Things To Consider Before Surrendering Your Dog To A Shelter

Shellie Sutera
by Shellie Sutera
Stop in the name of love! You have plenty of options rather than surrendering your dog to a shelter. Keep these points in mind before making a decision.

It happens 365 days a year and it still doesn’t lessen the heartache – loving family dogs end up in shelters around North America. You may be thinking at this moment of surrendering your dog to a shelter. Before you do, take a moment to learn the true reasons you are considering this option. First, try to remember the reason you welcomed your dog into your family to begin with. Then focus on all of the positive things your dog brings into your life. Lastly, focus on the cause that is forcing you to reach this decision.

If the Issue Is: Lack of Training

Is your new pet chewing your shoes or furniture? Or do they welcome you from work with a pee stain on the living room floor? Yes, it can be nerve-wracking, but it’s far, far from a reason to give up on your dog. The good news is that no dog is born with perfect manners and behavior. That’s something that needs to be built and any bad habits that your pet might have already formed can be solved. Unruly behavior just means your dog needs leadership. You can choose to train your dog yourself or hire a professional trainer. Once your dog learns the rules of the house and that you’re the boss (and not the other way around), his negative behavior will begin to subside.

If the Issue Is: Lifestyle Changes and Moving

It’s well known that major life events, such as getting married, having a baby, losing your job, getting a divorce, serious illness, starting a new job and moving, are the most stressful time for humans. Well, it’s the same for dogs, too. Your dog, after all, is living in your home and sharing your lifestyle with you and your family. While welcoming a new baby is exciting for you, your dog may feel jealous, neglected or confused with the new arrival.

Try to schedule one-on-one time with your dog on a daily basis to ease his emotional stress and assure him you still care. All of these big upheavals may lead you to believe that your dog is a hindrance – but that’s not the case at all. There are solutions to each one of these problems. Talk to your vet, other pet parents, or join a pet forum, where others who have gone through the same things are happy to offer support.

Something that a lot of pet parents are dealing with when they look at surrendering their pet is that they’re moving to a place that will not allow pets. Particularly for the military, this can be a really difficult issue because they don’t have any say in where they move. Sometimes, a rental or housing market is so tough and tight that just finding a place within budget is a chore, not to mention finding a place that will allow your pets. We understand that, and just ask that you consider every other option–family or family friends who may be able to ‘foster’ for the time you’re stationed where you are?

If you’re looking at moving due to a job where you *do* have a say, truly consider the value in getting that new job when you factor in that you’re going to have to give a beloved family member away.

If the Issue Is: Not Enough Time

I’m too busy! This is a phrase many pet owners say frequently. It’s understandable that life is busy. It’s actually a good sign that your life is so fulfilled that your schedule is packed full of activity. But don’t leave your dog behind in the dust. He’ll react in negative ways such as digging holes in the yard and even experience depression. Just like you schedule time for everything else in your life make sure you schedule time for your dog. The “he’ll be better off with someone who can spend more time with him” is a cop out. A dog is a responsibility, not a fad. You knew you’d be busy when you took him in – like all other tasks in your life, schedule some time for your loyal friend. If needed, hire a dog walker or ask friends and family to pitch in when you need a helping hand.

Listen. We get it. Life is busy and especially during COVID, it has been a bit crazy. But that’s the thing. Your dog has depended upon you in a way that no real other time in history (save the Spanish Flu in 1918) dogs have on their family members. To surrender him after so much attachment and time together will be tough for him, and believe it or not, tough on you. Find friends and neighbors to do dog walk exchanges if that helps fill lin when you’re busy. It is a great way to take care of your dog and interact again with friends and family too.

If the Issue Is: Cost and Health Issues

Dogs can be expensive. You may find yourself overwhelmed with the cost of veterinarian visits, food, grooming, toys and more. While your dog will be happy to help you out with your finances and volunteer to never go to the veterinarian for the rest of his life, veterinarian care is a must and essential to his health. Some dogs experience serious health conditions that require regular veterinarian care which means added vet bills. If you are overwhelmed with financial stress from vet bills you can discuss a payment plan with the veterinarian or purchase pet health insurance to reduce the cost of visits, vaccinations, tests and more. If pet insurance isn’t cost-effective, make a budget and carve out funds to save for your pooch’s rainy day.

Look into local resources as well. You’re not alone in having financial woes as a result of the pandemic. More than ever, people are finding it hard to put food on their table, much less in their dogs’ bowls. But also, more than ever, resources for helping with pet food pantries and such exist. Ask around at your local pet store or talk with your vet about how you can get help if you need it. And honestly? Be open with friends and family. They don’t want you to have to surrender your dog any more than you do.

If the Issue Is: Biting

Biting is a serious issue both for you and your dog. However, there are varying levels of biting and different ways to deal with them. First, you have to determine the reason behind the bite. Was the dog territorial and bitten someone who tried to come in unannounced? Did they growl or try to bite you when you were taking away their food or toys? Sometimes, the underlying issue for the biting can be lack of training and socialization, which can be fully corrected with help from an expert.

Other times, dogs can bite out of fear or even instinct, for instance when they are hurt or in serious pain- it’s not a reflection of their character in any way. Next, you have to think about if this was a one-time incident or if your pet has a history of aggressive behavior. It’s important to really analyze what happened before opting to abandon your pet. If your dog exhibits aggressive behavior that leads to biting, this needs to be taken care of immediately with proper training and socialization from a professional before your dog is taken away from you.

If the Issue Is: Allergies

Allergies to dogs that were not known beforehand can lead you to immediately find a new living situation for your pup. This type of situation is emotional for you, your family and especially your dog. While some pet owners prefer to take allergy medication to make things more tolerable, some are forced to separate from their dog. Before you consider a shelter, you could also try creating a routine that would minimize the potential for an allergic reaction, especially if your allergies are not extreme or severe in the first place.

This would include not letting your dog go on the furniture and making sure they are always groomed- regular bathing and frequent brushing can minimize the allergy-causing hair and dander. If you can, you can also transfer that task to someone else in the family or a professional groomer, to minimize your involvement with a potential allergen. Similarly, you can ditch carpets in favor of hard-surfaces floors, and up your house cleaning game. The trick is to prevent dander or hair causing an allergy flare up, and if you’re committed and don’t have a severe form of allergies, you can actually manage it. In this case, the saying where there’s a will, there’s a way can really be true!

Some final considerations

Prevention is the best way to avoid giving your dog up to a shelter. Before you get a dog carefully, think of your lifestyle and what breed is best suited for you and your family. If you already have your dog and are seriously considering a shelter, try alternatives such as proper and professional training, doggy daycare, pet health insurance, spending more time with your dog or finding a family member or close friend that will be happy to take your dog. Animal shelters are most often filled with dogs just like yours – you owe it to your friend to try an alternative that keeps you together.

And if you REALLY tried everything and shelter still seems like the only option for you, consider other rehoming options before you surrender your dog. Try to personally find a new home and family for your pet, making sure that this time they find a good match. You can help increase their adoptability by getting them fixed and having their shots done before putting them up for adoption. There are websites, such as that help owners safely rehome their pets. Alternatively, you can contact rescue groups that have fosters for their dogs- they usually have your hands full but everything is better than simply leaving your dog in a shelter without a care for their future.

Shellie Sutera
Shellie Sutera

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