The Many Benefits of Fostering a Dog


Each year both county shelters in Maricopa take in over 30,000 animals. This is done with limited resources and volunteers. Many people adopt their pets from the shelter to help the community and save an animal’s life simultaneously. But, there are ways to help outside of adoption and one of those ways is fostering.

Since January 2019, I have recently started fostering dogs from the Maricopa County Animal Shelter. I am only on my second long term foster but the benefits for me, my family and the dogs far outweigh the obstacles.

Basic Foster Information

There are two county shelters in Maricopa County. One is on the east side in Tempe and the other is on the west-side in Phoenix. Between the two shelters there are over 800 dogs who are up for adoption daily. Each location has a foster program and team to help you find a dog to foster and provide you continued resources and help on your journey to get the dog adopted.

To foster a dog at the shelter, the process is quick and painless. You fill out an online application through the county website, watch a short video, and take a quick quiz. Once that is completed the shelter team will reach out to you with the next steps. They will provide you with a foster guide, add you to a Facebook group, and will set up a date to do a basic fostering training if you want.

Fostering doesn’t have to be a long term commitment. Day fostering is a great start for those who can’t have a dog in their home or who aren’t ready to make the commitment to a long term foster. If you day foster a dog you will take it from the shelter to enjoy a doggy day of fun. This can be to a park for a walk, on a hike at a nearby trail, to a pet washing facility to get spruced up, or through a drive thru for a quick treat. This is a fun way to get the dog a break from the shelter but also exposure to be adopted. You bring the dog back when you are done with your day adventure or you can take him/her for a sleepover.

Overnight fostering can be just a one time slumber party at your house or a longer period of time. You get to decide. It can be for a weekend or until the dog find its forever home. It’s what works best for you.

The Benefits of Fostering for the Dog and Your Family

Fostering benefits both the dog and the people who foster the dog. The dog gets a break from the overwhelming environment. This break could help them get over an illness, recover from a surgery, or work on training and behaviors desired to help with adoption. You will leave notes on the dog while they were with you and this information will help the shelter make sure they get an appropriate home in the future. This helps socialize the dog for a life outside of the shelter again and exposes them to potential adopters.

The benefits for you and your family are numerous. Fostering can be a family centered activity. While being inside the shelter can be overwhelming for kids, they can join you on your day foster outing or prove their responsibility with a pet on a sleepover. It gets you out of the house as a family so you can be active and spend time together. It shows and includes your children in a volunteer opportunity that teaches them the importance and responsibility of helping others and their community, and lets you walk away feeling good inside.

Don’t be Afraid. Just Try It!

A common deterrent to fostering that people have is not being able to bring the dog back to the shelter. It’s a hard and a scary thing to think about.  Most people believe they will end up wanting to keep them when they can’t. Until you try fostering, you really won’t know. The good news is day fostering is a good first step as a trial run for you and your family. This will help you see how you and your children handle it. Sadly, the alternative is they stay in the shelter and don’t get the break or exposure they need. As a parent, I want to show my children that it is okay to be emotional when helping others but we work through that emotion so we can be the angel that someone or something needs. There are many important lessons and growth opportunities for you and your family when fostering a dog and hopefully you will take a leap of faith and try it out for yourself.


  1. As you mentioned, by fostering a dog, it teaches your children about volunteering, and the joy of helping out in the community. My son has been asking for awhile now if he can have a dog. Would fostering be a good way to tell if he is ready for the responsibility of a full-time pet and the care that comes with it?

    • Shaylee, that is a great question. I think due to COVID-19 protocols at the shelter in terms of days fostering and short term fostering are different. According to their website they are placing all applications to foster on a waiting list.

      Here is something to keep in mind for the future. When you are ready to try a foster, and when the shelter allows it, you can pick a dog that will fit the needs of you and your family. It is also good to keep in mind that all pets need time to adjust to being in a new home and your son should very much be a part helping ease the transition for the dog. Taking care of a foster dog is just like taking care of your own dog. Be aware you and your family could get attached so think about how your son may deal with that. Talk with him ahead of time reminding him of the objective of fostering.

      I was successful in fostering a dog and getting her adopted and then I fostered failed the next dog and now she is mine. So in a way, it is good try out session for you and your family too if you are looking to get a dog in the future. If they don’t work with your family then you can help the dog find a family it will have a better fit with.


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