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A new study has highlighted the benefits of short-term fostering for rescue dogs.  Researchers worked with five shelters from across the United States to understand the impact that one- to two-nights fostering would have on dogs waiting to be adopted.

Various measures were taken from 207 dogs including: urinary cortisol levels (a key indicator for stress), resting pulse rates (using a heart rate and activity monitor), as well as longest bouts of uninterrupted rest and time spent resting. The data was collected in the morning before, during and after the ‘sleepovers’.

The scientists recorded a significant drop in the dogs’ cortisol during their time in temporary foster care and their longest bouts of uninterrupted rest during these sleepovers.  However, once the dogs returned to the shelters, cortisol levels increased back to their baseline measures.

One of the authors of this study, Lisa Gunter likened the results shown from short-term fostering to a weekend away from work, providing a break from the stress of living in a shelter.

Although there would have been variation amongst the five participating rescue centres (such as noise levels, housing, nutrition, level of health care and physical / mental exercise, and time out of the kennel) which could influence results, this was a good sample size and all the dogs’ cortisol and time spent at rest measures mirrored one another during their break from the shelter.

Dogs that appear calm are, typically, more likely to be adopted.  Thus, the findings from this study published in the journal PeerJ, show how rescue organisations should consider operating short-term foster programmes to help improve the lives of shelter dogs and improve their chances of finding a forever home.


Gunter, L.M., Feuerbacher, E.N., Gilchrist, R.J., Wynne, C.D.L. (2019) Evaluating the effects of a temporary fostering program on shelter dog welfare. PeerJ 7: e6620 doi: 10.7717/peerj.6620

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