In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to write this guide.
It would be amazing if every German Shepherd owner put in their due diligence before bringing a puppy or dog into their home, and kept that relationship for life.
However, sometimes life can throw people unexpected circumstances, and there can be a number of reasons dogs have to be rehomed.
Additionally, if you consider the alternatives to rehoming, which can include the dog not being taken into a family in the first place (even if it’s only for 6 months or a year), or a dog just being left to fend for themselves on the street – we would rather give this information to those who want to do the right thing for their dog.
In the guide below, we consider how a dog might be rehomed safely.
Let’s take a look …
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
How To Rehome Your German Dog or Puppy Shepherd Safely
Consider if rehoming is really your only option
Know your options for rehoming, and prioritize
Prepare your dog for rehoming
Conduct quality and safety checks on new potential owners
Decide on a new private owner
Consider a good rehoming service or program in the event you can’t do it yourself
Get any important documents ready
Have a proper goodbye with your dog
1. Is rehoming your GSD really your only option?
Before giving away your GSD, consider whether you really have to give away your dog, or whether the circumstances you are facing might just be short term, or can be managed with research or training.
For example, say you are having financial troubles or you have a new baby coming into the home.
Can you take up a part time weekend job or cut back on expenses elsewhere while your financial situation improves?
If you need veterinary help for your dog, can you find a vet that accepts payment plans?
In the instance of a new baby, have you approached a professional dog trainer for their opinion on the matter?
Really dig down into your options, research and put the proper time into thinking about how the situation might be managed without the dog having to go.
2. Know your options for re-homing, and how to prioritise
If you really can’t take care of your dog anymore, your first three priorities should be:
Call the breeder or previous owner to ask whether they can help you
Find a private owner to take over ownership of your dog
Find a responsible shelter, adoption centre or rescue to find a private owner to take care of your dog
Responsible breeders and adoption centres or shelters will care about all dogs they give away.
Some may even make you sign documents that state you have to contact them in the event you can’t care for your dog anymore.
Regardless, give the previous owner a quick call to let them know your situation, and see if they can help you out in any way.
Finding a private owner is definitely your next option. You might find an owner through a friend, a friend of a friend or a member of the general public.
Give your dog at LEAST 3-6 months of your own effort finding a private owner (but preferably as long as required).
Because it is your dog, it is not the responsibility of anyone else, including a shelter/rescue to find a home for you.
Rescues and shelters are not drop off points for anyone’s convenience.
Four important things to know about shelters, adoption centres and rescues are:
You run a high risk that your dog is euthanised if you take them to a shelter. It’s just the way it is – only a small % of shelter dogs get rehomed. Even laws in some areas that stipulate a minimum amount of time the dog must be cared for in a shelter before euthanasia is an option can be delaying the inevitable.
They are usually run by volunteers on shoestring budgets – they are over-crowded and under resourced as it is without more dogs being dropped on their doorstep
Responsible shelters and rescue centres will make you apply or run you through strict screening processes before taking your dog in
Most shelters and adoption centres have waiting lists
Finding a responsible shelter, adoption centre or rescue would be your second option – if your circumstances leave you with no time or money to find a home yourself.
For both private owners and rehoming shelters, check the laws in your area for regulations into each practice.
3. Do everything you can to get your dog ready for adoption/re-homing
Let’s face it, most people given the choice between a cute little puppy from a breeder, and a ‘used’ puppy or dog from someone else, are going to choose new puppies.
It sucks, but it’s just the way it works.
Let’s work with the facts instead of getting all down about it.
So, ask yourself honestly – what dog am I giving to the new owner, and what can I do to give my dog the best chance to find a new loving home?
Your dog will have the best chance of making a good first impression if they are:
– well groomed
– have a good temperament and are friendly
– can perform basic obedience and listens to commands
– if a puppy or adolescent – is potty trained
– all their basic registrations and documents are in order
So, what can you do ensure you meet as many of these criteria as possible? You could:
Make sure your dog’s registration is up to date
Make sure your dog has a microchip or additional identification
Make sure your dog is current with all their vaccinations and health check ups and tests from their vet
If your dog hasn’t been desexed (spayed or neutered), consider doing it and speak to your vet about it
Ask you vet about any recommendations for health related checks
Brush your dog’s coat daily, and wash your dog every month or couple of months
Be honest with new prospective owners about any behaviors or risks they are taking on with your dog e.g. history of aggression. You want to find a practical situation that is a good fit – you aren’t just trying to unload the dog to anyone who will take it.
Brush up on your dog’s obedience and ability to obey commands – consider some basic treat/reward training
Get all the documentation you have about your dog together
4. Finding a private owner for your dog
Before you do anything else, try these three things to find a private owner:
Contact a local German Shepherd club
Contact your vet
Contact a rescue or adoption centre
All four of these options may be able to refer you to a suitable potential owners through their network.
If you try all of these things, and time has passed without anyone coming forward, it’s time to advertise.
German Shepherd Centre has some really good tips on how you might structure your ads.
Give a short description of your dog, their needs, and your requirements for a home and of course, your phone number.
The description should include their breed, color, age, sex, and that he or she is desexed
Emphasise good points about your dog
State specific requirements for the new home
State references are required
Make the adoption fee reasonable ($50 to $150)
Don’t include phrases like ‘free to a good home’
An example of a good ad might look like:
“German Shepherd Dog: beautiful, young adult red male, neutered. Friendly, housebroken, well-behaved. Best with children over 10. Fenced yard, references required. Karen [insert phone number]”
Platforms you could try for advertising are:
Social media (your own account and contact accounts you think might promote your dog)
German Shepherd forums
Your local free classified website
Put up flyers at your local supermarket
5. Research and interview new owners – over the phone and in person
So, you have asked around and advertised, and you get one or a few interested people. What can you do?
You certainly don’t want to give your dog to the first person who calls just because you need to get rid of them.
You are better off going to a shelter than giving your dog to someone who you have no information about.
Questions you might ask a potential new owner over the phone are:
What their contact details are – name, phone and address
What their living situation is, and confirmation they have spoken to those they live with about bringing in a new dog (including landlords if renting, or other homeowners if they own)
Whether they have children
Have they had a dog before – if so, how long for?
Do they currently have other pets?
Do they have a yard or space for your dog to run around
What is their lifestyle like – do they have the time to take care of a dog?
Why specifically do they want a dog, and your dog?
Ask for references
If you find someone who passes the phone check, you want them to come meet you and your dog in person. Some criteria you might have for the in-person interview are:
Ask them to bring any children along
Ask them to bring other pets along
Get an idea or a ‘feel’ for what sort of people they are – do they feel like loving and responsible people, or people who are looking for a quick fix or have ulterior motives?
6. Get important items and documents ready for the new owner
So, if you find someone lucky enough to have your dog, you’ll want to make sure they have everything.
This might include:
All registration and health documents
Your dog’s bed
Your dog’s food, food bowl, and water bowl
Any favorite items or blankets
Leash, harness and collar
Instructions about specific behaviors your dog might have, or feeding or care instructions
Your contact details
Contact details of the dog’s vet
Any other information they might need for the day to day care of your dog
Any documentation required by law or regulations, or documentation you have the new owners need to sign.
7. Finding a responsible shelter, adoption centre or rescue
After you have tried the previous owner, and finding a new owner options, you can then call a new shelter or adoption centre.
Good shelters will ask you to fill out an application and may ask you some questions to find out if you are a good fit.
Most importantly, be organised, follow their processes, and read up on their practices and conditions so you know exactly the situation your dog is going into.
There are regular all breed centres, but there may also be breed specific centres in your area.
Do a google search for both.
8. Say goodbye
If you agree on a date to hand your dog over to a new owner of adoption centre – you’ll want to say your goodbyes in advance.
When you do hand your dog over, you may want to do two things:
Ask if you can check up on the dog every 6 months
Ask the new owners to contact you if for whatever reason the adoption doesn’t work out – so you can find the dog a new home
Further Resources on Re-Homing & Adopting
TheDailyShep.com are not veterinarians, or animal professionals/experts. Information provided is for informational purposes only – it is not a substitute for professional or qualified advice.
The information is based on either our own thorough research, and/or own experiences, as a means of free speech.
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