My partner and I have learned a lot through dozens of dogs and years of work. Here’s our top takeaways if you are considering fostering:
Being a Foster is not like dog sitting.
It wasn’t until I tried dog sitting after fostering that I realized the dogs I was sitting could care less about me. The dogs I babysat clawed my couch, barked at me, and ignored me if I wasn’t feeding or playing with them. My foster dogs, follow me around with hollowed sunken glares that say “please don’t abandon me too.”
There are some really sad dog stories.
We had a bait dog once. I didn’t even know what that meant until we had him. He would lay down every time another dog walked by. We also had a dog who was just a little older than a puppy, he was abandoned at the shelter because the family was getting a new puppy and didn’t want him anymore.
You can witness some wonderful happily ever afters.
I found our deaf boxer a home! Her mom was walking in the city and she told me what a cute boxer I had. When I told her she was my foster, she filled out the application the very next day. We also saw one of our favorite fosters go to a guy who camped, hiked, and worked from home. Or one of our other dogs who went to a very beautiful couple who spent hours with him at the adoption center making sure he was the right one, only to take him home at the end of the day.
If you can make it past giving away the first dog, it gets easier.
I don’t think I have ever cried so unabashedly hard in public than when I brought my first foster dog to the adoption event. He didn’t get adopted that week, but he did eventually and I still compare every. Single. Foster. To him.
Fostering is a great way to get educated on the breed.
We ended up loving, LOVING pitbulls. Also we will never ever get a min pin or a boxer.
Fostering is a great way to learn about an individual dog before adopting.
Some dogs try and jump into your arms, some dogs poop on trees, some dogs don’t eat peanut butter, and they are all unique in their own ways!
You could start out with puppies, but fostering an adult is its own wonderful experience.
Puppies are cute. I remember passing off our tiny puppy to the foster coordinator. We had her all week. She hadn’t left my side for 5 days. I handed her to the foster coordinator almost in tears. And she didn’t even turn back around to look for me. She immediately started kissing whoever was holding her. It was like the past week had meant nothing to her. Leaving the adult dog to the foster coordinator, and they will look back and cry and look at you like “what did I do to deserve being abandoned this time?”
Some rescues have breed preferences.
Our rescue only rescues pitbulls. It looks like they rescue different breeds, but they don’t. They are all just pitbulls. Others rescue boxers, or puppies, or little dogs, or big dogs!
Dogs have a honeymoon period.
Honestly, as a foster parent it is rewarding when this period is over. The dog might try and crawl into your bed one night, or jump up on the counter, or finally let out a bark. It’s their way of saying, “I finally think you’ll love me even I do something wrong or even if I decide to be myself.”
Fosters are not usually aggressive or violent.
The first night with my foster dog I was tossing and turning the whole night. I was convinced the Pitbull/Shepard mix was going to maul me and I would end up as one of those stories, “Young girl attacked by foster Pitbull.” But that never happened. I could pick them up, stick them in a bath, or loudly say “no!” And they would just be sweet and docile.
Sometimes they don’t eat or they eat a lot, or drink a lot.
I used to panic about their eating and drinking schedules. I have had dogs who only ate when they knew I was sleeping. I also had dogs who would chug water. Some eat the second you feed them, others throughout the day.
It is always, always a good idea to introduce them to other dogs slowly.
I can’t tell you how many times I have yanked my dog away while exclaiming “Sorry! Sorry! He’s our foster!”
Foster dog parents hate the phrase “I could never do that, I would get too attached.”
Oh, you could never save dozens of dogs lives, by removing them off the euthanasia list and offering them a home?? Clearly yeah, you’re dog heart is much bigger than mine… I am just Cruela Devil who lets orphaned dogs in her homes and doesn’t develop any love for them…at all…
Fostering saves lives.
Fostering. Saves. Lives. Sometimes a rescue will tag a dog off the euthanasia list and be able to save them because you offered up your home!
Don’t expect all of them to be potty trained.
I do have a few pee spots on my rugs from over the years…
Toys, daily exercise, and routines will help them behave well.
I am a snobby dog mom lately. Theres a right way and a wrong way to have a dog. If your dog is not getting out to run, play, and get someone energy out daily- you’re doing it wrong.
You can learn a lot about dog ages.
Baby puppies are adorable, but they won’t appreciate you at all. 4–8 month old puppies are crazy monsters. Adult dogs are needy babies appreciative for every meal and ear scratch.
Chances are you will become very savvy with dog training.
I use the Zak George. It is free! But also it helps to know how to communicate to dogs that you don’t appreciate them barking at your neighbors, tearing up your bras, and trying to tug your arm out of it’s socket.
Different rescues have different demands on your time. Some rescues hope that you will watch a dog for the night, from transport to adoption day. Other rescues are fine with a commitment from one adoption event to another, which is about every week. Other rescues want you to keep the dog until it’s adopted which can be several months to years.
Different rescues are more flexible than others.
We have worked with a few different rescues. They have all been great to work with. The more you can put into the dog and give to the rescue the more flexible they can be with finding you good dog fits! The longer you work with an organization the longer they can also understand the type of dogs you like! (We usually love dogs between 30–50lbs. With separation anxiety and pitbull faces!)
Fostering a dog without another dog can be easier.
We often get really great dogs. Many places send dogs home to a house that already has a dog. Dog fights, dog tensions, and food agression can occur so it helps to be able to read body language and be a savvy pet parent!
Fostering and devoting time and effort to each dog means perks for later fostering.
We can basically request dogs on command now after the years of work we have done for one organization. “We want a puppy this week” or “any medium sized running buddies coming in?” Texting our foster coordinator is basically like Uber Eats… but for puppies!
Fostering has made it hard for us to commit.
I think fostering is like playing the field. The longer you’re a “player” the harder it is to commit. We know so much about dogs, and dog behavior, and breeds, that we aren’t really sure what we want because each breed has draw backs and highlights! On top of that, we kinda like our weeks off from being dog parents!
You can foster in a small space or a big space, with a yard or without a yard.
We foster in a one bedroom 780sq foot condo. We have had dogs of all sizes. As long as you can help get a dog a good workout, the better they are at home.
You get better at it as time goes on. It is easier to say goodbye now than it used to be. Easier to understand what a dog’s whine means. Understand the pattern of watching them take a few days to warm up, and then testing their love like teenagers.