The Ultimate Guide to Fostering a Senior Dog

We’re all familiar with the concept of fostering children, but fostering a dog? Not so much! Below you will find details explaining what fostering is, and why you should consider becoming a foster dog parent.  

NOTE: You can foster any type of animal, not just a dog!

What Does Fostering Mean?

Fostering or being a foster parent means opening up your home to an animal, in this case a senior dog, until he or she gets adopted and goes to their forever home.

The Importance of Fostering

• You will offer the warmth, love, comfort and attention they wouldn’t get in kennels, and may never have known before.

• You may also be the difference between life and death for that dog, and that is a feeling you can’t describe.

Fostering From a Shelter

Even though the animals have a place to live, there are many reasons why fosters are need.

• Some dogs have a much harder time then others adapting to life in a cage, and can suffer psychologically. If the problem becomes too severe, they will be killed. These dogs stand a better chance if awaiting adoption in a home.

• Dogs with behavior issues will benefit from one on one training, something they won’t get in a shelter.

• Senior dogs who have spent their entire lives with a family, may have a particularly difficult time adapting to being abandoned in a strange, and noisy environment.

• Illness, post-surgery or those needing medication require more time, attention and one on one care than shelter staff can usually give.

• Some dogs have never had the opportunity to live in a home before, and sadly it’s hard to find people willing to take that on. A foster parent can teach him, socialise him, and make him a more attractive candidate for adoption.

• Senior or special needs dogs that have very little chance of ever finding a home, don’t deserve to spend their final days alone. Offering to foster means they will have a chance at happiness.

• When a dog enters a shelter very little, if anything is ever known about them. They’re put in a kennel and that’s often it. While this isn’t true for every shelter, it is true for most. This leaves little or no chance to get to know the personality of the dog, their temperament, how they are with other dogs, cats, kids… Being in foster care will give staff that crucial information, increasing the chances of a successful match.

• When shelters start running out of room, the kill facilities just start killing. Having said that, the truth is most never stop, and kill even when cages are empty. Fostering may reduce the number of dogs losing their lives for no reason.

The picture above is of Bailey, one of my foster failures. He’s bald due to Cushing’s, had a very feisty personality but we loved him! 

Fostering From a Rescue Group

Most rescue groups do not have brick and mortar buildings, so rely on foster homes to help them save lives.

There are plenty of groups that specialise in rescuing seniors from shelters and abusive home lives, and commit to helping them find loving homes.

These groups can only rescue as many dogs as they have homes to put them in. Sadly, with foster homes in short supply, they are often so desperate, they end up having to pay a fortune to board them.

It’s a shame because that money could be put to better use – veterinary care, food…

Consider Fostering Rather Than Adopting

♦ Perhaps this is your first experience with a dog, and although you know you really want one, you’re not sure how he will fit into your life. Fostering is a great way to try it, see how you handle the added responsibility, and if you really have room in your life. Having said that, a dog is not like a sweater you try on and then return. You have to be quite sure, but discuss that with the organisation, and perhaps foster a dog that only needs short term care.

♦ You’ve had dogs your whole life, but now feel you’re getting too old for a commitment that may last many years. Another ideal situation for a foster parent to help an older, less active dog. It will give him a warm place to lay his head, and will do both of you a world of good.

♦ Finances are not what they should be, and we all know how expensive it is to care for a dog, never mind a senior who may have health issues. Outrageous vet bills are one example!! You really miss the companionship though. Most groups and shelters pay for everything. Of course if you have a little money to buy his food or contribute something towards medical care, that would be a great help.

♦ You love taking vacations, but don’t like to leave your dog, so you haven’t been away in quite some time. Calculate how many weeks or months you have until you’re off on your next adventure, and foster within that time frame.

The picture above is of my most recent foster, 11 year old Roxie who I mention below. A sweeter dog you can’t find who is settling beautifully in her new forever home.  

What Fostering Entails

Fostering means you agree to take in a homeless dog, care for him, love him, train him, give him attention – do everything you would do for one you adopted.

The main differences are:

  • expenses are usually covered
  • he isn’t technically yours so you need approval before you can take him away with you
  • vet care must be approved first if you expect to be reimbursed
  • in my experience, foster dogs must be kept on a leash and cannot run off leash

Where Do the Dogs Come From?

Shelters get them from:

  • Owner surrenders
  • Abuse cases
  • Strays people bring in

Rescue groups:

  • Pull them from high kill shelters and animal control facilities
  • Bring in strays and dogs dumped by their owners
  • Partner with rescues in other countries where animals are treated badly, have little chance of finding a home or are left to roam the streets

How to Find a Dog to Foster

• In your search engine type foster a dog in NAME OF YOUR CITY

• Contact shelters, animal control facilities and rescue groups in your area

• If you can’t find one in your area that has a foster program, or you weren’t happy with the reception you got, widen your search. Distance isn’t necessarily an issue. Some groups have volunteer drivers who may be able to deliver the dog to you, or at least meet you half way

Trust me when I tell you, there are amazing people out there who will welcome you with open arms. If your first experience is less than positive (and that is sadly a very real possibility), or they don’t get back to you, don’t be discouraged, keep looking.

The picture above is Josephine who we “forever fostered.” She was deaf and mostly blind with a severe case of mange. A sweet soul who was dumped in a shelter as a senior. 

What to Expect from the Fostering Process

Typically the first step involves completing an application form. Once that’s done they may call you, or have you come in for a chat. They will also want to see the home environment their dog will be going to.

Some people get annoyed by home visits, but you should be happy about it. It proves just how much they care about doing what’s best for the dog. They don’t know you, and there are too many horror stories for them to take risks with the lives in their care. If they aren’t able to visit, they may be okay with seeing pictures.

Once everything has been approved, they will find you the dog they feel will be the best match.

Details of what’s to be expected from you should be given, and all instructions clear. Make sure you always have support available should you need it.

Time Commitment

That depends on your availability, and the needs of the organisation you got your dog from.

You can apply to be an emergency foster – that means they may call you at the last minute because they have an emergency situation.

Offer to be vacation cover for a foster parent. You would only need to care for the dog while the foster parent is away.

There are also opportunities to foster for a few weeks, months, or the dog’s entire life.

In my experience, whatever time you can offer, there is a dog in need you can help.

You decide how much time you’re willing (able) to give, and they’ll find you the right dog. Please be realistic, and don’t feel obligated to commit to longer than you would like. You’ll be doing more harm than good by not being honest.

Fiscal Responsibility

Most places pay for everything (food, medication, veterinary care…), so it won’t cost you a penny.

However, since these shelters and groups rely on the generosity of the public for donations, it’s always appreciated if you cover some of the costs – look at it as a donation. Maybe you can even get a tax receipt for your outlay.

Here are 2 more foster failures. The white dog is Jack, the other one was my heart dog Red. 

Dog Supplies

If you don’t have any basic dog supplies, most places will set you up with beds, blankets, bowls and toys.

Eligibility Requirements

Many people worry they may not be suitable because: they have kids; live in an apartment; are older; don’t have a lot of time…

Don’t let what you think are deterrents, prevent you from looking into fostering.

Wanting Out of Your commitment

Everyone understands life happens, and it may happen that you are unable to fulfil the entire commitment you made.

Make sure you know in advance, what the policy is in these circumstances. Another foster home will need to be found, but please understand it may take some time.

If at all possible, don’t notify them 10 minutes before you have to bring the dog back. It’s hard enough finding one foster home, so give them as much advance notice as you can.

You’ve Fallen in Love with Your Foster Dog, Now What!

I understand, because I am a foster failure. Most cats or dogs I’ve fostered I’ve kept…but not the 2 most recent ones!!

As long as everything went well, and you meet their adoption requirements, there’s no reason why you can’t adopt him or her.

The thing is though, foster homes are in such short supply the group you’re helping may need fosters, more than adopters. Speak to them, and see what they say. I can’t imagine they’ll pass up the opportunity of getting another dog a home.

Health Risks to Pets Already Living in the house

You should get as much of the dog’s medical history as you can, before bringing him home, and find out if he or she has had a recent health check.

Your own dog should be current on all vaccinations.

If the foster dog has health issues you’re concerned about, tell your own vet and get his opinion.

What Happens Should Your Foster Dog Need Medical Care?

That depends on the policy of the rescue group or shelter you’re fostering from, so make sure you understand theirs. Does the shelter have a vet on staff? Does the rescue deal with a specific vet you’re expected to see?

You don’t want to rush the dog to the emergency hospital, only to find out that exorbitant bill won’t be covered.

If you need to take the dog to the vet, you are usually required to notify them first so they can approve it, then consult with them about treatment and costs.

The same may hold true in cases of emergency, but be clear.

Are you expected to call someone in the middle of the night? What happens in the event you can’t reach anyone? Do they give you permission to take him to a 24 hour emergency hospital, and pre-authorise a set amount of money if they can’t be reached?

Re-Naming Your Foster Dog

This is a question for the rescue to answer but if you aren’t a forever foster, I’m guessing you’re expected to use the name given. Imagine the dog comes to you with one name, you change it, then it gets changed again when he’s adopted. 

A Few Other Considerations

• Find out if the dog is fixed. It matters if yours isn’t, or you take him to the dog park where not every dog has a responsible owner.

• Don’t bring a dog into your house that isn’t up to date on flea and heartworm treatment. A heartworm positive dog can be very difficult to treat, and a flea ridden one will quickly infest your entire home. While de-fleaing your house can be done, it is a nightmare.

• Do they know how he is with other dogs, cats, kids, men, women?

• If the thought of a dog peeing on your floor is more than you can take, re-consider, because even the most housebroken dog may have an accident or three in a new home. If he isn’t housebroken, can you cope? Maybe he’s paper trained. If you’re not okay that’s fine, just be honest. It isn’t fair for you to take him on, than return him for doing exactly what you knew he would do, and weren’t happy with from the beginning.

• Is he okay being left alone, or does he suffer from separation anxiety?

• How much support is there from members of the group or shelter staff? Can you always reach someone in the event of an emergency?

My Fostering Experience

I am what is known as a “foster failure.” That means I adopt my fosters. While shelters and rescues are grateful for anyone offering a homeless animal a forever home, losing a foster parent is a blow because unless you can keep fostering, they lose a home for a rescue to go to which makes it more difficult to save as many animals as they would like.

In Dec I fostered a terrified 7 year old border collie named Saffy who was lovely. I’m happy to say she is now in her new home and doing well from what I understand. For seven weeks (until last week Thurs May 1/24) I fostered 11 year old Roxie, a bull terrier/staffie who was such a wonderful dog. I’m so excited she’s now in her forever home with her brother from another mother. This morning her new parents sent me pictures, said she’s settling in well and they love her. Nothing could make me happier, especially because I met them a few times and you couldn’t find lovelier people!

This is a picture of Saffy, enjoying some outdoor time watching the world go by. 


Fostering any dog is an incredibly rewarding experience, but especially a senior. I know this first hand because I do it and I love it. You can’t match the feeling of knowing you’re changing and likely saving, the life of that animal.

The most important key to fostering success, is communication between you and the group or organisation. Be clear about their expectations and your responsibilities, and honest about what you are willing, and not willing, to take on.


If you have any other questions that haven’t been addressed, why not comment at the end of this post, and I’ll do my best to help you.

I’m excited to announce my new Senior Dog Care Support Service.

I offer 1:1 support on everything from health & wellness advice and training tips, to preparing to say goodbye and grief counselling. You can find details on all the packages I offer by visiting the Senior Dog Care Support Service page. If you have any questions or would like to book your FREE 15 minute chat, please email


Please follow and like us:

9 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Fostering a Senior Dog”

  1. Great post as it is so important to foster as fostering saves lives and I see all the rescue organizations are begging for fosters all the time. This post is a must share so that others will think and learn more about fostering.

  2. Our foster was just adopted a few weeks ago! It’s a great way to help rescues and to help the dogs find the right home for them

    • I imagine it wasn’t easy to let your foster go, but that’s amazing news!! I love the idea of fostering for so many reasons, one of them being the information that’s gathered to help find the right forever home. Most of the time dogs are dumped with little or no background information, which makes it harder to find suitable parents.

  3. What a great guide to fostering pets! I hope it lands with more people than you even know and foster parents become trending thing. The furry friends sitting in shelters need and deserve the help and love. I’m sharing with all my dog parents in hopes some will become foster parents (or someone in their circle). I learned a lot from this article. Henry was a foster dog for many months until I found him. I’m glad he didn’t have to sit or lay on a cold shelter floor. Thanks, Hindy!

    • Thanks so much Terri, I included as much information as I could. I’m always amazed by how few people I speak with have ever heard of fostering, they had no idea it was an option. It’s easy to become a “foster failure” but just knowing a dog was saved from laying on a cold shelter floor like you say, is so good for the soul.

  4. I’ve fostered a couple times and ended up keeping them. My second experience was great but my first one was not. I decided I really don’t have the temperament or lifestyle for it.

  5. I fostered dogs for years, even when I had two of my own. It’s really rewarding and super beneficial for the foster dogs. Fosters are always in short supply so you’ll be helping in more ways than you know. Great post!

  6. What a wonderful post, Hindy. You’ve gone into such helpful explanations of so many things that will certainly be a great asset to foster parents-to-be. This is a must read! So much helpful info. Saffy is a beauty! Sharing this for sure!

    • Fostering is such a life saver, and something I wish more people considered doing. I hope I shared as much helpful information as I could, and answered questions that will entice others to foster.


Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!