FAQs: Foster Families

future service dog seeks foster family

Our puppies live with foster families on nights and weekends prior to placement with a recipient. Each puppy has both a primary and secondary foster family that cares for  him/her. Below are some Frequently Asked Questions for people interested in becoming part of this fantastic program.

But first, here are some of the initial requirements to become a foster:

  • Family lives or works near Narberth PA so they can drop off/pick up the dog  Monday-Friday
  • Family commits to attending training classes prior to the arrival of their puppy as well as every week once the puppy arrives
  • Family commits to fostering for at least 18 months

How long does the foster puppy live with us?

The puppy in training lives with you for 18-24 months. During this time the puppy is with you at night, on weekends, and over holidays.

What is the primary foster program?

A P&A Primary Foster makes a 2-year commitment to housing a service-dog-in-training at night, on weekends, and during holidays in their home. They bring the dog to and from Narberth on weekdays and P&A covers all costs related to the dog.

What is the secondary foster program?

A P&A Secondary Foster also makes a 2-year commitment to housing a service-dog-in-training at least one weekend a month in their home. They bring the dog to and from Narberth on weekdays when he/she is in their care and P&A covers all costs related to the dog.

How do the Primary and Secondary Fosters work together?

Together, each team of Primary and Secondary Fosters make up the majority of the care of the dog when not at P&A. They work together to cover each other when one cannot care for the dog for any reason. If there is no travel scheduled, the Secondary Foster still takes the dog for at least one weekend per month to maintain the relationship the dog has with that family and to provide a free weekend to the Primary Foster.

How much training is involved once the puppy arrives?

P&A holds puppy class once a week for 1 hour to pass information from the trainers to the fosters.  Attendance is imperative as it is more for the fosters than the dogs. The classes get the fosters more involved with the training and informed on the skills the dogs are learning. And while schedules can be difficult sometimes, it is important for fosters to come so the dog has a consistent handler.

Do both the primary and the secondary fosters come to classes?

Yes. P&A requires primary fosters to attend class every week and secondary fosters to attend twice a month. However, secondary fosters are always invited to every class and encouraged to come. After all, it gives them more time with their puppy and an opportunity to learn even more!

Where can we take our foster puppy?

Everywhere! Take the dog with you everywhere you go and introduce him to as many people as possible. The puppy wears a vest that says, “service dog in training” so he can go anywhere with public access. This dog will spend his working life with an active person and must be comfortable in any and all situations. The more different experiences he has, the more successful and well adjusted he is when matched with his child.

Is it okay if we have other dogs or small children in the house?

Yes! This is a very realistic situation for the future lives of our dogs. We realize it may mean a bit of chaos, but that is good for our dogs to experience at an early age.

What does the puppy do during the day?

The puppy spends his days at our facility learning basic obedience and service dog tasks. In addition, he goes on many socialization adventures taking trips to the city, riding on trains, visiting the airport, walking on a trail, visiting stores or malls, riding elevators, visiting schools or hospitals, etc.

golden retriever puppy learning skills and behaviors

How does the dog get to and from Paws and Affection each day?

The foster families are responsible for getting the dog to and from our facility in Narberth, PA each day. After pick up on Friday afternoon, he will stay with you until Monday morning when you drop him off.

What are the desired characteristics of a foster family?

The foster family provides a safe environment for the puppy while also having an active lifestyle that is inclusive of a service dog. In addition, the family needs to live or work close to our facility because the dog will be dropped off and picked up each day.

What if we are going away and the dog can not come with us?

We make arrangements for your puppy if you are traveling to a location where the dog can not come. However, if you have a family vacation and want your puppy to come along, we encourage this. After all, everyone needs a vacation from working and learning, even our dogs!

How much training are the foster families responsible for?

When the dog is in your home he is free to be a dog and have time to play and cuddle. However, our foster families are also puppy trainers. We ask the foster families to learn how we do things and reinforce the dogs’ learning. There is also a lot of trouble shooting when fosters have the dog out. P&A is available to help, but often decisions have to be made on the spot. While the training of new behaviors is done mostly by our trainers, foster families are responsible for reinforcing what the dogs have learned and knowing how to handle the puppy properly. These dogs need to have good manners all the time even when they are “off duty”.

Who house trains the puppy?

You are also responsible for house training the puppy when he gets to you. The pups are only 8 weeks old and have no idea what it means to potty outside. All of this will have to be taught and there will be accidents, it’s just part of the learning process.

child and golden retriever loose leash walking and bonding

photo credit: Vikki Sloviter Photography

What kind of training does a foster family receive before the puppies arrive?

We ask you to take 4 orientation classes prior to the arrival of the puppy to learn what we teach, our training philosophy, house breaking procedures, and how we communicate with the puppy. In addition we cover basic dog behavior, health, and safety.


What do I need to do to see if this is a good program for me and my family?

We ask you to come meet our current dogs and learn about how we do things at P&A. Once you have some exposure to our team and knowledge about our program, we can set up a sleepover. You can take one of our dogs home for a night or a weekend and see if having a service dog in training is a fit for you and your family. At this point we can move forward with the foster family application and interview if you are interested.

Do we stay in touch with the puppy after placement?

You are invited to the graduation ceremony where the dog and the recipient are matched. During this event you meet the recipient and see the magic you helped create. Once the dog goes home with his recipient you will be able to see any progress through posts to the P&A Facebook page. While giving up your dog will be hard, the benefit will far outweigh the difficulty.  Plus, once your dog is placed, you can get another one and begin the glorious process all over again!

If you think you and your family are good candidates for this program, please contact us telling us why you think you would be a fit for one of our puppies.

Golden-retriever-puppy play time with foster family


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