What You Need to Know About Dog Fostering

Dog fostering is extremely rewarding, but there are some things you should know before you jump in feet first.

Jul 25, 2023By Amy Brannan
what you need to know about dog fostering

Fostering a dog is a great way to improve the odds of a shelter dog getting adopted. But fostering a dog is more than giving a dog somewhere to rest its head - it is also about injury recovery, teaching basic etiquette, and providing a dog the chance to come out of its shell.

While fostering is a rewarding experience that gives back to the community, it can come at a personal cost. So, before jumping in feet first, we encourage you to research everything fostering entails.

Here are some top fostering points you need to know.

There Will Be an Adjustment Period

anxious pug
Image credit: diana.grytsku

Whether adopting a rescue dog or fostering, the rule of thumb is 3-3-3 regarding the average adjustment period. Three days, three weeks, and three months. That said, some dogs can adjust faster to life with you, however, there are also dogs that will take longer to settle in.

3 Days – Within three days of coming to your foster care, you may see your foster dog showing signs of uncertainty and fear. Symptoms like trouble settling down, hiding, signs of distrust, food and toy guarding, and similar behaviors are possible.

3 Weeks – This is the turning point you have been waiting for! In 3 weeks of being in your foster care, your foster dog will be more settled in your home. You may still see symptoms of separation anxiety, possible fear response nipping, and cowering at certain stimuli.

3 Months – You may not have your foster dog for this long, but if you do have your dog for three months, this is the point where they feel truly at home in your care.

Your Foster Dog Might be Rough Around the Edges

chocolate labrador
Image credit: Freepik

In February 2009, researchers Andrew Urs Lueschera and Robert Tyson Medlock published a study titled “The effects of training and environmental alterations on adoption success of shelter dogs” in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science. This study found that rescue dogs with some degree of training are 50% more likely to get adopted than those without.

While some shelters implement basic training programs, the responsibility for training often falls on fosters. So, don’t expect your foster dog to come to you with perfect manners!

Even well-trained dogs in foster situations can regress and “forget” their training, or again defy commands as they experience a period of adjustment.

You Don’t Have to Foster a Dog for Any Set Period

corgi dog
Image credit: ArtPhoto studio

You are not committed to keeping your foster for any set time. A shelter or rescue will not force any of their fosters to keep a dog for a set period because rescue dogs and foster matches are not always perfect!

It is common for a first-time foster to feel overwhelmed, but if you continue to feel overcome, contact your foster “sponsor” for guidance. It may be that you weren’t ready to foster, or you might just have needed advice from an experienced foster.

Of course, if your home is a good fit for a foster dog, a rescue wants you to continue to foster for as long as possible. The more stability you can provide your foster dog, the more confident they will be when they finally meet a forever family!

You Will Get Attached

yellow labrador
Image credit: lookstudio

Maybe you already know this when you go into fostering, but - in case you don’t – you will get attached. You will come to love your foster like one of your own dogs, which can make letting them go very difficult.

Most fosters can send their dogs off to a forever home knowing that they have made a difference. Letting go is made easier knowing that there is an endless list of dogs waiting for foster homes.

Sometimes, however, fosters become “foster failures.” A “foster failure” is a foster parent who just can’t let go of their foster dog and applies to adopt it themselves. In most cases, if a foster dog settles and is content, a rescue is happy to agree to adoption!

You Must Have Time to Spare

dog adoption
Image credit: Freepik

Fostering a dog is more than providing a bed, a bowl of food, and belly rubs. When you sign up to foster a dog, you sign up to assist in providing them with everything they need to be adopted.

As a foster, you may have to take your foster dog to dog training classes, veterinary appointments, and adoption events. You will also give up personal time to practice obedience training, socialize, and exercise your foster dog.

It may seem like a lot of commitment, but most fosters will tell you that fostering doesn’t take much away from their schedule, and it is worth the reward in the end!

Amy Brannan
By Amy Brannan

Affectionately referred to as “Snow White” by family and friends, Amy has always connected with animals of all species. In addition to being a lifelong dog mom, Amy has nursed possums, chipmunks, rabbits, and squirrels back to health - much to the chagrin of her black Labrador, Jet. When she is not caring for her animals, Amy advocates pet adoption and educates others on the joys of senior dog ownership.