What Does Fostering Cost YOUR Dog?

Honey the Golden Retriever stares down Bandit the foster puppy.

It’s been nice getting muddy with you, Bandit.

The muddy throw rugs are coming out of the laundry. The dog toys are back where they belong. I’m taking down the temporary crate Bandit slept in.

Things are getting back to normal.

But Honey is still sad.

Hard to Give Up a Foster Dog

I’ve never written or read about fostering without hearing someone say they could never return a dog they were fostering. They’d fall in love every time and end up with a house full of dogs.

But what about the dogs in a house that fosters? What does fostering mean for them?

Fostering From a Dog’s Point of View

Honey is pretty mellow. She takes what comes.

When we foster a dog who doesn’t like other dogs, Honey reins herself in and lives peaceably beside a dog who wants nothing to do with her.

Controlling her urge to play is stressful. And when the foster dog leaves, we see the stress leave her body.

Honey the Golden Retriever sleeping with Layla the beagle.

Ok, so you don’t like to play. But at least you like my fuzzy butt.

But when we foster a dog who loves to play, Honey has a blast.

For the past week and a half, Honey and Bandit have spent hours each day wrestling in the yard. Ever since we came home from returning Bandit to the SPCA Adoption Center, Honey’s been sad.

So if living with a foster dog who doesn’t like to play is stressful, and losing a foster dog who’s playful is depressing, why do we subject Honey to the pain?

Raising Resilience

I don’t think raising a puppy is like raising a child. But they share one thing in common.

Good parenting and good puppy raising both encourage resilience.

Good rearing gives a safe base while encouraging independence. A puppy, human or canine, gains resilience when he faces challenges successfully.

Honey is resilient. Her mother and her breeders gave her a wonderful home while supporting her in socializing to new people, places, and things. We continued her resilience training by encouraging her to try new things in a safe way.

And fostering is about increasing resilience too.

Every time we foster a dog, Honey shares the gift of resilience with the pup we’re fostering.

It’s our job to shore up Honey’s resilience so we can continue to foster.

Getting Ready to Foster Again

We have a break in between foster dogs.

Time for me to find Honey some playmates, build in some fun, and help her rebound from missing Bandit. Time to shore up Honey’s resilience. So we can do the same for our next foster dog.

How resilient is your dog? Would he be a good foster friend? Would you?

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  1. We are sure Honey is missing Bandit but nice for you both to have some me time. Have a great brake from fostering.
    Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Power to you and those who foster. I don’t think I could do it as I get attached so easily. It would just break my heart to let go. I admire those of you who do it. Very commendable! I hope Honey gets a new friend soon, and maybe a permanent one? :)

    • Knowing Honey will still be at my side makes saying goodbye much easier.

      As for a permanent friend? We’re thinking of moving aboard a boat someday so any new personnel would have to tolerate tight quarters. Maybe a dog-loving cat?

  3. I wish my dogs had better dog-dog skills. I would love to foster, but the stress on mine would be too much. Maybe in the future I’ll have pups who are more easy going, like Honey.

    • It’s good to know your family’s limits.

      Honey came into my house for the express purpose of helping me volunteer with dogs. My previous dogs would never have tolerated our visitors either.

  4. We’ve fostered cats – 3 at home this year (although I’ll confess, I failed on the last one and she’s now part of the family) and 2 different bonded pairs at the office. Like Bren, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to give them up which is why I went with cats…. because I’m first and foremost a dog person it would be easier to foster and then let them go on to a wonderful new family. It’s still hard. I’ve got a new rule: I foster when there’s a known end date. That makes it much easier and still helps the animal(s) and the group I foster for. That way I enter the situation with an open heart but knowing they can’t be mine. It works out well. And it’s surprising how often there’s a need for short-term fosters.

    • Interesting insight that you find it easier to foster cats. And wise of you to choose a method of fostering that works for you. And I’m sure it’s a big help for the group you work with.

  5. Good for you for fostering! Such a great perspective thinking of the dogs and how they acclimate to the situation. Hope Honey has a fun time with his next foster buddy!

  6. Sorry, *her* next foster buddy!

  7. That is so sad for Honey. I’m sure she understands in her own doggy way. What a good girl.

  8. I think for my dogs, fostering is definitely stressful and they enjoy having a bit more peace and space in between fosters. But then, they also do seem a bit depressed at the change too. Hard to tell without really anthropomorphizing. I agree with you though, that resilience is a good thing and dogs and humans both benefit from being asked to be flexible.

    BTW, I saw your blog post suggestion on how to keep your s.o. happy while bringing in lots of needy foster pups. I will have to ask Florian once he pulls his tongue out of Fozzie’s mouth, but somehow, I don’t think he’s suffering overmuch :)

    • And, as you know, each dog you foster brings different dynamics to your home.

      So is Florian smitten? Or is this his one man’s campaign to show off the gentleness of pibbles?

      My husband is much more mercurial, alternating between threatening to adopt and fuming at the “accident” that just appeared on the floor two minutes after bringing our latest foster inside. Maybe it’s a side effect of fostering too many puppies. :)

  9. I’ve always been a bit sad, but was able to let go, knowing the dog was going to a forever home I wasn’t going to provide…Earlier dogs (read: NOT terriers) were fine with my fostering…I really don’t know how Gizmo would react…he’s pretty possessive (read: terrier) and might not like sharing my attention

    • Besides the breed characteristics, you can see really different reactions from dog to dog. Luckily Gizmo has a job as a fuzzy ambassador for outdoor activities with your dog.

  10. Lovely. You’re exactly right about that aspect of child rearing. And about giving them a break between fosters.

    • It’s hard to take the break, though, when you know about the needs.

      I just got a call today asking if I could foster a six week old puppy (or two). I had to say no so I could get caught up on all the work I missed while fostering Bandit.

  11. We talked about puppies this morning, but more about getting one rather than fostering. I’m just not sure considering their reaction to Beau over Christmas.

    It makes me happy there are people like the Websters and their dog Honey to help puppies get their best start in life.

    • It’s a tough decision. You can’t easily know if Sampson gets irritated by puppies (many dogs do) or if he just didn’t care for Beau.

  12. We used to foster more often when our dogs Sally & Tino were alive. They were like Honey, resilient and as long as the new dog didn’t impact their walk, treat or mom time, they were okay with sharing their home. Jack & Maggie aren’t ready for that yet – they each have their own issues that need working through…they each have some baggage from their former lives. But once we build in some of that resilience, we might be ready to foster again. Kudos to you for doing it as I know the stress involved.

    • There are so many ways to help dogs. Fostering isn’t for everyone or for anyone all the time.

      I feel the need to be honest about all sides of fostering to help others thinking about it.

      It’s good that you know what Jack and Maggie are able to handle.

  13. Oh, “teaching resilience” is such a good way of putting it. I’m stealing that for sure!

    Crookytail LOVES foster dogs, and he has an incredible talent for helping them learn to live appropriately in homes. The majority of our foster mutts are former “outside” dogs who have sometimes never set foot inside a house before. They often don’t know what toys are, or leashes, or dog beds. They’re not nearly as bad as puppy mill rehabs, but for those first few days or weeks, everything is scary and new to them. And Crookytail helps SO MUCH. There have been times where I honestly don’t think I could have done it without him. The hardest housebreaking case I ever had was solved only because Crooky showed that poor confused dog where to pee: outside. Thank god, he didn’t lose his love for foster dogs when his other dog-dog issues started cropping up.

    And yeah, Crooky gets sad whenever we give a foster dog away, although after almost 20 of them, he knows the drill and it doesn’t get him down as badly as it used to. He bounces back after a few hours now, whereas in the beginning he’d sometimes be depressed for days.

    Pongu the Insane, meanwhile, has learned to tolerate foster dogs because he knows they’ll be out of here shortly. He still doesn’t like them, and he still bullies them relentlessly. But he’s learned a little resilience too. 😉

    • It’s great the Crookytail is such a helpful teacher. I’ve seen our fosters looking to Honey for security and comfort, in particular. She’s also helped with teaching basic behaviors like sit or lie down.

      But it has also worked the other way. We fostered a dog who helped to show Honey our bike cart wasn’t nearly as scary as she thought it was.

  14. An important post and yes, I’m stealing “teaching resilience,” too; great concept. Pam, you wonderfully spoke for the “host” dogs and families.

    I’m fostering two small Dachshunds for two years – still in the first year. A friend asked if I didn’t get attached. I get attached to some dogs more than others and sometimes, I don’t know why. But the bottom line for fosters and my rescue dogs is….these are not my dogs; they belong to another family….somewhere out there who is looking for the right dog who is at Silverwalk – someday, they will find them and I will send them home with joy. These Doxies, too, much as I’m enjoying them (both are snuggle-bunnies; I need to check blankets before moving them), have their own home and folks. I will happily hand them over, knowing I gave this family comfort & relief while they are teaching in Mongolia.

    My dogs are my dogs; the others? They are someone else’s. Sometimes, like with Pink Floyd, Cyrano, and Betty Boop, that “person” is God. What do I know for sure? They all (with the exception of Snoopy, who desperately needs an only dog foster home) are happy here while they stay…for as long as they need.

    Please foster. It’s not about you – it’s the right thing to do. But do it when you can do it well, as some have commented, their dogs have more pressing needs right now. I keep my pack numbers limited not only because my license says I must but because the dogs need fewer, not more, pack members so all know attention, minimal training, and love.

    • Lots of wisdom in your comments. If I thought you could find the time, I’d suggest you write a book on the topic.

      I also find it harder to let go of some dogs than other. I think it has to do with who I feel is needier. I don’t worry about the puppies. They’re adopted quickly and are pretty happy. But Cherie, my fearful hound mix, was hard to let go. I hope she’s doing well.

  15. Hi Pam

    Bandit just went to his forever home! He’s been such a good dog here – it’s a testament to what a good job you do as a foster mom.

    That said…I had some puppies come in today that need foster. Wanna take one (or two) for 2 weeks? :-)


    • Glad to hear Bandit found his new home. I hope he and his new person are happy together. Though it’s hard to imagine Bandit ever being unhappy. :)

      I’m sorry that I can’t take on a puppy (or 2). I have some pressing work deadlines that would make it impossible for me to supervise such young puppies. I wish Honey could take charge of them and I’d say yes in a minute.

  16. I was wondering, do you get any choice of personality for dogs you foster? It would seem to be good for Honey the sweetheart to have dogs that enjoyed playing with her instead of unsocial ones. But I guess it’s good for her to deal with all sorts of companions,

    • The staff and volunteers at the SPCA know Honey pretty well. Honey took puppy socialization, beginning manners, and nosework classes at the SPCA. So they send dogs and puppies to us that will do well in our house.

      But rescues and shelters never have enough foster families who don’t have any animals. So they rely on households with mellow dogs to take fosters who aren’t 100% crazy about other dogs.

  17. You know what, I never thought about the missing the other dog part. Any time we’ve had another dog here it is been way stressful, on us, our dogs, and the other dog, and we’ve agreed no more attempts at even short term fostering.

    How sad that she misses them. :-(

    But, just like you, soon she will get a new friend for a while, to occupy her time, her mind, and her heart.

    • We find it stressful too–even with all Honey’s gifts.

      Fostering is definitely not for everyone. And it’s only fair to talk about the downside as well as the rewards.

      Honey is doing better. Her sadness doesn’t last long. :)

  18. I’m sorry Honey is sad, but she will rebound, because you will do all the right things to help her. woo woo woo!

  19. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    We originally took Ducky home as a foster; but as sweet as she was with hubby and me, she was a pain for Callie & Shadow. After seeing the girls stressed that weekend, I brought Ducky back. I kept checking on, playing with, and teaching Ducky her basic obedience cues, and wishing she had been a little better with the girls. About a month later, the shelter put her on the “super urgent” list. With it being a high-kill shelter, I knew Ducky could very well end up euthanized. I couldn’t bear the thought — I called hubby at work and without hesitation, he said “Go get her out of there. We’ll work it out somehow.” And she has been with us ever since. She has come a long way in these 6-1/2 months. Yes, she still has moments when her nickname (Demon Dog) fits her too well, but we love her dearly and she loves us. Of course, if I’d known in August — when we fostered her — what I know now, I’d have adopted her on the spot and enrolled her in daycare the next week. The socialization, playtime, and obedience work they’ve provided has helped her tremendously. What has Ducky done for Callie & Shadow? She’s given them a taste of puppyhood again. Poor Callie wants to play; but the surgeon says no playing with other dogs, no running, no jumping, and no stairs. (Well, since we only have the 3 steps, he said OK so long as we help her up & down). And she has taught Shadow to be a little more patient and willing to share toys, like Callie.

    • I remember how frustrated you were when you first decided to adopt Ducky. You’ve done a great job figuring out what she and Callie & Shadow need to be happy together. Doggy daycare was a brilliant idea.

      Love hearing that Callie and Shadow are making adjustments for the little whirlwind they live with.

      Thanks for sharing such an honest foster failure story.

  20. This is so timely! I have been wanting to foster a dog for many years, but I’m always worried about how my own dogs will handle it. I have a golden retriever and a chocolate labrador, and they’re both very mellow. But what if the foster dog is aggressive? That’s my biggest concern.

    • It’s a big decision so it’s worth taking your time to decide.

      I work with a great organization that temperament tests the dogs before making any decisions. They would not send a dog to me if they thought he would be a danger to us or himself.

      That said, dogs are unpredictable so working with an organization that provides training for its volunteers would be great. Also, how do your dogs react to having visiting dogs in the house who aren’t from a shelter or rescue? If you don’t know, maybe you can invite a friend’s dog over for a sleepover. It might be a good way to see just how your pups respond to someone new living in their space.

      A regular foster parent published a list of questions to ask an organization before volunteering: http://www.poochieproject.com/2012/06/questions-to-ask-rescue-before-you.html

      And my friend Mel has some really great posts on volunteering. Here’s just one: https://nodogaboutit.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/finding-the-right-dog-rescue/

      Good luck making a decision. And good luck on the new blog. :)

  21. I fell in love with our first foster, but he found a home that was much better suited to him. Our second foster became our dog.

    Today we have three dogs so we don’t have the time for a foster, but that’ll change when Keep the Tail Wagging is a full time job; then we’ll be able to foster for a week at a time. I’m excited for when that day comes.

    When we foster, Rodrigo loves the dogs. He gets such a kick out of them. Sydney needs assurance that I’m still her mommy and stays close to me, but she warms up eventually. We’re not sure how Blue will react to a fourth dog in the house. Time will tell.

    Great post! Great topic! I haven’t read an article from the dog’s perspective before.