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Rehoming is Not a Dirty Word

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April 22, 2022 by Julia

I recently saw a meme going around that reads:

“Reasons to re-home your dog:


you died, that’s all.”

(Facebook post – orginal source unknown)

And I HATE IT.

Why? Because I don’t like black & white divisive statements. Because anything pithy enough to fit into a meme doesn’t represent a realistic or well-rounded point of view.

Yes, you should absolutely go into dog ownership educated and prepared to care for the dog for life. 

Yes, you shouldn’t foist dogs off on rescues because they hit the teenage stage where they test your limits and drive you crazy or they don’t get house trained fast enough or they eat your credit cards.

But there is a big difference between thoughtful re-homing and dumping a dog.

Dash was a re-home. He was given by an adult son to his elderly parents as a birthday gift. They managed as long as they could but he was too much for them. Dash was able to pull and even knock over the wife – at 5 months old! Their son couldn’t take the dog, nor could any of their friends, so they put an ad in the paper. I can still recall the way she looked at him when she told me about the quiet times when he loved nothing more than snuggling close. Those people clearly loved Dash. They just could not provide the right home for him. The greatest act of love they could offer was to give him a chance at a better life with someone else.

A handful from the start

It’s this militant stance and “hang ’em high” jury in the court of public opinion that sometimes persuades people to keep dogs they really shouldn’t. A woman I have known for over a decade adopted a foster dog that would have been temporary. She is an experienced dog owner, she’d worked with her own dogs in the past, she isn’t the type to throw up her hands over a few chewed shoes. But this dog was beyond her help. She isn’t a pro dog trainer. The rescue pressured her and implied she’d be seen as an irresponsible owner if she didn’t keep the dog. She’d fostered the dog, she’d worked with the rescue to arrange special training sessions for the dog. But they would have damned her for simply saying the dog was not right for her home long-term. For years now, this dog has held her family hostage. They can’t have anyone over to the house (kids or adults). They’ve rearranged the house to keep her safe and still she still manages an escape attempt about once a week. This lovely responsible home was pushed into taking a dog that changed their entire lives for the worse because not being the dog’s “forever” home was going to be a black mark against them.

This mob mentality also nearly kept a noted ethologist and animal behaviorist from admitting publicly that she had returned a puppy. Patricia McConnell has decades of experience with dogs. She had a dog with a very extreme case of anxiety and reactivity in her home, but the dog was doing well. She brought home a puppy. The anxious dog regressed and reacted to a point that she could not have predicted. A tiny little puppy completely upended the anxious dog’s world and behavior. And this isn’t some flake bringing home a puppy from the pound on a whim. This is an expert in dog training bringing a mindfully selected and temperamently sound puppy into her pack… And she was terrified to “go public” because of the extreme views so many people voice. She was prepared for people to crucify her because she gave a stable puppy a shot at a home without an anxious reactive threat and gave her anxious dog the chance to at least return to his previous best.

When did holding on to a dog that doesn’t blend with your work and lifestyle become a badge of honor, some kind of virtue signaling, simply because you hung on no matter how bad things got? If you’re the best option they have, that’s one thing. But often dogs that don’t do well in one home will absolutely thrive in another. A dog that gets nervous and snappy around babies turns out to be great around teenagers. A dog that is bored and destructive in an apartment becomes easy and joyful on that mythical idyllic farm. Not to mention that the unexpected can happen. A home that started out prepared and well-suited to the dog could have a change in personal or financial circumstances that make it painful if not impossible to keep the dog.

Rehoming is treated like a dirty word when in fact it may be the kindest thing you can do for a dog.

My plea would be this:

  • Educate yourself before getting or even “going to look at” a dog
  • Whether it’s a puppy from a responsible breeder or a rescue from the pound, be mindful when choosing your dog
  • Plan to put in some work acclimating that dog to your life
  • But if something comes up, for goodness sakes, use the resources available to make sure the dog has the best life – even if that life isn’t with you.

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