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When the Dog You Adopt Doesn’t Work Out

This post was meant to be titled, “Meet our new pup, Raven!”

Raven is a good, sweet dog, perfect in so many ways. The two dogs got along beautifully. But unfortunately, Raven is not the right dog for our family.

Two knuckleheads

Long story short, she was determined to kill my cat. She was doing what she was bred to do, hunt small critters.

There is “chase drive” and there is “I’m going to get that prey” drive. With time, a lot of dogs can learn to live safely with a cat. I do not believe that is the case with Raven.

I believe her instinct can only be managed, not eliminated. I do not believe an e-collar would “train” her not to go after my cat but would be a tool to manage the situation, at best.

One slip-up on my part – leaving a door open at the wrong time, dropping a leash – my cat would be gone.

I love my cat.

So of course, I’m sad. But on the plus side, Raven had more than one option available for a good home. So things will actually work out very well for all.

Raven will not share her life with me, but she will go on to live a good life.

It is a hard thing to have to return a dog I planned to adopt. It’s hard to write about it. Those of you who foster or rescue dogs know all too well that some dogs are just not the right “fit.”

My dog Remy got to spend time with his sister, and they got along better than I could’ve imagined. They speak the same language, with obnoxious play, slapping and tackling each other in a way most dogs find incredibly rude.

Most weims have no sense of “personal space” and Remy and Raven loved each other’s company. It was a lot of fun to see them together, and I’m very sad it won’t work out.

When the dog you adopt doesn’t work out – help for others

To help anyone else going through this difficult type of decision, I’m sharing two of my articles (links below). One is from 10 years ago (wow!). In 2010 I had not had to return a dog I planned to adopt, but I knew the difficulties of returning a temporary foster dog.

Returning a shelter or rescue dog

Returning a foster dog

I think my advice back then was solid. It’s helpful to me, now. I may write more articles on this topic, as I know it’s something so many dog lovers do face, unfortunately.

Dog lovers have big hearts. Sometimes when we follow our hearts things works out perfectly. Other times, they do not.

And so … sweet Raven Girl, I wish you well. You are a good dog. You are just not meant to be my dog. I hope you go and enjoy your life.

When the dog you adopt doesn't work out

Adopted dogs need several weeks to adjust

I also want to make sure to mention that it takes a good month or more for most adopted dogs to adjust to their new homes.

Often, you can work through most issues with a lot of patience, time and the help of a good trainer.

Every situation is unique, and I don’t want someone to give up on their new dog just because it did not work out in my specific case.

Do you have an example to share?

I hope you have never had to return a dog or cat you planned to adopt, but it happens. If you have an example you’re willing to share, please do. It is helpful for others in the same situation.

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Mike Spangler

Wednesday 11th of October 2023

I'm really torn! In March 2023 we adopted a then 13 months old English Mastiff. I enrolled her in a local obedience class where she did quite well, it was in the advanced class where the trouble started. She was calmly laying at my feet when a small dog came up behind her and startled her. She went fast and hard at that dog, luckily I was able to hold her. Long story short we were asked not to return as she was deemed to have a "very high prey drive". Recognizing that she still needed training we hired we hired a very expensive personal dog trainer with a lifetime commitment to come out whenever needed. He basically taught us to growl (Baaaa) at the dog. This method actually has been helpful with some issues. We also have three other (older) dogs in the house. Our GD was recently diagnosed with cancer. Our two other boys, an American Boxer and a Pitbull have been pushed aside as she demands all attention. There was a fight on the bed early on between her and the Boxer. The Boxer was then crated at night to separate them. We tried creating her but she cried and screamed all night. She jumps and mouths us, usually drawing blood, she doesn't listen and has made life for her brothers very difficult. We both love this dog and no way do I want to give u on her, but I really don't know what to do with her! Please help!


Tuesday 23rd of May 2023

We adopted a dog while having a cat. She didn't go along with the cat and would try to attack her but we tried to make it work. She would also bark at cars and dogs and everything moving. We didn't know if her intent was to kill. Two month later, she saw another dog and started going after it. My sister was unable to hold her and our dog attacked the other one. We finally decided to bring her back to the shelter as we can't have a dog like that. It's sad though since we just became attached to her.


Saturday 11th of February 2023

Hi Lindsay, I have adopted a 7 year old dog. He is precious and lovely but has an aggressive side. We have tried with a trainer, he improved but today he has bitten me again, out of nowhere, my hand. He was just furious. We have had him for 4 months. I love him so much, but I am pregnant and I am afraid he bites the baby and I am thinking to return him to care and hope that he is adopted again and that they manage to make him calmer and without biting.. i am so sad with all.. i feel terrible. Thanks for reading me..


Friday 23rd of February 2024

@Debora, oops pfft spell chk! “B Y B” not bye


Friday 23rd of February 2024

@Debora, sadly if the dog has aggressive biting tendencies the shelter most likely will not adopt him/her back out due to protocol of safety for the public. Shelters have an obligation to keep the public safe. The dog will most likely be euthed. It’s horrible but it’s a reality and absolutely heart wrenching. I wish the world had more affordable pet communicators that could find out why some dogs bite. Mostly likely fear with past trauma and abuse. Other times it’s bad brain chemistry from “bye” back yard breeders that shouldn’t breed some animals. Your fear is valid with your baby on the way. Go with your intuition. I’ve seen the loss to many times and it crushes my soul! These fur babies didn’t ask to be that way. This wasn’t said to scare or make you feel bad it’s just a reality and sadly it happens daily. So many lose their lives. Sometimes diff family or situation might work but shelters don’t have time to work with them and find it kinder to euth. I wish you luck I hope the outcome works out for you both truly it’s a tough situation ☺️


Friday 20th of January 2023

This is validating, thank you. My dogs have always been my life and I would do anything for them. So the fact that I’m likely taking a shelter dog back to the shelter is surreal. I’m living alone now and wanted a companion dog to ride in the car with me as support through my exposure therapy (I have agoraphobia). I understood this dog had leash reactivity, but I planned to just drive him to areas he could be walked without running into dogs like my dog busy corner lot. But. I found out quickly he’s also reactive in the car. He lunges at the closed window at dogs AND people. I know I could work with a trainer for some time to get him less reactive. But I’m already losing ground with my agoraphobia and it’s getting hard to leave my house again. I feel bad, especially as he reminds me so much of my beloved dog I had for 14 years. He was so scared in his kennel, I feel wretched at the thought of him back there. I just can’t provide a good home for him or myself if I have a mental health crisis. Yet this feels terrible. Thank you for helping me have some compassion for myself and others who have to make similar choices.


Sunday 14th of August 2022

we just adopted a one-year-old bully mix. everything was going well and from his history hes never had an aggressive issue, until he met my father. he keeps growling whenever my father is in the room. causes a lot of stress and anxiety on my end. We hope this issue gets resolved with time around each other and slowly letting Ozzy become more comfortable in his space. just have to remember that if that's not possible he will always have a good home to go to afterward.