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Listen to Owners About Returned Pets

Sue Sternberg

Listen to Owners About Returned Pets

In gathering good, useful information from owner-surrenders or returned adoptions, be sure to approach the interview with an open mind, a lack of judgement or “bad” feelings about the surrendering owner or adopter, and side equally with the dog and the person, especially until you hear each one’s side.

The more questions you ask with an open mind and lack of “attitude”, the more likely you are to help the person open up and feel comfortable to be frank and specific. Try to ask very detailed questions about specific behaviors, not just vague, subjective questions. For instance:

  1. Instead of accepting “…he’s been raised with and is fine with kids…”, try asking, “do the kids go to the dog to play, or does the dog choose to go to the kids to play?” “does the dog tolerate the kids, but mostly mind his own business?” or “does the dog actively seek out the kids wherever they are and want to sit near them, cuddle with them, or get the kids to play ball with him?” or “do the kids and the dog play outside or do they sometimes play with each other indoors?” or “what are this dog’s favorite games to play with kids? (wrestle, mouth, fetch, tug, cuddle, chase, chase and nip…) These questions are more likely to give you a better behavioral sense of whether the dog may really be “fine with kids” or a time bomb ready to go off if forced to live with children in close, constant contact.
  2. If an adopter returns a dog for “being too hyper” or being “too much to handle”, try to ask specific behavior-descriptive questions on exactly where the dog was when he seemed “hyper”, “describe exactly what you mean by ‘hyper'” or “when did he seem most hyper” or “what did you try to calm him down when he was like that, and what was his response?” or, if he was “too much to handle…” try asking, “WHEN was he too much to handle?” “was he easier for one member of the household to handle over another member?” or “did you ever feel scared of him when he was excited?” “describe an incident when he seemed ‘too hard to handle'” etc.

I received a phone call the other week from a woman wanting to surrender her 10 month old dog. I asked her where she got him originally, and it turned out he was adopted from another local shelter near me when he was just 4 months old. I explained to the woman that that shelter should take their dogs back, and had she tried calling that shelter to let them know she no longer wanted the dog?

She replied that she had but they asked her if she had done any obedience training with the dog, and when she replied no, they refused to take the dog back. I asked her the reason she no longer wanted the dog. She replied, “He got too big.” I asked her what kind of dog he was. She said a Shepherd/Rottie mix.

Courtesy of

Rondout Valley Kennels, Inc.



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