Ask the Fosters: First Time Foster Advice

Welcome to Foster Dogs! Whether you’re fostering for the first time, considering becoming a foster, or you’re a seasoned veteran of the foster world just looking for a community, you’ve come to the right place.

Foster Dogs has a ton of resources and seasoned volunteers full of advice and experience. We wanted to launch our new website with a first blog post about firsts—what do we wish we knew before taking our first foster dog? We polled our online Foster Forum to see what people had to say, and here were the best tips:


The first day is the hardest—don’t be discouraged and don’t give up!

Foster Quote: [I wish I knew] that some early behaviors are not permanent. Things can get better in very short time frames even if 24 hours feels like the end of the world. [I’ve had] pups that ‘weren’t housetrained’ but in two days were peeing outside 99% of the time. Often so little is known about these dogs and where they came from and they just need a reminder and to settle in
— Sara
  • The first 24 hours in a new home can be very confusing for foster dogs. Often they’ve just come from a crowded shelter or off of a transport, and they can be overwhelmed and frightened. A nervous dog may pace, bark, or even growl. It’s important to take the first few days slowly, don’t try to do too much other than establishing the home as a safe space, go for some quiet, long walks to get nervous energy out if they seem fine on the leash, and definitely start using the crate (more on that later). Establishing boundaries and a safe space from day 1 will help the dog feel secure, and help reduce some problem behaviors like chewing or peeing on your new rug (but you should probably still plan to roll up your good rugs for a few days!)



The crate is your best friend. SERIOUSLY, THE CRATE IS GREAT!

Foster Quote: Basic things to start from the first moment you have the dog- as others have mentioned, crating, establishing routines, and being patient through transition behaviors.
— Mollie
  • The crate is the safest place to leave your foster when you can’t supervise him or her (like when you’re at work, in the shower, working from home, or cooking dinner, etc.) and keep the pup out of trouble. Try giving the pup a special crate-only treat like a frozen kong or antler and practice crating while you’re home to make it no big deal. More tips on crate training!

Photo by  Cynthia Lee

Photo by Cynthia Lee

You don’t need a ton of supplies to foster, just a few important ones. (You can also ask the rescue if they have donated items you can use)

Foster Quote: Pee pads are essential regardless of age of the dog! You don’t know their history and if they are potty trained.
— Ashley
  • A crate, a bed (or bunch of towels/blankets you don’t care about), food, a few toys (#1 recommend is a kong!), some pee pads, and some treats should be enough to get you started. Check out our suggested shopping list!





Some minor health-related issues are common and normal (if gross!)

Foster Quote: Worms are normal (and kind of fascinating). Lots of my young puppies that come from transport end up having worms. Older dogs not so much, but as dewormer only kills the live worms (not the eggs) sometimes they’ll pop up a week in or so.
— Elspeth
  • As mentioned earlier, often dogs are coming straight from shelters. There are some minor medical issues that won’t happen with every dog but are pretty common. These include kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection (coughing and snotting just like a human cold), diarrhea, and sometimes intestinal worms can be seen in their feces. Don’t panic, but DO alert the rescue group! Trust us, foster coordinators are used to receiving gross photos and descriptions, and it’s always better to ask questions about anything you’re not sure about.



Join the FOSTER DOGS foster forum!

The Foster Dogs family is so supportive. Really, any question asked was responded to.
— Michelle
  • You’re not in this alone! Our Foster Forum on Facebook has nearly 1000 members, all of whom foster or are interested in becoming fosters for rescue groups. Most members are local to Manhattan, but a lot of the advice is universal.
Foster Quote: I was fostering all by myself when I first started and didn’t join for a while either, I would’ve been A LOT less stressed if I knew about this forum so I had a support group!!!
— Asa
Foster Quote: I wish I knew about this forum and the rescue forums out there. I didn’t even join until like 8 months after I started fostering, but when I did join I saw how similar our experiences were and all these hacks! (Like lining your floor with a shower curtain- GENIUS and wish I knew that 2 years ago).
— Maria
Foster Dogs volunteers at PetCon. Photo by  Cynthia Lee

Foster Dogs volunteers at PetCon. Photo by Cynthia Lee

Written by Foster Dogs blog contributor and steering committee member Samantha Cheirif with advice compiled from the Foster Dogs Foster Forum.