Can I Foster with a Full-Time Job?

Ask the Foster Folks: Can I Still Foster a Dog Even Though I Have a Full-Time Job? 

Short answer: YES!

Frank Jr. Jr. with his official work ID tag. Adopted by Molly S.

Frank Jr. Jr. with his official work ID tag. Adopted by Molly S.

We received the following request from a new foster parent, via our Facebook "Foster Forum" foster support page“I think it would be cool to do a feature on how people make fostering work with their schedules! I know a lot of people feel like they can’t foster because they work outside the home, so maybe people could share how they handle walks and such?”

Bark & Co employees, of the human  and  canine variety. Credit:  BARK

Bark & Co employees, of the human and canine variety. Credit: BARK

This request encouraged us to solicit advice from experienced NYC foster volunteers in the Foster Forum. Read below for some real-world, practical input on fostering a shelter dog, written by our network of volunteer foster parents.

Fitting Fostering into Your Schedule

Adopted dog Chinso, with mama Tina M.

Adopted dog Chinso, with mama Tina M.

“Fostering while also working full time is challenging at first but once you get a schedule and routine going it’s a breeze. I’m a single mom who is also working as a detective for the NYPD and currently have 3 pets of my own. I try to foster one pet at a time so I can spread my time between all my pets as well as have time to review applications, meet prospective Adopters and conduct home visits. I love rescuing; there are days where it can be overwhelming but it’s like having a child – for all the challenging days there’s always that one moment that makes it all worth it. That’s how I see my rescues and fosters, no matter how many tiresome days I have I know at the end of my day he or she lays with me and looks at me with those big sweet eyes and I know that to them I am their whole world and their affection is their way of saying ‘thank you.'” – Ileen E

Anna and foster Snowflake, Photo by  Marshall Boprey

Anna and foster Snowflake, Photo by Marshall Boprey

“Make sure your foster fits with your lifestyle and your schedule. As much as I want to play with puppies right now, when I’m gone 14-15 hrs a day, it’s out of the question. I stock up on a lot of chews and puzzle toys to keep them occupied while I’m out.” – Anna T




To walk or not to walk, that is the question.

“I’m very selective about the dogs I foster. I always try my best to schedule a meet and greet just to get a general idea if the dog’s personality will work with my lifestyle. For example, I tend to foster dogs that are older and housebroken since I work long hours. My dog-walker is very helpful and typically gives me a good rate if he has to walk a foster along with my pup.” – Kevin H

“If you work a lot and can’t afford a dog walker also. Consider fostering seniors. Small ones are usually content using pee pads and they want to sleep most of the day away. It might seem obvious but some people don’t understand fostering a puppy isn’t always the best fit if you work long days and no one can check in mid day. Also remember being alone in your apartment is much nicer than spending their days in a shelter. You can always do the relaxing pet music playlist on YouTube and freeze a kong and an older adult dog will be content all day without you enough that your feelings might get hurt haha. As cute as the puppies are though, seniors are so rewarding and can be much easier to get used to a long work schedule.” – Megan P

Foster pack walk, Photo by Nina Chiofalo

Foster pack walk, Photo by Nina Chiofalo

“My walker, Mobile Mutts Dog Walking and Cat Sitting, walks foster dogs for free if you’re already paying for your own dog, or charges half price if your foster is your only pup. And they’re great about giving detailed updates about foster behavior so that you have another set of eyes watching out for any aggression, fearfulness, health concerns, etc.” – Erin W

(Going off of Erin’s thought above:) “Mobile Mutts is the best! They made all the difference in me being able to foster when I was working in an office 5 days a week. Also they put up with insane foster logistics like ‘please carry (35 lbs!) Gracie through the living room, we’re still working on her relationship with the cats.'” – Taylor C

“A lot of dog walkers who don’t work for companies and instead do gigs like will sneak your foster in for a free check-in or walk once in a while. That’s by chance though.” – Megan P

You Don’t Need a Big Budget

Nate at the computer, Adopted by Liz B.

Nate at the computer, Adopted by Liz B.

“My boyfriend and I are both graduate students (re: negative income), which has both positives and negatives in terms of fostering. Positive: one of us is home to walk the dog during lunchtime 3 out of the 5 weekdays – yay! Negative: that means 2 days we need to hire a dog-walker… which, given that whole no income thing, feels a little overwhelming at times. We have found local walkers on Rover to have less expensive rates than places like Wag, and some will advertise themselves as not charging more for a second dog. We have also found that some of our non-dog-owning neighbors love our fosters, and want to hang out with them without committing to fostering/adopting themselves. If you know them well, feel safe with them in your home, and your foster has met them and liked them, you can always ‘offer’ the neighbor a chance to check in on the dog during the day.” – Elspeth H

Separation Anxiety and Keeping an Eye on the Dog

Volunteer Melissa and adopted pup Brinkley. Photo by  Stacey Axelrod

Volunteer Melissa and adopted pup Brinkley. Photo by Stacey Axelrod

“When I first got Brinkley, I thought he wasn’t house-trained, on top of having separation anxiety. Either I’m a really good house-trainer or it was just nerves. We are still dealing with separation anxiety a few weeks later, but when I discovered it, I took immediate action. I got him a thunder shirt (helped him feel more secure, same idea as swaddling a baby), rescue remedy (natural stress relief from the health food store), and borrowed a crate from my neighbor. Thank goodness he was crate trained, the combo plus some background cartoons has worked wonders! We go for a long walk in the morning and he sleeps in his crate while I’m at work. If I’m running late, my neighbor or someone I found on takes him for a walk. Been pretty easy so far, I ended up adopting!” – Melissa O

“We bought a camera form Amazon that we use to monitor with an app, but there are also inexpensive ones like Dog Monitor ($4.99) where if you have an iPad (or unused smart phone) you can set it up facing the crate and it works well.” – Samantha C

Spend the First Couple Days Together

“When I’m fostering I try to get my foster dog on the weekend so I can acclimate them before having to go off to work all day. I spend time over the weekend getting them comfy in their crate and when I do leave for work I leave a noise machine between the crate and the door to block those scary hallway noises that new fosters are often startled by. I use a dog walker that provides a discount for foster dogs so they get a midday walk if I’m at the office all day. Oh, and taking a break between fosters can be a great way to keep you (or your partner/roommates/coworkers/boss) from getting frustrated or burned-out.” – Taylor C

Having a Routine Helps

Fanny with Fospice parents, Photo by Sarah Brasky

Fanny with Fospice parents, Photo by Sarah Brasky

Gabby M shared her entire routine for our readers: I work full-time, foster on my own, take classes after work and have a dog of my own. I started fostering six months ago and have fostered puppies all the way to seniors with medical issues. It’s all about being as prepared as possible, but also knowing that there will be surprises. I’ve found that if you take it seriously and really put your mind to it you can make it work. My biggest tip is to keep very on top of your schedule and time your daily routine.

  1. Wake up and morning walk: 6:30 am, give 20 minutes to make myself and the dogs presentable to go to the dog park. I know it takes 15-20 minutes to get to the dog park depending on the pace of the dog.
  2. Getting ready for work: If I leave the dog park by 7:50am, I’ll get home by 8:10. That gives me until 8:45 to clean up the dogs, feed them, get ready for work, and make sure their water bowl is full and they each have a kong/chew toy/antler.
  3. Heading back home: I make sure I leave work by 5:30pm at the latest to get home by 6:00pm. I schedule all my classes at 7:30 or later which gives me an entire hour to go for a brisk walk, feeding time and some breathing room in case I leave work a little late or the walk takes longer than expected. Then after class, I take them out again. Get them ready for bed and then do it all again.

Of course I have a social life too, so I make sure to schedule those things on nights I don’t have class or on the weekends when I have a lot more flexibility.

From experience, if I get off my schedule by sleeping in etc. it all goes to hell. Oh, and making sure your own life is in order helps a lot too. I meal prep to maximize cooking time and finances, keep all dog stuff organized and easily accessible (i.e. hang the leash and collar right beside their feeding area so I don’t spend time untangling or walking back and forth across the room), and stay very on top of my work and social calendars at all times.

Dogs at Work

Erin and Scout, Credit:  BARK

Erin and Scout, Credit: BARK

“I happen to work in an industry that allows dogs at work. My foster dog Onyx lived in a shelter for 5 years so she was not used to a daily routine of commuting and going to work each day. She easily fell into the routine and would get so happy when walking into the office. I could see having a dog with you at work can help immensely in socializing a dog. So many people stop by and say ‘hi’ to her during the day. Onyx sits comfortably on her bed all day and is patient as I work. I actually feel guilty when we don’t go into the office because she loves it so much. There have been days that I have not taken her to work; since she is crate trained, I am able to walk her in the morning before work and then again right after work. Although I know she is much happier going into the office, if I work in a dog friendly environment, I know I would be able to manage having her at home during the day. We are lucky enough to walk to work each day but we do sometimes take the subway and I carry Onyx in a tote.” – Lesa H.

Getting Others Excited

“I let my boss know whenever I take in a new foster and I keep her and my coworkers updated about how the pup is doing and how the adoption process is going. I put pictures of my foster pup on my computer wallpaper and around my cube. It can look pretty nerdy, but I’ve found that my coworkers get invested in my foster dog and naturally become understanding about the occasional day I need to work from home, come in late, etc. Plus, coworkers are another pool of possible adopters!” – Erin W

Reaching Out for Help When You Need It

“I’ve actually had a lot of success with posting in the Facebook group [Foster Forum] and asking for dog walkers/sitters. People who are between jobs or working from home or just looking to hang with pups have been more than happy to hang out and have become friends through just dog interaction (shoutout Jen B, Angie T, Emilie H). This group has been an amazing resource not just for advice but for in-person help too.” – Samantha C



Note: The original version of this blog post was published on our website in March 2017