Life > Pets > How to Cope With Guilt and Grief After Rehoming Your Dog

How to Cope With Guilt and Grief After Rehoming Your Dog

Deciding to rehome a dog – or give your pet away – is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make. You may feel like you’ll never forgive yourself. I know the feeling because I went through the pain of rehoming a dog. Here’s how I dealt with guilty feelings as I grieved.

These suggestions for dealing with guilt after you rehome your dog – or even while you’re deciding if you should give your dog away – will help you grieve and heal. You are not alone. If you scroll down to the comments section, you’ll see hundreds of comments from dog owners who shared their experience. Writing about your feelings and experience can help you heal. Some dog owners write a goodbye letter to their dog, other readers simply share their experience.


There are no “no size fits all” tips for dealing with the grief and guilt of rehoming your dog. But, it’s important to know that dogs are survivors. Your dog is lovable and adaptable, and will adjust to a new home so quickly that you may even feel offended.

I know that dogs quickly adjust to moving a new home because I adopted another dog several months after we rehomed our big black Lab German Shepherd cross. We couldn’t handle the big dog, and adopted a little white toy Poodle Bichon cross. Her name is Tiffy and she was three years old when we adopted her. Her previous owner was devastated that she had to give her dog away, and I was both happy and sad to tell her that Tiffy had completely made herself at home in our house within three days. Dogs are survivors, they live in the moment, and they quickly adjust to new environments. Dogs remember, but aren’t carrying burdens of the past.

While you’re reading through my tips on how to deal with the guilt and grief of rehoming a dog, hold on to the idea that your dog is fine….and maybe even happier than he’s ever been. Perhaps he’s playing with other dogs in the yard, chasing squirrels, or curled up in front of a warm fireplace. Your dog is fine! It’s you who needs to deal with the guilt and grief rehoming your beloved furry friend.

One of my most popular articles about dogs is How to Decide if You Should Give Your Dog Away. I wrote it because I had to rehome a dog called Jazz – she was a 77 pound black Lab German Shepherd cross. Since then, I adopted two new dogs: Tiffy (the wee white one in the picture) and Georgie (a the black and white terrier you’ll meet later).

How to Cope With Rehoming a Dog
Tiffy, my third adopted dog

The good news is that rehomed and adopted dogs adjust quickly to their new environments. Dogs adapt because they live in the moment, and they’re survivors. Rehoming a dog is more painful for dog owners than the dogs themselves – though I have no doubt that our dogs miss us! I don’t think they dwell on their loss, and they definitely don’t have to learn how to deal with their adoption.

The bad news is that the pain, guilt, and grief you feel about rehoming your dog won’t easily go away. The truth is that even though I may sound like I had no problem giving my dog Jazz away, I still feel terrible whenever I think about that day. We took our dog back to the SPCA, and both my husband and I wept like our hearts were breaking. Because our hearts were breaking.

The other bit of bad news is that the grief and guilt of giving a dog away doesn’t just disappear – even after you read my tips on how to deal with this type of pet loss.

How to Cope With Rehoming Your Dog

If you’re overwhelmed with guilt, you may find How to Deal With Guilt After the Loss of Your Beloved Dog helpful. Pay particular attention to the readers’ comments, because you’ll see that you are not alone. Our dogs are so important to us and we love them so much…and causing them any pain is incredibly difficult for us to resolve. Rehoming a dog is traumatic, and I want you to be gentle with yourself.

1. Write a letter to the dog you gave away

Take time to say goodbye to your dog. Allow yourself to grieve your loss and work through the guilt you feel about adopting your dog to a new home. Face those ugly feelings of shame and guilt – don’t push them down, or they will overwhelm you in the future. You need to process the pain of giving a dog away, or it will eat you alive.

One of the best tips on how to deal with rehoming a dog is to write him or her a letter. Tell your dog how much you love him or her, how sorry you are, and why you did it. Weep. Put your head on the paper and bawl like a little kid. Tell your dog exactly how you feel.

Read through the comments below – you’ll find several letters written by dog guardians who had to give their dogs away. You can write your letter here in the comments section, or in your own journal.

Wherever you write it and however long it is, be honest with your dog. Just let yourself be a kid talking to his dog.

2. Read the letter my adopted dog Tiffy wrote to her previous owner

Here’s a letter my newly-adopted dog Tiffy wrote to her previous owner. Learning how quickly and firmly this little dog adapted to our home will help you see that rehoming a dog is often more painful for humans than dogs. You may be surprised to learn how adaptable and resilient our dogs are.

Dear Old Ma,

I miss you, but I am very happy and glad to be in my new home! I get lots of love and attention here. My new Mama and Papa don’t have human kids to take care of, so I get all their attention. I have a Big Sister called Georgie, who is a dog like me. She’s bigger, but not nearly as smart as me. But she is showing me how to run and jump and play.

How to Deal With Rehoming a Dog
Tiffy and Georgie – How to Deal With Rehoming a Dog

You should see me now – I’m so fast, racing through the forest like a speeding bullet! I run and sniff and get to follow all sorts of exciting new paths that take me on fun adventures. I chase squirrels and raccoons and birds – but they’re too fast for me. I don’t care, I just am so happy to run around after them. I feel big and brave in my new home, and when I bark I am even bigger and braver!

I’ve met all my Big Sister’s friends – she has so many friends, and they all fell in love with me as soon as they saw me. They’re called Nico, Shore, Benji, Hunter, Ivy, Bumpy, Senna, Kyla, Ruff, Diablo, and Smokey. See how many new friends I have? They think I’m cute, and the big ones finally stopped stepping on me (it took them awhile to remember how itty bitty I am).

My Big Sister Georgie taught me how to work the thing called “Kong” that gives us yummy treats. Did you know I get homemade chicken soup every day, for breakfast and dinner? And most nights I watch Papa Bear cook steaks or chicken or pork chops on the bbq. Sometimes he drops pieces of meat, and they are more delicious than anything I ever tasted.

Mama Bear always makes sure I have real chicken and crunchy bits to eat with my chicken soup meals. I love it so much, I lick the bowl clean every meal! Sometimes I chew on soup bones, because Mama and Papa say it’s good for my teeth. I don’t know anything about that – I just love the way the bones taste!

Even though I am a happy dog in my new home, I remember you in my dreams. I have a special place in my heart for you, and when I dream of where I was before I came here, I remember how good it felt to be held and hugged and kissed by you. You will always be in my heart and soul, and I will always love you.

xoxo

Tiffy

If you rehomed your dog a few months (or even years) ago and you still feel guilty, read How to Cope When the Past Keeps Returning to Haunt You.

3. Know that your decision has brought happiness to another family

Last night, the person who gave my dog Tiffy to me emailed to say thank you for adopting her. She had to rehome Tiffy because she just couldn’t take care of her anymore. I am so grateful she gave her dog away! And she is so grateful that I was able to adopt her dog and love her fully and completely.

If you feel like you can’t deal with rehoming your dog, take heart. Know that your dog will adapt – and perhaps even be happier with his or her new family. After giving your dog away, you have to believe that the next home will be the right place for him or her. Otherwise, you’ll just keep spinning your wheels in the thick muck of guilt. Believe that your dog and his new guardians are very happy together.

Are you dealing with overwhelming sadness or depression? It’s possible that you haven’t dealt with past grief and trauma. Read How to Recover From Loss and Survive Grief.

4. Be gentle with yourself as you grieve

Ways to Deal With Guilt and Grief After Rehoming Your Dog

Are you beating yourself up for giving your dog away? I sure did, for the longest time. I regretted our decision, and wished I hadn’t rehomed our dog Jazz.

But regret and guilt got me nowhere. If I kept ruminating on my pain and condemning myself for taking our dog back to the SPCA, I wouldn’t have found the strength to write this article. Maybe I had to experience the pain of rehoming a dog so I could help you learn how to deal with pet loss. Maybe we really are all just walking each other home, through the dark late afternoons of our lives.

Trust that giving your dog away was the right thing to do. Have faith that your dog is being well taken care of, and that your souls will meet again one day. Give yourself time and permission to grieve. Rehoming a dog is a painful experience, and you need to allow yourself to process your emotions in healthy ways.

5. Let your dog go

Your current feelings of pain, regret, and guilt are normal — but they will get worse unless you deal with them. You’ll find yourself stuck in a downward spiral of depression and self-loathing! I know, because it happened to me. I was trapped in grief and guilt, and it was hard to pull myself out.

Farewell, Friend: A Gentle Guide to Saying Goodbye to Your Dog

I wrote Farewell, Friend: A Gentle Guide to Saying Goodbye to Your Dog to share how I grieved my dog’s death and let go of my guilt. I even opened my heart and home, and welcomed two new dogs into my life! This ebook will heal your heart, comfort your soul, and lift your spirits.

Each section contains 5 chapters of fresh insights, suggestions, and activities – all focused on helping you let go and heal.

You might also find Are You Tired of Constantly Feeling Guilty? a helpful article.




I hope this article has helped you think differently about giving away your dog, and maybe even eased the pain a little bit. My prayer is that you heal from the pain and grief of giving your dog away.

May healing, self-forgiveness, and peace be yours. You made the best decision you could. Rehoming your dog hurts; give yourself time and patience to work through the guilt, grief and pain.

Warmly,

Laurie

P.S. Read Are You Tired of Constantly Feeling Guilty? if you’ve been dealing with guilt, grief and shame for years after giving your dog away.

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791 thoughts on “How to Cope With Guilt and Grief After Rehoming Your Dog”

  1. I just had to rehome my 5 month old puppy yesterday. He just wasn’t getting along with my other puppy or my kitty and I wanted everyone to be safe. He was adopted by a family that has kids for him to play with. It broke my heart to have to give him away. I cried all afternoon and right before bed because I felt so terrible and thought I made the wrong choice. His new mama said she would update me every now and then and she said he is loving all the attention and kids. While I am heart broken I know that he will be happy and that he is getting all the attention he could ever want. My dear Hippo I will never forget you. Mommy loves you very much!

  2. Dear Lily,

    You were a sweet young dog, not my first dog, but the first one I’ve had as a single parent. You did nothing wrong, but the stress of caring for you, and caring for a young child and working long hours just did me in.
    I wish I had introduced you to the cat in a different way, that you didn’t start chasing the cat and scaring him. That you didn’t need to be in a crate so the cat could eat and feel comfortable in the house in the evenings. I realize now that I did love you, and I miss you. Benji loves you and he keeps asking me to get you back, it breaks my heart, and makes me wonder if I made a huge mistake. I hope someday Benji forgives me, and lets you go in his heart.
    I know that you have a great new home, the rescue let me know and gave me pictures. You can play with other dogs now. I know you will move on, as you should. But remember the little boy who loved you so much in your dreams. I know he dreams of you, as do I sweet girl.
    Love,
    Mimi, and Benji

  3. Hello,
    I recently had to rehome my puppy. He was surprisingly given to me a month after my dog died in february. I am still mourning the loss of my dog and while I wasn’t prepared for a new dog, I accepted him and began to fall in love with him. He became sick and i was unable to pay for the care he needed , so I surrendered him to a veterinarian there that could give him the treatment he needed and that she would adopt him. I am heartbroken although I did the only thing I could do. I feel I have had the worst luck lately and probably feel I can never get another dog in the future since this all has been so traumatic for me. I feel like I lost 2 dogs now. I am so depressed and lost. I just wish he will get well and make it and be happy in his new home, thats my only wish, even if it isn’t with me.

  4. My name is Lizbeth and I’m 15 I gave my dog away today March 18, 2020. It was one of the hardest things to do but it was for the better. I knew that rehoming my dog would benefit her both physically and mentally. Before I rehomed her she had a cage in my room where I keep her. She was a puppy when I got her at a flea market. She is now 1 and 3 months old. When I first saw her she was the most beautiful dog I had ever seen. And I had to have her. I beg and beg and my mom got her for me. I had never had a pet. My parents did not help and they wanted me to train her. That was hard enough trying to raise a puppy school work and just stress. What gave me the idea of rehoming her was that she never got out and I could tell she would be happier in an open place where she could run around and be free and happy. One day my mom pranked me and hide my dog in the bathroom saying she gave her away. I cried soo hard. Till my mom told me where she was. So Actually giving her away was very hard. But I know she will be happy in the new environment with a loving family that will love her and cares for her. I will always miss her she was a big part of my life and even thou she made me mad sometimes I will always love her. Now that she is gone there is an empty space in my routine. Where I will always remember her. I love you Leila And I hope you live the longest and happiest life you can be I hope you’re safe. And even though I might be crying I’m happy your in a new home. There is now no one who will wake me up at 7 in the morning to take them to the bathroom. You would think I won’t miss that but I will miss everything about you. Even the thing that annoyed me. You were the one person I could trust and know they would not judge you will forever be in my mind and I will pray that I get to see you again. I could talk about know much I loved you but those words would never sum up how I feel.
    Jully 24,2019-March 18,2020 I love you, Leila.