Giving My Dog Away: Why and How

Sad Pug

We should always adopt a dog with the intention of keeping her forever! Til death do you part! This is usually the dog’s death since people live longer than dogs, but sometimes this is the owner’s death. There are times, though, when you need to give your dog away.

Why It Is Necessary to Give Your Dog Away?

You may need to give your dog away because you no longer have the means to properly take care of your dog. You may have lost your job or a family member who provided income to the family, and now you no longer have the funds to provide food, veterinary care, or exercise that your dog needs to live a happy and healthy life.

You may have moved to a location where you are not permitted to have pets, and you have no other options available for being able to keep your pet. This frequently happens to military members who are single or who are a dual-military couple when they deploy. There is actually a way for you to keep your pet through the organization Dogs On Deployment. This organization matches volunteers who will watch your dog, cat, parakeet, or other animal while you are deployed!

Military and dogs

Moving to an assisted living or nursing home also requires people to give up their beloved pets. This can be particularly traumatic if both the owner and the pet have been together for a long time. The owner may have suffered an illness that precludes them taking care of their dog, and they must give their dog away.

We see stories of people who have hoarded animals who are then living in horrendous conditions. These people must give their animals away because they cannot take care of them and they are suffering from a mental illness that precludes them from being able to take care of their pets.

There are also people who neglect or mistreat their animals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) works with hoarders and others who neglect or mistreat their animals and try to persuade them to give up their animals. Sometimes they resort to court orders in particularly egregious cases.

Reasons You Should Never Give Your Dog Away

Sad puppyWhile there are many reasons you may need to give your dog away, there are also several reasons that you should NEVER, EVER give your dog away:

  • You dog has grown up out of puppy hood, and you are tired of her. Puppies are definitely cute, but owning a dog means owning the puppy, the adult and the senior dog. It is a 15-20 year commitment to that dog. Dogs are NOT accessories – they are souls that require a committed relationship.
  • Your dog is sick. This is when your dog needs you the most! If you are having difficulty with the cost of treatment, work with your veterinarian. There are also resources through the ASPCA or your local shelter that can help you pay for treatment for your dog.
  • Your dog is old. This is the most unconscionable reason to give away your dog. He has given you everything over his life – his love and companionship. Your dog may be sick (see above), but that is no reason to give away your dog.Old dog

These last two reasons are based in the fear some people have of death and dying. They may want to keep death and dying away from their children or themselves. If you really love your dog, just half as much as your dog loves you, then you will use your dog’s aging and eventual death as a blueprint for aging with dignity that you can use to teach your children.

The individual who treats their dog as a fashion accessory displays a completely narcissistic personality that is not suited for pet ownership. In my opinion, they should be limited to owning plush toy dogs!

Making the Decision

The decision to give your dog away is a difficult one. You should first examine your motives to ensure that you are giving your dog away because it is in the very best interests of the dog.

Your first option should be to find a relative or friend who already knows the dog, and who would be willing to take him. Many times this will work, but sometimes it doesn’t.

You can work with your veterinarian or shelter to see if they know of someone who could take your dog. Whatever you do, don’t place an ad in your local newspaper or online stating that you have a dog who is “free to a good home”. These ads are usually answered by someone who looks alright but is really looking for dogs to use as “bait dogs” for dog fighting rings!! Don’t let your dog die this way!

You can also surrender your dog to your local shelter. Make sure that your shelter is a “no kill” shelter. There are still many shelters that euthanize dogs and cats because they have too many. Approximately 3.9 million dogs enter shelters annually. Of these, 1.2 million are euthanized. That should be a sobering statistic.

Don’t ever dump your dog by the side of the road. She won’t survive in the wild because she is a domesticated animal.

Dog behind fence

How You Should Give Your Dog Away

If you are surrendering your dog to your local shelter, they will help you with giving her up.

If you are giving your dog to a friend or relative, make sure that you bring all of your dog’s toys, food and waters bowls, crate, bed, and blankets to help your dog understand that they are moving, but that things will still be familiar for them.

Resist the urge to visit your dog, at least for two weeks. Give your dog time to settle into his new surroundings. If you don’t, you will just confuse your dog and make the transition more difficult.

It’s up to you if you want to have a last night party for your dog. Just be sure not to feed your dog anything that will make her sick. That is no way to start a new life.

Coping With Your Loss

Dog on road

In the meantime, you will have to cope with the loss. If you were really close to your dog, it is like suffering a death and you can expect to go through the same stages of grief. It is important that you allow yourself the time and space to fully grieve for the loss of your dog. You were friends and gave each other part of yourselves. You need to honor that and recognize it in some way. This is the way to move on.

Thank you for reading my article. Please continue the conversation by commenting below.


I am crazy about dogs and want to make them happy and healthy.


  1. It is always sad to let the little guy go, not an easy feat for most dog owners but it can’t be helped especially if the dog is Ill you need to give it away so that it can get the proper treatment and care it needs which you might be unable to provide to the dog. Also people tend to be busy from time to time and that means less dog time you need to let another owner take care of it for you for both your sake although I would never give my dog up unless if the situation is critical. This post is top notch and very helpful it has inspired me has a dog owner to start taking care of my dog so that I won’t have to give him up, very helpful write up. Job well done

  2. Your post is very informative and true. You should adopt and not shop! I love that you spoke of every angle if/when you do decide to give your dog away. This is surely a difficult decision for some dog owners. I would love to own a dog sanctuary one day. Thanks for sharing and listing all options available when surrendering a dog.

    • Amber,

      A dog sanctuary would be awesome.

      Thank you for your comment.


  3. Hi Ellen thanks for this sobering post, I just cant imagine someone giving up a dog because they are tired of them! Who does that? These people should’nt be making such a commitment in the first place. The numbers you quoted of animals been euthanized is crazy, didn’t realise it was that high, thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  4. Parting ways with our pets are always very difficult decisions to take especially when it’s for reasons beyond human control. However, we should always look to do what’s in the best interest of our dogs and us as well. To minimize the effect it could have on us, we should rather look to give our pets to families who know the kind of beautiful relationship we share with our fogs.

  5. Hey Ellen, Such a beautiful article.I really love dogs too and i had to give away my dog recently too. I still miss him alot. I had to move over a long distance and stay with a family that dont allow dogs so i had to give him up. I actually did give it to a family member, a cousin who was familiar with my dog and used to spend a lot of time with him before. So i actually agree with giving your dog to someone who they are familiar if you have to give them up. 

    Ellen, if you give up your dog to someone for a few years already but you can now have the dog back, do you think it is right to go back for the dog? Thanks

    • Aweda,

      I think that you can talk to your cousin and see if you can get your dog back.  It doesn’t hurt to ask, but also be aware that your cousin may have grown attached to your dog as well.  Then it is up to the dog.


  6. So touching can’t imagine giving my dog away. But if am moving to a place were pets are not allowed would have no choice than to give it away. 

    Now I know the best place to give mine away in situations like that 

    Whenever I see dogs lost or dumped on the streets I feel bad and always call the shelter to inform them about the dog.

    Thanks for this post and pointing out the reasons why one should let go of his dog and also the reasons why one shouldn’t.

    • Thank you for your comment, and for contacting your local shelter when you see a dog in need of rescue.


  7. This topic reminds me of my dog Jack. She was my best friend and companion I had to give her away to a friend because she was suffering cold and I did not have the time to take her to a doctor because of my busy schedule. I can still remember the look on her face, it was heartbreaking! Sad thing is that she died the next week.

    • Emmanuel,

      I’m so sorry for your loss.  Thank you for your comment.


  8. Great post and good info.

    Honestly, I would never give my dog away. 

    We have Sammy from the shelter, and he is agressive to other dogs, he made me fall twice already. 

    Did I think to give him away? Yes, but I won’t. The reasons are simple. 

    A dog gives you all the love he has, and he always be loyal to you, no matter what. 

    He is our son, and I couldn’t do it, honestly. 

    There is only one exception however, which I’m pretty sure Sammy won’t do, and that is biting your childs. Then I totally agree when you would give your dog away, but only then. 

    • Emmanuel,

      If your dog bites a child or anyone else, you can work with a behavioral trainer to work out the aggression and still keep your dog.

      Thanks, Ellen

  9. We so totally agree with your Article, when and how to give away one’s Dog. My wife and I were caring for three dogs. Our own a brown and white Springer Spaniel. our middle daughter’s dog, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and our youngest daughters dog a Black Lab Malamute. Our case worked out very well because we were always around the dogs. All three dogs were brought home as puppies. Our girls grew up and pursued careers, the wife and I set up our own Doggie home care Centre. Dogs have all gone now, ranging from a life span of 12 – 15 years. The plan from day one, if a dog comes into this house it lives its whole doggie life here. No giving your pet away, when it’s too big, or too much of a problem caring for him or her. That was years ago now, but we were able to be with our pets through their journey of life. As one gets a long way into retirement like we are, things like, You have mentioned about why and when a person should be caring for a dog. I feel we would not give a dog true support as we did in our younger years. Can You give us some advise so we don’t make a mistake like so many others make, caring for a dog Pro’s and Con’s – Related to one’s age. Thanks for now…..Douglas.

    • Doug,

      Thank you for your comment.  I have a friend who is retired.  He and his wife adopt senior dogs so that they can live their later years in a good home.


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