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I Just Adopted A Dog & Now Regret It – What Are My Options?

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Last Updated: November 2, 2023 | 11 min read | Leave a Comment

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You’ve just adopted a dog. You’ve been thinking about welcoming a puppy into your home, or maybe you’ve just rescued an adult dog from a shelter. But now you regret adopting your dog. Perhaps it’s not what you thought it would be, or maybe they are not settling. Does this make you a terrible person? Absolutely not. Is it normal? Yes, it is.

Just as there are many reasons why people adopt dogs, there are many reasons why you might regret adopting a dog. Whatever the reason, remember you are not alone, and take a breath. It’s important not to make a rushed decision until you have researched everything you need to know. There are options. It’s normal to experience adoption regret, and often, this feeling passes, and you get through it.

This guide is a must-read for anyone with regrets or dog adoption blues. We examine why people regret adopting a dog, what to do if you regret it, and how long you should give it before taking action. We also explore when to rehome them, the safest ways, and more. Plus, I share my experiences with regretting adopting a dog and how I got through it twice.

How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Settle?

Before we get into any details, it’s essential to understand how long a dog can settle into their new home and routine. Patricia McConnell and many other dog behaviorists believe it takes at least three months for dogs to relax, sometimes longer. Here’s what Patricia McConnell, an animal behaviorist, ethologist, and dog author, says about helping a dog adjust to a new home.

For the first three days, dogs are often in a bit of shock, and don’t show you too much about who they are until they’ve been there a few days. After three weeks, many dogs have settled and behave as though they feel like they are home now, but they really don’t fit into your routine until about three months have gone by.

– American Kennel Club

Reasons For Regret After Adopting A Dog

close up of a paw and person's hand

It doesn’t matter whether you’re feeling regret before or after the suggested three-month settling-in rule. Regardless of the timing, there are many different reasons why people feel guilty after adopting a dog. Here are some of the most common reasons for regret.

The Dog Is Not A Good Fit For Your Family

You’ve finally brought your beloved dog home, but they are not a good fit for your family or circumstances. Whether they are not getting on with the resident dog, or maybe they aren’t keen on snuggling and watching telly, there could be many reasons they don’t seem to be settling as well as you thought. They might also be very different from a typical dog of their breed. Maybe they are more active than you expected or don’t make an excellent guard dog. Some dogs aren’t always what you desire.

If you identify with this feeling, you must be aware that settling in takes longer for some dogs than others. Dogs also go through stages, and puppyhood and adolescence are much more challenging than when they mature. You might have to make a few lifestyle adjustments to accommodate the dog’s needs, which might only be for a short while.

The Dog Wasn’t Ready For Adoption

Some dogs are taken away from shelters too early. Sometimes, they have challenging behaviors that need addressing but aren’t. And some find the transition from shelter to home too quick and need several meet-ups beforehand. These problems can manifest in behavioral problems like anxiety or fear of aggression. If toilet training is an issue, it’s essential to give it time. Just because a dog was house-trained previously doesn’t mean they automatically understand how it works in your house.

If they weren’t ready for adoption, you might need to put in the extra time and effort to help them settle into their new home. Crate training is a helpful tool for anxious dogs. Speak to the shelter or breeder and ask if there’s something you can do to help them settle better. There might be an activity you can do with them to make them feel more at home.

The Dog Has Issues With People Or Animals

This is one of the most common reasons for regret and is especially true with rescue dogs or puppies from irresponsible breeders. Dogs that haven’t been socialized well as a puppy sometimes go on to not getting on with other humans or animals. This is something you need to address immediately with training. Otherwise, your dog will continue misbehaving, and the behaviors might worsen.

If it’s safe, introduce your dog to as many new people, animals, and new experiences as possible controlled environments. But you also have options if you haven’t had much experience with socialization or training. You could also consider contacting a dog behavioral specialist, like Doggy Dan, who can help you understand your new dog’s needs and how to approach them.

You’ve Realized You Aren’t Financially Ready For A Dog Yet

If you have realized that a dog is more expensive to take care of than you first thought, you have a few options. You can start by putting aside some monthly money towards a doggy savings account. That way, you have some resources set aside when you need cash. Alternatively, if you are worried about healthcare costs, consider pet insurance. It can help offset many unexpected healthcare costs and put your mind at rest for whatever the future brings.

You’ve Got Second Dog Syndrome

Second dog syndrome is when you add a new dog to a home with a dog already. I’ve recently felt this, having adopted a new dog in the last few months. This includes feeling guilty that I spend less one-on-one time with my resident dog, stretching my resources, having to toilet train all over again, and keeping everything else as normal as possible. It’s hard work, but it’s normal, and it’s a feeling that’s starting to pass after three months of having our new dog.

There’s Been A Change In Your Circumstances

Life is full of surprises, and sometimes circumstances change that you have no control over. You might have a new job and spend too much time away from home. Maybe your dog isn’t coping well with the arrival of a baby. Or perhaps you’ve lost your home, or there’s been a relationship breakdown. Whatever the reason, adjusting can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Consider a dog walker or doggy daycare to stimulate your dog throughout the day. And if you’re expecting, read up on how to introduce your dog to a newborn baby.

What To Do If You Regret Adopting A Dog

There are many things you can do if you find yourself regretting adopting your dog. Here are some of the main ways to tackle these feelings.

Take A Breath And Do Not Make A Rush Decision

As tempting as it might be to return the dog to the breeder or shelter, please don’t do this without taking some time to breathe and research your decision like you are now. Trust me and many others who have experienced this – it won’t always be this difficult. Things improve, and you’ll likely be glad you stuck with your decision.

Give The Dog A Chance

Remember the rule of three months and that some dogs need extra time to settle in. Think back to when you started a new job or were the new person at school. Remember how long it took to settle into your routine or how out of place you initially felt. That’s similar to how your new dog feels, and they just need time to adjust.

This is especially true for dogs that have experienced upheaval through the rescue system and even more so for dogs that have experienced previous trauma. As wonderful as shelters are, they are chaotic environments with limited human contact and exercise time, being stuck in a cell with dogs barking all around. Going from this to a new home with new people and a new routine is a lot to take on for any dog.

Focus On The Positives

No matter how difficult it might currently feel, there are bound to be a few positives. Take your time to focus on these positives. And the more you focus on the positives, the more you notice them. As their behavior improves, you’ll continue to move in the right direction and wonder why you ever worried. Keeping a journal helps many people, and it’s an excellent way to keep track of your and your dog’s progress.

Find Support

However you draw support in other areas of your life, do the same here. Whether speaking to a friend about your troubles or seeking advice from online forums and others who feel the same, it’s reassuring to know you are not alone. If possible, find a local dog-walking group where you can meet up with like-minded dog owners. You never know. They might have gone through the same thing as you are now. Plus, it’s a brilliant way to exercise and socialize your new dog.

Make Time For Yourself

This is a critical step and many that new dog owners overlook. Self-care is essential for all new moms and dads, even those with four paws. Don’t feel guilty taking time out from your new dog. Remember that saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup?” You should fill yours with things you enjoy, and your dog will pick up on your happy vibes.

Increase Their Exercise

This is another critical step that is sometimes forgotten. Getting used to a new environment and new people increases mental energy, and that energy has to come out somehow. An effective way to burn up that pent-up energy is to exercise them. If you can, add an extra walk to your daily schedule. Or spend extra time playing with them with the help of squeaky dog toys. Exercising and playing together is fun to keep them healthy and encourage your bond. It’s a simple but incredibly effective way to prevent unwanted behavior.

When Should You Rehome A Dog?

woman embracing a rescue dog

With all this being said, sometimes, things don’t work out the way we plan. And this can be true when adopting a dog. No matter how hard you’ve tried, sometimes the best outcome for everyone involved, including the dog, is to rehome them. Every home and dog is different, and what might be a deal breaker for you might not be for someone else. You are the only person who can answer when you should rehome a dog.

For example, if your situation has changed, such as a family member developing dog allergies, or a job change means you spend most of your day away from home, keeping them might not be possible. If you’ve given it loads of time and done everything you can to make things work, and they still seem unhappy, it could also be time to rehome them. In some cases, rehoming a dog is best for them too.

How To Safely Rehome A Dog

If rehoming a dog is your only option, you need to know how to do it safely so that your dog can find the best possible home. Most shelters or breeders have a rehoming clause in the contract stating that you must return the dog to them. Check your contract. Even if it doesn’t say this, speaking with the shelter or breeder in the first instance is usually the best way to rehome your dog. But rehoming your dog with any reputable rescue organization is always an option. Remember that some organizations might charge a fee for rehoming a dog.

If none of these are an option, you can search for a stranger to adopt your dog. But you must screen potential adopters to ensure your dog goes to a loving and safe home. Speak to your vet about ways to do this safely. A website like Rehome allows you to screen, pick, and meet applicants carefully. Please avoid listing your dog on websites such as Craiglist, where you can’t screen anonymous sources. Puppy mills look for cheap or free dogs on websites such as these. Please take the time to ensure you find the best home that your dog deserves.

My Personal Experience With Adoption Regret

Chips and Bonkers.

The first dog I rescued is called Bonkers, and he is an English Bull Terrier mix. He lived on the streets for the first year and was subjected to physical abuse and other trauma. He began shutting down in the shelter, and no one wanted him. I took him home, and he was feral and constantly destructive for three months. Going from the streets to a house was difficult, and living with love was clearly an experience he never had, cowering all the time. I felt like I took on too much with Bonkers. But with nine months of dedication and perseverance, he is now the kindest doggy soul I’ve ever met. Eight years later, I’m so glad I chose him.

My second rescue dog is named Chips, and she’s a Dachshund. I’ve had her for three months and am only now getting past the regret stage. I am a new mom and didn’t realize how hard it would be to raise a toddler and a puppy. Chips has destroyed many things, forgot her house training, and kept us awake at all hours. Recently, she got into a tray of painkillers in a zipped bag in a closed pocket at the bottom of my gym bag, which was in a cupboard. She ate eight tablets of ibuprofen and became very sick.

I have had to rearrange my daily routine, put locks on every cupboard, and focus on the positives that she brings to our lives, including humor and fun. I still don’t know how she got into that bag, but after many tears, a lot of money at the vet, and a considerable increase in exercise, she seems to be less erratic at home. I thought I couldn’t handle her alongside my toddler. But I remind myself that she had four homes before us, so she’s had a lot of upheaval. And although it’s an ongoing process, I know we are doing very well together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I Regret Adopting A Dog?

Many new dog owners experience regret during the first few months of adoption. The feeling might come and go, or you might experience guilt for most of your day. But these feelings should pass with time, patience, and compassion for the dog and yourself. Once you’ve both settled into your new life, it becomes much more pleasurable for you both. Doing as much research and preparation as possible before adopting a dog is essential. But this cannot always prepare you for the reality.

Is It Normal To Regret Adopting A Dog?

Yes, it’s normal and more common than you probably think. Most parents, be that to children or four-legged pups, find the adjustment period difficult. I found it difficult for both my child and my two rescue dogs. And there’s no shame in admitting it or asking for help. And when things finally fall into place, the process becomes much more rewarding.

How Do I Cope With Rehoming My Dog?

It’s tough to rehome a dog, especially if you don’t want to or feel you’ve been forced into this decision. Be kind to yourself and know that you are making the best decision for you and your dog.

Is Rehoming A Dog Cruel?

No, rehoming a dog is not cruel. Rehoming a dog is often kinder than keeping it in an unhappy home. Many organizations and shelters can help you with rehoming a dog. Just be sure to rehome them with a reputable organization or person.

Final Thoughts

The first few months after adopting a puppy or a dog are incredibly difficult and life-changing. The dog adoption blues come in varying degrees and are much more common than most people think. Understanding why you feel this way and how to address these issues to improve your and your dog’s lives is essential. However, sometimes, rehoming is the only option.

If rehoming is your only option after many months of trying, that’s okay. Just be sure you rehome them with a reputable shelter, organization, or person you’ve screened. Otherwise, you risk rehoming them with an unsuitable or unsafe owner. And every dog deserves a loving and safe environment. Knowing that your dog is going to a good home also helps heal any regret or sadness.

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