When a Foster Dog Comes to Stay

What’s involved in getting ready for a foster dog to stay in your home? Here’s my short list.

When I get a call that a foster dog will be staying with me, I may have a few hours or up to one day to get ready. How do I get ready?

Titus the foster dog is a pit bull mix.

I have to keep looking out the window in case my forever family walks by.


Making the House Ready for a Foster Dog

Remove anything likely to get damaged.

I don’t have lots of tchotchkes around the house or delicate items. But I do have a lovely, sheer curtain hanging from clips in front of my oak and glass front door. It’s fine when Honey is here. But it’s never survived a single foster dog or puppy.

Do a thorough poop search.

I try to keep the yard clean. But if I missed a single poop bomb, our visitor is likely to find it—with his paws.

Honey the Golden Retriever plays tug with the Basset Hound foster puppy plays tug with Honey the Golden Retriever.

So glad you cleaned up the yard before we started playing tug.

Block off or remove trash and recycling containers.

It has been many years since I’ve had a dog who raids trash cans. I’ve learned the hard way that Honey, and her predecessor, Shadow, are unusual in their lack of interest in trash cans.

Making Honey Ready for a Foster Dog

Take long walks.

For Honey, long, sniffy walks are the ultimate stress-reliever. I want her to be relaxed and comfortable when the foster dog arrives.

Honey the Golden Retriever chews on a stick.

If you’re going to hide my toys, I’ll just chew a stick.

Pick up all her toys.

Until I know more, I don’t allow any toys or treats around Honey and a new dog in the house. It’s hard on Honey to not have free access to her favorite Nylabone or ball. But all play is supervised with a new dog.

Spend some cuddle time.

With a new dog in the house, Honey won’t be getting as much attention. While it’s just the two of us, I give her a deep massage and just spend some time being quiet together.

Making Myself Ready for a Foster Dog

Do as much of my work in advance as possible.

Adult foster dogs take much less time. But puppies? Forget it. I’ve never gotten more than three minutes of work done with a puppy in the house.

Honey the Golden Retriever plays bitey face with Bandit the foster puppy.

Let me teach you how to play bitey face, Bandit.

Look forward to having a dirty house.

There’s no point in cleaning too much. Within moments, I’ll have nose smudges on the glass front door (remember? I took the curtain down), new colors of dog hair, and probably even an accident or two to take care of.

Put the camera in my pocket.

Because I’m going to be overwhelmed with possibilities of cuteness.

Making Yourself Ready for a Foster Dog

I don’t think everyone should foster.

It was not possible for me when I had Agatha or Shadow. They were too reactive to other dogs.

And I knew even less about dogs than I do now (and I still have a lot to learn. A lot.)

But if you have room in your home and in your heart to provide a stable home for a dog (or cat) waiting for her forever home, consider fostering. You won’t regret it. And you’ll end up with some of the cutest pictures you’ve ever taken.

If you’re considering fostering and want to know more about our experiences, check out the following:

Your Turn: Have you fostered an animal? Or do you see yourself doing it in the future? Why or why not?

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  1. Getting a foster would be like adding another dog. I don’t think we will ever foster, it would be too hard to have different dogs come and go and Mom would get attached too easily. We just add pets to the family when we have room and watch other dogs for some new excitement. Fostering is a wonderful thing but not for us.

  2. The one time I even considered fostering, it turned into a delayed failure. Her name? Ducky, of course!

    I thought at the time that “I must have been out of my mind”. And I probably was…I had fallen head-over-heels in love with the little stinker the very first time I saw her with those Yoda ears of hers! Sam fell in love with Her Royal Cuteness, Princess Ducky, too. I was a little concerned about Callie & Shadow’s first reactions to another dog in the house, but they did their best to tolerate her for the most part. When I look back, I probably should have just adopted her on the spot & started her at doggie daycare the next week. BUT hindsight is always 20/20 isn’t it?!

    Now with Ducky in the family, our little house is smaller than ever with no room, literally, for any more dogs (or even humans). I’d love to foster some of the little canine waifs that pass thru our shelter — like Ducky — but I just can’t do it. Besides, I might fall in love again; and God knows we can’t afford a 4th dog’s food, vet bills, and daycare.

  3. I can’t do it now. I hope at some point in the future to be able to do it, but I’m not sure I can love and care for a pet and then let it go. It will definitely be a learning experience for me. 😀

  4. About the only thing I do differently is I leave one poop on the lawn so the incoming dog knows it’s OK to go there. I figure they’ve got enough to cope with without worrying about where it’s acceptable to toilet. I know the scent would still be there after I picked it up but I like to make things as obvious as possible :)

    Having just adopted foster dog #7 I’m taking a break til about April but hope to get back into it again :)

  5. We used to foster when we had Sally & Tino, but Jack & Maggie have too much of their own baggage still to add another one. Hopefully someday we will be able to again because it is a very fun and rewarding experience.

  6. Mike Webster says:

    From the Husband:
    Pam, I’d like our next foster to be a Porsche.

  7. I’m not sure if we’ll ever foster or not. But there is some great advice here if we decided to. If we always have multiple dogs, it probably won’t happen. I already feel like my time and affections are spread too thin. My hubby thinks HE would get too attached to a foster anyway!

  8. Thank you for your post. I want to foster a dog and your points are very helpful. I’m just waiting to hear about a dog needing a foster mom.

  9. Great article. We’ve not fostered before, and having had our dog for less than a year, don’t think we can cope with more than one dog at a time either so no, for the foreseeable future. :)

  10. Thank you so much for your post. I am seriously considering getting into fostering, having seen first hand the number of dogs in need of temporary homes the more research I do the more I think I would like to give it a try! Previously I was not unable to fosetr as BD although much improved has fear aggression and as much as I would love another dog so he doesn’t spend so long alone he wasn’t ‘ready’ and now it isn’t my decision anymore. So I am currently living with my folks and Mity who loves other dogs but is very much an only dog, he has been quite funny the few times we have dog sat other dogs, loves to see them come, loves to see them leave!
    However in a few months when I have my own place I hope I am in a place where rescues think I will be a suitable option. Off to read the rest of your posts now!!