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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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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.


Monday 14th of March 2022

First time dog owner, and feeling very nervous about what we just signed up for! I really hope this works out for us.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 14th of March 2022

Don't be afraid to reach out to a trainer for help!


Friday 14th of January 2022

Good on you for not turfing your cat into a shelter because of the dog as many do.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 14th of January 2022

Oh, no way would I have even considered that. My current pets always take priority over potential newcomers.

Carol North

Friday 13th of March 2020

I'm sorry you had to experience that, Lindsay, and I certainly understand. Anytime we brought a dog home to foster, our cats had to be considered. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out. Carol

Lindsay McConnell

Wednesday 22nd of December 2021

@Lindsay Stordahl, we brought home a dachshund mix from a large, out of town overcrowded shelter 5 days ago. Since he needs to be neutered before being adopted, they said we could foster him until their vet is available around 6 weeks later. We had adopted a wonderful mixed breed dog from the same shelter almost 16 years ago. We sadly said goodbye to him over 4 months ago. He was the BEST boy ever. And got along famously with our cats. Very docile spaniel mix. I miss him a lot. :(

Fast forward to 5 days ago. We brought home this dachshund mix who is smaller than our last dog. We have one remaining cat left. She’s 14 years old. Well…for the first time, I’m witnessing what it looks like to have a dog with a high prey drive! This small, but somewhat heavy in weight dog took one look at our cat who happened to amble into the room before I had a chance to block off he doorway and he BOLTED after her with a look on his face I’ve never seen on a dog before, at least not our other dogs. And he sniffed quickly along the floor after she left her scent.

Anyway, since then I’ve been keeping doors closed and openings gated. It’s been a pain trying to keep them separated. I feel sorry for her having to hide out upstairs in our room. Twice today one of the doors didn’t close right and he got through while I was holding my cat transporting her up too or room after she had a litter box and food break. OMG, the dog immediately tried to get at her in my arms. The cat then jumped and fled. He was in pursuit until my husband caught him. It’s SO stressful. I was screaming, not knowing what the dog would do if he caught her. I just can’t subject my poor cat to this. And it’s exhausting trying to keep them separated, fearing a door or gate will be left open. I’m wondering if this prey instinct can even be trained out of this little dog. The shelter thinks he’s about 1-1.5. There’s no way my cat is going to come downstairs in the same room as long as the dog is there. It’s one thing when my daughter occasionally brings her Boxer over who has no idea the cat is hiding under the bed upstairs. And she’s not here long.

So, I’m feeling like it’s not going to work out to permanently adopt this little dog. I’m worried that he’ll never lose his instinct to chase my cat. And I just can’t live like this. It’s adding a lot of stress. I’m going to be 71 soon and don’t have the patience or energy to put a lot of training into teaching him not to chase, especially if the instinct is there. Will he better off with a family or person without cats? He likes dogs, though! And gets along with our 2.5 year old grandson. I hate to give up so soon, but my husband feels that the sooner we make the decision, the better for everyone. He’s fine with him, but basically leaves everything up to me, including the training, feeding, work, etc. The dog is sweet and is attaching to us in just the short time he’s been here. He walks well on a leash. But, then there’s my cat who has been here for 14 years. Sigh. What to do.


Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 14th of March 2020

Thank you


Tuesday 11th of February 2020

It's tough when you adopt a wrong dog yet it's tougher to give up with your dog. It's a sad story. Poor you.