Foster winning! How to set your foster dog up for success

Foster winning! How to set your foster dog up for success

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and foster a dog— congratulations, your choice is the difference between life and death for your lucky foster dog! Fostering a dog is a lot like caring for your own dog, but there are some key differences to keep in mind so you can keep your pets, your stuff, and your foster dog safer and happier. Read on to find out how to help your foster dog transition from the shelter to his or her forever home. You’ll learn about medical quarantine, crate-training, and other ways you can be a foster WIN!

You’ve taken the first step by saying YES to fostering a shelter dog in need. Thank you for making a difference and giving this dog the second chance he or she deserves. While caring for your foster dog isn’t that different from caring for your own pets, the transition from shelter life back into a loving home is much easier if you follow a few tips!

Before bringing home Fluffy or Fido, read on to get ready to set your foster dog up for success!

First of all, what is fostering anyway? Foster homes are the bridge between the shelter and a dog’s next step, whether that is a local adoption or a ride on a transport to another rescue out of state where they don’t have the same issues with shelter crowding that we do here. Opening your home means that dog gets a second chance at life, and it frees up space in the shelter for more dogs coming in.

By fostering you are getting that dog back where she belongs, in a loving home! Shelter environments are not natural for dogs, with many unfamiliar sounds, smells, and sights. It’s hard for a dog to show her true personality and behaviors in a noisy kennel, so as a foster you can provide valuable information about that dog to make a great match with an adopter!

Decompression and Quarantine

Quarantine may sound scary, but it’s just a fancy word for keeping your foster dog separate from your other pets. This doesn’t have to be permanent, but a quarantine period helps you out in several different ways.

Just like kids in kindergarten, the shelter environment is full of germs that spread easily from dog to dog. Many dogs have not been vaccinated before entering the shelter and so it’s easy for them to catch coughs and colds (commonly known as URI- Upper Respiratory Infections).

You should make sure that your dogs are up to date on vaccinations like Bordetella and DHPP before you bring home a dog from the shelter. While vaccination is the best prevention against illnesses like kennel cough, they are not 100% effective, so a quarantine period helps prevent the spread of any illnesses your foster dog might have. Keep in mind that it might take up to 7-10 days for an illness to show symptoms after exposure!

Quarantine also lets your foster decompress after her experience in the shelter. Since dogs can’t talk, we don’t know what they experienced before they entered the shelter, and many of them will need some time to relax and unwind. Every dog is an individual, so some dogs may be ready right away to interact and get love and pets; others just want to catch up on sleep and recover.

By keeping your foster dog separate from other pets, you can get to know her on her own before making any introductions. This can reduce stress for everyone and make for a smoother transition from the shelter to a home.


Even if you don’t crate your own dog, crating your foster dog is highly recommended for her safety and for the safety of your belongings. We can’t predict what kind of house manners a foster dog may have. Some are perfectly house-trained, while others may never have been inside before!

By crate-training your foster dog when you’re not with her, you create the opportunity to supervise and correct her as she learns the ropes at your house. It’s much easier to crate than to come home to torn up blinds or ripped up carpet!

Many rescues or shelters can loan you a crate if you don’t have one, but if you plan to foster we recommend investing in your own! Many community pages like Next Door or Craigslist have used crates for sale or even for free. Ask your neighbors to help you out on your foster journey!

Many dogs love the crate and feel safe having their own designated space, but others may need more encouragement. You can also create positive associations with the crate by feeding meals in the crate, offering treats every time she goes in, and providing enrichment like a frozen Kong with peanut butter or other chew toy. Just make sure there’s nothing the dog could swallow or ingest accidentally!

Some dogs can get out of their crate more easily than others, so it’s a good idea to reinforce your crate with zip ties around the corners and edges where a dog might be able to push the crate apart.

Help save a shelter animal at HCAS.