How do I make the best of a bad puppy situation?
April 9, 2010 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Bought a puppy. Fell on hard times. Cannot take care of this dog right now and can't figure out what to to do. Help me feel less awful about this.

Anon solely because I feel like such a terrible person.

I bought a puppy I'd been researching for years. I was laid off the very next day. For whatever reason (guilt, humility, who knows) I felt an obligation to the breeder and the puppy to keep her, thinking that maybe my newfound free time would be more of a blessing than a burden for the both of us. Well, simply put, with the pup's separation anxiety and my own stress from the unemployment has led to this absolutely terrible mix of frustration with each other.

The first week and a half I tried to grin and bear it, but it's become too much and I find myself stressing out way more than I should be and leaving all of the responsibility with my partner - who is less than thrilled (it should be noted I moved in with him temporarily because of my state).

I have been in contact with the breeder this entire time but I haven't mentioned my job loss or the stress. The pup also has an unforeseen health issue that might lead to complete blindness - something I wouldn't have been prepared for even if I hadn't lost my job. The breeder has already mentioned trading my pup in for one that doesn't have the health problem (what!?), but that isn't what I'd want at all. Things just hit the fan, and fast, and this poor pup is the last one that deserves any of this.

I've given the dog her final shots, she's got toys and all of the other necessities, but it would be another few weeks until I can drive her back home. I'm concerned that even if things settle down a bit before then that her health issues are still going to be an issue for me, and "trading" just seems wrong, especially considering the health issue is hereditary and might possibly develop in the other pups.

I've read several forums that insist that the breeders are going to be understanding if I want to give her back, but I'm still worried. Have you ever gone through something like this? Are you a breeder who has dealt with something similar? What are some things I can do in the meantime to help both the puppy and I deal with our sudden life changes? And finally, is it going to be even worse for her to go back home (both her parents and a brother will be there) two months after the fact or would she be okay? I don't like having to stretch this out, and at the end of the day I'm looking out for her best interest and not my own (as terrible of an idea as that probably is).

And bonus points for any little things I can do for my partner to thank him for really coming through and picking up my slack while I'm in this funk and out of funds.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could you "return" the pup and maybe explain to the breeder that you can't handle a "trade" right now (I would say tell her about the job front, but you could possible come up with something else, like you're not ready to break in a new pup after "losing" this one), but you would be interested in a future pup from a litter on down the line? I doubt that you will get your money back, but you wouldn't be out of line to ask for half back and leave the other half as a deposit or down payment on a future puppy. This woudl buy you some time to figure other issues out and let you try again with another pup when you're more stable.

Breeders know about health difficulties, I doubt that he/she will just put the pup down or anything. They will most likely keep it themselves as a pet or try and find a more suitable owner equiped to deal with the additional challenge.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:07 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Breeders do this all the time. A responsible breeder would rather you return the puppy than keep him and not provide him with a good, stable home.
posted by devinemissk at 2:09 PM on April 9, 2010 [14 favorites]

I think you're way overthinking this. Ask the breed already if she can take the pup back. The sooner you do it, the better for the dog. The dog will be fine because the breeder knows how to take care of dogs. Of course, the transition might be a little stressful for the pup, but it's better to deal with it now than when the dog is older and far more set in its ways.

Good luck.
posted by inturnaround at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2010

Also, if for some reason the breeder totally refuses (as others said--unlikely) then research rescue groups for the breed. There are undoubtedly some in your area--or reachable online--and typically will rescue every possible animal, especially difficult to place ones. Then, when you're back on your feet, you'll feel like doing something good for them and maybe rescue another pup in trouble.
posted by beelzbubba at 2:23 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Why wouldn't you use this time to bond with your puppy? I don't understand why your partner is doing all the work when you don't have a job. Puppies are a lot of work. You made a commitment to the dog. You have a roof over your head. What's the problem? Sounds like you just don't want the dog because (let's be honest) she might have a health problem. I'm sorry, but that's not cool.

Call the breeder. Tell her you can't care for the dog because you lost your job. Maybe the breeder will come and pick her up sooner than "another few weeks." Another few weeks is a long time to a puppy. It's very selfish to keep a puppy who will likely develop a deep bond to you over a few weeks if you have no interest in keeping her. If you care about the dog you'll get her back to the breeder ASAP. Rent a car. Come on!
posted by wherever, whatever at 2:27 PM on April 9, 2010

You don't go into much detail about the frustration issues you are dealing with when it comes to the puppy, so it's a bit hard to give "in the meantime" advice... But the best thing for the dog would be for it to go back to the breeder. No matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable the process will be for you, the puppy needs it, and the breeder is capable of giving it proper care. Most people are very understanding about sudden unemployment, especially right now. And at the very least you would prove that you are still a responsible and caring person by doing what's right. So if this is too much, the noble thing to do would be to admit it, and soon.

There are a lot of resources about bringing a new puppy home, and I'm sure plenty of them deal with separation anxiety among other problems. I was going to google some and post them, but you'd be able to go beyond that on your own and zero in on what's bothering you both.

And kudos for looking out for this little creature, even in these tough times.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 2:29 PM on April 9, 2010

Google BreedName rescue YourCity and contact them. Each breed usually has a local rescue chapter of volunteers dedicated to finding homes for dogs of that breed. They can probably even help you find a temporary home, if you think you'll want the puppy back once your situation improves.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:02 PM on April 9, 2010

Any not-completely-unethical breeder will:

(1) Take the puppy back.
(2) Either issue a complete or almost complete refund immediately, or at the absolute very least rehome the dog and send you what she gets for it the second time around.

Anything less than this and the breeder is worse than Hitler.

Do not send the dog to rescue until and unless you've found that the breeder is unwilling to take the puppy back and is therefore worse than Hitler.

Swapping out a puppy in the first couple of weeks seems weird, but it's a normal thing for breeders to offer. Sometimes people don't click with their dogs after they go home, sometimes a problem quickly shows up that renders a dog sold as a breeding prospect unusable. That she has offered a "trade-in" is actually a good sign.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:19 PM on April 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Have you ever gone through something like this?

Yes, sort of. We purchased our first Vallhund as a breeding prospect, but it became clear in the first week that his cryptorchidism* wasn't going to fix itself, and so he was unusable for breeding. So biscotti went back to the breeder and came home with a different puppy (who ended up being unbreedable for different reasons, but them's the breaks).

Are you a breeder who has dealt with something similar?

"We're" a breeder, by which I mean that biscotti does all the work and I play with puppies and pick up poo from time to time. We haven't had to deal with this yet, but our contract specifically says that if you can't take care of your puppy for any reason, or just don't want to take care of it for any reason, then you HAVE TO send it back to us. Not to rescue. Not to a shelter. Not to friends or relatives. To us, and only to us. While we would try to re-home the dog, if we were not willing to see to the dog's welfare throughout its life, we would not have bred the litter.

If you were one of our recent buyers, we would absolutely take the puppy back and issue you an immediate full refund. If you were a reasonable distance (less than 4 hours away), we'd probably just drive down and pick her up, and if you were a long way away we might pay to ship her back to us and deduct that from your refund. The only thing we would be annoyed with, while it's also completely understandable, is that you hadn't brought it up with us sooner.

*One or both of his testicles was wandering around his abdomen instead of moving into the ol' nutsack.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:30 PM on April 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

I am a dog breeder. My contract is extremely specific about the fact that the owner MUST return the dog to me if they cannot keep it at any point in its life, and any ethical breeder's contact will say the same thing (a lifetime take back guarantee/requirement is one of the hallmarks of ethical dog breeding). Frankly, you should not even really have a choice in this - ethical breeders make sure their dogs stay out of shelters and rescues by making it a requirement of the contract that the dog come back to them if the owner cannot keep it, this is ethical dog breeding 101. So please DO NOT contact a rescue about this!!! Rescues are for dogs which have nowhere to go, which should not be the case with your puppy unless your breeder is unethical. If one of my puppies ended up in rescue I'd be hysterical, I am 100% clear about what is supposed to happen if the owner can't keep a dog, as any good breeder should be.

It is also part of ethical breeding to replace a puppy if it has a proven inheritable defect, although I do not require people to return the original puppy, just provide proof of spay/neuter, many breeders do require the puppy be returned before giving a replacement.

That said, you must return the dog NOW, not in a few weeks. The longer you keep her the harder it will be for the breeder to rehome her and address her separation anxiety issues, and most breeders have some kind of sliding refund schedule (i.e. you get 100% back if you return in 14 days, some amount less if it's over 14 days but less than a month, etc.), precisely because it gets harder to place a puppy and/or more likely it will have problems that need to be addressed the longer it stays in a home that doesn't intend to keep it. It is unfair to the dog AND the breeder for you to keep her any longer. It's not your fault you can't keep her, but please do the right thing and give her the best chance at a good life by getting her back to the breeder this weekend.
posted by biscotti at 3:33 PM on April 9, 2010 [10 favorites]

With the breeders I know, their NUMBER ONE big thing is that they not only will take a dog back at any time in its life for any reason, but they require that the dog be returned to them if the original owner can't keep it. So quit messing around and get on the phone. A few weeks is a long time to a puppy. Find a way to get it back to the breeder or ask if she'll come pick it up.
posted by HotToddy at 3:33 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oops...that'll teach me to not to preview...sorry!
posted by biscotti at 3:34 PM on April 9, 2010

I got a purebred cat at some point in my life and then all my plans fell apart and I ended up without a stable source of income and having to move across the country.

When I updated my address with the breeder, she reminded me that if anything in my life changed, she'd be more than happy to take the cat back. (This wasn't a cute little kitten either, but a retired show cat that would be difficult to place.)

Luckily things turned around quickly so I got to keep him, but I got the sense what she thought of me didn't matter in the least to her as long as I was able to do right by the cat and if I couldn't, she wanted him back. She placed a number of "used" cats through her cattery to folks that couldn't afford the show quality kittens.

Be honest, but don't make it about you. "My life and financial circumstances have changed and I find myself unable to care for (puppy's name), even without the health problems. It's sad to me to ask to bring him back to you, but I don't see another viable way unless you'd like me to seek out a breed rescue. Let me know how you'd like me to proceed."

You will not get a refund.
posted by Gucky at 5:26 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Return the dog to the breeder.
posted by fifilaru at 5:39 PM on April 9, 2010

As has clearly been established, you should absolutely contact the breeder and explain your situation, ask them to accept the dog back, and inquire politely about the possibility of some sort of pro-rated refund.

In addition, as a person who currently owns a dog that was rescued off the streets of Buenos Aires, I am hereby granting you a full and complete reprieve from feeling awful about this.

Things happen in life, situations change, and all the planning we do can all go for naught in an instant. You are a good person and a responsible pet-owner for looking out for the pup's best interest despite your own rough situation.

However, in order to accept this full and complete reprieve, I do ask that your next dog (in a couple years, once you've put this bad patch behind you) be a scruffy older dog with one eye or three legs, adopted from your local humane society. Seriously, do think about it. For one thing, mixed breeds are much less likely to be pre-disposed to inheriting genetic disorders that run in many purebreds.

And bonus points for any little things I can do for my partner to thank him for really coming through and picking up my slack while I'm in this funk and out of funds.

Well, a nice BJ is almost always appreciated. I hope that doesn't come across as rude or offensive, but I do truly mean it. One of the best things about sex is that it is free and makes everyone involved feel great. If your partner really has been picking up your slack lately, why not reciprocate by paying a bit of extra-special attention to him in the bedroom?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:30 PM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I work for a really awesome dog breeder. She actually puts a clause in the contract that if the owner is unable to take care of the dog for any reason, she will take the dog back at any time, no questions asked. She has taken back dogs after one week, six months, and once after four years.

As for exchanging the puppy, this is a common practice and occurrence with purebred dogs. Hereditary problems exist, that's just part and parcel of going for a purebred rather than a mutt.

Without going into a long medical explanation, a hereditary problem isn't necessarily going to manifest in her littermates. If your only concern with this situation is her medical condition, then you can certainly either exchange her, or return her and ask for a refund. (You may only be able to get a partial refund - depends on the breeder's policies.)

The breeder would not bat an eye if you said "I've been laid off, and I think it would be a mistake for me to have a puppy right now, and I'm not going to be able to afford medical care for this one. Can I send her back to you, and get a refund, and the opportunity to choose a puppy from a future litter when my circumstances change?"

Those forums are correct. This kind of thing happens all the time. Not only will the breeder understand, but she will rather have the puppy returned to her than kept in a placement where she isn't a good fit.
posted by ErikaB at 9:59 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

(I didn't want to freak you out, but since biscotti and our favorite Culture ship have both brought it up - the breeder I work with has the same clause in her contract. She did actually have to "repossess" a dog once. Trust me, you don't want to end up on the wrong end of your breeder's wrath and outrage.)
posted by ErikaB at 10:05 PM on April 9, 2010

I just want to bring up the blindness, in case that future possibility is freaking you out too much and contributing to your anxiety about keeping the puppy.

I took care of a 120lb pitbull-mastiff for the last couple of years, who was blind as a bat. However, you would only know this if someone told you, or if you happened to see the rare instances where he sideswipes a tree.

Dog sight is one of their least important sense, and they do perfectly fine without it. If you do decide to keep the pup, there are things you can do now to make future life with a blind dog easier (for example, when teaching lie down, I used two quick taps of my foot instead of a hand gesture, in addition to the vocal command. For sit I used the vocal command with a snap of my fingers). These auditory cues which replace hand signals help a maybe-future-blind-dog to learn good obedience.

Feel free to memail me if you have any other questions about this. Good luck! Do whatever is best for the dog.
posted by whalebreath at 7:37 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older 48 hours in Tokyo...or maybe not?   |   80s movie. Lingering memory. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.