How to Foster a Rescue Dog — 7 Tips for New Foster Parents

Getting Started

Why Foster

Rescue dogs ans shelter dogs all over the country and the world desperately need foster homes before they can transition to a new, loving home. The shelters are simply too full to handle all of them and many end up getting euthanized. Additionally, many dogs who have been rescued from challenging situations may have special physical or emotional needs and need extra care.

A dog who has been fostered after being rescued has an 80% higher success rate of being adopted. The foster family provides a bridge and place of safety for a dog who needs to decompress, heal, and learn to trust. Foster care greatly reduces behavioral and emotional issues and prepares a dog for adoption. Fostering greatly reduces the risk of a dog being returned to the shelter and provides an opportunity for a dog to heal.

The Process

If you have made the decision to foster, you may want to check out two or three rescue organizations or local shelters to find your best match. The process may be a bit involved, but it will help you to be better prepared. See these key steps below:

Before you embark on the journey of fostering a dog, it’s important to take the right first steps to ensure a successful experience for both you and your future foster pet. Begin by submitting a foster application to a shelter or rescue; this is an essential part of the process. Use resources like Petfinder or ASPCA to locate reputable organizations.

Consider the following points as you move forward:

  • Select a Shelter: Research and reach out to multiple shelters to compare their fostering requirements and support.
  • Foster Match: Ensure the dog’s needs align with your lifestyle and capacity to provide care.
  • Preparation: Equip yourself with the necessary supplies and knowledge to foster a dog with special needs.

Remember, fostering a dog not only helps the animal but also increases its chances of finding a permanent home. Your commitment is crucial in transforming the life of a rescue dog.

1. Fostering a Rescue Dog Will Require Completing an Application Form and Being Interviewed

Pug with glasses holding a blackboard with a checklist--how to pass my dog adoption interview!

Shelters and rescue organizations prioritize the welfare of the animals in their care, looking to pair them with foster homes that offer safety, love, and stability. Many of them have foster programs to help prepare a traumatized animal to be permanently adopted.

Here is what you can expect when applying to foster a rescue dog:

Application ProcessInterview Process
– Fill out a detailed application.– Discuss your home environment.
– Provide references.– Talk about your dog care experience.
– Often includes questions about:– May involve a home visit.
– Housing situation– Tailored matching with a dog.
– Family members– Can be conducted in-person or online.
– Current pets

  • Your Responsibilities:
    • Demonstrate kindness, compassion, and patience.
    • Create a healing environment for the dog.
    • Commit to the dog’s care needs.
  • Matching with a Dog:
    • Staff thoroughly assesses to ensure the best fit.
    • Dogs with more needs placed with experienced fosterers.

Expectations: Foster parents are expected to have genuine reasons for fostering and the ability to commit to the dog’s well-being.

Remember, fostering is a rewarding experience, with the well-being of the rescue dog as the central focus. Your readiness and commitment can make a significant difference in an animal’s life.

2. Ask Why the Rescued Dog Needs Fostering

Understanding the reasons for fostering can help you provide the best care. Here are common situations:

  • Space: When a shelter environment is full, your help can prevent euthanasia.
  • Senior Care: Older dogs might need a quiet place for their age-related conditions.
  • Medical Needs: Foster homes can provide the necessary environment for sick dogs to recover.
  • Hospice: Dogs with terminal illnesses deserve comfort in their final days, which a foster home can offer.
  • Maternity: Provide a safe space for pregnant dogs to have and nurture their puppies.
  • Rehabilitation: Dogs from traumatic backgrounds may require a calm space to start healing.
  • Training: Dogs that lack housetraining or social skills benefit from foster homes where they can learn and grow.

By fostering, you create opportunities for these dogs to become adoptable pets ready for a forever home.

3. Make Sure You Understand What is Required of You

As a foster parent, comprehending your responsibilities is paramount to the well-being of the dog under your care. Here’s what you typically need to provide and what the rescue organization may cover:

Your Contributions May Include:

  • Providing a nurturing home environment and emotional support for several weeks to months.
  • Ensuring a safe, quiet space for the dog to decompress and heal.
  • Contributing basic house training, and teaching manners to help with their transition.
  • Transporting the dog to adoption events, as required.
  • Extending your support through toys, dog bed, and sometimes additional food.

The Rescue Organization’s Role Could Include:

  • Covering veterinary care and necessary vaccinations.
  • Offering guidance on behavioral issues and training.
  • Providing a crate, leash, collar, initial food, treats, bowls, and micro-chipping.
  • Sharing resources and continuous support throughout the fostering period.

Remember that fostering isn’t just about providing shelter. You might have to facilitate and pay for:

Training Requirements: Be ready to provide:

  • Socialization: Accustoming the dog to humans and other pets.
  • Basic Commands: Sit, stay, and come, which are essential for a well-mannered canine companion.
  • Professional Training: This may involve obedience classes or individual support from a certified dog trainer.

The rescue organization should be able to provide some support in dealing with behavioral issues. However, you may also need to pay for a professional dog trainer if your foster dog has extensive problems.

You will probably end up spending some money on additional items such as toys, food, or a bed. Most of these organizations are nonprofits on a tight budget, and they will appreciate any support you can provide. Just make sure you read the application information and ask questions to clarify what is included.

You will also want to know what the process will be if you decide you just can’t handle a particular dog.

Best Friends, a long-time national and respected animal rescue organization have a great Foster Dog Care Manual. It is very comprehensive and covers all aspects of what foster parents will need to know.

Financial Considerations:

While organizations greatly appreciate donations, always clarify potential out-of-pocket costs. Determine what health care and training costs you will be responsible for.

Additionally, foster families usually assume responsibility for the cost of dog food, toys, various supplies and may share the cost of medical appointments and procedures.

Should challenges arise, knowing the process for reassignment is crucial. Reference the Foster Dog Care Manual for insights into handling such situations.

4. Make Sure You Are Ready to Be a Foster Parent

Embracing the role of a foster caregiver for a rescue dog means allocating dedicated time and a suitable environment for their well-being. Your daily routine should include at least two hours of direct interaction, ensuring their needs are met—even with a full-time job, fostering is possible with a support system in place.

Preparedness Checklist:

  • Home Environment:
    • A tranquil space for the dog to retreat.
    • Low-traffic area with minimal chaos.
  • Financial Consideration:
    • Be ready to cover costs for food and supplies.
  • Personal Attributes:
    • Patience and tolerance for your foster dog’s unique needs.
    • A gentle and loving demeanor to build trust.

What You May Need to Provide and What the Rescue Organization May Provide

Green dog bowl with purple leash and other supplies against a blue backdrop

What the Foster Parent Typically ProvidesWhat the Rescue Organization Will Often Cover
A loving home environment for several weeks/monthsVeterinary care and vaccinations
Emotional and behavioral supportTraining & guidance for behavioral issues
A dedicated quiet room/space for decompression/healingLeash, collar, bowls
Dog bedCrate
Transportation to adoption eventsMicro-chipping
Basic housebreaking training and mannersInitial food and treats
Toys Resources and support

Remember, the impact you have as part of a foster family extends beyond providing a temporary home. Your patience and love can transform the life of a puppy mill rescue into one filled with comfort and care. Consult with a foster coordinator to understand the full scope of your commitment and ensure you are ready to offer the stability these vulnerable animals deserve.

5. Prepare Your Home

To ensure safety for your new rescue dog and the well-being of your home, take some practical steps.


  • Inspect at dog level: Look for anything at your dog’s eye level that might pose a risk.
  • Electrical Hazards: Unplug any electrical cords in the area where your dog will spend time alone.
  • Plant Safety: Keep indoor plants out of your dog’s reach.
  • Lock it up: Use child locks on cabinets with medicine, food, or cleaning supplies.
  • Small Items: Remove objects that your dog might chew.
  • Trash Security: Secure garbage cans with latching lids or store them away.


  • Fence Check: Mend any holes and repair broken gates to prevent escapes.
  • Barrier Gates: Set up a child’s safety gate or a secondary gate for added security.

Creating a Safe Space:

Small white dog sleeping comfortably in comfy bed inside a crate with the door open.
  • Provide a safe place such as a crate or a spare bedroom for your dog to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Use temporary fencing or a large playpen for controlled freedom in the early stages.

Integrating with Family Pets:

  • Gradual Introduction: If you have other pets, take it slow. Monitor interactions closely.
  • Maintain Routine: Keep resident pets on their usual schedules to reduce stress.

Crate Training:

  • Comfort is Key: Ensure the crate is comfortable with appropriate bedding.
  • Positive Association: Introduce the crate positively, with treats and praise.
  • Acclimation Period: Allow your dog to get used to the crate slowly over time.

By taking these steps, you provide a secure environment that promotes easy adjustment for your new companion. Remember that patience and structured boundaries are beneficial during this transition period.

6. Be Gentle, Kind, Patient, and Forgiving

When fostering a rescue dog, understanding their past is crucial. They may come from environments where care and comfort were scarce. This means every action you take should be filled with tenderness and empathy. Here’s how to nurture their well-being:

  • Patience is Key: Initial interactions should be approached with a calm demeanor. Harsh reactions or loud voices can heighten their anxiety. Give them the time they need to acclimate to your presence and home.
  • Space for Healing: Allow your dog to have their own area, such as a crate or playpen, where they can retreat and feel secure. Always ensure this space is comfortable — large enough to stand and turn, yet cozy.

Important Considerations:Tips
ExpectationMaintain reasonable ones. The dog may not immediately understand house rules or show affection.
ConfinementKeep it temporary and ensure comfort.
InteractionLet the dog initiate contact. Offer space for them to decompress.

  • Body Language Sensitivity: Be attuned to their body signals. A growl means “give me space,” whereas seeking proximity suggests the need for assurance. Respect these cues.
  • Forgiveness: For moments when they might not respond as hoped, remember that your foster dog is still learning. A gentle redirection helps more than punishment.

For added guidance, learn tactics to provide comfort, novel ways to reassure them, and how to create a bonding environment by exploring posts on ways to foster connections with rescue dogs, such as comforting a rescue dog or handling a clingy rescue dog. They may enrich your fostering journey, offering healing pathways for both you and the dog.

7. Learn How to Say Goodbye

Foster parent saying goodbye to happy white dog in park.

Fostering a rescue dog is a deeply moving journey filled with challenges and triumphs. As you navigate the fostering process, here are some steps to help you prepare for the eventuality of saying goodbye to your temporary furry companion:

  • Prepare Emotionally: Understand that fostering is a temporary commitment with the goal of preparing the dog for a permanent home.
  • Cherish the Progress: Celebrate the milestones as the dog grows in confidence and happiness during their time with you.
  • Document the Journey: Keep a record of the dog’s development and happy moments to share with potential adopters.
  • Complete Adoption Application Process: Ensure that potential adopters complete all necessary forms; this will help ease your mind knowing the dog is going to a good home.
  • Conduct a Home Visit: If possible, arrange a home visit to see where your foster dog will potentially be living.

Final Thoughts

Boldly embrace the role of a foster parent, knowing that each goodbye is a new beginning for your foster dog. You will be helping a dog in need to heal and thrive and the rewards will far outweigh any heartaches.

And, yes, it is always hard to say goodbye. But you will be launching your foster dog into her forever home, where she can have a joyful and peaceful life.

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