Returning a dog to its breeder

First of all: Greek yogurt FTW!

Second: Because I wrote about this a little in the last post, I want to briefly address returning a dog to its breeder.

Good breeders typically insist that a dog they sell to you never change hands without their involvement. Most will require that, if you can no longer keep the dog, the dog actually be returned to them even if you have someone else interested. That’s the way my contract works. I am happy to consider the interested person as a home, but he or she would have to go through an interview process just the way the original owner did, and I’d legally own the dog in the meantime. Other good breeders will let you place the dog, but they must have the right of first refusal and they must be notified of any change in ownership.

Unfortunately, the nice calm way that I just described the process is rarely the way it happens. Sometimes dogs need to be returned because of a financial situation or a divorce or death; in that case it is generally a blessing all around. But if a placement has failed catastrophically because of behavior, the owners are typically furious at the breeder; the breeder is desperate to get the dog out of the home before something more goes wrong, and hard feelings abound.

I don’t know if any of you will ever have to go through this, but if so here’s how it generally should go.

Owner: CALL YOUR BREEDER. Even if you’re mad, even if you feel ashamed that the placement is failing, even if you think it’s her fault, CALL. Don’t try to muddle through or save face. If things are bad enough that the dog can’t live with you anymore, you need to act NOW. The longer the dog stays in the environment that is causing the issues, the greater the chance that the dog won’t be able to be rehabilitated and the greater the chance that something even worse will happen.

DO NOT euthanize the dog. That’s the breeder’s responsibility.

DO arrange a quick pick-up.

DO insist that you legally relinquish the dog. Print out your own release form if she doesn’t provide one.

DO NOT expect money back if the dog is over a few months old or has demonstrated any kind of serious behavior problem. Sorry, but if the dog is in the kind of crisis that requires relinquishment, it is usually no longer “worth” anything, and your breeder will be throwing a lot of money at the dog and then placing it for a very tiny amount. I know this ticks you off, but it’s true.

Breeders: SHUT UP. I don’t care if the owner has been doing everything wrong under the sun, smile and grit your teeth and get the dog. That’s the only thing that matters.

DO sympathize if this is obviously a case of overwhelmed owner/overwhelmed dog.

DO get there immediately.

DO insist on a legal signed relinquishment.

DO honestly and quickly evaluate the dog, using professional help. Make the hard decisions now, not after you fall in love with the dog.

DO NOT re-sell the dog unless you then immediately refund the first owner (less any expenses directly involved in the re-homing). You don’t get to sell a dog twice.

Remember, in the small or large crisis that all relinquishments are, that six months from now the only one who will have truly won or lost is the dog. Neither party should insist on being “right”–“RIGHT” is getting the dog into a position where he or she can succeed.


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