Finding a New Home for Your Dog

It is a difficult decision to find a new home for your dog. No matter what brought you together or how long you have known each other, you are the person who cares most about him in the whole world. That means it’s up to you to think carefully about what kind of home will work for him and then to find that home.

The amount of time it will take to find a new home for your dog will depend on many things, including your dog’s age, health, and behavior – and how hard you work on finding him a new home.

If your dog has ever exhibited any aggression (bite, snap, growl) in any circumstances, please read the section below titled Dogs and Aggression carefully.

A Word About Behavior Problems

If your dog has a behavior problem in your home, he will have it in his next home as well.

Think carefully about whether the problem he has is one that you can realistically expect other people to live with (after all, you love him—if you can’t live with him who else will?). Most behavior problems do NOT go away with more time spent with the dog, more exercise, or more room to run. Most behavior problems can be managed (not cured) only with a considerable commitment of time and resources, and working with a professional behaviorist.

You’ll find that adopters are not looking for a dog that they will need to dedicate their lives to managing. Be sure that you are honest with a potential adopter about your dog’s issues. If you gloss over these problems, your dog could end up dumped on the street, abused, or worse.

If your dog’s behavior problem is severe, there may not be a home that can successfully manage his behavior.

Preparing Your Dog for Adoption

Take your dog to the veterinarian. If the dog is not already spayed or neutered, do that now! Also, use this opportunity to update your dog’s vaccinations. This will make him much more attractive to potential adopters. Have your veterinarian provide you with a copy of your dog’s complete medical records to send with him to his new home.

Where to Advertise

Your Network
Contact everyone you know and get the word out that your dog needs a new home. Be sure to include all possible contacts that you have, such as; work, clubs, church, neighbors, friends, relatives, your groomer and veterinarian, and anyone else you can think of. Spread the word far and wide!

Shelter/Rescue
If you adopted your dog from a shelter or rescue, contact them! Most shelter and rescue adoption contracts state that if you cannot keep your pet, the pet should be returned to them. Even if your contract does not say that, give them a call and see how they can help.

Breeder
If you obtained your dog from a breeder, contact your breeder and let her know that you can’t keep your dog. Responsible breeders will take back their dogs throughout the dog’s life.

Breed-Specific Rescue
If your dog is a purebred (and sometimes a mix that is mostly purebred), there is probably a rescue group dedicated exclusively to that breed. Visit The AKC Rescue Network to find a  rescue group for your breed.

Online
Post your dog for adoption online. Sites you can use include Petfinder.com (go to “Classified Ads”), Freecycle, and Craigslist.

Flyers
Get a beautiful picture of your dog and make a full-page color flyer advertising him for adoption. Be brief and honest about your dog on the flyer. Be sure to include information such as his name, age, breed, personality, and what kind of home will work best for him. Post these everywhere you can. Be sure to include locations pet people go, such as veterinary offices, pet stores, and feed stores.

Newspapers
Place an ad in the newspaper’s classified section. Hampshire Gazette: 413-586-1700; Greenfield Recorder: 413-772-0261; Springfield Republican: 413-788-1000. Don’t forget smaller town papers that may be in your area.

Tips for Screening Adopters

You will need to screen potential adopters to see if they will be a good match for your dog.

  • Talk with the caller about his home circumstances. Are there kids, other pets? Where will your dog sleep? Does anyone in the home have allergies? Is your dog’s energy level and personality a match for what the caller is looking for? If your dog has behavior issues, have they dealt successfully with similar issues in the past with other dogs? If they are renting, do they have permission to have a dog where they live? Engage the caller in conversation about their current or past pets; this will tell you a lot about how your dog would be treated.
  • Be completely honest about your dog’s characteristics, good and bad.
  • If everything sounds good, set up a meeting between the caller and your dog. If there are other people or dogs in the potential home, you’ll want your dog to meet all of them before a commitment is made. If you are uncomfortable, remember that you are under no obligation to give your dog to anyone.
  • Think about what you want to have happen if it doesn’t work out with the new adopter. Do you want your dog to come back to you, or is the adopter on her own with problems? Make your expectations clear at adoption time.
  • Consider a trial adoption (two weeks or so) before things are finalized. This allows your dog some time to settle in at the new house, while you stay in touch with the adopters to ensure things are going well. If your dog isn’t a good match, he can come back to you right away.

Dogs and Aggression

If you are re-homing your dog because your dog is showing aggression—or if you are re-homing your dog for another reason and your dog has ever shown aggression—please consider your choices carefully. If you are unsure if your dog has aggression problems, or are unsure of the extent of the problem, consult with a professional behaviorist before attempting to find a new home for your dog.

Aggression can be modified, but not cured. If you hire a behaviorist, work hard with daily behavior modification, and control the dog’s environment to avoid aggression triggers, you can usually reduce the incidence of aggression. However, if the dog encounters the same stimuli, the aggression will most likely happen again. And if you place your dog into a new home and the behavior modification work isn’t done religiously, the dog’s aggression will probably continue or even worsen.

This means that if your dog exhibits aggressive behavior at your home, he will exhibit aggressive behavior with the next person he lives with as well. It will not go away. Your dog is not aggressive because he needs more exercise, or time, or room to run, or hasn’t been to obedience class—these things will not “cure” his aggression.

Please think carefully about placing a dog with aggression. If your dog is aggressive with children, for example, will you feel any better if your dog injures another child, instead of your own? There is nowhere in the world that there will never be children. Even people without young children of their own have – or will have within your dog’s lifetime – children in their lives: grandchildren, neighbors’ kids, friends’ kids, nieces and nephews. The same goes for men, strangers, or whatever other group of people that your dog is aggressive towards. Is your dog aggressive over his food, treats, or other items? There is nowhere in the world without food, garbage, and other things valuable to dogs.

If you still want to find a new home for your dog who shows aggression, please be aware that if you place an aggressive dog you can be held liable when he injures someone in the future. Even if you carefully explain to the adopter the dog’s problems and they say that it’s fine with them, you can still be held liable. This means that you can be sued if your dog hurts someone after you place him into a new home.

What are your choices for your dog who has aggression problems?

  • If purchased from a breeder, or adopted from a shelter or rescue, return the dog to the place he came from.
  • Work with a behaviorist to modify the dog’s behavior as much as possible, so that you can continue to live with him yourself.
  • Place him in someone else’s home, bearing in mind that whatever aggression you are now seeing will probably continue, and that you can be held liable when he injures someone. Of course, you must tell the adopter everything you know about your dog’s behavior.
  • Take him to be humanely euthanized. Of course this is not what you want to do – you love him! It’s not a question of whether he is a good dog or not; it’s a question of whether he is a safe dog. Most unsafe dogs are safe 90% of the time – or 99% of the time. It’s that small percentage of the time, when he is aggressive, that makes him unsafe to live with people.

If you realize that your dog is unsafe to place in a home and make the difficult decision to euthanize him, call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment. Please be aware that some veterinarians will not euthanize a physically healthy dog—even one with dangerous behavior. If you are in this situation, please contact our Springfield Adoption Center at 413-781-4000 to discuss your options.