How to Safely Rehome a Dog

You planned on being with your dog for at least 12–15 years, but things just aren’t working out. Life happens. Perhaps someone in your family has developed an allergy to dogs, or your job requires you to travel often. Maybe your dog has behavioral or health problems that seem beyond your abilities. Now, you find yourself grappling with a difficult decision: Should I find a new home for my dog?

This is a tough choice to make, and it’s sure to bring up many emotions. Despite any feelings of guilt you may have, rehoming is the responsible thing to do when you can no longer care for your dog. Even the president of the United States has made this difficult decision.

What Does It Mean To Rehome a Dog?

Rehoming a dog means finding a new home where your dog will be happy and safe. Rehoming is not the same as abandonment. By finding a good home, you are doing what is best for your dog. It’s not the same thing as surrendering a dog to an animal shelter because you will move your dog from your home directly to a new one. When you surrender a dog to a shelter, the dog will live in a kennel environment or a foster home until a new home can be found. Sadly, many shelters are overcrowded and some dogs never find their forever homes.

3 Common Reasons Why Pet Parents May Consider Rehoming a Dog as a Last Resort

It’s helpful to exhaust all other options before you start to look for your dog’s new home. You and your dog have established a bond and a routine, so rehoming will be stressful for you both. There’s no shame in asking for help in order to make an informed decision.

Leanne Smith, Clinic Practice Manager at Paws Humane Society says, “There are many programs and organizations whose focus is keeping animals in their homes and they can help. Most people surrender their pets because they feel like they have no other option and that’s just not true. In a lot of cases, if the owners truly want to keep their pets, help is out there. It just takes a little direction and a lot of dedication.”

1. Financial Struggles

If you’re thinking of rehoming your dog because of a work or financial situation, consider asking family or friends to help care for your dog until your situation changes. You’ll know your dog is in good hands and you may be able to visit from time to time. Shelters and pet welfare organizations sometimes also provide resources like food and vet care that help pet owners keep their pets even during hardship. Googling “pet food bank near me” is a good way to start investigating these options.

2. Caring for Your Pet’s Medical Problems

Medical problems can be overwhelming, but there may be a way to keep your dog and get some assistance with the financial and logistical aspects of caring for your pet. If paying for vet bills is a problem, you may be able to apply for a line of credit through your regular veterinarian or get assistance from a local low-cost veterinary clinic. Or maybe your dog needs more day-to-day care than you can handle. Even basic dog care can be difficult if you have a busy schedule or personal limitations. Ask your veterinarian about home care options. Your vet may be able to refer you to a skilled pet sitter who can come to your home and help with treatments. A dog walker is also a great option if you want to provide your dog with more exercise and human interaction.

3. Behavioral Challenges

If you’re dealing with behavioral issues that seem beyond repair, you are not alone. This is one of the most common reasons why owners opt to rehome their dogs. The good news is that many behavior problems can be solved or reduced through training, conditioning, and behavior modification. Search for a dog trainer or animal behaviorist who focuses on positive reinforcement methods. A professional can offer an educated and experienced-based opinion about your dog’s situation and potential solutions.

If your dog has bitten a person or animal, it’s best to meet with a behavior consultant before deciding to rehome. A professional can help you determine the best environment for the dog while keeping people and other animals safe.

How to Rehome a Dog

If you’ve decided that rehoming is the right choice, then it’s time to find the best home possible for your dog. Take a few minutes to write up an information sheet on your dog that lists your dog’s name, age, weight, medical issues, and medications. Describe your dog’s personality and temperament, making sure to mention any behavioral concerns or special needs.

Next, think about the type of home environment that will make your dog happy. When shelter workers place dogs in new homes, “We look at why the dog didn’t work in its previous home,” Smith says. “Then we look for a home/family where that pet’s qualities fit better.” For example, if a dog has trouble getting along with other animals, a single-pet household is a good choice. A high-energy dog will do best in a home where plenty of exercise is provided. If your dog has trouble with stairs, you will want to avoid homes with several stories.

In many cases, the best home for your dog is with family or friends. Besides the peace of mind of knowing your dog is in good hands, you may even get to visit your dog periodically.

Be sure to check the contract or paperwork if you adopted your dog from a rescue group or purchased a puppy from a breeder. Some organizations ask that you return your dog to them if you can no longer provide a home. This allows the organization to take back responsibility for the dog and use the information you provide to find the right home. Even if returning the dog was not part of the original agreement, many breeders and rescue groups will take back pets to ensure they are properly placed.

You may wish to contact local dog rescue groups to see if they can accept your dog into a foster program. If you have a purebred (or nearly purebred) dog, contact breed-specific rescue groups in your area. Be aware that some organizations will charge you a fee to cover the expense of rehoming a dog.

If you can’t find a new home for your dog using one of these methods, then you may wish to search for a stranger to take your dog. You can screen potential adopters by asking for help from reliable sources. Ask your veterinarian and staff if they know anyone who is in a position to adopt your dog. Use social media contacts to help spread the word and vouch for people. Your local animal shelter may be able to offer tips on screening potential adopters. You can even search for an online resource like Rehome that will help connect you with people seeking pets. For your safety and your dog’s best interest, avoid anonymous sources like Craigslist where you are unable to properly screen people.

How Does a Dog Feel When Rehomed?

Rehoming can be an emotional experience for both you and your dog. You may experience guilt and sadness, but you also have the ability to understand what is happening and why it’s the best thing for everyone. On the other hand, your dog will likely be confused and frightened by the change. Dogs often experience depression or anxiety during the transition and will benefit from calm, positive interactions with new people and animals. It will be helpful if you stay in touch with the new owner in case advice or information is needed. Most dogs adjust gradually over the first few weeks and will eventually become happy and comfortable in their new homes.