5 Honest Pieces Of Advice On What It’s Like To Foster A Dog

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

July 23, 2015

Sarah Brasky is the founder of Foster Dogs NYC and The Dog Matchmaker, as well as the proud pup parent of two rescue pups!

Saying “goodbye” to your foster dog can be the best feeling in the world. And it can also be the worst. A question many people ask themselves is if they can handle the inevitable, bittersweet “good-bye” that happens when it comes to fostering.

But overall, fostering is an incredible experience and helps to save dogs’ lives! If you’ve always wanted to foster a dog, but worry that you won’t be able to let the dog go, here are 5 pieces of advice from real foster dog parents who have been through it themselves! (Spoiler alert: this article will make you want to foster a pup!).

1. How To Answer the “Can We Keep Them?” Question

Sure, you might want to adopt – it happens. I did it twice, I won’t lie to you. But I’ve also fostered multiple times without having adopted the dogs. It’s pretty awesome to know that you played an incredible role in a homeless dog’s life, and to watch him or her thrive for years to come. Now, I have two big dogs in my Brooklyn apartment and still save space for a third foster dog every now and again. It’s fantastic being able to watch my own dogs mentor new foster dogs, and to have a small dog park in my living room.

Elsie Heung recently sent her foster Shepherd Happy off to her new home, after one month in her care.


As she explains:

“Saying goodbye is tough, especially in Happy’s case. I cried a little when I put away her harness and toys. I always wonder whether I’m giving up my potential perfect pet by not adopting. I have to keep reminding myself why I foster in the first place, and that there will be no shortage of perfect dogs out there for me when I am ready to adopt.”


Many-time foster mom Samantha Cheirif also says, “There’s always that moment of panic where I’m like, ‘Oh no, I should have kept this one!’ But then within a day or two, usually once I see pictures or get an update from the family, I realize that dog was never mine to keep.”

There might be times that you feel like you can’t let this dog go, but remember that not everyone wants to foster and you play an invaluable role in the entire dog rescue process. And if you end up adopting your foster pooch, that’s pretty awesome too! Another word of advice from Cheirif? “I ‘foster failed’ (adopted one of my foster dogs), and that actually helped me realize even easier which dogs were not meant to be mine forever, but only for a short time on their journey.”

2. Feeling Foster Withdrawal? Keep In Touch!

There are many ways to stay in touch with your foster dog once they go to a new home. One of my foster dogs lives just a few doors down from me, with one of my neighbors. Plus, you can also offer to dogsit when the foster parents go out of town, which is great for everyone!

“I always ‘friend’ the new owners on Facebook or Instagram,” says Samantha Cheirif, “or we exchange emails and I get to see a picture every few months and hear how my [foster] work changed someone’s life and completed their families and it’s so worth it.”

And often the new pup parents like keeping in touch! Cheirif’s foster dog Winnie, a Corgi/Golden Retriever mix, was just recently adopted. And a few days later, they sent her a pleasant surprise: “Within ten hours, they sent me such a lovely email thanking us and telling us about her beautiful first day home. I’m so, so happy for my sweet girl.”

Personally, I still receive photo updates on occasion, and try to reunite if we have an opportunity. Distance might prevent you from seeing your former foster in-person, and it’s possible the adopters might not be comfortable sharing their social media pics with you. It’s all okay, as long as you know the dog is safe and happy. 🙂

3. How To Let Your Foster Pup Know It’s Ok To Go To Their Forever Home

If only animals could understand our language. When you’re telling your foster dog, “These people are amazing and will give you a good life,” chances are, they have no idea what you just said. But dogs sense sadness and fear, so it’s helpful to stay positive and calm when saying “Goodbye.”

When my foster Pit mix was picked up by her new mom, I handed off the leash, tears welling up in my eyes. For my entire 20-minute walk home, I bawled my eyes out, sad that this innocent dog was confused, didn’t know what was happening, and possibly thought I was abandoning her forever. That evening though, I received a text message from her new mom saying that things were going well! After that I was able to feel at peace. Dogs are resilient, and will learn to love their new parents just as much as they loved their foster folks!

4. Be the Adopter’s Cheerleader if They’re is Nervous

Encourage the adopter to be patient and to stay positive, especially during the first couple weeks. The more time the new family puts into training and exercise, and the more regular the dog’s routine becomes, the better the new dog will adjust to his or her new home.

But sometimes, things can just feel so right. Says foster mom Katherine Chala, “I’ve never truly been worried about sending a foster off. All of my fosters have been amazing with me so deep down I knew they’d do great with their new families too!”

Letting your foster dog move on to his/her new home can be an incredible feeling, especially knowing that you were the necessary link in order to help this family find their forever pup.

5. Feeling Doggy Withdrawal? Foster Again!

Want to know the best way to move on from the departure of your previous foster dog? Find a new pup in need! Visit the “We Need Homes” page of, with up-to-date detailed listings of local dogs in need of foster homes, from dozens of local New York City rescue groups. Don’t live in NYC? Check if your city animal shelter offers a foster program, or check for local rescue groups, and check their websites for a foster program.

Featured Image via Stacey Axelrod Photography

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

July 23, 2015

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