It’s been barely a week since you adopted little T-Rex — and this destructive puppy has already chewed through 3 remotes, 2 sofas and 1 big chunk of the front door.
You decide he’ll eat you out of house and home and has to go.
What do you do if you don’t want your dog anymore?
Assessing the Issue
Let’s look at some typical scenarios.
The above example was similar to a story we heard recently about Mike, a Boxer/pit mix.
Mike was returned to the shelter by his adoptive family, who had really wanted a cute puppy like him but ended up having to work 10-hour days. During those long days, a bored 3-month-old Mike had been left home alone with nothing to do.
Sometimes dogs are not a good fit with your lifestyle, so please be realistic before adopting a pet.
You also might have arrived home with your new pet only to be told “no way” by your partner. Perhaps you can’t keep a stray puppy you’ve found because you’re already maxed out on dogs and cats, and one more just wouldn’t be possible.
Some dog behavior problems can be resolved with:
- Training classes, even if your dog is older
- Spaying or neutering
- Enrolling your dog in a daycare center that provides all-day activities
Whatever the reason for not keeping your dog, please read through the suggestions below before deciding on a course of action.
6 Options When You Don’t Want Your Dog Anymore
First, get prepared. If you have paperwork from your purchase or adoption, set that aside.
Write a list of qualities about the dog so someone else can assess them for potential adopters:
- Does your dog go crazy if they see a cat?
- Do they hate storms or howl at loud noises?
- Have they ever bitten anyone?
- Are they food aggressive?
Making these notes can help the next person know how to handle your dog and find a good match for them. Be sure to add in any health problems or medications, as well as the last known date of vaccinations. Bathe and groom your dog so they look their best.
The less work the veterinary techs or rescue personnel have to do, the faster your dog can get on the list for adoption.
Now let’s discuss 6 possible options when you don’t want your dog anymore:
1. Family or Friends
Ask family members and your friends if they would be interested in taking the dog.
Post high-quality photos and a detailed description of your pet on social media to try to get the word out. “Photos and descriptions really help people make a connection to an animal,” says Best Friends Animal Society.
Try to write a description “that describes the pet’s personality, habits and some of the little things that make this animal special,” Best Friends adds.
“Do not hold back when it comes to telling about any disabilities, health issues or behavior quirks. Sometimes these are the things that potential adopters particularly respond to.”
And don’t stop at just friends and family, the group says. Try to spread the word far and wide.
“Word of mouth should not be underestimated,” Best Friends says.
“Tell anyone and everyone about the pet that needs a home and ask friends, co-workers and family members to help with spreading the word. It could be that a co-worker’s father’s neighbor’s daughter is looking for a new pet.”
Is your dog a specific breed?
Breed-specific rescue groups “work hand-in-hand with and complement the work of animal shelters,” according to Petfinder.
“As purebred rescue groups remove ‘their’ breed from a shelter, they free up a run and buy time for another dog. Additionally, many rescue groups take dogs who might be considered less adoptable by some shelters, such as dogs who are older or have special needs.”
Breed-specific rescues often pull dogs from shelters and animal control offices, so going straight to the rescue may give your dog a better chance of getting a permanent home faster:
- Check out the American Kennel Club’s Rescue Network list.
- Or search for the name of your dog’s breed + “rescue” and your state name. If none is listed, search for another state and contact them — sometimes transport can be arranged between shelters and rescues.
3. Animal Sanctuaries
Animal sanctuaries may exist in your area. Search your location + “animal sanctuary” to find one near you.
Some of these places may offer adoption services or allow the animals to live out their lives at the sanctuary forever. Make sure to contact them to find out if they are legitimate and if they accept dogs.
For example, Our Companions, an animal sanctuary situated on 47 acres of rural land in Manchester, Connecticut, says it takes in “dogs and cats with medical and/or behavioral challenges.”
“These animals are given the time and skilled guidance to recover, have a calm and rewarding life, and make progress toward finding their forever homes.”
4. Animal Shelters
Taking your dog to an animal shelter is another option.
As former shelter worker Allison Gray explains, “A good shelter’s staff will understand and won’t try to shame you.”
- Keep in mind that if the shelter is at full capacity, you may be referred to an animal control office (see #6 below).
- Ask if the shelter is a no-kill facility. Realize, however, that no-kill shelters choose which animals they’ll admit — and yours may not be admitted because of behavior problems, health issues or advanced age.
- If you’re considering taking your dog to the shelter, keep in mind that some dogs will not cope well in confined areas for long periods of time. If you know your dog has anxiety or confinement issues, you may want to consider another option.
“Although your local shelter may not be able to adopt out the pet, they may be able to offer other assistance,” says Best Friends. “Some have low-cost spay/neuter clinics or offer obedience-training classes. They may have a bulletin board where they post information about animals available for adoption.”
Often, military members get orders to go to a location or base and can’t take their pet with them because of pet policies or breed bans.
If you’re getting stationed and don’t know what to do with your dog, check out Dogs on Deployment. This nonprofit organization finds temporary boarders for military pets until their families come home.
We appreciate your service to our country and want you to be able to keep your pet!
6. Animal Control
Municipal animal control facilities (a.k.a. “the pound”) are run by the local government. Most of them will accept any animal — but the trade-off is they sometimes have to euthanize unadopted animals.
So please try to find a no-kill shelter first. If they’re at capacity, though, animal control is where they might send you.
If you have tried all other options, animal control may be the last place you can bring your dog.
2 Very Bad Options When You Don’t Want Your Dog Anymore
1. Dumping Your Dog
Dumping a dog somewhere is a terrible option that comes with plenty of hazards.
- Another animal could attack the dog.
- Your dog could be hit by a car.
- The dog could contract a disease and possibly spread it.
- If your dog isn’t neutered, they could contribute to the pet overpopulation problem.
“By all means, let us try to help you before you just drop and give up on the animal,” an animal control official in Georgia pleaded after a number of animals were abandoned and left to die on a dirt road.
Never assume someone will find your dog and take care of them. The dog could also stay there waiting for you to return or try to run back home.
Bottom line: If you’ve considered dropping your dog off down the road somewhere, please don’t do it.
2. “Free to a Good Home” Listing
Many people use newspapers and online listings to offer their dog to a good home for free.
We don’t like this because of the risks. Mary and Joe Smith may sound like ideal pet parents, but they could also be animal abusers or pose as a front to an animal testing service or clinic.
As Allison Gray says in her article “Why ‘Free to a Good Home’ Ads Must Die”:
“We’d all like to assume that we’re great judges of character and can see a monster coming a mile away. But some monsters aren’t that terrifying on the outside. And some are masters of deception.”
Instead of “free,” consider charging a small rehoming fee if you list your dog online. The right family won’t mind paying this fee.
In this emotional video, Lex explains why she’s rehoming her dog and shares what she has learned through her experience so far:
Whatever your reasons, if you’ve decided you don’t want your dog anymore, please take the above suggestions into consideration.
As Best Friends says, “Be creative, positive and persistent” when rehoming your dog. “There are many animals needing homes at any one time, so finding a home can take some work. But there are good homes out there, so try to maintain a positive attitude.”
You cared enough about your dog to give them a home — now give them a good chance of finding their next one.
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This article was originally published in 2012 and is regularly updated. It was last reviewed for accuracy and updated Aug. 5, 2019.