Are you a dog lover with a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of shelter dogs? Or perhaps you’re a dog lover who’s not ready for the full-time responsibility of having your own dog at present but you’d love some canine companionship? Either way, fostering is the perfect solution!

By signing up to foster rescue dogs, you can save many lives and get a taste of the joys of having a dog around, without the worries of long-term dog parenthood!

The need for fosters is great. According to, approximately eight to twelve million companion animals enter shelters in the U.S. alone every year and, of those, five to nine million are euthanized due to shortage of space and resources. Sixty percent of the euthanized animals are dogs. These are overwhelming numbers, but you can help change them.

By fostering, you’ll free up space at your local shelter or rescue organization so that more dogs’ lives can be saved. Think of all that doggie karma you’ll rack up—along with sweet, slobbery kisses, snuggles, and an endless supply of love!

While there are different kinds of fostering—from puppies to seniors or special needs dogs—the process is straightforward. The good folks from the San Francisco SPCA have provided some easy tips below to set you up for a fun, successful road ahead.

Black and white dog with owner

1. Locate a shelter/rescue in your area. You’ll need to work with a group close by so that you can take your foster dog for vet checkups and to adoption events.

2. Visit your local shelter and fill out an application form. Someone from the shelter will then reach out to discuss next steps. Shelters are notoriously understaffed and you might not hear back immediately but know that your help is desperately needed.

3. Most rescues are foster based and their application forms can be downloaded via their websites. Once you’ve sent in your application, you should be contacted for an interview. Each rescue’s requirements to get started are different, so make sure to explore their websites.

4. Track social media pages of rescues/shelters for updates on upcoming foster information sessions, so you can attend and sign up right away!

5. Once your application has gone through, the shelter/rescue will pair you with a foster dog that is compatible with your availability and limitations. For example, if you have a resident dog, you’ll most likely be given a foster dog that does well with other dogs or could benefit from the extra socialization.

6. Foster care can be short term, ranging from a few days to a week, or long-term, up to a month or more. This is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the rescue dogs’ needs. These needs will be matched against your application to ensure a successful experience for both you and the dog you end up fostering.

7. If you have busy work life, this too will be factored into the pairing process. Most rescue dogs tend to be between six months to two years of age and have not been trained. They will therefore need more structure, stability, and patience to get acclimatized to their surroundings. If you’re interested in fostering, consider realistically how much time, exercise, and socialization you can provide, and be upfront so that shelter/rescue workers can help you find the right kind of foster situation. If a younger dog might be a handful for your current situation, there are plenty of older or senior dogs that could benefit from a warm, safe place to rest, and you’d still be saving lives!

Photo: Kenny, submitted by Eleva at Bob's House for Dogs.