Should YOU Foster A Dog?

When we move aboard a sail boat, I’ll be giving up some things—hot showers, always-on internet, refrigeration. But what I think I’ll miss most are the occasional visits from foster dogs.

Maybe I’ll feel better if I can convince someone else to take my place in fostering.

What Does It Mean To Foster A Dog?

Fostering a dog is simply bringing him or her into your home temporarily.

Honey the golden retrievers makes allowances for a foster puppy.

You foster puppies get away with everything.

Most of the dogs I’ve fostered stayed with me for two weeks. A few stayed for several months.

I have friends who have fostered dogs with extreme issues (like dogs who were found in puppy mills) for more than a year.

There are many reasons dogs need foster homes. Here are just a few:

Medical Needs

I fostered a particularly sweet beagle who was recovering from surgery after a car accident. She needed slow walks every day and simple exercises to help her leg to heal.

Some dogs just need a quiet place to recover or some specialized care they can’t get at a shelter.


Most of the dogs I’ve fostered were puppies.

Zoe the foster puppy looks a the camera.

How could anyone ever let me go? Don’t you see how freaking adorable I am?

When the shelter I fostered for received puppies, they vaccinated them immediately and sent them to homes where they would be safe from disease while their immunity kicked in.

The last place you want to have a newly vaccinated puppy is in a shelter that also accepts stray dogs who may be carrying deadly buggies.

Shelter Stress

Some dogs just don’t thrive in a shelter environment.

Blanche the beagle came to our home when she was recovering from surgery. She didn’t have any medical issues resulting from her operation. But the shelter staff and volunteers thought she seemed depressed.

From the first moment she came to our home, Blanche, (who I called “Sweetie”) was a perfect companion. She was a naturally happy girl who loved being in a home. She just didn’t like the shelter.

Blanche the beagle sits on the couch.

You had to meet Blanche to know how sweet she was. Luckily, her new family found her shortly after we returned her to the shelter after fostering.

Behavioral Problems

Cherie was afraid of everything: thunder, trash cans, strangers, trucks, cars.

She stayed with us for months. And Honey’s trainer helped us work with her extreme fear. By the time she left for her new home, she was calmly sitting on the porch during a neighborhood music festival, meeting strangers, and walking around the block on recycling day.

Hound Mix and Golden Retriever with Bicycle Cart

Cherie got Honey wondering why she found the bike cart so scary.

Some dogs just need a little one-on-one attention to be their best. And some dogs need a lot.

Rescues Without Buildings

Some rescues have no physical location. They exist simply as a network of people who take in dogs needing homes until they can be adopted.

These dogs don’t necessarily have any problems. Except, of course, for the problem of not having a permanent home.

What Are Good Foster Homes?

As you can see, there are lots of reasons dogs need foster homes. Which means that there are lots of homes that would be great for fostering dogs.

Homes With Other Dogs

I could not foster dogs without Honey’s help.

She exercises other dogs with games of chase and bitey face. She teaches puppies to sit for snacks. She holds back when dogs need their space.

Honey the Golden Retriever tells foster dog Cherie how to find her forever home.

Honey has been patient and kind to all our foster dogs. But Cherie was one of her favorites.

And best of all, she’s there to keep me company when I’m sad from returning our latest foster.

Homes Without Other Dogs

Our shelter has expressed a strong desire for foster homes without other pets.

Some dogs just don’t like being around other dogs. And a quiet foster home where they can be an only dog for a while is perfect.

Layla the Beagle in front of a space heater.

Layla’s best friend was the space heater. Honey? Not so much.

Homes Where People Are Home During The Day

Working from home has been great for house training foster puppies. Well, great for the foster puppies. Not so great for the amount of work I get done.

Scooter on the drafting table

I have no idea how Scooter got up on the drafting table. One minute he was on the floor. The next he was practically at eye level.

My flexible schedule has been excellent for some of our foster dogs.

Homes Where People Work During The Day

Some of the adult dogs I’ve fostered came to us perfectly house trained. They had no separation anxiety. All they wanted to do was go for a morning walk, sleep all day, and go for another walk at night.

Honey the golden retriever leads the walk.

…Then I have to lead the walk. If we let the beagle lead, we’ll walk right into a bush.

Homes With Yards

My yard is small. But it’s been great to rely on for those early morning potty breaks.

And its big enough for a rousing game of chase or bitey face. As long as you keep saying to yourself, “They’re perennials; they’ll come back next year.”

Honey the golden retriever has mixed emotions about playing tug with a chocolate lab.

C’mon Handsome. Let’s go to my place.

Homes Without Yards

Some dogs I’ve fostered were restricted to leashed exercise. You don’t want to let a dog with stitches to run around like a fiend.

And some dogs (particularly the more ambitious puppies) were escape artists. A trailing leash and close supervision were necessary even in the yard.

Could You Foster Dogs?

Not everyone is made to foster dogs. And that’s okay. There are many ways to help animals without bringing new ones into your home all the time.

But if you think you just might want to foster dogs, I hope you see that partnering with the right shelter or rescue just might be good for you.

All kinds of dogs need all kinds of foster homes.

Maybe one of them is yours?

Your Turn: Have you ever fostered animals? Do you have any advice for someone just thinking about it? And why not share this post to spread the word that fostering works for lots of people in lots of different situations.

If you’re wondering what fostering is really like, read what I’ve written about it over the years here.


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  1. I think it’s wonderful that you have opened your home & heart to so many pups in need of fostering! We have yet to join the fostering club; I wanted to wait until Missy’s cancer treatment had come to its final chapter, and it seems like we have finally reached that point.

    Now that I just started running my very own dog walking & pet sitting business, I’m actually not sure I would still have the amount of time needed to dedicate to a foster pup. The topic of fostering is definitely still on my mind, I’m just not sure when we’ll be able to actually welcome a foster pup into our pack.

    • Timing is important. I wasn’t able to foster with previous dogs. But I’m really happy for the years I was able to do it with Honey’s help.

      In truth, I feel that dog walking professionals do a lot to keep dogs in good homes. Many people would not adopt dogs if they couldn’t rely on someone to give them a mid day break or take care of them when they had to travel. So, in a sense, your business does as much to keep dogs in good home as fostering could.

  2. Yes, hats off to you for the foster work you have done. And thank you for this food for thought.

    • Thanks, Martine. I’ve enjoyed fostering. But, of course, it’s only one small way among many that we can help animals.

  3. The only downside to adopting Boca was that it meant I could not continue to foster since two dogs is my limit in my present situation. I love that you outlined all of the possible foster circumstances in a way that shows almost *any* home can be a fit for the right foster dog. I hope to be able to foster again someday, ideally when I have a yard and don’t work away from home during the week.

    • Timing is different for everyone. But don’t forget that the purpose of fostering is to put dogs into good, forever homes. And you’re already providing a fabulous forever home to the ginger sisters.

  4. I keep thinking about doing this again – I think Jack and Maggie may be settled enough to take in an older dog…a puppy might not go over as well.

    • It would be important to find a shelter or rescue whose dogs would be a good fit for you.

      In truth, a couple of our fosters were quite overweight. Chez Slim Doggy would be a great foster home for adult dogs who need to slim down.

  5. My husband doesn’t want to foster dogs (I want to) because he’s afraid he won’t be able to let them go (awww!). Our compromise has become that we adopt seniors instead. We have a Schnauzer who is 12, a Yorkie who is 14 and just adopted a chocolate Pom who is 10 and has congestive heart failure. If you can’t foster seniors are perfect!

    • It is so wonderful that you have let senior dogs into your hearts. They are such wonderful companions but many people don’t want to give them a chance because they’re afraid of saying goodbye too soon.

      I think it’s really sweet that your husband worries about now being able to let foster dogs go. I have the same issue with my husband. He threatens to adopt every dog that has come into the house.

      Let’s hear it for men who are big softies. :)

  6. Fostering is fun! But a lot of work. :-) We’re in the middle of our second foster dog now.

  7. I love fostering dogs as well. I’m very passionate about it, and I think I actually do it for selfish reasons. It just makes me more fulfilled! That being said, fostering the wrong dog can be very stressful. I’ve fostered dogs with separation anxiety and I had to return them after a few days because it just didn’t work in my apartment setting at the time. On the other hand I’ve also fostered really quiet, laid-back easy dogs of all ages and it worked out perfectly. For first-time foster volunteers, I would recommend a senior dog or perhaps a middle aged dog. They’re (generally!) easier. If the first one goes well, then people are more likely to foster again!

  8. I would love to foster another dog in need; but hubby and I have enough work dealing with our own three (especially our little demon dog)! Besides, our house is just barely big enough for us as it is.

  9. It is good to be reminded that there’s a lot of variety in what makes for good fostering situations!

  10. We can’t get our own gentle giants for now, which is why we’re fostering. Our first foster just got adopted a couple of months ago. It was more rewarding than we thought it would be!

  11. You are truly an angel to all these dogs. “If” this was something I do in the future – I promise you, it can not be a puppy LOL Jax has taught me that! Thank you for being who you are to so many.


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