Nov 052010

If you’re thinking about giving your dog away, here are several things to consider. Surrendering a dog is painful, but could be the right decision for you and your family. We sadly gave our dog away yesterday…it was the right decision for us, but we’ve been crying ever since. The following tips will help you decide if you need to give your dog away.

giving my dog away“There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people [and dogs] we can’t live without but have to let go.” ~ Unknown.

And that’s exactly how I feel: I can’t live without my dog, but I had to let her go. One of my regrets about giving my dog away is not learning more about dogs from books such as Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know.

The more you understand your dog, the better equipped you’ll be to make the seemingly impossible decision of whether you should give her away.

I recently wrote How to Cope After Rehoming a Dog. I recently adopted a second dog (Tiffy), and the person who gave her away is having trouble coping with the loss. My article about rehoming a dog is actually a letter written by Tiffy to her previous owner. This is a chance for you to see what’s it like to move to a new home, from a dog’s perspective!

Should You Give Your Dog Away?

Here are my tips, based on our recent experience with adopting and surrendering a dog.

Separate emotion from the reasons you need to give your dog away. We adopted Jazz, a 75-pound one-year old black lab German Shepherd “puppy” from the West Vancouver SPCA just over a month ago. We fell in love with her almost immediately, which is why we couldn’t stop crying when we surrendered her back to the SPCA yesterday.

However, as heartbroken and guilty as we feel, we couldn’t ignore the practical reasons that compelled us to give our dog away. We are not the best family for this dog. If you’re trying to decide if you should give your dog away, try to separate your love from what’s best for everyone…including your dog.

Make a list of pros and cons for keeping versus giving your dog away. When you make your list of reasons for keeping or not keeping your dog, assign each reason a number. For instance, one of the reasons we gave our dog away (a “con”) is that she is the size of a small pony and has the energy of seven dogs combined. Our house and yard isn’t big enough for her – and neither are our energy levels! So, this con rates a 10 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being “very important reason” and 1 being “hardly important at all”). When you finish making your list, add up the numbers. If the cons for keeping her outweigh the pros, then maybe you should give your dog away.

Listen to your heart and head – not other people’s opinions. My husband and I were your typical confused dog owners! We didn’t know if we should keep trying to train and bond with our dog, or if we should just give her away after one month. Everyone we talked to had a different opinion: some said to give the dog away because it’s not worth the time and hassle to train her, while others said it just takes time (up to two years!) for her to mature and learn how to be obedient and part of our “pack.” Ultimately, though, we had to make our own decision, regardless of what other dog owners or obedience trainers said.

Do what’s best for you and your family. I’m a full-time writer and blogger; you’d think I’d be the perfect owner for a big energetic dog who needs lots of time and attention! But, she was so restless and needy, I couldn’t do my job properly. Having this young black lab around all day was emotionally draining; I was constantly worried that she might need to pee, that she was bored, that she was lonely without her SPCA dog friends.

Additionally, it was physically exhausting and time consuming to take her on four walks a day, which the dog obedience trainer recommended. As painful as it was to give our dog away, it really was the best decision for us.

Find ways to cope with guilt after finding a new home for your dog

rehoming a dog

Our dog Georgie, who we adopted after giving Jazz away.

Both my husband and I feel terrible that we took Jazz back…but it helps to know that we did the best we could. Our dog will be better off in a different home with a family who can give her what she needs. We’re struggling with seriously guilty feelings after giving our dog away – and the sooner we find ways to cope with our pain, the better off we’ll be. One way to cope is to talk about it with people who understand, and to write about it.

UPDATE: we adopted a different dog, Georgie, six months after giving Jazz away, and can’t imagine life without her! We always wanted a dog, but didn’t find the right one…until now. I describe how it all happened in Are You Ready to Get Another Dog?

Are you struggling to decide if you should give your dog away? Comments welcome below.

A reader suggested these articles, for people who are struggling with the decision to give a dog away:

I welcome your thoughts on how to decide if you should give your dog away. I know it’s not an easy decision to make, and I wish you all the best as you decide what to do.

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  253 Responses to “Should You Give Your Dog Away? 5 Things to Consider”

  1. Dear Terri,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with Mocha – I’m so glad you wrote in. It’s so important for us to know we’re not alone, that we’ve had to make the sad decision to give our dogs away — and that it’s not an easy decision.

    I adopted my second dog, Tiffy, from a woman who had her for three years. She had to give her away, and I love Tiffy with all my heart! I know that our dogs – the ones we had to give away – are being loved by people with big hearts and kind souls.

    May you have peace with your decision, and know Mocha will be loved and cherished by her new family.

    In sympathy,

  2. Laurie: Thank you for this article, resources etc. Its been very valuable-in helping me cope with the grief I have over re-homing my beloved Long Haired dachshund Mocha a week ago.

    I got her 5 years ago from a shelter, and was home all the time then. I didn’t really deal with her behavior problems, particularly her fear and aggression toward strangers and protection of me (and my sister and her family who occasionally watched her for me). She was a smart funny loyal companion and got me through job loss, the loss of a parent etc. I nursed her back to fitness and health and loved her to death.

    BUT, my current job turned into one where I am gone for weeks and even months on end, on short notice. Even when I am in town, I work long hours, I find my extra hours taken up with an elderly Dad, working on my own critical health and fitness issues. Because of her behavior issues I couldn’t really take her with me, and her continuing aggression resulted in a few biting or nipping incidents that led to my sister giving me an ultimatum that she could no longer care for my dog when I left town so this past year she has been boarded when I travelled, although my sister did occasionally come get her for a few days at a time. I brought in a trainer and tried different methods, but in the end it was difficult for me to change her behavior.

    She got away from me a week ago and bit a stranger when I opened the car door slightly-a first for her (normally she had gotten to friends, family, neighbors). The woman bit cried from the shock and pain of a good chomp on the ankle. I was nearly ill. I ended up escorting the woman to the walk in clinic, and it turned out the bite wasn’t that bad, seems to be healing fine and hopefully all will be well. But in addition to my compassion for the woman, I also saw legal issues looming-if sued I could lose what little I have managed to get and save.

    The issue of being gone too much is always there and I had been bargaining with myself over the past few months-how many months out of the year is too many to be gone if you are a single dog owner?

    The day of the bite-I realized my decision had been made and I reached out to the local Dachshund Rescue. I did the rip off the bandaid thing, and once I had permission from the original shelter I obtained her from and word from the Director of the Rescue- my sister I arranged to get Mocha’s records, food etc and make the 6 hour drive to the Rescue a day later, July 1 -a few days ago.

    It helped that I had a bit of flexibility in my schedule -and that I am planning to be gone for a few weeks starting in a few days.

    I was able to spend some good quality time with my dog outside and inside cuddling-as well as on the trip over before I gave her up. I am grateful that the Rescue will allow me to email for updates and follow on Facebook, although I do not intend to stalk my former dog, after I am assured she is settling in.

    My dog was calm upon arrival at the Rescue, didn’t bark in the presence of other dogs, or the Director and seemed at ease. I think she knows she can relax and be a dog there-and she no longer has to protect me. The Rescue is literally on a farm in Eastern Washington State and the yard, surroundings are nice. I feel confident I did the right thing, that she will get the training she needs and the ability to go to family that will understand her-and if not she will be allowed sanctuary at the Rescue. I know she is better off with constant company and training, volunteer socializing than she was with me.

    I ordered a Cuddle Clone-(send a picture of your dog and they make a plush replica) have a selected a couple of good pictures to be framed, and I hope soon to think of her without as much pain. Its nice to know that I am not alone in struggling with this decision, the shame that I let my dog down, and the pain of loss.

    I do think Stop Yer Whining makes some good points, if indelicately. I hope that in a year or two my job situation is such that I will not travel or work as much and can think about a new dog. I KNOW that identifying a robust back up system of dog walker/sitters as well as having a trainer to coach me will be essential BEFORE I find another dog. I also know I need to continue my weight loss and fitness regime and ensure that I have the ability to exercise and train the dog consistently and frequently. I am going to try, even with my work constraints to be a good auntie to dogs I know now , and possibly to volunteer to help socialize or even foster dogs at some point. I will use the money I had budget for my dog’s care to donate to the Rescue and local shelters, pet food banks. I have made those promises to myself. I think looking to the future is one of the best ways I can honor my beloved Mocha

    Finally, thank you again for the references and support.

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