5 Ways to Deal With Guilt and Grief After Rehoming Your Dog

Rehoming a dog – or giving your pet away – is incredibly intense and sad. You’ll find no judgment here, only understanding and compassion. I know how you feel; I had to rehome my dog a few years ago, and the decision was agonizing. Here, I share tips on how to deal with your guilt and grief.

How to Cope With Rehoming a Dog

Tiffy, star of “How to Cope With Rehoming a Dog”

First, the good news: your dog is a survivor! Your dog is lovable and adaptable, and will adjust to his new home so quickly that you’ll feel insulted. Here’s how I know: several months after we rehomed our big black Lab German Shepherd cross, we 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 beloved little dog away, and I was happy/sad to tell her that Tiffy happily made our home her home within three days. Dogs are survivors, they live in the moment, and they adjust so quickly it makes your head spin. So, while you’re reading through my tips on how to deal with the guilt and grief of rehoming a dog, remember that your dog is probably curled up in front of the fireplace or happily playing with other dogs in the dog park at this very moment.

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).

So, I already gave you the good news: 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 just 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.

How to Deal With Rehoming a Dog

Georgie, a year old when I adopted her (she was rehomed!)

One of the best tips on how to deal with rehoming a dog is to write him a letter. Tell him how much you love him, 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.

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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

Below, I share a letter my newly-adopted dog Tiffy wrote to her previous owner. Learning how quickly and solidly she adapted to my home might help you see that rehoming a dog can have a very happy ending. You might also begin to understand how incredibly 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.

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).

How to Deal With Rehoming a Dog

Tiffy and Georgie – How to Deal With Rehoming a Dog

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.



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

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 DogI 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.


To learn more about the book and me, visit Farewell, Friend: A Gentle Guide to Saying Goodbye to Your Dog.

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 you find freedom and self-forgiveness, and peace knowing that you made the right decision.


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453 thoughts on “5 Ways to Deal With Guilt and Grief After Rehoming Your Dog

  • Ashley Arce

    Dear D and F,

    First and foremost I love you and I’m sorry I had to make the decision to take you guys to the rescue. You guys deserve a better family that can offer you all we could not. Please understand that I was doing it all by myself and I had to think about the baby. You guys deserve a family who is more attentive and patient than we were with you. I hope and pray you guys aren’t sad and someone picks you up and shows you the love you deserve. I will never get another dog I just don’t deserve you precious innocent creatures. I’m going to try and find a way to pay homage to you guys maybe by volunteering at the shelter or donating money. I love you guys and I will never forget you guys.

  • Sophie


    I cannot apologize enough for being so hasty in adopting you in March. When we met you you were so calm and sleepy. We learned that you have heartworms and we had no idea how that and the treatment would stunt your energy and personality. It’s our fault for not doing research and just jumping in. You are a hound so of course your energy level will be high and after two weeks it definitely showed. We began walks and that helped for a while. But once we left your anxiety was released in destruction. If I could I would spend all day with you but I can’t. I’m so sorry for having to bring you back to the same place we rescued you from. I’m sorry that even all the tips from the behavior helpline didn’t completely work for you. I’m sorry we live in an apartment and don’t have a yard for you. They made it seem like a hound could live in an apartment. At the time we thought so too. I know you will be taken in by someone with more time and experience but that doesn’t dull this heartache. I miss you sleeping on my bed at night and your muffled barking in your sleep. When I got home today I bawled as I had to hide everything that you had. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to give you one last kiss and hug. I hope and pray that your new owner reads the note I left and contacts us. Because you were just so adorable and gentle that I would jump at the opportunity to see you again. Please don’t completely forget us and hopefully we will meet again.

    Much love and all the kisses to you my dear.

  • Donna

    I am sure Odie knew how much you loved him and he will always love you.
    I hope you like your new home and will get to go see Odie.
    Please let me know.

  • Elijah

    Dear Odie

    I love you… and I know you will be happier with them then you could with me you were the first dog I got by myself and I remember when I saw you. I went to visit you every weekend and I promised I would love you forever. When you were 8 weeks I took you home and you loved it you always played with Buddy and my baby Annie. When my mom told me we couldn’t keep you because we had to move to a new home I told her no and no again. I was sure you weren’t gonna leave but then I had too for everyone else. And when that lady walked in I gave you a kiss and forgot to say I love you. And she walked out and Annie start crying for you. I tried not to cry but I gave in when I layed down and you weren’t here. Then I though about what I and gone through with you all the hard times and you were there for me. And now the hard times our over. And your gone. I wish I couldve got a chance to spend time with you when life was better but I cant. I love you and forever will. I love you Odie Phillips.