How to Cope with Grief After Rehoming a Dog

Dog rehoming is a controversial topic. Here I share top tips for recovering from the guilt and dealing with haters when you have to make this choice.

Katie Abendroth


green leafed plant near table
green leafed plant near table

Grief After Dog Rehoming

Dog rehoming is a controversial topic. The grief after dog rehoming cuts deep and might bring out more judgmental than other pet parenting decisions.

It can be hard to talk about with others in your dog circle, who love dogs as well as friends who do not have pets. Unless someone has been faced with making this decision, it is hard to relate to your grief.

Keep reading to find out why rehoming is the only option for some owners, and how to forgive yourself after this loss.

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Rehoming Your Dog or Cat

Deciding to rehome your pet can be gut wrenching decision. Unfortunately, other people are quick to pass judgement on this decision.

Recent social media posts have quotes like:

I’ve loved you all my life…please don’t throw me away

Giving away your dog? Are kids negotiable too?"

and “If you can’t give me forever, then I am NOT your dog. It’s that simple.”

Of course, it is not that simple. These quotes fail to acknowledge the grief after dog rehoming that owners feel.

We cannot predict all life events, and have no way of knowing what life will bring, or how our pets will react to life stages.

Additionally, pets have their own temperaments and reactions to stress. If adopting an older dog, you do not know their back story.

Judgment does not help owners who have made the decision to find their dog a new home process the grief and guilt that comes with it.

Top 3 Reasons Why People Rehome their Dog

According to this article from, here are 3 top reasons why people rehome their pet:

Serious Behavior Issues

Aggression, Reactivity, and Separation Anxiety can have a huge impact on a family. Your pet’s well-being and your owner liability are important factors if you are dealing with serious behavior issues.

Housing Barriers

Finding housing, especially rentals, that allow specific breeds, multiple animals, or pets at all can be extremely challenging.

Even for homeowners, HOAs may strictly prohibited specific breeds. The current housing shortage does not help this barrier.

People may face moves they never anticipated or experience housing insecurity following a break-up or unemployment. These are not life changes you can predict when you adopt your dog.


People who adopt pets often fail to realize how expensive routine care is. Dog costs average over $150 per month. Unexpected costs like medical emergencies can quickly exceed this amount.

Over the course of your pet’s life, costs can exceed $50,000– a serious amount of money without even factoring other expenses.

Considering All Options

Of course, rehoming should be a last resort option. Before rehoming your pet, work with a trainer who specializes in behavior management, hire pet sitters, explore housing options, and set up savings plans to cover pet costs.

However, there are times when finding a new home for your pet is the best decision.

Below is our story of the rehoming process for a dog named Jax, and how I dealt with the grief and guilt after rehoming.

Exploring Grief after Rehoming: Why it Hurts So Much

The human pet bond has been evolving for over 15, 000 years! We are hardwired to connect and protect animals in our care. Below are additional reasons rehoming a pet is so painful.

Loss of Identify

One reason grief after rehoming hurts, is that you have left no stone unturned in trying to make the situation work.

For me that meant tremendous time, energy, expense, and worry about how to control behavioral concerns. This time and effort to protect your pet deepens your bond and identity as a pet owner.

When we made the decision to rehome our dog, I suffered a loss of identity that was unexpected and painful. Driving home past our dog park or riding my bike alone would cause me to burst into tears.

Some days I would park outside the dog park and cry my eyes out. Unfortunately, I tried to bring my smaller dog to the dog park to stay connected, but he was not having it! My soulmate pet was gone, and in that space I had to find a new normal.

Facing Judgement

Another reason grief after dog rehoming is unique is that people face so much judgement.

Friends who loved dogs as much as I did could not imagine “giving away” their pet, and people who were not animal lovers did not understand my feelings.

I received hurtful comments and messages on social media posts, and had to decide not to respond.

Truthfully, I even felt resentful towards friends who had “easy” pets and had not faced this decision. I had to forgive myself that we were not his forever family.

Coping with Guilt and Grief after Dog Rehoming

Feeling guilt and grief are natural after pet loss of any kind. I encourage you to find a supportive online community or friend who can help you process your feelings.

The grief journey is not a straight line; feelings may overlap. Journaling, mindfulness, new routines all help, but it takes time.

If you are feeling immense grief please talk to a licensed therapist who can help you unpack your feelings in a non-judgmental space.

Consider Your Pet’s Perspective to Reduce Grief

Sometimes the most loving decision is the hardest, and finding your pet is the best decision for their personality, temperament, or safety.

Taking your emotions out of the equation can help you see the situation more objectively.

Grief after rehoming is very real for you, but pets are resilient and can thrive in lots of positive settings.

Resources to Help Reduce Your Grief

No matter the circumstances, letting go of a pet is painful. Below are 3 tips for healing and support.

1. Allow yourself to grieve.

Find an online community or licensed therapist to help you process the grief you feel with pet rehomoing.

Follow social media pages, such as our non-judgement zone on Instagram @hope_after_pet_loss.

Your spouse or partner may not be the best sounding board, as they are also grieving. Be patient with others in your household.

Young kids should never have the responsibility of holding you up. Find healthier outlets so your children can express their own feelings to you, and see you model positive coping strategies.

Preserve their Legacy.

Preserve your pet’s memory. Even if your pet is still alive, your grief is real. Design a pet plaque or ornament to find closure.

You can also plant a tree to reflect the fact that your pet’s journey is still going. Many people choose to get a tattoo in honor of their favorite pet. Journal or write a letter to your animal.

A piece of jewelry (like this necklace or ring) to remember your pet fondly is another great option. I keep a small picture of my dog in my jewelry box for safe keeping and choose when to take it out and send positive energy towards him in his life journey.


Resist the urge to sleep and lounge in PJs after the first 24 hours of rehoming your pet. Force yourself to dress, eat healthy food, exercise, and socialize. These steps hurt at first but are key to finding your new normal after saying good-bye to a pet.

It is okay to cry, and it is okay to create new routines (or new routes home) to preserve your mental wellness during this time of grief.

Speak with a licensed counselor. This post should not replace counseling if you are experiencing extreme grief after rehoming a pet.

However, it can be a roadmap to having conversations and processing your own feelings about this experience in the safe space of a counseling session.

You will get through this and I send you peace, love and support as you make decisions about pet ownership.

Pet Loss Memorial or Gift Ideas

  1. Plaque

  2. Ornament

  3. Jewelry like this necklace or ring