How Much Does it Cost to Foster a Dog?

How Much Does it Cost to Foster a Dog?

Fostering an animal can be very rewarding. Nothing beats giving a dog a safe place to stay while they're waiting for their forever owners. Some dog lovers might think fostering is cheaper than owning one, but there are actually some costs that come with fostering a dog. Find out what to expect when signing up to be a foster pet parent.

How does fostering a dog work?

Many people want to foster dogs but they're unsure where to start and how it works. When you foster you take a homeless dog into your house and become responsible for him until he finds his forever home. To become a foster parent, you must first find a good shelter or rescue that is looking for foster parents. Research places near your home, fill out an application, and wait to hear back. If you are selected, they will contact you and tell you what to do next.

If you are selected as a foster parent, you'll become this pet's partial owner until they are fully adopted by someone else. Your foster pet may be adopted the next day or it may take months for them to find their new home. Until then, you'll provide them with shelter, food, and give them love and care.

Do you get paid for fostering a dog?

You do not get paid to foster a dog, but usually, shelters or rescue groups do provide medicine and vet care for the dogs they foster out. Vet bills, whether routine or emergency, tend to be the biggest costs associated with pets, so having this covered is a big plus.

Before applying to become a pet foster parent, ask the shelter exactly what they provide and what you'll have to cover. Chances are you'll be this dog's financial provider until they are adopted, so be prepared for the additional costs.

How much does it typically cost a pet foster parent?

Pet foster parents should expect to spend $100 - 200 in upfront costs, then $50 - 70 per month to care for a foster pet. Just like owning a dog, the financial burden of fostering a dog usually depends on its breed, age, and health conditions. Every agency and rescue is different so speak with them about the expected costs to foster before agreeing. Generally, meals are not covered and neither would any additional toys or treats for your new foster dog. And, if your new dog needs grooming or you intend on spoiling him, those costs will not be included either.

Vet Costs & Medical Care are typically paid for by adoption agencies

When you select an adoption agency or rescue group confirm with them that vet costs and medical care will be covered by them. Adoption agencies usually provide all medical care for adopted pets. If your new pet needs medication or special care, your adoption agency will provide instructions and medications. This typically includes:

  • Shots and vaccinations
  • Checkups and exams
  • Heartworm prevention
  • Flea and tick prevention
  • Special medication
  • Medical procedures

As foster parents, your most important job is to provide a safe, loving home for these pets while they wait for their official home. The fact that you don't have to pay for additional vet and medical care should be all the more incentive to foster a dog.

Food is your biggest expense

Dog foster parents can expect food to be their biggest expense. You should budget $50 per month for dog food. Smaller dogs will require less food, while larger dogs may consume 3x the amount of food per month. Be sure to follow the feeding instructions provided by your foster agency.

Just like any pet, you'll need to monitor their food intake and make sure they're getting enough nutrients. You'll also want to make sure they're not overeating, as this can be harmful to dogs. Make sure to watch how much people food you give them. And, although we love giving pups treats, make sure they're not getting too many of those either.

Additional costs of a foster dog

As with any pet, additional costs are sure to arise. If you don't own any pets and don't have access to some of these items, expect to spend $100 - 200 in upfront costs to take care of your foster dog. These upfront costs will cover a collar, leashes/harnesses, water and food bowls, a crate and/or bedding, and some toys for your pup.

Collar / Leash

Even though your agency may provide a collar and leash for your new dog, you may want to select one on your own. Pet leashes and collars typically cost $15 - 30 and should last a few years. Make sure it fits them properly and if they require a harness, be sure to get the correct one. Ask the adoption agency if you have questions about the proper collar and leash.

Water / Food Bowls

Most likely you'll need water and food bowls for your new foster dog. Expect to spend $10 on average for a bowl, and sets are available with mats for $20 - 30. Be sure to select the proper size and height for their food dishes. Don't forget to clean their dishes regularly.

Crate / Bedding

Your pup will need a new place to sleep. Plan to spend $30 - 80 for a dog bed depending on the size. Crates can be more expensive. Pick out comfortable dog beds and blankets to help him adjust to his new home. As pet foster parents, you'll need to do your research on the proper size and crate based on the breed you adopt. If you have questions about bedding and crates, ask your veterinarian or the adoption agency.


All pups love treats! In order to help your dog adapt and learn, you'll want to give them treats. It's up to you how much you want to spend on treats. You should budget $10 - 30 per month depending on your dog's size and how often you give them treats. When you create your dog's new schedule, use treats as a reward to help them learn when to go potty outside and how to do tricks.


To keep your new foster dog busy, get him some quality dog toys. Plan to spend $10 per toy on average. Dogs love bones, ropes, and balls. Depending on what your dog likes, toys can be inexpensive and will definitely keep your dog entertained. Plus, this will help to ensure your new foster dog doesn't wreck your home. If your new pup gets himself into mischief, make sure you know the correct way to discipline your dog.

How long do foster dogs typically stay with you?

As a foster parent, you're agreeing to eventually say goodbye to your new friend. Remember, you're only their temporary owner until they are given a forever home. The average foster dog stays in its foster home for about 2 months before being adopted, although every foster animal is different. Their length of stay often depends on the adoption agency, the location, dog's age, and sometimes their breed or if they have special needs.

What are the requirements of being a dog foster parent?

Every foster program has requirements for becoming a foster parent. These are the general requirements for fostering a dog:

  • You must be over 21-years-old
  • You must have adequate space in your home for a dog
  • You must make return visits to your rescue group
  • All other pets in your home must be able to adapt and be fully up to date on their immunizations
  • You must provide them with regular veterinary care

When you apply to adopt be sure to read the requirements from the shelter and read up on tips for first-time dog owners.

Should you foster if you already have a dog?

Wannabe foster pet parents often worry whether fostering a dog is a good idea when they already have pets in their home. The answer depends on whether your existing pets can adapt well. Often times the foster agency will want the new foster dog to meet your existing pets to see how they interact with each other. Be sure to introduce them slowly and on common ground. Who knows, your current pet might love a new companion and want them to stay!

Should you foster a dog if you have children?

Although children generally love dogs (and dogs usually love children), you should make sure that the foster dog does well with kids first before committing. Some dogs may not do well with young kids, so keep this in mind when navigating the process. When you apply to foster, let them know you have children at home and they'll help to match you with a dog that will work well for your family and household.

Can you change a foster dog's name?

Because a foster dog is only with you for a short time, it's recommended to not change their name. However, you can give them a nickname which is used sometimes. If you do decide to adopt the dog that you foster and you don't like its name, then follow these tips to successfully change a dog's name after adoption.

Amanda Guagliardo

Amanda is a Minnesota native who has a background in journalism and marketing. She enjoys playing softball, ice fishing, checking out local breweries, camping and cheering on the Vikings. Amanda resides at home with her husband, son and her spunky English Bulldog.

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