Fostering is a popular choice for animal lovers who can’t commit to years and years of dog ownership, but still want some company and to do their bit for puppers in need. But many people don’t quite know where to start, or what’s even involved with fostering a four-legged friend. Before you dive in head first, here’s everything you need to know before you foster a dog.
Are you ready to foster a dog?
Before we get into the practicalities, it’s best to first ask if you’re ready to foster a dog. As much as you might love the idea, it’s all about doing what’s right for the animal. So, before taking the plunge, it’s worth asking yourself the following questions.
- Do you have the time to properly care for a dog? This includes feeding, training, walks, toilet breaks, and, depending on the dog, medical care. Fostering may not suit all lifestyles, particularly those who work irregular hours or travel often for work
- Can you provide a safe, comfortable, and secure environment for a dog? Some dogs are natural escape artists, so it’s essential to have high, strong fences to keep them within your property. It’s also important to ensure your home is comfortable and warm to help the dog feel safe and welcome
- Is everyone in your household onboard? If you’re committed to locking all the doors and gates, taking the dog out to do their business, and feeding them high quality, healthy dog food at regular intervals, that’s all well and good. However, you need to get your whole household onboard. After all, it’ll be a collective responsibility regardless of whose name is on the paperwork
- Do you have reliable transport? It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but accidents and emergencies do happen. Having access to reliable transport is a must in the event of any sudden illness or injury
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you may not be quite ready to foster a dog just yet.
How to become a foster carer
If you are ready to foster a dog, you might be wondering how it actually works. Each rescue organisation has its own process for choosing people to foster their pets. The better-known rescue groups include the RSPCA and Animal Welfare League, however each state has plenty of smaller rescue groups and shelters offering foster programs. It’s worth reaching out to your local rescue group, otherwise you can browse dogs needing foster care on websites like PetRescue.
That said, regardless of which rescue you go with, most will require you to fill out an application. If accepted you’ll undergo induction training, then wait until you’re matched with a dog in need of foster care.
Preparing to foster a dog
While you’re waiting for that perfect pupper match, there are a couple of things you’ll need to do to prepare your home (and yourself) for the new arrival.
First up, there’s all the usual dog-proofing stuff – patching up any gaps in fences, keeping food, medication, and cleaning products well out of reach, and removing any potentially poisonous plants for dogs.
This also includes creating a cosy environment for them to sleep and relax in, with plenty of blankets and toys to comfort them. After all, it’s a huge adjustment period for them, too, so having somewhere to retreat to is essential.
Second, and more importantly, there are a few questions you’ll need to ask about your new housemate. Rescue dogs can require extra special care, so take the opportunity to learn as much about their history as you can. Ask about where they’ve come from, if they have any behavioural or medical issues, if they’re housetrained, how long the foster period is likely to be, and how they interact with other pets or young children. The answers to these questions will help inform your whole fostering experience, so be sure to ask them.
Responsibilities as a foster paw-rent
When fostering a dog, your primary responsibility is to provide them with a safe, comfortable, and loving environment. The end goal is for your foster pup to find their forever home, so your job is to help them become the best pet they can be in the meantime.
That doesn’t just mean cuddles and playtime – though those are important, too! It also means keeping them both physically and mentally active, training them, and ensuring they receive quality nutrition.
Additionally, the rescue group may ask you to routinely report back with updates about your foster pup’s progress. One of the main reasons dogs enter foster care is to give the rescue group a better idea of their temperament and personality. You may even be asked to help write their adoption ad when the time comes!
Costs of fostering
Fostering is a popular option for people who want a pet but aren’t yet ready to make the financial (and, let’s face it, emotional) commitment that comes with owning a dog. While you won’t make any money as a foster paw-rent, it’s still an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s also an experience that costs very little – in fact, for some, it may cost nothing at all.
Most rescues are run by volunteers and community donations, and each foster program is different. If it’s a larger organisation with more resources, chances are they’ll provide everything you need. On the other hand, some smaller rescue groups will only cover vet costs, while the foster carer pays for food.
By far the hardest part of fostering dogs is saying goodbye. It’s easy to become attached to your foster pup, but try to remember that, at the end of the foster period, your furry friend will be with its forever family, and you’ll have saved a life.
Still, for some, saying goodbye is just too hard. So, before you think about fostering a dog, you’ll need to prepare yourself for the possibility of a “foster failure”. This occurs when the carer grows so attached to their foster pet that they can’t bear to part with them. Inevitably, they end up adopting the animal themselves. That said, given this “failure” winds up with the pup getting a forever family and you getting a friend for life, we’d call it a success!