In an ideal world, the dog you choose will go on to become the always happy, perfect friend, and grow old with you in your home. Unfortunately, life is rarely ever that straightforward, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself in a situation where it makes sense to rehome your dog or at least think about it. How do you deal with the guilt?
The guilt from rehoming a dog (or thinking about it) is a natural reaction to losing a loved pet. There are many ways to deal with the guilt, but the best option is to accept the reason(s) why you have to send the dog to a new home. Instead of brooding, think about the factors that led to the decision.
We will take a look at all you need to know about rehoming your dog and coping with the guilt from it. If you’ve yet to find a new home for your dog, watch out for tips on where you can look.
Why Rehome a Dog?
People choose to rehome a dog due to changes in their personal lives or unexpected behavior from the dog. Your dog might be exhibiting traits that put other people at risk, or you may find out much later about a lifestyle mismatch between you and the dog. Rehoming is often the best solution in these scenarios. Some common reasons why people rehome a dog include the following:
- Deteriorating health of owner. This makes it harder to take care of the dog. Some people rehome the dog for a while, pending when they are in better health.
- Changes in the financial situation. Job loss or falling on hard times in business can make owning a dog too costly. Similar to the above situation, finding a new home for the dog ensures it won’t suffer neglect due to the economic hardship.
- Relocating to a house or apartment where dogs are not allowed. If you’re moving to a new place where dogs are not allowed, finding a new home for the dog makes sense. Of course, some people will advise looking for a new home where dogs are allowed, but it’s not always an option.
- Discovering allergic reactions in family members. Some dog owners rehome their dogs after realizing that a family member shows an allergic reaction to dogs. However, you need to first ensure that the problem is truly the dog. Are there other possible sources of allergens? How often do you groom the dog? Can you keep the dog away from the rooms and living areas where they come in contact with the affected person?
- Inability to manage a dog and care for a newborn. Your baby will keep you busy without a doubt, so it may seem a good idea to rehome the dog for a while. However, you need to consider the benefits of having your baby grow up around a dog.
- The dog has bitten a child or another pet. It’s always worrisome when a dog bites a child or another pet. It is a scary situation which you should never take lightly. Rehoming the dog is a popular solution here, but you should ensure you looked at the situation with a clear head to understand why the dog behaved that way. If you choose to rehome the dog for this reason, you should disclose the details to prospective new owners.
- Owner’s remorse. That fluffy, good-looking dog you found at the breeder’s may turn out to be different from what you expected. Returning the dog to the breeder is often the easy decision. However, before you rehome the dog, you need to ensure you’ve given it enough time to adapt to the new environment. You may need up to three months for a dog to become comfortable in a new home.
- Moving abroad. If you’re relocating to a new country, rehoming your dog can seem like a good idea. However, unless you own a breed that will suffer in the climate you’re headed for, it may be best to include the dog in the travel plans. Ask questions on documentation and everything else you need.
Why Do You Feel Guilty About Rehoming Your Dog?
As we’ve seen above, there are many legitimate reasons why you may want to rehome a dog. The guilt often comes from having a lingering feeling of inadequacy. Maybe there’s something you could have done to prevent rehoming the dog? This is why we’ve looked at some solutions alongside some of the reasons we listed above. You will feel guilty as long as you believe there’s something you could have done better.
If you explored all available options before choosing rehoming as the solution, you’d feel less guilty as you can fall back on the legitimate justifications for your action.
However, in many cases, the reason for rehoming a dog can be traced to initially having a poor understanding of the commitment required to take care of the dog. This means you didn’t understand how much work was involved in taking care of the dog. It’s easy to be stuck in a regret loop in such a situation, blaming yourself for not researching a bit more.
Remember, taking care of the dog goes beyond giving it food and water regularly. Some people are overwhelmed when they learn that they have to ensure the dog gets regular exercise, socializes often with other dogs, gets proper veterinary care, and enjoys regular human interaction (which may involve teaching commands).
All of these requirements can make it difficult to own a dog. Therefore, the guilt that follows after rehoming a dog can also be traced to the feeling of inadequacy.
How To Handle Dog Rehoming Guilt
To stop feeling guilty about rehoming your dog, you need to focus on the different reasons why you took the decision. It’s better for a dog to move to a better home than to get stuck in an environment that is a poor fit. As long as you did your best to avert the situation, you shouldn’t feel guilty about your action. Instead, you should take pride in the fact that you’ve taken a decision that will benefit the dog in the long run.
If your guilt stems from the fact that you underestimated the dog’s personality, you can remind yourself that dogs are similar to humans when it comes to temperaments. They won’t always go by the book and exhibit the expected behavior. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel guilty about rehoming one with a personality that didn’t agree with yours.
If after your best efforts the feeling of guilt remains, there are a few things you can do:
Accept the Situation
Attempting to hide from rehoming guilt or suppressing your feelings is not a good way to handle the situation. The feelings won’t stay suppressed for long, and when they resurface, you may be pushed into making rash decisions like going to see the dog in its new home—which is a really bad idea for everyone involved, including the dog. Face the feeling and don’t try to shy away from it, then hope that the feeling will gradually wane.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
As we’ve mentioned earlier, you need to accept what happened and let the dog go. Stop dwelling on hypothetical situations. Embrace the fact that you can’t change the circumstances that led to the decision or go back in time to undo any actions that may have led to the situation.
Thinking about what you could have done better can make you feel worse—especially when the feeling is legitimate. So, don’t do it. You need to forgive yourself for your actions and inactions. It might take a while, but your dog rehoming guilt will gradually dissipate once you accept the situation and forgive yourself.
Remind Yourself That You Did What’s Best for the Dog
You may have rehomed the dog for medical, behavioral, or financial reasons. In most cases, you did what’s best for the dog. If you can’t afford adequate food and care for your dog and don’t have the finances to provide the best medical care when the need arises, he will suffer.
Similarly, you run the risk of the dog or family members getting hurt if you can’t afford training for aggression or other such behavioral issues. The consequences can be grave. So, rehoming your dog is often the best for everyone involved.
Give Yourself Time
If you’ve just rehomed your dog, the feeling of guilt will be hardest in the early days. Allow time to heal you. The feeling of getting your dog a new home won’t disappear quickly, but like all uncomfortable emotions, the strength of the feeling will fade over time.
Staying patient and waiting can feel a bit frustrating, but that’s all you have to do in many cases. Even when you feel like you haven’t made any progress, you are gradually getting there.
Find a Distraction
While you’re waiting for time to take care of the dog rehoming guilt, it’s a good idea to stay busy. Look for a new hobby to keep your mind occupied. If you’re in the right frame health-wise, go outdoors a bit more. The exercise and taking in the sights and sounds while you hike is good for your mental health.
Find a Relevant Community
You’re not the only one dealing with guilt from rehoming their dog. When dealing with rehoming guilt, it’s a good idea to seek support from people going through the same thing or others that have gone through it in the past and can understand how you feel.
The internet is an excellent resource in this area. You can find online forums, chat rooms, social media groups, and websites where people feeling the same guilt you’re going through congregate.
Connecting with them and discussing your feelings can make the healing process less burdensome than it currently feels. Sharing your burden with other people can help you recover a lot faster. Some online communities you can explore include:
Pour Out Your Feelings in Words
Creating a scrapbook or journal can help you process the feeling of guilt better. It can help you relive the good times and visualize how you feel. Some people write a letter to the dog. Of course, the dog can’t read, but by converting your feelings to words, you can speed up the recovery process.
Your letter or journal could contain elements like pictures of the dog, memories of activities you engaged in together, and other such details. Express your feelings, starting from when the dog came into your home to when you felt rehoming was the best way to go.
You can put together a collage of the dog’s pictures on your phone for a digital journal to share with other people.
The comments section on this post is a good example of how people use words to deal with their dog rehoming guilt. It serves the dual purpose of helping the commenters heal faster and helps other people in the same situation to see that they are not alone.
Hold a Send Forth Ceremony
Holding a ceremony to mark your dog’s move to a new home can help you deal with the guilt. Having your family and neighbors around for the occasion means you have more people around you to help you deal with the loss. It’s a symbolic gesture that helps you feel in control, and it also puts a lid on your emotions.
The trick is to get as many people as possible involved (preferably people that are aware of your history with the dog), so you can share your guilt and receive encouragement.
Create a Memorial for Your Dog
This may sound counterintuitive when you’re dealing with the guilt from rehoming a dog, but it can work. Remember, you don’t have to forget the dog. You only have to feel less guilty about your decision to move it to a new home. So, think of items you can use as a memorial. Some parts of the dog’s hair can be packaged and hanged at a prominent spot in your home.
Other items you can put together to make a memorial for your dog includes tags, collars, or photos. You can also commission a plaque to be made of the dog with its name highlighted. You can buy a lighting piece to accentuate the memorial area or install some houseplants near it. Seeing the memorial daily can help you feel better.
Avoid Guilt Enablers
Is there anything around you that contributes to the feeling of guilt? Consider removing it. We talked about building a memorial in your home as a way of dealing with the feelings, but as is the case with some of the other points we’ve covered thus far, it’s not for everyone. Don’t hesitate to remove the memorial if you find out that it isn’t helping.
Similarly, talking about rehoming your dog on social media can attract many unkind comments from people who don’t know the full story. If you’re looking for a safe space to discuss your decision, stick to the platforms we’ve discussed above or other groups that were designed with people like you in mind.
Become a Volunteer
Helping other animals in the way you can is another good way to deal with the guilt that comes with rehoming your dog. You’re no longer able to care for your dog, but you can help make life better for other animals. It’s also a good way to stay distracted as you recover from the guilt.
If you’re one of those that find it difficult to interact with other dogs, volunteer in animal shelters that don’t have these. Check out any farm animal or bird sanctuaries to find out how you can help them. If you aren’t quite up for interacting with any animals just yet, stay patient while exploring some of the other options we’ve discussed above.
Foster Dogs for an Animal Shelter
Perhaps the reasons why you had to rehome your dog wouldn’t preclude you from fostering dogs while they wait for permanent homes. Shelters and rescue organizations often need people to take care of dogs while they await placement.
This is a great way to help out as well as getting the satisfaction and benefits of having a dog, even if it is temporary. Sometimes it is only a matter of a few days, while others it can be several weeks or even longer. It is a way to have the companionship of a dog without the long term commitment.
If the reason for rehoming your dog was poor compatibility, fostering is also a way to test your compatibility with new rescue dogs. You may discover that you really click with a particular foster dog and decide to keep them permanently. In this way, you can feel more confident about your decision to make a permanent commitment to a dog.
Don’t Rush a Replacement
The guilt from rehoming a dog can make you consider replacing them with another one as quickly as possible. Getting a similar dog to the one rehomed due to behavioral problems often feels like a great idea, but it isn’t. It’s always best to wait. You need time to recover from the guilt, so you can build a new, healthy relationship with your new dog.
Rushing the process may lead to resentment of the new dog as you could end up trying to make it fill all the voids left by your rehomed dog. The situation can be made a lot worse if you choose a dog of the same breed.
Always remember that every dog has a different personality. So, as much as you’d love another dog that acts and looks the same way but without the negative traits that led to rehoming, just remind yourself that it’s unlikely to play out that way.
Where to Rehome a Dog
If you’re still thinking about rehoming a dog but not quite sure where you can send it, there are a few options you can go with. We’ll see some of them below. However, regardless of the options, you choose to go with, you need to be completely honest about any issues you faced with the dog, including any health problems.
You should also discuss the reasons why you’re rehoming the dog—as long as they are not too personal. This is important because you have to make sure that the new owner is ready to take on the challenges you face with the dog better than you did. Failing to disclose all the details can lead to the dog getting returned to you. In worst-case scenarios, the dog will get euthanized.
Contact the Rescue or Breeder You Got the Dog From
If you got your dog from a breeder or a shelter, you should talk to them about taking the dog back. Many shelters won’t have any problems taking their old dogs back when they are no longer wanted. Some of the shelters can allow you to keep the dog until you find a new qualified owner. They’ll help you find an owner fast by putting up the dog on their website.
Talk to Friends and Family
Depending on why you’re thinking about rehoming the dog, your family, friends, and colleagues at work may be the best place to look. Some of them might have some relationship with the dog already, so you can be sure the dog will be in good hands. However, you shouldn’t make any assumptions. Talk to everyone you have on your list and choose the best fit among them.
Go on Social Media
Talking about why your dog needs a new home on social media works a great deal. However, as we mentioned above, the backstory might land you some snarky remarks if readers feel you are shirking responsibility and can do more for the dog. Apart from the fear of being judged by other people, social media is a good resource for finding a home for your dog.
Talk to Your Vet
Veterinarians are always experienced in these issues and can help. They might know a few people looking to adopt a new dog, and they can point you to resources you can use at this time. Talking to the vet can also help you explore new angles that may help you keep the dog. For example, if you’re rehoming the dog due to a lack of funds to deal with a medical situation, some vets may expose you to funding opportunities.
Use the Adopt-a-Pet Website
Adopt-a-Pet is a popular online adoption brand that has helped thousands of people in your shoes. They have a dedicated rehoming listing service as well. They make the rehoming process easy by allowing you to create a profile for your dog and making it easy to meet potential owners. If you’re still unsure about rehoming, you’ll love the tons of resources they provide on keeping your pet.
When building a profile for your dog on this website, don’t dwell on the positives only. You should list all the personality quirks and any special needs a potential dog owner will find useful. You should also ensure your dog is well prepared for the move physically. Get him groomed and ensure all shots are up to date so he can move as soon as you find a befitting home.
As stated above, Adopt-a-Pet allows you to meet up with potential new owners. Ask as many questions as possible to ascertain the fit. Don’t hesitate to ask to see the space and ensure the dog’s new home is a perfect fit.
Using a Classified Ads Site
Classified ads websites like Craigslist are a good resource for finding potential owners for dogs, but you have to be careful of using this option. There are lots of stories of people buying dogs only for nefarious purposes like underground fighting. You should only use this if you’re ready to put in the work required to screen potential owners, and best to put disclaimers that will discourage criminal elements from taking your dog.
Ask lots of questions and meet the family before you agree to the adoption. A good way to weed out unserious owners is to ask for a rehoming fee. It won’t weed out criminals, but it will help you whittle down the list to only those that truly need the dog.
Visit Your Local Humane Society
If you’re still unable to find a new home for your dog after your best efforts, you can consider going to your local humane society to see if they can take him. You should only use the option as a last resort because even with the organizers’ best efforts, these environments are not always the best fit for dogs. The dog may also end up staying here for months before finding a new owner, if ever.
Call the society to see their policy on taking dogs from owners looking to rehome. Don’t make the mistake of just dropping the dog off at the gates of any society you can find. If you care about the welfare of your dog, you’ll get as much information on the society as possible before you take it to them.
Research is important because it’s the only way to ensure you’re working with a society that has a no-kill policy. Even with aggressive dogs, jumping straight to euthanizing is rarely a good idea. Also, even with a no-kill policy, researching the society will help you see if they can provide decent living conditions for your dog. Visit them to see what conditions other dogs are currently living in.
The guilt from rehoming a dog can be debilitating, especially in the early stages. However, recovery is possible if you make concerted efforts to forgive yourself and stay distracted from the situation. You’ll also feel a lot better by reminding yourself that your decision was in the dog’s best interest.
If you’ve yet to rehome your dog, you can reduce the guilt you’ll feel by ensuring you’ve explored all possible options for keeping the dog. If you still decide to rehome, take the necessary steps to ensure you find the best possible new dog parents.