How to Rehome a Dog and Why It's the Responsible Thing to Do


Article at a Glance

  • While it’s never ideal, sometimes, rehoming a dog is the only option
  • You can rehome a dog by returning them to their adoption center or breeder, doing an open adoption through family or friends, or giving them to a shelter

Table of Contents 

  • Introduction
  • Valid Reasons to Rehome a Dog
    • The Dog is a Danger to Someone in Your Home or Community
    • Two or More Dogs in Your Home are Fighting
    • An Unavoidable Life Circumstance Pops Up
    • Your Dog Has Behavioral or Health Problems You Can’t Resolve
    • It’s the Wrong Dog for the Situation
  • Options for Rehoming Your Dog
    • Return Your Dog to the Original Rescue Center, Shelter, or Breeder
    • Do an “Open Adoption” with Family or Friends
    • Surrender Your Dog to a Rescue or Shelter
  • Tips for Rehoming Your Dog
  • Is it Time to Rehome Your Dog?

If there’s one subject that’s a bit taboo in the pet community, it’s rehoming. Many people view pet owners who rehome their dogs as irresponsible and unloving. 

However, in many cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are situations where rehoming a dog is the best scenario for the owner and the pet. But, there’s a right way to rehome a dog and a wrong way. If you think it may be time to rehome your dog, read on to learn how to do it and why it’s the responsible thing to do. 

Valid Reasons to Rehome Your Dog 

While rehoming your pet can be heartbreaking, sometimes, it’s the best decision for everyone. Here are some valid reasons to rehome your dog:

The Dog is a Danger to Someone in Your Home or Community 

If your dog is biting, attacking, or acting aggressively toward your family members or members of your community, it may be time to rehome them. While some aggressive behavior can be trained out of a dog, other times, there’s simply too much of a danger for those who interact with your dog. This is especially the case if you have babies or small children in your home. 

Sometimes, pet owners will choose to rehome their dogs with family members or friends until the pet no longer poses a threat to the children in the home. In some cases, a hyper puppy can also pose a risk to an elderly owner. If the puppy is running around the house, it may pose a risk to an elderly owner who struggles with their balance and dexterity. 

Two or More Dogs in Your Home are Fighting 

While it’s not out of the ordinary for two dogs in the same home to have the occasional squabble, if your dogs are constantly fighting, it may be time to consider rehoming. Rough play between pets can put them at serious risk of injury or even death. Not to mention, humans who have to intervene with the dog fights are also at risk of injury. 

These fights can be especially life-threatening when there’s a significant size difference between the two dogs. There’s also the risk of predatory drift, where a larger dog sees a smaller dog run across the yard and thinks “squirrel!” and dashes after it. When the larger dog accidentally perceives the smaller dog as prey instead of a playmate, tragedy may ensue. If there’s conflict or injury between canine family members, a behavioral modification program needs to immediately be put in place. 

If the modification program doesn’t work, then rehoming may be the best option. In this situation, you’ll need to rehome the dog that’s been in your home for a shorter time period, as this will be the least traumatic for the dog and the family members. 

An Unavoidable Life Circumstance Pops Up 

Even if you have the strongest commitment to your dog in the world, sometimes, life happens. For example, maybe you need to move into a long-term care facility, you suffered from a health issue that makes it too hard to care for a pet, or you no longer have the financial means to cover the vet bills. If something like this happens, rehoming may be the best option. 

Your Dog Has Behavioral or Health Problems You Can’t Resolve

While many pet owners choose to make sacrifices for their beloved dogs, sometimes, you can only sacrifice so much. 

Some veterinary procedures for dogs cost tens of thousands of dollars. If you can’t afford the procedure but know a loving family who can, rehoming may be the best option. However, you should consider your dog’s age and circumstances before rehoming. If there’s a procedure that could help but your dog is old and suffering, euthanasia may be the best option. Rehoming a dog at an old age can be a bit traumatic, so helping your dog pass peacefully may be the best alternative. 

It’s the Wrong Dog for the Situation 

While most dogs are meant to be nothing more than furry companions, some dogs have a bigger purpose. Humans acquire dogs to work as service dogs, narcotics dogs, and more. Sometimes, the dog chosen for the role turns out to be completely unsuited for the task, and the human doesn’t have the luxury of keeping the newly acquired dog. In this case, rehoming the dog might be the best thing to do. 

Options for Rehoming Your Dog

If you relate to one of the reasons above, it may be time to rehome your dog. So, what’s next? Here are your best options:

Return Your Dog to the Original Rescue Center, Shelter, or Breeder 

The vast majority of rescue centers, shelters, and breeders come with clauses in their contracts that state that you must return the animal to them in the event you can no longer keep them as your pet. If you went through an adoption center, they’ll likely have previous information on your dog that will help them make a better pairing in the future. However, if you fear that your dog didn’t come from a reputable breeder or shelter, you may want to consider an alternative rehoming option. 

Do an “Open Adoption” With Friends or Family 

If you purchased or adopted your dog from somewhere without a contract, doing an “open adoption” with friends or family members is often your next best bet. Not only does this option allow you to carefully select your dog’s next home, but you may even be able to visit them regularly. However, you shouldn’t plead with friends or family members to take your dog. You should only consider an open adoption as an option if you know someone who truly wants a dog and has the capacity to take care of a pet. If you can’t find anyone in your inner circle who is looking for a new pet, make use of your community resources. Often, rescue centers and local trainers can help you find the perfect new home for your pet. You can also speak with your vet to see if they have any ideas. 

However, you shouldn’t just create a random posting on Craigslist or Facebook. Rehoming your dog with someone you randomly met online can leave them in an unsafe situation. When rehoming through open adoption, make sure you’re completely honest about why you’re rehoming your dog. 

If your dog was aggressive or had major behavioral issues, you need to be honest about this upfront. Otherwise, your dog could end up needing to be rehomed a second time - a situation you want to avoid at all costs. 

Surrender Your Dog to a Rescue or Shelter

Rescue centers and shelters sometimes get a bad rap, but you’ll often find that no one takes better care of dogs than shelter workers. Before you bring your dog into a shelter, do your research on the average length of stay, the live release rate, and the available resources to dogs and adopters. Doing this research is important, as shelters can range greatly in terms of quality. 

There are some shelters that are overworked and overcrowded with extremely high euthanization rates, and there are other shelters that have no-kill policies in place and provide great environments for dogs. While shelters should be the last resort, in many cases, everything ends up working out for the best. 

Tips for Rehoming Your Dog 

Once you’ve made the decision to rehome your dog and decided what route you’re going to take, it’s time to get them ready for the transition. Here are some things you may need to do:

  • Ask your veterinarian if you can repost flyers in their office about rehoming your dog
  • If you’re bringing your dog to a shelter, take quality photos of them beforehand. Often, the photos you take are the ones used on adoption sites, so you want to help your dog put its best paw forward!
  • If rehoming with friends or family members, set up some playdates beforehand. This way, you can make sure it’s a good fit, and your dog can transition slowly into its new home. 
  • Consider breed-specific rescues. 
  • If you do an open adoption, avoid visiting your dog in the first few months, as this may confuse them and cause unnecessary emotional distress. Instead, ask for photo updates. 
  • If you think your dog is up to the task, speak to police departments and other organizations that may need service dogs. 

Is it Time to Rehome Your Dog? 

Now that you’ve read this guide, it’s time to decide if it’s time to rehome your dog. If the answer is yes, then the next step is to explore your rehoming options. 

Remember, rehoming should always be the last resort. You shouldn’t rehome your puppy simply because you’re having trouble training them. If you are struggling to train your puppy, check out these top at-home training tips. 

Written by Mead Johnston

Mead is an experienced dog trainer, writer, and lover of animals. She has always been surrounded by animals and had a passion for learning more about them every day. This passion grew tremendously when Mead brought home a Great Pyrenees x Golden Retriever named Mac in 2018. Mead has continued to learn more about dogs whenever possible and wherever possible, while also helping so many wonderful clients. Her goal is help her clients and their dogs become confident in their daily lives. As a dog trainer, she often helps clients who are starting off with a puppy or they might have an older dog that is presenting challenging behaviours. Mead believes in the all-natural uses of Pet CBD to help our furry loved ones live longer, happier and healthier lives.

Find similar articles
Pet Wellness

Leave a comment