Rehoming An Aggressive Dog: When Is It Time To Say Goodbye?

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Kimberly and Pat with dogs Sally and Kopa under Christmas treeSaying goodbye to your dog is difficult no matter what the circumstances. In my family’s case, we had to bid farewell to one of our dogs because he was becoming more and more aggressive. This decision wasn’t made lightly, but ultimately, we knew it was best for us all.

After all, we didn’t want our dog to act on his aggression and wind up hurting someone. We thought it was best to say goodbye to him in the hopes that he finds a forever home where he feels more comfortable and less threatened.

Article Overview

Our History With An Aggressive Dog

We adopted Kopa, a 1-year-old treeing walker coonhound (TWC), in November of 2017. It was easily one of the happiest days of my husband and my life. We had been looking for a sibling for Sally, our 4-year-old TWC mix, and we felt that Kopa fit the bill perfectly.

We knew it would take time for us all to bond as a family, so we made sure to take plenty of walks, allow lots of playtime and leave some time for cuddling on the couch together as well. This is what we did with Sally when we adopted her from the shelter, and she has proven an excellent companion.

Kopa & Sally in dog bed togetherUnfortunately, bonding with Kopa was different than we planned. He began growling at my husband, Pat, for unnecessary reasons. Pat would try to cuddle Kopa, ask him to sit, or try to make room for Sally on the dog bed by moving Kopa slightly but he would react with a growl.

Pat was understandably becoming fearful of Kopa. He’s a big dog with an extremely dangerous bite. When Kopa would growl, you could see the anger in his eyes, and we felt that a bite was going to follow his growls shortly after.

Kopa & Sally’s Relationship

Kopa was never aggressive towards Sally. Sally is very much a dominant dog, and Kopa was okay with being submissive to her. She would let Kopa know when he crossed the line and he would accept that. The two of them always got along great.

What Do Trainers Advise For Aggressive Dogs?

We spoke to our dog trainer about Kopa’s behavior, and she told us that it’s because we aren’t being dominant enough and showing him that we are the alphas. (Basically, we needed to be more like Sally.) She gave us some tips on how to correct this unwanted behavior and let us borrow a muzzle to make us more comfortable during this training period.

Unfortunately, implementing these tips only seemed to escalate the situation further. We felt helpless.

The Toughest Decision We’ve Ever Faced

Kopa the dog and KimberlySince I work from home, I get to spend 24/7 with my pups. They are my coworkers and give me plenty of laughs on my trips to the “water cooler.” Their snoring and twitching always warm my heart and I love the excitement they show when quitting time comes. (They know the sound of me turning off my wireless keyboard and mouse and instantly jump for joy because they know it’s eating/playing time.)

After 3 months of loving, adoring and caring for Kopa, the aggression persisted. We decided it was best to help him find a new home. This was easily one of the hardest decisions we have ever faced. I was a complete wreck. Kopa had taken a place in my heart quicker than I thought possible.

Pat was a dog lover long before I was, and although the majority of the growling was aimed at Pat, he was just as distraught as I. Kopa has many wonderful qualities, but it’s that small percentage of unwanted, scary behavior that kept us from being able to let our guard down fully.

When we adopted Kopa from the shelter, there was a stipulation that said if for whatever reason we needed to rehome Kopa, we would bring him back to the same shelter. We agreed with this and decided that surrendering Kopa to the shelter was what was best for all of us.

Some may think that 3 months isn’t long enough to give the relationship a fair try. However, for us, we felt we had done everything we could, and things continued to get worse. We prioritized Kopa’s needs above everything else. We focused on training him and made sure he was getting enough food, exercise and sleep. Sadly, none of this seemed to matter in the end.

Why We Chose To Say Goodbye

Because Kopa’s growling was occurring more often, we felt that the responsible thing to do was to return Kopa to the shelter where we adopted him. There were a few key reasons why we felt this was the best route for Kopa and us.

We All Need To Feel Safe At Home

Pat and I believe that it’s important not to be scared of our dogs and for them to feel loved and comfortable around their family. We felt that being scared of Kopa would open the possibility of more growling or biting and ultimately give him unearned status as the pack leader, which would lead to more issues.

We also felt that we should all feel comfortable and safe at home, and clearly, we did not feel that way, nor did Kopa since he was growling. This kept us all from relaxing and enjoying the experience of being a two person, two dog family.

We were always on edge, preparing for the next growl to occur, and Kopa most likely sensed that. This was not a life we wanted for our dog or ourselves. Kopa deserved better.

Young Kids & Aggressive Dogs

Another reason we chose to say goodbye to Kopa is that we were expecting a baby in August 2018. We have many young nieces and nephews and have always felt comfortable with Sally being around them. However, with Kopa we found ourselves hovering around him when there were children around.

If innocent actions like cuddling and slightly moving Kopa to make room for Sally bring out growls in him, then what’s to say a young child stepping on his paw, pulling on his ear or startling him wouldn’t cause a more significant reaction?

We didn’t feel like this was something we could risk happening. If Kopa injured someone, we would feel entirely responsible and terrible, especially if it were a child.

We know in the future there will be times where our child will be left alone for a few seconds while we get a bottle, wash our hands or do some other task. In these instances, we would not feel safe leaving Kopa alone with them.

Hoping To Stop The Growling Before It Escalates Further

One of the biggest reasons we chose to return Kopa to the shelter is because we didn’t want him to bite someone. If he bit someone, there is potential that he would be stripped from us and euthanized.

In this instance, we’d be facing a great amount of guilt for not taking action sooner to help Kopa get better. I would personally feel guilty for his death, and that is something I couldn’t live with.

Additionally, someone could be seriously injured or we could be sued for liability. All of these risks added up to a lot more than we were prepared to manage in our home.

Just Because You Know It’s Right Doesn’t Make It Easier

I hope you are never faced with this decision. I hope that you create the kind of bond we have with Sally with every dog you bring into your home. Saying goodbye to your perfectly healthy dog is just as hard as your dog dying, in my experience.

The night we came to this difficult decision I spent hours crying. I was so disappointed that it didn’t work out. I felt like I had failed Kopa. Like I hadn’t worked hard enough to help him. We did everything we could think of to help him. We just weren’t what he needed in a family.

We Told Close Friends & Family

We chose to update our closest friends and family. We knew they’d ask about Kopa and that it’d be a difficult subject to broach. So we decided to update them via text because we were still very raw with emotion.

I think, for the most part, everyone was shocked. We hadn’t shared with anyone the issues we were facing with Kopa. In the beginning, we were hopeful that we could fix the behavior and we didn’t want our friends and family to have a tainted impression of Kopa or be fearful of him.

Our friends and family were supportive of our decision and reassured us that we were doing the right thing. It meant a lot to have their support since Pat and I felt such guilt.

Why Was Our Dog Aggressive?

We didn’t know all of Kopa’s history. We knew he was originally purchased to be a hunting dog but wasn’t catching on to it quickly enough. The owner was going to kill him, but fortunately, a neighbor stepped in and took ownership of him. That neighbor had him outside tied up to a tree and took him to the shelter because he barked too much (I’d bark too if my life was spent tied up to a tree).

Kopa seemed to be most aggressive with Pat and my brother-in-law. Nearly all of the instances where Kopa growled were when he was receiving affection. Did he have an issue with men? Did a previous owner abuse Kopa? All these thoughts crossed our minds, but in the end, we had no answers nor solutions.

How Is Kopa Today?

Kopa adoption pageWe miss Kopa every day. Fortunately, he was adopted in November 2018 after going through some training to help with his aggression. My husband and I were ecstatic to see his adoption go through and that he has found his forever home. We wish him many years of happiness with his family.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

If you’re experiencing something similar, I encourage you to be proactive about the situation before things get worse. Growling is one thing, but biting is another. Both are unwanted behaviors, but growling can be a hint that biting could be in the near future. Here are some tips for helping your aggressive dog.

What Can You Do In A Similar Situation?

We were able to return our dog to the shelter where we originally adopted him. But, if this is not an option for you, we would suggest that you speak with a local rescue organization like ASPCA, the Humane Society or a local organization to discuss your situation and options.

Have you had to say goodbye to an aggressive dog?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories and more. Her natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs.

Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child. In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly's research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today.

One of Kimberly's favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs, and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

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Damian
My mom recently found a stray puppy over the summer and we grew to love her so much. We had introduced her to my sisters dog, she didn’t really bother with the puppy and the puppy never went up to her willingly. My sisters dog is s German Shepherd mix with a Lab, this puppy was around 6 months old, so tiny still. My sisters dog used to try to play with her but the puppy would run away. Today, out of nowhere my sister dog bit her and killed her. We’re all devastated….we don’t know what to do. My sisters dog has never bitten us, and we can easily take something like a toy or food away from her without the fear of her bitting us. She barks at dogs that come up to the fence but she ignores them whenever she’s on a walk or at the park. This puppy had stolen our hearts, I’m literally crying right now, my mom and I are so angry right now but I don’t know if I should tell my sister to surrender her dog or what.
Nicholas
I found my dog roaming the streets just 2 months ago. It was around 2 am when I was finally able to get him in the backseat of my car. He had no collar so I took him to Animal Control where they told me he had no microchip either. After 4 days I was able to adopt him and that handsome underweight street-dog became mine! My girlfriend and I named him Banjo. I’ll start off by saying Banjo is a sweetheart with a lot of energy. He loves to be pet and lick and play. The first few days were strange. He bit me on the finger once and I chalked it up to his confusion of the situation. A few days later when my friend started petting him while he was sleeping and he bit her -I chalked it up to him being territorial and defending his sleeping area. These were quick bites like he was just letting you know he didn’t like what was happening. Last weekend he full-on attacked my girlfriend. He bit her several times on her legs and I had to take her to the ER. While my girlfriend and I both love him very much, I am looking in to options for rehoming him. I relate to feeling like I’ve failed him. Having said that, even though I may not be his forever home, I was able to get him off the street, feed him, love him, get him the medication he needed to cure his heart worms and give him a second chance. Since the first time I saw him, I’ve always had his best interest in mind.
Meg
Unfortunately, I’m thinking he was probably dumped due to a history of biting. How sad for the dog and for you, who clearly wants/wanted to give him a good home. If your girlfriend was bitten so badly that she ended up in the ER, Banjo is a liability – don’t feel bad about rehoming him, but his problem needs to be disclosed. You might consider speaking to a behaviorist first.
Teresa
I adopted my 14.5 year old dog, Kaya, last year, I’ve had here for 1.5 years. I was told that she didn’t like her feet touched and so I didn’t touch her feet at all. I wasn’t told she was a pain biter. I had never heard of that term until recently and it made me realize that is what Kaya is. I was unable to cuddle or hug her without her attempting to nip at me or growl from the very start but thought it was just because I’m new to her. She doesn’t like being held too tight or too long (being confined) or she will attempt to bite/nip. I almost got it in the face once so just backed off getting too close to her. Now after 1.5 years she is more cuddly, but on her time. She was pretty healthy when I got her but recently she was diagnosed with glaucoma in her left eye (though I think her right eye is almost there too). I am unable to administer the eye drops as she will nip or growl at me. I’ve tried tricks but after the first try I might make it but then she knows she’s being tricked and won’t even come close to me. She really can’t see well at all right now and she doesn’t seem to hear well either. It’s like all of her senses have diminished. What I don’t know if it is from her eye problems or just her age and perhaps getting dog dementia as she does seem confused sometimes when she’s just pacing around the house. So because I cannot administer the drops her vet has suggested removing her eye. Her daily life right now consists of sleeping a lot and waking here and there to walk around and follow me. Though because she doesn’t hear well, she always seems to look confused trying to find me. Not seeing and not hearing I feel as if she feels lost. But I’m not her so I can’t assume this is how she feels. She has always been a nervous dog, she doesn’t seem to relax well, when she naps, she tends to wake and look to find me before laying her head back down to continue to nap. I’ve always been afraid that if something happened to her and she was in pain, she would not let me pick her up to take to the vets. I’ve always thought I would have to throw a blanket around her and grab her that way. I do have a muzzle for her as she needs to be muzzled at the groomers and generally at the vets depending on what she’s in for. When trying to administer the eye drops I put on her muzzle but she wouldn’t stay still enough for me to drop them in her eyes, she would growl beneath the muzzle and just wriggle so much it was impossible for me to do. Now it seems she might need to have her right eye removed also. So I keep going back and forth about having the surgery or have her euthanized. I just want to know that if after the surgery will her quality of life be good enough for her. And then I’m worried about having any medication to administer after the surgery and how she will do with that. I’m ok with her not being a lovey dovey dog but now that she won’t be able to fetch a ball (that seemed to be what she lived for) and will just be lying around most of the day, I wonder about her quality of life. How do pain biters do after a major surgery? I don’t know and am just confused about it all and have crying fits every night once in bed. I don’t mind the expense of the surgery I’m just concerned how she will fare from it, is this something I should put her through given her age and temperament? Will it make her happier? I’m hoping so as I can’t seem to lean towards euthanizing her. Any encouraging thoughts?
Jerry
Hi, I am actually going through this now. I adopted a small dog about a month ago. I know his history. Was told by the rescue to be very strict and dominant. He will bite. But, he was so adorable and sweet I thought it would all be fine. But similarly, if he’s nudged the wrong way, or you pet him too long, or he hides, he growls ferociously. He bite me pretty bad once. He’s tiny, but it’s not fun having to be in a constant battle for dominance. And I would hate for him to bite someone else or have to crate him every time we have company over. Its gotten better. But I’m worried his little outbursts will persist and wonder if I should just return him. I feel horrible though.
Thelissa Mead
I’m going through this very same thing. We adopted a greyhound who’s previous owners were killed in a helicopter crash. We have a 9 year old girl and everything was fine in the beginning but then he started to growl at us, then he was nipping st the Maribor, our friends and finally me. We couldn’t be fearful of him so the adoption agency will be re homing him. He is more traumatized than we thought and he needs more help than we can give him and he deserves it. I am beyond heartbroken and my daughter is inconsolable, we know in our minds it’s the best thing for all of us. I just with someone could explain it to my broken heart. Any words of encouragement would be appreciated
Wendy
Thank you so much for sharing this. We had to rehome our loved Layla just two days ago and I am heartbroken. We adopted Layla in June 2018. When we went to pick her up the foster mom said “Say goodbye to your sister, and black dogs don’t get adopted as easily” so we adopted her sister Carlie also. We brought them home and tried to give them the best home. We were told they were lab mixes, but our vet informed us they are pittie mixes, and they would be awesome pets. Layla is white and tan with one brown eye and one blue eye. Carlie is completely black. He also informed us that it isn’t wise to adopt littermates at the same time because of littermate syndrome. We did seperate training and tried to do everything to prevent it. However, the fighting and aggression just intensified. Layla was pretty independent and only wanted to be petted or attention when she wanted it. She was very dominate over Carlie with food, toys, etc. She would growl and snap at me when moving to get up or walking by her. Well, it escalated Saturday and she tried to bite me when getting up from a nap and then she snapped at my 4 year old grandson’s face for no reason. He was just petting her. That was my breaking point. I would never forgive myself if she would have hurt him, and I was always afraid of what she might do. I contacted the rescue where we got her and she is with a foster. I can’t stop crying and feeling like I failed her. I know she must be so scared. I am heartbroken and feel horrible. Plus, some people act like I gave up on her. Your post made me feel like I am not alone. Thank you for that!
jennifer gittleman
I’m going threw something similar . My Mastiff is only 2 and I’ve had him since he was 9 weeks . He bit my daughter 3 months ago for no reason . She went up to him in the couch and was just petting him like she had in the past .
JENNIFER
I adopted the two oldest dogs that were at the Humane Society and had been there over a year and a half I’ve had them for three months now and I was definitely warned that the big one Bacchus was a pain biter, and to always wear his muzzle on doing anything with his body, but I didn’t listen and I am devastated because He has been the sweetest, most gentle dog and my other dog I adopted is so mean to him and he just hangs his head and walks away and he’s 10 pounds heavier than her. I feel sad because I tended to give her more attention because she demanded it , But he loved attention and if I rubbed his head and ears he would groan and if I stopped, hr would take his nose and push my hand so I would keep rubbing and I got really comfortable with him. But the other day I felt so bad for him because I could tell he had an ear infection and wouldn’t be able to get treatment until the next day because it was Sunday and I decided to clean his ear again to maybe make him feel a little more comfortable which by the way, I had done twice during the week and he loved it. So I had a thin rag around my finger and I just put a little bit of the ear cleaning solution on it and I just put it in his ear and lightning fast, with no growl for a warning I barely remember anything except he had my hand in a death grip and his teeth were sticking out and he was growling and he wouldn’t let go I tried to do something to make him let go with my other hand so they both were injured, the pain was terrible but I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I knew they would report it I kept trying to think of lies but I was afraid they would figure it out so I waited till Monday to go to my doctor,
( I had to have some stitches in one finger lots of Band-Aids on my hands and get a tetanus shot and cellulitis had started and when hand because I had waited I guess so I had to go for a shot three days in a row, and lots of antibiotics ) and that was after I had the Humane Society pick him up to go to the vet , Which by the way I didn’t tell them what Happened, but I asked them to keep him for a few days because of my hands being injured and if he needed medication for his ears I wouldn’t be able to do it. But it’s been almost 7 days and I haven’t taken him back yet, I cry every day, I feel so bad and they went to keep him there because they know that he gets terrorized by the other dog They also know that me taking both dogs has been a huge responsibility way bigger than I thought, because Bacchus is also on a lot of pain medication for arthritis in his back which is really sad you can tell just looking at him. But he has been such a precious boy, he’ll go out in pouring down rain to go potty, he just carries a little stuff toys around in his mouth a lot and causes no trouble. I’m actually crying as I write this , But I am scared of him now, I think of the times I’ve kissed him on his head and he could’ve just attacked my face although they had said when I adopted him he is a pain biter, so I feel like it’s my fault. I was warned More than once to put his muzzle on when bathing or doing anything to him. I talked to one of the ladies that is really familiar with him and I guess all the women at the shelter just love him. I didn’t tell her what happened but I did tell her I had a little incident that he scared me and she said you really should leave him here because he’s happy here , and he has a regimen and she said they need a regimen which I am really bad at, and he has toys she said they actually let him pick a toy anytime he wants when they walk him . But all I do is cry because I know he loved having her home and I feel like I abandoned him And I wonder if he’s thinking about his home. I feel like I’m going to have to go get him, but they did tell me if you are afraid of your dog they sense it and take advantage, although I really don’t know what that means. Does anyone have an opinion he is almost 11 and I think he’s part Rottweiler ( his head and neck look totally like a Rottweiler he looks like a big black bear ). The other dog I have was his roommate for over a year I don’t understand why she terrorizes him but she’s very attached to me and she just wants me to her self so they also said that the Humane Society I should let Scarlet have me to her self she is actually 15 she is a mountain cur breed. Can someone help me with this decision, and if I have to leave him, how can I ever quit crying and get over it ? No one will ever adopt him because of his age and his bite history, which actually happened once with his previous owner but they had children other than that he was a great dog with them for a little over nine years.
Carrie
So sad. Yesterday I had to return my dog, a 7 year old Maltese-Yorkie (Morkie) to the shelter where we adopted him. He was with us for 7 weeks and, while mostly very affectionate and endearing, is an extremely fearful dog who becomes aggressive when he panics. He was set off by normal household events such as a family member attempting to leave the house or even just a family member entering or leaving the room. He respected and obeyed only me. As for my husband and our 2 teenagers, the dog was regularly chasing them and threatening to bite – all of the warning signs were there – the canine body language that precedes a bite. We had a trainer come to our house for a consultation and the dog went crazy as he does whenever anyone visits. When the session ended and the trainer tried to leave, he lunged at her and bit her in the leg, leaving a puncture wound. It got so bad I had to keep him on leash in the house every day to keep everyone safe. It was a terribly hard decision, but I had to return him to the shelter. Still, I loved him and feel so very sad.
Meg
You did the only thing you could do. This poor little guy was someone else’s problem until they surrendered him to a shelter so he could be adopted by other unsuspecting people. It’s very emotionally draining living with a Jekyll and Hyde dog.
Sally
Kimberly, just read your letter with having to return Kopa, we adopted A 10 year old dog Bennie, he kind of chose us, however he’s great with us at home but when my daughter came in 2 weeks later he bite her,so she is scared of him, then few weeks later our son in law came to get grandchildren and he bite him, so I was then going to return him but husband wanted to give him another chance so we did but now he’s bitten sons friend so that’s it for me I can’t trust him and he has issues with people and dog walkers when we walked with him unpredictable. Such a shame as he’s a lovely boy (indoors ) so I’m returning him but my husband says no .. but I have to be able relax in my home and when people call round it is upsetting but who knows what they are going to be like.so yes I’m returning him after 8 months..
Sara
This article helped. We just adopted a dog a week ago. He is such a sweet dog and bonded to me from the first instant. My daughter and I fell in love. We discovered yesterday though that he’s afraid of men. He nipped my ex husband twice and had severe anxiety the entire time he was in the house. Then today, he outright attacked my father and bit him. It seemed like he was protecting his new home and owner, but I have a young daughter and 3 cats, with family always visiting. We are beyond devastated but it’s looking like he needs to be brought to the shelter. I never thought I’d do this. We are so very in love with this dog. But it’s like a switch is flicked and randomly he will go after a Male if he’s in the house, completely unprovoked. I dont know what else to do.
Michael
I came across your post after agonizing over my dog Koda the last few days that I ultimately had to surrendered on Monday to the shelter. Your story is similar to mine but I ignored the obvious signs until it was too late.

I found Koda as an abandoned puppy stray and we had him for 5 years. I feel like I failed in properly training him to correct some issues and didnt even get to say goodbye. He is a pure bred German Shorthaired Pointer, 5 years old, very fit, and beautiful, uniquely marked dog, good at obedience, but over the last few years we have had now 3 incidents where he is got stressed/anxiety and overly sensitive about certain body parts or getting startled and have bit my two older daughters on the face, requiring stitches for 2 of the incidents. One time was due to touching his back rear area and we later found out he had an enlarged prostate and need treatment. Not aggressive, but more insecure , and they tend to smother him, which he doesn’t like. The last incident happened on Thursday night when my daughter tried to rub his stomach and we had to take my daughter to the ER, for 3 small stitches to her cheek. On Friday I contacted a Rescue that I have worked with in the past that specializes in the breed, to see if they would take him and be able to work with him, and maybe place with an older couple with no kids. Was waiting on them as the process can take awhile to get going.

Unfortunately on Saturday when walking him, along with my other older GSP, I got a text message from my wife that Animal Control was at the house wanting to get Koda. I rushed back, and never thought it would be my last time of throwing the ball for him, and Animal Control had to take him to quarentine him for 10 days for rabies (Even though he is up on his shots) and they were wanting us to owner surrender him, or I could try to get him back but it would be a long and costly process, with regular checkups on us. I told him I was trying to find him a rescue and hoping they could work with us on it. They claimed the shelter tries to not euthanize, and if we owner surrender and pay the fee, he would have good chance of going to a rescue (they cant place him directly to the public due to the biting liability). They have a large network of rescues they work with. I could barely talk to them without crying and my wife was crying too as she had just started bonding with him as her loyal running partner.I had to load him in truck and didn’t even say goodbye to him, as I wasn’t thinking that I would never see him again. I really regret not saying goodbye as I could see he was scared going into the truck. Sent another message to the GSP Rescue about the dire situation, and they were trying to help me, but on Monday the Shelter called and said it would be hard for them to work with an outside rescue unless I owner surrendered him, and to try to get him back would be thousands of dollars, and after the multiple incidents we really couldn’t bring him back, so I surrendered him yesterday. I didn’t get to see him when at the facility as they did not recommend it, as it would stress him out more. The officer at the shelter did say because he’s a pure bred GSP, he would have a good chance of going to a rescue. Not sure if that was just to console me, or the truth. I also did finally hear back from the GSP rescue and told them the status, and they said they would see if they could do anything, but am just not sure if there is really a chance for a dog to be rehabilitated that has had multiple biting incidents even if it wasn’t aggressive.

Its been 5 days since they took him and I never thought I would take it so hard and feel like I let him down, and could have trained him better to fix the issues. I am okay with not keeping him, but just want to know that he gets another chance with another family/owner as he really was a great dog even with his issues. I am hoping he gets re-homed but not sure I will ever know. I seem to forget all the great memories and just focus on that time they picked him up and took him away, and the regret for not being more proactive sooner.

Jessica
Thank you for posting. I’m going through a similar situation and it’s an extremely hard decision even though I know what’s best for my family as well as my dog. I’ve had my boy since he’s a pup and as he’s gotten older his anxiety is causing him to become more and more aggressive and he’s a big guy so he’s very strong. He’s not in anyway at all aggressive with me but is to anyone else that comes into my home. He’s hasn’t bitten anyone, but had grabbed someone’s arm and made a bruise. He snaps a lot and has a mean bark towards them and I’m afraid that if one day I won’t be able to hold him back and that would be my worst fear. He’s so loving with me and turns into a different dog when others are around. It’s heartbreaking. It’s comforting to know there are others in similar situations and to see how they’ve decided to go forward. Currently my dog is still home with us but I know it’s best to find him a home that he will be more comfortable in. And with someone who can be a better fit for him. It’s also hard to know that some think that this is giving up on the dog. I feel like I’ve done whatever I could for him and that there will be someone else that can better provide for him what I cannot. Thank you for posting as now I know I’m not alone in this situation.
James
My girlfriend and I rescued a 1.5 year old terrier mix 3 years ago. He was my first dog. He was always leash aggressive and has resource aggression. My girlfriend has never really bonded with him, but he became my little man. We attempted some interventions…not very invasive ones…but there was no improvement. We rescued our second dog..a 2 year old chihuahua mix about a year ago. This new dog has never met a stranger, and it wonderful in every way, shape, and form. My girlfriend loves our second dog while our first is an afterthought. The dogs get along well. Our first dog also occasionally pees in the house (very rarely..but still noteworthy) and barks/howls at all other dogs and most people. We aren’t comparing the dogs…but the drastic differences are unavoidable.

My girlfriend has grown increasingly agitated by his behavior over the past weeks. It has began to drive a wedge in our relationship over the past week or so. We have talked about it…and the options are bleak. After reflecting, while I am emotionally attached to our dog, I realize how much easier our life would be without him. Within the next few years we are expecting to start a family…and our dog does not get along with kids either…so this discussion was on the horizon anyway. While I love our first dog…I also realize that I don’t want to maintain the lifestyle with him for the next 8-10 year. We don’t possess the skills to properly train our dog. If we were to rehome him, we’d have to return him to the rescue service we got him from. That thought, while I think it may be the best option, makes me feel like I am a failure with him. I think if I were single I would not be contemplating this, but the sobering reality is that this truly is probably the best option.

If we did rehome him, I would want to get another dog immediately. This thought irritates me a bit because it essentially is me wanting to trade in my dog for a ‘better model’. I’m just so conflicted right now. I want to feel like rehoming him would be best for him to get the training he needs, but I more strongly feel that it would be a burden lifted off of us even though I would feel like a failure.

Leslie
It’s sad that your girlfriend considers your first dog an after thought (the dog picks up on that btw). He’s just being a dog. They all have different personalities and you certainly are comparing the two dogs.
Melissa
I am in an extremely similar situation. My boyfriend and I adopted a dog 3.5 weeks ago and quickly found out that he bites (to draw blood) when visitors come over. We were attached to him from the beginning, and I had a very strong bond with him. On July 10, we decided to bring him back to the rescue we adopted him from. We informed him of the 3 bites he inflicted on our guests. We had meet with a behaviorist privately and she highly recommended that he not live in a home that could have children in the future, and that is when we knew that the best thing for him was to return him so that he could immediately begin finding the RIGHT family to live the rest of his life with. He was already 4 when we adopted him, so if we were to keep him another 3-5 years until we have kids, he would be close to 10 years old and would be having his life uprooted for the second time. We made our decision quickly to minimize hurt on both his and our emotions. Now he is at the rescue with more information about his bite history so that they can find the right family for him without having to be returned again.

It is painful and it can easily be viewed the wrong way by those unwilling to understand that when a dog behaves these ways, the dog is feeling badly too. Sometimes helping your dog find somewhere to live that he will feel safe is the true reality.

Irma
I’ve had my dog karma for years she has. Become aggressive towards me an she tries to bite me she chased my daughter Thur the house I tie her up now but she still mean she killed one of my small dog I try to keep her but I’m getting tired of her meanness I’m good to her I feed I take good care of her and she is just not cooperating I keep her cause I love her and don’t want to send her to the pound she is over 7 years old or older not sure my grandson found her when she was a pup
Matt
Wow these have all been tough to read and are tugging at my heartstrings.

We rescued a 3 yr old pit mix 18 months ago and she was very timid and shy when we first got her. Since then she has blossomed into a wonderful dog for my wife and I. She’s so affectionate and loving and has really made our house feel like a home. We noticed a few months after we got her she was uncomfortable around children. Side eye stares, barking and growling. We worked with a couple different trainers and thought things might be getting better but then she bit a child a few days ago leaving three puncture marks on his hand (i view this particular incident as my fault for not stopping the kid in time that came up to us). My wife is pregnant with our first child set to come in 2 months and we are absolutely devastated. There isn’t any amount of training I wouldn’t do for her to not be scared of children anymore but can I take the chance she won’t revert at some point? If something were to happen to my child I’m not sure I could forgive myself. We love her so much it’s been a week straight of crying in our house. I think deep deep down we know rehoming her somewhere with no children will be better for the pup and baby but we are absolutely devastated. Will we ever get over it?

Sasha
My boyfriend is going through something very similar with his 6-months old Aussie. She is not aggressive toward him, but definitely against other humans. Not every human though – just some, and we haven’t figured out yet how she makes the call. She already bit me on two occasions, growls/snarls everytime I walk in the door, snaps/growls whenever I ask ANYthing of her (she won’t sit without a treat… if I pet her she growls… she protects her sleeping spot, her food like her life depends on it). Again, toward some people she’s ok, toward others she’s not. We saw a trainer, went to boot camp, practiced at home… no improvement. I recently brought up the topic of rehoming the dog but my boyfriend doesn’t want to hear it. It just breaks my heart, these could well be a very long and sad 10-12 years for the dog and the owner. I don’t see any other solution though, since he also has small children in the family who will visit eventually and what if something happens? I do not want to convince him to surrender the dog, I want this to come from him but he is not at that point yet.
Leslie
You don’t want to push your boyfriend to rehome this dog, because if it comes down to its either me or the dog scenario, he very well might choose the dog. The dog sees you as competition. You need to become it’s friend, not it’s adversary (which it senses you are). Feed it, play with it, bring it toys and treats, and authentically like this dog. Aussie’s are very intelligent and this one is reading you.
Kathy Earnest
Wow, when I googled if a shelter dog could become aggressive after a few weeks your article came up. We adopted an adult shelter dog almost 2 weeks ago. Your story stuck out to me because he is also a Coonhound. We also have a 1yr old black lab we got as a puppy. They had been playing together great. Otis (the Coon) would occasionally give Buddy what looked like playfully nips but then they would chase each other and both seemed to be having fun. The new dog is now becoming more overly aggressive with Buddy and had nipped my 16yr old and growled at my husband today. We ended up choosing Otis because my son loved him. My hubby wasn’t sure it was a great idea. Now my son wants nothing to do with him and my husband had fallen in love. Not sure what to do. I have a friend that might be interested in him but she can’t get him until August. He really is a sweetheart. I just don’t think the 2 dogs are going to end up friends!
Jojo
I’m so sorry that you went through this. We adopted out a pair of bonded brothers from TX. My fiancé noticed that they were reactive to other dogs from the get go but stupid me wanted to believe that it was just the decompression period. We tried to tell the rescue agency that these two boys were reactive and they refused to believe us and still claimed that they loved other dogs and puppies. They blamed us saying that we were the ones that made the dogs aggressive.

The dogs broke out of my rear truck window one weekend (no one could explain how they even fit through) and chased after a newly neutered puppy and his owner. The puppy was attacked in the leg and the owner got bit as a result of breaking up the fight. We told the rescue about this and they still didn’t believe us – asking us to send proof of their reactivity (obviously we can’t get them to go near another dog) and so we capture them reacting to a vacuum cleaner. The more reactive one couldn’t get to the vacuum because he was in the crate so then he tried to get at his brother. We didn’t realize that we were being set up to make this video that made us seem like animal abuser but they rescue clung onto this video to claim that we scare the dogs with vacuums hence why they are reactive and aggressive.

debra
my exact story but i got from breeder … its so hard i love my puppy but attacks me even after a 2 week highly rated training camp
most difficult decision im trying to make but the growling n biting me n my other dog n guests escalating
hard when you love her n tried everything
this article really made me feel not alone
im devestated
Rachel Afflitto
I am in tears reading your story because I am going through the same thing right now with my dog. He has biten a few times, one that required stitches. It happened to my husband. I feel guilty because I am our dogs main caretaker and I didn’t properly train him. Because I didn’t realize how important it was to start from the beginning when they are puppies and be consistant. He had some training, but not enough for him. I babied him because I loved him and was just doing the best that I could. I don’t know if my dog has some kind of chemical imbalance or if its a combination of both..improper training. He is becoming more aggressive and I cant take the chance anymore. I have a teenage son that is afraid of him now because of it. I can’t take the risk of him biting him or anyone else. I am heartbroken about saying good bye to him tomorrow. He is going to a home that will get him the proper training and one that has no children. Kobe is only a year and a half so he is still young enough to train. English Bulldogs can be stubborn! He will forever be in my heart! I love him enough to let him go to a home where he is happy.
Mathilde
Hello, we have a purebred Bluetick Coonhound. And I just want you to know how kind and helpful this article is.

Of course there are many kinds of pet owners who choose to rehome and they are not all good friends to animals. In fact, many people own pets as property and think of animals as less than humans. “It’s just a dog” or “just a cat” after all, they will say. Yet your article is a kind empathetic reach out to those of us who would never consider giving up a dog. Tomorrow will be one of the saddest days of my life, next to the death of any of my loved ones, people or pets. I dread it.

I have lived with animals my whole life and every single one has been a gift, a part of my life I am all the better for. I am sixty (somehow that happened) and have had rescued or adopted cats and dogs since I was a child. My husband has also always had wonderful relationships with all of the dogs he’s owned his whole life. But now, for the first time in either of our lives, we have to make the decision to find a more suitable home for our adorable dog. We have flip flopped on this decision for months trying to make our home work for her. Exercise, our big yard, a second dog to play with (they are best friends. :(….), three different trainers, gates… But now we have hit a wall.

We adopted our beautiful girl as a stray pup at 5 months old. They said she was found in Maryland. A classic story of a hunting dog disgarded perhaps, or lost from a yard tie up. No one knows. She ended up in a rescue near us, in the northeast. Like others’ stories, she was fine for a few months and then for some reason began what seems like anxious/ aggressive behavior. We thought the worst of it was her need to bark in the car for months, because the car, to her, is her most favorite exciting thing in the world. It means walks or the dog park. But there is no quiet when you are in the car with this silly dog – and a bark bred to be heard three miles away. Yes, we tried everything for that – all the training suggestions – you name it. This was nothing it turns out, to what was to come. Thinking about it now, this issue is actually cute.

She is now two years old. To summarize, since I could write pages, since getting older she has developed a resource guarding problem that has not responded to training; she has sometimes unpredictable triggers and becomes loud, scary and aggressive often without provocation. A trigger for a growl can be as small as a firmly spoken word from my visiting daughter. Recently, it was a growl and lunge at my son in law who told her to walk away from his car. The bottom line is, my daughter and son in law just had their first baby and will now not come to our house unless our dog is locked away. Yes, we are thrilled – our first grandchild! But the topic is so bittersweet when it comes to our dog. A vet who is a behaviorist as well as other’s consulted, have looked at video of our dog and told us that her resource guarding could be worked with to become less, that she could be “managed” but that it could never be guaranteed to go away and that once a dog displays her kind of aggressive warning behaviors, there is no future that would allow her to be trusted to be roaming about freely without a potential incident with a child.

I have read so much about her breed that I have become fine with what can be expected and we even accept her refusal to heed the word. “no!’ She has to calculate everything first and decide if it’s worth it to her. She’s a coonhound. That’s what they do. Do you have a treat with you? If so I will stop chewing up your book (photo, pen, wallet, money, glasses…fill in the blank) I just stole and consider, but until then I will growl and bare my teeth if you come closer. We were told she needs a job, more mental stimulation, to keep her from stealing and that she uses this whole interaction for entertainment. Oh, Lucie, Lucie. How much exercise and how many games in the yard can I create for you all day long to provide you with enough of that to trade me for a predictable and safer day?

If only we lived on an island without interaction with outside family or children coming to our home… if only so many things. She makes up for her quirky sensitive very vocal push back attitude with being adorable, funny, beautiful and sweet for most of the time. So different from any other dog we have ever had. Approach her to say goodnight and she must emit a low growl, which turns into a sigh. It’s sweet to us. Scary to most people. But that’s who she is. And coonhounds are known to be vocal about their feelings. She is sensitive, intelligent, learns quickly, but bred to be independent of humans. Even the resource guarding – something witnessed by video that our trainers have said would definitely result in a bite … even THIS we would be willing to work with for all the money it would take… BUT, our new 6 weeks old grandson is the tie breaker. In addition to that, my son in law has old school attitudes about dogs and their heeding commands, which do not work with her breed. Do they want to spend hours with a behaviorist to learn how to talk to her and how often? Can we trust them to talk to her the right way in the future when they come to our house?

So we are in the saddest position that I can think of, next to our need to drive to the vet and let our 17 year old terminally ill kitty be put to sleep last winter. We need to return our coonhound to the rescue where we found her and pray that they will take all the trainer’s and vet’s advice, work with her in a foster home so she isn’t left wondering what happened to her happy life while stuck in their kennel day after day and soon find her a home that works for her and her family better.

I write this long winded post with my emotions up on a shelf, door closed. Auto pilot mode. How else do you do something so against your heart? I may slip again and we may cancel the appointment for the fourth time and call the next behaviorist for another $250 for two hours.

So to all who found this site and to the administrator here, good luck and thank you for sharing. It’s not easy to find empathy among animal lovers for something so difficult to do.

Peace to all of you.

Mathilde

Leslie
It’s better for this dog if it gets rehomed in my opinion. The bottom line is that you have a new grandson and a son-in-law who uses a tone that is threatening to this dog. It deserves to be with people who truly understand the breed and a family who will not go all over the place trying to justify getting rid of it. And, by the way, it chews up things because you are leaving those things where it can reach them. You could have provided this dog with its own chew toys like bully sticks. I feel for your remaining dog because it’s probably next and you are removing it’s buddy that it’s bonded to. This dog deserves a family who will appreciate it. We’ve had an aggressive dog and what you describe ain’t it.
Julie Howard
Thank you for your story. I’m sorry that you had to go through that. We have a lab/retriever mix that we got from the shelter. We got him as a puppy. His name is Tucker. Tucker is about 3 years old now. He has a lot of anxiety and fear. He barks at our neighbors and jumps on the fence like he wants to jump right over and attack them. They are terrified of him. When my teenage daughter went to get him when he was barking at the neighbors, he whipped around and put his mouth on her arm. When I called the vet, they said that counts as a bite even if he didn’t sink his teeth in. Their prognosis of him was very grim, saying that a lot of dogs like him end up being put down. He still gets snippy with her if she tries to get him. We called the humane society and they kindly sent a dog trainer over. She told us that he is an extremely high anxiety dog. We worked with him a bit in the back yard with high value treats trying to associate good things with the neighbors. This helped a bit, but he still barks at them. Now, last night we had my husband’s parents over for dinner. He was beside himself. It took all 4 of us – Me, my husband, my 2 teenage kids just to keep him “calm”. He barked the whole time. He was panting the whole time. He wore himself out. The last straw was when we took our party to the couch. By that time, Tucker we thought was getting used to them. They had been feeding him treats all night. He even sat on the couch with them at one time not barking. Then when my mother in law and I were in the middle of a conversation, seemingly out of nowhere he jumped on her and put his face on the side of her face and nibbled on her ear. He then put his face on the other side of her face and teethed her other ear. We pulled him off, but I don’t know what that was. It was very scary because we didn’t know what he was going to do. She then told us that she thinks we should get rid of him because of liability. He’s too unpredictable and he definitely could bite someone. My daughter, who loves animals, was crying at the idea last night. She wants to invest in more training. But I don’t know if we can train this out of him. We can’t ever have anyone over because of him. We can’t go on trips, because we can’t have him boarded. But we love him and don’t want to see him go at all. I don’t know what we will do, but I wanted to let you know that you are not alone in this emotional roller coaster.
Kat
Gosh I needed this. I’ve cried for days trying to make the decision, but hours yesterday over it since today is the day for a similar situation.
We found our dog on the side of the road. Had no intentions on keeping him, but after attempts to find him a place we ended up with him for a year. He’s always pulled on leash and had times where he’d go nuts with small dogs approaching. Well a few weeks ago our other dog let them out and he went after a neighbors dog. Thankfully we didn’t find out what would happen b/c the dog got away, but the neighbor called the police on us. It was horrible.k He’s always been loving with all of us and nuts when people come in the house, but immediately calms once he realizes they are ok. However, I’m not the alpha and I’m with both dogs all day. My anxiety and stress have increased significantly with having him and going on walks in the neighborhood is horrible for fear he may get away from me. My living situation has changed and it’s unmanageable by myself and outside of sending him away to a doggy boot camp and spending 1,000s I’ve done everything. Today I’m going to bring him to a shelter. He was never meant to be ours, but I want to give him the best chance of being chosen. It has torn me up! Thank you for the article!!!
Sad trainer
Your dog wasn’t aggressive, that’s laughable. You could’ve kept your “beloved” pet had you told your husband to START paying attention to body language indicating the dog does not WANT affection at that moment, and STOP invading the dog’s space by moving him when he is sleeping or “cuddling” – which is stressful to a lot of dogs. Get your other dog it’s own bed, START respecting your dog, and STOP using outdated pack or “alpha” theories, and STOP trying to exert “dominance” over your dog. Instead use SCIENTIFICALLY BACKED behaviorists who have studied canine behavior and learning theories. This is a really sad read as it follows such a predicable path – dog feels uncomfortable and invaded in his own space, owner uses harmful and outdated training methods causing dog to feel even more confused, insecure, and uncomfortable, thus causing dog to escalate behavior.
Jenna
You have helped me so much by reading this. I have rescued dogs before and my last girl I had for 19 years and after 2 yrs wanted to fill that void so was going to get a puppy from breeder but strong believer in adoption so spontaneously we stopped at the rescue and my adult daughter pointed out such sweet sad eyes just pleading to leave. I told them I need a dog good with people and dogs. They had labeled her a wallflower and she was sedated from spading. I quickly realized how high energy and strong she was. Pulled me down so I enrolled in private lessons. She loved my sons dog but was unpredictable with others. Also with people she would act scary but then was fine. I was living my life around her trying and constantly on edge. I thought when we left Fl. ,where she was a stray at 1 yr old and had already had pups, and came to our home in NC it would be different. Her hunter instinct really kicked in ( black mouth cur mix)and she would bark aggressively at people walking by our house I was told fearful aggressive. I can only say I hope there is a special place you know where for the monsters that harm and ruin these precious creatures. She was so smart but was subjected to who knows what. I called rescues and tried myself but knew this wasn’t going away. I had only had her 3 months and shortly after adoption found out my daughters rare brain cancer is back and she loved my daughter and was such a great car traveler. I knew the way I was living with the stress of trying to make things better with her was a pipe dream and surrendered her. I have been torturing myself for 3 days now with the would’ve could’ve should’ve. Wondering if I should go get her etc. I made the right decision I know because even though she may never have bitten anyone I would have made myself sick over worrying about it. I blame the rescue organization for putting us through this heartache and reminds me of the comedian that said he got grief about buying a puppy instead of rescue and he said for once I want to be the first one to f up my dog. Yes it’s just a joke but if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. I know everyone’s heart is in the right place it’s just so darn tough doing this and I feel all your pain and knowing I’m not alone does help. God bless you all.