What to expect when fostering a dog

A brown and white pitbull mix stands outside in the grass

At Animal Humane Society, our doors are always open to every vulnerable animal who needs our help – no matter how long their stay with us will be. But sometimes, animals who need longer term care thrive more in a cozy home instead of in our busy shelter. 

That’s where our life-changing foster volunteers come in. Each year, we see more than 2,000 animals in need of temporary foster care before they’re ready to find a new home. 

In some cases, this means providing a safe space where an animal can receive early life care or recover from an illness or surgery. In other cases, it means giving them a comfortable home temporarily while their pet parents navigate an emergency situation. 

Currently, AHS has a need for more community members to foster large dogs (50+ pounds). Fostering takes a lot of work, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. If you’re new to the world of fostering but want to get involved, here are a few things you can expect: 

You’re not alone in your fostering experience

AHS provides the food, medications, kennels, toys, and other basic supplies you’ll need to foster, along with training and care instructions for the individual animal you’re supporting. Veterinary technicians and expert behaviorists are available to offer help if needed. 

We have a large community of passionate and encouraging foster volunteers, and you’ll be joining a network of other animal lovers who are always ready to help or offer advice as you begin your fostering journey. 

You’re able to find the perfect fit for your lifestyle 

A gray and white dog sits on the couch with their tongue out

AHS foster volunteers receive daily email postings with information about an animal’s story, size, length of stay, and any other needs they would have in foster care. If you’re interested in a specific animal, you’ll be able to reach out to our Foster Coordinator. From there, a foster volunteer will be assigned to an animal, and more information will be provided to the volunteer ahead of picking up the animal at AHS. 

We ask that all foster volunteers commit to fostering at least one animal in their home over a 12-month period. While cats and critters tend to be more self-reliant, it’s important to remember that fostering dogs requires more availability for potty breaks, walks, and physical activity to keep them healthy and enriched! 

Fostering is a great way to practice pet parenting 

While one adult in the home is designated as the AHS foster volunteer, fostering can be a family activity. The process of fostering an animal is a great opportunity for kids to learn about the responsibility of caring for a pet, and it can help you determine if you feel ready to welcome an animal permanently into your home! 

Fostering is also a perfect volunteering opportunity for college students, who may have more flexible schedules and might be missing family pets back home during the school year but aren’t ready for the financial commitment of a pet. 

Fostering isn’t just for homeowners 

You’re able to foster if you live in a rental property too! Just be sure to check with your property management company first to see if there are any pet restrictions (species, breed, size, etc.) or monthly fees required. AHS is unable to reimburse any pet fees that management companies may charge. 

How to provide a safe space for animals in foster care 

AHS recommends a 10-day quarantine period for all animals in foster care, just like we recommend to adopters. This is for health and behavioral reasons, especially if you have other pets in your home. 

While all animals receive a veterinary exam and all needed vaccinations before entering foster care, illnesses can still be passed from them, and keeping them separated from your resident animals reduces the likelihood. 

AHS covers all medical exams and treatments for animals in foster care, but we cannot reimburse or treat your resident pets due to illness or injury from a foster animal. 

When it comes to fostering larger dogs, we recommend finding a quiet, easily cleanable space where a kennel or crate could be set up. Some volunteers choose a spare bedroom, a laundry room, or a large bathroom, where foster dogs and resident dogs can both be separated and safely adapt to one another in the home. 

Fostering helps animals prepare for their new home 

A foster dog gets its belly scratched

While there’s always the occasional “foster fail” – when an animal is just too perfect of a fit and you can no longer imagine your family without them – remember that you’re helping most foster animals to prepare for being adopted into their new home. 

The more well behaved an animal is in your home, the easier the adoption process will be for them! For instance, teaching an animal in foster care to avoid jumping on furniture may make them a better fit in another home down the road. Crate training can also be a great skill to learn in foster care, potentially making it easier for them to find a home that will need a kennel. 

You can help keep people and pets together 

Foster volunteers can also support our Temporary Pet Housing (TPH) program. This program provides 60 days of fostering for an animal when their pet parent is experiencing extended hospital stays, a sudden change in living situation, family emergencies, and more by working directly with caseworkers in the Twin Cities. 

While caring for a pet through TPH can be a longer commitment than a typical foster volunteering assignment, your compassion is keeping families together – providing life-changing support for animals and the people who love them. 

Saying goodbye is part of the joy of fostering 

Ask any foster volunteer and they’ll tell you: Saying goodbye is always the hardest part. But with every goodbye, always remember you’re a part of helping that animal find their second chance and a loving new home! 

Ready to get started? 

Take your first steps to becoming an AHS foster volunteer! If you have any questions or concerns during the application process, please contact us

Become an AHS foster volunteer