10 reasons dogs are returned after adoption

There are loads of great reasons to adopt a dog, for a start you are freeing up space in a rescue shelter for others in need and, in some cases, preventing dogs from being euthanized unnecessarily. 

However, the reality is that sometimes adoption does not work out for either the adopter or the dog.

There are many reasons dogs are returned after adoption and they often come with a lot of guilt on the adopter’s side, but making the choice is certainly not easy. 

Unfortunately in some cases, it may be the only option. Let’s look at the different reasons why dogs may be returned after adoption.

Table of Contents

1. Returning a dog to a shelter for aggression

It can be really hard to understand a dog’s temperament whilst they are at a shelter. 

The majority of shelters will carry out a behavior assessment before making an animal available for adoption, evaluating food guarding behaviors, biting tendencies, and fear aggression. Dogs that show signs of aggression will not usually be made available for adoption. 

In some instances, behavioral assessments are not carried out, and so the adopted dog’s aggressive tendencies are unforeseen and unexpected. 

Some animals may not show aggressive behaviors until they have been in their adoptive home for a certain period of time. Depending on the severity of aggression, some adopters may be able to seek help from a behaviorist. 

If you have recently adopted a dog and they are now showing signs of aggression, speak to the original shelter for advice.

2. The adopter changed their mind

Rescue centers usually have a stringent application process that assesses an adopter’s situation, it can actually be quite difficult to adopt a dog from rescue. 

The process can be more in-depth at some rescue centers than at others. The purpose of the application is to ensure that the adopters can offer a long-term and stable home to the animal to avoid re-homing in the future. 

However, adopters may realize once they have an animal that in reality, they do not have the time to give them the proper care required, the animal may need more attention than initially thought, or having a dog is just not for them. 

Before adopting an animal, careful consideration should be carried out in order to ensure a forever home can be offered.

Suggested reading: Questions to ask when adopting a dog from rescue and First 24 hours with a rescue dog

3. Destructive behaviours

Some rescue dogs may be predisposed to a level of destructive behavior while for other rescue dogs, built-up energy and anxiety from being housed at a shelter won’t be helping matters. 

Anxious dogs may chew carpets, destroy furniture and decapitate toys. If your rescue dog is showing any signs of destructive behavior then it may be an indication that your dog needs more stimulation – both mentally and physically. 

In some situations, adopters may find destructive behaviors unmanageable and feel that returning the dog to a shelter is the only option.

4. Unexpected costs

There’s no doubt about it – pets are expensive. Some owners may not anticipate just how expensive animals can be. If an animal is uninsured, then accidents such as bone fractures may cost the adopter in excess of $5,000. 

Likewise, unexpected costs may arise in other areas such as cars, homes, loss of earnings, or need to be spent on other dependents. Costs can play a huge role in the return of animals to a rescue shelter. 

If you’re considering adopting an animal, it is vital to give great thought to how you will fund their care and maintenance, as well as afford to pay for food and essentials.

5. Owner decline in health

Unfortunately, in some cases, owner illness may mean that animals will be returned to a rescue shelter. 

It may be that an animal will not receive the care it deserves in this situation or the owner has a lack of support. If you own an animal, have fallen ill, and are struggling to take care of them, contact a rescue center for advice.

6. The dog is no longer a puppy

There is nothing better than owning a puppy – especially if it has been adopted from a rescue shelter and been given a second chance. 

In some cases, problems can occur when the puppy grows up, especially true in larger breeds such as Huskies and Great Danes and that cute little puppy is now a rather large and clumsy bundle of fun. 

Sadly, some adopters, and their families, can lose interest once the puppy phase is over.

7. The dog doesn’t like the other dogs in the house

If an adopter is looking to add another dog to the family, then often the shelter will allow the family dog to meet the shelter dog. If all goes well at the introduction, then the dog is then adopted. 

Some shelters, however, do not facilitate introductions in this way, and the first time the dogs will meet is in the home. Sometimes, dogs may be more defensive in their home environments and become territorial. 

It may be that some dogs are not destined to be friends, or that the process of training the animals to live harmoniously is overwhelming and places the family at risk.

Suggested reading: Ways to identify a reputable dog rescue shelter (adopt or surrender)

8. Barking

There’s no getting around it – all dogs bark. Sometimes they bark for attention, other times they bark as a defense mechanism, and other times they bark for no apparent reason! 

Unfortunately, some dogs can pick up barking behaviors from the rescue center, as when one dog barks, the rest of the dogs will join in. This behavior may stay the same once they have been adopted and barking can be triggered by all kinds of things.

Some adopters may not be able to cope with the noise, have problems as a result from neighbors, or be unable to afford a behaviorist.

9. Wrong breed adopted

There are countless dog breeds out there and each one has different breed characteristics. Adopters may not realize that they may be suited for some breeds more than others. 

For example, adopters may have expected their dog to happily sleep all day and easily slot in to family life, but actually, they never sit still and require lots of exercise and attention. Other breeds are particularly unsuitable for first-time owners and can be difficult to train.

Sometimes, the adopted dog can be the opposite of what the adopter had in mind and does not fit in with the adopter’s lifestyle.

10. There’s a baby on the way

Some owners can find it difficult, once they have found out they are expecting a baby, to justify having a dog. 

Adopters may feel anxious or concerned about how the rescue dog will behave around a newborn or worried they will not have enough time for both a baby and a dog and/or have financial concerns.

Unfortunately, rescue dogs can find themselves back in the shelter for this reason.

Reasons dogs are returned after adoption - final thoughts

If you have returned a rescue dog to the shelter, you may find that you are feeling different levels of guilt. It is important to understand that this is completely normal. 

Sometimes, adopting a dog has fallen at the wrong time, your situation changes unexpectedly, or despite your best efforts, the dog does not fit in with your lifestyle. 

Just remember that no matter what your experience has been, you did your best. Life is always changing, and it doesn’t mean that fulfilling your dream of adopting a dog won’t be the right thing for you to do again in the future.

Suggested reading: Adopting vs buying a dog, Best pet adoption websites, Dog adoption tips: preparing your home and helping your dog settle in

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