How doI Talk to My 3 Year Old About Getting Rid of a Dog?

Updated on October 24, 2017
C.K. asks from Alpharetta, GA
10 answers

My ex-husband and i each had a dog before we got together, as when we divorced 8 months ago he left his dog with me. I told him from the start this would be temporary.
His dog is very aggressive to other animals and very large, and my own dog has a number of health issues that have to be managed, so walking both of them plus my 3 year old 3x a day is a nightmare.

Me ex finally got a place, and when i asked when he'd pick up the dog he said the apartment doesn't allow dogs, and she is my problem to deal with. So.... for the reasons above I have reached out to a rescue that has room for her. My 3 year old however is very attached to her. What do I tell my daughter?

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So What Happened?

Thank you ladies for your advise! After sending my ex a notice, I surrendered the dog to a shelter last Friday. Before hand I had talked to my little one a few times about how much love pets can give for a family and how important it is that every child has a puppy to take care of and love, and that Happy (the dog) had noticed some families do not have any puppies. When she came home from school that day I had a small aquarium set up and a card with a letter from the dog saying she needed to go help this other family since they didn't have a puppy at all and we had 2, and that the aquarium was a thank you gift for having taken care of her so far.

She has asked about Happy every day but not really been upset other than saying she misses her. Then we just talk for a minute about how nice it was of Happy to take care of a family that needed a puppy and then she is fine. I have noticed an improvement in my own dog as well since his health issues have received more attention than I was able to provide before, as well as I can now take him to dog parks ect which I couldn't do before because of the other dog.

To those talking about my surrendering the dog being the wrong decision: While I do appreciate what you are saying, every animal I have ever owned has been a rescue, in the last couple years this dog has bitten 4 others and killed 2, but it was my ex's dog and he didn't think there was an issue. I looked at behavior training and the best quotes were starting around $4,000 and hiring a dog walker to come be with her every day comes out to $150 a week. I can't have a neighbor kid do it because of the aggression. My daughter's, and my neighbor kid's safety is more of a priority, and if you have an issue with this I would be happy to send you her adoption information at the shelter.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Call him, message him, if he hasn't come to pick up the dog by Friday then write him a letter, maybe even registered, and inform him that he has 1 week to make plans for this dog or it will be taken to a local shelter or that you'll be advertising a free dog on social media but with a warning that it's a bit aggressive.

Maybe give him until Friday November 3 or Monday November 6, in the letter, because that gives him time to receive the letter, you get a notice it was delivered, and then a full week to get the dog gone.

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answers from Norfolk on

You tell her that Fluffy needs to go to a new home where she has room to play and run.
She will be happy there.
It's not a lie.

The decision to give him to a rescue has been made and it's not a bad decision.
It's not up to anyone to 'beg you to keep' this dog - and that's rather presumptuous.
It was wrong of your ex to dump him on you but it's obvious he's an ex for a good reason.
This dog needs a better match for an owner and that's not you (or your ex).
He has a better chance at finding happiness with someone else.
If someone wants to adopt him - they can go to a shelter and have at it without passing any judgements on you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

We had to re-home a pet once (one that we had taken in). Same kind of issue.

We simply said the pets would be happier each having their own family and homes. This sufficed with our very small children.

Our pet thankfully was able to go to another kind family. In our case, it truly was a matter of the pet not being able to be around other pets. I get how hard this is. Your ex sucks to have left this to you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Just tell her that the dog needs a place to play with a new family. End of story. Chances are your daughter won’t even notice that the dog is gone...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Don't let anyone make you feel bad about re-homing an aggressive dog. Just because THEY wouldn't do it doesn't mean that you shouldn't. This is YOUR 3 year old and you know what kind of problems this dog has caused.

Talk to the vet about how to talk to your child. You can also ask the ped. They give good advice about this.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

My mom's boyfriend had a big aggressive dog who I was in love with. He was sweet with people, but he was very aggressive with other dogs. I was sad, but I understood the reason for giving him to someone else. It was for the best. I think just tell your 3 year old the truth...that he is Dad's dog and he is too aggressive for you to handle and it's just too hard. Since Dad can't have him anymore that he now needs to go to a new home where he is an only dog. You can tell your 3 year old a little white lie after the dog is gone...that he now has a wonderful new family who can handle him and he is happy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I agree that children rebound faster than you think, especially if your child has seen the dog be aggressive. She already understands, on some level, that Daddy lives in another home than Mommy, so she should be able to grasp the concept that the dog does too.

I also have a twice-abandoned rescue dog, and I understand what was said below about trauma to the dog. If you can work with the shelter to find a foster home and let that foster parent come to your house a few times to meet the dog, walk it, and then start taking it to a temporary house, perhaps you and your daughter could even "visit" once or twice. Gradually ease her out of that situation because it won't be all that interesting to her. It would solve the problem of the "dog in a cage" situation if that's bothering you. Let the shelter staff help you - my dog did not do well in a shelter and had to be fostered until they found us. So that's another possibility for you if you can make this transition in another week or so. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Your ex sucks. Mine does too..."his" dog has been my problem since he moved two years ago and didn't bother to find a rental that takes pets. I now have the joy of twice-daily walks, the expense of prescription food, and have spent the past month battling a flea infestation in my home. So...I feel ya!

With a child so young and another pet in the home, your child will bounce back. Just explain that a big dog will be happier with another family. We had to re-home our first dog after my ex brought home the second one (the one who still lives with me) because the second dog triggered a ton of anxiety and bad behavior in the first. He was miserable, so we found someone in the neighborhood who needed a new furry friend and off they went. My younger kids were around the age of your daughter and they were sad at first but got over it just fine.

Please don't feel bad about this...if a rescue has room for him, they will find a new home for him that will be a good fit and you'll all be happier for it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Oh boy! Your ex is an idiot. That's his dog so he has essentially abandoned his dog. God bless you for keeping her/him (under a temp set up) but now your ex is
abandoning her/him again because he says no dogs allowed in his new place. Shame on him. Please
don't you too abandon this dog. I know it's a bit of a burden being that you are a single mom and have another dog. Your it's family. I am BEGGING you not to give up this dog. He has bonded with you & your child and other dog. He/she will be devasted to all of a sudden not have you all and be in a cage. Please reconsider and keep this dog. It's not forever and your child won't be a toddler forever. Maybe
a neighborhood kid can walk him/her for a few dollars. My 2 dogs just play and run in the backyard if your backyard is fenced in just let them play out in the back. All dogs need are our love they don't care if they are walked 3 times a day. Please don't give up!!!! All the best.



answers from Minneapolis on

I'm sorry you are in this predicament. But I couldn't get rid the dog, unless is he aggressive to your other dog or to your child. I'd probably try to find a way to not have to walk with the 2 dogs at the same time. I'm guessing you don't have a fenced yard or area, because that is a lifesaver! We walk our dog at least once a day. He gets 2 walks about half of the time, and that is plenty. 3 would be more than necessary, and require more time than my husband and I have to dedicate. I like the idea of hiring a dog-walker to ease a little of the burden on you. Maybe you could you switch off so you're only taking one dog for a walk at time while the other is home? Have you tried reaching out for some help with doggie care before resigning to give him away? If your mind is made up and you already know this is the only workable solution for your family, I think B's answer is a good way to explain it to your daughter.

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