One of the ways to volunteer for PAWS is to become a Foster Puppy Raiser! This is the first step in enhancing the independence and quality of life for a person living with a disability. Our volunteer Foster Puppy Raisers play a crucial part in our mission by providing future Assistance Dogs with a loving home, care, and basic obedience training.

Foster Puppies will live with volunteers until the pup is old enough to begin formal Assistance Dog training. You do not need training experience to foster a PAWS puppy! Our staff and our community of Foster Puppy Raisers will be here to support you every step of the way.

Responsibilities of a Foster Puppy Raiser

  • Provide a loving home for the puppy
  • Meet the puppy’s daily exercise and nutrition needs
  • Attend monthly training classes provided by your local PAWS Puppy Club or PAWS Headquarters
  • Work on training and basic commands at home
  • Keep the puppy’s vaccinations and heartworm medications up to date
  • Remember that the PAWS Foster Puppy Raiser community is here help! We will share tips and tricks, play dates, homes for puppy-sitting, and adorable photos


Our foster puppies need homes from around the age of 8-12 weeks to 14-16 months. We know this can be quite a long volunteer commitment for some people, so we have a few Foster Puppy Volunteer options that will enable you to raise a puppy in a way that fits your lifestyle! 

One Household

This is the traditional approach where the puppy stays in one home for 12-14 months. The majority of our Foster Puppy Volunteers currently follow this model. 


Co-raising is an option where two homes share the puppy for the 12-14 month time commitment. Co-raising has become more and more popular over the last few years.  If this is a Foster Puppy Volunteer option that appeals to you, the quickest and easiest approach is for you to find another volunteer in your area to share the puppy raising experience with. We would encourage you to reach out to friends and family who might be interested in raising with you, but if you cannot find someone, please contact us, and we will do our best to match you with another raiser. 

Every co-raising arrangement works a little differently, but we have found that it’s preferable to share with someone who lives relatively close to you. It’s up to you to work out a schedule with your co-raising partner, and to arrange transferring the puppy between you. Some co-raisers work on a “two weeks on, two weeks off” arrangement, others do weekdays vs weekends. You are able to decide whatever works best for both of your schedules! 

Start or Finish

Do you love tiny baby puppies, but don’t want to or physically can’t deal with an energetic, adolescent puppy? Or do you love the more mature puppies, but potty training isn’t your thing? Or are you a snowbird, but would still like to be involved in puppy raising? If it’s a “yes” to any of those questions, then the start or finish foster puppy volunteer option may be for you.   

If you volunteer to be a Starter Home, you will raise the puppy from 8 weeks of age to around 6-8 months. As a Finishing Home, the puppy would come to you at around 6-8 months of age and stay with you until turn-in to PAWS at around 14 months of age. For the Start or Finish options, we will find the raising partner and would coordinate transferring the dog between Starter and Finishing homes. 

Apply to be a PAWS Foster Puppy Raiser

Step 1:

Submit an Interest Form

This first step to becoming a Foster Puppy Raiser! Within this form, applicants can sign up for an upcoming Virtual Orientation to learn more about raising a PAWS Puppy.

Step 2:

Attend a Virtual Orientation

Virtual Orientations will cover everything you need to know about being a Foster Puppy Raiser and give you the opportunity to ask questions!

Step 3:

Complete a Full Application & Background Check

After attending the Virtual Orientation, our team will send you a link to complete a full application and background check.

Step 4:

Virtual Home Visit

After we receive your background check, we’ll contact you to schedule a Virtual Home Visit. Once your Home Visit is complete, you’ll be able to pick up your PAWS Puppy!

Foster Puppy Raiser Interest Form

2024 Foster Puppy Raiser Initial Interest Form
How did you hear about this opportunity?
Virtual Foster Puppy Orientations are held 3 times per month. Orientations are scheduled every quarter for the following 3 months. Attending a Virtual Orientation is required to become a PAWS Foster Puppy Raiser. The following days/times are available each month:

1st Tuesday - 5:30 pm
2nd Monday - 12:30 pm
3rd Thursday - 5:00 pm


Is PAWS looking for foster homes in specific locations?

What can I expect after I complete my application?

Why does PAWS require a background check for volunteers?

Can I have other pets in the home?

Is a fenced in yard a requirement?

If I work full time outside the home, can I still raise a puppy?

Do I need to take the puppy everywhere I go?

Can I state a preference for a particular breed or sex of the puppy?

How old do I need to be to raise a puppy?

What equipment will I need for the puppy?

Is vet care covered for the puppy?

Do I need dog training experience?

Will I know where the dog ends up?

What happens when I return the puppy to PAWS?

Do all dogs become an Assistance Dog?

Additional Questions?

Please contact Early Puppy Development Coordinator, Lauren Harkema, at or call (616) 877-7297 ext. 461.


Foster Puppy Raisers Log-in