What to do when you can’t take care of your pet anymore
- February 1st 2021
Today’s blog is difficult to write, but it’s a topic that needs to be talked about. Ever since the beginning of COVID, there have been an increasing number of dogs being abandoned. Owners drive out, leave their dogs on the road, and then never come back to pick them up. This isn’t just a pandemic phenomenon, of course; it has happened long before coronavirus ever struck us. The internet is full of stories of dogs chained to street corners or wandering forlorn along roads, looking for their pet parents who have no intention of returning.
So today, we want to talk about what to do if you can no longer take care of your pet. In an ideal world, you will have done your research before getting your pet and have a clear understanding of the lifetime commitment you are making. If you’re reading this blog and are part of our Pet Project community, then we sincerely hope you have.
But we acknowledge that circumstances change. Sometimes you may have overestimated how much time you have to truly take care of your dog. You may be moving countries and don’t know how to take your pet with you. Your parents may have gotten old suddenly, and you’re no longer able to manage with your dog in the house; they’ve become a health hazard for your parents. You may have had a baby and your dog isn’t adjusting well to the newborn in the house. Or you may have been badly financially hit, and you find you can no longer pay for the food and medical expenses required to take care of a pet.
Things happen, even if you began this journey with the best of intentions and the expectation that your pet will be there with you for life. If you find yourself in this difficult position of no longer being able to care for your pet, here are a few ways in which you can tackle this:
Find them a loving home
Most people abandon their pets because they panic. They find they can longer care for their dog, and so they feel letting them loose into the wild is the only option. Shame keeps them from talking about it with other people and asking for help. We assume it’s the natural way of things, and our dogs will be fine on the street.
But they won’t. Many domestic dogs aren’t prepared to tough it out on the streets, and they’re susceptible to attacks from dogs who’ve grown up having to fight for themselves to survive.
The first thing you should do if you find you cannot take care of your pet is reach out and find them another loving home. Try your best to place them in a household where you know the people and you can be certain they will be treated kindly. Message your friends. Post on your family group. Ask them to spread the word. Chances are there will be someone who is looking for a pet and who will be willing to welcome your dog into a family.
There are two advantages to using your social network to rehabilitate your dog. For one, you will have a basic understanding of those people’s values and will be able to vouch for them. If you don’t know them personally, then you’ll know someone else who can vouch for them. This goes a long way in making sure your dog will be properly taken care of.
The second advantage to rehabilitating your dog with someone familiar is you can go visit your pet. This helps the dog cope with your loss, and will encourage them to see this change as an increasing of family, rather an abandonment. Visiting your dog in their new home will help soothe any fears, and you can shower them with as much love as possible.
Get a trainer
A lot of families abandon dogs because they’re at the end of their tether. They got a dog home because they’ve wanted one for ages, they read all the regular blogs on how to take care of a puppy, they bought the toys, and they were excited for a life of calm and companionship.
But dogs are living creatures, and they have personalities of their own. Your life with your pet is never going to match up to someone else’s life with their pet because each pet is unique. Some pets are anxious, or hyper, or have behavioral disorders that cause them to act out. This can make living with them difficult, and means you may have to make changes to your regular life that you simply weren’t prepared to make.
Before you give up your dog, we suggest you get a trainer. You will be surprised at the number of issues a good trainer can fix in dogs that seem incorrigible or impossible to handle. Good training can help get your pet back on track, and make them easier to live with.
A trainer is also a good idea if you find your family members can no longer cope with a dog—e.g. your elderly parents or your young children. A trainer can teach your dog how to behave with different members of your family to ensure everyone is safe, and not scared.
For example, our extended family adopted a beautiful Labrador puppy—jet black, with the most beautiful and melting eyes. His name was Django. As Django grew, he had no idea of his own strength. He would get so excited to see new friends, he’d bite people to show love. His jaws were strong, so his bites would cause serious injury. People were scared of being around Django, and Django remained confused on why no one wanted to play with him.
The biting got so bad, the family took him to a specialist trainer. The trainer simply taught Django to hold something in his mouth every time he got hyper or excited. Slippers, a toy, a rag—it didn’t matter. As long as Django had something in his mouth, he couldn’t get carried away in his excitement and bite you. And it solved everything. Now when Django sees you, he runs frantically towards you, pauses, runs frantically away, and then comes bounding back with a toy in his mouth. Then he can sniff you and nuzzle you and show you all the love, but he won’t bite.
And it changed how people saw him. People could see Django had a lot of energy and love to give, but now that he wasn’t biting anymore, they weren’t scared of that energy. They could treat him like the loving, hyper dog he was and Django could be integrated into the family.
Trainers help. If you haven’t tried one as yet, please do. It may make all the difference.
Search for a shelter
If you’ve tried a trainer and it hasn’t worked, and if you’ve looked through your contacts for a new home and there is no one that can take your pet, then reach out to the animal shelters around you. These shelters will give your dog a place to sleep and food while they search for a new home for them.
This is far better than abandoning your dog on the road. If you leave them with a shelter, then you have the option of checking up with the shelter to see if they’ve been adopted and continuing your efforts with your social network to find someone who can take care of them.
Several of the points in this article may feel obvious, but when you’re overwhelmed, panicked and ashamed, it often feels easier to do the quiet hidden thing rather than address what needs to be done and why you’re doing it. If you find yourself in that painful position of no longer being able to take care of your dog, following these steps will go a long way in making sure your pet is taken care of, and they have a happy and fulfilled life with someone else.
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