WHEN YOU CAN’T KEEP YOUR DOG
Step 1.Soul Searching
Do you really have to give up your Border Collie? There's a big difference between being forced to give up your dog and wanting to "get rid of him". Search your heart for the real reason why your dog can't live with you anymore. Be honest with yourself. Your answer will probably fall into one of two categories: People Problems or Dog Problems.
The Most Common People Problems:
"We're moving and we can't find a landlord who'll let us keep our dog."
Many landlords don't allow children either but you'd never give up one of your kids if you couldn't find the right apartment. Affordable rental homes that allow pets are out there if you work to find them. Most people give up too easily. See the end of this article for suggestions that might help you find an apartment and still keep your dog.
Moving is the most common reason why people give up their pets. It doesn't have to be this way.
"We don't have enough time for the dog"
As a puppy, your dog took far more of your time than he does now. A Border Collie might not take as much time as you think; his main requirement is for companionship and human attention. Grooming takes maybe an hour a month, less if your Border Collie is smooth coated. Often two walks a day or a romp in a fenced area in can be sufficient exercise for your dog. Are you really that busy? Can other members of your family help care for the dog or play with the dog? Will getting rid of your Border Collie really make your life less stressful? When they look closely at their lives, people often discover that the dog isn't cramping their style as much as they think. Sometimes it’s more difficult to consider making adjustments in other areas that create stress. Removing the dog might seem like the easy way out but this will not solve the problem. In fact, dog ownership is proven to be a great stress reliever and companionship of a dog is known to lower blood pressure and help people maintain better mental and physical health.
The Most Common Dog Problems:
If you got your dog as a puppy and he now has a behavior problem you can't live with, you must accept the fact that you are at least partly responsible for the way your dog is now. You have four options:
1) You can continue to live with your dog the way he is.
2) You can get help to correct the problem.
3) You can try to give your problem to someone else.
4) You can have the dog destroyed.
Obviously the first option is out or you wouldn't be reading this. You're probably most interested in Option 3, so let's talk
frankly about that for a moment....
If you were looking for a dog and could select from all kinds of dogs and puppies, would you deliberately choose one with a
behavior problem? No, certainly not. And neither would anyone else. To make your dog desirable to other people, you're going to have to take some action to fix his problems.
Most behavior problems aren't that hard to solve. We can help you with them if you'll give it a try. Think hard about Option 2 before deciding it won't work for you, because the only option you have left is #4, having the dog destroyed. That's the bottom line. If you, who know and love the dog best, won't give him another chance, why should anyone else? Think about that.
... If your dog has ever bitten anyone ...
If your dog is aggressive with people or has ever bitten anyone, you can't, in good conscience, give him to anyone else. Could you live with yourself if that dog hurt another person, especially a child? Can you deal with the lawsuit that could result from it? You stand to lose your home and everything else you own. Lawsuits from dog bites are settling for millions of dollars in damages. Our society today has zero tolerance for a dog with a bite history, no matter how minor. A dog that has bitten -- whether or not it was his fault -- is considered by law to be a dangerous dog. In some states, it's illegal to sell or give away a biting dog. No insurance company will cover a family with a biting dog. And to be perfectly honest, no responsible person in his right mind would want to adopt a biting dog.
No matter how much you love your dog, if he has ever bitten anyone, you may only have one responsible choice -- take him to your veterinarian and have him humanely put to sleep. Don't leave him at a shelter where he might be frightened and confused and put other people at risk. Don’t try to pass your problem off to a breed rescue or another family who will be forced to make the same decision you should have reached. As hard as it is to face, putting a potentially dangerous, biting dog to sleep is the only safe and responsible thing to do. The most irresponsible thing you could do is to misrepresent the dog and minimize the fact that the dog might have a problem. ANY tendency to bite or nip should be honestly reported when trying to decide whether your dog can be placed in another home.
People who are experienced with the Border Collie breed can able help you evaluate your dog, even biting behaviors. They can help you determine if the dog has is a dangerous problem or behaviors that can be overcome with the right kind of training and discipline. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GIVE YOUR DOG TO ANOTHER HOME BEFORE CONTACTING AN EXPERIENCED RESCUER, TRAINER OR BEHAVIORIST WHO IS SPECIFICALLY EXPERIENCED WITH BORDER COLLIES. Herding breeds are known for nipping heels and hands, and possibly nipping at running children, moving bicycles and passing joggers. This type of biting and other odd behaviors MAY BE CORRECTABLE. Another owner who is as ill-equipped as you are to deal with annoying traits is not an appropriate owner for a Border Collie who has been allowed to get away with bad or unusual behavior in your home. Many biting and nipping behaviors, as well as separation anxiety and destructive behaviors are due to an owner’s lack of experience in recognizing them early on in a dog’s life and taking appropriate steps to correct the problem before it becomes serious or permanent. So give your dog a chance to be evaluated by a person who is knowledgeable in Border Collie behavior. Be careful not to have unreasonable expectations that your dog will be able to be rehabilitated, or that someone else will want to put in the time and training to accomplish something you did not.
Step 2: Call your dog's breeder. Before you do anything else, call the person you got your dog from and ask for help. Even if several years have passed, responsible breeders care about the puppies they sold and will want to help you find a new home. They may even take the dog back. At the very least, they deserve to know what you intend to do with the dog and what will happen to it. If you can't remember the breeder's name, look on your dog's registration papers. If you got your dog from an animal shelter or rescue service, read the adoption contract you signed when you adopted him. You may be required by the contract to return the dog to that shelter or to the rescuer.
Step 3. Evaluate your dog's adoption potential. To successfully find a new home, you need to be realistic about your dog's adoption potential. Let's be honest: most people don't want "used" dogs, especially if they have health or behavior problems. Your dog will have the best chance if he's less than 4 years old, is healthy, friendly to strangers, obeys commands and adapts quickly to new situations. Look at your dog as if you were meeting him for the first time. What kind of impression would he make? Would you want to adopt him?
You already know that Border Collies are special dogs for special people. Those special people can be hard to find. A lot of people interested in Border Collies today have never had one before. They want a dog that will greet them with a wagging tail or will at least allow them to pet him. If your dog is aggressive or shy with strangers, is "temperamental" or has ever bitten anyone, finding him another home may not be your best option.
What kind of home do you want for your Border Collie? A large fenced yard? Another dog to play with? Children? No children? Make a list of what you feel is most important for your dog. Then get real. No home will be perfect, of course, so you'll have to make compromises. What kind of people are you looking for? What will you be willing to compromise on? Once you have a firm idea of what you're looking for, it will be easier to plan your search and get the results you want.
Step 4. Get your dog ready. Your dog will be much more appealing if he's clean, well-groomed and healthy. First, take him to the vet for a check up. He'll need a heartworm test, a distemper-parvo shot and a rabies vaccination if he hasn't one within the last 6 months. Be sure to tell the vet about any behavior problems so he can rule out physical causes. If your dog isn't spayed or neutered, do it now! Don't waste your time trying to sell your dog as "breeding stock" even if he's registered. No reputable breeder, rescuer or adopter will be looking for a "second-hand" dog to use as breeding stock, no matter how great his pedigree might be. The only kind of "breeder" who'll be interested in your dog will be a puppy mill or a dog broker. Brokers seek out unaltered purebreds for resale to puppy mills or research laboratories. That's not the kind of future you want for your dog. If you can't afford the cost of surgery, check with your vet, local shelter, humane society or a rescue group for information about low-cost spay and neuter programs that are available in your area. Having your dog neutered or spayed is the best going-away present you can give him. It may save his life! Give your dog a brighter future and a better chance to get adopted.
Most Border Collie rescue groups will consider taking your dog into their program more seriously if you have gotten the dog’s shots up to date and have documentation of a negative heartworm test. A dog with a good health record who has been properly cared for will be easier to place and less likely to stay in the rescue program for an extended period of time. Most rescues will not take an "owner surrendered" dog unless it has already been spayed or neutered.
Brush and bathe your dog. You want your dog to look beautiful and make a good impression. He needs to be clean and free of fleas and ticks. If you can't do these things yourself, take him to a groomer. Plan to send the dog to a new home or a rescue group with a decent collar and leash, other pet supplies (bowl, crate, food, heartworm pills, flea control products, etc.).
Set a reasonable adoption fee, if indeed you are asking for any money. The key words are "reasonable" and "adoption fee." Remember, you are not selling your dog and should care less about the money than whether the dog will be getting a great home. A reasonable range might be between $65-150, enough to help offset your veterinary costs. If you are trying to get your dog into a Border Collie rescue program, you will not be able to ask for reimbursement of any of your costs. In fact, you should offer to make a donation to assist the rescue group with their expenses related to foster care and placement of the dog.
Step 5. Advertise! Word of mouth doesn't go very far. Don't be afraid to use classified ads to advertise your dog. Done right, it's the most effective way to reach the largest number of people. It's easy to write a good ad that will weed out poor adoption prospects right away. Your ad should give a short description of your dog: his needs, your requirements for a home and of course, your phone number. The description should include his, color, sex, the fact that she/he's spayed/neutered and age. Hints: if your dog is less than 2 years old, state his age in months so he'll be perceived as the young dog he is. If he's over three, just say that he's an "adult". Emphasize your dog's good points: Is he friendly? Housebroken? Well-mannered? Loves kids? Does he do tricks? Has he had any training? Don't keep it a secret but don't exaggerate either. Knowing his name doesn't make him "well-trained"!
State any definite requirements you might have for his new home: fenced yard, no cats, kids over 10, whatever. Try to say these in a positive way. For example, saying, "Kids over 10." sounds better than "No kids under 10." If your Border Collie doesn't like other pets, say "should be an 'only pet'" rather than "doesn't like other animals".
Always state that references are required. This tells people that you're being selective and that you're not going to give your dog to just anybody. This statement will do a lot to keep people with bad intentions from dialing your number.
Never include the phrase "free to good home" in your ad even if you're not planning to charge a fee. If possible, don't put in any reference to a price at all. The chance at a "free" dog will bring lots of calls, but most of them won't be the kind of people you're looking for and many of them will be people you'd rather not talk to at all.
Your ad should look something like this:
"Border Collie: beautiful, young adult black and white male, neutered. Friendly, housebroken, well-behaved. Best with children over 10. Fenced yard, references required. Call 555-1234"
Along with your local newspaper, advertise in all major papers within an hour and a half's drive. Schedule your ad so that it appears in Sunday's paper – the issue that's the most well-read and widely circulated. If your budget is very limited, choose to run your ad only on Sundays rather than throughout the week. Nearly every community also has small, weekly "budget-shopper" newspapers that offer inexpensive classified ads. Take advantage of them! Don't be discouraged if your phone isn't ringing right away. Most people give up too soon. It can take a month or more to find a new home, so plan on advertising for several weeks. Put a phone number in the ad where you can be easily reached or use an answering machine. People can't call you if no one's home to answer the phone.
Newspapers are just one way to advertise. Take a good cute photo of your dog and have copies made. Duplicating photos can be done for as little as a quarter each at most photo shops. Make an attractive flyer on colored paper that you can have copied for a few cents each. Attach the cute photo of your dog. Your flyer doesn't have to be expensive, professional or computerized, just neat and eye-catching. Since you're not paying for words, you can write more about your dog than you could in a newspaper ad. Be descriptive! Post your flyers at, vets' offices, pet supply stores, grooming shops, dog training facilities and boarding kennels since these are places that potentially responsible adopters will see the flyer. Using other public bulletin boards is okay if you think you need more coverage. If you have friends in a nearby city, mail them a supply of flyers and ask them to post them for you.
Step 6. Interviewing Callers. "First come, first served" does not apply here. You are under no obligation to give your dog to the first person who says he wants it. You have every right to ask questions and choose the person you think will make the best new owner. Don't let anyone rush you or intimidate you. To help you along, we've included a list of questions that we ask our callers. Make copies of this list and fill in their answers as you speak to your callers. If you like, you can also mail the application for your callers to fill out and return to you. Get out the list you made with your requirements for a new home and compare it to the answers the callers give.
These are very important questions! How they treated the pets they've had in the past will tell you how they might treat your dog. The following answers should raise a red flag and make you suspicious:
a) "We gave him away when we moved." Moving is a poor excuse for giving up a pet. Almost everyone can find a place that will allow dogs if they try hard enough. If they gave up their last dog that easily, there's a good chance they'll give yours up someday, too.
b) "We gave him away because he had behavior problems." Most behavior problems - poor housebreaking, chewing, barking, digging, running away - result from a lack of training and/or attention. If the caller wasn't willing to solve the problems he had with his last dog, he probably won't try very hard with your dog either.
c) "Oh, we've had lots of dogs!" Watch out for people who've had several different dogs in just a few years' time. They may never have kept any of them for very long.
Step 7. The In-Person Interview. Once you've chosen a family (or families) that you feel are good candidates, make an appointment for them to see the dog. You should actually set two appointments: one at your house and one at theirs. Going to their house lets you see whether their home and yard are truly what they said they are and whether your dog will do well there. It also gives you an opportunity to call off the adoption and take the dog back home with you if things aren't as represented, if you think there'll be problems, or if you just get a bad feeling about the whole thing.
If they already have a dog, make plans to introduce the dogs on "neutral" territory, like a park. Most dogs resent meeting a strange dog at home. They may be hostile toward the new dog or even start a fight. If the family has children, ask them to bring them to the interview. You need to see how the dog will react to them and how the children treat the dog. Some allowance should be made for kids' natural enthusiasm but if these children are undisciplined, disrespectful to your dog and not kept in hand by their parents, your dog could be mistreated in its new home and someone could get bitten.
Do you like these people? Are you comfortable having them as guests in your home? Would they make good friends? If not, don't give them your dog. Trust your instincts. If something about them doesn't seem quite right, even if you can't explain what it is, don't take a chance on your dog's future. Wait for another family!
Step 8. Saying Goodbye. After the interviews are over, give the new family a day or two to decide if they really want to adopt your dog. Make sure they have a chance to think over the commitment they're making. While they're deciding, get a package ready to send along with your dog. This package should include:
your dog's medical records and the name, address and phone number of your vet.
your name, address and phone (and new address if you're moving)
your dog's toys and belongings (dog bed, blanket, etc.), a supply of dog food and special treats he loves
an instruction sheet on feeding, special needs, etc.; some reading material about the Border Collie breed.
collar and leash; ID and rabies tags
Set aside a special time for you and your dog to take a last walk together and say goodbye. We know you'll cry. Do it now, in private, so you're clear-headed when he has to leave. He may be confused about being left with strangers and you won't want your emotions to upset him even more.
There are some things you need to explain to the new family before they take your dog home: The dog will go through an adjustment period as he gets to know his new people, learns new rules and mourns the loss of his old family. Most dogs adjust within a few days, but others may take longer. During this time, they should avoid forcing the dog to do anything stressful -- taking a bath, obedience training classes, meeting too many strangers at once, etc. -- until he's had a chance to settle in. Tell them take things easy at first and give the dog time to bond to them. The dog might not eat for the first day or two. Not to worry -- he'll eat when he's ready. Some dogs temporarily forget their training. A well-housebroken dog may have an accident during the first day in his new home. This isn't unusual and might happen more than once until the dog and his new family get used to each others habits and schedules.
Step 9. Paperwork. Have the new owner sign an adoption contract with a waiver of liability. Contact your local Border Collie rescuer for a sample contract. Keep a copy for your records. A contract will help to protect the dog and the waiver of liability helps to protect you. You don't have a crystal ball to predict what your dog might do in the future. Remember -- a waiver of liability will not protect you if you have lied or misrepresented the dog to his new owners.
Tell the family they should call you if the adoption doesn't work out. Let them know you want to keep in touch and will call them in a few days to see how things are going. Tell them to call you if they have questions or problems. Be willing to take the dog back home if things don't work out the way you both expected.
This article was adapted from "When You Can't Keep Your Chow Chow", written by Karen Privitello, Lisa Hrico and Barbara Malone, Chow Chow Welfare League of NPD, Inc. This adaptation was done on with permission from the original authors on 1/17/2000 by Myra Soden, Appalachian Mountain Border Collie Rescue, 3003 Happy Hollow Rd., Blacksburg, VA. email: Knollviewe@juno.com Commercial use strictly prohibited.