Tips for Surrendering a Dog to a Shelter

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How to get rid of an unwanted dog? Tips on surrendering your dog to an animal shelter? How to help your dog find a new home? What do I need to bring with me when taking my dog to an animal shelter? Learn some ways you can help your dog to find a new h

If you have had to make the painful decision to surrender your dog to a humane society or animal shelter there are some considerations that perhaps you have not thought of. This link contains valuable tips to help your dog to adjust to shelter life better as well as to increase his, or her, chances for adoption.

The Decision

Making the decision is not an easy one. In the case of a person with multiple dogs, the decision might be which dog to get rid of. At this point it should be noted that certain breeds, or types, of dogs are considered more adoptable in a given area. In most areas it is the small, and non-shedding, dogs who are more in demand, as well as the more unusual breeds. A call to the shelter can give a person an idea of what type of dogs get adopted quick, and which do not. Age is most certainly a factor, as pups typically get homes, where as older ones (especially untrained dogs) are usually passed over.

As such all factors should be considered as to which dog is to be given up. If surrendering a particular dog is being considered because of a behavioral problem, or health concern, it should be noted that this is merely passing the problem on. Problem dogs are not typically adoptable and failure to disclose a problem is unfair, both to the shelter, and the dog itself. What this is meaning is if you have two dogs, and must get rid of one, keep the one with the problem and work with it, let the more adoptable dog be placed in the shelter. If you must get rid of a problem dog be upfront and honest with the shelter.

Which Shelter

Some areas have no options, they only have one shelter. Other areas offer many shelters including some “No-Kill” shelters where pets are kept indefinitely until they are adopted. It must be noted that no-kill shelters are often recommended for people surrendering dogs, but these often refuse dogs they deem unadoptable or when they are full.


Before you physically take the dog to the shelter, call them. Their may be a particular day of the week, or time of the day, that they would prefer you to bring your dog in. If there is a health outbreak they may request you wait. Some shelters keep waiting lists of people looking for certain kinds of dogs so may put you in touch with somebody prior to your brining the dog to them.

shih tzu puppy drawing by brenda nelson

art by author, not to be reproduced.

What to Bring

Although you do not need to bring anything with you when you surrender a dog, there are some items you should bring to make your dog more comfortable in the shelter, and some items which may even help your dog to be more adoptable.

  • Veterinarian Records: A dog who is up to date on its vaccinations can be placed into adoption fairly quick with no expense to the shelter. If the dog has any medical needs a short note from the vet explaining those needs should be included.
  • Food: A sudden switch to a new food often results in stomach upset. Shelters often feed low quality food, what ever is donated, so if your dog can remain on his, or her, own food for a while that is best. The shelter will probably slowly switch the dog to their food as its food runs low.
  • Toys: If your dog has some beloved toys, bringing them will help it feel more at home.
  • Bed and Crate: As above if the dog has anything familiar it will be more relaxed in this transition. The shelter can mark some items as belonging to your dog.
  • Written Description of Dogs Daily Routine: This will prove very helpful to anyone who adopts the dog, or provides foster care for it. By sticking fairly close to the routine you followed, they can understand the dogs patterns and not run into problems brought about by confusion and change. This should include when it eats, how much, how many times it goes out, favorite toys, does it sleep in the crate or on the bed, and so forth. What kind of training does it have? Does it know tricks or commands?
  • Its Name: Sadly many people take their own dogs to the shelter and dump them, pretending they were strays that they found. This is cruel, many shelters do not put strays up for adoption, but more so because it denies the dog a very basic need, its identity.
  • Your Honesty: No dog is perfect, some dig, some bark, others may not be house trained. There are owners willing to work with problem dogs if they know the dog has a problem. Being honest about a dogs good, and bad, traits will help the shelter find it a permanent home.
  • Money: Yes, most shelters as for a relinquishment fee when accepting a surrendered dogs. This is because they are usually non-profit. Some shelters will accept pets even if their owner cannot pay the relinquishment fee, but would appreciate any financial consideration.

What Dogs are Most Adoptable?

  • Dogs who are well mannered, socialized, and have been to obedience lessons, are most adoptable.
  • Dogs who are well groomed are more adoptable than those who are in need of a clean up, remember the shelter may not have time to groom your dog.
  • Dogs who are spayed and neutered are more adoptable, and in some cases if two dogs are surrendered, both of equal quality, it is the one who is fixed who will be placed in adoption if there is not room for two dogs.
  • Typically dogs who are under the age of two years are more adoptable, unless they are unruly.
  • Certain breeds, and certain sizes of dogs, are more adoptable in certain areas.
  • Puppies are generally more adoptable, if your dog had a litter and you are thinking of keeping a puppy and getting rid of the mother, you should realize that she has a smaller chance of being adopted.


Animal shelters cannot guarantee homes for every dog but typically they have a better rate of finding good, permanent, homes for dogs than people do on their own in trying to place an unwanted dog.

If you have made the decision to surrender your dog to the shelter trust that they will do what is in the best interest of the dog, and the public. A mean, or unsafe dog is not particularly adoptable.

If you have looked after your dog responsibly until now, having it vaccinated and dewormed regularly, taking it to Obedience lessons, and so forth, it will be a highly adoptable dog, all things considered. 

Further Reading

What Dog is Right for Me

Top Ten Gifts for an Animal Shelter


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