Close Menu

Fostering with Dogs – Michele’s Story

Monday 26 June 2023

With more than half of UK households (62%) owning a pet, according to the World Animal Foundation – and around 13 million pet dogs and 12 million pet cats in this country – it’s no surprise that one of the questions we get asked most often at National Fostering Group is whether it’s possible to foster with pets.

Not only is it possible, but having a pet in the house can actually benefit foster children and help them feel more comfortable in their foster home. Of course, this is providing that the right checks have been carried out on the pets and that children and foster families are properly matched.

We have spoken to foster carers with dogs and asked them to share their experiences…

Michele has been fostering since September 2022. She and husband, Steve, have three grown-up birth children and 10 grandchildren. They also have Ringo, a 10 year-old Cockapoo; Marvin, a large Labradoodle who is 5; and Errolyn, a Chocolate Labrador puppy who’s six months-old.

Before being approved as foster carers, the family was aware that having dogs meant that there would be some children who couldn’t be part of their family – whether that was due to allergies, fears or certain behaviours. But they knew, too, that there would be others for whom having dogs around would be an advantage.

Thorough assessment

As part of the approvals process, the social worker visited regularly and observed the dogs in different circumstances and settings. Michele said:

“They were very thorough, coming every week and seeing how the dogs behaved. We spoke about what you can do with one dog, compared to the other dogs, and how it is important to talk to the foster children about this so they understand. On the other side, the fostering agency finds out as much information as they can about the child – whether they’ve had pets, for example, or whether there’s anything that might cause problems – so there are no gaps

Our dogs are lovely but you always have to be vigilant. I wouldn’t leave the dogs alone with our grandchildren or the foster children and they’re not allowed in the children’s rooms.”

Coming out of himself

Since they were approved in September ’22, Michele and Steve have been providing emergency and respite foster care. They now have a teenage boy, 15, who arrived on Christmas Eve and is settling in well.

Michele said:

“He interacts with the dogs all the time – chatting and cuddling them. He’s always happy to see them and it’s helping him come out of himself. If he’s had a bad day, he can talk to them and be with them. Sometimes I’ll ask if he wants to take the dogs out for a walk and he’ll start talking about whatever’s on his mind. He has pictures of the dog on his phone and it’s helped him make friends at school. It’s something they can talk about, something they’ve got in common. He can chat about the dogs and doesn’t have to go into anything else.”

Talking to the dogs

“Before he came we had a teenage girl who didn’t talk very much, but she was able to chat to the dogs. Put yourself in their shoes, it must be awful coming through the door of a strange house but, if the dogs are there, they can bend down and talk to them rather than having to talk to us. Our big dog can be a bit overwhelming for some children so we always let the little dog – the puppy – go first. Often we find the foster children with one dog on their lap and one either side of them.”

Having dogs also helps the foster children and grandchildren to mix well together – taking the dogs for walks or playing with them in the garden. Michele believes that the dogs help the children to build friendships and gives them something to talk to their peers about, as well as helping them if they feel anxious or upset.

You can also read Nicky’s experience on fostering with dogs here, and if you would like to find out more about fostering enquire now.

Find out if you could be a foster carer
Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.