Dog Love > Making the Difficult Decision to Give Your Dog Away

Making the Difficult Decision to Give Your Dog Away

How do you know if you should give your dog away? Surrendering or rehoming a dog is painful, but it might be the best decision you could make for your family – and your dog. We had to give our dog away; it was the right thing for us to do, but it was a terrible decision to have to make.

The following tips will help you decide if you should give your dog away. It’s important to remember that sometimes the most difficult decisions are also the “most right” ones. Sometimes there are things we don’t want to happen, but have to accept. We learn lessons we didn’t want to learn…and we meet dogs we love but just can’t live with.

I wrote How to Cope With Rehoming Your Dog after we adopted another dog (Tiffy). Her owner was really struggling with the fact that she was giving her dog away. I wanted her to know that her little dog adjusted so quickly and easily to living with us! Dogs are survivors. They adapt quickly to new homes and owners – though I believe they never forget their previous owners. If you feel guilty and bad about giving your dog away, know that someone else will be glad you had to make this decision!

How do you know if giving your dog away is the right thing to do? This is a decision you and your family have to talk about – and even wrestle with. Everybody’s best interests have to be considered. There are no easy answers or quick tips. Deciding if you should give your dog up is a personal decision, and it’s important that you make it as a family. If you let someone else tell you what to do, you may always regret giving your dog away. You may also blame or resent the person for telling you what to do with your dog. That’s why this is a decision you have to make with your family.

I hope my thoughts and experience help you make this decision. Please consider sharing your story in the comments section below. If you read through other readers’ comments, you’ll find comfort and support. You’ll see you’re not alone. Writing about your own experience might help you decide if you should give your dog away, and help you work through the grief and guilt. You’ll also show other dog owners that they’re not alone.

Should You Give Your Dog Away?

These things to consider and discuss with your family are based on our experience with our big black Shepherd/lab cross. We didn’t change our minds about adopting a dog (which is why we now have two rescue dogs!). But, we couldn’t handle this the first dog we adopted, which is why we had to give her back to the shelter.

Separate your emotions from your reasons for giving your dog away

giving my dog away
Should You Give Your Dog Away?

We adopted Jazz, a 75-pound one-year old black lab German Shepherd “puppy” from the 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.

Read How to Forgive Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog if you feel like you’re betraying your dog.

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 focus on work 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 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

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

Both my husband and I felt terrible that we took our dog back to the shelter…but it helps to know that we really did do the best we could. She is better off in a different home with a family who can give her what she needs. We’re struggled with guilty feelings of rehoming a dog for a long time…and the truth is I still do feel bad about giving that dog away. But even though I feel bad about it, I still know it was the right thing to do.

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?

before you give your dog away

Not reading books like Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in 7 Days is one of my biggest regrets. I wish I knew more about big dogs like Jazz, and I wish I’d learned how to train her properly.

If you haven’t tried training your dog, consider reading books like this or hiring a dog obedience trainer to help you. This way, you’ll make sure you don’t regret giving your dog away. The more you understand and know your dog, the better equipped you’ll be to make the difficult decision.

Should you give your dog away? I welcome your thoughts below. It may help you to share what you’re going through. I know it’s not an easy decision to make, and I wish you all the best as you decide what to do.

You might also consider writing your dog a letter below. It may sound silly, but you might find that explaining why you have to give your dog away might help you work through the grief, guilt and pain.


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563 thoughts on “Making the Difficult Decision to Give Your Dog Away”

  1. I cant care for my 2 English Bulldogs anymore due to a separation. Where can I find someone for adoption or drop off location that they wont be abandoned?

  2. I rescued a puppy one month ago. I have her in puppy classes but she’s not doing well. Very hyper and no focus. I am exhausted from watching her all day long and doing the training. Additionally my 13 year old dog shakes all the time. She has had accidents in the house which is not like her. She’s very withdrawn. Not i am considering taking her back to the shelter i got her from. But i feel guilty and a failure. Help!

  3. I am heartbroken.

    We just gave our beautiful five year old standard poodle female to a breed rescue. We got her as a puppy and this little pup was “off” from the beginning: reactive, hypervigilant, not responsive to other dog’s cues, over threshold in the presence of other dogs. But we worked with her and trained her a lot. She even got her CGC! Then we moved cross country to a new place that has big open spaces, but nowhere to run, forcing her to tolerate long walks on a leash , enocuntering multiple untrained, yapping small dogs who terrified her, rather than free runs. She withdrew, got even more hyper reactive to small animals and other dogs, and became fearful of sounds, especially coughing and sneezing. She generalized it to my husband, and would not walk with him or do her business if he was with her. She existed in a constant state of hyper vigilance, even though she was obedient and compliant.

    We consulted multiple experts, tried medication, and sometimes she did better, but would randomly regress. She reached a point of total shutdown, and my husband was miserable since the mere sight of him began to cause a shutdown. With me she was outgoing and cooperative, although she would become so agitated at the sight of other dogs, especially little barking ones, that I actually sustained several falls, including one in which I broke my shoulder in 2 places. The happy puppy and young dog disappeared, and we had a terrified, withdrawn, shutdown dog who looked like every second in our house was torture. No amount of medicine or deconditioning helped. Yet the little dog underneath is so smart, and affectionate, I kept trying to reduce her reactivity, but to no end.

    Then we decided to plan yet another cross country move for lots of personal and financial reasons. I worried about how she would handle temporary housing and another disruption in her world. Eventually I realized that as hard as I was trying, in the constrained community we live in, and trapped in the house with my husband (who, by the way, most dogs love, and who never was harsh with her), there was no hope of keeping her under threshold, and she and my husband were both suffering. And I was dreading trying to manage her on the cross country trip and during our transition to our new home, which was going to drag out for several months. I believe the kindest thing we could do was give her to the rescue, hoping that with medication and the absence of the triggers this smart little dog had generalized to in our environment, as well as finding a home where she had room to run free and safely,that she could be less fearful and find happiness in a loving home.

    But I miss her terribly, and keep wondering if I should have hung in longer. I feel like I should have understood her sensitivity to new environments and somehow provided more so she could weather our move. I feel like I failed her and betrayed her trust. She has tremendous potential and I am heartbroken to think I will never see her again or snuggle with her.

  4. I had gotten a German Shepard puppy with the goal of training him to be my ESA. I thought I had gotten him from responsible people but he is only 18 weeks old and is aggressive towards my other dogs and cats. I’ve taken him to puppy classes and basic manners class and my trainer was telling me how hard it was to retrain a fear-aggressive dog, especially since he’s displaying this at such a young age.

    With my already shaky mental health, my mother and I pretty much confirmed that trying to train him (while totally possible) was too much for me at this time. I love him so much already and I can’t believe I have to give him up. I already called the shelter and they said they do have people there to work with him every day and since they have so few dogs right now, he would get a lot of attention.

    I know that this is probably for the best but all I can think about is how scared he must be and wondering I’ll come back to get him. I feel like such an awful person, for having to give him up.

  5. We have a 19 month old boxer bull dog and I made the decision to contact the dogs trust for him to be rehomed but I have no idea if I’m making the right decision. I cant be alone with him as he seems to just want to bite my hands and pounce at me yet he doesnt do this to my partner. He has done it also to my parents. He is good in every other way but his behaviour is really stressing me out, it has become worse since he was castrated what would other people say this could be? I no we dont have a lot of time for him and he is also very energetic but I am just not sure if I’m making the right decision. I’ve tried a trainer but that didnt work.