Finding a New Home

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 Holly’s Den

Fostering Peaceful Pack for Humans & Dogs

 How to Find a Dog a New Home 

Thanks to the National German Shepherd Dog Club of America and to Anne McGuire of the Houston Golden Retriever Club for writing and sharing some of the information contained in this article.  Although the guidelines below were written to help owners who need to re-home a dog, they also provide valuable instruction & tips for foster care-givers. 

There are times and circumstances when even a caring owner must face a decision to re-home his or her dog.  Unfortunately, at the point of deciding the dog needs a new home, many owners hope to turn responsibility for their dog’s placement over to others.  Therefore, it is vital to understand that while other individuals or groups may offer help and support, until your dog has made the transition to a new loving home, his life and fate lie squarely in your hands. Only you can ensure that his next home is a happy and safe one. 

Carefully screen all applicants--Begin by being aware that you must screen adoption applicants for your dog.  Many dogs are passed from owner to owner, making them easy victims for unscrupulous people.  Some dogs who fall into the wrong hands end up as fighting dogs or bait for fighting dogs, or more rarely as captives of occult gangs.  Others are kept as yard dogs on chains or as “junkyard” guard dogs living in the worst kind of lonely isolation.  In addition, there are people constantly on the prowl for dogs to sell to labs for experimentation, or to use for breeding stock in puppy mills where the dogs are kept in shockingly inhumane conditions.  Countless dogs are simply abandoned by the careless to die of starvation and disease, or dumped on roadsides to be maimed and killed by cars.   

Don’t rush your dog to a shelterShelters are places of last resort for lost and abandoned animals and for animals whose owners are in desperate straits.  They are not placement centers for pets.  If your dog has even the slightest health or behavior problem, including reactivity to other dogs, it will be euthanized immediately in most shelters.  Shelters rarely place older dogs or those with special needs. The vast majority of animals that enter shelters are killed within days.  In the Greater Houston area at least 97,000 animals are euthanized in shelters every year.  Likewise most rescue groups don’t have the resources to extend their foster care program (for strays and shelter dogs) to owner dogs, although some may help owners by advertising their dogs and screening applicants.

Preparation for placement—Begin by getting your records in order.  Be sure your dog is current on its shots, is spayed or neutered, is on heartworm preventative and has had a recent heartworm test (for low cost veterinary care in the Houston area, see contact listing for SNAP on p. 3).  Bathe and groom your dog.  Make sure his ears are clean and his nails are clipped.  Outfit him with a handsome collar.  Assemble a file folder with all your vet care and shot records, current rabies vaccination certificate, AKC papers if you have them, the dog's city or county dog license, receipts from your purchase of the dog, obedience school diplomas, etc.  This is information you can show to potential adopters and give to the dog's new owner.  (Note: If you are the dog’s original owner, when you begin the process of placing your dog, contact the person from whom you got the dog. Ethical breeders feel responsible for every puppy they breed; sometimes they will take the dog back or help you find another home.  Others, less responsible, may benefit from learning how often their puppies’ placements don’t work out.)

Spay or Neuter Your DogIt is one of the best things you can do for your dog’s health and will increase the odds that your dog will end up in a loving home as a companion animal—this is your insurance that your dog will not end up with an unethical breeder who will exploit him/her as a cheap breeding source.  It is also a way to do your part to end the canine suffering that results from the pet overpopulation problem—the millions of unwanted dogs in this country, including pure breeds, far outnumber available homes. Counter to the image of spoiled pets leading cushy lives, only two of every ten dogs born ever gets a permanent home, and not every permanent home is a good one.  The only solution is to cut down on the number of pets that are born.  If cost is a problem, you can make an appointment to have your pet fixed at one of the community organizations that offers low cost spay-neutering services. 

Placing adsAdvertise in as many places as possible including your work place, volunteer organizations, etc.  Use community newspapers and newsletters in addition to major newspapers.  Make sure that your ad includes a concise description of your dog, such as breed/sex/age, your phone number, and your requirements (based on your dog’s temperament and habits) such as:  No cats; no same sex dogs;  fine with older kids;  this mature family pet would be good for senior citizen; well behaved in-house dog.  Also, be ready to emphasize your dog’s strong points—for example, is he friendly, house trained or obedience trained, good with kids, etc.  Also be honest about problems—if you aren’t, you are setting the placement up for failure.  If the dog has a bad habit or problem and the new owners aren’t willing or able to cope with it, they will soon get rid of the dog.  Remember, a good home means a good fit between dog and owner. 

NEVER offer your dog "Free to a good home”Be sure that your ad includes a price or "adoption fee."  that is at least as much as area shelters charge for adoption.  In return, the adopter should get a dog which has already had vaccinations, a heartworm test, and been spayed or neutered.  A responsible applicant will not mind the adoption fee if you have saved your receipts and can document the care the dog has recently received.  After all, the new owner would have to pay for all that anyway. Be wary of anyone not willing to pay a reasonable price to get a dog.  If they can't afford to pay a little, how will they later pay for vet care, food, obedience training, etc.? 

Be aware that there really are people constantly on the prowl for free pets (especially popular pure breeds) in order to exploit them for profit; some will even go so far as to visit you with children or elderly companions to gain your confidence. Asking a fair price for your dog is the best way to protect yourself and your dog from these con artists pretending to be good pet owners. 

A more common pitfall to avoid for your dog, are well intentioned people who love the idea of a pet but who are unprepared to choose a breed wisely, much less to raise and train it.  These are the people who seem like they will be good owners but when you check back with them six months later they are singing a different tune that goes “Oh I had to get rid of that dog.”   Therefore even when dealing with nice people you must carefully screen and question your potential adopters.

Interview everyone who responds to your ads--Don’t be afraid to ask for references and for the name and phone number of the applicant’s vet.  Be sure they know about the costs and vet care needed to keep a dog healthy.  Find out the ages of any children or grandchildren and if there are other pets. Ask if they've had dogs before, and if so, what happened to those dogs.  Look for a home that has kept dogs from youth to old age.  Find out the circumstances of those who have had dogs lost, stolen or given away—your dog could end up the same way.

Avoid parents who are getting a dog "for the kids" unless the parents really want the dog themselves. Dogs need mature interaction and will make more work for adults in the household.  During the interview, phrase your questions so as to NOT reveal the answer you are looking for.  For instance ask: "Will you keep her inside or outside?"  Don’t say, "You will keep her inside, won't you?"  Trust your intuition, and don't hesitate to turn away a caller if something just doesn't seem right. Be picky and hold out for the right home for your dog.   Be honest with callers and tell all you know about the dog's behavior and health.  You may hide or lie about a problem during the interview, but once the dog is adopted, the new owner will find out soon enough and may try to return the dog to you, or even try to sue you!

Here are some questions that shelters and rescue groups use to screen applicants: 

  1. What are the occupations of the adults in the household?  Where are you employed?
  2. Do you own or rent?  Do you have a fenced yard?  What kind of fence?
  3. Do you have other pets at home now?
  4. Are the other pets spayed/neutered/intact?
  5. What brand of heart worm preventative do you use?
  6. Who is your vet?
  7. How will you train the dog?  Have you ever taken a dog to obedience classes? 
  8. Have you read any books on dog care/training?
  9. How will you exercise the dog?
  10.  How will you control fleas?
  11. How will you transport the dog? (Do they understand the danger of transporting a dog loose in the back of a pick-up truck?)
  12. Will the dog be kept in or out?  Where will the dog sleep?
  13. What is your typical daily schedule and how much time do you have to spend with a dog?

Questions for the applicant’s vet—

Explain that Mr. And Mrs. Doe are interested in adopting your dog and you want to make sure the dog will get a good home.  Ask whether their pets get regular care, have been spayed or neutered, and are on heart worm preventative.

Questions for the personal reference—Ask how long they have known the Does, how are their pets cared for, what kind of fence do they have, (this indicates how well they actually know the Does), what kind of interests and hobbies they have, do their dogs stay in or out, and would they give a dog to the Does. 

Arrange a Visit—Once you have an interested caller that passes your phone interview, arrange a visit.  However, be cautious about inviting strangers to your home.  Meeting them at a public place such as a neighborhood pet store may be safer.  Have the potential adopter bring the entire family.  It is important that everyone in the household meet and get along with the dog.  Even if the dog is "for my wife/husband" if the spouse dislikes the dog there will be problems!  If the adopter already has a dog, arrange for that dog to come visit also to be sure the two will get along.  (Meeting on neutral territory rather than the resident’s dog’s home turf will also foster a more peaceful introduction).

Make a Home Visit—Finally, before turning your dog over, do one last thing extremely important thing to protect its welfare.  Make a home visit to the prospective adopter.  Experienced shelter and rescue workers who regularly place dogs in new homes understand how important a home visit can be.  Many applicants stretch the truth when applying to adopt a dog.  Nothing beats seeing first hand the circumstances your dog will be living in and if the picture presented by the applicants was accurate and truthful.

Foster a Smooth Transition--Make sure that the adopting family understands that going to a new home is stressful for the dog and a period of mourning and adjustment is to be expected.  Even a housebroken dog may be expected to have some accidents the first few days.  Advise the new owners not to place extra pressure on the dog before it is settled in.  Provide the new family with a written list of the dog’s food, medication, schedule, etc.  Send some favorite toys and a blanket with the dog to help him feel more secure.  Don’t forget to remind them about how vital it is to keep the dog on a heartworm mediation and to outfit it with a sturdy buckle collar and ID tags.

You should allow 1-3 months to find your dog a new home, depending on the time of year and your dog's age, health, manners and behavior.  It is time well spent. You will have peace of mind knowing that your dog is safe, loved, and cared-for; you will not be lying awake at night wondering if she's been euthanized in a shelter or hit by a car on the highway! 

Final considerationsEvaluating Alternatives  

If your dog has a history of truly aggressive behavior such as severely biting or injuring people, you may be legally liable for any actions of that dog, even after it goes to another home.  In such a situation, the best action may be to have the dog put to sleep.   

If your dog is very old you should also consider taking him to your vet to be euthanized if you absolutely can’t keep him or find a truly loving home.  Animals who have been with you a long time can suffer great grief if forced to separate from you.  Always remain with the dog to relieve his anxiety.  A dog who has been faithful to you for many years deserves nothing less than a dignified end with you at his side.

Reconsider the Situation—Otherwise, it might be well to reconsider if you really need to give up your pet.   Perhaps the situation requiring you to give up your dog is really beyond your control, or is the best and wisest thing to do for both you and your dog.  However, behavior problems such as house-breaking, digging or chewing, jumping up, and excessive barking are the most common reasons that lead people to get rid of their pets.  These behavior problems are directly related to lack of training, which in turn relates to the owners’ lack of time, planning, and commitment.  If this is the case, and especially before you choose to own a dog again, please do some serious reflecting about why this dog didn't work out and how you can prevent this situation from repeating itself.

Better yet, if behavior problems are the reason for re-homing, give yourself and your dog another chance. Behavior problems can usually be corrected with proper training combined with giving the dog more attention and allowing the dog to live inside the house as a companion to your family. Many behavior problems result from isolating the dog alone in the yard.  Because a dog is a social pack animal, it can only thrive when it is allowed to be a part of the family, interacting daily with it’s human pack. A good obedience class may do wonders for your dog's behavior, making it possible for you to allow it in the house. When you let your dog become a larger part of your life, your bond will grow deeper and you may find you want to keep him/her after all!  

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