Don't Give Up

When making the decision to adopt a new pet, there are so many factors to consider. The first --and most important-- factor, in my opinion, is whether or not you're fully willing and able to take on the responsibility of caring for the pet... for his or her entire lifetime. 

Not just UNTIL he potties inside. 
Not just UNTIL he chews up your shoes. 
Not just UNTIL she misbehaves. 
Not just UNTIL she's no longer a puppy anymore. 
Not just UNTIL you decide to have a baby, or move, or get new carpet.

A pet --any pet-- is a huge commitment... one that should never be taken lightly. Of course, pets bring so much joy and comfort into our lives, so they're totally worth the extra responsibility.

The pet experience is what you make it... which means doing everything in your power to ensure a happy, healthy life for your pet in your home... no matter what.

Yet... I'm constantly amazed by just how many people are willing to give-up on their dog... without even giving them a chance. Apparently, some people think that the "responsibility" of owning a pet... shouldn't require any "responsibility" on their part at all. The dog should just come into their home... perfect, well-behaved, and fully-trained... with no adjustment period, no need for structure, exercise, positive reinforcement, or patience. 

Well... now, that's just banana-sandwich

[Note: this post is NOT intended to place judgment on everyone who has ever had to re-home their pet. I understand that legitimate reasons do exist for having to do so, and I don't wish to condemn every person who's been forced to make this decision. Instead, I'm simply trying to present this issue for what it is, so that maybe someone will change their perception, and think twice before they give-up on their pet.]

 Okay... back to the purpose...

Here's a real shocker (sarcasm): dogs are super-smart creatures... BUT they need a leader: someone to guide them, correct them, and reward them for good behavior. Much like children.

(While some people hate it when I compare dogs to children... those people aren't writing this post. Plus, the comparison of dogs and children is simply made to prove a point. So, calm down, Mrs. How-Dare-You-Call-My-Child-a-Dog! Seriously... no offense intended. Let's proceed...)

Children aren't born with the inherent knowledge of what's expected of them. They're taught. In fact... for us human folk, learning is preeetty much a lifetime gig, with the most important lessons being taught, learned, re-taught, re-learned, and thus, reinforced, throughout our lives. 

Parents teach us right from wrong. Rewards teach us what to do. Mistakes teach us what not to do. 

But... what if someone gave up on you, every time you made a mistake? How would that feel? Especially as a child... when you didn't know any better... what if your parents had simply given-up on you... and sent you away to live with whoever would take you... just because you did something wrong? 

When it comes to dogs, that's often what happens. Families get fed-up, give-up, and/or stop caring... and therefore, they carelessly make (what SHOULD BE) a heart-wrenching, unthinkable, not-even-an-option decision: "Let's get rid of the dog."

Yet... the dog can't understand why his family would ever desert him... He loves them. He never meant to make them angry. He truly wanted to please them

And honestly, to that dog, it doesn't matter how "bad" the family feels, or where they plan to send him, or why they're doing it. For him, all that matters... all he wants... is his family. He'd do anything for them.

How can people just throw that kind of love away?? Especially when so many solutions exist...

Here's the reality: dogs don't want to be "bad." Actually, they strive to please you. But when they don't understand what's expected of them... when they aren't redirected from bad behavior... or rewarded for good behavior... or given the chance to learn and grow... then yes, they will probably act in ways that seem "bad."

Without structure, exercise, training, and companionship, dogs will look for other ways to entertain themselves. Often, the things that seem most "fun" to your dog, are the OPPOSITE of fun to you... chewing, barking, digging, climbing, etc. While these issues aren't impossible to fix, they certainly don't "fix" themselves. 

That's where you come in. You're the leader. You're the "parent."

Honestly, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how to resolve most canine issues, but it does take time, effort, and consistency, on your part. In other words... commitment. You know... that same "commitment" you promised to honor for this dog's lifetime... on the day you brought the dog home. 

What happened to that promise?? 

If you're considering giving-up on your pet, there's almost always another option. An option that allows your dog to stay in your home, with his family. Whether you've had your dog for years, or you recently adopted, you should always exhaust every possible alternative before you even consider the need to re-home your dog. You owe them that much.

Since adoption-returns are a big issue for many animal rescues and shelters, let me touch on the subject of bringing a new pet into your home... and keeping them there...

When you adopt a new dog (or cat), there's always an adjustment period. Sometimes, it's a couple of hours, days, or weeks. Sometimes, it's a couple of months or longer. But trust me... there WILL BE an adjustment period, for both you and the dog. And if you refuse to acknowledge this aspect, and refuse to be patient, understanding, and compassionate during this process, then please... don't adopt the pet in the first place.

Seriously, returning a pet to a shelter within mere hours of adoption due to "misbehavior" is just about as ridiculous as trying to return your newborn baby to the hospital because he cried when you got home. That's just crazy-pants. (clearly, an extreme example, but still...)

So... in order to keep your personal frustrations at a minimum during the adjustment phase, just look at the situation from the dog's perspective: he or she is suddenly in a new place, with new people, new expectations, and a new routine. YOU know he's been "adopted," but he doesn't know that. Sometimes, there's some confusion,  uncertainty, and even a little fear involved. Other times... immense excitement and curiosity. Regardless, the dog has to adjust, get comfortable, and become settled in your home... and that takes time.

The new dog may come into your home with existing issues, or he may develop some new quirks in his new environment. Either way, you must be willing and able to deal with any issues that arise. Most importantly, you must be PATIENT. You can't just expect a new dog to enter your home as instant perfection. I mean... when YOU move into a new house, doesn't it take YOU some time to get settled? And let's face it: you're human; he's a dog. Cut the kid some slack.

If you've had your dog for years, and suddenly, you're beyond fed-up with this or that issue, well then... you have to acknowledge that YOU are much of the problem. The dog has learned these negative behaviors in your home... and if you didn't take the time and effort to correct the issues early-on, or in all of the years since, then you can't blame the dog for your lack of "parenting." Would you want your dog to kick YOU out of your house for poor leadership? Probably not, but guess what? Even if he could... he would never do that to you. Don't do it to him, either. Especially not for something that's your fault.

Training, exercise, structure... these things are every bit as important to dogs as to humans, and without these things, guess what? Issues develop. There are tons of resources available to help you with any issues your dog may have, so there's really no excuse to simply give up on your pet without even trying to resolve the problem. Again, this takes time... and your dog deserves every bit of time it takes... and then some.  

Why? Because... if and when everyone else in your life fails you... or abandons you... or gives-up on you altogether... there will be one "someone" still waiting there to love you: your dog

So... try harder. Do more. Don't give up on him!
Love your dog like he loves you: unconditionally... forever.



  1. Shelters would benefit, in the long run, by offering basic obedience classes to train people (yes, its people who need training, in many cases, more than the dog). We dont seem to have many options in the central MS area for that. Good blog Ashley.

  2. Wow.....I would never ever in this earth find someone like you....I feel like you live in my brain......every single word I read is how I always feel, from the very heartbreaking poor excuses, to the ladies out there that are offended when I compare my dog to a child.....my dog has waaaaay more issues than a lot of the dogs I have seen left behind in shelters, but he is still my dog, my child, the one I promised I would care for life, I would surrender me first before I ever ever but ever even think about anything like that....is such a clear and cruel betrayal....and yes I know some are forced to do so....but I wonder how many mothers are "forced" to send their kids to be killed??? And just because they misbehaved...I know I know what some of them might be thinking right now...( How can she? I dare her) sorry ladies...IT IS what IT IS...leave the drama for your momma.....I guess I'm not alone and I thank God for creating you and I hope he makes many more of you.............

  3. People should be required to take vlasses before becoming a parent whether it be humsn or fur!!:)

  4. People who can't instantly love an animal the minute it walks in their door may have trouble with unconditional love. When you do fall in love with a dog you can never give them up.

  5. As I always say: the animal pays for the sins of the human. And, unfortunately, we see it time and time again.

  6. Trish McConnell's blog cites a study where most dogs are at the level of two year olds - and people don't give up on two year old's just because they need to repeat and repeat.....very good post.
    Yes, I want everyone to keep dogs and any animal for life, but I gave up my beloved cat, not knowing what else to do; no one offered me an alternative. I appreciate your understanding both sides of a story, which I now see in my Beagle sanctuary.

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  8. The rescue group I volunteer with has a prison program where the dogs are trained with basic obedience and some of our adopters STILL have to be reminded of the adjustment phase. Especially true when you have a dog that is used to 24/7 contact with humans, then to adjust to your normal family atmosphere, very hard.

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  10. You have a wonderful blog here Ashley. I stumbled upon it by chance today, first reading your other 2 more recent blog entries dealing with breeders.

    I'm the proud adopted dad to a super smart 5 1/2 month black lab mutt. I brought her home from the Whatcom County Humane Society 10 weeks ago. We were required to do obedience classes as part of the agreement to adopt a dog here in Whatcom County. To be honest I thought it was b.s. and that I didn't need dog classes to train my dog. Well I was wrong.

    I went to the classes with an open mind and wanting to learn as much as I can to get value for money. She was in a class of mostly purebreds and she was the star pupil in class. Training makes great dogs not being a purebred.

    I think it's great that you mention exercise and structure as well. Especially exercise. I think that's a problem with suburban dogs. They don't get walked everyday (when it's a breed that requires 2 walks a day). Then the dog acts like a dog because it has so much dog energy because it never goes on a doggy walk. When this dog does get to finally go on a walk it's so excited it drags the owner the entire time. Well you know the story all too well.

    It hasn't always been easy with this energetic puppy, but I'd never give up on my girl. Lord knows that dog would never leave my side.

    Also I think part of the problem with people giving up on dogs and taking them back to the shelter has to do with basics. First of all when you bring your dog home especially a puppy you should hand feed it! Also NILIF! Nothing In Life Is Free! My dog has learned that she always has to work. She needs to be settled down and calm to get a kong full of food. She must sit before I open the front door to leave or before I take her leash off at the off leash walking trail. I don't understand how anyone could take a dog back because it keeps going potty in the the house. I give my puppy food when she goes potty outside. I don't scold her when she had accidents I just simply cleaned it up and ignored her. She learned fast that when she pees on grass she gets food and when she pees on carpet her human sprays bad smelling cleaning stuff on the carpet AND no playtime! It's pretty basic stuff. Any bad behavior can be redirected into a positive behavior.

  11. Thanks for sharing. We like your blog a lot.

  12. COnfession we gave our dog back to the shelter a couple years back. he was a Border Collie puppy mix named Frankie at the time I was let's say 15. He scared me, he humped me,he demanded I play with him, and he as a puppy.Only my grandma liked him and she was the one that was never home. I WAS HIS PRIMARY CAREGIVER. How can I care for something that I am afraid of. In fact I did wait a week or so, I WAS STILL SCARED. One day I started crying and said "I hate Frankie can't we give him back". Long story short we gave him back to the no kill shelter and instead we got the dog we have now from the same shelter. a Carolina Dog named Brandi. We had her ever since. The shelter had a policy where you could give the dog back and get one that was better suited to your family. SO we got Brandi, she is my heart dog and i will NEVER NEVER let her go. No matter how much I hated Frankie I cried my eyes out when we gave him back because I felt like I failed him. He just wasn't right for us and he had to go. Brandi turned 5 recently so that means we are going on our third year with Brandi. Funny story not too long ago a friend gave us their tweenie Dachshund who they got from the guy's brother's friend. The family couldn't care for him. They didn't have time and Bear wasn't getting excercise and wasn't happy. After having him he got 2 rotten teeth removed, was diagnosed with luxating patellas in both his back knees, and has become a proper weight after his diet. He is a lovely boy that doesn't otty in the house and brings us smiles every day of our lives.


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