How to Borrow a Dog #4: Become a Foster Dog Parent

Our How to Borrow a Dog series focuses on ways that dog lovers can keep dogs around even if they can’t commit to owning one (or another one) at the time. In this fourth installment, we will discuss one of the most rewarding and impactful ways to keep a dog in your life: becoming a foster pet parent for rescue dogs.

Animal rescues remove dogs from shelters and place them with foster parents for short-term care until a permanent home can be found. Foster dog parents are a very important part of the rescue system as most rescues don’t have a large facility of their own to house dogs. As a foster dog parent, you will provide the loving care and shelter, but the importance of the dog’s time with you goes way beyond that. You truly become the dog’s ambassador. Whether you are living in a pet-friendly apartment, have kids, or own other pets, you can become a foster.


Foster Dog waiting for Foster Parent

Choosing a Rescue

Do your research to find a rescue in your area that you are comfortable working with. Some important questions to ask the rescue before agreeing to become a foster parent are:

  1. Will I be responsible for providing all of the food and supplies?
  2. How will veterinarian care be provided to the dog?
  3. If I have questions or trouble with the foster dog, what support will you provide?
  4. I don’t think I can handle a (large, small, hyper, timid) dog. What do you do to match a dog with me?
  5. How long will a typical foster dog live with me?

The answers will vary but most rescues provide food and veterinarian care and also work to match dogs with you based on some of your personal preferences. For example, Barks of Love rescue in Orange County, CA provides its foster parents with a leash, collar, bowls, food, crate, toys and extra bedding. Phil Bailey, the COO of Barks of Love and Dog Behaviorist, even helps the dog become acquainted with you, your family, and any pets you currently own.


The Vetting Process

Rescues will want you to fill out required paperwork and go through a series of background and fit checks before they accept you as a foster parent. All rescues will require different items but be prepared to provide the following:

  • Personal Information (Address, Housing Situation, Family Members in your household)
  • Personal References
  • Descriptions of your Current Pets
  • Veterinarian references

The rescue will verify your information and then schedule a home visit. The main goals of a home visit are to assess your readiness to care for a foster dog and that you have the accommodations to properly care for the dog. They will check your property for any potential dangers and anything that might allow a dog to escape. If you live in a fenced yard, they will check the fence for spots where a dog might escape over, under, or through it.

Part of the home visit is also a fit assessment so the rescue can determine what types of dogs will work best for you and your household. The demeanor of your pets, your children’s age and level of maturity, your housing (apartment vs. single-family), and your personal preferences may all factor in to the types of foster dogs they will match up with you. For example, if you are in an apartment, they will aim to give you dogs that are smaller and quiet.


Dog Laying in Bed in Pet-Friendly Apartment.


Foster Dog Time!

After being approved, the rescue will contact you when they have a dog ready to be fostered.  They will bring the dog over, help it get acquainted, and provide any initial support you need. Now it’s time for you to shine!  Be patient with the dog as it gets comfortable with its new surroundings.  Provide them will all of the love, care, and socialization they need.

Now, your ambassadorship starts. Take lots of photos and promote them on social media. Arrange to take them to adoption events and spend the day telling others about them. You will know them better than anyone in the world and your testimonial will work wonders for their chances of being adopted.


The Hardest Part

If you have read this far, you are probably well-suited to care for a foster dog, but “fostering” isn’t always easy. Dogs will enter your life and leave in a short amount of time, sometimes in just a few days. As the dogs get adopted, you will see them on their way to their forever home. This can be bittersweet for a lot of foster parents. There is a strong chance one dog might enter your life that you just can’t see on its way. You might ultimately end up a “foster fail”, but it will be the best failure of your life.


barks of love





Special thanks to Phil Bailey and the team over at Barks of Love for their input on this post. Barks of Love is an amazing rescue organization in Orange County, CA that is run by a dedicated group of dog-loving individuals. If you are in the Orange County, CA area, please contact them for information on becoming a foster, adopting a dog, or volunteering.

Their list of available dogs can be found at:

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