Things to Consider Before Fostering Dogs and My Experience as a Foster Mom

I am a business leader by day and a freelance writer on the side. I enjoy writing about personal stories, dogs, business, and entertainment.

Over the years, I've found being a dog foster mom very rewarding. My husband and I created a Foster Wall, where we have posted pictures of all of our previous fosters to remind us of the experiences. Here are some important things I've learned.

5 Things to Consider Before Fostering Dogs

  1. You will become attached to the dogs. It can be very painful to see a dog that you now love get adopted by strangers, so you need to have a level of resilience and mental toughness to get past it. We are not the only foster failures out there. I see reports of them happening every week at our shelter.
  2. Most shelter dogs are not housebroken. Of the 10 dogs we have fostered, only 2 were housebroken already. You have to expect to clean up some accidents for the first few weeks, and take time for potty training.
  3. The behavior of the dogs at the shelter, may or may not be the same behavior of the dogs once you get them home. For example, a dog that is really shy at the shelter, may be much more outgoing after a few weeks at your home. Or, a dog that is very high energy at the shelter, may become much calmer after spending time in your home. When the dogs are living at a shelter, they are used to being pent up in creates or cages for a good part of the day with lots of barking and stress. The atmosphere in your home (is hopefully), much more blissful and supportive.
  4. You will likely need to bring your foster to meet & greets, and adoption events so they get more exposure than just the shelter website. It is not just about caring for them in your home
  5. You never know how long the foster dog will take to get adopted. When we chose our most recent foster, Wiley, we expected him to get adopted in less than a month. He is super sweet and cute and affectionate. However, almost three months have gone by and he has not been adopted. You never know when your foster dog will meet the right adopter.

We learned about dogs fostering when....

I first learned about fostering dogs when my husband and I decided to adopt a second Rat Terrier. We did some research online and found Rat Terrier Rescue, and a foster mom who was caring for several dogs we wanted to meet. We made the 2 hour trek to her home with our current Rat Terrier Lexie and proceeded to experience love at first bark with Tater Tot, now Tate. After the appropriate background and house checks, we adopted Tate and he became part of the family.

A few years after we adopted Tate, my husband and I made the life decision to relocate from Boston to Georgia for both work and better weather. As we discussed the type of new house we wanted, we agreed that the house would have to allow us to become foster dog parents. This meant finding a new home with a large fenced in backyard, no limitations related to pets, and enough space for multiple pets.

What is dog fostering?

The definition of dog fostering may vary slightly among dog rescue organizations, but in general it means allowing rescue dogs to live in a volunteer foster parent’s home until they are adopted and find a furever home. The dog rescue organizations usually pays for the shelter dog’s food, supplies and any medical bills, while they are living in foster care. As the foster parent, you agree to provide shelter, shower the dog(s) with love and take excellent care of them. You also agree to bring them to adoption events and to meet potential adopters.

There are many advantages to having a dog foster program. Every dog living in foster care frees up a space at the shelter for another animal to save. In addition, living in a home versus a shelter speeds up a dog’s socialization, good manners and those related habits, so they acclimate faster to their furever home.

Since my husband and I began working with our local shelter, Furkids, we have fostered ten dogs. In each instance we went to the physical shelter, looked at all the available dogs and then chose a dog that we believed would be a good fit in our household.

Theo's Ride Home

Our first foster, Theo

The very first dog we fostered, Theo, had been in the shelter for quite some time and was having trouble getting adopted. After Theo lived in our home for a few weeks, we understood why. Theo was a great dog, but could be very aloof and independent. When he met a new person, it took him quite some time to warm up to them. I brought him to a number of adoption events and meet and greets, and he did not connect with any potential adopters. The shelter staff call this “not showing well”.

After a whopping seven months, Theo finally found his forever home. At the time this was both a happy and sad event in our lives. We had grown to love Theo, but knew he was not a dog we wanted to keep. His adopters were a very nice couple who had another dog about Theo’s age and size to keep him company. After a short break, we decided we were ready to foster again.

Mittens & Girl—Sister Love

What is a foster failure?

The second dog we fostered, Mittens, was a cute black Chihuahua that had been rescued with 20 or so other dogs from a dog hoarder. When we brought her home she was very shy, timid and sad. As time went by, her personality began to emerge and she started to trust us. Like Theo, I brought Mittens to a number of adoption events and none of the potential adopters expressed interest. This is when I learned that black dogs of any breed are the hardest dogs to get adopted. After a few more months with Mittens, we decided to adopt her. She was pretty low maintenance and got along with our two Rat Terriers. The official term for adopting your foster dog is “foster failure”, although it is a big win for the pup.

Now that we knew more about the types of dogs who got adopted faster, we were able to make better decisions about which fosters to choose next. Mittens was followed by several cute dogs who got adopted in weeks or months.

In addition for fostering dogs, I had also started volunteering at the physical shelter itself on weekends and was chatting one afternoon with the Shelter Manager. We were discussing how one of the other dogs who was rescued with Mittens, “Girl”, was still at the shelter and was having trouble getting adopted. I went over to Girl’s crate and saw a very sad little black Chihuahua huddling in the corner. She looked a lot like Mittens, but a smaller version. I took her out of her crate and we went outside for a walk. I felt bad for her and called my husband to ask if I could take Girl home just for the weekend and he agreed.

As soon as Girl entered our home, Mittens immediately went over to her and started showing affection. She was wagging, nosing and licking. It was a side of Mittens we had never seen. After months apart they remembered each other and really cared for each other. It was heartwarming.

Girl and Mittens were inseparable and both became happier and more social dogs. Ultimately, Girl never left our home and became our second Foster Fail.

At 4 dogs, we had to draw the line. Yes, we could continue to foster but NO, we could not have any more failures. (Although, I have to remind my husband of this from time to time.)

My special foster, Minnie

My special foster, Minnie

One afternoon, Furkids sent an email to all their foster parents asking for help. A stray Min Pin was found on the side of the road after being hit by a car. She had just had emergency surgery, could not walk and needed to find a foster home to recover in. My husband and I offered to help.

We brought Minnie home and had to carry her everywhere…to go out, to eat or to cuddle with us on the coach. She had broken her pelvis and needed at least 4 weeks to recover. She was a very sad sight. Not only was she immobile, she was also obese. As every day and then week went by, Minnie got better and better. After about 6 weeks, she was walking and at 2 months she was running. With her newfound mobility, fenced in backyard to exercise in, 4 other dogs to play with and from eating a healthy diet, she had lost several pounds and was no longer obese. She was a very funny, and silly and very lovable little dog.

When she was deemed healthy enough by the shelter vet, Minnie was made available for adoption and eventually found her forever home. For me, this was heart wrenching. I loved Minnie and it had been so rewarding to see her progress and get healthier. Even today, many months later, I feel sad when I look at pictures of Minnie. I miss her so much.

My special foster, Minnie

Foster pup, Wiley

RTalloni on April 02, 2016:

This is a neat read that will be useful to anyone considering fostering a dog. I would like this option if/when (likely in the future) I ever want to own a dog.

Fostering Dogs/강아지임보

We need FOSTER HOMES, too.

Fostering can be a very rewarding experience, and deciding to become a foster parent to one of our rescue dogs helps them get one step closer to their forever home, and it’s an essential part of the process that allows dogs to decompress after a long flight and become familiar with living in a home with other people and pets. Fostering also opens up space at the sanctuary for another dog to be rescued.

It is important for our foundation to clearly provide our expectations for SKD foster parents and what their responsibilities are. There are many things to consider before committing to fostering one of our dogs.

***Please do not change the name of the dog while being fostered by you. After all most adopters change the name again and its causing confusion. Thank you.

If you think you are qualified to be a foster home, please fill out an adoption application and under the “Dog Name” section of the application fill in “Foster.” You may also request a specific dog and/or dogs to foster. For example: Foster Paula, Pine, orMisty OR Foster Paula andMisty.

Q. What are my initial expenses for my foster dog?

Your initial expense will be in the preparation for the dog’s arrival into your home. The standard of care should be above standard. Good quality food, martingale collar and harness, sturdy leash, GPS tracking device, beds, toys, training treats, pee pads, bowls, brushes, cleaning and bathing supplies.

It is very important to be prepared for your dog’s safety and comfort by following our New Home Checklist and Lost Dog Prevention guidelines.

Note: SKD initially pays the flight cost for the dog in advance. (We often have flight sponsors who cover the flight costs so the adopter doesn’t have to).

Adoption fees range from $300 to $500 to offset the cost of spay/neuter (if old enough), vaccines and certificates, flight crate/carrier/supplies, transport to the airport.

The adopter pays the adoption fee and flight cost later when your foster dog is adopted. And the adopter will pay SKD directly through our paypal link:

Note: Whenever possible we will coordinate foster homes with flight volunteers flying into the closest airport to your city. Puppies/small dogs that fly in the cabin with the flight volunteer cost around $300. Larger dogs will fly in the climate controlled area of cargo hold, and the cost varies based on size and weight. Also, from time to time we may have to fly the dogs freight, which is more expensive. The freight fees vary based on the size and weight of the dog as well as the airline and destination city.

Q. As a foster do I assume ownership of the dog?

No, individual fosters do not have ownership rights of SKD dogs. If you want to adopt the dog you will pay the adoption and flight fees like any other adopter. SKD has the right to take the dog back at any time.

Q. Who do I contact if I have any questions?

Please contact our Director of Adoptions and Foster Homes, [email protected] . They will assist.

Q. What will I need to provide for my foster dog financially?

As a non-profit organization, SKD depends on the generosity of our volunteers, fosters, and donors to save these dogs. Fostering is not necessarily expensive but we do have to rely on fosters to purchase things such as: Good quality food, martingale collar and harness, sturdy leash, GPS tracking device, beds, toys, training treats, pee pads, bowls, brushes, cleaning and bathing supplies. Most importantly, our dogs need to be provided lots of love and attention, patience and stability.

Q. How much time does my foster dog need?

Many of our dogs are timid and shy, these dogs need time to adjust to their new surroundings. It is important to spend quality time with our dog every day to build trust and develop routines that allow them to feel safe and comfortable in a home.

It is also important that all foster homes update their dog(s) progress on our Facebook Success Stories. We have a network of adopters, supporters, and volunteers on our Success Page that follow our rescues and provide feedback when others need advice.

Dogs need to be walked daily, especially in apartment living. If you work 10 hours a day, it would be difficult to meet an indoor dog’s needs. Puppies will require a lot of work-walks every several hours, potty training, behavioral training, etc. ***Always remember to have your dogs ID tag, collar and harness double leashed, on every walk. The dog should experience their first few walks in a secure area to allow them an adjustment period on a leash and outside.

Q. How long will I be expected to foster my dog?

Fostering by definition is temporary. However, it does not have a time limit. It is a serious commitment and should be viewed as such. Stability at this point is very important to the dog’s well-being and its ability to adjust when a furever family is found. Generally, puppies find homes quicker than older dogs or those with special needs. Some dogs may be in a foster home for weeks and others may take months. We cannot guarantee how long it will take to find a furever home. On average it takes about 3 – 4 months.

Q. Who pays for my foster dog’s medical bills?

You will need to be able to pay for vet care. Upon rescue all dogs are tested for diseases such as Parvo, Distemper and Heartworm, and they are treated for known diseases. Due to their past environment and living conditions on the dog meat farms prior to their rescue, some foster dogs may develop unknown health issues or behavioral issues and you will need to be able to pay for veterinary care and/or training. Save Korean Dogs may assist the foster homes with medical expenses under certain circumstances. We try to support you in any way we can in emergency situations. Foster homes may be allowed to organize a fundraiser to help assist with medical bills if needed.

Q. What should I do if there is a medical emergency?

  • It is important to contact Save Korean Dogs immediately in any medical emergency to discuss a plan of action and support.

*To all fosters and adopters, these dogs must NOT be euthanized under any circumstance, unless something should happen that would make it absolutely medically necessary (i.e. life threatening injury or illness).*

Q. Will I be responsible for finding my foster dog a new home?

Save Korean Dogs has over 60K followers and has sent over 3,000 dogs to the US alone (as of July 2019). We have a network that helps fosters find forever homes for our dogs.

However, you know your foster dog best and it is important for the foster parents to participate in finding a suitable home. It is best to find an adopter near the foster’s home, which means less traveling for the dogs. We’d like to see regular posts on our Success Stories page with photos and video referring to your dog as “Foster Name” (i.e. Foster DanDan) and promoting the dogs traits and progress. This process can also involve making posters and seeking out potential adopters, going to local adoption events, putting up flyers at local community centers and dog parks. If you find a family interested in your foster dog, we ask that you have the potential adopter fill out an adoption application. And we may ask you to do a home check as part of the application process.

Q. My foster dog is meeting a potential adopter. If they want to adopt, can I let them take the dog home?

No. All adopters are required to complete an application with SKD, have a home visit, and pay an adoption fee before taking their new family member home. Our adoption coordinator will advise you when your foster dog can go home with an adopter.

Q. Can I keep the adoption fee if I find my foster dog a home?

  • No. Once our adoption coordinator receives the adoption application for your foster dog, the reviewing process begins. If the applicant is approved, you will be notified and the adopting family will be asked to pay the adoption fee directly to Save Korean Dogs.

Q. Can I adopt my foster dog if I chose?

Yes. Many of our foster families decide to adopt their foster dog after the bond and time together. We at Save Korean Dogs call this not a foster fail but a foster “success.” If you decide to adopt your foster dog, please contact Director of Adoptions and Foster Homes at [email protected] so that we can update our records for your new furever pup. We would also ask for you to pay the adoption fee at this time.

Q. I received paperwork when I picked up my foster dog. What do I do with the paperwork now?

This paperwork is VERY important. It becomes part of your foster dog’s permanent record and allows us to get your foster dog listed on the website, scheduled for vetting, and entered into our system. Please scan in any paperwork you receive from vet visits, etc and email to [email protected]

Q. What happens if I can no longer care for my foster dog?

If at anytime you are unable to care for your foster dog, please contact Director of Adoptions and Foster Homes at [email protected] Save Korean Dogs will begin looking for a new placement immediately, however, this may take some time and we ask for your patience and cooperation while we locate a new foster.

Q. Can I change my foster dog’s name?

No. We ask that you do not change the name of your foster dog. We have record keeping, and changing a foster dog’s name causes potential inaccuracies in our records.

If you think you are qualified to be our foster home, please send in your application under the dog name filling in “Foster”

REMEMBER: Your fostering work furthers the mission of the Save Korean Dogs USA Foundation, Inc. and your unreimbursed expenses related to a foster dog in your home in the US are tax-deductible as a form of Charitable Cash Donation .

Deductible expenses include:

  • Pet Food
  • Supplies
  • Transportation
  • Veterinary bills

You can also deduct out-of-pocket expenses while volunteering for a non-profit dog shelter or rescue. For example, if you use your car to deliver supplies, or pick up dogs at the airport and deliver them to a foster or adopter, you can claim unreimbursed parking fees, tolls, and gas (or deduct a flat mileage rate). If you donate property, such as dog food or crates, you can deduct the fair market value of those items.

Make sure you save all of your receipts, cancelled checks, or other records that document your donations and purchases.

The following expenses are NOT tax deductible:

  • Adoption fees or adoption donation you make to adopt a dog.
  • The value of the time you spend volunteering at a dog shelter or rescue.
  • The value of donating space in your home to rescue or foster dogs.

On behalf of SAVE KOREAN DOGS and our rescued dogs around the world, we thank you.

Requirements for Fostering

While each shelter and rescue organization has different protocols in place to approve foster families, most require paperwork and at least a basic background check. Some require much more.

The Humane Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania, for instance, require applicants to fill out forms, go through a background check, and submit to an interview process and a home visit prior to approval.

"Some people think we're overly strict since this is a volunteer job, but we're responsible for the well-being of these pets and we take that seriously," Bawol says.

For Shannon, the time and effort of fostering puppies is worth it — especially when she hears news that the dogs have been adopted.

"Of course it's always hard to say goodbye," she says. "I just have to remind myself I'm just a step on their way to their forever home."

So, if you're interested in fostering puppies or special needs dogs, talk to your local shelter to see if they have a program you can get involved in. The length of time that you foster varies based on the needs of the dogs, and it may be several months before there are dogs that need fostering, so make sure you are always prepared. The joy that fostering dogs can bring is indescribable, and you can enjoy watching these dogs grow as if they were your own dogs.

Contributor Bio

Kara Murphy

Kara Murphy is a freelance writer and pet parent who lives in Erie, Pa. She has a goldendoodle named Maddie.

Things to Consider Before Fostering Dogs and My Experience as a Foster Mom - pets

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Get Information For Your Application Together

If you’ve ever adopted an animal before, then you know that applications can take a bit of time to get approved and are certainly not instantaneous. Long before you’re hoping to foster, start getting your information together. This includes doing things like picking out your references and giving them a heads up that a fostering agency may be giving them a call in the future.

This also is a good time to check the terms of your lease if you rent your home. Are animals allowed? Do you have to pay a pet deposit? These are all very important things to know far in advance of submitting your application.

Watch the video: Prepare for Puppys FIRST Day Home: What NOT To Do!!

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