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Five Responsible Ways to Rehome a Dog

Let’s talk about a not-fun topic: rehoming a pet. Although rehoming a dog is increasingly a taboo topic, sometimes rehoming is a necessary step in order for both the pet and owners to thrive.

As someone who spent years volunteering for a breed rescue and, later, sent my beloved standard poodle to live with another family rather than moving with him to an urban highrise, here are my best tips for ethically rehoming a dog. 

How to ethically rehome a dog when you are no longer able to care for it,

Maybe you are moving out of the country, moving in with an dog allergic partner, have a suddenly aggressive dog towards a newborn child, or have found yourself unprepared to be able to meet the needs of your pup. There’s no shame in seeking out a home where your pet can get the care they need while you move forward. Increasing cultural shame around this topic can makes some resources hard to find- which is unfortunate, since shaming individuals about their choice does nothing to improve their pet’s life or an owner’s ability to care for their pet.

I wrote this article a few years ago when I owned a pet supply store and recently found it in my unpublished drafts. Not much has changed in the decade since I wrote it –except that I’ve had to give away a pet of my own and now have personal experience to add– so I thought I’d update it and share it below.

So, You’ve decided you Need to Rehome your Dog

Rehoming your dog is a difficult decision, but in many cases it is better for a dog to move to a better-suited home than to stay in a home where their behavior causes conflict, their fur causes allergies, or where they won’t be allowed by the provisions of a new lease.

You don’t have to feel guilty about realizing “I need to rehome my dog,” as long as you do it responsibly and act in the best interest of your pet. The fact that you have probably found this article by searching terms like “rehoming” or  “rehome” instead of “giving it up” or “getting rid of your dog” already means you’re choosing language that shows you care about your dog and will keep their best interests in mind through the process.

Five responsible ways to rehome a dog:

Even though more and more animal shelters are no-kill shelters, it’s best to avoid using a shelter, “pound,” or humane society to rehome your dog. These shelters are already overwhelmed and often aren’t set up to use the info you provide to help find your dog a home where it won’t end up causing conflict again. For example, a dog surrendered to a shelter due to showing aggression to smaller dogs in a home, might be adopted to a family that already has a small dog and the adopted dog might cycle back through a shelter within months.

The best and kindest ways to rehome your dog, in order:

1. An “open adoption” to friends or family

When I announced my move to downtown Seattle, I knew my giant black poodle, who was accustomed to roaming a fenced 2.5 acre property, couldn’t come with me. I knew my dog well enough to know that he would not cope well with long hours left alone in a studio apartment in the heart of downtown. I put the word out on Facebook and a family friend with a house full of kids and a massive backyard instantly snapped him up. He lived the last four years of his life constantly entertained (and often doing the entertaining) in his new family, with another dog for company, and occasional visits from me when I returned to the area.

Although heartbreaking to give him up, I knew it was the right decision, and being able to adopt him to people I knew gave me so much peace of mind confirming my decision was the best for both of us.

1. A breed rescue.

If your dog is a purebred dog (or even “mostly-purebred”) the breed rescue organization for that breed may already have the perfect home screened and preapproved. Even if your dog has issues (and you should disclose them) there could be an accommodating new owner waiting to adopt a dog that fits your dog’s description. Use a search engine to locate your breed’s rescue for your state, reach out, and explain your situation plainly.

To be entirely honest, depending on the rescue, you can expect some judgment for surrendering your dog- but you can reassure yourself that you are making the best decision for your pet and yourself, and that’s why breed rescues exist.

Most breed rescues will accept surrenders without question, but it’s helpful if you can provide a lot of information about your pet. Ideally, it’s helpful if you can make a small donation to the rescue group to offset the costs of rehoming your dog.

Although this type of rescue is often organized by breed, you may find similar groups organized by breed type (i.e. all “hound” or “toy” breeds) or by age (like senior dog rescues)

2. A local foster-based all-breed private rescue.

Small and local volunteer-run rescue dog organizations partner with local foster homes. Through these organizations, you dog never has to see the inside of a shelter. Via foster homes and connections with professional dog training, the dog you need to rehome can be retrained before being rehomed through their private rescue.

With foster-home-based private rescues (which often include breed rescues) dogs never end up in a kennel, and instead get to live in a home from day one of their journey to being rehomed.  To rehome your dog through one of these rescues you should check petfinder.com to locate local rescues that are not humane societies.

3. Craigslist or local classifieds.

Rehoming your dog through craigslist may be very simple or very difficult depending on your dog. It’s also fairly risky.

People acquire dogs from Craigslist for all sorts of reasons- usually as pets, but occasionally for dogfighting or even laboratory product testing. Interview any potential adopters as best you can and never lie about why you need to rehome your dog- placement in the wrong home could result in the next owner not caring to rehome the dog so compassionately.

4. A No-Kill shelter

 A no kill shelter should be your last resort but it is a viable option to rehome your dog, if for some reason all other options fail. Many shelters offer surrendered dogs compassionate care, and dogs that are young, purebred, or well behaved my only spend a few days in this type of facility before being adopted.

Final Thoughts on Rehoming a Dog

Regardless of the method you choose to follow through with the decision to rehome your dog, be sure to be thorough and honest with the people who use surrender your dog to. Complete honesty can help provide the best possible outcome for your dog and help you feel better by knowing that you did the right thing to help your dog find its true forever home.

How to ethically rehome a dog when you are no longer able to care for it,

What does it mean to “rehome a pet”?

The phrase “rehome a dog/rehome a pet” means giving away a dog to a new home. In recent years, this phrase has gained popularity and replaced phrases like “giving up a pet,” “surrendering a dog to a shelter,” or “getting rid of” a dog. “Rehoming” communicates a more compassionate transfer of pet ownership. To rehome a dog specifically implies that the person is looking for a new home for their pet, rather than abandoning it or carelessly giving it away.

KMO

Saturday 6th of November 2021

I really appreciate your post. My husband and I have been struggling with the decision to rehome our dog that we rescued from a local shelter 2 years ago. We don’t feel like we are giving him the best life. We strongly believe he needs an owner(s) who can keep up with his high energy, doesn’t have kids, and can work on correcting his behavioral challenges. We are two working parents with a small child and we just can’t give him the attention that he needs. We love him enough to admit we might not be the best fit for him and he deserves more out of life. We haven’t really begun the process yet but you’ve given very helpful guidelines to know where to start. Thank you for offering a non judgmental space. This is a hard enough decision emotionally as is to also have to deal with judgment.

Jean

Monday 6th of September 2021

Hi! This is a very helpful post! Thank you so much for posting it. My current situation is that I will no longer be able to care for our 5 month old mini golden doodle puppy. My husband and I seriously took into consideration the work it would take, but life has happened and medical things have come up as well (thank you in advance for not judging). We love her and still want her in the family. My parents are moving to my area in the next month and want her more than anything. I’m wondering if this makes things any different. The puppy will be living with them, but my husband and I would be visiting often. Will this make the transition harder and confusing if she lives with them but still sees us on a regular basis? I’d really appreciate any feedback! We are grateful she will still be in the family but want to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Lindsayanne Brenner

Monday 6th of September 2021

I'm glad you are making the right decision for you and your dog I wouldn't worry about the attachment piece too much. It might be stressful, but the dog won't suffer as long as it feels safe and loved. Service dogs, which must be closely bonded with their handlers, change hands several times (puppy raisers to trainers, trainers to handlers) without ill effect. One method service dog programs use, which you may want to include in your pups transitions, is a period of uninterrupted bonding: drop the dog off with your parents at the start of a long weekend where they will be home all weekend and able to actively spend time with the dog, and don't visit during that period (maybe up to a week or two). This may help your dog attach with less confusion.

Tamir

Saturday 24th of July 2021

Thank you so much.