March 19, 2024
Categories: Foster Programs

Is short-term foster care beneficial for shelter pets? While previous research has focused on dogs’ wellbeing during sleepovers and field trips outside the shelter, the recent findings, part of the Arizona State University/Virginia Tech Maddie’s® Nationwide Fostering Study, provide insight into the effect these outings have on dogs’ adoption rates. 

Here are five important takeaways from this research:

  1. Pups who are taken on a field trip for just a few hours are five times more likely to be adopted! If you’re looking for an easy way to boost a pet’s visibility, try sending them on an outing.
  2. Foster stays of 1-2 nights increased dogs’ chances of adoption 14 times
    We anticipated that the field trip and sleepover programs would influence dogs’ adoption likelihood, but we were surprised by how large the effects were, especially for sleepovers,” said Lisa Gunter, PhD, CAAB, CBCC-KA, Assistant Professor, Animal Behavior & Welfare Group at Virginia Tech. 
  3. The key to success is your community
    Ideally, these programs are low-barrier and open to public participation. Gunter said, “
    We were pleasantly surprised to find that programs with greater percentages of community members providing dogs field trips and sleepovers were better performing!” 
  4. Relatively few of the dogs in the study were adopted by their foster caregiver
    Only 4% of dogs taken on brief outings and 12% of dogs taken on sleepovers were adopted by their short-term fosters. “Shelters should expect that some caregivers will adopt their dogs, but it’s not that often,” Gunter told us. “As a dog stays longer in their foster home, that outcome occurs more often. But even during the pandemic when caregivers were fostering dogs for weeks at a time, less than 20% of foster caregivers were adopting their dogs.” 
  5. Dog bites during these outings were extremely rare (.002%)
    Of the 2,934 field trips and sleepovers that occurred as part of the study, only six bites were reported,” Gunter said. “Certainly, it is possible that not all bites that occurred were reported. Nevertheless, we found the occurrence of bites to be exceedingly rare, suggesting that these are safe interventions that can have profound impacts on shelter dog outcomes.” 

“Field trip and sleepover programs are easy ways for the community to get involved, said Gunter. “Shelters need to have a public option, especially for their field trip programs. That doesn’t mean that all dogs in care should go on an outing, but it does mean that we have to let the community in and help us help the dogs. Once new caregivers have had positive experiences with field trips, they may be willing to try a sleepover and from there longer-term fostering. With that being said, we also found that when shelters were better resourced, they were better performing, so shelters really need to support these programs with staff and finances if they want them to be successful.”