When "Giving Up on Your Dog" is the Kindest Thing to Do
In my years as a home-visiting dog trainer, I did my very best to try to help people live happily with their dogs by teaching them to interact with their dogs in new ways and teaching the dogs skills like how to walk on a leash without pulling. Most of the time this worked great to foster peaceful coexistence between dog and humans, but there were a number of cases when it did not. Some common examples where no amount of training can totally resolve a basic mismatch is a frail elderly person matched with a large active puppy or a family with young children and a very sensitive toy-sized dog.
In some cases, it was very clear to me that it would be a long, uphill battle to make the situation work and in other cases it seemed that both the dog and the family would suffer even with lots of effort and so I would recommend they find a new home for their dog.
What I found surprising was the intense rejection of this advice that I would receive when I suggested re-homing. My clients seemed to consider this an action they could never take in good conscience, which confused me since it seemed to be really the best action to make the dog happy. I would get responses like: "we would never give up one of our animals!". I can understand now that the reason for their difficulty was of course the love and attachment they felt for their pet as well as their feeling of responsibility.
I am inspired to write this article in order to question the idea that it is categorically wrong to "give up on a pet".
Sometimes even with the best of intentions, your home is not the right environment for your dog to thrive and the most loving thing to do is to find a better match. A qualified, positive trainer can help you to find out if some training or management like baby gates or a dog walker for extra exercise can make it work or if a new home is the most realistic and kind option.
I also want to emphasize how important it is to avoid having to face this sad decision by making a very careful choice when adding a dog or puppy to your family. Reputable breeders and shelters should ask lots of questions to make sure the dogs size, energy and temperament will be a good fit for you and your family and if not you should consider looking elsewhere. I also think it is a fabulous idea to consult a dog trainer BEFORE getting a dog to get guidance on which dog to choose and how to best set up your home to have a great start with your new family member.
Good luck and Happy Training,
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