Having to return your adopted or rescued dog is never an easy decision, but sometimes it is simply necessary. According to ASPCA, among the many reasons for re-homing a pet, aggressive or unwanted behavior and health issues are the most prominent ones. However, before you go about returning dog to shelter, there are a few things to consider.
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First, do not make a rash decision, because it's possible that whatever problems you have could be fixed. Take a hard look at the reasons for why you want to be returning dog to shelter and check if there's something you can do to avoid it.
Below are some of the most common reasons for returning dogs to shelters, why pet owners change their mind and what you can do instead of surrendering your dog.
5 Reasons for Returning Dog to Shelter
1. Unwanted Behavior
Even if you spent a lot of time getting to know your dog before you adopted or rescued them, behavior changes can sometimes occur and surprise new pet owners. In fact, the difference in return rates of rescued dogs is nonexistent between the owners who did a lot of research on the animal before adoption and those who didn’t do any research at all.
Disobedience, destructive or aggressive behavior are fairly common and are all valid reasons pet owners might want to return their dog to the shelter. Fortunately, there's something you can do to correct many common behavioral problems before you make that final decision of returning your pet.
What You Can Do:
Whether it's destructive chewing or other behavior issue, most of them can be fixed in similar ways, usually with additional training, redirection, positive reinforcement and elimination of underlying causes. Very often, this is a quick fix that you haven't thought of before. Let's take destructive behavior as an example for most problematic behaviors.
More training. Consider crate training your dog to prevent destructive behavior when you are away from home. You can reduce soiling around the house and prevent the dog chewing belongings if you crate train your pup while you work on other training techniques to prevent behavior problems.
Eliminate causes. Dog experts also recommend ruling out underlying issues that may quickly fix destructive chewing and related behaviors. Employ a compassionate yet effective approach as recommended by animal hospitals. And finally, the famous late canine behaviorist Dr Sophia Yin has a huge library to help you through this process.
Some good YouTube videos for quick and simple solutions to solve behavioral issues:
The above resources cover most aspects of dog training designed specifically to solve 90% of dog behavior problems, including destructive chewing, mild aggression and disobedience. Below are a few more common issues pet owners are frustrated about.
- Potty problems. If your dog is not potty trained, you can train him within 2-4 weeks. Even if your pooch is an adult or senior dog, he can still learn how to eliminate himself appropriately; just make sure you follow the rules and stay consistent.
- Misbehaving. Teach your dog some basic commands. Commands like “Stay”, “Come” or “Sit” are a good place to start and are some of the easiest to teach a dog. These are the foundation of obedience training and they will prevent your pup from misbehaving in many situations.
- Unwanted behavior. As noted above, there's plenty of online resources on how to quickly correct other types of unwanted behavior in dogs and fix issues like separation anxiety, leash or food aggression and biting. All it takes is to use positive reinforcement – reward your dog with treats and praise to encourage his progress.
If you are not able to correct these problems yourself, consider getting professional help from a dog behaviorist or dog trainer. You don't need to spend money on months of classes; usually, just a few that will lay the foundation for training will be enough. With some training and therapy, most dogs will learn how to behave and you can keep your pet after all without returning dog to shelter. Give yourself anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks.
2. Health Issues
Dogs can suffer from many health conditions that require veterinary care, time and money, especially as dogs grow older. Some pet owners are simply not prepared to deal with these health problems in dogs properly, which leads them to think about returning their dogs to shelters.
What You Can Do:
First of all, keep in mind that dogs with medical conditions are much harder to adopt from shelters, which means that your pooch could stay there forever. With that in mind, you can take some steps to help you with the cost of medical bills.
- Savings tips. See here for the many ways how pet owners can save on vet bills and dog care throughout the dog's entire life. Employ some of these hacks and tricks to reduce your dog's health costs.
- Vet's assistance. Talk to your veterinarian and explain the situation, and ask them about emergency vet care options. Many vets are willing to reduce the costs or at least help you form a payment plan to deal with this financial strain knowing that you're thinking about returning dog to shelter.
- Reach out. There are some organizations that will help pet owners to pay vet bills, especially if it's to prevent returning dog to shelter. Applying for financial assistance is fairly easy with them and the volunteers may also help you find discounted services.
- Contact the shelter. There are also some shelters and rescue organizations that provide either financial assistance to owners who've adopted from them, or they take care of certain tasks and bills themselves.
- Expensive surgeries. This is the biggest expense for pet owners as the cost of some surgeries can go up into five and even six figures. But there are ways to save here too, as long as you're willing to do a bit of research and contact places for help.
- Other sources. You can talk to a local school or university that has a veterinary program. They often provide low-cost medical services to the general public.
Another option is to contact any local non-pet related organizations that may still help pet owners cover health related veterinary care bills and expenses to avoid returning dog to shelter.
3. Financial Reasons
Similar to the above, you may have not realized the overall lifelong costs of caring for a dog, which doesn't mean veterinary care only for their health problems but spending money on dog training, supplies, food, toys, and other basic needs like bedding, crates and other essentials.
Even if you planned and budgeted well for a newly adopted dog, it's possible that some unforeseen circumstances, like losing a job or a dog's need for an expensive surgery, could put you in a position to consider returning dog to shelter because you cannot afford the care anymore.
What You Can Do:
You can apply for government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP). Although this program doesn't cover costs of pet food, you can find a lot of human foods that your dog can also eat. This program could also help you find other resources you can use to further help you with basic nutritional needs for your dog.
As noted in our Pandemic Relief guide on acquiring financial help for pet owners, give yourself (and your dog) a little bit more time and try to budget better. Set up a very strict budgetary guideline, look into pet savings accounts, emergency fund, better credit cards and pet insurance. Look into government aid and tax relief options, especially during very trying times (see here, here and here).
A few other places where you can apply for financial assistance as a pet owner:
- RedRover Relief Urgent Care
- RedRover Relief Emergency Boarding
- Pets In Need
- ASPCA Relief and Recovery
- BestFriends.org financial aid per U.S. state
All of these pet care financial relief organizations are independent of each other. They will have certain rules and requirements before financial help is provided, so make sure to check with each of them and read their requirements beforehand.
Finally, take a look at this list on 80+ ways to save as a pet owner on dog expenses. This list contains a number of tips and DIY hacks you can utilize to reduce the costs of everything related to dog care, toys, beds, and foods to grooming and training.
4. Newborn Baby
Having a baby takes a lot of your time and it can sometimes be the reason why owners wish to return a dog to a shelter. Also, if your dog has a behavioral problem that hasn’t been corrected yet, you may feel worried for your baby’s safety. Another common concern is that a dog will be jealous and act unfriendly to your new baby.
That said, look at the other side, too: many studies proven that kids benefit from growing up around dogs – it improves their physical and mental health, among other benefits. Moreover, if you're a new parent with a baby, after you make proper introductions, having a dog not only isn't a disadvantage but can actually be turned into an advantage. If that still doesn't convince you to reconsider returning dog to shelter, see more below.
What You Can Do:
As far as your time goes, you can find ways to take care both of your dog and a new baby. For example, you can take your dog on a walk on the leash and bring your baby in a stroller. That's enough to provide your pet with necessary exercise and attention while also giving attention and fresh air to your child.
Both dogs and young children nap a lot, and even though their napping times won’t always match, in many cases they will, giving you some time to relax and rest. If you keep your dog's routine and schedule consistent, you can match it to your baby's sleeping pattern and that way you can have enough rest for yourself.
If the baby is on its way, then prepare your dog for the new baby's arrival to keep them safe and healthy. Work on the dog's training and obedience beforehand, and learn how to recognize signs of aggression or distress in dogs so you can react on time if it appears that a bad situation is brewing. This way you'll be confident that problems are unlikely to arise.
5. Moving to a New Home
Some landlords don’t allow pets of any kind on their premises. That is often a reason that spurs owners consider returning dog to shelter, but it doesn't have to go that way every single time.
What You Can Do:
The obvious solution to this problem is to look for a house or apartment that allows pets. You can even use filters on many search engines or real estate websites like Zillow.com and others so you can only look at pet-friendly housing.
If you can’t pick a specifically pet-friendly house or apartment, there's a number of ways you can convince a landlord to let your pet stay with you. The most common is to suggest paying a monthly fee to your landlord, or an additional security deposit for the pet. Use some of these tips on adopting or keeping a dog when a landlord is opposed to it.
Don't give up yet – there's a number of solutions to most common reasons dog owners consider returning dog to shelter. Of course, there are also problems that can’t be worked around, like a serious illness of an owner.
In case that you can’t find a solution that works for you and you simply must relinquish your pet, try to re-home the dog yourself before you turn to a shelter. Surrendering a dog fast is possible, but even if you cannot provide your pooch with the home anymore, at least give them a chance at a better new forever home after you give the dog up.
Note that you should never put up an ad on Craigslist or similar ads website because you can’t do a proper background check on the potential adopter. There's a number of scams happening on these sites where pets are adopted by criminals or bad owners who might use the dog as bait for dog fighting or otherwise have poor intentions.
Instead of posting ads on websites for dog adoption, ask people you trust if they can take your dog or if they know a reliable person looking for a dog. Contact rescue groups or other organizations which can help you find the animal a good new home if you're set on returning dog to shelter and there's no other way around it.