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Canine rehoming and its failure rate

Canine rehoming and its failure rate

Health & Safety

Statistics published by some of the largest dog rehoming shelters and centres within the UK and other first world countries indicate that of all of the dogs that reside in any given shelter at one time, around 20% of those dogs had already been rehomed once. This means that one in five shelter dogs have already been rehomed, then returned to the shelter by their new family, who found themselves unable or unwilling to deal with the reality of dog ownership.

While the vast majority of rehoming shelters go through a very detailed and comprehensive process before they approve an adoption and let any given person or family take any given dog home, sometimes, there are factors in play that cannot always be planned for, and with the best will in the world, not every adoption will ultimately prove successful. With so many dogs in shelters and awaiting shelter places at any given time, there are finite resources in terms of people and time working and volunteering with the dogs, and behavioural problems, certain personality traits, and of course, the ability of any prospective owner to manage these things can sometimes be overlooked.

In this article, we will look at the most commonly given reasons for rehoming failures, and why as many as 20% of rehomed shelter dogs ultimately end up back in the shelter. Read on to learn more.

Behavioural anomalies

In at number one, over a third of people who returned a dog to the shelter gave behavioural problems in the adopted dog as their reason for returning the dog. This is also one of the most common reasons for dogs being surrendered to shelters in the first place, and unless the issue can be corrected before the next adoption, the dog in question runs the risk of being returned to the shelter time and time again.

Issues such as destructive behaviour within the home, inappropriate toileting, aggression, barking or escaping are all common potential issues, with prospective adopters either not fully understanding what is required for the adoption of any given dog, or being caught by surprise and then being unable or unwilling to work to correct the issues.

Rehoming shelter staff spend a significant amount of their time assessing the behaviour of their dogs and how they are likely to respond within a home environment, but this is not an exact science, and so mistakes can and do happen.

Problems with other household animals

The second most common reason given for shelter returns was problems integrating the new dog into the existing household that already has other pets present, such as a cat or another dog. If you already own a dog and are intending to adopt another, it is vitally important that the two dogs can meet each other a few times first, but of course, with pets like cats this is not usually possible!

Even when the newcomer and the existing dog appear to get on well in the first instance, when the new dog begins to settle in and feel that their home is their territory, this can lead to conflict with the pecking order between the dogs, or jealousy and unhappiness over who is getting the most attention.

Household cats can also take a long time to warm up to the presence of a new dog, and if the new dog is rowdy, noisy or apt to chase the cat, this can soon become a deal breaker for the owners.

Problems with the dog and children

Bringing a new dog into a home where children live is a very loaded decision, and one that can be very challenging for parents who of course have the safety and welfare of the children as their priority. While many children are very keen to have a dog join the family, if the dog does not behave or do the things that the child expects of them, the novelty can soon wear off. Children also need to go through a steep learning curve in terms of learning about appropriate behaviour around dogs, and for a dog with an unknown history, it can take many months of supervision before you can be sure that the dog can be trusted to be safe around your children.

Snappiness, aggression or a simple lack of bonding between child and dog are all reasons for a potential rehoming failure.

Other causes of returns

Understandably, there are almost as many possible reasons for an adoption failure as there are dogs out there without homes, and it is not possible to accommodate for all of these before you take a dog home! However, being aware of some of the common issues that you might face beforehand can help to ensure that you do not end up in the position or having to consider returning a rehomed dog, such as by managing your expectations and considering all of the issues raised above.

Some of the other commonly given reasons for returns to the shelter include an allergic reaction to the dog, a health issue that the dog develops soon after adoption, and changes in circumstances, such as a change of job or family make-up.