We need to talk about rehoming.
First off. Let me tell you, I am all for it. I think that often surprises both my clients and my peers. My clients’ faces always twist with worry and guilt when they bring it up in a conversation. They default to sending sad text messages and emails over face-to-face conversations. My peers tend to tighten up with worry, they think of the pleading emails of rescue dogs that flood their inboxes. They think of their reputations. They think of their responsibility to their clients.
It bothers us so much because we mark it down as a failure. A case that we couldn’t solve. As an industry of ‘fixers’ we as dog trainers take these losses personally. As owners, we feel as though we failed the animal we were entrusted to care for. We feel like another statistic, another ugly chapter in that dog’s novel.
But to me, relinquishing a dog is not a failure. It is not something that can’t be categized simply as success or failure. When we are talking about the responsibility of another being, it can never be that simple.
My first dog, as a kid, was a brown and white purebred Beagle. My brother and I named him Copper, after the movie The Fox and The Hound. My mom bought him after lots of begging and pleading from my six-year-old self. She was a single mother, working easily 50 hours a week outside the house, with two kids under six. We should never have gotten him. But we did. Beagles are great family pets you know, or so we were told by lots of random friends and also his breeder.
There was nothing cuter, that was for certain.
Copper spent his days tied out in our yard. His barking became such a problem, the police were called multiple times. One time a neighbor called and left a message on our machine of his person rendition of Copper’s howling. (We should have rehomed him then.)
So, we left him inside, first confined to the kitchen, but all the things were promptly eaten and shredded. So then we had no other choice but to leave him in a crate. (We should have rehomed him then.)
About two years of life passed by for Copper, stealing whatever he can sink his teeth into, escaping out the front door, slipping his leash, and generally imposing chaos. Group training classes taught him how to sit and stay. They taught us about a citronella collar he could wear that would spray his hound dog nose with overwhelming scent if he barked. (We should have rehomed him then).
It wasn’t until one day when I was forcing him to participate in multiple outfit changes in my ‘fun’ game of doggy dress up that he finally growled at me in front of my Mom.
That one growl saved his life and I only wish that he had done it sooner.
That was it my mom had ‘had it’ with that dog, and he was promptly listed for free in the newspaper (it was the 90’s). She told us we had no choice, we simply cannot keep a dog that is going to possibly bite.
A single dad answered our ad. He lived in the country, his work hours were stark in comparison to my mom’s. Copper hopped in his truck and never looked back, and it was the best day of his life.
Many of my current clients are just like my mom. They are full of great intentions and are looking at rehoming as a last case resort. They are losing track of the bigger picture that is that dog’s life. A few weeks into getting that puppy, we should have returned him to the breeder. We were not fit to care for him, and we could not change our lives to do so. We hear imaginary sentences spoken by our friends, veterinarians, group class teachers, they say “he will calm down when he turns…. 3…5….7….” We watch ASPCA commercials and are strapped with guilt. But the truth is, rehoming is a viable option, and in the long term is usually better for every being involved.
So, if you are sitting here, on the fence about rehoming your dog, if you are thinking, “next year she will be three and things will be better” stop. Can you meet her needs? Are you willing to change your lifestyle? Your work schedule? Your daily priorities? If that answer is no (and for 99% of all of us, the answer IS no) then do the thing that will be hard for you but better for them and find them a new life, somewhere where it is easy for them to be them.