Can you tell me more about becoming a foster parent?

Fostering a homeless dog or cat is a very rewarding experience and important to the success of Homeward Bound.  When you foster, not only do you enjoy the delightful company of a companion animal but you also help to save the life of a wonderful pet as well!  Almost every day we receive pleas from shelters and pounds to take animals that due to space or time limitations  are about to be euthanized. If we have foster space available, we can say yes and accept the animal into the program. Otherwise, we cannot and the animals get euthanized. By volunteering to become a foster parent or family you become the bridge that allows a pet to go from being unwanted to becoming a cherished member of a family and you will allow another dog, puppy, cat, or kitten to live – it is that simple!  

Fostering forms the backbone of the work we do and we would not exist as a rescue if people are not willing to bring needy animals into their homes and care for them while we search for their forever homes.  Fostering not only provides a healthy atmosphere for the dog, puppy, cat, or kitten, it also helps us get to know the animal too. This information is crucial to finding just the right home for their personality. Foster pets come in all breeds, sizes and ages; some already have some training, others don’t. We try to make fostering a happy experience for both the foster family and the foster animal by matching the animal with a foster home that can meet its needs. Please consider fostering, you could save a life!


Questions and Answers

Q: What are the basic responsibilities of a foster home?

A: A foster parent/family will care for the dog (or cat) as they would their own pet, providing a safe secure stable environment, food, companionship, basic training, exercise, and lots patience and love. Some dogs require special
care, such as post medical attention, increasing weight or strength, socializing, building confidence, weight loss, or exercise. Others may need help with reinforcing manners, working on development areas like: Leash manners, housetraining, barking, etc., or learning basic obedience behaviors:  Sit, down, off, etc.

Foster dogs must live in the home as part of the family and cannot be left outside while family members are at work or are not present in the home.  Dogs may not be off-leash unless in the house or a secure fenced yard with the foster parent present.  We do not recommend bringing a new foster dog to a dog park until you have a chance to get to know them.  If a foster family chooses to go to a dog park it must be a fully fenced park and the foster assumes all liability for the actions of their foster pet. 

Foster parents are expected to bring the dog to each weekly adoption no later than 11am. These are held every Saturday from 11:30-4.  The locations of the adoptions are listed on our adoption events page.

Q: What if I can’t make all of the adoption events?

A: While we do recognize that our foster families do have lives, we need the dogs to be at the weekly pet adoptions. We do not want the dog languishing in foster care due to lack of exposure at adoption events. Foster parents are not required to stay at every event with the dog, although we love to have the extra help!  It is acceptable to drop the animal off at the start of the event and pick them (or a new one!) up at the end.  We understand that situations may arise in which you can’t attend every adoption or drop off/pick up the dog but we need to insist that dog cannot miss more than one adoption a month  Please let us know by Wednesday (or earlier) if your foster cannot attend so that we can let any prospective adopters know.  Failure to bring an animal to an adoption event unless previously excused results in the dog considered adopted by the foster home.  The foster application form serves as a contract and the deposit check will be cashed.

Q: How long will the animal be with me?

A: The fostering period can last anywhere from a few days to several months, “average” is about two to four weeks. There are many variables to the adoptability of an animal including the breed, gender, age, and health of the animal, as well as the time of year. Younger or small breed animals tend to be adopted more quickly. The more “work” a foster home puts into the animal, the quicker the dogs get adopted because they are easier to place when they’ve been taught good manners. Foster homes that let their foster animal get away with undesirable behavior (jumping up on people, counter surfing, etc.) tend to have the animals for a longer time.

If at any time you feel you can no longer foster an animal, we always take them back into our program. However, we
do require a commitment to foster the animal for a minimum of one week. When you decide to foster, we want you to make the commitment wholeheartedly and with no foreseeable interruptions until the animal finds its forever home. If there is an emergency we of course would find a new foster home but please understand that moving an animal from home to home is traumatizing, scary, and confusing ordeal for him/her. What these animals need is stability. Know in advance that when you bring a foster animal home, your lifestyle and daily routine will change – sometimes dramatically or sometimes only a little bit. If you have other pets, expect some conflict at first because they need to establish their order in the pack (especially for dogs).

What we need from a foster family is the willingness and ability to take care for the animal until s/he finds a home, no matter how long it takes. As a foster, once you take an animal into your home we expect that you will work through any problems that arise unless they are severe. Should such a situation arise, you must immediately contact the Foster Coordinator or Director of Homeward Bound and try to give 48 hours to find new foster home for the animal.  Remember, since we do not have a kennel it can be difficult for us to can remove an animal from your home immediately. If you have a set time period that you can foster, please let us know in advance so we can arrange for another foster home if the animal has not been adopted. By signing our foster contract, you agree not to independently sell, trade, or dispose of the animal in any way including bringing him/her to another rescue, shelter, pound, or humane society.

Q: What if I want to go on a vacation while I am fostering?

A: Please give us at least two to three weeks’ notice if you are have vacation plans so we that can make arrangements to find another foster home for the animal. If you know you’ll be going on a vacation in the near future, it would be best to wait to foster until you return. It is hard on the dogs to get bounced around from foster to foster.  Many dogs have a really hard time and get depressed if they get moved around a lot. In their eyes, it must seem like they are getting abandoned time and time again. If you have a friend who would be willing to care for your foster dog while you are on vacation that is fine too, as long as s/he completes a foster application and release of liability and brings the animal to adoption.

Q: I am interested in fostering but I have to work during the week. Is that OK if the dog is alone?

A: Yes. Most of our foster parents have full-time jobs or aren’t home for several hours a day. As long as the animal is kept safely indoors, we have no issue with that.

Q: Do I have to crate the animal when I’m not at home?

A: No; however, we strongly recommend that you do crate the animal to prevent house soiling accidents and chewing. Once the animal has been in your care for a while, you may find that s/he is just fine given free run and it is up to you whether to continue to crate the dog when there is no supervision. Homeward Bound is not liable for damage caused by a foster dog, whether damage is to personal property, another animal, person, or any other damage. If any damage occurs, it is the sole responsibility of the foster family.

Q: May I foster if I have other pets?

A: Yes.  Your resident pet(s) must be current on their vaccinations, neutered/spayed, and get along with other animals. We strongly recommend that your own dog(s) be given a Bordatella vaccine as a precaution against kennel cough, which is extremely common in rescue and is the equivalent of a bad human cold. Your dog(s) should be vaccinated at least a week prior to fostering.  Please note that while we strive to send healthy animals to foster families, we cannot guarantee health or temperament and there is always a possibility that resident pets could contract ailments.  Kennel cough (upper respiratory infection) and internal parasites are two of the most common contagious conditions.  

You are welcome to bring your resident dog to the adoption event so that they can meet their potential foster brother or sister.  It can be beneficial to introduce animals in a neutral environment, which the adoption event provides.  Know that there may be conflict at first between the animals. Resident pets may be jealous for a while.  Dogs may have a squabble and the cats commonly hide and hiss for a time – this is common.  After this initial transition period, your other pets will likely be happy to have a new buddy. Dogs that normally get along with other pets will often try to test boundaries. It is up to you to provide consistent, firm boundaries. As the foster dog begins to feel more confident in your home, s/he may change his/her behavior towards resident pets. Crating the foster dog is highly recommended when you are not home as it is never wise to leave new dogs alone together without supervision. We recommend that you feed the dogs separately (in different rooms or crates), even if they get along very well, because food is one of the most common things dogs fight about. Watch for signs of jealousy over other high-value items like treats, toys, rawhides, or bones as well. Chances are very good that there won’t be any problems between the dogs but it is better to be safe than sorry!

Q: May I foster if I have children?

A: Absolutely. It is vital that your children know the “do’s and don’ts” around dogs. We do not always know the  temperament of the animal we take in. We usually can determine which animals will be good with kids and which ones will not be. However, we cannot and do not guarantee anything. Please understand that if your child hurts or scares the dog, it may bite. It is your responsibility to make sure this does not happen and Homeward Bound Dog Rescue is in no way liable for any injuries that may occur.

Q: I’m afraid that if I foster an animal, I’ll fall in love with it and it will be too painful to give it up. What do foster families’ do when this happens?

A: It can be tough when your foster finds a permanent home and you’ve fallen in love with him/her; especially the first time.  However, you’ll feel great joy and happiness when that wonderful family adopts your foster and they finally go “home.”

Q: What if I decide that I want to adopt my foster animal – may I adopt him/her?

A: Yes, if your home is the best home for the dog and one of the Homeward Bound Directors approves the adoption. You will need to fill out and sign an adoption contract and pay the adoption fee. Please let us know as early as possible if you are planning on adopting the animal so that we can remove him/her from the site and notify other prospective adopters.  We hope that even with adopting you will continue to foster but understand that might not happen. We’ll be sad to lose a foster home but be happy for the animal. A number of our first-time foster families wind up adopting their foster animal, which is another reason why we are constantly searching for more foster families!

Q: Do I get to choose which animal I foster?

A: Yes. We will try to match the foster animal to the home it will be going to. If you require a particular size, energy level, or if you need an animal that is good with children or other pets, we do our best to meet your criteria. If you have a particular skill or strength we will try to find an animal that compliments that area. For instance, some folks enjoy teaching obedience and they choose to foster the animals that have had no training. Others have a wonderful ability to nurture shy or sad dogs and help build confidence.

Q: Will I have to pay for veterinary bills for my foster animal?

A: No – Homeward Bound will pay the medical bills for the foster dog when s/he is brought to our approved vet: Becker Vet (763-262-5595, located in Becker, MN) – however, you MUST get prior approval from the Foster Coordinator or Executive Director of Homeward Bound first. If approval is not obtained or the animal is brought to an unapproved vet, you are responsible for all costs associated with treatment.

Q: Will I have to pay for food/supplies for my foster animal?

A: No but you are welcome to!  Homeward Bound provides food for all of our foster dogs. We can also supply with bones, toys (if we have any at the time), a crate, bowls, a brush, a leash, and collar. Sometimes we can also provide you with dog shampoo.  Other than food and a crate provisions depend on what we have received in donations.

Q: Can I foster if I am younger than 18 years of age?

A: Not directly.  If you are under 18 years of age, you must have a parent or legal guardian complete the foster application. Your parent(s) or guardian must speak to the Foster Coordinator or Executive Director in advance and must be agreeable to serving as a foster family.

Q: Can I foster if I live in an apartment, town home, or condominium?

A: Yes, provided that you are within the limits of any pet policy requirements of the property or homeowner’s association. 

Q: Are all of the dogs housetrained?

A: No.  However, we have found the easiest and most effective way to housetrain a dog or puppy is through use of a
consistent schedule.  Many dogs will not “tell” you that they have to go out so by using a regular schedule for elimination, keeping the animal supervised, and crating them when you are not home you will drastically reduce the number of accidents.  Another consideration is that some dogs won’t eliminate outside if you are watching them or if they are on a leash. If they are shy about doing their business in front of you and you do not have a fenced yard, you can use a long line or flexi leash to give them some space.  Don’t forget praise the pooch every time s/he “goes” outside!

Q: OK, I’ve read through all of the foster information above, is there anything else I need to know?

A: Thank you for wanting to open your home up to fostering. The fact that you’ve read this far means that you are a true animal lover who wants to make a difference in this world. The first step is to complete a Foster Application.  You can either pick one up at an adoption event or email Cheryl at: for a copy.  Once approved, we require an afternoon of volunteering at a pet adoption prior to bringing a foster dog home. This will give you a chance to get to know us and vice versa.  When you select your first foster, you will need to leave a deposit check in the amount of the adoption fee.  This check is not cashed unless the dog does not come to subsequent adoption events.   If you have any questions please contact Cheryl at  


What should I expect when fostering?

*   Expect the first day/night to be stressful for the dog.  Taking the dog for on-leash walks is helpful to wear out some  nervous energy and calm them down with an enjoyable activity.  Extra energy, chewing, and potty accidents are common reactions to being nervous.  Tiring your dog out will cut down on this which will make it easier on both you and the dog!

*     If you are introducing your foster to another dog, we suggest taking them for a walk gradually bringing them side by side before going into the house.  They can adjust to one another on neutral territory and are given the opportunity to burn off some energy before meeting face to face.  Frequently dogs have no problems together but even the friendliest of dogs can feel a little jealous when a new dog is on his/her “turf”.

*    It is not uncommon for a new foster to initially refuse food, treats, and/or water.  Not eating is a dog’s way of reacting to stress.  Within a day or so water consumption should normalize and within a couple days most dogs begin eating normally. 

*    Dogs love routine.  The more you can keep the same schedule and the dog knows what is expected, the quicker they tend to adjust (especially in cases with shyer dogs).

*     Kennel cough, intestinal parasites, and diarrhea are all common in rescue.  We will give you tips on how to deal with each if you encounter them.

*      It is imperative that you keep your new foster on leash or in a fenced area until you know the dog’s personality well and whether they are apt to run off to explore.  This includes not taking your new dog to unfenced dog parks.

*    Vetting:  Dogs sent out to foster homes have generally been vetted.  If not, we will normally tell you that and make arrangements with you to get the dog to our vet for any necessary exam and/or treatments.  If you feel that your foster dog needs to be seen by a vet for some reason during the week you may contact us and we will determine whether vetting is needed immediately, can wait, or we will provide necessary medication or treatment information.  Vet work MUST be authorized by Homeward Bound.  If it is not, then the foster parent will be responsible for any costs associated with treating the animal.  

*      IN THE EVENT OF A MEDICAL EMERGENCY with a foster dog, foster parents must contact Homeward Bound for direction on how to proceed and where to bring the animal. Detailed contact information is provided to new fosters when they start.


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