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Common Reasons Owners Rehome Their Dogs


The number of dogs relinquished to animal shelters or rehomed through sites such as Craigslist is staggering.  Even worse, many of the dogs that do get adopted wind up bouncing from home to home until one sticks.  Many adopters have unrealistic expectations regarding canine ownership.  Listed here are the most common reasons owners rehome their pets.

Breed Specific Legislation
Unfortunately, many areas in the United States, Canada, and Europe do not allow certain breeds, primarily pit bulls.  Commonly, people bring home pit bulls without considering future plans of relocating.  Then, when it comes time to move, they are unable to find housing that allows pitties, or the breed is banned entirely from the community.  Before adopting a dog, make sure the breed is compatible with any relocations you are intending to make in the next 10 – 15 years.

Too Much Work
Another reason dogs are relinquished is because the owner did not realize the amount of work involved in caring for a pet.  Alternatively, the dog may have been intended for a child to learn responsibility, only for the lesson to have failed.  Breeds such as Siberian Huskies and Labrador Retrievers are often relinquished for these reasons.  Consider whether you have an addition 2 – 3 hours of your day to devote to caring for a dog.  If not, hiring a dog sitter, dog walker or taking your pet to doggy day care are all suitable options until your dog slows down.

Not Bonding
Other times, pets that are adopted are immediately returned because the new owner feels he/she and the dog aren’t bonding.  In this situation, it is important to ask yourself whether you have given the dog enough time to adjust to its new surroundings.  If you adopted your dog from a shelter, it has likely experienced many changes in a short period of time and may be unsure of whom to trust.  Ways to jumpstart the bonding process are to enroll in an obedience class and spend more quality time together.

Poor Behavior
The behavioral reasons that dogs are relinquished range from mild (pottying in the house) to severe (aggression).  However, it is the responsibility of each and every pet owner to try and work through behavior problems before giving up on a pet.  Oftentimes, the problem is due to inexperience.  For instance, if your dog continually potties inappropriately in the house, consider whether you are cleaning the area properly (with an enzymatic cleaner) and if you are being consistent in your dog’s potty training.  Easy behavioral problems to fix include digging, chewing, barking, counter-surfing, and hyperactivity, among others.  Never adopt a dog expecting it to be “perfect.”  Frequently, obedience classes or a couple one-on-one sessions with a dog trainer can fix any problem.

Another common problem is reactivity, which includes barking, lunging, and/or growling at strangers, other dogs, stray animals, garbage cans, the wind, etc.  This issue can be especially frustrating for the new owner of a large dog who just wants to take the pet for a walk or run.  As with nearly every behavioral issue, this too can be solved with patience and hard work.  Reactivity is commonly caused by lack of socialization and/or a traumatic experience, such as abuse or spending time in a chaotic environment, like an animal shelter.  In cases of mild reactivity, exposing your dog to new experiences, sights, sounds, and smells regularly can mitigate the problem.  In moderate to severe scenarios, help from an animal behavioralist may be necessary.

Separation Anxiety
Dogs that have been adopted from the shelter are prone to experiencing separation anxiety (or, more accurately, isolation anxiety).  As pack animals, most dogs strongly prefer the company of humans or other pets.  When left alone, pets with separation anxiety may panic, causing destruction and damage to your house and belongings.  Indeed, separation anxiety can be difficult to overcome.  However, giving your dog up for adoption will only make your pet’s behavior worse, and may ultimately lead to euthanasia.  Before rehoming your pet, consult with a canine behavior specialist.

Sometimes, new adopters bring home a dog only to discover they are allergic to the pet.  Depending on the severity of the allergies, rehoming may be the only option.  However, there are a number of ways to mitigate allergy suffering, such as by installing a HEPA filter, giving your pet frequent baths, taking allergy medication, and creating “dog-free zones” in your home.

Health Problems
Sadly, some dogs are relinquished because the family is either unwilling, or unable, to pay for medical care.  This situation is common with older dogs, where the family trades in the pet for a younger animal.  If you are unable to pay for your dog’s care, inquire with your veterinarian or local animal shelters and rescues about medical assistance programs.  Otherwise, never rehome an animal simply because it has grown older and is no longer the young, playful pup it once was.  In reality, your dog will likely be euthanized at the shelter, or suffer from unbearable heartbreak.

Changing Family Structure
When a family realizes that a baby is on the way, pets are sometimes rehomed.  Fears of the dog not getting along with the new child or the family no longer having time for the pet are the most commonly cited reasons.  On the other hand, when a family divorces the pets may also get split up and taken to an animal shelter.  Before adopting a dog, consider these scenarios and what will happen if big changes are experienced.  If you are planning to start a family in the future, socialize your dog to children as soon as you can.  If you are adopting pets with a loved one, consider their fate should something happen to the relationship.  Ultimately, it is far better to be prepared for any situation, no matter how unrealistic it may seem, than to find yourself having to rehome your pet at a later date.


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Anna Weber

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