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September 8, 2022

With another foster puppy arrival imminent, I decided to document the foster puppy set up I use to prepare the house. I figured since I needed to do all the work, then I might as well explain my process. Photos and text ahead, if you want to speed read. Otherwise, scroll all the way down to see a video that shows how I keep foster puppies safe inside and outside the house, including where they sleep and potty and hangout, etc.  


foster puppy set up thumbnail graphic

Learn more about why fostering matters. Or see prior foster puppies. 

Step-By-Step Guide to Foster Puppy Set Up

1. Speed clean the house.

In many cases, I don't get a lot of warning that a new foster puppy needs help. I often drop everything and race down the mountain to the shelter to pick up foster puppies. BUT, since I had more than a day's notice we'd be getting a new foster puppy, I had time to work through my whole process, including speed cleaning the house. 

That basically means that I race through everything — except mopping the tile floors. Puppies will have potty accidents, so it's a waste of time and energy to steam mop the floors. 

2. Roll up the area rugs.

foster puppy set up - photo showing home office with desk, bookshelves, and area rug on the floor

Our house features 1 area rug in my office and 1 in the living room. Easy enough to roll those up and store in the garage so that puppies don't potty on them. I leave the other smaller area rugs in place because they can either easily be washed in a washing machine or via power washer outside. 

3. Set out potty pads.

For some reason, puppies tend to go in the corners, so I put 1 pee pad in 2 corners in my office. 

foster puppy set up - photo showing potty pad in corner of home office with red tile floors

4. Block furniture so that puppies cannot get under it.

The puppy we're getting this time is probably big enough that I don't have to worry about her getting under the furniture, but when we host really tiny foster puppies, I roll up and stuff bath towels to block off the bottom of furniture in my office. 

foster puppy set up - photo of wood furniture with the bottom blocked off by a dog bed

5. Set up x-pens.

When hosting foster puppies, we use x-pens (exercise pens) in several ways:

  • As a place to hang out and play in the living room after dinner while we watch TV or any time I cannot closely monitor them or I'm gone
  • To block off my office door for better foster puppy containment + air circulation 
  • To block off the stairs so that puppies don't hurt themselves or potty on the carpet
foster puppy set up - photo of black plastic x-pen in the living room, with red tile, big plant, and fireplace in the background
foster puppy set up - photo of x-pen blocking office doorway
foster puppy set up - photo of x-pen blocking carpeted stairs

Need an x-pen? No problem. Check out this one from our affiliate partner Lucky Dog - Pet Play and Exercise Pen with Full Access Door.

6. Create cozy spaces.

Our foster puppies often enjoy the den-like feeling under the bookcase in my office, so I put a crate pad / dog bed under there for them. 

foster puppy set up - photo of dog bed under bookcase

7. Figure out overnight / sleeping options.

We keep a variety of dog crates of different sizes and styles in the house. It really depends on each foster puppy's overnight and medical monitoring needs. Options include:

  • A baby-sized crate with our dogs in the dining room or next to my side of the bed
  • Crate or x-pen in the living room
  • Actual kennel in the basement — half sleeping area, half potty pads (whatever happens overnight happens, then we clean it up)
foster puppy set up - photo of 3 plastic dog crates
foster puppy set up - photo of x-pen with potty pads, bed, and puppy toys inside (set on red tile floor)
foster puppy set up - photo of dog chain link kennel draped with blankets

8. Plan potty area.

Because of the risk of wildlife, including big predators near our rural home in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, our dogs potty in a dog pen off the garage with a 6-foot chain-link fence. It's my secret to housetraining success with foster puppies. 

foster puppy set up - photo of outdoor dog pen

9. Gather foster puppy supplies.

Our shelter provides all the food, potty pads, medicines, and most other foster puppy supplies, so I really do NOT need to spend my own cash, but ... of course ... I do. So, I have several sizes of harnesses and leashes, a variety of toys, a tiny puppy bowl, etc. 

foster puppy set up - photo of supplies such as leashes, harnesses, toys, bowl, potty pads and food

I also buy cleaning supplies in bulk so that I can refill spray bottles easily. Thank goodness for Costco's big packages of paper towels too. Other clean-up supplies include bags and such to contain the mess before taking it outside to the dog trash. 

photo of foster puppy cleaning supplies, enzyme cleaner bottles, paper towels, and bleach cleaner bottle

10. Set up safe outdoor play area for foster puppies.

If you follow us on various social media, you've seen our small outdoor play area for foster puppies many times. It's protected on 3+ sides by the house and large planters as well as overhead shade tarps. This keeps them safe from raptors from above too. It also allows my dogs to exit the area into the main backyard, while leaving puppies safely behind. 

foster puppy outdoor play area

Since our new foster puppy is on her way to my house RIGHT NOW!!! She will literally be here any minute now (@ 3:40 pm Sept 8, 2022), so I need to wrap this post up, but I'm sure I cover all this in more details in this video below. I hope you'll watch, when you have time. It's about 28 minutes. 

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

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