When You Must Rehome Your Dog: What to Do

What would you do if you had to give up the dog you purchased from a breeder?

Hint Number One: Forget leaving the dog at a shelter or asking a veterinarian to euthanize him.

Hint Number Two: Contact the breeder first.

We talked to some conscientious breeders about loving ways owners can find a new home for a dog they are unable to keep.

Unfortunate Circumstances

For people who cherish their dogs, the anguish of relinquishing them is gut-wrenching. We all know, though, that sometimes life throws unpleasant curves demanding quick but painful resolutions.

What could make someone turn over a beloved dog? Reasons include divorce, death, job loss, financial constraints, new baby, natural disaster, or relocating to a residence that doesn’t permit dogs.

For an owner in Louisville, Kentucky, the directive to shuffle off Peter, her 10-year-old Silky Terrier, came from her ill, elderly sister who suffered from severe hearing issues and had moved in with her. The sister didn’t like dogs and couldn’t deal with the terrier’s barking. Feeling a family obligation to take in and care for her sister, the owner tearfully realized Peter had to go. But where?

Who Ya Gonna Call?

If a dog acquired from a reputable breeder needs a new home, help make the transition go smoothly by contacting these sources.

  1. The dog’s breeder. A reputable breeder feels a commitment to the puppies she produces, regardless of their condition or how old they are. “My contract specifies the dog is returned to me, if at any time and for any reason, the buyer can no longer keep him,” says Sandy Mesmer, a Silky Terrier breeder in Clearwater, Florida. “Like many breeders who put their heart and soul into their puppies and don’t want them wind up in an unfortunate situation, I tell my buyers to never feel embarrassed if they must return a dog to me.” Breeders often keep a waiting list of people who want their particular breed and may be able to place the dog in a good home quickly.
  2. The stud dog owner. The breeder raises the litter and owns the dam (mother) but not necessarily the sire (father) of the puppies. If someone else owns the father, that person might feel the same responsibility for the puppies and may be willing to take or help place the dog.
  3. The national breed club. “If you cannot locate the breeder or stud dog owner, contact the national breed club,” says Mary McDaniel, DVM, who breeds Glen of Imaal Terriers in Babson Park, Florida. “Club members network with other breed owners and someone might know the dog’s breeder or stud dog owner.” All national breed clubs are affiliated with a breed rescue group. If the breeder or stud dog owner isn’t available, the rescue coordinator may be able to help place the dog.
  4. A local breed rescue. Breed rescue groups unaffiliated with a national club may take in a purebred or mixed-breed dog of a related type.
  5. A foster organization. If none of the people or groups mentioned above can step up to adopt or foster a dog who needs a new home, reach out on social media to find people willing to foster a dog. “It’s amazing how quickly someone volunteers to care for a dog, even on a temporary basis, until the pet can land a permanent home,” Mesmer says.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Freelance writer and Dalmatian and Pembroke Welsh Corgi competitor Elaine Waldorf Gewirtz is former vice president of the Dog Writers Association of America.