Zen and the Art of Dog

Why Are Dogs Returned to Shelters?

I try to be as honest and forthright as I can on this blog. There is a lot of bad advice out there and a lot of dog owners who pretend that everything is good at home with their dogs.

There are angel dogs out there- even among shelter rescues. But, if you’re struggling with a dog I’m here to tell you that you are not alone.

Even after all these years, I have to admit, that once in a while the thought crosses my mind that life would be easier without one of our three pups. As you may know if you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time, we have two toddler boys now (3 and 1).

And, you can imagine, I’m sure, that life in our house can be chaos from time to time.

We do the best we can. We have even made significant lifestyle decisions to make life better for our pups (fenced backyards are a must)!

And still, after all these years and all our training, there are sometimes moments where I just feel overwhelmed.

Here are five of the most common reasons dogs are returned to shelters:

  1. Dogs are extremely social. It can be physically painful for them to be left alone. This is the number one issue that drives many of their behavioral problems. Anxiety, especially anxiety about being alone, getting left behind, being forgotten, manifests itself in destructive behaviors like chewing and digging. This is especially acute in dogs that have been abandoned before (think PTSD in humans).
  2. Dogs learn poor behaviors in shelters. It’s true. The hours and hours they are left alone in a cage they can pick up all manner of poor behaviors including barking, whining, dog reactivity/ aggression, and plenty of other destructive behaviors.
  3. Dogs that haven’t spent enough time with their mothers as puppies will likely not be well socialized. Often, this includes both your designer breeds as well as your junkyard pit bull. That does not mean that your dog is ruined- just that the onus is on you now to train proper socialization.
  4. Owner’s lifestyle changes. This for me is the saddest reason. Ranging from new babies to homelessness, it is also the most common reason a dog is surrendered.
  5. Health of the dog especially expenses. Older dogs have come to shelters because owners cannot cover the health expenses or cannot adjust their lifestyles adequately for a dog that has significant health limitations.

I do the best I can with all the creatures I take care of. But, my pups always have a warm place to sleep and free pets and snuggles.

Let me know if you have encountered any other surrender situations in the comments below!

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