What is the time commitment?
The answer depends on the interpretation of your question. If you mean the duration of the foster commitment see above as it depends on the type of foster you signed up for but if you mean daily that's easy. Give the foster dog the same care you will/would give your own dog.

What is the cost commitment?
Houlagans will pay for food and the necessary vet treatments just like they would if the foster dog was a kennel dog. Take a look at the IRS codes on charitable deductions as anything spent on the foster dog could be tax deductible.

What is expected of a foster family?
This is a big question but scaling the question down some I can answer it by saying treat the foster dog like you would your own dog. Ideally you socialize the dog with other dogs, different places, different people and possibly with cats. This portion allows the foster dog to be a well adjusted dog who is easily placed. Added to the socialization piece is making sure your foster is housebroken. This helps you and the foster dog as everyone, including you as a foster parent wants a dog who won't mess up your home. Teaching the foster dog basic commands is the icing on the cake. Showing off a sit or stay or shake or down to potential adopter's has gotten our share of dogs adopted.

What stuff do I need to foster?
If you plan on being a repeat foster, like we are, I suggest having a crate, some cheap towels and a couple bowls for feeding and water. If you're new to fostering, which is probably why you're reading this, contact us and we will work with you on the items you need.

What should I do before bringing the foster home?
See above for what you need, but also puppy-proof(or baby-proof) the foster dog's space. While it may not be necessary, treat the foster as if they have never been in a home. Remove tempting items that they can put in their mouths and carve out a small area where, at first, the foster can be set up for success and not get in trouble.

What should I do for my current dogs?
Your own dogs and your fosters should be vaccinated for rabies, distemper, parvo, and other common diseases, as recommended by your vet. The bordatella (kennel cough) vaccine may also be recommended, but talk to your vet and tell them you are going to be a foster and follow their recommendations.

How should I introduce my dogs to the foster?
You should know your dog(s) behaviors before bringing a foster home. If you have introduction concerns, we have a few options. We can come out to your home with the foster dog and do an assessment or you, your dog and the potential foster can come to a Thursday evening training sessions with our trainer or you can contact your own trainer. Whichever route you take, the first introduction is key so getting it right makes the rest of the foster duration easier.

A Foster Parent's Story

"I can't foster as I'd never be able to give them up" I've heard this more times than I can count and each time I say to myself only because I don't want to hurt their feelings as good foster homes are in desperate need "Do you think it's easy for us to let go of our fosters? We love every foster and our hearts break each time they leave our home. BUT, we know how much good we are doing and we know we are saving two lives each time we foster just one dog. The sadness we feel with each adoption of a foster dog is worth it, I can't put into words knowing how much good we've done, the lives we've changed by pairing the right furbaby with the right home"

There is no way I can articulate our passion for what we do as I've tried to write this out many times before, simply put, FOSTERING SAVES LIVES. Foster dogs are placed quicker than shelter dogs, they have the traits an adopter wants to see in a potential adoption of a rescue dog. A foster dog tends to be housebroken, socialized in different typical ways that an adopter will want with their dog to be and normally knows basic commands. A foster dog can also be described better than a dog from any shelter as the foster dog lives in a home so the foster dog gets the same attention as a dog who has parents. I bet anyone reading this knows your furbabies favorite food or birthday or quirky trait that you tell to your other dog friends. These same things happen when you foster so imagine telling a potential adopter those same things about a rescue dog.

We will always talk to potential foster families, we want them to know the gratification felt when all your hard work pays off when your foster is adopted by the right family. So we are crystal clear, there will be hard work and you will question why you are a foster parent sometimes as what you are doing is hard, but as President Roosevelt says "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… ". When the new adopters send you Easter pictures with bunny ears or Christmas pictures of them unwrapping presents or Thanksgiving with them sneaking a nibble, it all comes together and you know what you did was life changing for the entire adopting family. We treasure every past adoption update, we share the success stories with the rescue family like a grandparent gushing over the accomplishment of a grandchild.

I've typed the previous few paragraphs a few times trying to soften it up and make it more professional, but I'm going with my heart on this one and I hope the people reading this understand my message of the importance of good foster homes. I have said 'our' a lot throughout this message and it's because fostering in our house is a team thing. Our family is solidified on our desire, our need, to foster. From my excellent wife, my partner, my rock, to our two wonderful dogs who always welcome and train new dogs into our home to our senile old grumpy cat. We do this as a team, we are a fairly well oiled unit who are dedicated to changing one maybe two maybe three lives at a time. This is key, I give it its own paragraph as I want to stress that if everyone is not "all in" this will be an uphill challenge to foster a new dog.

So now that we have some stuff out of the way let's talk about the types of fostering as well as what you need for each. There are probably more than what I will list but these are the main types of fostering. Immunity/puppy foster, medical and/or emergency foster, temporary foster, or permanent foster are the types we've done and I can quickly categorize and explain.

Immunity/puppy foster might be the most fun and most difficult at the same time. Everyone loves a puppy so you get this blank slate of lovable fur ball(s). What you may not know up front is this little couple week old baby is completely dependent on you. In the beginning its every hour you have to care for the puppy, it's exhausting, but worth every lost hour of sleep. Sometimes you get lucky and get the best puppy in the world and lose no sleep, but mostly, you are up every hour through the night for the first couple of weeks. This is a critical foster, this type of foster shapes lives. This type of foster can be the difference between a well-adjusted dog and a dog we will see again at a shelter and possibly pulled by Houlagans because they are not adjusted to living in a home.

Medical and/or emergency foster tends to be a finite time to have any age dog in your home. We've had short notice calls to perform this kind of foster and while it throws your life in a short term turmoil you completely understand why you are doing it. This type of foster can be due to something of a health issue like lockjaw or a spay or neuter. It can consist of giving pills due to an illness or making sure they wear their cone of shame after their spay/neuter so they heal properly. This kind of foster is normally time limited, but can easily turn into permanent foster scenario at your choice. There's nothing wrong with having this happen. I just want to be open with people who think they can do this kind of foster and think they can easily stop fostering the fur baby when they are healthy, sometimes it's not that easy to let go. Don't beat yourselves up and just focus on getting your medical foster failure adopted so you can move on to failing on the next medical foster. I looked for the sarcasm font and couldn't seem to find, but you guys get the point; don't be so hard on yourselves it's ok to fail once in a while.

The temporary foster is similar to watching someone's dog while they are on vacation. We as fosters have personal lives and we go out of town for personal or business or a family emergency of our own so temporary fostering could be watching another foster family's foster dog.

The permanent foster dog is the most common type of foster scenario. This is what you should prepare yourselves for when you decide to be a foster. Essentially, in this scenario the foster dog is your dog, they do the same things your "regular" dogs do. They eat with them, they can chew the same toys as your dogs, they have their own bed, they know the house schedule. Most foster type eventually turn into a permanent foster scenario, not because any rescue forces this scenario, it's because it's what your heart makes you do. By permanent I don't mean you adopt the dog it's describing that you will foster the dog until the dog is adopted.

OK, I've scared the bejezus out of you??!! It's not intentional, but honesty is how we operate. We don't mislead people, we want you to know ahead of time how hard this is, but how needed and special it is to be in the foster family. Yes, it's a family as if you need anything we are there for you. Our foster family is strong, we won't let anyone fail, it's not good for either our foster mommies and daddies nor our fur babies. We will come out to your home and help if needed, we have a trainer on staff and others with decades of experience to help, we have social media to mass communicate, we can text or call each other, it's an army of help as we are all so invested in the foster success.

More questions? Please email us at


Time. Every Houlagan has run out of it at least once. Every Houlagan vies for it - everyday. Every volunteer who offers it addresses so many needs.....

Most people begin a volunteer venture by getting to know the organization. At Houlagans, that means coming to an adoption stand or hiking since the pups are the organization!

Interested? Please download and fill out the volunteer application. You can email it to We look forward to meeting you!

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