The shelter can get to be a bit much for even the most mellow dog. Sleepovers give dogs a break from the shelter environment.

Sleepovers are a great opportunity for people who aren’t sure about fostering to try it out. If you are too busy to foster a dog during the week but would love to help a great dog, a weekend sleepover can be a perfect fit.

Kate seemed scary at the shelter, but she was such a sweetheart on her overnight visit

Get to know a dog well

Taking a dog for a night or a weekend is one of the best ways to get to know that dog well, quickly. Sleepovers provide extremely valuable information for other volunteers, shelter staff, rescues, fosters, and adopters.

In fact, sleepovers may provide the most important information about a given dog. For dogs displaying behavioral problems after long stays at the shelter, a successful sleepover can make the difference between being pulled by a rescue and facing euthanasia. 

Give dogs a break

The hardest part about taking a dog for an overnight or weekend sleepover is bringing them back to the shelter. It is one thing to foster and then see the dog go off to another loving foster or adoptive home, but it is quite another thing to have to bring a dog that you have grown to love in just a night back to the shelter. 

Are sleepovers good for dogs, or do they just cause stress as a dog bounces between a home and a shelter?

Recent research by Maddie’s Fund has found that dogs benefit substantially from time out of the shelter. The study aimed to find how overnight sleepovers affect cortisol levels, which is a well-known indicator of stress. 

How the study worked

Urine was collected from dogs at the shelter the morning before the sleepover, the morning before they were returned, and the next morning back at the shelter. A well-established dog research questionnaire was used to determine behavioral information from shelter staff, the foster home, and new adopters.


The study found that dogs’ cortisol levels dropped significantly with just one overnight stay. Fosters reported that dogs settled in and slept through the night in the foster home.

When cortisol levels were measured at the shelter the morning after they were returned and after a night back at the shelter, the cortisol levels returned to the same level as they were before the sleepover.

While the positive effects are not long-lasting, sleepovers certainly do not seem to have any detrimental effects on dogs.

Low commitment, high impact

You can make changes in a shelter dog’s life by offering valuable information, reducing stress levels, and offering a dog a chance to relax and have fun outside of the shelter, all without making a commitment that lasts more than a night or a weekend.

Overnight and weekend sleepovers are one of the highest impact ways to volunteer with the lowest level of commitment. You may not even have to change your schedule in order to pick up a dog and have them at your house for a night.

Contact your local shelter to see if overnight or weekend fostering is an option.

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