Reasons Why People Surrender Their Dogs

Have you ever visited a shelter and looked at all the sad faces of the dogs? If so, you probably wondered about the reasons why people surrender their dogs in the first place. After all, the human-canine relationship usually begins with so much promise and excitement that it is hard to imagine it deteriorating badly enough to make giving the dog away seem like the best option.

Understanding the reasons can be helpful. First, if you’re considering adopting a dog from a shelter you should know what you might be getting into. Second, if you’re buying a dog you need to really consider what you would do in the same circumstances as those who have surrendered their animals in the past. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the top reasons.

Lodging Problems

In a 1990s study involving 12 animal shelters across the country and interviews with more than 3,400 people who were dropping off their pets, nearly 13% cited moving or landlord issues as the main reasons for giving up their animals. Those numbers have likely increased given the recent housing crisis that forced thousands of home owners to relocate.

Bringing a pet into an environment where they are not allowed by your lease or landlord is definitely irresponsible. Families who have to move, however, may have few options available when it comes to their dog. Some cities just don’t have plentiful or affordable pet-friendly apartment and many rental houses do not permit dogs either. Giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, and breeds with bad reputations, such as pit bulls, complicate the move even further.

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That doesn’t mean some people don’t use relocating or landlord complaints as an excuse to give up the dog for other reasons. But before you bring a dog into your home, make sure he is permitted and that your living situation is stable enough to provide an ongoing home for this new member of your family.


The same survey cited above found that approximately 4% of animal surrenders were due to allergic reactions. Fortunately, this is the easiest reason to avoid. If you’ve never been around dogs before or if your interactions have been minimal, you may not know you’re allergic to them.

Before you bring a dog into your family, it’s a good idea to spend some time with other dogs to make sure there won’t be any medical problems. Visit friends who have dogs or volunteer at a local shelter. Not only will these experiences prevent you from spending money on a dog that you can’t keep but it also ensures that your children will do well with a canine companion.


Although only 4% of people said cost was their reason for giving up their dog, chances are good the percentage is higher than that. Pride may keep many people from admitting they can’t keep up with the expensive of caring for their dog.

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As with lodging issues, some of the people who use this excuse behaved irresponsibly. They probably purchased the dog on a whim without considering the cost of food, vaccinations, vet visits, grooming, and other expenses. Maybe they could afford the cost of feeding a puppy but not the adult dog. You should always do your homework before bringing home a dog. Have some idea of what it will cost to keep him healthy and fed then make sure your budget has the capacity to cover those costs. After all, you wouldn’t adopt a baby if you couldn’t pay for formula or a pediatrician.

Of course, some families have fallen on hard times. With people being laid off and other expenses (such as gas and health care) rising, the costs of caring for the family pet might be the easiest to cut if the family is scrambling to keep food on their own table. Some shelters and animal organizations do offer programs to help with these costs but many of these are strapped for funding due to an increased need for the services.

Behavior Problems

According to rescue groups and shelters, the main reasons people abandon their animals are because of behavior problems. This is a broad category that could include urinating/defecating in the house, barking too much, tearing up furniture, biting people, nipping at the kids, and more. Sadly, most of these problems have little to do with the dogs and everything to do with the people dropping them off.

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When you make the decision to bring a dog into your home, you have a responsibility to provide proper training, socialization, stimulation, and exercise for that dog. If you fail to do all of those things, you’re going to find yourself dealing with behavior problems.

Unfortunately, many of the dogs in shelters do have some types of behavior problems. Shelters lucky enough to have staff who can work with the dogs to correct these behaviors are hard to find but are a great option. Otherwise, just realize you may need to spend some time working with an adopted pet to overcome some of these behavior issues. It can be challenging but it isn’t impossible.

Whether you’re adopting or buying a new canine for your family, always think long-term. Today, you might have a stable environment and the puppy might be so small that minor behavior problems can easily be ignored. But what about in six months?

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