How Do I Deal With Grief After Rehoming My Dog?

Rehoming a dog is one of the most difficult decisions a pet owner can make. Approximately 6.3 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters each year in the United States (Pet Statistics | Shelter Intake and Surrender; Pet Adoption Statistics – Animal Surrender And Shelter Intake). While heartbreaking, rehoming is sometimes necessary due to changes in life circumstances like moving, financial constraints, or not enough time to properly care for the dog.

Though a common reason pets are relinquished to shelters, having to give up your dog does not make you a bad pet owner. It is often an act of responsibility, putting the dog’s needs first when you can no longer provide proper care. However, this knowledge does not make the loss any less painful. Rehoming a beloved family member creates profound grief and guilt.

The Grieving Process

Rehoming a beloved pet can lead to intense grief that follows common stages:

Denial – At first you may feel shocked or numb, unable to accept that you’ve given your dog away. You might convince yourself it’s just temporary.

Anger – As it sinks in that the rehoming is permanent, you may feel anger at the situation or anger towards yourself for making this decision.

Bargaining – You may find yourself wishing you could reverse the decision and get your dog back. Thoughts like “What if I just called the new owners?” are common.

Depression – Sadness, guilt, and despair can set in as you truly mourn the loss of your beloved companion. Crying spells are normal.

Acceptance – Finally you are able to make peace with your decision, realizing it was the right choice. The intense feelings begin to fade.

It’s important to understand these stages are normal. Letting yourself grieve is part of the healing process after rehoming a pet.

Allow Yourself to Feel

It is very important to allow yourself to experience all the emotions associated with rehoming your dog. Suppressing your feelings or forcing yourself to “get over it” quickly will only prolong the grief. Allow yourself to cry when you feel the urge. Make space to process the sadness, guilt, anger, or loneliness you may be experiencing. Finding healthy ways to release the emotions, rather than bottling them up, will help you move through the grief step-by-step.

Don’t judge yourself for continuing to feel heartbroken or mourn the loss long after rehoming your dog. Grief comes in waves, and the intensity and duration differs for everyone. Let the feelings come naturally, and give yourself permission to experience even the most difficult emotions. This is all part of the healing process.

You may find comfort through talking to others, writing in a journal, creating art, or any other outlet that allows you to express the complex emotions involved with rehoming a beloved pet. Allowing yourself to feel, rather than suppressing, is the healthiest way to cope.

According to That Clear Mind, “Allow yourself to grieve: It’s important to give yourself permission to feel and process your emotions. Crying, feeling sad or overwhelmed are all normal reactions.”

Find Support

Talking to others who understand what you’re going through is vital when grieving the loss of a pet. Seek out friends, family members, or a therapist who have also experienced pet bereavement and can empathize (The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement). Opening up helps you process emotions and realize you’re not alone. Consider joining a pet loss support group, either locally or online, to connect with others navigating grief.

“Attend a pet loss support group so you don’t feel alone in your grief,” advises Amee Abani, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Hearing from others who have also lost a pet can normalize your experience and make you feel understood.”

It may also help to speak with your veterinarian, who cares deeply for animals and can likely relate. Don’t underestimate the power of verbalizing your feelings and memories. Give yourself permission to fully grieve and seek any support needed during this difficult transition.

Focus on the Positives

While rehoming a dog can be extremely difficult, try to focus on the positives. Your dog is going to a new home that is better equipped to care for them. The new owners have been thoroughly vetted and you can rest assured your dog will be loved and receive the attention they need. You made the best decision you could given your circumstances – it takes courage and selflessness to recognize when things aren’t working out. Your dog’s needs come first, and they now have an opportunity to thrive. Though letting go is never easy, keep perspective on why you chose this path in the first place. Your dog is in good hands, and you can find comfort knowing you did what was truly best for them. This decision does not diminish the bond you share or the wonderful years you had together.

According to research, there are benefits for dogs who get adopted into new homes, such as learning social skills, gaining confidence, and forming strong connections with new owners[1]. While emotionally challenging, try to be positive about the next chapter in your dog’s life. With time, the grief will ease, and you can reflect fondly on your memories without regret or sadness. For now, trust that your dog is embarking on exciting new adventures and receiving the personalized care they deserve.


It’s critical to take care of yourself during this difficult time. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and exercise regularly.
Sleep is essential for emotional regulation and healing. Aim for 7-9 hours per night. Consider limiting screen time before bed and practicing relaxing rituals like taking a warm bath or reading (Source).
Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein. Comfort foods are okay in moderation. Stay hydrated and limit alcohol, which can worsen grief.
Daily movement, even just a walk, can boost your mood. Consider activities like yoga or swimming that also encourage mindfulness. If you have the energy, more vigorous exercise releases endorphins and relieves stress.

Stay Busy

Staying busy with activities and social engagements can help take your mind off the grief and sadness of rehoming your dog. Pursue hobbies that bring you joy and fulfillment, such as reading, gardening, painting, or learning a new skill. Make plans to spend time with friends and family who can offer support during this difficult period. Having social interactions and staying active is crucial when coping with grief and loss.

Consider volunteering for an animal shelter or rescue organization if you feel ready. Caring for other pets in need can bring a sense of purpose and help fill the void left behind. However, make sure you feel emotionally prepared, as interacting with dogs could also be an emotional trigger. Move at your own pace when deciding if and when you want to be around animals again.

Overall, keeping your schedule full and dividing your time between meaningful activities and supportive social connections will give you less opportunity to dwell on sadness. Staying busy takes your mind off the pain and propels you into the future.

Consider Fostering

One way to cope with the grief and emptiness of rehoming your dog is to consider fostering another dog in need. Fostering provides temporary care and a loving home for shelter and rescue dogs waiting to be adopted. Opening your home to a foster dog can help fill the void left behind and give you a sense of purpose during the difficult grieving process. According to the nonprofit Muddy Paws Rescue, many former pet owners find that fostering a new dog helps them move forward after rehoming in a healthy way.

Fostering is temporary, but it allows you to provide nurturing and affection for another dog while their forever home is found. The rewarding experience of helping fosters get ready for adoption can lift your spirits. And when it’s time for them to move on, you can take comfort in knowing you contributed to their future happiness, rather than dwelling on the past rehoming of your previous dog.

Prepare For Triggers

Anniversaries of your dog’s adoption or the date you rehomed them can bring up feelings of grief all over again. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for these difficult days. Consider taking time off from work if needed and make self-care a priority. Have extra support in place from friends and family and be ready with coping strategies to get through the day.

Seeing dogs who look similar to your previous pet can also be a trigger. If possible, avoid areas where you’re likely to see the same breed of dog for awhile after rehoming. If you do happen to see a similar dog, acknowledge to yourself that it brings up feelings of missing your pet. Stay present and don’t let it send you into dwelling on regret. Be compassionate and patient with yourself.

Triggers can pop up unexpectedly, but there are ways to minimize their emotional impact. Have a plan in place to redirect your thoughts to the positive when faced with triggers. Also, reach out for support rather than isolating yourself when they occur.

Know You Made the Best Choice

Reassure yourself that you made the best decision for your dog given your circumstances. Remind yourself that your dog’s quality of life and well-being were the top priorities in a difficult situation. Be proud of your maturity and selflessness to put your dog’s needs above your own attachment. You made a caring choice, even though it was extremely hard. As one owner said, “At the end of the day, I knew she’d be happier elsewhere even though it broke my heart to let her go.” [1] You were strong enough to make a sacrifice for your pet’s benefit. While the grief is deep, find comfort knowing your companion is in a good home.

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