Top 10 Reasons People Relinquish Their Pets and Possible Solutions

  • By Kathy McRoberts
  • 09 Sep, 2011

The mission of Cincinnati Dog Pages is to "help dogs by helping their owners". We offer resources and information so that dogs can stay in their homes longer and live happy lives. I thought that this month we would explore the main reasons that people give up their pets, and offer some alternatives. Obviously, there are times when the only option is to find the pet a different home, but below are some options we encourage you to explore first before making that decision.

According to the  National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy , here is a list of the top ten reasons why dogs end up in shelters.

1. Moving  - Dogs can handle change, especially if their owners make the change fun. But leaving your pet behind at a shelter, alone, scared and confused, is much more traumatic than riding two days in a car with their friend to a new home. Check  or  the GoodCall guide for some great tips and guidelines if you are planning a move with your pets.

2. Landlord issues  - Renting means getting approval from the landlord to have a pet. Most apartments have pet policies. There are many that are pet friendly. Check our Pet Friendly Apartments page for some in your area. It's better to find the right home than to lie about your pet and face problems down the road. And yes, most dogs can adjust fine to apartment living, with adequate exercise and training.

3. Cost of pet maintenance   - Unfortunately, many people don't take the time to budget for a pet before acquiring one, and that can lead to trouble. Proper care is more than just providing food. The average annual cost of caring for a dog can run anywhere from $500-$1000 or more. Factor in the cost of veterinary care, supplies, toys, bedding, training, etc. Plan ahead and ask yourself if you can truly afford a pet at this time. If you find yourself in a financial crunch, there are resources for help. Check our Financial Assistance page for ideas, there are even organizations that can help with major medical expenses. There is a local  pet food pantry  that can help. Consider pet insurance, the small monthly payment can be a lifesaver in times of large unexpected veterinary expenses, and many policies are customizable to match your budget..

4. No time for pet  - These days it seems we all lead busy lives.. Unfortunately, the family pet usually ends up at the bottom of the priority list. But you'd be surprised just how easy it is to work a little time into your schedule for your pet. Ten minutes of quality time here and there can go a long way. Read  this article  for some great ideas on how to maximize your time and satisfy your pet's needs. You can also utilize a dog walker, pet sitter, or doggie daycare center. Or if you have a friend or neighbor who has a dog, take turns helping each other out, maybe they can dog-sit for you a few days a week. Incorporate your pet into your daily activities whenever possible, talk to him while doing laundry, let him accompany you to the mailbox, etc. Be creative and you'll find lots of time-saving ideas.

5. Inadequate facilities  - Many people mistakenly think that they must have a big, fenced in yard for their dog to run around, get exercise and be happy. The truth is, most dogs will not exercise themselves, even in a big yard, and instead spend their time laying around sleeping in the yard. Regular walks, play time or other forms of exercise are just as beneficial, even if you live in a small home or apartment. You can train your dog to use a treadmill to burn off energy. Take her to a local dog park a few times a week, take her for daily walks, get involved in  dog sports or activities  or go to the local (fenced) park or school yard and toss a ball or frisbee. A large yard is not necessarily the solution for your dog's needs.

6. Too many pets in home - This is usually the result of one or two things... 1) poor planning ahead of time. Once again, before acquiring a new pet ask yourself if you can realistically take on the additional responsibility and expense. This includes puppy gift-giving as well as rescuing and/or fostering additional pets. 2) Pets that are not neutered or spayed. Check our Spay/Neuter page for low cost options.

7. Pet illness(es)  - As mentioned before, pet insurance can be a wonderful option for protection against large, unexpected pet health costs. Most do not pay for routine care, but if your pet is facing a high-cost illness or injury, the insurance will reimburse up to 90% of the cost. It is peace of mind so that you don't have to make that heart wrenching decision to relinquish of euthanize your pet due to finances. Do your homework and research to find the best company to fit your needs. And again, there are organizations available to help with special medical needs for your pets, many are listed on our Financial Assistance page. The best protection though, is quality care starting at an early age. Always feed a quality dog food, keep up to date on vaccinations and health exams and you are less likely to face serious illnesses as your pet ages.

8. Personal Problems  - Divorce, job loss, and foreclosure on the home are a few reasons people are forced to give up their pets. Many of the above tips may apply here, such as financial assistance. Consider having a friend or family member temporarily care for your pet for a few weeks or months until you are on your feet again.

9. Biting  - Behavioral problems are often a result of the pet feeling frustrated or unhappy in his environment. Be sure to provide the basic needs to keep your pet from becoming bored, restless or frustrated. Seek out the help of a qualified professional trainer to solve behavioral issues. Starting early in life with the proper care, socialization and training can often prevent most behavioral problems later on.

10. No homes for littermates  - Many people refuse to spay or neuter their dogs and the result is a few litters a year. While the pet owner may be able to find a home for one or two of the puppies, more often than not, the remaining littermates end up at the animal shelter. Check our Spay/Neuter page for low cost options and please spay and neuter all of your pets.

The website  pets.911  has some more great tips and suggestions if you are thinking of giving up your pet.

If, after exhausting all other options, you must relinquish your pet, consider contacting a friend or family member first, as it would be someone the pet knows and you could still visit. Try the many no-kill shelters or breed-specific rescues in the area before just taking your beloved pet to the local humane society.


Originally Compiled by Kathy McRoberts  on Sept. 1, 2011

Cincinnati Dog Knowledge Center

By Pets in Need 16 Oct, 2017
Heartworm is a serious, potentially fatal disease for our pets. Prevention is easy, but treatment can be costly and difficult depending on the stage of the disease. Pets In Need veterinarian and board member, Dr. Jack Walkenhorst discusses the importance of heartworm prevention.
By Pets in Need 02 Oct, 2017

Healthy oral hygiene is important for our pet for multiple reasons. Clean teeth are not only cosmetically pleasing; they also promote good smelling breath and better long-term health.

If poor oral health causes an infection in our pet’s teeth or gums, it can spread to their kidneys. This is especially true in cats. Older cats often suffer from   kidney failure, which can be caused by an oral infection spreading to kidneys. Valvular   heart disease   can also be caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria from a pet’s mouth can travel to its heart valves, causing them to change shape and become leaky.

By Pets in Need 18 Sep, 2017
Many people are afraid of pet insurance because of the issues associated with human health care, but the systems are very different. In the human managed health care system insurance companies make agreements with networks and the insured person has little to no say. Because of the way human managed care works, insurance companies have a lot of control over which doctors humans can use, what services they can receive, and how much they have to pay. Conversely, in the pet insurance market, pet owners have more control because pet insurance is an individual contract between the pet owner and insurance company. Pet insurance companies can’t tell pet owners what network of veterinarians to use and decisions about the care of a pet remain entirely between the veterinarian and pet owner. All the pet insurance companies do is pay out their portion of care as detailed in the policy or contract.
By West Chester Pet Resort & Spa 20 Jun, 2017
Now that summer is just around the corner, family vacations are about to be in full swing. While traveling with your pet certainly has its benefits, there are things that you need to know before jet-setting with Fluffy in tow.

First and foremost, having your pet as your co-pilot completely alleviates the worry of who is going to care for them while you're away. This question is always an anxiety for pet owners. The option of traveling with them is especially beneficial if your pet has behavioral issues such as separation anxiety.

Crating your pet while driving to your destination is never a bad option. They're confined and safe, and you as the driver are less distracted. Just be sure to remove collars and leashes to prevent a strangling incident and keep the air flow on them.

If your pet has never been crated, you can find a great video here  by "Dog Guru" Cesar Milan on tome tips and tricks to crate training.

While the car is in motion, feeding your dog is one big "Don't!" If you are on an extended road trip and your pet needs a meal, the next time you stop, feed a small snack- preferably high in protein. And remember to never leave your furry friend in the car, especially during these warm months!

Now, traveling with your pet in an airplane is a much more complicated process as you will more than likely want to book a direct flight. Communicating with the airline prior to travel dates is absolutely imperative. Many airlines have strict regulations for canine and feline travel and their regulations may vary based on the airline and the destination.

However you decide to travel, always remember that if you are taking a not-so-pet-friendly vacation, we would love your pet to stay with us while you are away.  West Chester Pet Resort offers a variety of services to make your pets stay a fun- filled adventure. Call to book your pet’s adventure today!

-West Chester Pet Resort & Spa
By Kathy McRoberts 03 Dec, 2014

Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine

When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.

But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.

At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.

So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.

When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.

We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth:  The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.

Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing  earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.

“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.

So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:

  • You hear your Husky howling, and immediately storm in to reprimand her. How is this reinforcement? To many dogs, having a beloved human present (even a beloved yet annoyed human) is better than feeling lonesome. Your dog begins to think her howling is prompting you to chime in.
  • Your Lab whines pitifully as you begin to leave the house, so you return to take him with you. Over time, your dog starts believing that his whining causes you to come back for him (Pavlov’s theory, anyone?).
  • Your Westie mix cowers and growls behind the sofa whenever company arrives, so you pick him up and coo “Ohhhh, you’re fine, what a gooooood boy….” Soon, your dog begins to equate hiding and trembling with oodles of TLC.

“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.

Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.

The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”

Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.

Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress

The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( )

Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.

Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.

More Posts
Share by: