This One Mistake Could Send Your Dog Back to the Shelter

Most people don’t adopt a dog with the intention of giving it back, as if it’s a shirt being returned at the store. However, around 20% of dogs who have been adopted are returned to the shelter.

This One Mistake Could Send Your Dog Back to the Shelter

The Critical Mistake

When a dog is returned to a shelter, it’s not a simple matter. This decision can deeply affect the dog’s behavior and mental health. Hilary Flanagan, a volunteer at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter, notes, “Pets that have been adopted and then returned may feel abandoned, confused, and scared. This can interfere with their ability to trust people and impact their future behavior and well-being. Dogs that have lived in a home and then are sent back to a shelter can become very depressed.”

That’s why it’s crucial, when planning to give a dog a forever home, to make sure that home really is forever.

What the Shelter Does

Shelters work hard to ensure each dog goes to a loving home. This process may include home visits, reference checks, and requiring that all household members meet the dog beforehand.

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way 

Even though shelters do their best to find a good match, sometimes unforeseen circumstances happen. Situations like death, financial difficulties, or having a baby can lead to a dog being returned. “A common scenario is a dog with resource guarding issues being brought back after a family has a baby,” says Hilary.

What You CAN Control

While some things are out of your control, a significant reason dogs are returned to shelters is entirely preventable. A major factor is adopters not following the shelter’s advice, according to Hilary.

“A lot of important advice gets ignored,” Hilary points out. “Adopters need to listen and provide the necessary follow-up training for their dog.”

This is a Huge Mistake

One of the biggest errors adopters make is neglecting the shelter’s advice, particularly regarding the 3-3-3 rule, which is crucial for the dog’s adjustment period. Impatience and unrealistic expectations for immediate bonding can lead to premature returns—a situation both heartbreaking and avoidable.

The 3-3-3 Rule Explained

Hilary champions the 3-3-3 rule, a guideline for the first three days, weeks, and months with a new dog, aiming to ease their transition into a new home.

1. The 3 Day Milestone

Within the first three days, your new dog should be given plenty of space so they can get used to their new environment. 

2. The 3-Week Milestone: Signs of Settling In

Pets, much like us, need time to adapt. Around the three-week mark, signs of comfort can emerge as they begin to sense their new surroundings might just be their forever home. This period allows them to ease into routines, though they still require time and patience to fully blossom.

3. The 3-Month Transformation: Building a Bond

Give it three months, and you’ll likely see a complete turnaround. Trust forms, bonds strengthen, and your pet starts to really feel at home. Overcoming fears, they become more confident, playful, and loving, showcasing their gratitude for your patience and care.

Embrace the 3-3-3 Rule for a Lasting Bond

By not rushing and respecting the 3-3-3 rule, you’ll likely find a loving and joyful companion in your new pet. This journey is as much about enriching your life as it is about providing a second chance to a deserving animal.

The Heart of Pet Adoption

Adopting a pet isn’t just an act; it’s a journey of mutual growth, understanding, and endless love. Through patience and empathy, guided by the 3-3-3 rule, adopters can ensure a smooth transition for their new furry family member, transforming uncertainty into a life of harmony and devotion.

The Ball is in Your Court

While you can’t control every aspect of life, following the shelter’s instructions is within your power. Making the effort to listen can make all the difference.

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