How to Decide if You Should Give Your Dog Away
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.
“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.
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.
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 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
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?
I welcome your thoughts on how to decide if you should give your dog away. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but 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.
May you find peace, forgiveness, and healing if you decide to rehome your dog.
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.
PS I recently wrote How to Find Peace of Mind After Putting a Dog to Sleep. I know there’s a big difference between giving your dog away and putting your dog to sleep…but the feelings of guilt and heartbreak are the same.