Why Dogs are Returned to the Shelter

Updated: October 27, 2022

"As pet parents, we can’t imagine having to give up our dogs to shelters, but there are also those who consider doing so and it’s important that we’re able to understand their reasons why."

Oh, the joy of receiving an adorable pup! But this great present also comes with great responsibility. As pet parents, we can’t imagine having to give up our dogs to shelters. But some pet parents struggle with real challenges and feel forced to consider having their dogs returned to shelters. It is important that we’re able to understand their reasons why to better help pet parents struggling and dogs at risk of being returned.

Here, we’ve come up with the top reasons of why dogs are returned to the shelter:

Giving Dogs to Shelter: Reasons Why

Dog is no longer a puppy

Oh, how adorable it is to adopt a puppy until they are not a puppy anymore and you’re not ready for all of it. It’s all fun and games, then one day it just isn’t anymore, especially when the greater responsibility of being a pet parent kicks in. Sadly, this is a common reason dogs are given to shelters and an avoidable one!

Pet Parents Advice: It is always best that you consider giving your dog a chance. A dog in their “teenage” years can be exhausting with endless energy and unruly behavior but dogs learn so much with positive reinforcement and love, as much as anything else. Don't stop training after the initial puppy class and housebreaking. Training a dog is an ongoing task.

Inappropriate Behavior

Inappropriate and unwanted behavior is probably the most used reason why dogs are returned to shelters. Pet owners are taken by surprise by the behaviors of their adopted dogs once they’ve begun settling in like inappropriate peeing & pooping, separation anxiety, excessive digging & chewing, too much energy, leash & food aggression, digging, and many more.

Though some inappropriate behaviors just need some getting used to and eventually disappear in a span of time, it can be frustrating and exhausting for a pet parent. It's best to accept a furbaby’s flaws and learn how to manage them.

  • Find a dog trainer or attend a dog basic training class.
  • Apply positive reinforcements when teaching the dog proper behavior.
  • For inappropriate peeing and pooping, provide washable dog diapers, belly bands, or washable pads to help with the potty training and to lessen the number of accidents and messy cleanups happening around the house.
  • For excessive chewing, barking, & digging, offer premium and high-quality antler chews like Gnawtlers® that are safe, all-natural, and don’t easily splinter to keep your furbaby stimulated physically and mentally.
  • Use positive reinforcement on your furbaby and don’t ever be discouraged.


As stated by the Animal Humane Society, aggression is defined as the threat of harm to another person or other animal involving snarling, growling, snapping, biting, barking or lunging. Understanding the contributing factors in aggression can often help in the management of aggression in your furbaby. No one wants their dog to be aggressive and many pet parents feel they have no choice but to surrender a dog showing signs of aggresson.

Some dogs who have had past traumas and bad experiences with other animals and people will have a hard time getting used to living with their new family. In worst cases, the adopted dog may show aggression to your other pets at home and may even snap at your other family members. So, to avoid any incidents from happening in the future, pet parents decide to return the dog back to the shelter where they got them.

There are many reasons a dog might be aggressive. Thankfully, there are also a lot of ways you can help. Consult a professional dog behaviorist and see what is causing the aggression. In many cases, you might find your dog is actually anxious and scared. In other cases, it could be a specific, avoidable stimuli that is causing it. Before considering returning your dog, see if the aggression is something you can turn around and manage.

dogs returned to shelters, dogs being returned

Health Conditions

Even if you thought you’ve adopted a seemingly healthy dog, there will be medical conditions you’ll have to deal with over the course of time. It will need your utmost attention and the vet bills will become expensive really fast.

Some dogs are returned to shelters because their owners find themselves unable to fully take care of them, especially senior dogs who suffer from terminal & lifetime illnesses and incontinence.

Many dogs in rescues and shelters are re-homed from family to family due to health issues. Products like pet diapersbelly bands, and washable pads could potentially aid families in the process and reduce the volume of dogs being returned to shelters. 

Fear of death

Some pet parents return their dogs to shelters because they’re scared of seeing their dogs die and pass away someday. Yes, death is scary and even though one day your dog will leave you heartbroken, there’s nothing to stress yourself with. Why? Because it will only take place after a lifetime of happiness. Your dog will happily cross the rainbow bridge knowing that you’ve loved them beyond all doubts. 

According to Psychology Today, the death of a pet can be a truly traumatic experience and create a large void in our hearts and lives—comparable to losing a close family member or friend. And according to an article that reviewed multiple studies and was published in the journal Society & Animals in 2002, the death of a companion animal can be as devastating as the loss of a human significant other.

Financial Incapacity

Relating to the reason of a dog with a health condition, financial incapacity is also one cause why some pet owners return their dogs to shelters. Having a pet and living with one is not all fun and games. It is a huge responsibility - from providing basic needs like a healthy diet, vitamins, and supplements to keeping their vaccinations updated (not mentioning all the vet bills you’ll have to go through whenever your dog gets sick).

Dogs are returned to shelters because of the financial incapacity of their owners to provide for them a happy and healthy life. 

Newborn baby

In some cases, choosing one over the other is a pretty hard choice to make but this is what many pet owners face particularly when there is a new member born in the family. It can be that there’s no more time for the pet owners to care for the dog, or it can also be possible that the dog is having a hard time adjusting to living with a baby who usually gets all the attention now.

"For excessive chewing, barking, & digging, offer premium and high-quality antler chews that are safe, all-natural, and don’t easily splinter to keep him stimulated physically and mentally."

Owning a dog is a beautiful experience that’s why you should be fully prepared for both the best and the worst if you plan on bringing a dog into your life to avoid returning them to the shelter. No dog deserves that.

At Pet Parents®, we are here to help you deal with pet parenthood as we hope that someday, no dog ever has to be returned to the shelter again.