Realities of Fostering

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Foster families have many responsibilities. We clean off weeks if not years of neglect and dirt. We take care of the physical needs of our charges and make right what others have allowed to go wrong. But underlying all of those issues, and superseding them, is our responsibility to know the temperament of our foster dogs inside and out.

All of the dogs brought into the FFN foster care program are temperament tested at the shelter where they are pulled from. FFN will not ask any foster home to take in a dog that has any aggression issues at the shelter. We screen to the best of our ability prior to transport. A dog that doesn’t pass the basic temperament test is not admitted into the FFN program.

As a foster parent, you have accepted the responsibility to put a dog/cat through its paces, see what makes it tick, what it likes and dislikes, and to discover hot button issues.

There are many, many questions you need to ask of yourself and your foster animal. These are just a few examples of things you need to look for in your foster dog:

How does the dog handle having his feet touched? Is the dog calm? Will he bite someone if they handle his feet? Can I desensitize him to this issue? Or will this always be a serious issue, rendering him unsafe in certain environments?

Your female doesn’t seem to like other female dogs. Does she respond to correction? Can she be taught to control herself on a leash around other females? Can she learn to break off her posturing before she becomes aggressive?

Can you put your hand in your foster dog’s mouth? If the answer is no at the beginning, has it gotten better? Can you touch your foster dog while he is eating? Can you take food out of his bowl? Can you push your foster dog off the bed or other furniture with impunity? Does your foster dog try to stare you down when you are correcting him/her? Will your shy foster dog snap when frightened or pull back her lip?

Foster cats may have similar issues that need to be explored, but the most important thing is to know the temperament and issues of each one of your foster animals so that an appropriate home can be found.

As a foster parent, you need to know the limitations/baggage your foster animals may have. If a foster dog is going to fail anywhere, he/she should fail in foster care. We cannot as foster parents “skirt around sensitive areas.” The excuse “Fido doesn’t like it when I do X, so I never do X”, does not work with a foster dog. It may work with our own pets, but we can never guarantee that an adoptive home or their friends or family will do the same thing.

You should always feel comfortable around your foster dog and never have to “manage” your foster dog. Any concerns that you have about your foster dog’s behavior need to be brought to our attention. If there is a problem, you need to consult the Foster Home Coordinator immediately.

While our return rate is low, the number one reason that dogs are returned is because of an aggression issue. We cannot always predict every scenario or situation. But we must, as foster homes, expose our foster dogs to many, many situations and environments and test their behavior over and over again. We do our best to ensure that the best match is made when it comes to placements. Our adoptive homes rely heavily upon our expertise and specific hands-on experience with the foster dogs. Your evaluations, training and care are what help make the match between dog and family a good and long term one.


1. Puppies or kittens too young to be adopted.
2. An abused dog or cat that needs socialization and tender loving care.
3. An injured cat or dog that has had surgery and needs a place to recover from surgery.
4. An abandoned mother with a litter of kittens or puppies.
5. A pregnant dog or cat.
6. Any animal where a shelter is over crowded and there is a chance that they will be put down in order to make room for more.
7. Any animal where their current owner does not want them anymore or cannot have them anymore (e.g., the family moved to a place that does not allow animals, there is a new baby, etc.)


FFN foster animals come from a variety of sources. Cats and kittens come in abundance as strays, owner surrenders and from animal shelters. Dogs and puppies also come as strays, owner surrenders and from various shelters. Many out of state rural shelters tend to become overcrowded fairly quickly and FFN coordinates transports to have some of these animals brought to the Northeast. FFN always tries to help shelters that are in the most need of help. The FFN Transport Coordinator will notify foster homes by email when a transport is being put together. Please seriously consider the number of animals you volunteer to foster. Our foster homes are always full, and if you take too many at once, it is difficult to find an open foster home should you become overwhelmed. Transporters are also frequently needed for driving legs (short distances) of transports. If you like to drive, we always welcome the help.