questionsis it okay to take a rescue dog back?


Better to take her back, than to have everyone be miserable. Unfortunately, your description of "worse than we were told" seems very common when dealing with some rescue groups.

Maybe give her another day or two, just to see if things settle.


Yes, I believe it's ok, especially if you're working with a rescue group who will do what's best for the dog. I have a friend who fosters rescues, and she first came to foster after giving up a dog she adopted that she found she could not care for. . . it had too many special needs. She has seen dogs returned to her rescue group, where they are reassessed. One dog she fostered was returned and then adopted out to a family that had the time and know-how to work with his special needs. Do what is best for you and both animals involved.


I have 3 rescue dogs and each has their own personality and special needs. Mine were allegedly found wandering the streets with no background info available. I am sure that 1 had issues that the previous owner was unable (or unwilling) to deal with. Yes, it can be hard, but training and affection can many times help rehabilitate the dog. My one "special needs" dog would definitely been put down if left at the shelter. We have been in training for 2+ years and she has become a wonderful dog (still has issues). All I can say is that you should be prepared to spend a lot of time to help rescue dogs become family dogs because who really knows what bad experiences they have suffered. Just my thoughts.


Some rescue groups have been known to downplay a dog's behavioral or medical problems, whether from optimism that it will all work out or from a sense that if they don't, they'll never get the animal out of foster care.

Whether that's the problem or whether it's just a gut sense that this isn't going to work out well, you have an obligation first and foremost to your own primary dog and only secondarily to the adoptee. Given that, your obligation to the adoptee is to do what's best for her. Return her promptly, being honest and heartfelt about your reasons; waiting any longer than necessary will just be more disruptive to the dog's sense of well-being, as being moved from home to home is always a stressor.

And try not to feel guilty about it. Anyone who's ever loved a dog knows the chemistry (and time, money, and energy commitments) have to feel right.


I volunteered with a rescue group for a few years, so I'd like to share my thoughts. The group I volunteered for was really understanding that not every dog is right for every family. They were very serious about "matching" the right dog to the right family. We had a policy that a new family had a whole week to change their mind about their new dog, and that if they did, they must return the dog to us. Better that than try to get through a year and drop the dog at a shelter when a family gave up. If the group you rescued from is serious about finding a happy, healthy home for the dog, they should accept the dog back without judgement, and happily try to match you to a different dog.


If you are unable to provide the care and training for this particular dog, keeping her/him is almost cruel to your family and the dog. If you take the dog back within a few days, they have a better chance at being there when the right person for them shows up.

Both of mine were hard cases, both untrusting of people and one was agressive, while the other extremely afraid of everyone. Both had abuse issues and medical problems. Both had been adopted by families ill equipped to deal with those issues and their training and recovery was delayed while those people dealt with the guilt. Take a few days to see if things can settle, but if you don't feel like this is a task you can take on, the right thing is to return the dog.

(I'm normally an advocate against "dog dumping" but in some circumstances, it's better for everyone involved to return the dog to the rescue/shelter.)

Also, what are the dog's issues?


You are unclear as to what behaviors you are seeing, so it is hard to give specific advice. Overall, though, my inclination is to tell you to return the dog. As a veterinarian, I have worked with many rescue groups. The really conscientious ones screen the dog and new home to try to make sure they are a fit. These groups will always happily take an animal back and re-home it if it is not working out. Many of them actually require in their contract that whenever the dog is to be given up again, it must be returned to them, even years later. Other groups are simply in it for money and will bend over backwards NOT to help you or the dog out. Consider taking the dog to a vet for a checkup to make sure it does not have neurological or vision problems that might be contributing to your concerns. (Then, of course, we enter the realm of "who is a good vet?" - Some of them are just in it for the money too.)


If you return the dog, do not feel guilty about it. You have tried to give the dog a new loving home and if it is not working out. It's not unlike dating: not everyone is marriage material for your situation. Life-long commitments should be taken seriously in order for all involved to have any chance of happiness.


@nortonsark: I've taken my dogs to the same practice for nearly 40 years; the original doctors were all wonderful. (A few years before he retired, my fave doc picked up my newest baby, there for her first check-up, put his nose to hers, grinned, and said "I just love the smell of puppy breath!" Coming at the end of a long practice, that just reconfirmed why I liked him.)

He retired several years ago; the practice was sold, the four remaining original doctors left, and the new owner-vet has gone through more than a dozen new vets on staff. A new and fairly high ($40) office-visit fee was instituted, cost of meds and routine tests shot up by about 50%, and there's a strong sales pitch regarding new meds and tests. Of the current four vets, I really like one, one's okay, one I haven't met, and I won't let the last one touch another of my kids.

I can't tell you how much I miss the old doctors; looks like it's time to find another practice.


First off-I gotta say I really appreciate the comments. It's weird - I told my wife I was going to post the question on here and she kinda chuckled. The unbiased real responses are greatly appreciated AND comforting. Whether someone says Yes or No - it's their truth. So - I thank everyone who has commented and taken the time to read this question.

@thumperchick:She was taken by the dog warden 2 months ago. The rescue thought she was 7-8 weeks old. When they went to the Vet the Vet said at MOST 5 months! She was severely malnourished weighing only 14lbs. My dog (same breed) was about 50 pounds at that age. Her foster mom said she was a little "finicky" about her food. I'd say aggressive possessive. My dog isn't having it either. Laci (NOT rescue dog) is a playful thing. Since Aubrey walked through the door, she can't play. Every toy she goes for, Aubrey growls her off. Definitely showing some Alpha type signs, but I just don't have the time to commit. I want to do what's best for her



Please know when I say we don't have the time to commit, it's not a "give in". If we were told she was aggressive and watched her interact with our dog more, we would probably have not got her. My dog goes to daycare a couple times a week and Aubrey (the rescue dog) was there too. The employees "handpicked" us and said the 2 played so well and we should think about adopting her. I am not seeing what they saw!

What's even more frustrating is the rescue group made wicked exceptions for us when we didn't ask. They are supposed to do a home visit, they said because we have a dog and the 2 have played together that it was not necessary. It's completely my fault for not pushing for at least one meeting. Playing at a neutral location is one thing, bringing home a dog with an limited known past is another thing. Sigh

If only the WOOT OFF had that BOC...Bah!


We found our dog at the shelter because another family returned him. Our dog is super awesome and loving, and we marvel every day that someone didn't keep him. Granted, he came to us as a very high energy puppy (10 months old), and has mellowed out with age (he's three now). He was nervous and scared when we first got him, which is natural for a dog coming into a new environment.

My advice is to find out the return policy on your adopted dog. Can you take a month to see how it works out? In the first few days of having a new animal, it is NOT going to be easy. But dogs are adaptable and often settle in quickly. I would say, since you're only a day in, to give the new dog a chance. It's likely that s/he is very stressed out and disoriented, and might just need time to settle in.


Yes. If you are sure you will never really want this dog.
The rescue I got Rusty from will take him back at any time.
If it is just you feel he just isn't your dog...that can take months. But that is different than knowing it just isn't right for you.

my sister in law gave her rescue dog away. Then those people gave him away. Those people called the rescue and they took him back. The new owner really likes him. The problem with that dog was my sister in law didn't research the breed. The dog was just being what that breed of dog is. The last owner knew that.


@mitchie: i love this whole trial period thing. when we went to see our dog, the lady asked if we'd like to take him home for the weekend to see if he fit into our lives. we were completely floored when she said this. none of the other places had anything like this.

why don't more places do something like this? everywhere else we looked, we got about 20 minutes with the dog in a closed off area. there was no way to tell what the dog was really like in that high stress environment. i'm sure it would prevent a lot of dogs from being returned.


@jordan711: From your description it sounds like the new dog is developing an aggressive alpha personality. Frequently this type of behavior is not reveiled until an individual is becoming familiar with its surroundings and allows "real" personality to come out. As with any relationship, time is frequently revealing. This type of problem can frequently be worked through. Our rescue group retains a dog behaviorist/trainer for these types of problems - but it still does not always work out. Good luck.


@jordan711: My youngest (LOKI) did that his first couple of days. I will say that I'm a STAH wife, so I just worked with him non-stop until he mellowed. You could try taking away whatever the new pup is being possessive over, waiting until he calms down, and giving it back - wash rinse repeat until he shares easily. (Sometimes that works really well, sometimes notsomuch.) Same thing with food. If that is the only concern with the new pup - I would wait a few days and try letting affection and reward based training seep in. Again, if that is the only issue - the dog may be nervous and be resource guarding. If it doesn't mellow or there are other issues, return him to the rescue and let them know he needs someone with the time and resources to help him.

Good Luck! And thanks for trying adoption over puppy-mills!


Completely agree with @nortonsark: the animal is showing alpha type behaviors. Give it a few days, talk with the coordinator from the rescue group and see if these can worked through. My very best dog, Forrest, was a rescue greyhound. When he started out he was kind of a pain. He was supposed to be cat safe, yet chased the cat and stalked her. He tried to be possessive about food and growled sometimes when moved. We let him know quickly these were all no-go behaviors, and he got it quickly. Every 6 months or so he would try something, which always resulted in a "Oh, no you don't mister!" from me.
This dog may be testing the waters in a new house. Be firm but clear, you are the alpha. The one behavior that you can't accept if it doesn't clear quickly is food aggression. If the animal snaps when you go near his food, and he doesn't change, then you can't have that animal in your house. It would be a question of time before there was an attack.


We have a lively mixture of rescue and non-rescue critters (3 dogs and a cat), as well as a malnourished beagle DD just rescued this week and is fostering. (Poor little thing.) A few years ago we had to return a rescue pooch and I still feel badly about it, but we just weren't the right family for him. We actually kept him for several months, determined to make it work, but our yard was too small (we've since moved or could never have taken on as many critters as we now have) and no fence, chain, or rope could contain him. We also had a nasty neighbor who had fits when the pup got loose. We returned him once, took him back when another home wasn't quickly found, then gave him up again. He was finally placed in a forever home in the country, thank goodness. Give the pooch as much time to adjust as you are comfortable doing, but return her without guilt if she doesn't fit happily into your family. That's the best thing for everyone, whether 2-legged or 4-legged.


I think another thing to consider is if you have children in your home with the dogs. If your new dog is displaying aggressive behavior, kids can sometimes provoke possessive and aggressive behavior (because the kids don't know any better, or because the dog sees a kid as "non-alpha" and therefore ok to mess with). Not only could the kids end up nipped or bitten, it's also harder to train the dog properly. If your new dog doesn't settle, it would probably be best for everyone to return him so he can find a home that's a better fit, and so you can hopefully find another rescue dog that's a better fit for you.

We got our dog from a shelter, and we've had her for over 15 years now. We were dumb kids (playing dress-up, accidental fur pulling, etc), but fortunately our dog doesn't have an aggressive bone in her body. If she wasn't so nice to us "dumb kids", I doubt my parents would have wanted to keep her, with all the antics and damage she caused when we first got her.


My feelings on the subject are: Is it okay to take an adopted kid back to the orphanage? If you're not willing or able to take care of the dog, you really shouldn't have adopted it. You also should have let the 2 dogs meet and visited the new pooch on several occasions.

Most of the time, love and training break bad habits. The reason most dogs are in rescues is because their new parents didn't take a chance to love their new family member.

Over the past 5 years, we've adopted 2 pooches. One had submission issues really bad. After a few months, we had emotionally nursed him back to the point where he was a very confident dog. The other was a very one person dog and was really scared of our 2 kids who are 3 and 4 and didn't connect with my wife well. He is still a one person dog, but he now loves the other 4 family members.


The only reason each of them are well adjusted dogs is because we took time with them and let them know that they were loved and gave them the structure that they needed in life. Troubled dogs are just like troubled kids in that sense.


@matt1976: Wait, you can't return them? Not even a warranty?

I jest, of course, but the sad fact is that the adoption system in the US is broken and in desperate need of fixing.


One day is really too soon to make a decision. Everyone (humans, new dog, current dog) is being asked to make a big change, and change is hard. Even if Aubrey were the "perfect" dog to add to your household, there would inevitably be issues as you all figure each other out.

I'm skeptical of the "alpha behavior" diagnosis being pronounced on the basis of such limited information. Food aggression and other resource guarding is completely unsurprising in any dog that was once so underweight and malnourished, regardless of personality. Definitely feed the dogs separately; once her food anxiety subsides somewhat, you can work on the guarding. For now, I would also put away toys and chews, etc. and only bring them out for individual, separated play.

The "getting to know you" process will be helped along if the dogs can spend plenty of time together outside, either walking on leash or in a yard. (The extra exercise will relieve stress, and neutral territory will help defuse tension.)


A good rescue group will want him back if the fit with your family is wrong. I have several rescue animals and the group I deal with has in the contract that if for any reason I need to give any of them up I must return them them to the group. Rescue animals for the most part have been through some kind of trauma and with that comes special needs. The group has called me many times to see how things are going over the years and one that I've had for almost seven years is still a handful. They have even come out to see if there is anything they could do to help with the problem. Shes' a Dobbie and is over-protective and deathly afraid of plastic plates and cups. They have offered to take her back many times, but I wouldn't give her up for the world.


Such a hard question to answer since every circumstance is different. We rescued a Lab mix from a Lab rescue group about 6 months ago. At the time, I had misgivings, because this girl displayed dominant behavior. But the foster mom told us, "no, no no, she's just playing" and she was "great around other dogs." Should have gone with our gut. Something in the dog's past makes her beyond stressed and aggressive toward other dogs. We have two other rescue dogs and this most recent has completely disrupted the dynamic, causing increased aggression in one of our previously adopted dogs. The foster group tried to find another foster home to transfer to, but none were available. We've converted from her adopters to her foster family, have provided good medical care and are starting more intensive training with her. We don't feel this is the right situation for her or us, but we feel an obligation to give her as much as possible before we re-post her for adoption.


As it has been almost a year, I hope things have settled in your house. I am going through the same thing, having rescued a heeler from a high-kill shelter (800 miles away) through a rescue. Home visit, all checked out. EXCEPT..."cat-friendly"--actually stalks cats..."dog friendly"--gets in tooth-to-the-neck fights with my male heeler (both are neutered). After $2000 in vet bills (giardia and kennel cough), we are reluctant to give this guy up without a fair shake. As he's been here 4 weeks today, should I invest an additional 6 weeks for obedience class as well as going to a trainer? Should I just say enough is enough and give the poor dog a break? I (now) know my heeler is the aggressive party and he's in "boot camp" here at the house, but the cat stalking? This poor dog has been through enough and if it's just a few more weeks of misery for him (us) until we get to the other side, should we try? Will it make things worse for him? He's a great dog and we are all very fond of him.