With age comes wisdom is a truism that I’d like to think can be applied to me in many areas of my life. I came kicking and screaming into this dog ownership thing and I can honestly admit that I had already decided that if I was, as I had pegged myself, a non-dog person then I could give Coconut to my husband to become “his” dog. If that didn’t work I truly thought I could just give it back. Notice the use of the word, it. Sure, I would not get a refund but one prescription co-pay for my migraines was quadruple that so trying a dog was something I could afford.
Happily, I don’t just endure my NEW PAWS pup but I know he changed my life in countless ways. Yes, he destroyed some things, big things, I had a huge vet bill, I will never clean out my lint trap without it being clogged with hair, and my car, well, my car is and will likely always be kind of a disaster. And this person who does not like clutter has a kennel and four beds in the house. And I spend a fortune on bones.
On the flip side because of Coconut I no longer have suicidal thoughts, I have met more people in my neighborhood, I have a part-time job, I laugh more, and know that I am loved in an unexplainable and joyful way. And my headaches are slowly getting better.
Until recently I was in the “how could ANYONE give back a rescue dog?” camp. I got lucky with Coconut despite the bumps. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked hard to have the dog I have today. Dog obedience classes, boundaries, not giving in when he wants people food (too often) and five or six walks a day including during the polar vortex. Being owned by a dog, yes, let’s call it what it is, is hard work but rewarding. And like others have shared my dog is my family. How could I or anyone surrender a dog?
I used to believe without a shred of evidence that whoever gave away Coconut was heartless, stupid, selfish, and ignorant. The graphic below is true in many cases, maybe even most. I’ve learned in a very personal way that people who give up dogs do not always do it for selfish reasons. The first part of this sentence is admirable. “My goal is to love my rescue dog so much that….”
The second part is, I now know, unrealistic. “She never remembers the stupid humans that didn’t want her.” Dogs remember. The good and the bad are stored in their memory banks and our job is to help them to gain so many new and great memories that there’s no reason to pull out the bad ones. But for some dogs, the bad memories will never fade.
Why Are Dogs Given Up?
In a recent study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) and published in the July issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS), researchers went into 12 selected animal shelters in the United States for one year to find out why. *The results of the study show that the top seven reasons for relinquishment for both dogs and cats are the same. “These commonalities suggest that there may be similar ways to address relinquishment in dogs and cats,” says Pam Burney, NCPPSP president. “For people who work in a shelter all day, there isn’t always time to look at these issues. We have impressions of what’s happening, but now we have objective data that will help us develop specific programs to address the issues that have been identified.”
Top 10 Reasons for Relinquishment*
1. Moving (7%)
2. Landlord not allowing pet (6%)
3. Too many animals in the household (4%)
4. Cost of pet maintenance (5%)
5. The owner having personal problems (4%)
6. Inadequate facilities (4%)
7. No homes available for litter mates (3%)
8. Having no time for pet (4%)
9. Pet illness(es) (4%)
10. Biting (3%)
Interestingly, the only mentioned from the following list is biting. But everything on the second list is usually fixable whereas the top list has some issues that can’t be easily or possibly ever fixed.
- Going potty inside
- Separation anxiety
- Leash aggression
- Herding behavior
- Too much energy
- Jumping up
- Food aggression
Over the next few days, we are going to look at why dogs get taken back to the shelter. At a recent animal wellness conference, I attended in April the speaker at a shelter I attended said that the national average for returned dogs is about 24%. We are under 10% which is wonderful. Some rehoming is unavoidable while others can be avoided by talking to our staff if a problem occurs, training, or talking to your vet. There are many ways to solve a problem and to keep a dog you are growing to love in your home. We work hard to put together good matches because constant change is awful for dogs and these rescues have been through more changes than we probably know about.
With rescue dogs, it’s wise to remember that your dog’s past cannot be changed, but your dog’s future happiness is all you need to worry about.