Returning a Foster Dog

When fostering a dog isn’t so great

You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned Morgan recently. That’s because after fostering him for two weeks, I made the difficult decision to stop fostering him. This was no fault of Morgan’s. He had a difficult time adjusting to my lifestyle, and I had a difficult time adjusting to his.

One of the most rewarding things a dog lover can do is foster. To foster a dog means to provide that dog with a loving home temporarily until he gets adopted. This could take days, weeks, months or even years.

Dog rescues and shelters depend on foster homes because there is not enough shelter space to house so many homeless dogs. Plus, in a home setting it is easier to learn more about the dog and to begin teaching him how to live properly with a family.

Fostering a dog does not always work out

Those of us who foster dogs don’t like to talk about the dogs we have “failed” on. But if you ask most foster owners if they’ve ever returned a dog for any reason, most will say yes, especially if they foster dog after dog, year after year. They can’t all work out.

Returning a foster dog - My foster dog Morgan

To return a foster dog means he will live at a shelter or boarding facility or hopefully another foster home until he gets adopted. It does not mean he will be euthanized, at least that’s not the case with the rescue I work with.

I have fostered seven dogs. I returned three of them within two weeks because of separation anxiety issues, meaning the dogs would panic when left alone.

My first foster dog broke out of her crate and started tearing apart my door before I got home from work. Welcome to fostering! 🙂

Morgan was my most recent foster dog, and he also had problems being left alone. Because I rent a townhome and have close neighbors, this was not a good situation.

Morgan is a very intelligent dog and will do just fine once he finds the right person to help him through his anxiety. I am not that person.

I have written past posts on should I foster a dog? and what to consider before fostering a dog. I hope you will check these out if you are interested in fostering.

Now that I have more experience with fostering, I want to touch on a more difficult subject – returning a foster dog that doesn’t work out.

Things to consider before you foster a dog

First of all, to make the fostering process run smoothly so you hopefully do not have to return the dog, take the time to find the right dog to foster. I can’t stress this enough.

Ask a lot of questions about each potential dog so you can find the right fit.

I always seem to get stuck with dogs that have separation problems. This will be avoided in the future when I make sure to ask the right people the right questions possibly several times. Some important questions to ask include:

Is the dog housebroken? Is the dog kennel trained? Does the dog have anxiety when left alone? Does the dog have any kind of aggression? How much exercise will this particular dog need? Is the dog spayed/neutered?

There is no perfect dog, and most rescue dogs are going to have an “issue” of some sort. What dog doesn’t? But if you know ahead of time what you need to work on with the dog, you can start planning a routine and adjusting your schedule.

Also keep in mind that sometimes the rescue simply will not know a lot about the dog, especially if he was recently pulled from the pound.

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Morgan the golden retriever Newfoundland mix up for adoption

Reasons to return a foster dog

The most important thing to remember is that it’s OK to return a foster dog if it is not working out. You do not have to put up with the dog no matter what, and there are always other dogs you can foster. 

If you have to ask yourself whether or not you should return your foster dog, you probably should return him.

Below are some reasons why someone might return a foster dog. All of these issues can be worked through over time, but it takes the right person. You know if you are the right person or not.

1. The foster dog damages your property.

Most dog rescues are not going to compensate you for damaged property. They just don’t have the money. This is something to be aware of before you bring home a foster dog.

If the rescue is organized enough, it will probably have some sort of liability agreement form for you to sign saying you are responsible for all injuries and damage the dog causes.

The rescue I work with pays for the veterinary care and food for all the foster dogs, although I’m sure many foster owners volunteer to cover these costs on their own. 4 Luv of Dog even paid for Morgan to go to training classes and dog daycare.

Still, after seven foster dogs, I’ve had my fair share of property damage.

My first foster dog damaged both my large crates. Determined dogs can now bust out of them. She also ripped apart my bedroom doorway. A more recent foster dog chewed up a door knob.

I’ve thrown away several toys, blankets and towels that were completely shredded. There are stains on my carpets that may never come out. My car has taken a lot of abuse. I’ve spent a nice amount on carpet cleaners and paper towels.

Is it worth it? That’s up to you to decide. 🙂

2. The foster dog has severe separation anxiety.

A dog with true separation anxiety panics when left alone. He does more than bark and cry. A dog with severe separation anxiety damages property, breaks out of crates and even injures himself.

If your foster dog has separation anxiety, there are ways you can help him. It will take a lot of time and patience.

If you’re not sure if your foster dog has true anxiety or not, check out my post on dog separation anxiety for a list of symptoms and what to do about it.

3. The foster dog is aggressive to you or your dog.

You do not want to put yourself, your family or others in danger unless you are experienced with rehabilitating aggressive dogs or willing to learn – no easy task.

Morgan the lab newfoundland mix up for adoption

4. You, your family members or your pets are constantly stressed.

If you are constantly stressed, it will effect everyone in your house, including the foster dog.

A little stress is unavoidable when you foster, and of course there will be an adjustment period. But if you are worried day and night about what the foster dog is getting into, the dog may be more stress than he’s worth.

Are you getting enough sleep? Are you angry at the dog all the time? Too forceful with him? If so, the dog might be better off somewhere else.

5. You have no free time.

I’ve had foster dogs with such extreme anxiety that I literally could not even go to the grocery store for 10 minutes without coming back to a broken kennel and damaged doors. I was literally trapped in my own apartment. Not a good situation to be in.

6. Your own pets are not adjusting well to the foster dog.

I won’t put my own animals in danger. If I can’t trust the foster dog around my cats or around my dog, he has to go. Fortunately this has never happened to me. All of my foster dogs have been good around other animals when supervised.

I have however had a foster dog that was so mentally unstable that just being around the dog made Ace uncomfortable.

If I raised my voice around the dog, Ace would crawl away and cower. If the dog got excited, Ace would growl, which is way out of character for my friendly, gentle dog. I’m learning to really trust Ace’s judgement because he will always be able to read other animals better than I can.

Things to keep in mind if you return a foster dog

1. There are dozens of other ways to help rescue dogs.

Although I am not fostering Morgan, I visit him once a week at the boarding facility he currently lives at. I take him out to go running at a nearby park, and we work on obedience training.

I also take other rescue dogs running, and I take them to adoption events. I am constantly writing about the rescue dogs on this dog blog and also on my dog running site. There are hundreds of ways you can help homeless dogs without fostering.

2. You can always foster a different dog.

There are thousands of dogs that need foster homes. Not all of them have issues. Find one that you can live with.

3. You can foster a dog in the future if now is not the right time.

Right now I have to be more selective about the dogs I foster, but I look forward to the time in my life where I’m able to take on more challenging dogs. Perhaps this is the case for you as well.

4. You are not a failure for returning a foster dog.

Anyone who attempts to foster a dog has a big heart and deserves a huge thank you. It means a lot to the dog. Even if it didn’t work out, you tried. You made a difference.

5. The rescue group may not show much appreciation for your efforts.

Remember that rescues are run by volunteers who are just as busy as you. If no one thanks you for your hard work, don’t take it personally.

I would like to see 4 Luv of Dog Rescue get a better system in place for thanking its volunteers, especially new foster owners. Maybe that’s a task I will tackle, as someone has to volunteer to do this as well!

Like I said, there is always something you can do to help a dog rescue. The possibilities are endless, just as the need for more help is endless.

Have you ever fostered a dog?

Have you ever returned that dog before it got adopted?

What are some ways you help homeless dogs?

*If you would like to receive our FREE down-to-earth, weekly dog training tips, Click Here

1/8/2011 edit: Morgan was adopted!

Related posts:

When you regret getting a puppy

Returning a dog due to separation anxiety

Returning a rescue or shelter dog

106 thoughts on “Returning a Foster Dog”

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’m going to read your other posts on fostering ASAP! I’m actually taking in my first foster in about two weeks. I’m super excited, but also pretty nervous. Thanks for such an insightful, honest post!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I hope you find my posts helpful. Good luck with fostering your first dog!! I will be checking your blog to see how it’s going! Do you know what kind of dog you will be getting?

      1. Thanks, Lindsay! I’ll definitely post about the entire experience! I’m getting a puppy from a litter that was dumped at a low-cost vax clinic. The people have a purebred APBT female who “accidentally” mated with a mutt. They only want her to have purebred puppies, apparently. So sad. The poor mama had 12 pups!

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          Oh, gosh! Poor dogs. I’m sure those pups are very cute and will get adopted quickly. Can’t wait to see pictures!

  2. By coincidence I wrote a post on my blog 2 days ago about research about the overall attitude of a dog and whether they get separation anxiety.

    It has made me rethink a bit. It is probably a bit more complex and situational dependent for some dogs. Hank if left in the house is really unhappy, does not do anything destructive, but clearly has been anxious the whole time I was gone. However, put him in the run, which has a dog door into the garage and a dog house in there, and he is fine. In fact if I come home early and don’t make much noise, he is often so asleep that I have to wake him up.

    The post is at

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve found that if the dog has true separation anxiety, he pretty much panics no matter what. It does help to leave the dog when he is in a calm, relaxed state of mind, however. Hank must be more comfortable when he’s left out in his dog run because that’s part of his routine. He must associate the house with being with you. Therefore if he is in the house without you, he feels anxious.

  3. I used to foster for 4 luv of dog, until I moved out of the country. I was fortunate that I owned my home and had a fenced yard. I ended up adopting my first and only long term foster (see ruby on the happy tails page!) After that I agreed to do emergency or temporary fostering only, so I wouldn’t get too attached! That’s a great alternative for someone who’s not able to foster long term. I took dogs when other fosters went on holiday, or if a dog came into rescue and their foster wouldn’t be able to take them right away. It worked well for me and sometimes for the foster dog as well. It’s not easy to do, but it sure is rewarding!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you for all your hard work fostering dogs! It is a lot of work, but definitely worth it! I find there’s something especially rewarding about fostering an dog directly from the pound because you truly have saved that dog’s life.

  4. The biggest thing for me to consider before fostering a dog is the 6th point you mentioned – the adjustment of my own dogs. While Maya will probably do great with any dog, Sephi probably won’t. (It took about two months for Sephi to fully adjust to Maya when Maya joined the family.)

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m so lucky to have a submissive, calm and gentle dog who accepts everyone. Still, I can tell when he’s a little more stressed and tense with certain dogs around. I also have to consider my cats’ behaviors. When I bring a new dog into the house, I can tell right away how balanced it is just by how my more dominant cat Beamer responds. If Beamer is on edge, I know the dog needs a lot of work.

  5. Just thought you might want to know, Morgan successfully pulled me off my feet today… I landed on my butt and the people currently working at the kennel saw and were laughing at me.

    In my defense the grass was slippery… It was at the very begining of the walk, and he did much better for the rest of it.

  6. You’re awesome just for fostering! I would end up “keeping” so I haven’t tried fostering yet. Hopefully I can get over that and help out some deserving pups.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Maybe you could give it a shot sometime. You could always try being an emergency foster home or a temporary foster home when the foster owners travel.

    2. Hi, I lost my furbaby 3 weeks to a tragic accident, she got attacked by another dog and died from complications from it. She was a rescue dog and I had her for a year. She was my little shadow and I loved her so much! I saw this cute dog at the same shelter the other day who was a owner surrender. I told them I would foster at first to see how it goes. I’m on day two with the new guy and he’s very sweet and laid back. He might have some separation anxiety like you talked about but so did my girl in the beginning too. My intentions were to foster and hopefully adopt if all goes well. I’m thinking I may not be ready for another just yet. The new little guy deserves someone to give him their full heart and not half of their heart. Is it wrong of me to tell the shelter I want to foster only until he gets adopted? I’m so confused on what to do. I just feel still so broken from losing my baby girl!! : (

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        Of course that’s OK! Fostering is meant as temporary so you’re doing a great thing by fostering him until someone adopts him. Or even if you just foster him for a few weeks.

  7. While I have not fostered a dog and don’t know that I ever will, I sure think it’s wonderful that people like you do it. This was a helpful post for people thinking about fostering and also for helping people to not see themselves as failures if fostering doesn’t work out.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Perhaps you guys could foster a dog or cat the next time you are thinking of getting a new pet. Then if it works out you could just keep that animal.

  8. I would love to foster, but supposedly my apartment only allows 1 pet. I’m already over that limit with my dog and newly acquired stray cat, but I’m still trying to figure out ways around this small inconvenience 😉 I think fostering would be very beneficial for my dog as well as being super rewarding for me. Although, I haven’t had a “new” dog in 2 years and I think I forgot how much work it is!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m sure you can work around the 1-pet limit somehow 🙂 Well, I guess you already have! How is your cat doing?

      1. She’s doing great, we named her Millie if you didn’t know. She’s really laid back, but she will actually play with Eli when she feels up to it!

  9. Fostering a dog sounds like someone noble would do. Thank you for this story Lindsay.

    I really don’t want to but I’d like to share a story about Dr.Death – a vet whose job is to basically euthanize unwanted dogs in shelters. Lots… like HUNDREDS a day.

    Dogs that basically “fall through the crack in the system”, so to speak.. there are lots of them, otherwise, Dr.Death would be out of a job.

    I am not pointing fingers here. She’s doing a job that she has to, not because she wants to.

    All I’m saying is that there are lots of dogs that need love and adoption, and I think fostering is a GREAT way to reduce the stress on the animal shelters. The less stress on them = less perceived need for dog euthanasia.

    Thanks for the post. Two thumbs up.

  10. Kelsey McFarlane

    Hey Lindsay-

    We met at the rally against Benjamin Stavaas in Fergus. I really enjoyed reading this post. I’m currently fostering Bella from 4 Luv of Dog and I know how tough it can be to have a foster and then have the regretful feeling that you may have to return the foster. Bella has a little too much energy and is quite the dickens when I’m not home. I’m looking for ways to continue fostering her, but I’m not sure. So thanks for the information and making me feel a little better 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl


      That must have been a different Lindsay, as I know I haven’t spent any time in Fergus, like, ever. Perhaps it was Lindesy W. from Bubba and Company? People get us mixed up all the time. I own Run That Mutt.

      Anyway, glad to hear you have given it a shot with Bella. I hope you can make it work, but at the same time you have to put yourself and any family members, roommates or pets before the foster dog.

      Perhaps you could take her to dog daycare a few days per week if you aren’t already.

      I feel so guilty whenever I return a foster dog, but they can’t all work out. There are always other dogs to foster.

      1. Kelsey McFarlane

        OH! I’m sorry– I was looking at Bubba Co’s rates on Google and I saw a link to a blog and just thought it was her’s!


        But yes, I have volunteered with 4 Luv of Dog for about 2 years now and I love it. I’ve always had bad luck with fosters though, but I know they aren’t all perfect and I don’t expect them to be 🙂

        But, I really enjoy your blog. It’s good to hear the stories of other crazy dog people like me!

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          My foster dogs always have separation anxiety. Ugh … But I always seem to keep fostering at least a few times per year. I usually think, why do I do this to myself? But it’s worth it. 🙂

  11. Kelsey McFarlane

    Do you have any ideas for how to keep Bella busy when I’m at work? The thing is… my mom works from home and Bella is way too much energy for her when she is trying to work and I need to figure out how to burn off Bella’s energy. I’m thinking about taking her to the dog park before work to burn off steam.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      The dog park before work would be a great idea. Or take her for a half-hour run. If you could do that before and after work, that should help. If she has crazy energy, she probably needs at least two hours of running each day. Does your mom take her for a walk during the middle of the day at all? Even 20 minutes could help a bit. It all adds up. And I know you probably don’t want to be spending tons of money on a foster dog, but a dog backpack helps them burn more mental and physical energy if they wear one during walks. Just fill it with some books to add some weight. There are cheap dog backpacks at Petco and PetSmart and high-quality packs at Scheels in the dog section.

      Do you give her any Kong toys when you leave? Fill them with peanut butter and freeze them for a few hours before you give them to her.

      Is she kennel trained? Or does she bark in the kennel?

        1. Kelsey McFarlane

          I’m not really a runner, but I will definitely do the dog park in the morning and try the Kong toy thing. I’ve had more than one person tell me to do that 🙂

          Since my other dogs have free run of the house during the day, I don’t think it’s fair to kennel her all day. I just need to get her on a routine for sure.

  12. Lindsay Stordahl

    If you’re not a runner, you should still take her for a walk for a good 45 minutes at minimum in addition to the dog park.

    I would also suggest kennel training her. It’ll help her get adopted, and it will give your mom a break during the day. She doesn’t have to be kenneled all day, but an hour or two here and there won’t hurt.

    Love the blog idea!

  13. I can’t believe someone would consider returning a fostered dog, but you make so many great points. It’s hard to imagine not falling in love with a dog right away but I guess they can completely change your life and not necessarily always for the better.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve never gotten too attached to my foster dogs. I guess I’m used to seeing them coming and going. I know they are a lot of work. I know they are usually not very well trained and often times they are not very mentally stable. They take up a lot of my time and cause a lot of stress, although it is well worth it and I always want to foster/adopt more dogs.

  14. Betty Hurtt-Nelson

    I’m not very savy about blogs, but the pictures of Cosmos really brought back happy memories of my first dog, many years ago. My Mother had a cancer scare so she decided to get me my own dog. I didn’t know this until years later. After visiting several dog breeders I chose an Eskimo Spitz—looked like Cosmos. We always had a family dog before. We adopted Mitzi too young, so she thought she was a human. I spoiled her. Carried her everywhere. She would even get up on her hind legs and walk. I was about 8-9 years old and I had her for 19 years. I loved her with all my heart. I’ve had several dogs since then. All dog pound dogs, all mixes and precious. After my last dog died, I had a couple dear friends die that year with-in a month of Sunny’s death , I didn’t have the heart to get another. My daughter moved back in with her dog, Xena. So that helped me with the loss of Sunny. Xena now has paralysis of her back leg. We support her back when she walks. She is on medication and goes to water therapy twice a week. We see improvment almost every day. I wanted to comment when you were talking about Cosmos, but I didn’t know how to do that. Sorry about that . I’m sure all foster parents are getting stars in their crowns in heaven for every dog they help!!!!!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Aww, your Mitzi must have been such a special dog. I remember my mom has told me about her. Too bad you don’t live closer. I would try to convince you to adopt Mr. Cosmo! Thanks for leaving a comment!

  15. That post about returning a foster dog is very helpful. I returned an eleven year old golden retriever this morning after having him just two weeks. Obviously, I feel very bummed and guilty since I found this website.

    Thanks for sharing it and making me feel just a little better. I do have a rescue golden retriever dog that I adopted and love (though she took some work too!). So you are right that some work out and some don’t – for whatever reasons.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yep, don’t feel bad. Most of the foster owners I know have returned several dogs that didn’t work out. There are always other dogs that need foster homes. You have to find one that works with your situation. Or don’t foster at all. It’s certainly not for everyone, and that’s OK.

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear it didn’t work out with that old golden.

  16. Wow, reading your post has really helped me. We are currently fostering a 3 year old Collie mix for our local shelter. She is only our 2nd foster dog. We have had her for a week and we were told the previous owner dumped her in a cage on the high way with no food or water. She is slowly starting to have issues which we are trying to work with her on as we don’t want her issues to hurt her chances of getting adopted (or possibly returned due to these issues). It’s been hard, but we are still holding strong in hopes that she will adjust. She is always pacing the floors if I’m in the kitchen and my boys (both toddlers) are in the living room she will pace back and forth non stop until we are all in the same room. The 1st day we got her home that evening we went on a walk and I started noticing things. She will walk around in circles around me, she pants very heavy and shakes and will do this non stop until we get back in our yard and then she is just fine. The other day a lady was walking down our road and Lassie (our foster dog) started growling and barking and her hair stood straight up but she stayed behind me almost under neath my legs until the lady had passed) I took her over to my grandmothers house (we like to try to get our foster dogs used to being at other places and visitng and also used to other people and animals. The entire visit all she did was stand beside me panting and shaking so we left as soon as we got home she was just fine. I now noticed when I’m giving my toddler boys or our cat attention she will bark and jump on me to get my attention almost like she is jealous. She hates to go for walks it’s like once she reaches the end of our yard and knows we are going on a walk she bolts back to the house. If I am successfull on getting her to go for a walk (all dogs need a walk and my toddler boys and I love to walk) if she hears a loud noise or another dog barks she will shake and pull the leash as hard as she can to get back in our yard. I’m hoping these issues will work themselves out in time. But just the other day she acutally peed in mine and my husbands bed while we were sleeping. It’s hard being a foster parent and trying to decide on the right thing to do. (also we just found out she is not spayed and is currently in heat so this may be some of her issues? we have never fostered a dog in heat before so I”m not sure what to expect) The neighbors girls were over playing last night and all Lassie did was bark and jump up (I had her on a leash) trying to get to the girls and the girls are afraid of her. I got her calmed down and one of the girls came over to pet her and Lassie fought her way out of my hand and jumped on the girl knocking her down 🙁 I really dont’ know if we are the best foster parents for her as our home is a very active home and we are always out doing something or going some where and I want her to take part it our activites, but she just seems to be the type that doesn’t want to leave her yard or house. Today I left her home we were gone for 2 hours (figuring it was better to leave her home then stress her out by taking her) and she potty all over the house (#2) it was every where all over our couches, chairs, even our coffee table, in our bedrooms on the bed. I swear she must have went 5 times in order to get so much all over the place. I got it all cleaned up and still want to continue fostering her but we may now have to think about purchasing a crate.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sounds like she is a very nervous and scared dog. You definitely need to crate her when you are gone for her safety and your sanity. She may freak out when left in a crate, but I highly recommend you try it and do your best to get her used to staying in one. It’s also quite possible she will really appreciate having a crate as a safe place to hang out. My foster dog Cosmo loves his crate. He is a high-strung, nervous dog too. He gets scared easily and runs to hide in his crate.

      Yeah, it’s hard to know where to start with a dog like Lassie. It will really help you out if she accepts the crate. Then you can have a break from her! 🙂 Don’t feel bad about using one. It is much better for her to be in a foster home with a crate than to be in a cage at a shelter. That would probably drive a dog like her into hysterics!

      Still, you have to decide what is best for your family. You have lots of little kids in your home, so you have to keep their safety in mind. Is this a dog that could nip a child? It’s common for border collies to nip anything that moves quickly.

      Do you have much experience walking poorly leash-trained dogs? Do not allow her to spin in circles around you. Make her walk as calmly as you can at your side. Hold the leash close to her collar in your left hand and hold the slack in your right hand. Don’t allow her to have enough slack where she can run ahead or around you.

      For the peeing thing, sometimes dogs, even female dogs, will mark all over the house. In her case, though, it sounds like this was nervous peeing.

      Best of luck to you. Don’t be afraid to take her back if it comes to that. You deserve an award just for putting up with her this long! You are the definition of a dog lover.

      Thanks for your comment. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

  17. Thanks for your honest post. I’m actually fostering my first dog right now. He’s been at the shelter since November and so I took him in to try and get him some training under his belt. I’ve had him for a week and my neighbors tell me that he’s been barking all day long while crated. None of them are upset by it since I talked to them as soon as I brought home my foster, but that’s not fair. I live in a large apartment complex and I can’t have him barking all day. I’m touching base with the shelter tomorrow about potentially bringing him back. I feel terrible because he’s an awesome dog and he’s getting along great with my own Lab. He doesn’t “show well” in the shelter so I feel even worse bringing him back to sit in the shelter.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It’s a tough choice, and only you know the best thing to do. I have returned several foster dogs. Let’s see … at least three that I can think of. And I would’ve returned two others but they got adopted within two weeks so I made it work for that amount of time. The good thing is there are always other dogs that need fostering. Not every dog has issues being left alone or left in a crate. I hope the shelter works with you to find a dog that fits with your lifestyle. You could volunteer to go walk and socialize this dog while he’s at the shelter. And now that he’s been in a home with you for a while, you can report some positive feedback to the shelter such as how sweet he is and how he does well with your dog.

  18. I am very lost and feel so sad. I had to put my 18 year old cat down due to kidney failure back in November. In December I felt so sad and my other cat seemed so lonely so I went online looking for another cat but I came across a picture of a dog with fancy necklaces around her kneck and it caught my so I read her profile. It didnt say where she was from but said she was trying to survive on the streets with her puppies and was temporarily rescued and brought back to health but then put back on the street because the shelter had no room. I found out later after I commited that she was brought in from a Taiwanese rescue group. She was a street dog from Taiwan. I asked the foster group here that I would foster her but asked if she barked when left alone. I can work with everything else but I rent and cant have a barking dog. they said that she wont do that. Its been two and half months and she still has severe anxiety disorder. I was very thankful that on the second day of fostering her that I met a positive reinforcement dog trainer on the floor above who volunteered and trained the dog on everything in less than two weeks except we can not get the seperation anxiety out of her. Its March 1st now and after taking time off work to work hard on departure exercises I got her to about 1 hour alone. I left her alone and she tore apart my bathroom and their was blood on the door. I also have an awesome girl in my building who dog sits but I cant afford everyday doggy sitting. I havent been able to pay my bills in two months so I have collection agencies calling all day long. I dont have enough for rent. Every month I have had to spend over $300.00 on her for dog sitting and items to assist in her separatio anxiety. I have to return her to the foster but I feel like she is not going to be adopted properly. Who ever adopts her has to be very pacient and unconditional love and not leave her alone at home. I feel I have tried everything but have totally failed. I am so worried about her.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You have done the right thing by giving her a chance. Not every dog can work out in every situation. I have had to return foster dogs for the exact same reasons. They were damaging my property when left alone. I rent, and I can’t have a dog barking and freaking out when alone because of my close neighbors, and I can’t have a dog tearing apart doors. You are lucky you have some neighbors who have been able to help. I think you would be doing the right thing by returning her to the rescue group. The only suggestion I have is to ask the rescue group if it would be willing to pay for the pet sitting. That seems reasonable. And possibly the pet sitter would be willing to offer a discount, 15 percent off or something like that.

      No matter what you decide to do, do not feel bad. You have already made a difference for this dog by providing her with love and a safe home for several weeks.

  19. thanks 🙂 I am wondering what happens to all these rescue dogs with seperation anxiety? I really dont know what is going to happen to mine. I wonder if she will end up being a lifer with her rescue group. Its so sad to think how many there are and what their fate is.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      There are people with lifestyles that allow them to help dogs with separation anxiety. I’m definitely not one of those people. People who work from home can make it work. People who live in a house vs. an apartment also have an easier time because the barking is less likely to cause issues with neighbors.

  20. I fostered a dog for seven months. She had been found wandering my neighborhood at about six months of age, had Parvo, and a rescue organization covered the medical costs. I adopted her out five weeks ago, and the family returned her last night because, as much as they tried, she just could not/would not get along with their two cats. They even worked with a trainer, whom I paid for, to try and get the new dog to get along with the cats, but it finally became obvious that it just was not going to work out. The cats were in danger. Other wise, they said she was perfect. So now Sweet Sophie is back, and I am worried about what this back and forth is doing to her. She bonded with the new family very well, now she is back with me, for we do not know how long, and at some point will go to another family. What if that does not work out? How stressful is this for the poor dog? She is a very easy going, friendly American Bull Dog/American Staffordshire Terrier/Bull Terrier Mix.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It is stressful for them, but you do have to remember that dogs also have a wonderful ability to adapt. They do not hang onto emotions quite as much as we humans do, and that’s not necessarily good or bad. Here is a post I wrote on whether or not dogs miss their owners. Of course they do miss their owners, just not to the extent that we sometimes think. I hope it helps:

  21. Thank you for this post. I took in a foster that was supposed to be good with other dogs…she is not. Attacked my little guy twice. My boy gets along with every other dog he meets…cats too, so I know she wasnt provoked. Keeping them seperated just isnt working. Otherwise the sweetest girl. I KNOW she is adoptable. I am so disappointed and of course blaming myself, but your advice/experience makes me feel much better. There is no other foster available for her at the moment, so tonight I have to bring her to a kennel. I really have no other choice but its killing me. I dont know why but I never thought of going to visit her until another home comes along! Duh! That alone makes me feel some hope. She is a good girl, just needs a home without other dogs. My pets need to come first.
    Great guidelines! Definitely need to reevaluate what will work for me before I do this again…and I am pretty sure I will!

  22. I have a different problem. Our family adopted a shelter dog a couple weeks ago. We have three cats who have been around dogs before (our second dog passed away a little over a year ago). They didn’t know much about her at the shelter other than she came in as a stray a month ago and she’s some kind of Aussie mix. This dog is wonderful in all ways – housebroken, crate trained, no separation issues, great eye contact and knows basic commands, plays great with the kids, great on leash – except it goes crazy around our cats. We took her past the cat cages at the shelter to test her, and she was interested in an excited waggy-tail way. At home, when she sees one of our cats she goes into a zone – stopping, staring, and waiting to chase. She won’t respond to us at all. We tried an introduction with a cat with her on a leash and she nearly pulled out of her collar, barking, whining, and twisting trying to get at the cat. On our first vet visit, a man came in carrying a cat and we had to physically restrain our dog as she was going wild trying to jump at the cat. She would not respond to us at all. We have read about prey drive online and it sounds exactly like what she is doing – going stiff, staring, and zoning. We have divided our small house with baby gates and closed doors, and the cats spend most of their time in the basement while the dog sits at the top staring. We have to physically remove her from in from of the gate or door to redirect her focus, but she often just returns over and over until we put her outside. We crate the dog now whenever the cats come upstairs. She goes crazy whenever a cat gets within 6 feet of her crate. Her sole focus from when she gets up until bedtime is to find the cats.

    I’ve read online you can train a dog not to chase cats, but it can take months and you will never be able to leave them together alone. This is not what we were looking for! We just want a nice family dog that gets along! We wish now we had gone the puppy route like we did with our past two dogs. We don’t want to just return her to the shelter since they do euthanize and are overcrowded already. Should we try to train this dog? She’s a mellow peach when she’s not around our cats, but we fear for our cats safety. Should we offer to foster her until they can find her another home or foster home, keeping her completely separate from the cats and give up on trying to get them to get along? We adopted this girl and we are committed to her. We finally cleared up all the infections and worms she had and she is finally gaining some weight. We can’t stand to think of her back in that cramped cage in the shelter, but our family can’t live in a stressed out house divided for years. What approach would you take? Do shelters ever allow an adopted dog to be re-listed as a foster by the adopting family?

    1. Call the shelter and honestly explain the situation and your concerns. See if they would let you foster her, many shelters allow and encourage this type of arrangement. You have to do what is right for you and your family, and I always think people should consider the safety of their original pets when taking in a new animal, though. So … yes you can probably train her not to chase/attack the cats, but you have to decide how much time you want to spend and how much risk you want to take. Who knows, she may only need a few days to just get used to them. Could you have a local trainer/behaviorist or perhaps someone from the shelter come over and observe her behavior to get another opinion? I’ve had a few fosters who will stare down my cats but after one good swipe to the nose, they learn not to bother the cats. Aussies have such a strong drive to herd/control other animals. She may only be interested in chasing the cats rather than actually biting them. But the behavior you describe still makes me nervous.

  23. Thanks so much for responding. This has been very stressful. When in the house she paces back and forth between the bathroom where we have our 20-year-old cat to the basement door where our two younger cats are. Back and forth, not paying much attention to the humans in the house. I took her to my mom’s house today where there are no other animals. She was so calm and polite the entire time we visited – coming up for pets and laying beneath our feet. She was like a different dog. Maybe she’s just not a good fit for a house with cats. It pains me because she is so sweet otherwise, but her fixation on our cats is driving me crazy. We tried another close encounter with one of our younger cats yesterday with the dog in her crate and she went crazy again when the cat came within 6 feet. She may just want to chase and herd and not actually bite, but how will I know without actually setting her loose? I am not about to risk one of my cats. I already feel so guilty using them as “bait” to test the dog’s reaction. I’m giving them a break from each other for a couple of days, then will try another leash introduction and see if things improve. If not, I will contact the shelter early next week to talk about options. This is so depressing…

    1. Sounds like she should go to a home without cats. She would be happier that way, too, because she would be more relaxed. There are so many other dogs in need of a home that would be a better fit for your family. It’s also the shelter’s job to help you find the best possible match. You shouldn’t have to put up with a dog that is not right for you. Still, I know it’s not easy to think about returning her.

  24. Hi there. I found your site when I googled returning a foster dog. I am so exhausted and want to find another home for my foster. She is so badly behaved, destroys things in my home, and it just isn’t working. I can’t handle her energy level. I contacted the rescue and they are not willing to ‘take her back’. They have no open fosters and basically told me that I am stuck with her. I am devestated. I don’t know how much more I can take and it isn’t fair to her either – I know she is feeling my stress. What should I do? I’m going crazy.

    1. I am so sorry! I am going through the same thing! But the anxiety had decreased and he is a good dog but he is not a fit in my family! No one will take him and I am stuck … I rescued him from the pound and I am afraid I will have to bring him back and that is devastating! He deserves to live he just hates being away from everyone !

  25. Lindsay Stordahl

    Gosh, Katie, I am not really sure what you should do. I would call the director/president of that rescue and speak to him or her directly. There is no reason why you should have to keep that dog. And then I would stop volunteering for that rescue and work with a different organization.

    Is there anyone you know of personally who would be a better fit to foster her? Is there a boarding kennel the rescue could board her at temporarily?

  26. I am having a huge problem! I got a beautiful Rhodesian /lab out of our local pound and am fostering him through a local agency… Well he is a wonderful dog but my husband has decided he is too much for us. He does have some anxiety but as long as his crate is in the main part of the house he is fine. Anyway my husband said I had to find a new foster for him! I have informed the agency over a month ago and we cannot find a new foster for him. I am so stressed and worried, I need help in finding a new foster or permanent home for him! He is turning 5/6, now neutered . He is going through heartworm treatment. He is well trained… Sweet sweet boy! No one in my area will foster him and the agency does not have a facility! I cannot keep him! If anyone can help! Please please please

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Could the rescue board him at a local kennel temporarily until you find a new foster home? Maybe you could still have him on weekends. Some boarding kennels will board rescue dogs for free or at a discount.

  27. I’m glad comments are still open! I’m so sad that I need to return my foster dog. She is my fifth foster dog, and she is beautiful and sweet and loves people and dogs and is ridiculously happy. But I live in a townhouse, and I have a neighbor, and my neighbor is very unhappy that she heard the dog bark while she was crated and home alone.

    We haven’t figured out if she is just not crate trained or if she is experiencing separation anxiety. But we are too afraid of the neighbor causing a bigger scene to really find out. We’ve adjusted our schedules for the week so the dog is never alone, but I know that is not good for the dog in the long-term. We are also letting her sleep outside the crate, which has us anxious at night. Luckily, so far, she’s been good with just sleeping and not doing anything else.

    She’ll be staying at a boarding facility, and I feel so awful. I want to be there with her through adoption time. I want to help her blossom. I want to help her know the world is OK. But … the neighbor. I know boarding her (or finding a new foster home) is the best thing for her, for us, and for neighborly relations. It’s just so very hard. We don’t want to stop fostering completely, but will need to be more careful and selective of the dogs we help provide care.

    Repeating this for my own knowledge. It’s the right thing, but it’s still so hard!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I have been in that exact position, and it was so hard to return the dog! You have to do what is best for your situation. Thanks for trying with that dog, and there are so many others you could help that would be a better fit.

  28. Love your article, I was searching for websites with similar postings about the situation I’m currently in; I adopted a dog from a rescue and returned her to her foster family after a few days. My issue is, I know I made a terrible mistake and want her back. Has this ever happened and do you think it’s possible to get her back? I’ve never felt so sad and awful. I just needed to give it a little more time.

  29. I’m trying to get up the nerve to return my foster. I’ve had her for 5 weeks. I had written to find out what fostering was like and was immediately asked to take on 6 puppies. With two small children, a full-time job, 2 cats and a dog of my own, I said that was too much. Then they asked me to take on a 15-lb, 3-month old puppy. I hesitantly said OK. I knew she was a German Shep mix. But she was more like 25 lbs. and 4 months upon arrival. So she was eye-to-eye with my youngest. She’s already 38 lbs (heavier than my oldest) and appears to be mixed with a rottweiler. She’s sweet, non-aggressive, but so large that the kids tip toe everywhere and jump on furniture to avoid her. I guess her herding instinct leads her to slam into us. I’ve had mastiffs, great danes and currently a corgi — they were so easy and gentle. But this girl seems to be too much dog for us. I’m trying to get her through her spay next week before moving her. But I do really feel like a failure. I think this type of dog was just not good for a first-time foster. My husband has made it very clear he doesn’t ever want to do this again.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Perhaps take a break from fostering and next time try an older, smaller dog with low energy. I have also learned the hard way that I can only foster senior dogs.

      Thank you for taking this dog in. You are not a failure. Not one bit. I returned plenty of foster dogs within the first couple days. Many of us do it.

  30. Thank you for your response. I hoped things would get better, but I think as she’s been getting healthier, her rambunctious personality has come out more and more. She’s actually only now started jumping. I plan to tell the organization I will keep her through the next two weeks to get her through her spay. After that, she needs to be with someone more experienced who has other playful dogs. My dog will be relieved to not be leveled every time the foster sees her. Thank you again. This decision has weighed heavily on me.

  31. I am currently fostering my second dog. He’s a great dog, awesome personality, good with my dogs. Unfortunately he came back from the vet. after getting fixed, extremely malnourished. He was skinny at the shelter but this vet wouldn’t feed him for three days so he would be ready for anesthesia when the time came for the surgery. I’m having to provide him a special diet and he’s vomiting and has a bloody nose that comes and goes among other issues all stemming from lack of food. I’m fine taking care of him,despite being on night two of no sleep constantly attending to him and having to sleep on the couch. I’m even having a hard time leaving him to shower because of minor separation anxiety.After reading your article I don’t feel guilty being overly stressed even after one day. The problem I’m having is that my rescue group will only allow me to take him to their vet which is 2,5 hours away for me. He is having a lot of issues he didn’t have going into this particular vet and five hours of driving with an anxious bleeding dog I can’t attend to seems like the worst possible situation. I don’t know what to do.

  32. Thank you so much for this post. I have been so upset over the last few days. My husband and I just decided after 2 weeks to return our foster to the rescue she is with. It’s my first time fostering and I was not expecting it to be easy, but it has been a real challenge. There are several things on your list that felt like were written for me. I didn’t think I had become attached to her but I have literally cried stressing over giving her up; for the sake of my own dog though, it has to happen. This article makes me feel a lot better about my decision now.

    1. Jenna, I could’ve written your post word for word. We’ll be returning our foster pit bull after nearly two weeks and it’s breaking my heart. I love her and would adopt her, but my elderly schnauzer is so stressed with her here that he won’t even eat. This article really helped me stop feeling guilty about ‘failing’ our foster.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        I know how hard it is, but you should feel proud of yourself for giving this dog two weeks with you. I’m so glad you gave it a shot.

  33. Thank you for writing this important post! Your post is the only positive one I can find so far that says “it’s ok to return a foster dog when things are not working out and that we are not a failure”! Majority of the posts I found online kinda blame those who try to return their foster dogs/cats.

    I have been fostering a 6 lb. 9-yrs old dog for 3 weeks, it’s my first time being a foster mom. I was eager and excited to help. I picked her because of her petite size and her age, I thought she would be an easy one to handle as a first-timer. Unfortunately, the dog is not dog-friendly and has shown aggression towards my dog. Well, she bit my dog last night and my poor dog’s ear was all bleeding… It’s my fault cuz I really shouldn’t have trusted her this much to let her out of her exercise pen… I should have realized that even a 6 lb. dog can cause bodily harm. As much as I want to help this poor senior dog, I have to make sure that my dog is safe and happy. Yes, I can continue to keep her in the exercise pen but I don’t think it would be good for her. I think she is better off of staying at a single-dog household or with someone who has more dog behavioral knowledge than me. I am waiting to hear from the rescue group to see what can be done. I am sure they must be thinking what a horrible person I am, committed to something I couldn’t handle in the end, a total failure =( but oh well, my dog’s well-being is my first priority and I shouldn’t feel bad about keeping my dog safe.

    Anyway, thanks again for your post! It gave me courage to deal with my current situation!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear of your situation. You never want anyone to get hurt. I hope your dog is OK. As I said above in response to Amanda, I think you should remember that you did a wonderful thing to give this dog some time with you.

      Also, think about the valuable information you are now able to pass on to the rescue and other potential homes for this dog. The rescue now knows she should possibly be an only pet, so this will help them find her an ideal adoptive home or a more appropriate foster situation.

      They won’t think you are a horrible person! These kinds of things happen quite often, but no one wants to talk about it.

  34. I have fostered 2 dogs for a rescue my first time fostering. They were described as child friendly, loving and well behaved. They are brother and sister and 17mths old. The male has been aggressive to me, my daughter, my adult nephew and my 3yr old granddaughter. He has barred his teeth, ears back, snarling and snapping at our hands but has not bitten yet. We have him muzzled now when anyone except my husband and myself are around. We have an 8month old baby here (my daughter’s baby who lives with us as does my daughter) The rescue were told of this the day after we took him in – we have asked them to remove him but there is always excuses – he has nowhere to go, kennels are full, etc etc. Its 5 days since we asked for him to be removed and although he is ok ish with me now – still growls occasionally I cant trust him. He is loving one minute and growling the next. Just like to say will be taking him to my local dogs home if they don’t move him soon as the risk is high with the baby and hes got the muzzle off twice. He is a big dog husky cross and powerful. Please if you foster go careful with small rescues and try to chat to others who foster for them – our home checker told us any aggression and it will be removed immediately but this is not the case here.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear that Cathy. Be careful! I don’t want any of you to get hurt. If you haven’t called anyone from the rescue, I suggest you call them directly and ask where you can take the dog within the next 24 hours. They should be understanding, and I’m sorry to hear they haven’t been so far. Best of luck to you and thank you for fostering.

  35. I went looking for this post this morning because we are having a rough time of it with my new foster. It’s only been a few days but they have been long, stressful days. He is a very different dog than I expected and while I understand that their personalities out of a shelter situation are not always predictable, he is far from what I signed on for. We are all extremely stressed and I feel so bad for my existing pets. I am not a first time fosterer but every new dog I meet seems to show me how little I actually know! We are going to try to hang in there and I will feel awful if I decide it won’t work out, but this was reassuring to read.

    1. Fostering is so hard sometimes! Hang in there, and don’t feel bad if you have to find him a better situation. Look at all you have done for him and others. I’ve been following your posts and feel so inspired. I love fostering too and relate to what you say about the rewards & difficulties involved.

  36. Great read, thanks for posting. Fostering is something I’ve thought about for a long time so, when I got the chance, I took the opportunity to foster a dog over the Christmas period. The problem is, it’s now time to bring him back! For a 1 year old he’s a well trained, quiet, independent dog with an even temperament – except when he’s around other dogs! His nature and his possible past experiences (coupled with his strength!) mean he’s really tough to manage in public. In the short term I could manage this just fine but when I move house later this year he would be in an environment where he will come into contact with other dogs during the day – not good. I’m now starting to feel guilt for taking him on in the first place. He’s gotten used to our house, we’ve gotten used to his routine and now I have to bring him back to the kennels where he will most likely get stressed by the proximity to other dogs. I know it’s what’s best for him in the long run and, of course, his needs outweigh our wants but still – this is a hard one. Any advice? Thanks…

  37. Thank you so much for your positive outlook on this! I was Googling what to do when you Foster a dog and try to give him back, and I found my way to you. I took in a foster dog 2 weeks ago and I have been trying to give him back for a week. Upon receiving him we found out that he does not like children, and I have 2. He also has dominance issues and has been trying to attack my legs constantly. I also have several bite marks on my hands, some that have broke the skin and bled. The unfortunate thing is I’ve contacted the rescue company 3 times telling them that they need to come get the dog and a week and a half later he’s still here. They’re making it my fault, my problem, I do not believe me that the dog is having these issues, they just think that I am not training him well enough. I’m hoping that this Foster experience has not ruined me forever taking another one.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That’s terrible. I’m so sorry the rescue coordinators are behaving this way. All rescue groups are not like that. It’s important to be flexible and match the right dogs up with the right foster homes. Regularly, dogs have to be moved to different foster homes because they are not a good fit. This is not the fault of the foster volunteer or the dog! It’s just reality. Any good rescue group knows that and is helpful and flexible in order to keep its foster volunteers around and keep people and dogs safe.

  38. Thank you for your blog, Lindsay. It is such a hard decision to let go of an animal whether it’s a foster or adoption (i.e. moving interstate etc). I had 3 rescue dogs growing up and loved every one of them…quirks and all.

    My husband and I have just fostered a dog for the first time and realised on the first day she was not the right fit for us. We did not know how bad her separation anxiety is and she is not fully house broken, she pees in the house about 4-5 times a day and I can never catch her in time to correct it. The only way she will sleep at night is on our bed, which we do not want to create a habit of. She also needs a lot of training (sit, stay, laydown, etc). Her story is very sad, as she was left outside all day by her previous owners and given no real love or attention. She now refuses to go in the back yard alone as she is obviously afraid she will be left out there. We feel horrible as we are giving up after 2 days, but we know it’s not going to work and don’t think it’s right to keep it going. She is an extremely sweet and people focused dog. I had a good long cry about it as I love dogs and cannot stand the thought of failing one. We just can’t give her the attention she needs and requires. I appreciate the portion of your blog relating to the questions to ask when fostering, we should have asked for more detail on her behaviour as we were told ‘she was outside all day alone, so she should be fine when she’s left alone’.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh, that must be so hard. I’ve been in similar situations with foster dogs and I always feel bad about it.

  39. Hello! Thank Dog for your post!! I too am feeling terrible at the moment, I’ve sent a message to my rescue group about finding another foster for the dog we are currently fostering! I am new to foster & have a challenging one. Gigi was pulled from a shelter in her “last days”. Heeler/Pomeranian mix, 13 lbs and 2 years old. VERY scared when I got her. She gets along with our other dogs & cat (only because my cat tolerates her). I’ve had her for almost 4 months! The longer she’s here, the more aggressive she’s getting. Trying to socialize her is becoming impossible. After 6 weeks of bringing her to work with me (and one of my other dogs) she bit someone. Needless to say, I had to fire her & leave her home. She charges people especially when they’re walking away. Does NOT tolerate any other dogs that come over, or people at the house. Tried to attack a friends dog this weekend, after I tried introducing them with caution. Bit another person at the house this weekend (not bad, I had her on leash. Warning nip I think). Then the last straw was this morning when she attempted to bite my husband as he was leaving for work. Now I don’t trust her at all. I’ve reached out to the rescue group several times to try to get some training help with her, since I am not educated on aggressive dogs, but haven’t received help. I even reached out to several “trainers”, but there isn’t anyone close to my area and the others are way to expensive. I’m hoping the rescue will actually contact me soon. I’m not holding my breath. Unfortunately, their communications need some work. I feel awful! I don’t think I’ll be fostering after this one. It’s a shame. I have a HUGE fenced in property that would be perfect. Maybe I’ll help with transports………….

  40. Susan Highsmith

    This is an old post but I just stumbled across it because I have made the very hard decision to return my foster dog that I’ve had for 4 months. I feel so incredibly guilty and that I am failing her. She is a Beagle/Rat Terrier mix and is extremely hyper. She is stressful on my personal calm 8 year old dog. She chews up everything that I give her and also our comforters. I feel that is due to boredom. We work a lot. I did, however, have 2 successful fosters before her. Anyway…I’m glad that I read this. It helps me somewhat not feel like a failure.

  41. My husband and I started fostering a 1year old dog a couple days ago with the idea that we would adopt her after she is spayed next week. Trouble is, we just moved so our house isn’t set up, in fact it’s a wreck. We have a 9 month old who is teething and having severe separation issues. My mom with terminal cancer just moved in with us and requires a lot of care. I also just started a new job and my husband is looking for a job.

    On top of all this I haven’t been able to keep any food down since we got her. I’ve tossed everything since I got here yesterday afternoon and got zero sleep last night. This morning I ever tossed my orange juice, the only thing I had in me. We are wondering if it’s stress or if I’m pregnant. 🙁

    What do we do? I love dogs and I love this dog but I want a happy low stress home for her. Right now that’s not our house. Do we call the shelter and let them know they can list her as available to adopt? I’m heartbroken and confused.

  42. Thank you so much for this post (I know it’s from a few years ago!). I’m currently fostering my first pup and am having a really tough time of it. He’s a good, sweet dog underneath all of his “quirks”, but he’s also a big dog who pulls, jumps on people (just generally, out in the world), goes absolutely crazy when he sees another dog, and has growled and lunged at me a few times in my apartment. He also jumped over the dog park fence (!!) and doesn’t understand having to wait before crossing busy streets (I live in NYC, so all of these things are NOT ok and making my time with him very stressful). Plus, he’s constantly growling at noises in the hallway, floors above me, etc. I know that all of these behaviors are probably improvable by training, but the rescue organization is dragging its feet with getting him enrolled (and just being unhelpful overall – when I initially told them that I no longer wanted to go the foster-to-adopt route but wanted to just foster, the tone of their communications immediately became a lot colder and more standoffish). I’ve had him for a little over a week, and he’s suddenly shown little interest in eating, which also worries me immensely.

    Any suggestions? Your article is wonderful (and I’m probably beating a dead horse with this question, which I’m sure you’ve answered a hundred times over already), but I still feel that guilt and shame of potentially having to return him (and frightened that, once I am ready to foster or adopt again, I’ll be blacklisted because of this experience). As I mentioned, he really is a sweet dog and loves a good belly rub and some couch snuggles, but I’m just not sure if living in this situation in a city is the right deal for him. I’m also afraid that maybe I’m jumping the gun (I know that many rescue dogs have issues, and he’s only been with me a bit over a week – so am I being too hasty in my dismissal of the situation?).

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hey Jordan, sorry to hear your foster dog is causing you some stress! Fostering can be so rewarding but often it is very difficult. I think in this case you just have to go with your gut and do what is right for you. If you feel afraid of the dog, I would recommend returning him quickly as it’s just not fair or safe for you to keep caring for a dog if you are in danger. Rescue groups are not perfect and you can always find a different group to foster through if this group is unreasonable. Any good rescue group knows that most foster owners return a dog at some point (seriously, almost everyone does!) because not all dogs are a good fit for all homes. I’ve returned a couple of foster dogs without feeling bad and most people who foster dogs on a regular basis will return one or two at some point. It’s just a numbers game.

      Hope that helps and good luck either way! I’m so glad you are giving fostering a try.

  43. Thanks for this post. We’re returning our foster dog after a little over two weeks. He’s really sweet with us and even the cats once he got used to them (not left alone, and the cats still don’t particularly like him). But he’s reactive to people. He seems to really like kids (though we don’t let him approach on walks) but adults seem to scare him. We don’t know his history but we’ve had a couple people try to pet him (including a potential adopter and a dog trainer) and he lunged at them when they did. Just two, totally different reactions. The former includes lots of tail wagging and trying to pull towards them, and the latter includes acting like he’s on high alert and then essentially cowering if they come towards him and growling/lunging if they try to pet him immediately. After a while he’s fine with other people but he needs a lot of help that we don’t feel qualified to provide as a first time foster. The guilt is horrific though 🙁

  44. I know this post is old, but it looks like you were commenting still at least somewhat recently. It helps to read all these other stories of people who had to return foster dogs. I had to return mine last night after nine days, and there were no available fosters with my organization, so I had to take her to their partner boarding facility. I am devastated and I feel like I’ve failed her. She is a very sweet dog and she opened up to me so much after being very shy at the beginning, but she was destroying things when I was at work and then, after I started crating her, she figured out how to get out of the crate. I also have an 8 year old dog of my own who was afraid to show me affection because the foster dog would cry or whine and try to put herself between us when I showed any attention to my dog. I know it was the best decision for me and my dog to return her, I just wish it didn’t mean that my foster was affected the way she was. I called the kennel today and they said she was doing alright, but that she is real shy. I had thought about going to visit her, so it was interesting to read that you visited Morgan once a week. Hopefully they will let me do the same. Thanks for this post.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear that Brea and boy does that sounds like what I dealt with. I know for me, it seemed to help that I could go and take Morgan for walks because that helped him get out for exercise and enjoy one on one time with a person. Then he did end up getting a new foster home.

  45. I know this is about dog fostering, but I haven’t found a site that talks about failed fosters (and not the good kind).I’ve fostered 4 cats in the past 2 years. And while I was emotional when their time came to go back to the shelter to get ready for adoption, I was able to comfort myself in that they were going to a forever home. I knew about 2 weeks in that my last foster was probably not a good fit. He was still a kitten, but in a grown cat’s body. I live in a studio apartment. I work 9 hours a day. He was very active at night, sometimes to the point of play attacking me in bed. Several times I got an accidental claw to the face and was scared to go to sleep. (Not because the cat was deliberately aggressive, but because no matter what I tried, I couldn’t drain his energy appropriately.) After 6 weeks with him I told the shelter they should find him another foster home. But it took another 6 weeks before they did. And I got attached to a cat I knew I didn’t want to keep. I just dropped him off at his new foster home. The woman seems lovely and has a door to bedroom and cats for him to play with. But I feel insanely guilty and just plain sad. In short, I feel like a failure.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh you are not a failure at all! Trust me, it’s so, so common for foster volunteers to move pets around until they find the right place. Some homes are better fits for certain pets and other homes are better fits for other pets.

      1. Thank you Lindsay for the kind words. I did learn with my 3rd foster that I was known for taking difficult cases. And #3 was not pleasant, but I also knew she would go back in two weeks. #4 was the first time I’ve had to admit defeat and it was a tough one because he really was a lovely cat and I had him for an extended period of time, he just needed more than I could give him. But now I wonder whether I’m cut out for fostering. This one was heartbreaking for me.

  46. I’m so glad I found this post. I’ve been fostering for almost four years. I’ve fostered over a dozen dogs (female senior beagles).

    I have a three year old that was supposed to be at my house for just a few weeks. She’s been here two months and her separation anxiety is high. She’s also bite aggressive at the groomer and vet.

    She destroyed the siding on two doors, put a hole in the Sheetrock as well as destroyed the bottom of a kennel.

    I tried frozen Kong’s, medication, a diffuser especially for anxiety, hemp oil and Composure chews.

    She’s going back to the organization today and I just feel sick about it. Thank you for letting me know that it’s ok. She’s awesome when we’re at home and will make someone a great dog.

  47. Thank you for this blog post. We just got our first foster dog today. She’s around 8, very friendly and was living at the vet for a month, during isolation. An acquaintance in the rescue community loved her (for good reason) and basically begged me to do this. We have a 5 year old and a 7 year old extremely selective dog. After one day, I’m scared, overwhelmed and unsure this was the right decision. Again, she is so sweet but my resident dog is so unhappy and I’m concerned he will react negatively. I texted a couple of the women at the rescue but they said these feelings are normal. Do I say that I don’t think this is going to work this soon? Thanks in advance.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You know what’s best and you have to do what is right for your family and your own dogs. Some people will do a “crate and rotate” where they keep their dogs separated from foster dogs using gates and crates but that is not realistic for everyone.

  48. I am so glad I stumbled on your post. I’m a first time foster and I like other posters tried to help a heart worm positive dog and she isn’t a good fit for my house. She has a high prey drive and has gone after our chickens, almost killed one, and my poor 20 year old cat lives in a small cubby in the basement, terrified to even go near her. She is a great dog but high energy and needs a lot of training. I have the choice to watch her like a hawk to make sure she doesn’t chew on things (already done hundreds of dollars in damage) or just keep her in her kennel all the time. I work from home and my productivity has been limited. My boyfriend wants her gone and it’s putting a great deal of strain on my relationship. I have explained this to the rescue and they are not helpful, they’ve given me quite a guilt trip, told me there are no other fosters available and that fosters can’t just give a foster back. They are unwilling to even think through a solution such as finding a suitable home that might want to adopt her. I’m stuck with a dog I don’t own with no options and a lot of guilt.

    This is the only blog i’ve come across that even begins to make it okay to return a foster. It’s been such an awful experience I will likely not foster again.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Annie, so sorry. A good rescue group is supportive of its fosters and knows not every dog is a good fit for every situation.

  49. Thank you for this post! I am heartbroken today because I have to return my first foster dog. He does not do well with cats and we have a cat (who has been our baby for 12 years!). We tried so hard with this dog but he just isn’t a fit for us. I know he’ll find a forever home soon because he’s so handsome and sweet, he just needs a home with no cats and preferably a big yard he can run around in. Our apartment is big but not big enough for him especially if we have to contain him to keep him away from the cat.

    I feel like a failure but I’m trying not to feel that way. I’m trying to stay positive even in this difficult situation. I’m also spoiling the heck out of the dog before he goes back to the rescue. He got a nice long walk in the woods this morning. Now he has a Kong with some peanut butter smeared inside (he’s been going at it for an hour lol). He’ll get another walk in a little bit and some cuddle time afterwards.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you for helping him! I adopted a dog in Jan and had to return her because she wanted to kill my 14 year old cat. It’s so hard and people might judge but you know what’s best. The dog is lucky to spend time with you.

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