What to do if You Have to Surrender Your Dog

March 1, 2020

It’s every dog lovers worst nightmare. The idea of giving up your dog may be heart wrenching, but if you’re in a position to have to give up your dog it’s good to understand your options, and how they will affect your dog before making such a difficult choice.

What is Surrendering a Dog?

Surrendering a dog means giving away a dog that was otherwise intended to be cared for its entire life. Surrendering a dog is not the same as a breeder selling a puppy or a training facility selling a trained dog, as these dogs are being sold intentionally, and usually with a guarantee that the dog can be taken back, free of charge, if ever needed.

Surrendering a dog most often happens because of a sudden life change, like an injury or illness, because the dogs original owner passed away, behvaior problems or due to unexpected financial hardship. If you’re considering surrendering your dog, but haven’t done it yet, you should know that there are options that may allow you to keep your dog in your home.

Long-Term Foster Care

If you have to give up your dog temporarily, but foresee yourself taking your dog back in the future, try to find local options or raise money for long-term foster care. Often run by rescues, charities, and volunteers, long-term foster care may be able to help you arrange care for your dog for a few days, weeks, or months, for no or a reduced cost.

Long-term foster care is not the same as boarding your dog. In most cases, long-term foster care is for crisis situations, such as:

  • Losing your home
  • Sudden Injury or Illness

Compassionate rescues and charities organize these emergency networks themselves in an effort to help keep pets in their homes. You can usually find long-term foster care by reaching out to dog rescues in your community or joining dog-related Facebook groups. Although you should be prepared to wait — long-term foster care is in high demand all over the world, and many rescues, despite their best efforts to find foster care, have waiting lists that can exceed several weeks, it may still be a good option if you only need to give up your dog temporarily.

Boarding

If you’re recovering from an injury or another medical condition and you find it hard to care for your dog, but foresee yourself taking your dog back within a month or two, consider boarding. Although boarding your dog at a kennel can be very expensive after a week or two, it’s often possible to work out payment plans or use credit to take care of expenses while your dog is being taken care of by someone else.

Boarding options are different everywhere, and this includes prices and services. If you just need someone to watch your dog temporarily, you should check:

  • Rover.com
  • Your local veterinarian — Most vet’s offer boarding at competitive prices, and many accept CareCredit to help reduce your upfront costs.
  • Dog trainers — You can inquire with dog trainers about reduced boarding costs if you don’t necessarily need professional training. Many dog trainers are happy to accommodate boarding and “daycare” dogs.
  • Boarding & Daycare facilities — Often with the most premium options, some boarding facilities also offer basic boarding options at competitive prices

Although boarding will meet your dogs basic needs, boarding facilities can be high-stress places for dogs who are used to being at home louging on the sofa. Ideally when boarding your dog, you should make time to visit and take your dog out to the park or on a drive to relax and keep them comfortable as their stay lengthens.

Daycare & Dog-Walking

If you’re finding it difficult to pay attention to your dog because of a recent life change, like a new baby, new job, or injury, you should try hiring a dog walker or taking your dog to daycare once or twice a week, before you consider surrending your dog. It’s not uncommon for your dog to develop behavior problems after a sudden change in your life, but many of these problems can be solved or significantly reduced by getting your dog outside and active.

Daycare — which usually lasts for 6-8 hours — is provided by some local groomers, veterinarians, dog trainers, boarding facilities, and dog walkers, is a great way to get your dog out of the house and active relatively inexpensively. Daycare can be as cheap as $15-$20 per day, and may include fun activities like playing with other dogs, or going on walks in new places.

Re-Homing Your Dog

If it is not possible to keep your dog, you should try re-homing them yourself by reaching out to friends and family to see if there are familiar people that would be willing to bring a new dog into their home. This process can take a few weeks, but gives you the best opportunity to vet the new owners and make sure your dog will be comfortable and happy.

Even if you are not trying to make money when re-homing your dog, you should charge a re-homing fee. Re-homing fees are a good way to make sure that your dog goes to a home that is financially stable enough to afford a dog, and reduces the risk your dog will be taken by someone with bad intentions.

Finding a Dog Rescue

If you can’t find someone to take your dog on your own, reaching out to dog rescues gives your dog the best opportunity to find a permanent new home. Dog rescues have presence on social media, take photos of their dogs, and do public adoption events where they can advertise available dogs to potential adopters.

Dog rescues also go the extra mile to determine whether or not potential adopters are a good fit by conducting home-checks and behavior tests, which can be crucial in making sure adoptions are a success. Crucially, rescues take dogs back if adoptions do not work out, which is a vital step in making sure dogs do not wind up in public animal shelters.

It’s a good idea to reach out to multiple rescues if you have to surrender your dog, as a single rescue can be inundated with dogs and may not be able to help you immediately. Rescues are most often run by groups of unpaid volunteers, so responding to every single request can be difficult. Keep trying until you find a rescue, animal sanctuary, or no-kill shelter that can help you.

Animal Shelters

You shouldn’t leave your dog at a public animal shelter unless you have exhausted every other option. Public animal shelters are often crowded and busy and do not give your dog the best opportunity to be found — nor the personal attention they often need while going through the adoption process. Re-homing is stressful for dogs, and the noise and stress of public animal shelters can be enough to make your dog nervous, fearful, or even aggressive.

If you must surrender your dog, do everything you can to place them with a qualified rescue, or find them a home with a friend. If all else fails, a public animal shelter is still a better alternative to abandoning your dog, and will guarantee your dog has food and water.

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