Rehoming a Dog: A Responsible and Compassionate Approach

Written by Erin Whitten
Published: July 10, 2023
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Nothing can ever prepare a pet owner for rehoming their beloved companion. Oftentimes, this event is due to an extreme life circumstance, such as illness, sudden allergies, and homelessness, adding to the guilt of having to give your dog away. When life changes unexpectedly, there are humane ways for you to approach this situation, ensuring your dog will continue living the best life possible.

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When life changes unexpectedly, there are humane ways for you to approach rehoming

©iStock.com/Astakhova

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Planning for the Unexpected: Having a Rehoming Plan Before You Get a Dog

Bringing a new pet into your home signifies the start of a journey filled with companionship, love, and innumerable delightful moments. When getting a pet, you need to remember, life is often unpredictable and circumstances may unexpectedly change. This may require you to reconsider your capacity to adequately provide for your furry friend. Preparing a rehoming plan before you even bring a pet home, is a responsible step to ensure your pet’s well-being, no matter what the future holds.

It’s crucial to understand that rehoming should always be the last resort, after all possibilities of adjusting your situation have been thoroughly considered. Pets form deep bonds with their owners and changing homes can be a stressful experience for them, and selfish to their breeders or adoption centers. Here are some ways you could plan for this.

Rehoming should always be the last resort, after all possibilities of adjusting your situation have been thoroughly considered

©iStock.com/Kateryna Kukota

Ask For Help First

Facing financial hardships can test the bond between you and your pet. However, before considering rehoming, explore local resources that will help maintain your pet’s well-being. Local humane societies and community initiatives often provide pet food banks and reduced-cost veterinary care to assist pet parents during times of struggle.

Reach Out to Its Breeder or Rescue

Often overlooked due to fears of shame and guilt from breeders, reaching out to your dog’s breeder can be a promising first step in your rehoming journey. Responsible breeders and animal shelters typically care deeply for the dogs they have bred and are often willing to assist in the rehoming process or even take the dog back. Even if rehoming your pet through this method isn’t feasible, they may be able to offer advice or guide you to suitable resources, making this a valuable avenue to explore.

Common Reasons for Rehoming a Dog

There are many reasons why an owner would have to rehome a dog. Shelters say these are the top reasons from pet parents.

Shih tzu dog

There are many reasons why an owner would have to rehome a dog

©iStock.com/elenasendler

  • Separation Anxiety: Dogs with separation anxiety can oftentimes demonstrate destructive behavior, excessive barking, and other stress-related behaviors when left alone.
  • Aggression Issues: Some dogs could exhibit aggressive behavior toward other dogs, strangers, or family members, even with extensive training. These behaviors can be intimidating and challenging to manage, particularly in households with young children or other vulnerable individuals.
  • Changes in Life Circumstances: Significant life changes like serious financial struggles or personal crises can necessitate rehoming a pet.

What Does Compassionate Rehoming Entail?

The conclusion to rehome your dog is one that comes with a hefty emotional toll. Approaching this process with compassion can alleviate stress for both you and your pet. By creating a smooth transition, you help set your dog up for future success.

Compassionate rehoming is centered around these fundamentals:

  1. Prioritize Your Dog: When rehoming your dog, all of your first plans should revolve around the welfare of your dog. Evaluating potential new homes for their ability to provide a safe, loving, and supportive environment is vital. This includes ensuring they have the time, resources, and commitment necessary to cater to your dog’s specific needs.
  2. Transparency: Honesty is key during the rehoming process. Disclose any behavioral quirks, medical conditions, or particular needs your dog has to any potential new owners. This transparency allows them to prepare adequately, ensuring a better fit for both the dog and the adoptive families. It also prevents them from having to be rehomed again.
  3. Ensure Your Dog’s Energy Can Match the New Owners: Every dog has its unique set of characteristics. Some thrive in a bustling household, while others prefer a sedentary lifestyle. When considering prospective new owners, evaluate whether their lifestyle aligns with your dog’s temperament and needs.
  4. Support During Transition: Changing homes can be stressful for a dog. Providing comfort items like a familiar bed, toys, or blanket during the transition can help ease anxiety. Compassionate rehoming doesn’t end once your dog has moved to their new home. A follow-up after a few weeks can be reassuring and provide an opportunity to offer additional advice or support as needed, and it will benefit your dog as well.

Can You Rehome an Aggressive Dog?

Factoring in an aggressive dog provides its own sense of challenges. However, that does not make it impossible to do so! When starting this process, you should get an animal behavioral specialist involved. Aggression can often be managed or even resolved with appropriate strategies and treatment, which could benefit your dog before being rehomed. Keep in mind, it’s imperative to fully disclose your dog’s aggressive tendencies to potential adopters to ensure they are prepared for the responsibility. The ideal home would be one where the new owner has experience with challenging behaviors or can access professional help.

Should You Be Selective When Rehoming Your Dog?

When it comes to rehoming your dog, a selective approach is absolutely essential. Your four-legged companion relies on you to ensure their well-being, and their future rests on the choice you make. This decision isn’t simply about finding them another home — it’s about finding them the right home.

Understanding Your Dog’s Specific Needs

Every dog, like humans, is unique, with its own personality, behaviors, likes and dislikes, and health requirements. Consider things like:

  • Temperament: Is your dog friendly and outgoing, or shy and reserved? Are they good with children, or do they prefer the company of adults only?
  • Health and Dietary Needs: Does your dog have any existing health conditions that require regular medication or a specific diet?
  • Exercise Requirements: Is your dog high-energy, requiring plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, or are they more sedentary, preferring lots of snooze time?
  • Behavioral Issues: If there are any behavioral concerns, such as separation anxiety, fearfulness, or aggression, these should be transparently disclosed.

Meeting the Candidates for Adoption

Once you have created a thorough profile of your dog, it’s time to screen potential new homes. When assessing a potential new home, you must consider:

  • Lifestyle Compatibility: Does the adopter’s lifestyle align with your dog’s needs? For instance, an active dog might not be suited to an adopter who works long hours and can’t provide enough exercise.
  • Experience with Dogs: Have the potential adopters had dogs before? Do they understand the responsibilities that come with pet ownership?
  • Financial Stability: Pets can be expensive. Can the potential adopter afford necessary veterinary care, food, and other expenses?
  • Household Environment: What is the household like? Is it calm and quiet, or active and busy? Are there other pets or children in the house?
Maltipoo puppy eating

When assessing a potential new home, there are many things you must consider.

©iStock.com/marketlan

The Most Important Aspect of Rehoming Is Acceptance

It’s not an easy road, but as pet parents, we want the best for our Fido friends, and sometimes that means letting go because you care for them. At the end of the day, rehoming is not the end of your pet’s story; rather, it’s a new chapter, filled with potential for love, care, and contentment. Your journey with your pet might be changing, but the love you have for them will always remain in their heart, and yours.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Lina Novotna/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Erin Whitten is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily covering dogs, food, and travel. She earned her BA in Communications and Digital Media from Arizona State University in 2019. A resident of Massachusetts, Erin enjoys hanging out with her shelter cat Azula and taking photos of other animals.

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