How to Adopt a Foster Dog

Adopting a foster dog takes a bit of work, but is well worth the effort. I know this first hand. Many of you may know that the inspiration for this blog is Henry. He’s my adopted cockapoo. He spent four months as a foster dog before I found him. Let me re-phrase just a bit – he spent four months in foster care before he found me. It can take a bit more work to see a foster dog and find the perfect fit. Today, let’s dig in and discover how to adopt a foster dog. Herny can hardly wait to share this story and hopefully help more of his foster friends get adopted.

*Update: May 14, 2023

learn the tricks to adopt a foster dog in this article that guides you through the process
disclaimer note
Budget Tip:

Yes, even a foster dog has a adoption fee. But, remember you are saving a life and allowing another dog to be saved. Plus, if you adopt your dog from a charity organization, you may be able write the adoption fee off as a donation. You'll need to talk with your CPA to verify. 

Perhaps the best tip is to create a budget for your dog prior to adopting your pup. This way you'll know exactly what you're getting into financially and there will be no shock. Overall, adopting a dog is a life long comitment, but it's a major win-win for your dog's life and yours. What could be better?

What does it mean to foster a dog? 

A foster dog is a dog that lives in someone’s home until it finds a fur-ever home. Foster dogs are generally associated with non-profit rescue organizations, such as the one that rescued Henry. 

Not sure if your finances can take the impact of a new dog? Find out in this article. You can even download a free budget template and work your way through your own budget as I walk you through it.

How do you find a foster dog?

There are three main ways to view a dog in foster care:

1. Online website

 Most rescue organizations will post the dogs and pets they have in foster care on their websites. 

Henry Tip:

DO NOT take the pictures that are posted with as gold. Honestly, the descriptions can be way off as well. What you’re mainly looking for are the criteria, if any, listed (such as male, female, puppy, adult, senior, special needs, socialized well with other animals, don’t put in a home with small children, etc.) You get the picture. Anything more than those basics can be way off the mark, including the photo.

learn why adoption photos are accurate like Henry's in this article on how to adopt a foster dog
As proof that you should never take posted foster photos as gold, Henry’s foster photos didn’t even resemble him.

2. Pet fair

Keep your eyes open for any pet fairs in your area. Most foster organizations will bring their pets out for a pet fair. Henry found me at a huge multi-rescue organization pet fair. There were 10-12 organizations represented. This may not sound big to you. But for my area, it’s pretty big.

Look for pet fair sponsored by your local:

Humane Society




Each organization brought all their foster dogs that were prepared to be adopted. Some may have just had surgery and are not ready to find their fur-ever home. But you could still meet the pet and get to know him or her. Then if you think this dog is a good fit, you can go back when they are available for adoption. That’s actually a great idea because you can prepare even more for the dog in the meantime with appropriate supplies.

3. Schedule an appointment for a meet and greet

If you can’t find any foster pet fairs, you can always schedule an appointment with the foster parent to see any dogs that may fit your criteria. Of course, this is a longer process but will work just the same. Be patient because everyone’s schedule is different. Remember the goal is to adopt a dog that fits your family. That’s worth the effort!

No idea what you should name your newly adopted dog? Or maybe you don’t think you can change your dog’s adoption name. Learn how to allow your rescue dog to pick his or her own name in this article.

What do I do at a pet fair to adopt a foster dog?

Honestly, pet fairs can be overwhelming. For Henry’s pet fair, I arrived about an hour early to figure out where each breed and type of dog would be and then walked around a little.

This particular pet fair was with a yard sale for a fundraiser. So there was plenty to do while waiting. I had a yard sale junkie friend who went with me for support. 

Paws up when the foster dogs arrive

It wasn’t long before the dogs started arriving.

Once the dogs arrived, the handlers unload the pups as they will have to go potty and stretch before they are already to look for their new dog parents. 

Henry arrived last

Henry’s trailer rolled in last. It was an old, round, silver trailer. They pulled in near the entrance, parked, and put up a shade tent, little fence, and fake grass. Then the fun began! One by one the little, barking chihuahuas popped out of the trailer like a clown car. Yes, I said chihuahuas. They each relieved themselves on the wanna-be grass and continued barking.

Not for me I thought and I was beginning to turn and leave the gated area I had entered. I was hoping maybe there was a foster dog I had missed at one of the other booths or trailer areas. Then it happened.

Out popped this black ball of fur. He was bigger than the rest and calm. He saw me, came over, and sat at my feet as if to say “I’m yours” or maybe “your mine”? 

My friend screamed, “You better take that dog!” 

 Don’t want to leave your dog at home? In this article, discover easy ways to take your new dog to work. 

Is this foster dog the right dog for me?

 While Henry made a heck of a first impression. One I will never forget. I was set on a dog that could be a therapy dog for kids. It was on my dog criteria list. 

I picked up this black pup. He melted in my arms. I walked to one of the handlers to ask for the details about him.

He seemed to meet most of my criteria.

Not sure what to look for in your new dog? In this article, I walk you through how to create your own dog criteria list. 

How much does a foster dog cost?

The fee for a foster dog will vary. It’s based on age, sex, breed of dog, area, and organization. Henry was $100. However, most of the organizations should be non-profit, and sometimes you can write these expenses off your taxes. It’s a question, you’ll need to ask your CPA.  

Are you looking for a second dog? Not sure if it’s a good idea? In this article, I walk you through whether a second dog is a good idea or not.

Is there anything else I need to know to adopt a foster dog?

Some organizations will require you to fill out an application. You may even require a home inspection to make sure your new pup will be safe both inside and out. Other organizations will require a background to verify you don’t have any abuse history. This will all vary based on the foster organization. Henry’s adoption was very basic. I filled out a simple application with my name and address and that was it.

Do you wish you had a pretty dog yard but you have a kibble budget? You can achieve the yard of your dreams with a few key tricks. In this article, I guide you through the process of creating your dream backyard.

Does your adopted foster dog come with anything? 

 Whether or not your dog comes with a leash, collar, food, or toy will honestly depend on the organization. Some will provide a few items. Others will only give you the dog. Either way, try to get the name of the food and the amount of food your new dog has been eating. It will save your dog and you a lot of discomfort. Henry’s foster only provided a slip collar/leash. Additionally, I was unable to find out the exact food they were feeding him. So, he went on chicken and rice as I transitioned him to a new food.

If you have not prepared for your dog, you will need to do an emergency shopping trip for the essentials. If you have budgeted for the supplies and just have not purchased them, it can be fun to buy them with your new dog. I did this with Henry. It was fun because he pick out red for everything. Yep, he’s a red dog. My little black rescued cockapoo dog.

Wonder if your dog has a certain color he or she really likes? There’s an easy little quiz I did with Henry you can use for your pup. Learn about it in this article.

What’s next when you adopt a foster dog?

You will want to schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Henry saw his vet the next day. He got a clean bill of health. Plus, I got a little bit of good news. I was told Henry was microchipped. He was and the vet gave me his microchip number and I was able to transfer it to me very easily.

Is your fence not adequate for your newly adopted dog? Learn how to quickly put up a temporary dog fence in this article.

Honestly, there have been a few bumps in our journey as we got used to each other. But I would trade a minute. Oh yes, he got a bath that adoption day. A four-hour ride in a little trailer with 30 barking chihuahuas and let me just say, I think the dead could probably have smelt him.

Related articles:

Summary of how to adopt a foster dog

While you can research a foster dog, you really need to see them in person. I skipped over Henry’s online photos without even giving them a second glance. If possible, the best way to view foster pets is at a pet fair where you can see many dogs all at once. However, if this isn’t an option, you may schedule appointments with the foster parents of those dogs that may be a fit for you. 

During my search process for Henry, I kept my list of dog criteria in my wallet. I’d refer back to it, especially when I’d get conflicted on if a certain dog was for me or not. Having taken the steps prior to the search to write out my criteria kept me focused. Although, a few times it was difficult. Heck, dogs are cute! But I have no doubt I made (or Henry made) the right selection. 

Finally, don’t be surprised if your dog only comes with his fur. That’s okay. You can figure it out one paw at a time. Henry and I did. He’s without a doubt the most researched item, valued, and loved item in my home. Heck, we research our shoes, cars, movies, computers, lotions, potions, and who knows whatever pops into our minds. Yet, those things can’t even love us like a rescued dog will love us.

learn how to adopt a foster dog like this happy pup


Would you adopt a foster dog? Have you adopted a foster dog? What are your tips? 

About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

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