When a friend is considering giving up their dog, it can be tempting to flood with judgmental thoughts. Instead, try supporting your friend and finding alternate solutions to create the best outcome for the human and the dog.
If a friend comes to you with the sad news that they’re thinking of rehoming their dog, it can feel devastating, not only because you feel bad for their dog, but because you honestly wonder if your friend is the same good person you thought they were. Whether they feel momentarily stressed out and overwhelmed or if they are probably going to go through with it, there are things you can do to make sure that the dog is taken care of and that your friend is making the right choices.
1. Be non-judgmental
As much as you might want to ask them what they were thinking adopting a dog in the first place, take a moment and try to be empathetic. If this is a momentary lapse in judgment, they need to be helped through their crisis and they’ll see that it’s not so bad. If it’s a serious issue, they need someone to help them talk through their options to see if keeping their dog is viable. What they don’t need is more sadness and worry, so remain neutral and supportive if you can.
2. Help them assess their finances
Financial concerns are a big cause of rehoming dogs. Major financial crises like job loss or sudden illness can radically change the ability to take care of a pet. Instead of immediately looking at the most extreme solution, look at aid like employment insurance or temporary disability, and see if someone could take care of the dog for a while until things are a bit more stable. If they feel OK with it, they can even look at receiving help from local food banks, as some have pantries for pets as well as humans. There are also options like crowd funding, where the local and online community can contribute towards a specific financial goal or for the day to day care of a pet.
3. Look into health insurance
Chronic health issues are another issue that crops up over and over again. If a big part of their motivation for looking into rehoming their dog comes from the costs of ongoing vet bills, help them seek out different kind of health insurance plans if they haven’t already. There might be something that fits their particular needs, and having a system in place takes away a lot of the unpredictable nature of caring for a sick pet. Furthermore, any offers to help take their dog to appointments or to find people and services who can will go a long way.
4. Help them put concerns about adequate space into perspective
Certain owners can feel a tremendous amount of guilt if they have a dog in a smaller home, especially if it’s a more active breed. This leads to looking into rehoming. Sometimes, this is a legitimate concern, especially when the dogs are obviously unhappy in their environment. However, there are ways of working around this by spending more time outdoors in off-leash parks, visiting people with larger houses and yards, or taking more frequent trips out to areas with more room to roam. It’s important to remember that, while we can’t always provide the absolutely ideal home for a dog, any home is better than no home, and people often blow their worries about their inadequate space way out of proportion.
5. Suggest a dog walker or other daytime companion
Guilt about daytime attention is akin to concerns about adequate space a lot of the time. Plenty of dogs can be left alone during the day for a reasonable period of time without any problems, but dog walkers can provide an excellent bit of stimulation during the middle of the day, in addition to a chance to get out and go for a walk. If that isn’t enough, look into doggy daycares in your area that will be able to give your pup a chance to play with other dogs and be supervised all day. Both dog walkers and doggy daycares are expensive, but there are often friends and relatives who might be able to come in and check in or even take care of the dog all day. Retired people, stay at home parents, and people who work from home mean that there are more and more people in the home. As kind as it is if someone is willing to do this out of the goodness of their heart, suggest that they offer some in-kind compensation like help around the house, meals, or babysitting.
6. Address lifestyle issues
Asides from space and time, there are other lifestyle issues that crop up. Maybe they’re travelling more for work, they like to keep a tidy house, or they’re dating someone with allergies. There are always solutions for people who are willing to be amenable. Dog sitters (professional or trusted friends and family) are available for those who travel, as is boarding with doggy daycares and vets. There are very stylish doggy blankets to drape on couches, dog beds can fit any decor, and there is always the undertaking of retraining your dog to stay off the furniture entirely. As for allergies, vacuum frequently, consider investing in a hepa-filter, and spend more time out of the house! This isn’t appropriate for extreme issues, but the average person who gets itchy eyes and sneezing around dogs will see a serious reduction in allergy symptoms with a fastidious approach.
7. Suggest rehoming to family or a friend
If rehoming really seems like the best choice, they can look into friends, family, and even neighbors who might be looking to adopt a dog. This way, they know exactly who the dog is going to and they might even be able to walk, visit with, or even vacation with the dog if they agree to stay in contact. With community organizations in person and online, it’s easier than ever to get in touch with a large network of people nearby who are looking for dogs. And no, it’s not awkward to run into the dog on a walk. They’ll be happy to say hello!
8. Find a no-kill shelter or rescue
On the off-chance that no one in their circle is able to take the dog, there are rescues and no-kill shelters that will make sure that your pup finds a great home. Do careful research, ask lots of questions, and look at reviews online to make sure that they are indeed no-kill. If they can’t find anyone who is taking locally, look at breed-specific rescues, rescues that bring dogs from your area to other areas, or just sit tight with the dog for a while and get on some waiting lists if possible.
9. Listen to them
It’s hard not to feel like a bad person or at least a failure if you can’t make it work and have to rehome your dog. It’s also incredibly sad. There aren’t a lot of people who understand the guilt and shame associated with rehoming, so try to just listen to them. Of course, you need to set boundaries around your time and emotional energy, but do your best not to shut them out completely.
10. Look for other resources to deal with their feelings
You can only offer so much information and support, so it might be wise for your friend to go online and look up some articles, forums, and even support groups around pet rehoming. There are a lot of people out there with these same feelings, and it’ll feel validating to see them expressed by others and having the chance to talk it out.
Sometimes rehoming a dog really is the only thing to do. Hopefully these tips will help people work it out when they can, and when they can’t, at least it’ll assist them with finding the best outcomes for their dogs and finding some solace for themselves.