The world of animal welfare is full of unsung heroes, and foster families are often the most misunderstood. Fosters are the people who offer rescue dogs temporary homes while they wait for forever families. Some fosters have dogs of their own and some focus solely on their rescued house guests, but they all have at least two things in common they love dogs and have a passion for saving lives. There’s a lot people don’t know about fostering, and it’s time to set the record straight. We’re debunking a few of the most common myths about fostering rescue dogs.
1. Fostering is too much of a time commitment.
While it’s true some dogs require a lot of care and attention, fosters have the option to choose what kind of commitment they have time for. Many dogs looking for fosters are adult or senior dogs that only need a comfy place to sleep and someone to fill their food bowls.
Sometimes shelters have minimum requirements based on a dog’s specific needs, but most of the time, they’re willing to work with your schedule. You can foster a low maintenance senior dog, sign up for emergency fostering only, or ask about fostering just on the weekends. Most shelters are grateful for any kind of help you have time to offer.
2. When you’re a foster, you can never go on vacation.
Even fosters are entitled to breaks. Shelters need both long and short-term help, and fostering a dog should never interfere with your chance to take a few days off. Many shelters ask people to foster for only two weeks at a time or until they have more kennel space at the shelter. And if you want to take in fosters on a continuous basis, it’s up to you to decide if and when you want to take a break. All you have to do is let your shelter know ahead of time.
3. You need a big house and yard to be a foster.
Having a big house and yard will come in handy if you decide to foster a few high-energy large breed dogs, but it’s not a requirement. In most situations, foster pets don’t take up much room. They blend in with the rest of your family and are happy with whatever you’re able to provide.
Remember, their alternative is living out their days crammed into a kennel. Compared to life at the shelter, even the smallest apartments are a luxury. If you talk to your shelter, they’ll take into consideration the amount of space you have before assigning you a foster dog.
4. Fostering is bad for resident pets.
Some dogs love having foster dogs in their home because it means they always have new friends to play with. For dogs that don’t get along well with others or have a tendency to get jealous, there’s always the option of keeping fosters separated from resident pets. Before you balk at this idea, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
If you foster a litter of puppies or a senior dog that spends most of the day snoozing, you can easily house them in a spare bedroom, dog-proofed bathroom, or you can set up baby gates in an unused corner of the house. Anything is better than the kennel your foster would otherwise be living in. You can even use the opportunity to gradually help your resident dog feel more comfortable around other canines. It’s a win for everyone involved.
5. Fostering requires special skills.
It doesn’t matter if you have experience raising dogs of your own, if you’re a pet professional with special training, or if you’ve never lived with a dog before. Shelters are always willing to answer questions and support their fosters every way they can.
Plenty of foster families learn about pet parenting from their foster dogs, and it’s a good introductory experience before you adopt a dog of your own. You don’t need special skills to make a positive impact on a dog’s life.
6. Only sick dogs need fosters.
Fostering is great for dogs recovering from an illness or injury, but they’re not the only ones that could use some TLC outside the shelter. Every dog at the shelter has the potential to be placed with a foster family. The goal is to free up as much space at the shelter as possible so rescuers can continue to take in more dogs. Young, old, playful, relaxed—there are rescue dogs of all personalities waiting for fosters to show them what a good life feels like.
7. It’s too hard to not keep a foster permanently.
Forming an emotional connection with a dog is never a bad thing, and it’s true that “foster fails” (fosters that decide to adopt) happen. In most cases though, fosters learn to recognize the importance of fostering as it fits into the grand scheme of improving animal welfare. It can be tough, but seeing the impact of your efforts is the motivation to keep the foster cycle going. Susanna Kogut, president of Petco Foundation, told iHeartdogs in an interview,
“Remember your foster dog will love their new adopted family just as much, likely even more, than they loved you. But you will always be the one who saved their life, and they will never forget you. So that difficult feeling of letting go is a small moment in time, a small ask, to save a life.”
8. Shelters don’t really need fosters.
The biggest myth of all is that shelters can do without fosters. If there were no fosters, your local animal shelter would be even more crowded than it already is. There are always more dogs to save, and it can’t be done without fosters.
Fosters free up space in shelters, and they also improve a dog’s chances of getting adopted. In fact, every time a dog goes into foster care, two lives are saved: the dog that went into foster care and the one that takes its place at the shelter.
Living in a shelter environment is stressful, and dogs rarely get the training and attention they need. In a foster home, they have the chance to prepare for life as part of a family, and that’s a critical part of the adoption process. Whether you foster one dog a year or have an endless stream of new fosters in your home, you’re making a difference and saving lives.