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The story was set in a post-apocalyptic setting. The cities are the last bastions of civilization, and everyone outside of them has to fend for themselves.

A woman is living in a garbage dump that services one of those cites. One day an alien ship lands and starts taking in the dogs that live around the area. Eventually the ship abducts her, and tasks her with helping it make the dogs perfect companions for the offspring it has on board.

I read this story years ago, and cannot remember its title for the life of me.

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Laws of Survival by Nancy Kress. I read it in the anthology Alien Contact.

The protagonist is Jill - I don't think we ever learn her surname - and she lives a hand to mouth existence outside the cities:

I went out very early one morning to look for food. Before dawn was safest for a woman alone. The boy-gangs had gone to bed, tired of attacking each other. The trucks from the city hadn’t arrived yet. That meant the garbage was pretty picked over, but it also meant most of the refugee camp wasn’t out scavenging. Most days I could find enough: a carrot stolen from somebody’s garden patch, my arm bloody from reaching through the barbed wire. Overlooked potato peelings under a pile of rags and glass. A can of stew thrown away by one of the soldiers on the base, but still half full. Soldiers on duty by the Dome were often careless. They got bored, with nothing to do.

Aliens have invaded the Earth and built domes to live in. It isn't a UFO that takes the dogs, it is a robot from one of the alien domes. Jill finds a puppy, which she intends to eat, and the alien robot offers her food for the puppy

It took me a moment to realize it was a robot, a blue metal sphere above a hanging basket. It stopped a foot from my face and said, “This food for this dog.”

I could have run, or screamed, or at the least—the very least—looked around for a witness. I didn’t. The basket held a pile of fresh produce, green lettuce and deep purple eggplant and apples so shiny red they looked lacquered. And peaches…My mouth filled with sweet water. I couldn’t move.

The puppy whimpered

In the hope of getting more food she hunts down another puppy and brings it to the dome to try and exchange for food. It is then that she is seized:

The Dome opened again and the robot glided toward me. In the gloom I couldn’t see what was in the basket. In fact, I couldn’t see the basket. It wasn’t there. Mechanical tentacles shot out from the sphere and seized both me and the poodle. I cried out and the tentacles squeezed harder. Then I was flying through the air, the stupid dog suddenly howling beneath me, and we were carried through the Dome wall and inside.

Inside she finds:

A nightmare room made of nightmare sound: barking, yelping, whimpering, snapping. I jerked awake, sat up, and discovered myself on a floating platform above a mass of dogs. Big dogs, small dogs, old dogs, puppies, sick dogs, dogs that looked all too healthy, flashing their forty-two teeth at me—why did I remember that number? From where? The largest and strongest dogs couldn’t quite reach me with their snaps, but they were trying.

As you say, the alien requires her to train the dogs to entertain their offspring. She does this, and in the end Earth forces drive the aliens off Earth, and Jill chooses to go with them:

Over time—I have no idea how much time—I actually got some answers from Blue. The humans “not behaving correctly” had apparently succeeding in breaching one of the Domes somewhere. They must have used a nuclear bomb, but that I couldn’t verify. Grubs and dogs had both died, and so the aliens had packed up and left Earth. Without, as far as I could tell, retaliating. Maybe.

If I had stayed, I told myself, the soldiers would have shot me. Or I would have returned to life in the camp, where I would have died of dysentery or violence or cholera or starvation. Or I would have been locked away by whatever government still existed in the cities, a freak who had lived with aliens, none of my story believed. I barely believed it myself.

I am a freak who lives with aliens. Furthermore, I live knowing that at any moment Blue or Green or their “masters” might decide to vaporize me. But that’s really not much different from the uncertainty of life in the camp, and here I actually have some status.

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  • I think that's the anthology that I read it in too.
    – Ironlenny
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 0:40

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