Returning a Rescue or Shelter Dog

Adopting a dog is a wonderful experience, but sometimes you might end up with the wrong dog.

And then what? Do you just work it out?

Do you find the rescue dog a new home yourself? Or do you return the dog to the shelter or rescue group?

I have never been in this situation myself, and my heart goes out to anyone faced with this difficult decision.

You are not alone.

Returning a rescue or shelter dog

We don’t always hear about the stories of people returning their shelter dogs because these dog lovers might feel guilty or they are criticized by the shelter workers or even by friends and neighbors and family members.

But dogs get returned fairly often, and sometimes this is for the best.

If you return a dog, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a dog. It doesn’t mean the dog is a bad dog. He’s just not the right dog for you.

I’ve returned several foster dogs

I have never returned a dog I adopted, but I have returned several foster dogs due to extreme separation anxiety.

Two of them could break out of their kennels. One chewed up part of my door. Another chewed up a door knob. Others barked nonstop when left alone. OK, they pretty much screamed!

I just can’t handle that. I can’t.

Does this make me a bad dog owner? Does it mean I shouldn’t foster dogs?


It means I’m not able to accommodate a dog with separation anxiety at this time.

Reasons people return their shelter or rescue dogs:

Returning a shelter dog

The following are just some of the reasons people decide to return their shelter or rescue dogs. These are not based off stats or studies. These are my observations and experiences.

1. Behavior issues with their rescue dog

Sometimes the reason a shelter dog needs to be returned is due to aggression. The dog is aggressive to other pets in the home or to strangers or the dog is aggressive over food.

Other behavior issues that could cause someone to return a rescue dog could be:

  • the dog cries/barks when alone
  • the dog damages property when alone
  • the dog has endless energy and runs/plays/cries all the time

Sure, these are issues you can work through but for others it’s not.

2. Health issues with the adopted dog

The dog has a medical condition the adopter wasn’t fully aware of when she got the dog and the cost or management is beyond her limits.

Examples could be diabetes, allergies, a skin condition, an ACL injury, hip dysplasia, a heart condition or cancer.

‘You should be committed to the dog no matter what’

Unfortunately, some people will say once you adopt a dog, you should be committed to that dog no matter what. And maybe that’s how some of us really are, and that’s admirable.

However, sometimes being committed to a dog means admitting when you are not the right home for that dog.

It is not right to keep a dog that could potentially harm or kill one of your other pets.

It is not healthy to constantly worry the dog might bite your child.

It is not reasonable to keep a dog if the medicine she needs is more than you can realistically afford longterm.

Or maybe you realized your baby is actually allergic to dogs, and you didn’t know that prior to adopting a dog.

The scenarios are endless really, and it’s nobody’s business to judge.

You know your situation better than anyone, and I’m sorry that some rescue and shelter volunteers are not as compassionate to people as they are to animals.

Anyone who makes the decision to go out and adopt a dog, often literally saving that dog’s life, obviously loves dogs very much.

No matter how much research you do or how many questions you ask, it is not always possible to accurately predict how a dog will act in your home.

When the shelter dog isn’t right – options to consider

Returning a shelter or rescue dog

1. Hire a good trainer and do your best to work through behavioral problems.

This may or may not be the solution for your situation, but there are some really great trainers out there who can help dog owners through a lot of issues.

2. Return the rescue dog to the rescue group or shelter.

This is much easier if you adopted from a rescue group or a no-kill shelter. Most of these groups have a 2 or 3 week adoption “trial” period anyway because they know it takes some time to make sure the dog is the right fit.

Most adoption organizations will take a dog back, but you may or may not get your adoption fee back. Sometimes it helps if you can agree to foster the dog temporarily while the group finds her another home.

What if you got the dog from a kill shelter?

If you adopted the dog from a shelter that kills dogs for “space” you’re probably dreading the possibility of returning the dog.

You could look into the no-kill shelters and rescues in your region to see if they can take the dog, but they are often “full.” It helps if you can volunteer to give the group a reasonable donation to take the dog (like $200 or so) and to foster the dog temporarily.

3. Finding the rescue dog a home yourself.

This might be your best option if you got the dog form a kill shelter.

For networking, I would get some awesome pictures of the dog around kids, with other pets, with toys, out on walks and having fun. Then, network the dog with your own family and friends and through social media.

Beyond that, I would use Craigslist (read why Craigslist is a good place for re-homing dogs), classified ads in the paper and asking adoption groups if you can list the dog as a courtesy listing on their sites. (That’s how I found my dog Ace! He was a courtesy listing with a local rescue.)

Don’t beat yourself up too much if you must return your shelter dog.

Sometimes dogs don’t work out and it’s no one’s fault. Even if you did make a few mistakes such as rushing your decision or not asking enough questions, forgive yourself.

We all make those kinds of mistakes at times. You’re still a great dog owner.

There are literally millions of dogs in need of homes. If you want to adopt a dog, there is definitely a dog for you out there.

She’d be perfect for you, and you would be perfect for her.

Have any of you had to return a dog to a rescue, shelter or previous home?

I would love to hear your stories, if you’re willing to share.

Related posts:

New York Times Essay “The Wrong Dog”

When to Euthanize an aggressive dog

Re-homing a dog doesn’t make you a bad dog owner

Returning a foster dog

When you regret getting a puppy

180 thoughts on “Returning a Rescue or Shelter Dog”

  1. I’ve never had to return an animal to a rescue or shelter, but many people have returned cats to the rescue group I’m with. Often it’s for an understandable reason, occasionally they give a reason that has us scratching our heads and face/palming (ie “I don’t want her because she won’t sit in my lap but come get her NOW before I get too attached!” Seriously.) We try to be as understanding as possible with returns and not guilt the owner. I had one lady cry on me she felt so bad, but it wasn’t a good match. I thought she’d be a great home for a different cat.

    There was one situation where I kind of regret not returning an animal to a rescue group. When I was a teenager I adopted a guinea pig from a local guinea pig rescue (yes, they exist!) and he bullied all my other pigs and had a heart condition (that was unknown prior to adoption). During college I think I spent upwards of $2,000 on that damn guinea pig, not to mention driving to another COUNTY to see a specialist every week for a while. It was a financial burden I really wasn’t ready for but pride and guilt kept me from returning him. Although, in the future being able to tell a shelter I spent over 2k on a pet most people consider disposable as a broke college student may give me some brownie points when adopting?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      One of my foster cats was returned to me because the family was just overwhelmed with pets/kids I think. They had four small dogs and four kids. Can you imagine? 🙂 I was secretly glad they returned her because my parents ended up adopting her and now I still get to have her in my life. Ninja is the best cat!

    2. I am crying as I read this, as i adopted a 1 year old yellow lab 5 days ago. I am laid off and thought it would be a good time to train a dog. When I met her she was sweet and calm. The dog now is not the same dog. She was bred by a reputable breeder and bought by a backyard breeder. She had a genetic eye issue and the breeder had surgery to correct the eyelids and then left it in a backyard without a cone, so the eyes became infected, the breeder learned they could not use this dog for breeding and surrendered her. she is 80 pounds of crazy energy and has every behavioral issue that you dont want. she listened to correction the first day but no more. She chews everything. I have corrected given her appropriate things to chew and also sprayed yuck on things, but she took a bite out of a hope chest right in front of me. I am walking her for an hour in the morning and 30 minutes at night and she does the zoomies. I am sure this is not enough exercise for her.

      She also has started mouthing, she put her whole mouth around my arm and ankle and also did the same to a friend who I just invited in. Also kept trying to bite at her hands. Not listening to correction.

      She also started jumping on this same friend both when she was sitting and standing.

      just started snatching treats (started off taking them nice)she digs and counter surfs

      She also started wandering around whining.

      I know she likely needs doggie daycare to to burn off steam. she gets excited and drags me.

      When she becomes afraid she either backs up or pulls hard, will run away crazy if possible. A fountain turned on in the neighborhood, and she was so frightened she pulled the lead out of my husbands hands. (He is 6 ft 4 ).

      Currently I am laid off so am home and working in my office. I was remote but think unlikely I will get another remote position. The dog follows me everywhere. I am struggling with how to get her used to being alone knowing she can’t be unsupervised, and not sure how to manage this with the crate.

      I know with the foster mom , she listened to correction pretty quick, she doesn’t listen to correction from me any more.

      She has started doing a lot of growling. I think when afraid and seeing new things (garden house, unfamilair sounds, growling to get out of the crate in the morning to name some). She barks and growls at the tv. I think she needs someone who can devote full time to her training. I feel she is more than I can manage. I am ashamed and sorrowful. I feel she is a liability. I feel I am a failure.

      1. Today we went through the the heartbreak of returning our rescue dog back to the rescue after having him for 3 months. He was 12 weeks when we got him and he was playful and got along well with our other dog. About two weeks ago, the puppy started showing signs of resource guarding—he would growl and bark aggressively and try to bite when someone came near him when he had a toy or was eating cat vomit. He bit me for taking a piece of firewood away from him and two days later he drew blood when he bit my husband for protecting me.
        The rest of the time he was this sweet, loving puppy who would lick us and play like nothing was wrong.
        We have a quadriplegic son and he has nurses, so we couldn’t risk the puppy hurting my son or his nurses. So we made the heartbreaking decision to give him back. It hurts like hell—wondering if he will forgive us and will find a family that will love him like we did and give him a loving home!

  2. One of the most heartbreaking situations I had to deal with doing rescue/shelter adoption support is when someone who has never had to return or rehome a dog and views it as a last resort realizes that they have to do so. Typically, the reasons are pretty drastic. One older woman was caring for a disabled spouse that had a compromised immune system and the dog was showing signs of fear aggression toward the spouse. A bite would have had severe consequences. She was in tears about having to rehome the recently adopted pup.

    Of course, one of the most frustrating situations is when people are not honest or up front when they first adopt, and then they have to rehome for reasons that would have made it clear that this was a poor match, had they disclosed the information. Sure, don’t mention that you watch your grandchildren 5 days a week because you want to adopt a specific dog and then expect us to drop everything when you must bring back the dog because the not-good-with-kids dog you have adopted is…not good with the grand kids you deliberately “forgot” to mention when asked if kids were part of your lifestyle. Grumble.

    1. Sean, I got my dog Maya because someone was not up front when they adopted her. The woman who adopted Maya told me she was giving up Maya because the apartments she was living in did not allow dogs. I seriously doubt the adoption agency did not check this out in advance. The real reason I suspect the woman was giving up Maya was because she realized she couldn’t handle a puppy and her two toddlers and newborn infant at the same time. Whatever. I’m glad the woman realized having Maya wasn’t ideal for her, though. She probably should have returned Maya to the adoption agency, but everything worked out. Maya and I are very happy together.

    2. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yeah, that would be frustrating at times! I try to give people the benefit of the doubt though. How sad about your example with the disabled spouse. That must’ve been such a hard decision but obviously the right choice.

  3. I admit, I returned a dog once. She was a puppy. I already had four dogs. I took her in on a whim and without proper consideration for my current situation. I’ve raised dogs my entire life, but this time having a puppy was more than I could handle. I should have realized before I adopted her. I didn’t. I felt bad about giving her back. But she was really better off going to a home that would have more time for her. Experience has taught me that having only two dogs at a time is what works best for me. I’d consider more for fostering situations only, and only if my dog Pierson would let me.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m sure it was really hard to take her back, but it sounds like it was the right choice. I think four dogs would be too many for me as well. For fostering, maybe it would be OK temporarily. But not full time, at least not right now. Maybe in the future!

  4. Never considered returning a dog, but we do often consider returning cat bro Bert but after six years, it might be a bit silly. Mom says she adopts each of us for better or for worse, with him we have lots of worse, but couldn’t return him.

  5. I honestly considered returning Bruce, but my pride got in the way…

    The shelter I adopted Faolan from (love them) offers a three day “trial adoption” to see if the pet is going to be a good fit in the home. I think this is such a great idea.

  6. I can see sending an animal back to a rescue group. If they will be in a foster situation & the rescue group knows them, that would probably be the best thing for them. But I could never bring myself to bring an animal back to the shelter. Too see them go back in a cage & possibly face death. Never.

    I’ve found great homes for a few shelter cats that I adopted and didn’t end up feeling a connection with. One was a wild cat who was there for 6 months with no interest. Another was super shy and another was shy and black which as you know is harder to place. They all ended up with families that adore them!

    Norman was also an adoption reject. I always feel so grateful that his adoption didn’t work & his family decided to Craigslist him! Count my lucky stars on that one. 🙂

  7. I have not had to personally do this but I’ve seen it many times with the local groups I’ve worked with. It’s not easy but there are certain dogs that aren’t a match for certain homes/families. I think it’s much better to find an appropriate home for a dog with any given issues than hope for the best and see if it works out. Unfortunately people can be really quick to judge – especially on the internet. Whenever a local rescue reposts a dog that has been returned it’s quickly flooded with “Oh my gosh that poor dog they didn’t give him a chance” and the like. It drives me nuts; Ive been around dogs with separation anxiety and it can be a nightmare to deal with. If you’re not able to work with it consistently it can easily get much worse.

  8. Dear author,

    Thank you so much for this article. It has really made me feel better about my situation and less alone, and for that, I thank you.

    Unfortunately, I had to return a dog about a week ago. I am a college student and I already have one dog. She is also a rescue/former shelter pup, a small breed mix named Lily and she means everything to me. I rushed an adoption of a second one because I really just wanted my baby to have a companion. And of course, I really loved this dog. He came from the rescue group with kennel cough, meaning Lily was affected too. I took them both to the vet two days after adoption and was told that they were both contagious. But I still decided to give the poor doggie a chance because I very much loved him. This was before classes started, so I had some time to get trainers, medicate him for kennel cough, stay at home with them and play, etc. But it was very clear to me that it wasn’t a great fit. Though the dogs played well together at the adoption event, after just a couple days I learned that this dog was very attached to humans and not too crazy about other dogs. My pup Lily kept trying to play with him but he didn’t respond. Lily had a deep scratch on her neck area. I sent pictures to the rescue, as I was concerned about Lily being hurt, but they basically brushed it off, saying they were fine and just playing. Literally everyone who came over asked “Are you sure they’re okay? It seems like they hate each other!” I explained the situation to the rescue and they said it was fine, so I tried to shove the issues under a rug. Two weeks after adopting, my school started. I had to go to class three hours at a time twice a day (i tried to come back home in the middle for lunch so that the dogs wouldn’t be home for too long without a break). He had severe separation anxiety. I tried to set up a camera while I was gone and he barked for the whole three hours.

    As much as I wanted the adoption to work, I knew that it wasn’t working out for me or the dog, and I was worried about the dogs not getting along, especially because they were cooped up together for so many hours in the day. So I talked to his foster and made arrangements to bring him back. I was really really sad about it but I thought that it would be better for him in the long run. He is only 4 months old and I am sure there is a family out there, either a stay at home family or a family that has more money to get extensive training. I told the foster to keep me updated about where he goes and what he new family is like. I prepared a box full of toys, the remaining medicine, and a check for $100 for any remaining vaccinations and possible part of his adoption fee, and I would have given more if they needed. I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure he could get a good home.

    When I got to the location the foster wasn’t there, but the owner saw me and she came out, grabbed him from me, and screamed at me to get out. I wanted to leave the box full of things for him, but as I was bringing it out she kept screaming “How could you do this to him?” She even said some things about my family. I was already crying my eyes out and she said “Just get out! I don’t want to see you cry. GO!” The last thing I saw was his crying face and I drove away with Lily.

    I thought I would never be able to forgive myself. Although this doesn’t take the pain away, it does make me feel better about my own intentions and less alone about the whole situation. I knew it was the right thing to do for both me and Lily and the puppy himself. (I find myself more able to focus on school and I’m able to take better care of just one dog). I just wish I could have gotten the chance to say goodbye 🙁 I hope he knows that I love him and I hope he finds a forever family soon. I hope he doesn’t feel abandoned and alone.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Gosh, that sounds so sad. I’m so sorry to hear that rescue volunteer/owner has lost her sense of compassion for people. I see that you made the best choice for yourself, your current dog and the dog you ended up returning. I hope you look into adding a second dog to your family in the future when you are ready and if you truly decide you want two dogs.

      1. Very gratefull for this post. We are forat time dog owners and were dumped with a new dog mid week. Not ideal but whatever she was working our great. Pulled a bit on the leash but besides that everything was great. Our only condition in getting her was that she would be good with other dogs. And a few days ago after a very extensive and carefull meet and greet with our friends very calm dog she attacked it causeing serious injury to the other dog. My wife is in love with her and is keeps saying things like if the dog goes so do i. and to make matyers worse the shelter says everything is my fault and is very reluctant to take her back. I love the dog to death but cannot risk this happening again. The even has tramatized me and i keep picturing a small child in the place of the small dog she attacked. I believe it was territorial agression as after the hour long walk together we went into our back yard. Besides this she is literally a great dog. With very miner pylling and jumping issues. However my entire family has dogs and i would literally have to be a recluse to keep the dog. I dont put the dog at fault but instead the shelter for not getting a proper assesment done. The behavour specialist is comming over to do an assesment. Who i had to hire and who comes highly reccomended. Juat at my wits end. Do i think my qife will leave me no but wtf do i do jesus!

        1. And i will add it says right in the contract that if for any reason the adoption doesnt work out the dog must be returned to our rescue.

    2. Loving pet owner who was rejected by rescues.

      OMG I am so sorry that this happened to you. I too returned a dog that was not a good fit. He was a hunting dog whose behavior was scary to me and I had a child at home. I could NOT have a dog with scary behavior in the same house as my child. The human child must always come first. Luckily, I found out within the first week that it was a wrong fit. So the pound took him back with no hard feelings. Like you, I left the pound with a case of soft dog food because I found out that he could not eat hard food and he was losing weight scarily fast. I was very worried for his health. I kept in touch with the pound. I pushed them to get him special needs care. I sent them my vets health exam report. My vets report noted that he had red gums. I later found out that this is a sign of dental problems. The dog received the care he needed. He needed two root canals, one on each side. Then he was adopted by the ADULT son of the dentist. That is the type of POSITIVE cooperation that SHOULD exist between a failed adopter and a pound.
      What that woman did to you was horrible for both you and the dog. I’m so sorry for you. I am glad that you were able to rise above this assault and be the better person. God bless you, God bless your current dog, and God bless your returned dog. I’m sure he will find the right home, without other small animals in the house. Just like my x-dog found the right home, with no small animals or children in the house.

  9. Thank you so much for this article, it has helped me through my tears. Today I have to return a special, sweet little girl dog because she and my current dog have become very aggressive to each other. They want to kill each other. I’ve only had Pru for a few days, and I have tried everything, read everything. I’ve talked to the shelter (no-kill) and my Vet each day. They both say returning is the right thing, but friends say I’m not giving it enough time. The aggression is escalating, and I’m afraid for both of them. We did everything right, but still. My heart is broken because Pru and I have bonded so much, but she deserves a better life than this, as does my current dog. I’ve been told that some dogs are just meant to be an ‘only’. None of that stops my tears and guilt.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m sorry to hear things didn’t work out. It seems like you are making the right decision for both dogs and for you. Good for you, even though it’s hard. Too bad some people won’t be understanding. Take care.

      1. I haven’t stopped crying, but Pru looked happy once she was back at the shelter. She was dancing around and showing off. Shows me how stressed she was here. And my dog is happier and calmer now too. Thank you again for your kind support.

  10. Thank you very much for your article. I’m currently in this dilemma now and planning to call the rescue organization tomorrow. We adopted a month ago and really tried to make this work with my two children and busy lifestyle. I’m an experienced dog owner but the timing isn’t right and this playful pup of 4 months old needs more attention than our circumstances permit, and unfortunately she’s getting a bit too aggressive with my 4 year old. We’ve been working with her and training her and we just know she’ll be a terrific dog when she matures, but I feel really bad to have to think of returning her.

  11. Hi, my name is Danielle and I recently had to return a dog to the shelter who I became very attached to. I have a dog that my mother and I adopted from a shelter many years ago. I brought this basset hound into my home. I had trouble with her peeing on the floor the first few days and had to pull up a rug I have in my living room. I thought ok she is just adjusting and we will get through this. Then she started peeing on the carpet in my son’s room. I have cleaned the floor three times with a steam cleaner and had it professionally cleaned and still can smell some urine which means I will probably be ripping out the carpet and replacing unless I find some miracle to get the smell out soon.. I took her the vet to find out she had a uti. We have treated her and replaced the rug down in my living room. It didn’t take her 2 minutes to decide she would pee on it. I tried to stop her and unlike previous times when I tried to stop her, she kept peeing. I was stresses and didn’t know what else to do so I contacted the shelter and returned her yesterday. As I returned her while crying my eyes out, I almost HD a panic attack and did on my way back to work. I have cried and worried that we made the wrong decision. I feel so guilty like we didn’t give her enough time. I want to hope that she will find a better home but so upset about the whole thing. The shelter has reassured me that they might have a few people lined up for her but are giving her a couple days to settle in.. Do you think I made the right decision? If I called them to get her back I don’t know if they would bc I returned her and I don’t know if that would be the right decision. I feel like an aweful person bc she loved us and we loved her and it didn’t work out..
    The sad lady who hopes she didn’t make a horrible mistake.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hey Danielle. Sorry to hear of your situation. I think you made the right choice. If the dog was causing you that much stress, it’s probably not the best situation. Sure, you probably could’ve made it work but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. Being a basset hound, I’m sure she has several people lined up to adopt her.

      If you still want another dog and when you’re ready, there are so many out there that need homes and would make a better fit. If that’s what you decide to do.

  12. I am in such a pickle right now and feel so anxious. I’m in need of some reassurance and guidance. I have a 3y/o Shih-Poo and recently adopted a 4 y/o Cocker. Both are girls. The cocker doesn’t want to play with my other dog and when I take them to the dog park, she doesn’t seem interested in other dogs either. I wanted another dog to have a play mate for my dog and I feel it’s not working out. I feel the both want to be “queen bee” but my dog wants to play. The rescue has said they will take the other dog back but it’s going to break my heart to do that. What’s the right thing??

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      If she’s not right for your family, she’s not right. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with either dog. So if your gut says she’s not the one, then that’s OK. There is a better match out there (and there are thousands in need of a home). So, if the rescue group is willing to work with you to find a better match, that’s great! Sometimes rescues, unfortunately, do pull an attitude when someone returns a dog, so to try avoiding that just be really open and honest and point out the cocker’s good qualities and say she’s just not the right fit.

      On the other hand, if you choose to make it work, I’m sure things will work out find. Maybe your dog doesn’t really need a playmate but a calm companion. Really, only you know the best choice. Best of luck!

  13. This was SO helpful. Absolutely invaluable for my partner and I right now. Yesterday, with hopes of finding our germ. shep/husky mix, Hades, a friend and companion, we came across this husky boy Balto. Despite the shelter telling us he was very dominant and didn’t usually get along well with males, the two hit it off anyway. Of course they were careful because they had just met, but overall they played well and had the same mannerisms with limited conflict. In hindsight though, that was the moment we should have kept looking. But we were mesmerized by his personality, and thought the dominant and submissive two would make a good pair. However, once we got home last night we realized that not only was he way too dominant and aggressive toward Hades (who is very submissive but persistently playful), but he was behaving just the way the shelter told us we had in the past. When Hades would approach him to play he would growl and get super aggressive to the point of us being fearful for Hades’ safety. They couldn’t even be near each other for 5 seconds. We have realized that this boy needs a home just for him, with no other animals. Although it broke our hearts, it has helped to take him home and take a chance on him, because it helped us figure him out when no one else would give him a chance. This is still the most painful experience we have ever had second to losing our fur kids to passing away. 🙁

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Bummer. I’m sorry it didn’t work out but I’m glad you knew to keep both dogs’ safety and well being in mind. I’m sure there is a great home out there for this dog and I hope you look for another companion who is a better fit for your family.

  14. I’m in this situation now. I adopted this dog with the full intention of seeing it through. I love her to death but her seperation anxiety is driving me crazy. I tried to get her used to the crate slowly but then I started my new job and she wasn’t ready yet. Now she screams and screams and I’m pretty sure it happens all day. I’m all by myself other than my trainer that comes twice a week and I’m just running out of options. I found out from my vet that she will need to take prozac daily and I don’t have pet insurance for her so that’s all going to come out of pocket. I’ve tried everything from DAP collars, the Thundershirt, having a consistent schedule, plus giving her melatonin. Nothing has worked and it’s been a month of her non-stop screaming. I really don’t want to give her back but now I’m running out of money and ideas fast. I really don’t want the shelter or my friends and family to be mad at me about this. I really need some support 🙁

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Ugh, that sucks. I’m so sorry. Separation anxiety is so tough to deal with. Unfortunately, people might judge you but that is because they just don’t understand how stressful it is. I’ve had to return foster dogs for separation anxiety, and it was really hard. Thankfully the rescue understood and I fostered a dog that was a better fit. I know it must be 10 x harder to return a dog you have adopted, but it’s not your fault. No one could’ve predicted how hard it would be and there’s got to be a home out there for her with someone home much of the time and able to work with her. Likewise, there are endless dogs out there in need of homes. I’m sure there is one out there that would be a better fit for you.

      Good luck, no matter what you decide. You know what is best for you and the dog.

    2. I too adopted a dog. Sadly they didn’t tell me she had seperation anxiety. I cannot leave my house without her destroying it. She was abused in a crate by the previous owners and I tried to reintroduce her to it but she broke out anyway. I tried putting her in the fence and she got out, I then got a tie out for her and she wraps her self around things where she is almost choking. The other day she completely destroyed the kitchen and ripped down all the curtains ( i live with my brother and he was so angry). I have talked to four dog trainers and all of them tell me it is something that will need medicine and that it will never go away. I hate to take her back because other than this issue she is the best dog! Housetrained, minds, great with kids and other dogs. I have a feeling the previous owner’s had the seperation anxiety and they didn’t tell the shelter. Which makes it hard when adopting. I am not able to care for a dog with that kind of issue sadly due to loosing my job and not having any money. I feel aweful …I love this dog so much…

      1. Ashley – You are describing our situation completely. I am so sorry and I completely understand. We adopted year-old Belle in November. She escaped from her crate 90% of the time and would destroy our house. We were afraid she would hurt herself. We tried gates and she just knocked them over or jumped over them. We decided we would leave her out and clear off the counters, tables, etc. I work at home one day a week and come home at lunch every day. I never knew that I was walking into and it caused stress and anxiety beyond anything I have ever experienced. I have two kids and I spent more time with the dog with training, walks, toys, etc. My husband and I would argue and it went on like this for 4 months. We did not want to give up on her. She is amazing otherwise. Good manners, listens, is beautiful (weimeriner and lab mix) and is great with kids, etc. We tried everything that they say to try with separation anxiety – plenty of toys, plenty of exercise, a window to look out, tv/music on, good treats, didn’t make a big deal about leaving or coming, etc. We went out for dinner last night and the garage door was open. She opened a drawer and had it on the floor with the opener. She destroyed it. She also pulled the crate tray and all the blankets out of our smaller dogs kennel. The final straw was our couch – she ripped it open and tore parts of it to shreds. Every day for four months she damaged something if we left her alone. I can’t take the stress and it is not fair to my family so we are returning her to her foster family. I can’t stop crying. I know it is the right thing. Even before this happened yesterday, I knew I couldn’t keep this up. We have kids and cannot be home all the time. We love her, but cannot be prisoners of our home for her. I do know that we have done all that we could have with her and she needs more than we can give.

  15. We adopted a week ago…we fell in love and our new dog had even completed her canine good citizen. We felt it was perfect. But once she was home she got aggressive toward our three children (they were all playing very nice too…we had set up boundaries right away) and even bit me while resource guarding. She was a perfect pet but not right for our family. She would do very well with no children. We are heartbroken to return her but I cant live just waiting for her to bite one of our kids.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry to hear it didn’t work out. That must’ve been so hard, but I’m glad you knew to return the dog for everyone’s safety.

  16. I just returned two lovely little pugs we were going to adopt to their foster, we had a pug who passed a few months ago, we also rescued him although he was 8 when we did and very slow and quiet and our cats tolerated him. They were not so good with the new pugs, one cat was actively attacking them and the other was hiding from everyone. I was advised to give it time but my house was like a pet war zone, one of my cats was even on anti anxiety medication and it was heartbreaking to watch all four animals either be wary, aggressive or hide. I made the decision to break my own heart and my children’s by taking them back after just under two weeks. Their foster home is lovely and they were instantly more relaxed once I dropped them there, I spent the 200 round mile trip sobbing and I still haven’t forgiven myself, ppl keep saying it’s one of those things, everyone was on eggshells all the time waiting to separate the fighting cats and dogs, I guess I thought they’d be OK as they were ok with our other dog. I feel like a failure, but I don’t think any of the animals were happy. It was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do 🙁

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry to hear it didn’t work out. You definitely made the right choice and I hope you’re able to find a dog that is a better fit when you’re ready, if that’s what you want to do.

  17. This is a very helpful post. Last week I brought home a 4 month old dog from a rescue org . He lacks confidence in a big way. Can’t catch him in the yard, and it takes up to 2 hours for him to come in the house with me standing at the door with treats and toys. I am a rescuer, even rehabbed aggressive dogs, being home for a couple weeks over the holidays is not enough time and I am concerned for him when I go back to work. Painful to consider returning him. I have never given up on any animal.

  18. I’m in this situation right now. I adopted a wonderful dog last week and, due to his separation anxiety and aggression toward my ferrets, he will be going back to the shelter tomorrow.

    I hate this. I wanted to make this work, as he’s a wonderful dog. But, I owe it to my other pets to keep them safe. Having a large dog trying to knock their cage over and kill them is just not fair to the other sweet little pets that I promised to love and care for.

    The guilt is incredible. I feel like I failed him. I feel like I should have known better. I’m afraid that he’ll be put to sleep and that it’s my fault. The heartbreak I’m feeling right now will probably keep me from ever getting another dog, even though I absolutely love them.

  19. We just went through a heartbreaking return this week and I found comfort in this article. A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I adopted a rescue pup who was about 10 months old. We are in our early 60’s, empty nesters who lead an active life. We lost our 14 year old black lab May and longed for another companion. This dog is about 20 lbs, easy going and perfect to take on our travel adventures. We met him at an adoption event and fell in love. I asked a lot of questions and the “adoption counselor” assured me that he’d be perfect for us. He was a stray whose history was unknown. He was “vet checked”, neutered, vaccinated, chipped, etc.
    We prepared our home for his arrival. We bought a kennel, bed, high quality food, toys, brush, a Christmas sweater, blanket, baby gate, etc. before heading to their shelter to pick him up the next day. He was bathed and brought out to us. My husband put on the new leash and walked him around as I prepared to sign the final adoption paper. Right before I signed, the shelter’s manager told me that in the interest of “full disclosure”, this pup had had a seizure 4 weeks ago. It happened on the day after his neuter and right after returning to the shelter from an adoption event! She said he was immediately brought to their vet where he stayed 24 hrs. and then released after having all kinds of tests that came back “normal”. He was sent to a foster home and he’d been perfect for the past 4 weeks so it had to be from all the stress of the surgery, etc. I was shocked and called to my husband to explain the situation. We were literally on the way out the door with our new pup. We looked at each other and both said we’ll still take him. I asked if I could have the vet records from the 24 hrs. he spent there. She said, yes they’d have to request them for us. I called and emailed a couple of times before the records were sent.
    We loved him, took him on long walks and he adjusted pretty quickly to our home. Our friends and adult children came over to meet him and everyone loved him. On the 7th morning we had him, he stood up from resting in my lap and had a grand mal seizure. It was frightening to witness, but I had seen seizures in my former career as a special ed. teacher so I knew what to do. I stayed calm, took note of the length and type of seizure, and afterward I held and comforted him as he was very disoriented. He peed and had a large amount of drool. That very afternoon his medical records finally arrived in the mail. He actually had had about 4 seizures in a row while at the vet and was given seizure drugs. There were some other abnormalities in his blood work. The vet released him with seizure meds. to be given daily, recommended close monitoring and follow up testing in a month. The vet listed the cause as most likely epilepsy, and his prognosis “guarded”.
    I called the shelter manager and left messages. It took another day until she called me back. She admitted that yes, he was prescribed seizure med., but it made him very drowsy all day and he wasn’t having any more seizures, so after a week they took him off the meds. ! I told her that the vet report recommended a recheck and more blood work in a month to which she said “I didn’t see that.”
    My husband and I talked about what to do over the next 2 days. This was less than a week before Christmas and we were torn up about it. I researched everything about canine epilepsy. I took him to our vet for advice. He needed a lot more testing, observation, and strictly administered meds. Our vet said that many epileptic dogs lead a long, happy life and only have seizures once a month. But some have seizures that come much more frequently as time goes on, and some are seizures are long, some don’t stop and the dog could die. The meds. have serious side effects. We needed to have the emergency meds ready to administer rectally when he seized, and a vet clinic on speed dial in case he had a cluster of them that didn’t stop. She couldn’t tell us how our frequent travels and hiking would affect him. We went back and forth on whether we should keep him. We finally came to the conclusion that this was too much for us emotionally and financially. I never thought we’d be the people return a dog! If it had been a behavioral issue we were prepared to hire a trainer to help us. But we never considered a lifelong medical issue starting at this young age. We didn’t know what the future held for him (or us). If another few weeks went by we’d be much too involved and we never would have the heart to return him. So it was now or never for us.
    I called the rescue’s manager again and told her we’d keep him until she secured a good long term foster home. We couldn’t bear to see him back in the shelter. She assured me they are a “no kill” rescue and that he’d be in a long term foster home and not “bounced around.” She apologized for what we had to go through. On Christmas eve morning, 12 days after we brought him home, he went back to his original foster home. The only consolation for us was that the foster was a very nice woman, he recognized her right away as well as the other 4 dogs at her house. He ran inside, seemed genuinely happy to see them and never looked back.
    We feel devastated, guilty, betrayed, angry, remorseful, etc.! I’m typing this through tears. I miss him so much. Financially we are out the $200. adoption fee, the cost of the consultation by our vet, plus everything we bought for him. But most importantly, we are concerned for his welfare and are absolutely heartbroken.
    Thank you for having a place to vent. We are moving on and hope that the rescue, while well-meaning, will totally vet their dogs and fully disclose everything before adopting them out. Adopter beware.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry to hear of your situation. It sounds like you made the right choice, as difficult as that must’ve been.

  20. Thank you so much for this article. Tonight I have cried my eyes out and had my heart broken as my boyfriend and I came to the hard decision that we simply cannot keep our recently adopted shelter dog. Today I came home to a two inch door that had the metal backing ripped off and insides chewed out. He also clawed through the drywall next to the door, down to the insulation. Our window’s blinds were destroyed. Overall, about $1k worth of damage, and we’re renters. I absolutly love and adore my little man, but I can’t afford thousands of dollars in damage everyday I go to work as we work on the problem. I feel like an absolute failure. The shelter we got him from is no-kill, and I plan on giving them all of the items I bought him as well as offering to sponsor his adoption fee for whomever can truly afford to take care of him. Reading everyone’s comments make me feel less alone. I don’t know if my heart will ever heal though.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That must be so hard. One of my foster dogs broke out of her crate and ripped at my bedroom door frame. The damage was maybe $150 but I knew I could not foster a dog that would only continue to damage property. I had to return her because I could not realistically help her overcome her anxiety when left alone.

  21. Thank you so much for your article. We recently faced the difficult decision of either euthanizing our beloved pup or returning him to the shelter he came from. We adopted him about 8 moths ago, and were told he had some food possession issues. We worked on obedience, did training classes, put structure in our home and got that under control. We had a great 6-7 months together when out of nowhere he bit a neighbor. We hired a behavior trainer right away and began working with him right away, he seemed to be doing okay. Then he started snapping at family members (no bites, but the frequency was increasing). Then he attacked the behavior trainer, to the point where if he hadn’t been muzzled she would have been hospitalized.

    She recommended euthanization but we didn’t want to have to do that to our little guy (he’s 1.5 years). We were lucky that the shelter we adopted from was a no-kill facility and they are able to take him back to either move to a rescue or let him live out the rest of his days.

    It’s killing us to have to make this choice, because as a young couple he’s been our “baby” and we love him dearly. But no amount of love is going to make him safe, and so ultimately we know we are making the right choice.

  22. We once adopted a 2yo lab from a reputable, no kill shelter. Her former owner said she was spayed -she promptly went into heat! Her former owner said she was good with kids: in retrospect I realized she had been growling at my son (which he had denied at the time.) After we had her for 2 months she attacked our other dog. The next morning she attacked her again and almost tore her throat open. The attack was totally unprovoked: the other dog was asleep under the desk. Back to the shelter she went. It’s safe to say that people who turn dogs into shelters are not always honest about their reasons… Since then we have had 5 more dogs over the years, 4 of them rescues. We have had much better luck and are now fostering for a rescue group in addition to our own 2 rescues.

  23. i just adopted a dog last Saturday. he is a great dog, very cute very sweet and affectionate. i have a contract with the rescue stating that i have 7 days to decide if i want to move forward with the adoption. everything was going well until the second day when i gave him a bath dried him and looked at his fur and saw heavy amounts of flea dust. i got worried and made an appointment to take him to the vet to make sure he did not have fleas or mites (as he did in the past from what his vet records said) i did not want to affect my current dog in the house and i did not want him to get any sort of disease from the fleas. so i took him in to the vet and he was fine except for the tumor on his eyelid that the rescue did not disclose or take care of before adopting him out to me. the vet said that he needed to get the tumor removed and had a biopsy done on it in which i was quoted 800 dollars. and then if the biopsy came back cancerous that would be much more money in treatments meds etc. so i emailed the rescue and told them i want to bring the dog back in the 7 day period because the dog has a tumor. i know they are upset with me for wanting to bring him back and they told me they feel sorry for the dog because he cant get into a permanent home and i said well i hope he gets the proper treatment that he needs. is houdl be expecting my money back because i am bringing him back in the 7 day period. its heart ache because i fell in love with him and attached and i find out he has tumors 2 days later. the adoption fee was 300 dollars .

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry to hear that. You’re right, it’s the rescue’s responsibility to disclose those types of health concerns. They truly may not have known about this. I don’t know how obvious the tumor is. But that’s what the 7-day trial is for in some ways. I’m glad you were able to take him to the vet. Hopefully the rescue will get him the care he needs.

  24. We are in this situation right now. We are heartbroken & only contemplating returning our rescue dog. We rescued her 1 week ago & absolutely love her. She is the perfect dog in everyway except one. She has severe separation anxiety. Monday we left her for the first time to go to work. We secured her in the kitchen. She managed to get out & chewed off the door jams & pulled down 4 of our plantation shutters & chewed them to pieces. We were so upset but not at her as we understand she can’t control it. It’s true anxiety. The next day we put her in a crate in our room with the TV on. She chewed the bottom & pulled the metal up, distorting it. She then scratched thru & tore up the carpet. The next day we had to leave for a short 40 minutes & put her in a plastic crate with kongs filled with goodies. She chewed out of that one & broke another 2 shutters. She injured her paw & actually broke 2 teeth off. We took her to a vet & animal behaviorist. The vet put her on anti- depressants but told us that she absolutely can not be left alone during the day, and recommended doggie daycare. She also recommended behavior modification training which we start in 1 week. I took her today for her 1st day of daycare & 1st day on meds. They said she did great but they don’t think she cares for dogs much. Daycare in not a monthly expense we anticipated when adopting- $325/ month, her meds are $40 monthly, and the behavior modification is $90 a session, plus replacing the shutters is $1,800. My husband & 17 year old are set on giving it more time. I’m not. I think more time equals more heartbreaking & possible more damage cost. Plus the risk of her harming herself. And we literally can never leave our house without her. We had no idea she had separation anxiety when adopting her. We are in constant contact with the Humane Society to keep them updated. We can not keep her outside as it is below freezing most of the day. Our garage is not an option as we have too many things she can hurt herself on, plus the vet said she can’t be alone. This is extremely heartbreaking. To make matters worst, my husband & I are not in agreement over what to do. And of course our daughter is extremely upset with me for contemplating returning her. I feel very alone but also feel that we have explored all options. Even if returning her is best for her & our home, it doesn’t make it any easier. This is really a very hard decision.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sarah, I’m so sorry. You’re doing all the right things (professional behaviorist, medication, daycare). There is no right or wrong choice here. I hope you and your family can find the right choice for yourselves.

      My only advice is don’t keep her out of obligation or pressure to “do the right thing.” This is an extremely challenging dog that you did not sign up for.

      On the other hand, if you choose to make it work, that’s OK too.

      I’d look into a super heavy duty crate. They’re like $600 (I know, another expense) and I can’t remember the brand. Our rescue has used them for extreme SA.

      Also, would the shelter/rescue be willing to help with any expenses? Maybe it could cover her daycare for a month. Worth asking.

  25. I am in this situation now i adopted a staffie about two and a half years ago. when we first picked him up i noticed he barked a lot. to the point of my neighbors complaining to the city so much i now have 25 counts of disturbing the peace (a misdemeanor) so i thought id ride it out have done everything imaginable to stop the barking.but two and a half years later i am faced with the choice of taking him back to ASPCA or de barking please get back to me asap

  26. Thank you for this article.
    We adopted a rescue a few days ago. The day we picked him up from his foster family it was mentioned that the dog was sometimes skiddish around male family members, but it was just said in passing. I was very honest about my family and our lifestyle, about family members, etc when I was going through the adoption process and that was never mentioned.

    The first day my father visited (my parents are at my house 4+ times per week to help with childcare), he was bitten by the dog. He broke skin, but let go right away… Then later that day when the dog aggressively climbed onto one of the children (11 year old) I said “down” and put my hand on his shoulder to guide him and he snarled and snapped at me.

    I just emailed the rescue and foster family tonight. While I know you can never predict the dogs behavior, he was with his foster family for nearly two months yet his behavior was not disclosed to me. We would have reconsidered adopting him as we just aren’t the right family for him.

    My sons are heartbroken, I’m heartbroken.. We’re waiting to hear back from the rescue to see if we can return him to his foster family. We feel horrible but want the best for all of us.
    Such a hard decision.

  27. I am glad that there are people who are understanding about this sensitive topic. While my situation is not identical to this, I do see similarities. I got a puppy from a breeder (hear me out) because he was highly recommended to me. He assured me that the puppy would be suitable for the work of being my PTSD service dog, doing things like responding/preventing panic attacks and flashbacks, passively blocking people from getting too close to me, etc.

    He’s nine months old now, and has become more and more dog reactive (non-aggressive). He is very easily frustrated and thus, vocal, and throws ‘frustration tantrums’ which have triggered several panic attacks. My disability has also progressed to the point where I’ll need a wheelchair or a mobility service dog, which he is too small to safely be. I’ve contacted the breeder about my concern that I might need to return him, and he basically told me that it is my fault if he isn’t trained right, and that my disability is, and I quote, “imagined”. I cannot put into words how devastating and hurtful that is to hear.

    I just don’t want my family and friends to think that I would give him back for the ‘next best thing’, as I will be applying to service dog program for a fully-trained adult dog. I have cried about this. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to abandon him. I won’t be able to face the breeder in person. But if I keep him, he will interfere with the other service dog, which could hurt me even more. Keeping him at home while I go out would be cruel – I can’t take care of two dogs right now, let alone one with reactivity issues. Now I have to decide if I should try to work through these problems with the knowledge that he won’t be able to do everything I need, and that he might only ever be a pet, or return him now, to let him bond with his new family sooner.

    If I had to do it over, I never would have gotten him, and when I realized that I thought that, it was heartbreaking.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Jess. So sorry to hear of your situation. That must be so hard and it’s one I never could have imagined. So unfortunate that the breeder is not being more understanding.

    2. Loving pet owner who was rejected by rescues.

      I’m hearing you say things that sound like you already know what you have to do, but you need the support and reassurance to do it. You said you need a trained dog to help you prevent panic attacks. Panic attacks are a very serious health issue. They immobilize you for many minutes, leaving you vulnerable and at risk during those minutes. They can cause heavy nose bleeds. This blood loss is not a symptom to be dismissed. Your health issue is NOT trivial and no one should be dismissive to you. You need a fully trained dog. You don’t know for sure if you can train your dog fully. But you do know for sure that there are other dogs out there that are already fully trained, professionally trained. You said your condition will worsen if your dog interferes with a professionally trained service dog, and you need a trained service dog to cope. You said you cannot take care of two dogs.
      My advice is this. You MUST take care of yourself first. You will not be able to even take care of one dog if you do not take care of yourself first.
      Ask yourself, what is preventing you from putting your own health first, as a priority. You said, you don’t want your family or friends to think that you would give your dog back for the next best thing. I’m not sure what you are trying to say when you say that. But clearly, the opinion of your family and friends means a lot to you and is influencing you. You MUST take care of your own health first. You must explain to your family and friends that you need to do whatever will give you the best health outcome. Tell them that you need their support for the sake of your health. If they don’t support you, then your health may suffer. If your health suffers, then the dog that you have will not be taken care of the best that it could be. You can only take care of a dog if you take care of yourself first and are in good health.
      I don’t know which dog will be the perfect dog for you. But I do know that if you have to return your dog, he will quickly be adopted. Pure-bred dogs from breeders are in great demand. People in the Northeast USA pay between $500-$4000 for a pure-bred dog. In the Northeast, there is a shortage of well adjusted good family dogs. Rescue groups are extremely selective about re-homing dogs. Case in point, they turned me down. They will only re-home dogs to “perfect” people and homes. You do not have worry about your pure-bred dog finding a good home. He will get one, if that is the route you choose to take. So, if you do decide to give him up for adoption, you will not be “abandoning” him. You will be giving him an opportunity for another good home. Please don’t call re-homing “abandonment”. You are only beating yourself up mentally with these hurtful words. With all that you have gone through with your PTSD, you don’t also need to stress your self out with feelings of guilt, when you are clearly doing the best you can do for all involved. And you can only do the best thing for all involved, if you do the best thing for your own health first. You need to have peace, not stress. Please do what is best for your own health. You are the priority here.
      May peace and good health be with you all of your days.

  28. Thank you so much for this article.. I am so beyond conflicted with what has happened to myself and my girlfriend. We have adopted two sister 4 month old mix puppies. They had to be flown down to us as they were an hour flight away. The foster mother told us lovely stories about how wonderful with each other they were. We got Them on Thursday and today is Saturday. We were told they were pee pad trained and they have not peed on the pee pad once. One of them is peeing by her food dish.
    The most concerning is that Juno and Suka (Juno is dominant) are so desperately attached to each other that they have no time for us. Suka is so willing to come cuddle and love us, but Juno will come and knock her away, hump her, keep her away from her food.. It’s scary. Juno had bitten Suka numerous times since we’ve had them for 2.5 days that I’m becoming increasingly concerned. I’ve cried because I feel that keeping them together is only hurting them. Does anyone have any suggestions ? I know that in the long run these two will not bond with us and only each other :(..

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry to hear of your situation. I think you’re right when you implied it would be wise to re-home one of them, maybe the less dominant one?

  29. Thank you very much for this site, it has been a great comfort to me as I today have had to give back a rescue dog after only two days. She is a Romanian street dog but was very friendly to me, my husband and 5yo daughter, we were also told she was fine with cats and she got on well with my 14yo rescue dog who was the main motivation for the adoption as we 4 weeks ago lost our 19yo Alsatian rescue dog, and felt she was sad without him but we knew she couldn’t cope with a puppy. My husband picked her up while I was working that day and daughter was at school and they had an immediate bond. When my daughter got home from school she went for her 5 times that night, once when she was playing with her daddy once because whe had sugar substance on her hands once because she made a little noise and once as she put her food bowl down for her in an attempt to allow bonding. My daughter is very good with dogs having grown up with our two beloved rescues, so each attack we could say well it was because of this or that but she has a great manner around dogs. The next morning she was only stood beside her dad when the dog jumped on her throwing her to the sofa then lunged on her back only thanks to her dads quick reactions was she not hurt. I have thought was it play?? I think not though and without any warning growl or anything. So major panic attacks and I’ll feeling aside ( we are not that person that would return a dog.. We were advised by a vet and a trainer to have our Alsatian put down due to his alarming aggressiveness when we first got him but just couldn’t give up on him). I returned the dog this morning, my husband wasn’t 100% on board as he thinks we should have given her more time but at the end of the day this is a dog my daughter is my priority and I would die for her (as most parents would). I am a little in the dog house ATM but every fibre of my being says this was the right thing to do not only for us but also for the dog. In hind sight I think we are still grieving for our dear old boy and this was a rushed decision.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Helen, so sorry to hear you’ve had to go through this. I without a doubt think you made the right choice here. I hope you do find a more suitable dog to adopt when and if you’re ready.

  30. Not coping with scared rescue dog.

    I need help and advice. My family and I adopted a rescue dog a couple of days ago. I am chronically ill and I live with my elderly parents, no children of any age ever come to the house. The dog is a three year old mixed breed who has apparently not had a lot of love in his life and is scared of everything. The rescue did know anything about his history so we can only guess what he went through. I explained my situation to the rescue group and they seemed to think that we could offer him a nice quiet home to recover in and that it would be a good match. Quiet home for a quiet, timid dog. I thought it would work out as there is nearly always someone home and we had a lot of love to give.
    The problem is the amount of distress that him being here is causing for both me and him. He’s scared of everything and won’t stay still till he exhausts himself and has to rest. Then off he goes again running away from everything. The only advice I was offered was to confine him and give him time, but he hated being confined and time doesn’t seem to be making anything better for him. He seems to do better with my mother but is scared of my father and seems to really dislike me. He has shown signs of fear aggression such as baring his teeth when being touched, even if he initiated the contact, and I have had to be treated for a bite to my hand that punctured the skin. The group did say that they would take him back and rehome him and even refund the money (which I don’t actually care about) if it doesn’t work out.
    At this stage I think it is just a bad match. I believe I am not mentally or physically capable of coping with him and don’t believe my mother and father can cope with him either, though they keep saying we just have to give him time. The stress of trying to cope with him has caused my health to go downhill already. I think he needs more help than we can give him and that my parents want to persist because they are too ashamed and embarrassed to take him back. He is not our first dog, nor is he our first rescue, but we have never faced this before and I truly believe it is not in his best interests, or ours, to continue trying to make it work when we just aren’t up to the job. I can tell he is upsetting my mother, but she won’t admit it. I think he will be a wonderful companion to the right owners who know how to deal with his issues. I just don’t know how to convince my mother of this. Am I in the wrong here? Should we give him more time? Or will keeping him, even just a little while longer, to see if he improves do him even more harm? Or should I try and convince them that it’s not working and to let me take him back? Is it better to return him sooner rather than later? Please help me, I don’t know what to do.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m so sorry to hear of your situation. For what it’s worth, yes, I think you are making the right choice to return him.

  31. Confused adopter

    This thread has made me feel a little better about my situation. I rescued a dog on Feb 29th, a pit/lab mix just under 2 years old. The shelter told me when he was a puppy, a dog attacked him out of nowhere and that’s why he had some scars. He never had a history of aggression with any foster he stayed with or at the rescue. He was doing really well adjusting. He had a little separation anxiety and would whine and bark when left alone, but he went to daycare when I worked days and went to my moms when I worked nights so he wasn’t alone often and was safe in his crate. He was very loving to me and my mom and we went to her house frequently so we could all go for a walk. Sounds great, right? Well two days ago, we were at my moms and we decided to go to petsmart to get him a bone. All of a sudden at petsmart, he lost it. He became aggressive with everyone and everything he saw and the whites of his eyes turned bright red as he barked. I did everything I could to get out of that store. We got to the car and he was fine. A little anxious still, but calmer. We went back to my moms and I gave him the new bone I bought him. He was investigating it but wouldn’t pick it up so I brought it into the living room where we were sitting. He licked it a few times, looked up, and lunged at my mom- aggressively. He bit her twice, once on the face and once in the arm. She also has wounds on her hand from protecting her face. Obviously I ripped the dog off of her and I called the shelter immediately. I dropped him off that night so that the trainer is able to work with him for a few days. I went to see him yesterday and he acted very different toward me like he couldn’t even look at me.

    So my dilemma is- do I bring him home again? I am 98% sure I am not comfortable bringing him home again after this. It was a very vicious attack and my mom is traumatized and I am somewhat scared. I feel bad because he was doing so well and it may never happen again but I don’t know if I’m willing to take the chance. Also, my mom is uncomfortable being around him and she helped me a lot caring for him while I was working so it may even be unrealistic for me to care for him now.

    I need some advice or opinions. It is a very small shelter rescue he is at and there is a trainer that has told me he plans to work with him. It makes me feel better that he won’t be put down.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry to hear of your situation. I’m sorry to hear your mom was seriously injured. You will do what’s right for you. My opinion is it was wise to return the dog and he is in good hands with a trainer.

  32. Anxious about adoption

    I too need some help and advice. I have 2 rescue dogs (a 14 year old collie cross and a 3 year old Border Collie). I decidedthat I could offer a kind and loving home to a 3rd rescue dog, and finally settled on a 5 year old lurcher cross who has spent his whole life in shelters. He came home to live with me last week. On day 2 he began guarding doorways and following me around the house challenging me with his stares. I tried to ignore these behaviours to dissipate the aggression (putting it down to extreme stress that the poor dog must be going through) and I acted jolly and upbeat, ignoring this as much as possible. The dog is really good with my other 2 dogs (quietly follows them around, but doesn’t play) and he generally ignores the cat and my pet birds. The dog has also been pretty chilled around visitors (approaching and observing, but little interaction). The dog is very nervous about being touched and will freeze when I adjust his collar or attach his lead for walks. Today he has growled at me twice (once when feeding him treats and once when I asked him to go into the conservatory to lay on his bed). When on his bed, he stares at me pretty constantly and will often follow me standing stiffly and staring. I am actually becoming quite nervous of him ..and I think he may sense this? My other 2 dogs are very gentle and loving and totally trustworthy, but I am really struggling to develop any attachment to the new dog? Would it be kinder for him to end the trial adoption at this point so that he can hopefully find a home where there is a better chemistry for him…or should I perservere? I am so worried and anxious and really do not want to upset this dog further. I feel terrible about this situation….please can I have some views/advice?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh gosh, so sorry to hear this. It’s wonderful you offered your home to another dog but that doesn’t sound like a good situation if you are scared of him. I’ve been scared of certain dogs before so I understand what you mean on some level. Did you get him from a no-kill shelter or rescue group vs. a busy municipal shelter? I’m wondering if you could take some detailed notes on his behavior and offer it to them so they can use it for future reference and possibly working with a trainer if this is something the group can afford.

      Just having him for a few days has been helpful because you’ve helped the group learn more about him.

      So I am leaning towards returning him but of course only you know what is best. Good luck with everything.

      1. Anxious about adoption

        Thank you for that. Yes the dog has come from a no kill shelter and they have really excellent trainers on site. I have spoken with them, and agreed to persevere with this dog for a while longer. The dog is settling in a little more and has begun to play with the Border Collie. My collie is however wary of him as his play style is a lot more rough and tumble than my collie’s (who is a big softie and just likes to play chase). Whenever the new dog is out in the garden he stands by the gate looking out on the road, as if he wants to leave. I am still nervous of him, and feeling dreadful, I have never had a dog that I am nervous of. The dog was feral before entering shelters (where he has lived for his entire life) and has had no connection with a special human previously…I wonder if he will be able to? Thank you for your advice , helps to hear this.

  33. I’m struggling with this dilemma right now myself. We adopted a dog last week, we had been looking for months. My only concern was that the dog was cat friendly. I think the sweet dog is cat friendly, just maybe too much so. My poor cat is terrified and has lived under my bed since we brought the dog home last 5 days ago. It’s funny how before we had the dog in our house, there was no question, if he bothered the cat he went back. It’s not that easy now that he’s here.
    I still don’t know what to do, my husband keeps saying the whole reason we got the dog was to make me happy, and all I’ve done is cry all week because I feel so bad for my poor terrified cat. But the thought of the dog feeling abandoned is tearing me up too.

    1. Danielle, what did you end up doing? I just adopted a dog 5 days ago and she is very sweet, the perfect dog, however since having her my anxiety is through the roof. I can’t eat, I cry all the time and really, really regret my decision. I have a very loving 5 year old cat who spent a lot of time with the family. Now he only comes down if he knows the dog is not around. I miss my cat. The dog wants to play with the cat, but he is not interested. I like the dog, but really, really miss my life a week ago with the cat. I’m not sure how much longer I can deal with the anxiety. I wake up and feel sick every morning, I can’t eat, I can’t relax, but the idea of re-homing the dog makes me so incredibly sad for my kids. I am really beside myself.

  34. I just adopted a dog 10 days ago. She’s adorable and loving and cuddly, but has terrible separation anxiety. That seemed like something I could deal with but I’ve since figured out that she wasn’t socialized properly as a puppy, and therefore hates strangers (literally anyone other than me) and growls, lunges and barks at anyone who comes in my house. This was all terrible enough and THEN I figured out that she despises my boyfriend (he had been out of town for a couple of weeks and just came home). Literally, every time he’s over she growls at him and bites his legs as he walks around the apartment. It’s making it impossible to have him over. It’s making me worry about literally any time I might want to have houseguests. Not to mention.. what if I want to have kids?

    I honestly am not sure what I’m going to do. I know this is all fear based, but I literally cannot live like this, and I can’t even have anyone take care of her other than me because she won’t go near anyone else. She’s just such a sweet heart (to me… ).

  35. We adopted a German shepherd/doberman mix about two months ago. He had no previous training, so we’ve been working very hard to train him with leash, manners, etc. He’s very high energy (which we knew when we adopted him) so we take him for a 2 mile jog/walk every day and try to give him as much love as possible. He was supposed to be mainly my husband’s dog because he wanted an exercise buddy, but my husband’s job has been very demanding lately so I’ve basically been stuck with the majority of his care. We’ve gotten it so he gets along well with our two shih tzus (also rescue dogs), but he and our cat still have issues. He likes to chase the cat, so we have been working on introducing them slowly. In the mean time, I feel guilty as we have to keep them separated when we’re not able to supervise their interactions (our cat started marking because he was so upset by the new dog). This means one of them is not getting as much attention (usually the cat). We hired a private trainer and are only on lesson 2 of 7 so I really hope that helps. I’ve just been so exhausted trying to get him to listen better and behave and trying to get everyone to just get along (not to mention the hours upon hours I’ve spent cleaning). I’ve never considered returning a dog to the shelter, but if the private training doesn’t work, I’m not sure what to do. I’m considering maybe offering to foster him until they can find him a home where someone is home all the time. He’s made so much progress but it still feels frustrating because he has so far to go. I’ve never put this much energy into an animal and all of ours have been rescues so I understand what it means to put in extra work for a pet’s quirks. I’m spending almost all my time at home just taking care of the animals. It’s getting extremely stressful and I don’t feel like I have my own life anymore. It revolves around this new dog. I really hope the private training works, because I’m getting pretty discouraged.

    1. I am in the exact same situation as you, only I’ve had this rescue dog for 6 months. My house is in total chaos and everything revolves around her. She is super high strung and high energy. No amount of walking or playing helps…She just never stops. We’ve spent hundreds, if not more, in training, treats and toys. She even bit me pretty bad once during a training session. We were working on the “down” command, which is a very submissive position. She’s extremely dominant, and lashed out. After agonizing over whether or not we should give her back to the rescue, I finally emailed rescue group yesterday that I needed to give her back. I’m definitely being made to feel guilty and that I haven’t done enough. My marriage is suffering, I’m exhausted from chasing her around all day to keep her from getting in trouble and cleaning up after the messes she makes from getting into things or peeing or pooping in the house. She really needs a home with a fenced yard, a more active family and someone who is skilled at training. We are not the right home for her and I really want what’s best for her. I feel like all I do is yell at her. I’m so sad because she’s very sweet and totally hilarious. I’m devastated, but she needs to go back.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        So sorry to hear of your situation, Megan. I think you are making the right choice as hard as it must be.

  36. These articles and stories have been great. I just recently adopted a puppy. He’s mixed but has very strong lab features. I live in a one bedroom apartment and I’m concerned if he grows to be the size of a lab or is high energy he won’t be happy in my home. I was just wondering if anyone had suggestions on how long would be too long to keep him. I would like to keep him a few months and see how he grows before I decide. But im already heartbroken by the thought of possibly returning him. Thanks

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Labs can do just fine in apartments as long as you’re up for walking/running or dog park adventures every day. If not, better to re-home him sooner rather than later.

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          No, I think you should make the commitment now or re-home him now. Not fair to the dog to wait a few months in my opinion. Just assume he will be around 65 pounds and will need an hour of exercise minimum a day + training.

  37. I just recently adopted a 3.5 month old beagle hound, springer spaniel mix. When I was talking to the rescue group They assured me he was a very relaxed and calm dog. I got him home and he did okay for a while but he’s constantly whining. I’ve tried everything I can think of to get him to stop, it’s worse when I go to work. I left him at home one day for 4 hours. I came home and he’d scratched the paint off two doors, chewed up my husbands shoes, and tore the blinds. I rent my apartment and I can’t afford to keep fixing things and I can’t handle the constant whining. If I get up and go to the bathroom he will be at the door whining the second it closes. I just don’t know what to do ):

  38. I am in the middle of the difficult decision to return our rescue dog. My reasons are probably going to sound very selfish but here we go..
    I have been a stay at home mum for the past 8 years. It was a conscious decision of mine and my husband that we wanted to raise our girls ourselves rather than using childcare. So I haven’t had a career or much more in my life than my babies for the past 8 years. My youngest has just started school and I finally have some “me” time before looking for some part time work and we got approved for an adoption of a dog had applied for, but then been advised she’d been sent to work as a hearing dog. She is a beautiful dog, about 1 yr old and very well behaved, but gets stressed when I’m not home and so I feel awful leaving her and stay home with her as much as I can – this in turn is making me feel tied to the home – just as I have been for the past 8 years 🙁 I also believe she howls and barks while we’re out – so I feel bad for our elderly neighbours. On top of all of this my mother has been diagnosed with early onset alzheimers about 5 years ago and my father cares for her full time. I would like to be able to take my mother out for a few hours one or two days a week to give my dad the break he needs (but feels so guilty about having). So those are my reasons for not wanting to keep this doggy. I know I sound horrible but with having a taste of a little bit of being just me again (during school hours!) and the grief over my mother and trying to spend time with her I just don’t think I have it in me and want to be fair to the dog too.

    1. Nissa, I can totally relate to you. I was a stay-at-home mother for a couple years when my kids were first born but for the last several years have been working from home while taking care of the kids at the same time, so getting any kind of time for myself has been difficult without feeling guilty. Our family decided that we wanted to adopt a dog. We ONLY had good intentions in our hearts, as I think most people do who go out and adopt. We wanted to save a dog’s life and bring joy to it and our family. I thought it would bring us closer together as a family. I wanted to love and cherish this dog forever. We did say that we would only adopt a dog where we knew its history and that it was already trained, etc., but when we saw “our” dog at the local shelter, we led with our hearts and fell in love with her sweet personality and thought that we could make it work even though they really knew nothing about her history. As it turns out, she is not trained on any basic commands, not crate trained (we’re working on it), not fully housebroken (almost though), and gets anxious if we leave her alone. If we try to crate her at any time during the day so that we can leave the house, she wails, barks, whines, and scratches to get out of the crate, sometimes chews. We cannot let her run the house while we’re gone due to not being fully trained. Outside of the crate, she is a fantastic dog and is actually quite relaxed. She adores us. She is affectionate and loving and playful with everyone. All she wants is to be loved. Unfortunately, for me, I have not been dealing well with dog ownership. I already felt tied to the house due to my job (which I actually thought would be a plus in owning a dog since I would be here to take care of it), but now I feel like I can never leave the house. Trying to work and focus on my job while keeping an eye on the dog at all times has caused me stress to the point where I have been in tears and nauseous for days. I too feel so selfish for wanting my “me” time back. I am paying less attention to my children due to all things dog. I thought getting a dog would bring us together as a family, but it has mostly been a constant state of trying to figure out how to train the dog and prevent accidents. To be brutally honest, I underestimated the general care that this dog would need–not just the training aspect, but even the day-to-day things that one expects to do when owning a dog–letting them out, cleaning up fur, water/food spills, brushing, keeping them out of things, etc., which makes me feel totally foolish and embarrassed. I have gotten attached to this dog and can’t stand the thought of someone adopting her who might hurt her, so the thought of taking her back makes me sick, but the thought of our current situation continuing makes me nauseous too. The kids want to keep her, and I don’t want to break their hearts. My husband feels similar to how I do, but he works outside the home so does not have the same responsibility as I do for 10+ hours of the day. I am so messed up inside about this, and the guilt is horrible.

      1. Lee and Nissa,

        Did you end up taking the doggies back to the shelter? I could have written your posts. I have had my 4 month old lab mix pup for a week now and I’m exhausted and overcome with anxiety. He is a sweet pup but more work than I have time for! I’m wondering how your situations worked out, since it’s been years? I’m on the fence about what to do. In my heart I know he will be better off in another household with more time to dedicate. I’m heartbroken.

        1. Hi Vanessa,

          Just wondering how you got on with you dog now? I have recently adopted a dog, separation anxiety has become apparent and I also really related to these posts. We are giving him back next week and I know he will be ok but I still feel terrible. How are you now?

  39. We adopted a 3.5 month old beagle / blue heeler mix from a no-kill shelter six days ago and love her. She is sweet, intelligent, playful, quick learning and quickly socializing with other dogs and all types of people. She also has severe separation anxiety and our living situation makes it dangerous for her as we can either lock her in a crate or not have her stay in our apt while we are gone.

    We live in a 1BR apt in a city and when we met the puppy at the shelter we described our living situation – small apartment and we both work. We expressed concerns about her energy and needs and they told us “she will be fine in her crate, you need to work to afford to take care of her.” There are right and we were too infatuated and crushing on this puppy to be rational about making a choice (OUR FAULT, not the shelter’s at all. They are great people doing a great job on a shoe-string budget).

    She has severe separation anxiety that manifests before we even leave. I’ve filmed her for 30 minute, 45 minute, 90 minutes and 3 hour stretches when she is on her own in the crate and she will cry, bark, and howl for the entire time. She will also deplete her water and continue to cry to the point where I’m worried she is dehyrdating herself.

    So our solution was to set her up in a pen, but like many heelers she is a strong, athletic pup. I took a week off from work last week to help her adjust and start getting her into routines (slowly getting her used to her crate and then her pen and then building up time apart) so she wouldn’t go from the shelter to living in an unfamiliar place spending 4 hours at a time alone (we hired a dog walker).

    We built her a pen attached to her crate and set it up in our bathroom (our apt is basically a large studio) so we wanted to give her a more enclosed space. She managed to jump out of the pen (at least 5′ tall) and onto the bathroom sink counter.

    She isn’t nearly full grown yet and she can nearly jump onto the kitchen counter (including the stovetop) and can clear any baby gates we set-up to limit her access (we don’t have a ton of closed storage).

    This is awful. We’ve been giving her at least an hour of exercise per day and I know that with the right amount of time and training, she will be an awesome dog. I also know we don’t have this time as I just had to take a new job that will have me commuting 1 hour each way and my girlfriend also has a long commute and works a 8 hour day. That means we are going to get up at 5:45 each morning to walk her, exercise her and feed her so we each have time to get ready for work. Because we are getting her up so early, she will be alone from 7:15am to 12pm (dog walker) and then from 12:30pm to 6pm (or slightly later) most days.

    We don’t want to give up on her and these last 48 hours have been awful. We can handle the puppy qualities like peeing and chewing (she is making such good progress when we are constantly working with her), but I don’t have confidence that we can give her the necessary attention and exercise she needs to be happy. We don’t want her to spend a majority of her life living in her pen where she feels anxious with us not around. We don’t want to have to put her on anti-depressants and we can’t want to spend ~$600 to ~$800 per month on doggy daycare. I also know that ~30 min per day with a dog walker isn’t enough for her as she really needs to spend time off leash either playing games or playing with other dogs to get the exercise she needs.

    And it’s spring/summer now, but we have no idea what she will do during the winter when it can be close to zero degrees or below.

    I feel like a failure for not being more honest with myself and my partner for not fully discussing all of this before we adopted her. We’ve spent months looking at puppies and have wanted a beagle-mix for a while. We didn’t do our due diligence with the blue heeler breed and now I sit here reading these comments not feeling alone, but also feeling selfish, childish and cruel for doing this to her.

    We’ve had her for less than a week and she isn’t even four months so we know that she has time to find a good home. I’m worried about us setting her back by returning her to the shelter, but I’m also worried about what her life will be like with us (and what our lives will be like, to be honest I’m not sure my partner and I were fully ready for this… and that feeling is tearing me up inside…), but really all I care about is doing what is right for this puppy. She needs freedom and attention. She needs love. I so badly want to give that to her, but I don’t think we can.

    Thanks for this post and thank you for all of you who have commented. I’m going to call the shelter to talk about the fit and what makes sense.

  40. My boyfriend and I recently adopted a 15lb terrier mix from the SPCA about 14 days ago. I have severe anxiety and am getting a dog to spend time with and help with it. She is sweet and cuddly with me but that’s it. When we saw her at the shelter, we walked her twice and spent extra time with her since the shelter didn’t have any information on her. The only thing the workers knew about her that she was quiet and sweet. She seemed to like both my boyfriend and I which was important since we are splitting time taking care of her but when we got home that wasn’t the case. She only likes me and follows me everywhere and has severe separation anxiety that leads to her defecating throughout the room. We have so far tried crate training (which has only seemed to make it worse cause she has a panic attack in the crate), stress reliever sprays and liquids for waters and chews and a Thundershirt. She is also scared of everyone but me including my boyfriend and won’t let him walk her or take care of her. My boyfriend and I both work full time jobs and have to be gone at least 3-5 hours a day 3-4 times a week and coming home to a poop filled room of anxiety has been pretty horrible the last two weeks. We take her for 4 -6 walks a day and I play with her for at least an hour before leaving her but nothing has been getting better. The SPCA we got her from will take their dogs back and work with them in foster homes to get through problems like this but since they didn’t know she had problems she hasn’t been worked with. Shes a really sweet girl but we just feel really overwhelmed and that we rushed into it and like she needs a place with a yard and someone who works from home and can give her the appropriate time to work with her.

  41. Thank you for this article. I brought my rescue back to the foster family tonight and haven’t stopped crying because I feel so horrible but reading this has made me feel less alone. Duke is a three year old chocolate lab mix and I was told he was house and crate trained. Three crates later, and about $1,000 worth of damage to my apartment has shown me otherwise. Today I decided to come home early from lunch and he worked himself up so much while I was gone that he caught himself in the broken metal from the crate he broke today (I had removed his collar when home because I didn’t want him to get caught). I cried and realized I had no choice but to take him back. He’s so amazing when my boyfriend and I are home but the anxiety was too much, and not even medicine was helping. I became so afraid he was going to hurt or kill himself while I was at work. I’d only be gone for 4 hours (I work close enough so I could come home for lunch) but it was too much for him, and myself. People have made me feel horrible about this decision today but seeing these comments from other people who have felt as hopeless as I am helps. I was ready for this dog, and I still love him so much, but had to do this for his own safety.

  42. I just returned a lovely lab/ retriever we named Jenny. I only had her for 4 days but my son who has Aspergers said he did not like her. She was such a sweet loving dog but chased my cats, was scared to leave the house, and scared of the fan, microwave, anything mechanical. I think I realized I had taken in a responsibility I could not really work with as a single mom
    With three kids. I was so heartbroken because regardless of the difficulties I really liked her so much. I cried so hard when she left but I have a little comfort knowing she us being fostered in a home with other dogs ( something I think she needs) the house feels empty again and it’s hard knowing I made a mistake.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh I’m so sorry, Michelle. That must be so hard, but I’m glad you had the courage to return her. It’s better for you and the dog. There’s no sense in keeping a dog if it’s just not working out. Not worth the stress over the next 7+ years!

  43. I still can’t get over the fact we have returned a dog we adopted over a year ago. We had adopted a pity from a rescue group. My husband fell in love with her immediately. She was less than a year old when we got her. She seemed to okay with her environment. But just after the year we had her than things went haywire. Don’t know what went wrong. The first fight was over food. So we listened to several people’s suggestions about separating them and feeding them separately too. Thanks we slowly introduced theme together. Than they got along but than just the last 2 months things went wrong. The pity was attacking the other dog more and the last attack just came out of the blue. The other dog and I went off into amother room and didn’t stir any commotion. But the pity came into to the room, uninvited and than jumped on the bed with us. The other dog got off the bed and than the pity just followed and started attacking her. She would not let the other dog go for any reason. Theven dog that was being attacked was pooping at the same time. So I know this was not good. Finally we got the pity off of her. 1200 vet bills after, Lola, the dog that was attacked. Did not want to go into the house. We had to carry her into the house. So that is when I knew the pittie had to go. I could not wait to see about classes with the dogs. So that is when we contacted the rescue. Yes , my husband said a few things but this was in the heat of the moment. But the rescue group has been attacking us and calling us failures. Now, I have been crying non stop for the past 3 days. I tried the lot them know, they were not here with when the attacks happened. Was I wrong of returning the pit?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry your other dog was hurt and you had to return your pitbull. I hope the rescue takes her aggression seriously.

    2. I just had to return a pittie 2 days ago, and I am having a really hard time with it. We had him for 5 months, and he got along with my other two dogs great! I fell in love with this dog. He was always by my side wherever I went. He played extremely well with my young pittie mix, and ignored my 12 year old hound mix. Perfect situation. Like I said, for 5 months, it was great! Until three days ago. He attacked my younger pittie mix twice, for seemingly, no reason. He tried to hump her, which he hadn’t done in a while, and she snapped at him, and he grabbed her by her throat and wouldn’t let go. His jaw had to be pried apart. No marks were left though, and we did have company over, so we chalked it up to both dogs being at a heightened level of excitement due to company being over. However, 10 hours later, the company was gone, and he went after her again, this time was much worse, I thought he was going to kill her, and had I been alone at my house at the time, he would have. I had to return him, which breaks my heart. I love this dog so much, even though he tried to kill my other dog. He spent 5 months in the shelter prior to me adopting him, and he spent 5 good months with me. I got him through heartworm treatment, got him back up to a healthy weight, and his coat is now beautiful. The thing is, that behavior took 5 months to show itself. Sometimes, you find out the hard way that a dog is just not compatible with your home. It’s difficult because you’ve now fallen head over heels for him/ her and you have to take them back into a very stressful environment. However, when he got back to the shelter he seemed happy, and everyone at the shelter just adores him. For some reason, I don’t think they believe us that he attacked another dog, because it’s so not his character. He was the dog tester at the shelter when I adopted him. I believe that he needs to be the only dog in a home, not just because he attacked my dog, but because he craves attention, and being the only dog in a home, he would get all the attention he wants and deserves. When adopting an adult dog, especially a pittie, you never know what they went through prior to you having them. Though, it’s very hard to return a dog to the shelter, because you feel like you somehow failed the dog. Sometimes it’s best for the dog and for you. Had he killed my dog, he would have had to be euthanized, so I feel like he is getting another chance to find that perfect home. I’ve told the shelter I would like to cover his next adoption fee, and I’m willing to take him to adoption events, because he is a good dog. I’m still crying over him though, and probably will be for a while.

  44. My husband and i are tearing ourselves to bits. We love boxers and wanted to get a 2 yr old plus boxer last year in December. We went to a boxer rescue and the old boxer we looked at was not suitable as could not get up and down our stairs, but we decided to take o another dog they had instead, a 6-12 month old stray ‘boxer cross’. Turns out she is an american bulldog, no boxer in her, she is still peeing and pooing in the house and even in her crate. We have a regular routine of going out every few hours an always rewarding for outdoor toiletting which helps but if she feels like it she will just go, sometimes in the night in her crate,, vet says she has nothing wrong with her, we have tried everything and she cannot be free in the house unsupervised. Her personality is SO different to what we are used to or wanted, she loves dogs, good with people and is a sweet enough girl but i know i will never ever bond with her – 7 months later we are torn. We are not a good fit and i am having to crate her just for peace, but i am too ashamed to return her because i just don’t like her face or personality. I can’t live with this stress for the next 10 – 15 years though. So depressed.

  45. Thank you, oh thank you, for such a kind and nonjudgmental post. I thought I did all the research possible, was up front with my lifestyle (single, work full time, apt-living without a fenced yard)…but the lil guy I brought home just couldn’t tolerate to be alone. After sharing my worries with his foster coordinator, she suggested that he might need a home with more people, a fenced yard, and less time alone… they just didn’t realize that ahead of time because he had only been in those kind of foster homes. I feel so much shame, and when we’re together, he’s peaceful.. But he deserves better than what I can offer and I need to trust that there was a reason his story included me, however briefly. Thank you for making me feel less like a monster- I was always in the “if you take them home, they are family” camp. I have to believe that unconditional love here looks like realizing I can’t give him the home he needs to thrive with his severe separation anxiety.

  46. Thank you for posting this. We had to return our 11 month old to the rescue group. She was becoming overly aggressive to our other dog and bit her without provocation and drew blood. She was a great dog, just needed to be the only dog in the house getting the love and attention.
    They couldn’t even be boarded in the same kennel because of the aggression towards the other dog. It killed me to make that decision, but I worried about our older dog’s safety and couldn’t risk another event happening (especially with kids in the house).
    Your post makes me feel better and realize that even though she was a great dog, she wasn’t the one for our family.

  47. I got a dog on a 2 week foster to adopt trial last week after meeting him at an adoption event. I knew he had some separation anxiety but his foster mom assured me that it had gotten a lot better so I figured I would give it a try since he seemed really well behaved at the event. Everytime I have left the house he seemed to have gotten into my things. I left out toys, a stuffed kong and treats and he doesnt touch them. I figured i would try my best to make it work but yesterday I came home and he had knocked over the plant on my kitchen windowsill. I was very afraid that he would hurt himself while I’m not home if he is able to climb onto my countertops. It breaks my heart that I have to give him back but I know it’s for his own safety and that it’s for the best. Somehow though it still doesn’t make it easier. Im going to miss him so much and this was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. Luckily all of my friends and family have been very supportive because anyone who knows me knows how much i love dogs and that i wouldn’t just give away a dog willy nilly.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry it didn’t work out. That must be so hard but it sounds like you are making the right choice.

  48. I adopted a lab mix approximately 7 months ago……. I knew Sam had issues shortly after I brought her home….. But I thought that working on them was going to make the problems disappear. I was so wrong. Sam is still growling, barking and letting her anal glands go at the drop of a hat. I have taken her to obedience class, puppy day care, long walks, trainers, exercise, playing, loving……. Sam still refuses to warm up to my husband or daughter. She is afraid of everything. I have even had her on two types of medication….. Nothing will ever change her personality. I have made the decision that I am going to return Sam to the adoption agency. Yes, I love Sam, but she will never relax or trust any of us….. Her guard is never down and she is always on edge. My family and I have been so patient, loving and kind and have never abused her. I have never even seen her relaxed enough to dream. And I will miss her and probably never forgive myself. But I just want what is best for Sam and my family. I have never returned a dog…….. and can’t believe that we are in this position. I know that we will feel this loss a very long time.

    1. I’m not sure where you are located but we found a great Behaviorist / trainer for our Lab mix. He worked wonder including our Pointer mix problems .He assessed our dogs individually in separate sessions & he was our answer to our prayers & not to give up on our dogs that we thought was hopeless case.

  49. Now that I have thought about it, I am not going to return Sam to the adoption center. I am going to go to my vet and make sure that she has nothing physically wrong with her that could be causing the bizarre behavior. If all her blood work and tests come back negative, I am going to sadly euthanize her. I know that I have been a wonderful dog owner, friend and member of Sam’s pack. If I return her to the agency that I adopted her from, someone else could adopt her. What if that person is not as patient as we have been and hurts her? What if they get mad and let her run out the door never to return? I love Sam and will not let anyone hurt her. Maybe we both need peace. Yes, the pain will be unbearable, but we will always know where Sam is.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh Michelle, I’m so sorry you have been through these difficulties with Sam. I wish there was something I could say that would help. It sounds like you are making the right decisions for her and for yourself. It must be so hard. Take care.

    2. Michele, I feel such empathy. i also had an aggressive dog from the no-kill shelter . When I adopted her I promised her she was never going back there. I knew the situation there from doing volunteer work there. The unadoptable dogs were left in the back “crazy room” in solitary confinement. well not for my Cosette at the end when i felt no more hope and 2 trainers quit, i brought her to her vet for humane euthanasia, I have felt so guilty for not trying harder, medication, might have helped, why didn’t i wear gardening gloves so the bites didn’t hurt so much. while I worked with her. There was none to rehome her to. and i . please keep in touchwouldn’t rehome a biting dog. So i did what i felt was right. I suppose a lot of people give their pet back to the shelter, thinking at least they will have a chane. I was protecting her, as you said from someone else hurting her. Or using her in some way. Since i had strong evidence she had been abused.

      1. How do i forgive myself for not trying clomicalm . i am on it, with the election turnoutt, i could not live without it. i just put her down without even thinking about it. and my vet didnt help me, why didnt i check with another vet. Because i trusted him. I didnt even know clomicalm was an option. i only new about prozac

  50. Thank you for this article. I am in the beginning stages of initiating a return of my Stella to the rescue from which I adopted her almost 2 years ago. From the beginning, Stella has always had issues with potty training (she was advertised as “housebroken” but may have occasional accident if left alone too long). Well, the occasional accident turned out to be a daily occurrence, despite being let out multiple times during the day by my Mom. Anyway, I am at a point where I now need to return her due to my own health issues precluding me having any dog, not just her. We’ve made progress in our time together, but I can no longer give her the exercise and attention she really needs. I moved from a little house to a condo because of not being able to shovel any more. Now we do more walking, but my back and my feet have gotten so bad I now need surgery. And I don’t feel up to dealing with any dog when I’m in constant pain. Stella is very sweet, but I just can’t keep up with her anymore.
    My biggest concern is that the rescue people always badmouth anyone that returns or brings in dogs, saying on Facebook that the people “dumped” the dog or were lazy, etc. Talk about being judgemental. I know I’ll be next on the “crap” list. 🙁

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Sharon, it must be so hard that you’re giving her up but it sounds like you’re making a thoughtful decision. No matter what, some of the rescue “crazies” are always going to badmouth reasonable people. I wish that was not the case as it’s hard enough making these kinds of decisions. I wish you and Stella the best.

      1. I am so relieved to know that I am not alone! I feel for everyone who has shared their stories, and I am also grateful to the author for such an honest and supportive article.
        I adopted my girl from the shelter I volunteer at, and she is so lovely. She loves me and my family, and for the first couple weeks she was absolutely perfect. Then I started to notice her reactivity to other dogs…which progressed in to dogs and some people, and eventually dogs and ALL people. My kids love her and she loves them, but they often complain that she barks when friends come over(she is put in another room but still barks), and that we can’t take her places as a family. I feel so guilty because I so wanted them to have a “family dog”, as I was never allowed a dog when growing up and thought it would be great for them (and me) to have that experience.
        It has been 7 months and we have been to training classes, seen a behaviorist, I’ve read countless books/articles and watched many videos, and I use treats/praise on every walk to try and desensitize her to her triggers…I am seeing some improvement but it’s very slow going. I am a single mom and I have to say I am absolutely exhausted! I love her so much, but I sometimes feel as if I made my decision too quickly. I have thought about returning her many times but just don’t have the heart to do it. I’m just hoping that I have the strength and patience to continue this journey.

  51. Sorry, I shouldn’t have said being badmouthed was my biggest concern. I’m sure all the rabid rescuers would have a field day with that. My biggest concern is really that I hope they can find Stella the type of home and owner that suit her much more than I did. I do love the little devil (and she can be one!) She’s a big snuggler and very sweet. I’d post a pic of her but not sure if that’s allowed here.

  52. I am considering returning my dog. She’s from a high kill shelter. I was told she was playful affectionate. She is very affectionate but also has a lot of behavior issues. I am covered in bruises and bite marks from this dog. If A dog barks at her and I won’t allow her to charge over to them she attacks me. Even on no dog walks I change direction and she doesn’t like it she attacks me. I have taken her to a trainer but this dog has not improved. She wants to attack my cats and my rat and I worry she’ll end up killing them. Last night she got so upset about a dog barking at her I tried treats walking her away from the situation but she she lunged up at me and tried to bite my throat. (She’s a large greyhound/Shepard mix and I am only 5’3 ) she’s better if my six foot brother walks her but even still goes to bite. On top of this she tried to destroy everything in the house. But also has sweet times where she gives kisses and listens but it doesn’t make up for everything else. Everyone is making me feel so guilty about wanting to return her but she’s too much of a risk and I already have such a hard time handling her with my bad shoulder. Had she knocked me down last night I would have ended up in the hospital at the very least.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m so sorry to hear this, Kat. I wish I knew of something to say that would help. That is a hard decision and I know you did a great thing by adopting a dog and giving her a chance.

  53. I am reading everyone’s posts here and am having a hard time figuring out if what I’m dealing with is worth giving up my 1year old dog back to the humane society. Hes the sweetest most gentle dog I’ve ever known. Hes huge but he loves to cuddle..
    He used to sleep with us in the bed until he decided to chew up laundry from the hamper and socks left by shoes that night. From that day on he doesn’t get to sleep with us. He has constantly found something to chew and destroy. Hes destroyed over $900 worth of items from inside and outside the house from clothing/towels to pool floats and hoses! We can’t leave him alone or else God only knows what else he’ll get into when we are away for work for the day. Poor baby meeds to stay in his cage all day and I don’t think its fair. I love this dog but he’s way more then we can handle a month in terms of things needing to be replaced!! What do I do..?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      This is just my opinion but it’s really not a big deal if the dog has to be in his kennel when home alone or unsupervised. How old is he? My weimaraner is always in his kennel when home alone. He’s only 6 months but I imagine it will be that way for two years or more. I take him on long walks each day and he’s out of his kennel when I’m home. But, if you truly feel you don’t have the time for your dog or if he’s causing too much stress deep down you probably know if it’s best to find him a new home. Good luck, I’m sure it’s such a hard decision.

      1. Thanks for replying to me. Its good to know its not a huge deal for him to be in a cage for a while. But my biggest conxern is the amount of money we have to apend to replace everything he tears up. He knows he did wrong when we pick up the item he tore up and look at him. He puts his ears down and goes to his cage with his tail between his legs. 🙁

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          Yes, that sucks. Hopefully he won’t chew up too much more if he’s in his crate while unsupervised but I hear ya.

  54. I’m struggling with this too. We’ve had our rescue for a month now, and i’m having regrets. The only thing is, i don’t think it’s the dog. I think it’s me… I committed to something my family wanted, but deep down I don’t want a dog. I love her, she is a good dog, but i worry she isn’t fulfilled. She failed daycare, so now her existence is being at home alone all day while we’re at work and school. That’s not the life i want for a dog. We had hoped for a dog we could take everywhere, but for some reason (even though she was previously around dogs with no problem) she growls and gets anxious when out. So now i’m afraid to take her places. This just isn’t what i wanted. I fear the judgement from the rescue, disappointing my family, etc. But my anxiety levels are just too high. I just went against my better judgement and now i’m stuck

  55. We adopted a dog only a few days ago and it isn’t working out. He’s a 6 year old German Shepherd and he is attacking our cat at every opportunity. He’s obsessed with her and will flip out even if he’s on his line and sees her at a distance. When he’s in the house he searches for her and completely ignores our commands. (My husband has a very loud and commanding voice.) If we restrain him he bites. If we allow him inside, this behavior goes on all hours, usually accompanied by pooping and peeing. Our cat has been around dogs before and is pretty brave, but she is completely terrorized with good reason. The shelter said they had tested the dog with cats and he didn’t chase them there. So I don’t know why he’s doing it now. My daughter is heartbroken and my husband is sad and angry. I’m just sad for them and the dog. We had really looked forward to having another dog and it’s such a shame it didn’t work out.

    1. Sorry to hear of your situation. It’s really no one’s fault, just one of those things. He sounds like he’s not the best dog for you and I’m glad you’re putting your cat’s safety first. This is good information the shelter will now have about him for other potential adopters.

  56. My situation is a bit different. I’m a single male, never married and retired. I rescued my pup from a local rescue almost 3 months ago and she has been great. We have worked hated and she is Housebroke, socialized with other dogs and people, minimal chewing etc. The issue is my anxiety levels and feelings of being overwhelmed by having a dog are taking a toll on me. She is a great dog, but I am actually happier when she is at daycare or I am out of the house and she is crated, which are 2-4 times per week. I’m hoping this passes, but if not, I am considering returning her. Being single and a dog owner are much more difficult than I could have imagined. Although I have done everything for her, maybe I am better to return her and salvage my happiness.

    1. I understand you completely Keith! I adopted our dog just 4 days ago and I dread dealing with her. I wish when she was napping that she would just stay napping so I could have some normality back in my life. My husband works long hours so it’s just me caring for her, but I don’t know what I am doing and I resent having something need me all the time. I’m equally as torn as you are on the matter

  57. I so needed to read this today. We adopted a rescue 3 days ago, on the 17th. Brought her home, let her in the yard and she wouldn’t come in. Tried to catch her. She got through a small opening we never knew was there and ended up in a neighbor’s yard. Neighbor tried to help and got bit. I called the rescue that night to take her back; they came to get her but treated me so rudely. I was non-stop crying because I wanted that dog. Thank you.

  58. I adopted a Labrador just 3 months ago. he’s absolutely perfect, dont get me wrong he has a few small issues but he’s a beautiful dog. Except about 3 weeks ago he shot out the back gate and attacked another dog and just yesterday he done the same thing, unfortunately this time causing damage. He doesnt do it defensively he just does it aggressively. We live in an area where there are too many dogs and i cant be concerned each second that im not there that everythings locked and he wont do anyone any harm. We have frequent visits from children and family and i’m wondering whether this is a warning to let him go. I am very frustrated as the rescue place didnt mention this at all and i’m sure they knew as they were eager to get rid of him at the time but due to us being so excited we didn’t think there would be a reason why.

  59. I’m reading these posts and I can’t thank you all enough for sharing your stories and the author of this article. I had to take my Lab/Pit mix back to the no-kill shelter after a year of having him with us. I’ve been craying for three days straight and when I come home from work I burst into tears knowing that my sweet dog is not there to greet me. The house feels empty and I’m so depressed but I don’t know if I made the right decision.
    My husband has a very rigorous job (16 hours a day) and I see him 3-4 days out of the week. I also work between 10-12 hour a day and just recently have a baby (she’s 4 months) so my dog meant the world to me since day 1 I adopted him. He’s such a good loving dog. He loves children even my infant daughter and people in general. He is gentle with people and obeys to commands but oh boy he’s so aggressive towards other dogs! I am 5″1 and can barely handle him when he gets aggressive. I tried everything I could and he still hates other dogs, he only would get along with one other dog (female) in the neighborhood.
    He also had separation anxiety and wound destroy the carpet or blinds in the house when alone. It broke my heart that I hat to crate him for 10 to 12 hours at a time when I left to go to work and then come back to a poo mess to clean most days and then take care of my infant at the same time. I was so overwhelmed by leaving my daughter by herself in the apartment so I could walk him because I could barely handle him since he’s a strong boy. I feel guilty for giving him back to the shelter and sick to my stomach to know I won’t see him again 🙁 but I know he’s such a sweet boy and deserves a family that can give him all the attention he deserves :((( I wish I had given him more and hope he finds a loving home with a backyard he can play

  60. My husband and I got our 13 week puppy from a shelter not even 4 days ago. I’ve never had a dog before, I’ve only ever had cats and as I am not working yet, I am the main carer for her. However every morning I dread getting up to deal with her. I feel very detached from her and resent the amount of attention she requires. My husband loves dogs, but he works long and odd hours and so I feel I don’t get and won’t get as much of a split of the pressure as I would like. I’ve explained my feelings to my husband and I was left feeling very guilty for feeling this way. I’ve said I wanted to wait on having kids because you have to give up so much time for them and I wasn’t ready for that. I wasn’t ready however for how much time would be required for a puppy, they are like having kids! I want to get a job soon as I need to be able to work and I certainly don’t want to leave her in her crate for such a long time. I feel if we returned her early on, she wouldn’t get severe attachment issues and she would be adopted quickly as she is definitely a cute puppy! But it doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty and torn that she makes my husband happy

  61. Hi, I’m starting to feel as if I need to give back my one year old puppy back to the shelter. I currently already have a dog and the new dog was aggressive to my current dog and it worries me. My current old also has been acting differently and is no longer the same dog I always love. He seems angry and intimidated because of the new dog. I don’t know what to do and I feel as if I should keep trying, but I am constantly worrying about if my new dog will harm my current dog.

  62. Sorry in advance this is so lengthy, it has helped me so much to find this and read these stories, I am hoping someone will have some insight. We have 2 big rescue dogs that were in bad shape when we got them a few years ago (but we have rehabbed). They get along great and have wonderful, tolerant temperaments (with people, children, animals etc.) 3 days ago we adopted (on a 7 day trial) a 4 year old (~40lb) mixed breed dog from a rescue as a playmate since one of our dogs is very playful while the other is more mellow/lazy. The new dog is very unpredictable, sometimes playing very well with our other 2, cuddling them (and us) and being very sweet but then sometimes snarling, growling and nipping to chase them away from a certain area or object. Our original 2 dogs are big but mellow/submissive so that isnt a big deal and has been something we have been making progress on the last few days along with potty training etc. My current concern is that the new dog is now starting to be territorial over people (my parents came to visit him, he was fine when they came in then my dad was petting him on the couch, my my mom came over to ask my dad a question and the dog growled at her from the couch and then came off the couch towards her still growling). Additionally, when “reprimanded” (ie: take the blanket he is guarding away or telling him no when he growls/decides to chase another dog from a space etc.) or when he decided he is done being petted or doesnt like the interaction he will growl or curl his lips and a few times has snapped at whomever is involved. We are at a loss of what to do as we understand there is an adjustment period but cant have this behavior especially as we have a child and people over etc. He can be so sweet and loving, but the other issues are not something we have every had to worry about with our 2 current dogs (or 2 previous dogs to them). We were/are willing to work with a lot of other issues, but the unpredictable growling and nipping towards people is not something we can have in our home. We contacted the rescue yesterday to tell them we felt that he is not a good match for our home and we think would be better in a home without children or potentially other dogs but have not heard back from them. Are we giving up too easily/soon? I am completely beside myself as I want what is best for everyone.

    1. This article has really helped. Tomorrow I am surrendering a wonderful dog that we adopted 2 wks ago. We were advised she was shy and had special needs (potty training issues that volunteers were working on)…she took some time to warm up but we were ok with that. With myself, my husband and teen daughter Dee is fantastic. She is smart, was learning commands, plays, loves to cuddle…and hasn’t had one accident in the house. The perfect fit, or so it seemed… until a visitor comes. At first, we thought her barking and growling was because these visitors stopped by within 24 hrs of her being in her new home…but a week later a neighbor came by and not only did she bark and carry on, but before I knew what was happening, she lunged at and bit my neighbor… enough to break skin and leave some bruising. I felt absolutely horrible! It forced us to really evaluate things. As much as we have come to adore this new member of our family, we were not prepared for this kind of behavior. Some people have been supportive, some have made us feel like the worst people in the world for giving up so ‘soon’…but I know my limitations and know I don’t have the skills it takes to handle this kind of behavior. If we lived in a bubble, we’d keep her in a heartbeat- but I have a child who likes to have sleepovers, we have friends and family who like to visit for a weekend…we have elderly parents we travel to see (sometimes spur of the moment) & would need to take her along…as sweet and smart and lovable as Dee is, her behavior towards guests is something we are not prepared to handle. It’s not something a simple obedience class will fix…and I can’t risk putting the safety of my guests at risk. Yes, I know there are behavior mod strategies that we can try, but they aren’t a guarantee that she will never display this aggressiveness again…and while putting her in a crate while we have visitors sounds like an option – that’s okay for a few hrs but what about a few days? Constant crating isn’t fair to the dog and constant monitoring may not be possible. When we agreed to rescue, we were prepared to deal with potty issues, chewing issues, teaching manners…even giving a shy girl time to come out of her shell… unfortunately,the way she responds caught us totally off guard. At first I beat myself up but I think it’s ok to admit that it’s beyond our capabilities. The thought of taking her back is devastating, but we know the shelter workers have more experience and resources to help her. Nobody knew in advance that this was how she would behave, it’s not as if we were aware and said ‘aggression is a deal breaker but she’s cute, let’s try it anyway’. We chose her based on the information we had, going into the adoption with the best of intentions…but sometimes even that isn’t enough. Sometimes what the dog needs isn’t something that we can give. That doesn’t make us bad people. I just hope that this new information will help the shelter to better determine how to place her with someone who’s lifestyle can meet her needs better than we could. Will we try to rescue again? Maybe…

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        So sorry you have to go through this. It must be so hard, but I’m glad you are making the right choice for your family.

      2. Sue, thank you for sharing your story. Your words resonated with me so much as we are going through the exact same situation with our Jack Russell Terrior/Chi Mix. We adopted her 1 month ago and she is the smartest and sweetest dog with my husband and I while we are in the house. We take her on multiple bike rides and walks per day and give her mental stimulation as well with clicker training and tug-o-war games.

        As lovely as she is with us, she has lunged and bit more than a few people in the past month. She is extremely anxious and reactive when outside the house. We try to avoid situations that trigger her, but the most recent bite was in our own house with a family member…totally unprovoked. It was so scary!

        We were working with a trainer and we have seen the vet. As you said, yes we could work with this behaviour but there is no guarantee this aggression will go away. We rescued her from a shelter who transfers dogs from a high kill shelter in California. We just don’t know what trauma she has experienced that makes her react this way to other guests in our own home or outside the house.

        Our hearts are broken but we have had to make a decision in what to do. It has been an emotional roller coaster, I have cried so many tears. The guilt is horrendous. I wish this experience on no one. But I know when we return her they will find the right home for her. Someone with the resources and property to accommodate her special behavioural needs. Until then I will just breathe…

  63. Thank you so much for writing such a positive blog on returning back an adopted dog. We (as well) recently adopted a dog. A 2 yr old female beagle but sadly have come to conclusion that we should return her for her own safety. We were told she was house trained – but we found out that although she does her business outside she also likes to urinate and defecate after having been walked at least 2-3 times a day! After having lived with us for 3 months and learning her name she now chooses to ignore it when called and it’s because when she runaway ( or as I Now refer them as excursions) she keeps walking away and doesn’t pay attention or seen to want to come back. This is safety concern since we live in a neighborhood with streets. The foster parents said she was quite but we beg to differ. It’s heartbreaking because aside from those things, she is a sweet girl. But we have realized maybe we’re not the best family for her after all! And our children have stated they too are tired and won’t miss her much. I figured tomorrow morning I will have to contact the rescue group and start the process.

  64. I have always adopted my animals from shelters and rescues. But after my very emotional and negative experience with Sam, I began to ask questions. Rescue groups focus mainly on “saving the animals.” I found out that Sam was raised since she was a puppy in a backyard with a 12 foot privacy fence and with approximately 20 other dogs. Her foster mom said they never had any “people” company because of all the dogs. So Sam never experienced anything besides dogs, crates and a secluded back yard. She had never even met a child, gone on walks, hear doorbells ring, or see a neighborhood; however, her ad on Pet Finder stated Sam was great with kids and good on a leash. Sam had no idea what was beyond her crate or fence and was not socialized whatsoever. I now completely understand her aggression issues. Maybe rescue groups should not focus on “saving all the animals,” but instead focus on properly preparing the animals that have been saved to make suitable pets for all types of families. I hope you do not take this post wrong……. I definitely respect and agree with saving animals and appreciate all the hard work that rescue groups and shelters perform……. but I think shelters and rescues should focus more on preparing the animals for the real world. IF THAT BECOMES THE CASE, MAYBE NO ANIMALS WILL NEED TO BE RETURNED. My vet told me that there are a lot of great dogs out there that need to be adopted. I am not giving up hope. I just don’t believe shelters should adopt a dog just to make room for another one.

  65. I am going to return a dog that has extreme separation anxiety. He was working well the first few days only howling but I didn’t mind that. He was outdoors with my sisters dogs and howled at times but since we had other dogs and remained outdoors he was fine. The first day at my house I left him in the bathroom and he did great I was really happy. Second day I tried crating him but my crate wasn’t very secure and he got out I saw some destruction in the garage wall but didn’t think it was him thought maybe it was another animal that bit the wall. The next day I left in the bathroom again. A lot of blogs say that they feel more secure with the lights off so did that and returned to a dog howling and a bitten door. This really stressed me out because now his anxiety was making him destructive. I kept thinking that I had to keep because I had made a commitment but finally came to realize that him and work together were going to consume me. I cried because I didn’t want to break my commitment but I didn’t have anyone supporting me. The shelter I adopted is 3 hrs away and I didn’t want to turn in at the local shelter because I volunteer there and I feel I would be judged. I met the volunteer coordinator and she seemed very judgmental. I tried rescue groups but they are either picky about the breed or don’t take animals from the public. Tried the humane society but they just directed me to a trainer or re home him on my own. I felt like everyone was just like well you made a decision now stick to it. I myself became anxious and a little depressed again since my dog went missing a few weeks ago.

  66. I have a 1 1/2 year old Beagle/Corgi mix. We adopted her from a no kill rescue shelter. We’ve had her for almost 6 months. She had been abused and chained up all day outside before going to the shelter. We also have a papillion that is almost 6 years who we’ve had since he was 3 months old. We adopted the rescue, Candy, for the sole purpose of giving our other dog, Spunky, a companion. Candy has nightmares and when she wakes up she goes after our other dog Spunky. She has never physically hurt Spunky to any extreme but that is only because I make sure I am in the room to grab him from harm. She has not gone after me, my husband or my kids. But I am so very nervous to have Candy near me when she makes her twitches and sounds from her nightmares that I am a wreck. I quickly put something in between us just in case she does decide to attack. The problem is she has gotten quite attached to me so she likes to lay next to me if I’m on the couch so then I am left being really nervous a lot of the day. She wants to play with Spunky when up and around but Spunky wants nothing to do with her. Spunky simply doesn’t want a companion but Candy does. So now because of being attacked by Candy, Spunky is so terribly scared of literally being in the same room when Candy is sleeping. Any type of little sound brings fear to Spunky’s eyes and he crouches down and quietly goes away and hides. I feel more than awful for him. Spunky barks when Candy bumps into her and he growls when Candy comes near him. Candy is lovable when awake but she must’ve been abused by a man because she pees almost every time my husband tries to lovingly pick her up but she’s fine with me. She barks at little things when my husband touches her. I don’t even dare to touch her unless she’s fully awake. I don’t like being a chaperone every day, all day for the dogs and I fear something is going to happen. I have her on some medicine that is supposed to make her more calm with anxiety but it hasn’t helped yet. I don’t like being a nervous wreck every day but I cry thinking about how bad we would feel giving her back and the possibility of her not getting a home. My husband has gotten so attached to her. She just needs to be the only pet in the home. My home just isn’t when she and what we need.

  67. We returned our rescued lab retriever mix about 3 weeks ago. I feel so much like I failed. We took her to classes after we adopted her, she didn’t do well. We worked with her but she just would not listen. She learned to walk on the leash nice but Ivwoukd have to stay away from people and dogs because she would lunge at them. She pulled me to the ground twice trying to get to her food. The last straw came when she bolted out the front door and ran across the street to see the chihuahua’s. She knock over the owner, who hit her wrist and went home and called the police. I know I tried hard to teach her but I feel so guilty. We had her for 3 years, and I feel like such s failure.

  68. I’m thinking about returning the puppy I just got. There is nothing wrong with him, he’s a typically puppy but for some reason I have found myself crying ever since I brought him home. I feel a lot of anxiety leaving him alone and a lot of stress looking after him. I thought a puppy would help with my anxiety and depression but it seems worse now. I feel so bad at the thought of taking him back even knowing others wanted to adopt him but I don’t know if its right for either of us if I were to keep him.

  69. I took a puppy home last night and she’s been acting lethargic, sad, disinterested, won’t eat or drink. One vet visit later and found out she tested positive for both Lyme and Canine ehrlichiosis. I’ve made the painful decision to take her back. I expected an active puppy and I have no hope she’ll ever be. I feel awful. I hope she beats the odds and have a long happy life. I just can’t take the chance she won’t.

  70. We are returning a 2 year old female rescue we only adopted a week ago, and it is breaking our hearts, I was crying earlier tonight when taking her for a walk. She is just too fearful and unpredictable because of that, and we are afraid that she will end up biting someone (she has already tried with several people). The rescue organization had listed her as a beagle and terrier cross, but we know now she has no beagle, she is rat terrier/mini pinscher/dachshund and the previous vet had listed her as unpredictable. We already love her and we really feel like jerks doing this, but we just have a gut feel she is not right for us. Also, we feel backed into a corner here too because we only had a week to decide in order to get our $500 adoption fee back. We know she will be a great dog for someone else, she is very loving but only for us. I am torn so badly on this. Has anyone else ever run into something like this? I hate to give up so soon, but long term we just don’t see it as working out.

    1. Just wanted to add that our biggest concern now is that she will go back to a good foster home within that organization, we just want to make sure she gets to a good home. We are thinking we should write something up for the next potential owner so they know more about her.

  71. We are a family of 5. Me my wife a 7 year old girl, a 4 year old boy and a 11 year old wonderful lab. For years my wife has been asking about adopting a second dog and for years I resisted, but it was hard. We are absolute dog lovers but, our lives are a little hectic. Beside I couldn’t imagine a better dog than my lab. But in Jan 2016 my wife asked again and I said yes, to her surprise. She saw a small terrier/lab mix at a local rescue event at a local pet store. He was curled up like a little ball, fearful and shy. He was rescued from a kill shelter in SC. I believe he was abused because of some scars he had. I wanted to do right by him and share our loving home with him and teach my children we have a responsibleity to help when we can and to stick to your comments. We named him Bodhi. I had some minor success with training him. Fast forward Jan 2017 his fearful anxiety has not gone away. He attacked my wife 3 times this past week, all when I was at work. He’s controllable when I’m home. 90% of the time he’s OK. It’s the 10% that scares the hell out of me. The last time he drew blood and bruised up my wife. My wife is scared of him now for herself and our children. I can’t have that threat around my family. I have a profession that I must be unemotional and in control at all times. But, right now I can stop crying. I feel I failed my my wife, children and especially Bodhi. The rescue I got him from will take him back, but after a year of bonding my heart is breaking. I may be able to have him undergo a board/training program, but that is no guarantee and it’s a big risk to my family. My head says to regime him, but my heart asks for one more try.

    Thanks for letting me vent and thanks for the blog… It helps

  72. Thank you for this article. It’s a very difficult subject and it’s so easy to criticise others without knowing the full story. I’m coming to this years after you wrote this post, but it’s really helped as I just returned a dog to a shelter. We already have a lovely GSD female cross who we’ve had from 3 months old (a rescue pup) and who is now almost 5. A couple of weeks ago, we took an 8-month old Australian shepherd male cross from a local shelter. He was found on the street and has an inactive foreign chip so we’ve been unable to found out any information at all as to his background. The dog was adorable with my family and I, whether it was inside or outside the house. So friendly and gentle, and picking up basic obedience fairly well. But he was aggressive with strangers at home, chasing them through the house, growling, grabbing clothes and biting ankles. Unusually the problem was mainly with women, rather than men. And to be honest, I didn’t want to test how he would be with children after those first experiences.

    We’re no strangers to territorial dogs as our previous GSD (who died 5 years ago) was very nervous and territorial. We worked with her all her life in obedience training, agility, fly ball etc to ensure she was getting the stimulation she needed elsewhere as well as the necessary obedience and were able to keep her territorial activity down to just barking. Even as an adult, she never reacted the way our rescue did.

    I took him back to the shelter 2 days ago, which is utterly heartbreaking for the whole family as we are already so attached to him, and I am feeling so guilty about giving him back to the shelter to an uncertain future. I never thought to be the sort of person who would give a dog away. With time, love, attention and training, he has a good chance at improving and I certainly didn’t give him back because it was too much hassle for me to do that and I can’t be bothered. I gave him back because I didn’t feel it was safe for us to be the ones to train him out of it, when we regularly have other people’s children coming into our home. The dog trainer who came to the house did tell me he thought I had made the right decision, though I have to be honest that it doesn’t make me feel any better.

  73. I just returned a dog to the rescue organization he came from. We had him for two weeks and at first, he and our dog would fight and they required constant supervision, redirection, and time outs. After the first week they began getting along so much better but it was still a lot of dog in our tiny house (one if 50 lbs. and the “new dog” was 65 lbs.). We decided on day 10 that we would not be able to keep him and we would bring him back to the rescue group that weekend. The day before we were to bring him back, the two dogs were perfect. They were snuggling together, played with one another civilly, and were just what we were hoping for. We took him back anyway and I bawled the whole way there and back. I feel just awful like I made ea big mistake and should have kept him. I thought about calling that morning and saying, “never mind, we’re keeping him,” but I didn’t. I’m just heartbroken and I feel silly for feeling that way. I didn’t realize how attached I had become to him and I feel like I gave up too early. There’s nothing I really had to add to the conversation here. I just feel so sad and wanted to share with someone.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh, I’m sorry to hear that Bella. Perhaps there is another dog out there that would be a better fit if you do decide another dog is right for your family.

  74. I am in that situation at the moment, i recently adopted a gsd/husky x that was due to be put to sleep as stray dogs if not claim suffer that poor fate. The reports on her were glowing and when i walked her she was fine, great with my friends dog. I’m a dog walker and i took her out with my group and everything was perfect the first time, then the next day (she was still kept on a lead) she attacked a small dog that was walking beside her. I managed to pull her away, but she has started on the other dogs now and is muzzled. As i look at her now i’m wondering what to do. Obviously i can’t risk the other dogs around her, but is it fair to keep her on a lead? It is very easy to say work through it, but with such a high chase instinct i don’t know what to do. So sad.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear of your situation. Only you know if this is something you can safely manage and if you’re willing to do so. You shouldn’t feel obligated to keep the dog.

  75. Wonderful article, thank you! I feel terrible about returning a dog we adopted a week ago. She came from a good organization and they were very understanding (it’s a no-kill shelter, so she’s safe). She was a sweet dog and did nothing wrong! But our beloved pug/pit mix passed away just 6 weeks prior and we wanted to fill the hole he left. He was such a good dog and I found that I wanted our new dog to act/do things the way our old guy did. I know that’s completely unrealistic, I just didn’t realize I felt that way until we got her home. I started to resent her and couldn’t bring myself to bond with her. Plus, I’m a stay at home mom of small children and had forgotten how things can be turned upside down with the addition of a new dog. It was too stressful. The even harder part was that my husband liked her and was ready to move forward with a new dog. I, on the other hand, was not. I thought I was. So now the guilt has set in. I know ultimately the dog will find a home that will love her without pretense and my husband and I will work things out. It’s just been so hard and I feel SO guilty for making the obvious mistake of adopting too soon after the loss of a pet. We’ll just have to wait a good long while for things to settle down and reevaluate when the time is right.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m sorry to hear of your situation, that must be hard. I can understand what you are saying and your reasoning. It’s good you recognized now just wasn’t the right timing after all. I don’t know if you were the primary caregiver for both dogs but if you were that might be why it was extra hard.

  76. Jaedi Gambatese

    I’m currently facing this dilemma myself. I have a dog I rescued six months ago whom I love dearly. She has extreme separation anxiety though to the point where it is crippling my lifestyle. She has escaped from her crate multiple times, and literally ripped the face off the compactor machine in her panic frenzy. Even if she is with other people, if I’m not there she’s insane. I’ve tried professional trainers, I am so heartbroken, and I feel like six months is a long time to wait before returning a dog. But I thought with enough training she would have gotten better. With little to no improvement I’m not sure how much longer I can deal wit this. I feel like a terrible pet owner.

  77. I appreciate the original post and the comments that have been added to this article. I am currently in the situation of re-homing my 2 year old German Shepherd, Faith. We rescued Faith 7 months ago and have attempted to work through her severe separation anxiety. She has escaped and destroyed 3 crates, continually pooped or peed in our house, ripped up many of our children’s toys, plastic containers, and lastly, chewed through a door into the house. We have tried all things, thunder shirts, DAP, different crate training, exercise, toys, puzzles, TV on, music, etc. The decision to re-home her has been heartbreaking, she was my first dog. I’ve been crying for a day and a half. I have found a home that sounds perfect, a retiree who is home all day and another dog in house as a companion. Faith originally came from a home with another dog, and deep in my heart I feel like part of her anxiety is her being so lonely. We really love her because she is so great when we are home, it is so stressful not knowing what I am coming home to and I feel so bad having her be so anxious. Its comforting knowing, I’m not a horrible monster and others have gone through this too.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So sorry to hear you had to re-home your dog. That must be so hard, but it sounds like she will be more comfortable in a home where someone is home most of the time.

  78. I just went through this about a week ago, stumbling upon this article was helpful. We adopted a beautiful corgi/terrier mix from our local shelter. He was for my son as he’d been asking for a dog for nearly 2 years. Shortly after getting him home we realized he had some behavioral issues and needed a lot of training. My son and wife we overwhelmed. He had been an outside dog. My son and wife determined very quickly he wouldn’t be a good fit. This broke my heart because i liked the dog a lot but knew with work it wasn’t fair to ask my wife who already has a lot on her plate to dedicate the time needed with him. On top of the behavioral issues he nipped my son and wife a couple time playing, and I didn’t trust him running the house with our cats. It was either return him or chain him up to a tree all day while I was at work. My wife took him back the next day and I haven’t stopped crying sense. I know he will be happier with someone who has more time and I really wish we had thought it out more before adopting.

    The shelter workers were very nice when we returned him. He’s a small beautiful dog so they said there’s no doubt he will get adopted quickly. He had only been there 2 days when we saw him. I am happy he will likely find a better home, but heartbroken he is gone.

  79. We rescued a 4 mo old pup whom we were told was a mixed breed. We instantly fell in love. We have raised dogs our whole lives. Our new pup became extremely energetic for my retired husband and I. I have fallen taking her for a walk and honestly feel we can’t keep up with her energy. We have had her for almost 3 mos now and subsequently found out she is a breed that doesn’t do well in suburban settings.(mountain cur) We provide daycare when we can…but it’s expensive. She gets destructive chewing woodwork when here she has every bone imaginable to man. We spent hundreds of dollars on different bones that keep her busy for just awhile. I am devasted because we have grown attached but seriously wonder if we are the right fit. We have never returned a pup…have adopted from shelters…and raised and cared for pure breeds that grew to ripe old ages of 12 to 14 years. We have had her almost three her spayed and chipped but feel that maybe she’d be happier elsewhere. We can be in the same room offering to play and she’ll run up to the molding and start chewing on it even when she was just given a new bone. Advice please…my husband and I go back and forth if we should keep her. We have s yard but no fence. She’s on a lead. Ither than we try our best to meet her needs but find her high energy is alot.

  80. I just got a foster from a high kill shelter in Louisiana. She was extremely underweight and is not adoptable until she fattens up. I found out the night before she was to be transported that she was high heartworm positive. Realizing that if I decided not to take her, it has highly likely she would be euthanized, I told the rescue to bring her up anyway. Unfortunately when she got out of the car upon arrival, she immediately went after my dog. We could not put them in the same car and now I need to keep them separate. I was told to do a two-week shutdown, keeping the foster in a crate in a separate room. She hates the crate, understandably and has broken one door completely to get out and even with the XL crate and her being underweight, she has managed to bend part of the large crate. I am also worried that at some point I will not be able to push her into the crate -I am already having problems with that. Once in, she throws herself into the sides and doors, cries, howls and barks. She is very loving with people and walks outside well. Unfortunately, my dog is terrified of her – even when he is in crate and she is out (always on leash). When I called the rescue to tell them I have issues, they told me they didn’t have a new foster and my option was to go to the vet and have her put down. They now say that was sarcasm but even so – how bad is that. They are making me out to be the bad person because I havent’ tried enough. I was going to ask the vet for tranquilizers today but last night the rescue told me they are not authorizing anything and found a new foster. I was willing to try through the weekend but perhaps it is for the best. It is breaking my heart -she is really a loving dog with me and other people but how can I keep her when she terrifies mine? They are making me feel guilty and a failure but my reading some of your blogs, I realize that I am not alone. I had every intention of having this work but it just isn’t. Maybe I should have tried longer but it just doesn’t feel right. Their other solution was to crate mine and let the foster out. Somehow that doesn’t feel right either – why should he be “punished” for nothing. I don’t think he would understand They say the foster got along with the temp foster dog and that is great but I am fearful that she will go after mine again. Further, after the rescues’ comments and nastiness I am not sure that they will be helpful in the future with any issues or finding her a forever home.

  81. I recently adopted a dog from a rescue shelter in Greece. When I first saw the dog on their website they stated that he was a sweet dog, so I thought he would be a wonderful addition to our family. How wrong I was! From the moment we got him home he took an instant dislike to my Chihuahua and tried to snap at him when he jumped onto my lap. Thankfully my mother intervened otherwise it could have been really nasty.
    He also had health problems which ended up costing a lot of money for medication. When he first went to the toilet we noticed blood in his stools, and within two days he literally had explosive diarrhoea with blood worse than before. My mother took him to the vet and she was told he had a severe dose of gastroenteritis which had been there from the moment he left Greece.
    I contacted the rescue and told them everything about the aggression & health issues, and I explained that I felt it would be better if they had the dog back before my dogs were seriously hurt. I was told that they wouldn’t send him back to Greece but they would try to find a foster home instead. They tried to deny the aggression issues by saying he was always lovely at the rescue, and I felt they were trying to say it was something I’d done wrong. They gave me the runaround for a couple of days, but eventually said they’d found someone who could offer a foster home. The tone in the emails changed to a less friendly vibe once I’d told them what my vet had said about the aggression and health issues, and regardless of whether they think bad of me or not I have to put the safety of my own dogs first. I have learnt one valuable lesson – I’ll never adopt a dog outside of the U.K. again.

    1. We are in such a similar situation right now. We adopted a dog from Thailand who was found very sick on the streets there. She is great in so many ways. She doesn’t potty in the house and she sleeps when we are at work and through the night. The rescue said that she had passed her cat test and she basically just ignored the cat, and that she was really friendly and good with strangers, etc. She ignores our cats half of the time and then fixates on them sometimes, growls if they are too close. She has nipped, snapped, or lunged at every single person she has met. My husband and I are on edge around her constantly. Our home is a mess, our mental states are a wreck, and the guilt we have been feeling for deciding that she is not the right dog for us has been tremendous. I have toddler nieces and we have family coming over all the time. Even after training I don’t think I could trust her around them or other animals after what I have seen. My mom was just sitting on the couch and Lucy full on lunged and got on top of her snapping and growling. It was terrifying. The rescue group is locating a foster home for her, she won’t go back to Thailand and she will be in someone’s home, not a cage in a pound, so I am tying to feel a little better about the whole thing because of that. Maybe she would have never had the chance to get flown here and find a forever family had it not been for us, even if we weren’t the right fit for her. I feel like we have failed her, but I also know that I will not feel safe around her and we cannot go on like this.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        For what it’s worth, I see that you are making the right choice. I can only imagine how hard it is. Take care.

  82. We rescued a now 14 week old pup from the pound and have had her for a month. I think I have cried every day since we got her, she is super high energy, bites like crazy and is showing signs of resource aggression. We have been only doing positive reinforcement training with her but only had limited success. The pound won’t take her back and I can’t believe anybody else will want her with her crazy behavior. Yes I know she is just a puppy but it feels more like aggression to me. I don’t know what to do and am feeling on the edge of a breakdown at the moment.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hang in there! So sorry to hear you’re having a hard time with her. For what it’s worth, I think most of us have some regrets after getting a dog or puppy but usually that goes away. If you truly think it’s best to re-home her, that is OK. You should do what’s best for you and your family (and the pup). If you can’t find a rescue or shelter to take her, some will post dogs on their site for a small donation. You would keep her until someone is approved to adopt her.

      If you’re able to hire a trainer to give their opinion and offer suggestions I would definitely do that. They could also help you know if it’s true aggression or normal puppy behavior. You could also consider taking her to a dog daycare (if age appropriate) even one day a week to give you a bit of a break and tire her out. They could help evaluate her behavior too.

  83. We got a second dog from a shelter this weekend, and I feel so much better hearing the second thoughts that others are having—to the extent of returning the dog. I love our first dog, but I’m not really a dog person in general, so I really don’t know how to feel about this second dog. She seems nice enough, but I’m worried she and our other dog will never settle down and stop play-wrestling. I’m concerned we’ll never be able to leave them alone for fear that the play wrestling will go too far. I’m concerned that I’ll never love her like I do our other dog.
    Is this second dog simply “not being a good fit” a legitimate reason to return her to the shelter? I’m taking her to the vet tomorrow to get updated shots and definitely wouldn’t ask for the adoption fee back— I’d just view it as a donation to the shelter. Are my feelings about this legitimate?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Only you know the right answer there. Ask yourself, why did you want a 2nd dog to begin with? Their play wrestling should settle down a little once they’re used to each other. I would probably give it two weeks and then decide on your feelings. But of course, if she is not a good fit you should return her to the shelter and don’t feel guilty. It’s better for everyone in the long run. Good luck with your decision.

  84. I’m considering returning mine now she is a dream but I have a severe anxiety disorder and me worrying about her all day has caused multiple panic attacks a day while at work. I just can’t physically sustain the stress I am having. I hope the rescue agency doesn’t think negatively. I know now that even though I thought a dog would help with anxiety it actually made it much much worse

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear that! The rescue may or may not understand, but you know what is best. Good for you for doing the right thing for yourself and the dog.

    2. Hey Sam- I want to encourage you as well. The lovely staffy we returned was causing me additional anxiety attacks and having a do was supposed to do the opposite. Its hard to admit that in amongst everything else. Well done for doing a very brave thing and looking after yourself and the doggy too.

  85. My husband and I had plans to adopt two dogs over a year or so (staggering their intro into our family). I did a lot of research into what dogs suited us/me, whether through a breeder or rescue etc. The idea was that we would have a dog for each of us as a bit of buddy. We have just returned a lovely staffy mix who turned out to be far too energetic and aggressive with my sisters dog (both who lived with us). Despite having been very clear with the rescue team about our/my preferences, the lovely staffy just wasn’t right. She was noted as calm, submissive and a low energy dog (though a staffy mix), great for families already with a dog. But when she was brought home into our family, she was a different dog. I don’t feel bad that we’re not the best fit for her because she is a darling dog and I know she’ll find a home, but I do feel bad for the rescue group and for my husband. He was devastated even though he agreed she wasn’t the right fit for me. It’s nice to read a blog that doesn’t demonise someone who has to return a dog; because we loved her very much. I just knew long term, she was going to be too much for me. It’s an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it makes it hard to consider adopting again via a rescue group if I am shamed so much for doing what really is best for both the pup and me.

  86. Hi. I recently got a new puppy about 4 weeks ago. She’s a samoyed and I thought she’d be the perfect match for me. But, it hasn’t been going very well. I live with my mom and we have 5 cats (most of them are her’s) which is why I had the idea of getting a puppy so it could grow up with the cats. But ever since I’ve gotten the puppy I’ve been crying every singe night. It’s putting stress on my mom, me, my senior dog, and my cats. I really love the puppy but it’s been causing so much stress and anxiety that I have no idea what to do now. I can’t even clean off the mud on her feet without her growling and getting aggressive with me. I want to re home her but I’d also feel bad if I had to put her in a shelter. Please help!!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Ruby, if your puppy is causing so much stress I do think it would be best to re-home him. Puppies can adapt very easily to a new home and you should not keep him if he is making your life miserable. It’s not fair to him or you. You could try reaching out to rescue groups or asking to pay a small donation to have him listed on their website as a “courtesy” listing so he doesn’t have to go to a shelter. If he is a puppy, he should be fairly easy to find a home for. If his aggression is serious, I would recommend finding a trainer in your area right away if you plan to keep him. Good luck with your decision.

  87. I need help. I just adopted a 1-2 year old shy timid Italian greyhound/shih tsu mix. I have a quiet house and my elderly parents live with me and my mother really wanted a dog. All was going decently the 1st hour he was home and he was looking out the deck door. The lawnmower guy comes up on deck (with a blower) and the dog freaked ran peed on sofa and hid in corner. We had his leash off him so after some time he was still there, I tried to get him out and got bit. Just nipped on finger. Eventually he settled down and he stayed in my bed the 1st night but im now concerned. He will randomly growl at me if im approaching him with treats. He also has what a vet said is kennel cough (or maybe collapsed trachea) but the adoption people think its allergies. He honks like a goose off and on day and night. Another weird thing is everytime I leave a room and come back, its like he forgets who I am and is scared again. Its only the 2nd day but im just concerned I adopted a sick scared timid dog who may or may not lash out. Any thoughts?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m sorry you were bitten. It happens and I’m glad it wasn’t any worse. I hope you’re able to make it work with this dog but if you know he’s not right for your family it’s OK to return him.

      Personally, I would give him a few weeks to decompress and stick to a routine, including some walks. I find that walking together helps the bond with a new dog more than anything. If you have a crate or a spot for him to quietly relax for an hour or so a few times a day, that will help him. Also proving something to chew on like a Kong stuffed with peanut butter. I know I make it sounds simple, but that’s where I’d start.

      Best of luck.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        Oh, also, I usually have new dogs drag their leash around in the house for the first few days (when supervised). That helps when you need to control them or keep them safe. And it does sound like he has kennel cough. Hopefully you can still take him for some walks but maybe you can’t if he’s sick.

  88. I’m thinking of returning a dog to a rescue. I had my last dog for 13 years and he died a few months ago. It has been incredibly painful. I thought i was ready for another dog. So 6 days ago we adopted a dog. He is a good dog. No issues except he is pretty clingy. But I find that I don’t like him. I know that is horrible to say. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I find myself not wanting to pet him or cuddle him and when I do I feel like I’m faking it.
    This is very weird for me as I have always been a huge animal lover. Ive been vegan for almost a decade, I pet and snuggle every animal I encounter. But for some reason I look at this dog and I just don’t want to do any of that. He is very cuddly and always wants to be pet. I used to get a little jealous when my last dog would go to my husband for snuggles. But with this dog I actually feel relieved. I know all of this makes me sound like a soulless monster. I cant stop crying because I feel horrible. I know it isn’t the dogs fault. I have read about the puppy blues and about different ways to bond with your dog. But I dont even feel like I want to bond with him. I dont know if this feeling will pass or if i should return him to the rescue. I know there were other people that had been interested in adopting him. But i just feel so bad returning him, he seems to like it here and i know he would be confused. But I dont know if i can feel like this for the next 14 years. Advice?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Return him. Adopt another dog when you’re ready. Maybe do something to “pay it forward” like sponsor his adoption fee for the next adopter. Or donate a new bed or a bag of food to go home with him when he gets adopted.

  89. I just recently adopted a 10-week old puppy to live on our farm. After only 2 weeks the dogs completely devoured one of our chickens that jumped out of their enclosure and now is showing high prey drive to all of the other poultry on our farm. I have come to the conclusion this dog is not a fit for our lifestyle, and it would be easier to return the dog now than after more of these incidences occur and he is an older larger dog. The problem is my significant other (who is the primary owner of the dog) is too guilt-stricken about returning him and others are also pressuring her against it telling her how bad of a thing it would be to do and wants to continue to work with the with the dog. Does anybody have any other insight on this scenario .

  90. Thank you so much for this article and everyone’s stories. I am all about rescuing animals and my husband was not too keen on it, but a friend helped me crack him when he called us yesterday to tell us a local shelter was over flowing. We went and my husband found a dog he LOVED. We asked the shelter if the pup was good with cats and they said yes… we brought him home and he is the best boy. So calm, doesn’t bark, barely jumps, cuddles up, doesn’t shed too much… everything we wanted… and then he saw our cat. I have never seen animal attack like that before. My cat screamed and got bugged eye like something you would see in a chartoon. I got in between them and he wasn’t letting go of my cat. My husband came rushing to help and it took the both of us to pull the dog off my cat. My cat, is fine. Took him to a vet and they checked him out, all good..: me, my arm is all scratched and bitten from both animals and is so soar I can barely move it.
    After having shortness of breath a few times, my blood pressure fluctuating from very low to very high (per urgent care), feeling like I was going to vomit, literally feeling my heartbreaking… we decided to take the dog back. We let them know he was such a good boy otherwise, but he is not good with cats. I think I cried harder today than I ever have in my entire life. For so many reasons. I hope they find him a new home. I hope the shelter doesn’t judge us. I hope my parents and our friends don’t judge us… I already posted pictures of him on Facebook and Instagram… i’m going to have to tell this story. And it just breaks my heart.

  91. Thank you for the article. It has been almost a month since we had to return a dog to the shelter after 7 month. I still cry daily. We adopted a puppy from our local shelter in August. She was identified as a Jack Russel mix, and weighed 10 1/2 lbs. After about 4 months Gracie, and our geriatric dog, with anxiety, started to have fights. I was determined to make it work. After multiple fights, my husband said Gracie had to go. I feel like I failed Gracie. Hazel, the older of, has since returned to her fiesty self, and has gained the weight she lost during those 7 months. I feel terrible and cry every time I think about Gracie. Even though I tried to find a home for Gracie I was not able to. Does it ever get any easier? I thought Gracie had been adopted but she is still at the shelter.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m sorry to hear of your situation but it sounds like you did the right thing for your family. The shelter will find her a home when the right person comes along.

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