Here’s what you need to know before you start fostering dogs or cats! I’ll cover some common objections people have to fostering as well as some tips and tricks for first time fosters. If you’ve been on the fence about fostering I hope this post can serve as a little guide to encourage you to take the leap and welcome your first furry foster friend into your home soon. Get your notebooks ready

For as long as I can remember, animals have been a huge part of my life. Growing up my family had cats, dogs and chickens. Both my dad and my nana have both been big influences in my animal loving tendencies. My nana used to always take me with her to the local cat shelter where she’s volunteered for YEARS. I would love to visit the kitties and hold as many as I could while my grandma did her volunteer duties. I kind of became the neighborhood cat lady my junior year of high school when I snuck a kitten into my bedroom on Columbus day when I had the day off my school. My soccer teammates all came together and we found supplies, food, toys, etc and schemed to get the kitten to my house without my parents finding out. My dad INSISTED that the 2lb kitten would not be staying, but as we can all guess, my dad secretly loves cats. Aladdin (little bundle of joy as my parents call him) has now been a part of the family for 7 years!

What I learned volunteering at a shelter

Throughout college I was always the one stopping to pet the random stray cats in parking lots and wishing for more pets of my own. Junior year of college I adopted my perfect, precious, beautiful son, Leo diCatrio – a whopping 1.8lbs of sass and love – my life has never been the same. Time has flown by and he’s almost 4 years old already! Unfortunately throughout college my schedule was way too hectic to volunteer at a shelter, but it was something I knew I needed to get back involved in after graduation. About 1 month following graduation, I started volunteering at my county’s local shelter in the dog playgroup program. I can’t believe I’m coming up on two years of being a volunteer already! I have learned SO MUCH about dog behavior, dog training tips, what it takes to be a great foster mom and shelter pet advocate. I encourage everyone to consider adopting rather than shopping, and learning about foster opportunities in their communities.

pinterest pin, everything you need to know about fostering
Everything you need to know about fostering dogs

Let’s get into the good parts

If you love animals but don’t have the schedule or finances to have a pet of your own, fostering is an amazing opportunity. It’s usually a short term commitment, and in my experience the shelter or rescue will provide everything that you need for your foster pet. This includes food, medicine, vet visits, toys, a crate, a bed and anything else you might need. All you have to do is open up your heart and your home to allow your foster pet to thrive while you help find them their forever home.

I’m not an expert on fostering by any means, but over the last few years I have learned a lot. I have been inspired and educated by a couple that I met while volunteering, Lorrie and Tim. They are entrepreneurs, animal rescue advocates and all around an amazing couple who has taught me so much about dogs. By the time this post goes live they will have fostered 38 (maybe more!) dogs in their home. They also run an amazing organization called Palm Beach Shelter Dog Project – to learn more about what they’re doing with their organization, the cutest pictures of their puppy posse, and more information about fostering/adopting/rescuing, check out their Facebook page here

how to guide to fostering dogs
My current foster, Venus

Every animal is an individual.

You should never assume something about an animal’s behavior based on a previous animal you might know or have owned. Just like we are all unique individuals, so are dogs and cats!

Every shelter animal needs time to decompress in their new foster or forever home.

Experts recommend giving your new shelter pet at least 3 weeks (maybe even more) to decompress, feel safe and start to show their personality in their new home. This means giving your pet some time to be with just you in your home before introducing them to all of your friends and your favorite places. Your pooch could be very friendly, but they might just need some time to readjust before they are ready to start making new human or new puppy playmates. Always take things slow with your new foster friend. Allow them to show you when they are ready for new things such as trips to the park or being introduced to your neighbor’s puppy pack. Like I mentioned earlier, every dog is an individual. Each foster pet will need different amounts of time to open up to their true personality. I’ve had fosters who made themselves at home within a few days and others that took 3 or 4 weeks to truly shine. The wait is always worth it!

My first foster dog, Hailee, making herself at home

Imagine living your life one type of way. You are picked up by someone or dropped off by your family at a shelter to be locked in a small space with unfamiliar smells, sounds and actions. You start to get to used to that for weeks or months, just to be brought to another strange home with humans you’ve never seen before with a new routine that you’re expected to like right away – definitely a big adjustment period for sure! Be patient with your shelter pet/foster. Trust me, they will show you their undying love, affection and thankfulness soon – just give them that much needed time and space to realize they are a part of your family now.

PIN IT! How to guide to fostering dogs

A common objection I hear about fostering and volunteering at an animal shelter in general is, “I could never do that. I would be so sad to see the animal go” or “I don’t know how you go to an animal shelter weekly. That has to be so depressing seeing animals like that”. I’m here to tell you that both of those statements don’t have to be true and there can be a lot of happiness through fostering and volunteering at an animal shelter. Of course it’s sad to see your furry foster friend leave and go to their forever home, but what makes it better is knowing that you truly stepped in to save this animal’s life and you will always play a role in that animal’s future. Of course there will be days where you miss your foster or maybe even shed some tears when you realize that you’re driving by their neighborhood on your way to dinner but it will fill your heart with joy to see their new family post photos of them on vacation or maybe out for a hike. When you see how happy your previous foster dog is in their new home it will make it so worth it and will make you want to help another animal need. You will truly have a feeling of success and accomplishment when you match your foster pet with their new perfect family. You help a family feel complete by adding a furry friend, and you get to see your foster pet thrive in a loving environment that they truly deserve. I promise it is so so SO worth it!

The pros to fostering are endless!

For me personally, my schedule doesn’t allow me to have a dog of my own so fostering is perfect for me. A foster dog will help encourage you to spend more time outside. Whether you enjoy leisurely strolls through the neighborhood or vigorous trail runs, your foster pet will help keep you accountable to your exercise goals. Fostering makes it easy to always come home to a smiling face and wagging tail. After a long day at work, there is nothing better to coming home to your foster pup who is always happy to see you. Your foster dog will soon become your closest friend and confidant. There is just something especially innate in shelter animals – they always seem to know what you’re feeling and what you need in every moment. They will keep you company and provide you hours of entertainment, love and laughs.

walking my foster dog, isabella
Showing Isabella around Palm Beach

Fostering is all about patience and love.

You and your foster pet are both getting to know each other – it probably won’t happen overnight. Give it a few weeks and you will have built a strong and special bond like no other. I hope you are feeling encouraged and inspired to add a foster animal to your home and family. If you are local to Palm Beach County, I highly recommend checking out this website that lists all of the adoptable dogs (and cats, too!) at the shelter where I volunteer. There are also countless rescue groups all over the country that are always in need of new foster homes. A quick google or Facebook search can connect you to a local shelter or rescue where your new foster friend is waiting. As always, please feel free to reach out to me via email or Instagram DMs with any questions about fostering or volunteering. It’s a topic that I am so passionate about and could talk about for days (clearly). For more cute photos and silly videos of my past and current fosters, check out the “FOSTERS” highlight on my instagram. Happy tails future foster moms, dads and families!

Foster, Isabella, on her adoption day
My second foster dog, Isabella, with her new sister on her adoption day


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Hi there, I'm Anna

Brunette Collective is a lifestyle blog focused on creating happiness through an intentional life, founded by Anna Fenstermacher.