Do You Want to Save a Dog’s Life? Become a Dog Foster Parent.

A curious brown puppy meets a slightly standoffish cat.

Dog shelters do lifesaving work. But overcrowding is a real problem. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about 670,000 dogs (and 860,000 cats) are euthanized each year, often due to overcrowding. It’s depressing. 

The good news is you can save a dog’s life by becoming a foster parent to a dog in need. 

Dogs that need fostering

Notwithstanding overcrowding, there are other reasons why some dogs need foster homes. According to a blog in, a nationwide database of pet sitters and dog walkers, some dogs need fostering because:

  • A rescue group wants to learn more about a dog’s personality and behavior in a home setting.
  • An energetic dog needs to learn basic manners before adoption.
  • A shy or timid dog needs a safe place to come out of its shell.
  • A dog is recovering from an illness or injury.
  • A senior or sick dog needs loving hospice care.
  • Foster-based rescue groups often don’t work out of a facility; so, they rely on foster homes to shelter dogs.

What to expect
Before you bring a foster dog into your home, you should know what to expect.

Dedication required
A lot of people think fostering a dog is all about cuddling and playing. Although that usually comes with the territory, you’ll be responsible for assimilating a dog to a new environment. This requires training, structure and a lot of patience. Dogs that have never lived outside of a shelter need to learn how to live indoors.

Home preparation
There is a good chance your foster dog won’t be house trained—so expect to clean up messes. Consider covering furniture. If possible, keep the dog away from carpeted areas.

There also might be a lot of barking and whimpering. A pair of earplugs can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Healthcare expenses are usually covered by the foster organization, and pet food is often donated. But you’ll probably have to pay for doggy-sitters and obedience lessons, should you need them.

If you have children, slowly introduce them to the new dog to see how it behaves. If the dog is aggressive, you should return it to the organization. Even if the dog gets on well with your child, you should always supervise.

If you have a cat(s), find out from the shelter if the dog gets along with cats. If the dog is gentle with your cat, keep them in separate rooms while the dog gets used to its new surroundings. When it’s time for the introduction, make sure your dog is on a leash.

Your cat might show aggression toward the dog. Some dogs don’t know how to interpret a cat’s body language, and a cat can deliver a nasty scratch to a curious dog’s nose. So, pay close attention to your cat, too.

If you already have dog(s)
Take your dog to the shelter first to meet the potential foster dog. See if they establish a rapport. Assuming they become quick pals, keep both dogs on a leash when you bring them home just to be safe. 


There’s a wealth of online information about dog fostering. Also, reach out to other dog foster parents and learn from them.

Fostering a dog comes with challenges. For some, the hardest part is saying good bye once the dog finds a forever home. Although it will be sad, you’ll feel good knowing that the foster dog will be joining its forever pack.

Have you ever fostered a dog? What did you learn? Please share your stories with us!