Should He Stay or Should He Go?

There are times where pet owners will consider rehoming pets. Before you make the decision to give up your pet, seek professional advice.  A professional can advise how to increase the chance of a good resolution. This may include a full veterinary check to rule out medical causes, environmental changes, training and management protocols, enrichment ideas, and different services to help meet the pet’s needs. Education will help you make the best decision for you and the critter. Let’s briefly look at two situations and the decisions made with the help of a professional.

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The two dogs at the top both came to me when their owners could no longer keep them.  (c) West Wind Dog Training

When Fred was a puppy his owners were told he would stay around 50 pounds and be lower energy.  He was a known cross.  One parent was a breed that can be moderately active (though many assume they are low energy) and over 130 lbs.  The other was a much smaller breed that can be quite active.  At barely a year old he was 100 pounds and very active.  Fred’s owners were overwhelmed and considering rehoming him.  Their vet recommended calling a trainer first.  With my help, the owners realized though Fred was much larger and more active than they hoped that he was still a dog they could live with now that they knew what he needed.  Some changes in environment, lessening his confusion, better utilization of the large yard made a lot of difference.

Maggie was owned by knowledgeable people who did everything they could to increase the chance of success.  As Maggie matured, she began developing aggressive behaviors towards older dogs in the house – dogs she grew up with – and any dog seen while on walks. Professionals were consulted, and work begun.  Eventually, Maggie tolerated dogs on walks but would not tolerate dogs in the house. Maggie began attacking the dogs. No amount of work or management alleviated the issues in the house. She had to be separated from them always. After many tears and long talks with different professionals, it was decided Maggie would be better off as an only dog.

The decision to rehome a pet can be gut-wrenching for owners.  However, sometimes it truly is in the best interest of the animal. In her new home, without the stress of other resident dogs, Maggie flourished. Once an owner decides for whatever reason a pet cannot stay in the home, what next?

If you acquired your pet through a good breeder or rescue there will be a return clause in the contract. Your first call should be to them. This site (click here) has some good information regarding rehoming dogs that can be applied to many species.  It also explains why to avoid sites like Craigslist for advertising.

If you are considering releasing your unwanted pet into the wild, DON’T. First, it is illegal. Second, it can be a death sentence.  Third, it can negatively impact local ecosystems. Goldfish have caused significant damage to lakes and rivers. Released domestic rabbits have caused issues in many areas such as Australia, Las Vegas, and Calgary, Canada.  Never turn an unwanted pet loose.

Make decisions based on education and understanding what is safe, sane and humane for you and the pet. In the end, Fred’s owners realized things were not as bad as they though.  Maggie’s owners realized she could not live with other dogs and decided to seek a better life for her.

Now what are things you can do to try and keep your pet in your home?

First keeping a pet in the house begins long before you acquire the pet. Do not do anything on impulse. Think and research. Can you safely manage the animal you want? What will it need for environment and enrichment?  Can you meet its daily needs for the next 2 – 70+ years? Are you able and willing to appropriately meet dietary requirements? Are you going to be a good fit for the animal and vice versa? Is a new pet going to mesh well with current pets? Will you be raising the pet or expecting a home health aide, nanny, or your children to do the work? Will you bring in help to meet the critter’s needs? What will happen if you move, start a family, bring an ailing relative in to your house?

Know state and local laws, HOA covenants and lease restrictions.  For example, hedgehogs are not legal in all Virginia counties. You need a permit to own a ferret in Washington, DC.  Pit Bulls, as of last check, are banned in PG Co, MD. I consulted with a dog owner who adopted a dog 100lbs over the 50lbs weight limit for his rental.  He admittedly knew the weight restrictions before adopting yet was shocked when he was told by management to move or get rid of the dog.  No amount of training or behavior modification I could do would keep the dog in the house.  To make matters worse the dog had gone after several other residents and their dogs. The dog was very human and canine aggressive. The owner assumed he could fix the dog. The property managers had to think of the safety of the residents. Even if the dog was within the size requirements for rental, the dog’s behaviors were risky and there were multiple complaints on file from other residents.

Be proactive. Confusion, boredom, lack of training, lack of resources (too few litter boxes, toys, etc.), can lead to undesired behaviors. Working to reduce the chance of something starting goes a long way to keeping a pet in the house. Even with proactive owners, things will crop up.  Proactive owners address concerns fast.  Waiting can worsen things to the point where some owners decide or are forced to give up a pet (think animal control complaints, legal issues, insurance).

No matter how much we prepare for things, life can throw us a curve ball. When my husband was in a serious accident, we had two young kids and he needed a lot of home care.  I sucked it up and did two things: I hired a poop scoop service and did grocery delivery for a few weeks.  Just having two tasks taken care of for a few weeks helped. When I was dealing with cancer not that long ago my husband and kids took over a lot of the critter care.  It is OK to ask for help or hire it.

Other life changes include moves. In 1997 we moved from Massachusetts to Virginia with two dogs, four cat, some rabbits and a couple guinea pigs.  It took two cars and planning, but we did it.  We had a great real estate agent who hooked us up with a vet for boarding. The moment you know a move is a possibility you need to begin planning for your pets. Rarely do people have to move at the drop of a hat.  Even evictions take time.  As pet owners we need to do all we can to ensure our pets can move with us.

Being prepared and proactive can go a long way towards keeping a pet in the home.

This was originally two parts of a series done for Inside NoVA.  Since I do not get paid for my writing I am able to expand and blog my writings later.  (c) West Wind Dog Training – Karen Peak

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