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 are expecting a baby in August. 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.

Have you had to say goodbye to an aggressive dog?

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Growing up, Kimberly used to get the sniffles when she was around dogs. Thankfully, she grew out of her allergy and is now able to play and snuggle with dogs as much as she wants! She and her husband adopted Sally, a four-year-old hound mix, in early 2017, and she has brought so much joy into their lives. Life as pet parents has been very rewarding.

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My boyfriend and I got a TWC puppy when he was just tiny because he has always coon hunted. I do not agree with keeping your dogs outside tied to a tree either, I think it’s horrible. Around 2 years later I saw another TWC on petfinder and it said “urgent” so I had to go get him. I love love love hounds. When we brought him home he was excellent to us and was just the most loving dog ever. My mom came and he freaked out, growling and trying to bite. He’s NEVER even growled at me or Brandon. I have a newborn and he hasn’t ever bothered her, but he hates anyone from outside of the house. Sometimes it makes me nervous that he might do something to Kendall when she’s older. But then again I feel like he’ll protect her. Idk what to do. It’s hard to find people around where I live to adopt coonhounds for inside dogs. I want to find him a good home but I don’t want him to have to live in a shelter and it just breaks my heart bc he loves us so much. It’s like when he saw us he just picked us for his parents. He’s never growled at any of us once, but he does have aggression towards other people.
My wife and I have a Dachshund mix, she had him before I met her and I warmed up to the dog very quickly when we started dating. We have always had issues getting him to listen to commands and getting things away from him. He also has never been good with other dogs, so we rarely let him mix with other dogs, he will suddenly snap and attack other dogs, and we always have to keep him on a leash or keep a close eye on him when family and other dogs are around. For the most part, he is a good cuddle dog and loves to be around people, but when he feels confronted and/or stressed from too much play, he will snap as well. Last year, we decided to take him to doggy training and did a lot of obedience and off-leash work, this has not curbed his aggression even though he now listens more. Over the new year, we traveled to my in-law’s place in florida, they have a dog, and my sister-in-law has one as well. My dog loves being beside us in the kitchen when we cook so he can get crumbs that fall, he has never had competition for this, but he snapped at and bit my mother-in-law’s dog. My wife and i are expecting a baby in June; we are afraid that the dog will hurt a crawling child who does not know when to stay away or pulls the wrong thing. We have talked about taking him to the shelter when the baby is born, but I do not think my wife will take it well, but we ultimately know this is what we have to do.
I am in a similar position now. We have 2 Siberian Huskies that we are going to be bringing to the local Humane Society this week. We got them before we had children and we now have a 2.5 year old and a 6 month old. We have literally spent close to $4,000 in additional training / behavior training after our children were born to try and curb their jealousy but it was no use. They will get on the table and take our children’s food if we leave the room for only a moment. They have taken food directly out of our eldest’s hands and they destroy any toy or article of clothing of the children’s that is left within reach. They will urinate or poop in their rooms only if the doors are open (they are both fully house trained). Our trainer said it may be best to crate them but we don’t feel that is a proper life for them. We think they feel they have become cramped or second fiddle to our kids even though we treat them with the same love and affection as we always have. They aren’t aggressive per se, but they will growl if you try to take whatever they aren’t supossed to have away from them. We are just afraid that growl will turn into a bite one day. We love them tremendously and I am still crying and we haven’t even surrendered yet. They are a bonded pair and we hope they can be adopted out together. They really need a family with older kids or no kids where they have their space and can be the Huskies they want and need to be. We can unfortunately no longer provide them that kind of lifestyle with our children. It was an extraordinarily difficult decision to go this route. These dogs have been our family for almost 5 years and were here before our children. However, at the end of the day, our children are our number one priority. Their safety and well being is everything, and we cannot risk that. I have to remind myself that while we love these dogs with our whole hearts, they are animals, and Huskies are pack animals at that. They have an inherited trait that all dogs do and are prone to pounce on smaller animals. If we had gotten them after we had children and raised them together, I think it would be different. We want them to have a good life, if someone ends up being bit, the only course of action at that point is euthanasia and I would feel even more guilt over that.
I am in a similar situation. I have a 3 year old lab mix. She has shown aggression this past year and it has escalated quickly. At first we got her hoping she would balance out my two male dogs. My male border collie is a bully and liked to pick on my boxer from time to time. At first she did balance out the boys. She would let the bc know that picking on the boxer wasn’t good. All she would do is stand in between the two and my bc would back down and walk away. Until one day he didn’t and she attacked. After that I have to keep her separated from the others. I have a total of 4 dogs the bc male and a pit mix female that she constantly will attack if she gets a chance. My female pit has had to have stitches, most recently I have had to go to the ER for an accidental bite. My lab mix is not aggressive toward people and not even to my boxer but just the other two. We are at our end. I have had her in obedience classes when she was just months old and does listen to her commands. All dogs are fixed. It breaks my heart but I am now thinking she would thrive better if she was in a single dog home.
My boyfriend and I adopted a dog about a week ago from a shelter. He is an American english coonhound and is almost 2 yrs old. When we adopted him they told us he had some behavioral issues but when we met him he was so sweet and seemed to warm up to us rather quickly. He had been left outside most of his puppy life and then in a shelter for the remainder. The shelter had put him in a training facility for the two weeks prior to us adopting him and his trainer said he made great progress. The trainer warned us about some issues with him growling and barking and said that with time and patience it should go away. We are going into our second week and he still growls and barks at us from time to time. He goes from being sweet wanting us to pet him and then all of the sudden growls and barks at us. It is making me uneasy in our own home. We live in an apartment and take him outside on walks all the time but I am concerned that this behavior will continue and maybe being in an apartment is not the best lifestyle for him. He also is not good with strangers and other dogs which makes it hard in an apartment. I know it has only been a short amount of time but when would we need to be concerned and think about rehoming him if this doesnt stop?
We’ve heard there are farms for dogs like this that give them a place to rehome but are struggling to find them. We feel this would be the best situation for our fur baby….for her happiness. Do you know how I can find them or is there a network somewhere? I prefer not to do the shelter if possible.
Hello! I am in the process of trying to decide whether rehome our dog. We have a 3 year old border collie mix rescue and a 12 year old lab. Both females. They were doing fairly well for a while – a few fights … but lately their fighting has ramped up. They had 5 fights in November. The fights are vicious. Our older dog has had to get stitches twice where she had to be put under anesthesia. She’s had other injuries that haven’t required stitches thank goodness. I’ve had to keep them completely separated which is so stressful – the younger dog is very nervous and tentative. Always has been. There have been many triggers so we can’t really predict. We found someone who is interested but I’m so conflicted bc I love the younger one. But is it unfair to our older dog to keep getting hurt !? I know a muzzle is an option.but I think she will hate it. As do I.
Help !
We had a dog that did this too. At first he seemed quite shy, insecure. This steadily grew into him trying to be the alpha against me in particular. He would often growl and sometimes lunge at me whenever I went near my dad. At one point my lovely Siamese cat of 11 years walked up to simply sniff the floor near him and he growled and chased her violently before I got between them to save my cat. He even bit my dad picked up a bone from the floor. I hated the dog and if he managed to kill my cat I would have gladly slit its throat myself. Thankfully my cat is safe now as the dog was rehomed. But unlike you I wasn’t given any suppprt. People called me horrible names and because my dad gave a sob story about how great the dog was bc he was in utter denial, ppl who never even met the dog attacked me verbally, saying awful things and painting me out to be a monster all because I was protecting myself, my cat, and my very young nieces who would visit and who knows what the dog would have done. They would not be able to get away whereas I could stop the dog. No way, still utterly hate the dog to this day. And I tried hard to love him too, but the day he tried to kill my beloved cat was the day he meant nothing to me.
Is there a number I could call to give my dog up. He’s become aggressive and I have a grandbaby on the way.
Live in Las Vegas
Once you found out you were pregnant, you absolutely did the right thing by surrendering him back to the shelter. Even dogs with no history of growling or any other form of aggression can easily turn on a baby/child. I’m thinking that the true reason that he was in the shelter to begin with was for the same reason – some sort of behavior problem. Maybe it even went beyond growling, he got surrendered and unsuspecting you and your husband adopted a problem. I know this, because it happened to us, and it was much worse than just growling.

We adopted 3 year old Mickey, a Schnauzer mix ten years ago. He was surrendered to the shelter with a long time broken leg which they had amputated before we adopted him. In fact, we picked him up from the Animal Hospital so he could recover at our home. We quickly noticed that if I sat near him he would growl. The growling turned into snarling, snapping, lunging, and finally, he bit my hand when I went to pet him. However, he absolutely adored my husband. We made the decision to keep him and basically I learned what buttons not to push (I had to not interact with him much and this was hard, because I love animals). Adopted by anyone else, Mickey would have been put to sleep, and even though he had this problem, he was very cute when he was with my husband, and it wasn’t fair to pass this problem off like it had been when we found him at the shelter. He landed with us and we were committed to him. Two years after we adopted him, he developed diabetes. With diabetes, blood sugar needs to be checked daily – absolutely impossible with Mickey. We watched for symptoms and we periodically and frequently brought him to the Vets for the testing and insulin adjustments. My husband would hold Mickey and I would come up and stand to the side and back of him to give him his shot. We always gave him a treat afterwards and he got excited when we would say time for shot and treat. Of course, being a Schnauzer mix he needed to be groomed. He was very difficult with the groomer and bit her at least once that I knew of. When we moved out of state, we took him to Petsmart to be groomed. We made it as far as the car in the parking lot when we got a call from the store to come back and get Mickey. We found him in the grooming area on one side of the room, and all the groomers cowering on the other side of the room.

At the Vet’s office they did the best they could but short of knocking him out to examine him, they were never able to give him the best thorough exam. Fast forward to last Saturday, November 24, 2018. He lost the use of his back remaining leg. We took him to the Pet Emergency and they gave him an X-Ray, said they didn’t see anything and sent us home with Tramadol and Rimadyl and told us to keep him quiet and rested. In the meantime, he hadn’t relieved himself in close to 30 hrs. We would try and take him out (with him snarling snapping, and biting) and he would just lay in the grass. Overnight he finally relieved himself, but unfortunately, it was where he was laying. When we tried to move him to clean him and his area, it was the same thing – snarling, snapping and biting. My husband put a blanket over him to move him without getting injured so I could clean up. We couldn’t take a wash cloth to him either. The next day, Monday, November 26th, we took him to our Vet and they knocked him out with a sedative to examine him (not something you want to do all the time for a Vet visit). She checked the X-Ray and saw nothing, but did say that he lost most of his muscle mass, and his leg was pretty affected by this. She noticed that his front legs were weakening too and they were knuckling under. Blood work showed some changes in kidneys and he was anemic. They told us he would never walk again. If Mickey did not have the behavior issues that he had, we would have taken him home and carried him out and around – brought him his food and water. Unfortunately, we didn’t feel we had a choice because he would not let us help him. We made the heartbreaking decision to put him to sleep. It’s been a week and I can’t stop crying and I have tremendous guilt. We have two other dogs. Maggie our 14 year old German Shepherd/Boarder Collie mix (whom Mickey had great respect for and never started in with her) and Sharlie, our Chihuahua mix (who Mickey left alone because he was also blind for the last year and did not see her). We rescued Sharlie after our Maltese Mix, Jasmine passed away (and whom Mickey use to pick on because she was so docile). Maggie and Sharlie are both adorable and affectionate sweethearts.

Anyway, thanks for letting me write this “book” it helped me put the difficulties of living with an aggressive dog into perspective.

Emily Griffib
We have a Jack RussellxYorkie called Teddy. He has always been a nervy barky dog but his aggression towards strangers and particularly to our small grandchildren is our main problem. Love him dearly and he is fine with us and other adults that he knows. Cuddly, affectionate, lively and funny and if it wasn’t for the fact that we are going to be looking after 2 toddlers soon we would carry on managing him (muzzling etc) The thought of having to have him put down is just awful but we are at a loss as to what to do. Cannot find a shelter to take him due to his aggression. Have already spent £300 on “behaviour therapy” with some success but he would still bite anyone he sees as a threat. Just feel if someone would give him a chance that doesn’t have small children around he would be make a great companion. Any suggestions would be very welcome.
Daniel Laughner
I’m in the same boat. We have a 2 year old
Pit that has been nothing but lovey until recently. She has had some anxiety but never growled or snapped until last week. And now yesterday she bit the neighbors dog on the butt. Can’t find anywhere to rehome her, and the shelters are full. I literally can’t cry anymore, it’s been none stop. We can’t keep her bc we have 3 children and she was trying to bite Ayden. Please help.
Danielle Braun
I’m so sorry. I am in the same situation with an adopted Great Dane who loves me and other tall adults but bites kids and anyone under 5’9”. He’s never broken skin but it is so dsngerous. I’m thousands into training, therapies, meds. He adores other dogs so the kennel is housing him for now but I’m trying to find a trainer or farm for him. I wish you the best.
I am in the same situation but maybe worse. Our Great Dane has attacked his older brother who is a mini schnauzer. He picked him up like a rag doll and shook him and I actually had to kick him to get him to drop him. I know have to play prison warden and rotate them in and out of crates all day so he don’t kill him and they grew up together. We had a trainer come over we did all the right things with introduction and as soon as he stepped in the door he lunged at his neck but luckily my husband had him on the leash and was able to tug so he only got his shoulder but he did draw blood. Our kids are teenagers and he loves them but have snapped at their friends so now has to be crated if anyone comes over and he growls and barks the entire time. He is fixed and we have no clue where this came from. Vet says he is healthy. We tried a muzzle but he attacks with his gigantic paws when the muzzle is on. I live in Houston TX and desperately need help. We know if we take him to the shelter they will kill him but we are so afraid he is going to kill an animal or hurt a person if we dont.
We have a 5 year old neutered blue weimaraner. He’s nipped, torn clothing and drawn blood. He is even more ‘on alert’ when my husband isn’t home and extremely protective/possessive of me and the children (8,5 and 13 mos). He will even go after me if I try to discipline my older children – he’s nipped me hard when trying to spank my son. We cannot board him and he’s starting to negatively influence our youngest dog (2 years). I’m always on edge when he’s out of his kennel and we can’t let him out when we have company; he’s proven himself to be untrustworthy in the last 5 years. My gut says to get rid of him, as nothing we’ve tried has changed his behavior for the better, but my heart breaks just thinking of doing so. My mental health is shredded and I’ve got major anxiety over the whole situation. I have never given up on a pet before and I’m extremely against doing so but I can’t continue down this road.
“He’s nipped me when trying to spank my son.” Really? You are causing your child physical pain and then angry the dog is doing the same back to you?? It’s sad the dog has to try and protect children from their abusive mother in the first place. You don’t need to be around pets or children unsupervised period. Get help before you destroy those children’s lives. Abuse causes long lasting trauma on children. You can call it whatever you want, but hitting is abuse. How would you like to be smacked every time you did something wrong?
Thanks for sharing your story. I am in a situation somewhat similar and I honestly dont know what to do. I have an 11 month cana corso. He has extreme anxiety of everything. He loves myself .my 4 year old and my spouse. But the 2 of them constantly but heads. My spouse told me he never wanted him and doesnt want to be involved with him. My pup is amazing in alot of ways.he does have some anxiety on walks but if you tell him hes all good hes normally quite good. The problem is at home my spouse and I always fight because my pup is always engaging him. Trying to get a reaction and we cant be calm in our house. My spouse doesnt not want to try anything. Is it fair to keep him because I selfously want him. If it’s time to rehome him how do you do it? Hes very attached to me. He anxious of people and he has mild hip dysplasia . I dont want to think of the bad people out there who would use him for the wrong reasons. I’m crying right now even thinking of rehoming him and hes laying beside me loving me.conforting me. I just dont know what to do. Any advice?
Kimberly, I am glad you shared your experience. Last year in November, we adopted a 10 week old female English Bulldog Mix whom we named Kona. As a puppy, she was sweet and loving, we thought we had the perfect dog. Soon after we got approval for adoption, I found out we were pregnant but it did not change my mind to welcome Kona into our home. We did basic obedient training with her when she was 4 months old and her trainer was impressed how smart she was. She has enough exercise, she gets her 40 mins a day and went to daycare twice a week. When I was in my late pregnancy, I noticed that she started barking when strangers came to pet her while I was walking her (she’s a very cute pup) but I did not think much about it, I thought she was just being protective of me.
Fast forward, our son was born in June 2018, her aggressiveness became worse. She would bark, lunge, jumped towards children at our local park and towards anyone who come to our place. We decided to get a professional help to asses her behavior, the conclusion was, even with training she thought that it would take a long time for her to fix her behavior. Having an infant child at home would not be suitable with her unpredictable behavior, she asked us to re consider to re home her.
She also got kicked out of daycare recently because she bit another dog. I have been feeling unsafe when I am home with her and my baby so I decided to contact the organization where I adopted her.
It has been hard, my husband and I have been very emotional about this, I have not stopped crying non stop for the past three days. I feel really bad about giving her up but at this point my son’s safety is my priority. I am glad I’m not alone in this situation.
Val Turner
We adopted a 4 year old dog in April. Unfortunately, we were not given truthful/accurate information from foster mom. Hailey is aggressive towards everyone that she comes in contact with, even just seeing someone during a walk gets her in a state. I’ve been researching positive reinforcement training and we have seen some improvement. However, I know she would bite someone, so I never put her in the situation while we are out for that to happen. It’s a very stressful way to live, especially living in a condo. We can never have anyone in our home or travel without her.
This morning, she was at the sliding glass door and was going to start barking at something outside. I put my foot between her and the door to shut it and she snapped at me. All her hackles were up. She was so close when she snapped at me that I could feel her breath on my foot! I was so taken back because to say my movements at the door were so non-confrontational or aggressive is an understatement! She has snapped at my husband before. She gets in that fight or flight mode and there is no distracting her.
She has started having separation anxiety when I leave in the morning. She has started peeing in our clothes. We took her to the vet and she got a clean bill of health. We’ve started her in a supplement, recommended by our vet to help w her behavior. I just realized this morning after the snapping event that I can’t trust her.
I don’t have any background on her. I just feel like she is one broken little dog.
Kimberly, thank you for writing this. I am sitting here at work feeling completely distraught and I don’t know what to do next. Your words have helped make everything a little clearer.
I adopted my dog (a questionable mix — probably part boxer, part pit, part … mystery) at the beginning of summer. (It is now mid-October.) He has always been nothing but sweet to me. We had a few challenges but we’ve gone through two sessions of training classes (beginner and intermediate and we’re signed up for the advanced class, which starts next week) and he is now a joy to walk most of the time. He knows all his commands and performs them with maybe 85% consistency.

But … (of course there is a BUT) I can’t have people to my house without him getting almost territorial and barking, snarling and (recently) lunging in a way that frankly terrifies me. I have tried everything I can think of — introducing new people outside the house, having them give him treats, giving him treats and making him sit, crating him for some time until the guests are seated and comfortable and obviously “welcome”, having people ignore the dog, and he still gets really worked up. He snarled at a young lady with some apparent special needs in PetSmart a few weeks ago, and then the last straw: last night we were at my parents’ house and he snarled and lunged at my brother’s lovely girlfriend, who he’s known since the day he came home. I am a single dog owner but I give him a lot of attention, time and love. I am home around 3-3:30 most days and then am typically home the rest of the night, so I don’t think it’s an issue of him not feeling attended to. From speaking with the trainer and a friend who is also a trainer, my guess is that it’s an issue of him feeling that he needs to protect me since I spend most of my time around him. Unfortunately however I cannot undertake the training it would need to break him of these habits. I would feel awful if he hurt anybody, and I would be liable. I think the best thing for him is a new home — maybe he needs to be with other dogs, or living with one person makes him overly protective — but 98% of the time he is all but perfect and I love him. I can’t imagine telling everyone I know that I don’t have him anymore. If anybody reads this and has any thoughts, I’d love to hear. Thank you so much.

I am so glad that I came upon your blog post today while searching online about this exact topic. We have an almost 3 year old mini australian shepherd who start showing signs of reactiveness/aggressiveness at 7 months old after we boarded her for a couple of days while on vacation. We immediately touched base with her breeder to let him know and that we had already signed her up for training to nip this behavior. The breeder suggested we not board her again (we never did and had the same family watch her when we went out of town but we have to plan our vacations around their schedule) and have her stay with friends. He stated that this breed would develop separation anxiety and this behavior would go away after she resettled back into our home. Fast forward to present day. We have spent thousands of dollars in training. We had many private lessons at home with a trainer who did clicker training. We did not see improvement and then started private lessons at a training center. Her reactive/aggressive behavior continued. We have been taking her to training closer to our home every Saturday for the last year and continue with consistent training in and outside our home. Her trainer also did private lessons at our home to work with her reactive behaviors in the home setting. She also stayed with her trainer for a week over the summer for intense training where they also practiced going on excursions to Home Depot etc. We have seen improvement but she still remains reactive/aggressive and unpredictable. She is fine with people/kids and dogs she knows. We have learned how to avoid situations such as crossing the street when going on walks when we see dogs/children at play or changing direction all together. We always feel like we are on alert when we are on walks with her and are unable to have a relaxing walk or to have conversations with passing neighbors because she will react. At home, we do not trust her with new guests especially children and she needs to be muzzled as a safety precaution. We made sure to socialize Vivie and had her go to playtime at doggie day care and had playdates for her with our neighbor’s puppy who was the same age. We also tried to familiarize her to new places, people, children, animals, feelings, smells, and sounds as much as we could aiming to keep all new experiences very positive. I also stay at home so she has never been left alone all day allowing us to ensure she is exercised and has daily mental stimulation. We have tried as much as we can and after many, many discussions we feel we need to figure out Vivie’s next step. I know reputable breeder’s have steps in place to take a dog back in cases like ours or will find it a new home. We have again touched base with the breeder and he has agreed to help find her a new home. It is definitely apparent that Vivie is protective of us. As the breeder stated “This “duty” Vivie has taken on categorizes everyone foreign to her as a threat that needs to be scared off.” As a parent, it is my responsibility to protect my children and those around them. We cannot take the chance of Vivie hurting someone. Thinking about rehoming Vivie consumes me. I fear that she will hurt someone and at the same time I fear what will happen for her and others going forward. Feeling blue.
Wow. This is almost our exact situation. We adopted a 5 month old dog three weeks ago. My husband had visited her at the shelter and she was fine, so when he was on a camping trip, my daughter and I went to pick her up. When he came home, the dog growled, lunged, and tried to bite him. Chased him down. She has gotten slightly better the past three weeks, but today he moved his feet “the wrong way” and she lunged again, went crazy. I hate feeling scared in my own house, but I am so attached to her. I’m a SAHM and she is with me all day. I know hubby can handle himself if the dog attacks him, it’s my five year old daughter I’m worried about (the dog loves her btw, but I am always hovering). We will have to return her.
Tiff R.
I have to rehome my beloved boy Mel today & I’m devastated. He’s 8 yrs old, has lots of scars on his face, was HW+ & had been at the shelter 5 months before we adopted him 7/15. We got him healthy & had the perfect scenario the 1st 6 weeks, then 1 day out of nowhere he decided he didn’t like my teenage stepson. He suddenly started growling & barking at him, then the next week bit him on the leg & bit again the week after. It wasn’t just a nip or warning, both bites broke the skin through jeans. He’s been around all different kinds of ppl & dogs & never showed any aggression & is so loving & affectionate with me, my husband & teen daughter. I talked to a behaviorist & started working with Mel after the 1st bite, but after the 2nd I had to make the heart wrenching decision to not have him in my home anymore. He’s my dog & I love him more than I ever thought I could after only 2.5 months, but my stepson is understandably scared to come out of his room & husband is mad, so I have to choose my family & their safety over Mel. At 1st I thought we’d have to put him down, but an angel who runs a rescue that’s worked with many aggressive dogs came through at the last minute & offered to take Mel into his home. I have 3 more hours with Mel before I take him to his new family. It’s going to be a long, hard, tearful day even though I know I’m making the right decision for all of us, including Mel. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
My husband and I are fostering an Australian Shepherd. Looking for a new dog the owner of Harley came to our house to introduce us to Harley. Unfortunately, she did not fit into our family. But because she was living in an unsafe environment we decided to foster her and to try and find her an new home. This has turned out to be a challenge. We have been working with Harley because she was aggressive when we got her. She does not like it when people come to our home and barks at them and looks aggressive. I think really she is scared of people. It seems Harley spent a lot of time in a room and not socialized very often. We also think she has been abused. When she met my daughter she barked and lunged at her so now she and her husband will not allow my grandchildren to come to our house until Harley is gone. Therefore, I am trying hard to re-home her. She is so sweet once she gets to know you. Harley loves riding in a car and playing ball. I have to say she is getting better and better everyday, however, I really need help to train her to stop barking at people that come to our home so that she will be ready for a new home. Any help to re-home her or train her to stop barking would be appreciated.
Emma Gibson
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your experience with Kopa and what led you to make the hardest but best decision for you and your family. My [brand new, as of Saturday] husband and I have just made the decision that we can no longer keep our 10 month old Goldendoodle, Barnaby.
He was given to us by my husband’s aunt 6 weeks ago. (Unfortunately this is not the first dog he’s taken in from her). We knew from the start that he was having some issues with posseiveness and separation anxiety. But we could not have been prepared for the dog we got.
Barnaby is the first dog we’ve had together, and I know if we had gotten him when he was a puppy we would have spent the time training him and socializing him the proper way. Instead, for 8 months, he was not trained, he was not socialized, he had a shock collar, and the aggressive behavior he began to display was never addressed. The last straw for them was when my husband’s grandmother startled Barnaby one night and he lunged at her. We had been looking into adopting dogs for a few months at this point and when offered an adorable, curly-haired puppy we jumped at the chance, confident in our ability to be consistent and get the proper help to train this dog. And for the first couple of weeks those who knew him before commented on his improvements and progress since being with us. It helped that we changed absolutely everything about our living style in order to avoid incident with him. No more throw pillows, shoes in the basement, our bedding put away every single day as that was where he spent his time while we were at work. But we noticed that anytime he had something he wasn’t supposed to or we were telling him to do something he didn’t want to do or attempting to leave the house he would become aggressive. He would guard the door and growl if we tried to get near it. He would snarl when we tried to retrieve whatever he wasn’t supposed to have, and even bit us both in the process.
A friend of ours who has trained a great number of dogs came and spent some time with him and witnessed some of this behavior, but assured us that he was trainable and that we could work with him on the aggression. And I even called and spoke with a behavioral specialist (for $75/hour I might add) and we tried to implement some new strategies. We were hopeful. But the reaction from our vet when we told her what he was doing put us right back where we started. She didn’t even need to say anything. She immediately backed away from him, consciously or unconsciously it doesn’t matter. In that moment I knew how much ground we would really have to make up for us to truly be able to trust this dog, if we ever could.
Then comes just last night. My husband shifted in bed to get up to use the bathroom. Barnaby whipped around and we heard his low growl. He was laying in front of the door. We distracted him by offering to take him out (usually does the trick) but then he refused to come back in the room for bedtime (we don’t trust him unsupervised in the house). My husband went downstairs to get him a treat to coax him in. Barnaby wouldn’t let him up the stairs again. I reached for the bedroom door handle, he turned and snarled and snapped at me. He snarled and snapped at my husband every step he took. We were all at a stalemate. Hostages in our own home. In that moment we knew that this completely unprovoked outburst was the end for us.
I knew that no matter how much money we dumped into training there was no guarantee and even if we went years without incident I would never fully trust him. I am afraid to walk near him at the wrong moment, I am afraid to pet him at the wrong moment. I don’t feel as though I could ever not be anxious around him, especially when we begin to consider growing our family. I love him SO much and know that this is NOT his fault NOR is it ours. But that certainly doesn’t make this any easier. Even though I know I was not the one who truly failed him, right now I still feel like a failure in his eyes because I couldn’t help him in the way he deserves.
I really needed to hear that we are not the only people who have gone through this process and have been forced to make the heart wrenching decision to give up their dog. There is nothing I wish more than for this not to be the case. But the current situation isn’t healthy for us and especially not for Barnaby. So Kim, thank you again for making me feel a little less lonely and a lot more confident that we are doing the right thing for all of us.
Hello, I am currently sitting here in tears and hyperventilating because I am going through the exact same thing with my dog. I just can’t make the decision to rehome him. I have now had my dog for a full year and it seems like every day he gets more and more aggressive and I am scared of him, but I also love him. This is honestly one of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced in my life and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. How did you finally do it? Did you give him back to a shelter? Do you still check in on your dog? I just feel like I wouldn’t be able to fully let go of him, I couldn’t just give him up to someone, even if I trusted them, without being able to get updates or be able to stay in touch. I would go insane not knowing how he is doing. I just want him to be happy and live his best life and I’m scared that I’m not giving that to him, but not because I don’t love him and I’m not trying, I just don’t know what I can do to help him at this point. I’m scared no one else will be willing to take care of him due to his behavior and personality and he will be put down, which is the last thing I want.
I received a pup 2wks ago from the shelter. It still hasn’t come around so that i will be able to take it for walks and actually touch it.
It stays in the kennel all day and doors are open so it can roam or play.
I think from a young stage the pups being in kennels and not walking around at the shelters can be very difficult for them.
I told my shelter in 3months and the dog doesnt come around I will be returning her. Its shy and very timid, it still shakes and hide.
I had the same problem years ago when considering a rescued dog Dusty for my roommate’s mom. We agreed to an overnight to see his personality. We already had a pack of dogs (6) we’d rescued over time consisting of 3 chow chows, a german shephard mix, rottie mix and american terrier. All the dogs were fixed and non-aggressive. They were use to welcoming new members to the pack so we felt comfortable introducing Dusty. He was a very docile chow chow to the degree he seemed almost a bit slow but we thought that would be great for her mom since she was already a senior herself. At one point we heard barking from the smallest of the chows in our pack and Dusty was cowering on the floor – Dusty was a larger dog but he seemed terrified of the the little one. We felt terrible and shuttled all the dogs in the house and kept Dusty away so he could recover. We had kennels for all the dogs so they were truly away from Dusty. We had to go to bed since it was late already and we made Dusty a spot next to the sofa and loosely anchored his leash with a chair. The next morning when we came down Dusty was feral he growled at us when we tried to approach and actually snapped toward us. There was no alternative but to call the rescue we had gotten him from which was a personal friend we’d gotten another one of the pack from. It truly broke our hearts because this was his third strike, he had already been somewhat aggressive before so we know in all likelyhood he’d be put down. But sometimes you just have to understand that doing the right thing can feel awful and even have side effects you definitely don’t want to be responsible for initiating. But ultimately this dog was already showing signs of aggression and rather than keep making it harder for this animal being shuttled from shelter to home it was a decision the rescuer had to make. They’re not all here forever, they bring a lesson sometimes and that is all. This is a hard lesson but pat yourself on the back for navigating it with clarity and sanity amid the hurt. Smile when you think of Kopa, you gave your 110% and can be satisfied knowing he’s finding his way to the right place for him 🙂
Kimberly, thank you for sharing this. We have a beautiful catahoula bulldog, who is now 1.5 yo. We got her at 3 months. She started growling last fall and now will have frequent aggressive behaviors – attacking us at times, everyone in my household (we are all adults) and one of our other dogs who is much bigger than her. She has so many wonderful moments, loving, playful and then she will turn, sometimes we cannot figure out what triggered her but it is unpredictable. I am currently working with a behaviorist but we are all tired of the behavior. I have begun to think that we can no longer keep her and the thought of bringing her back to the shelter where we got her makes me so sad. She is so fearful of the vets, she will sit as close as possible to me when she goes, even to stores (where she is allowed). She is my baby, honestly. She has my heart and that is why I have hung in so long, but I can see the stress it has placed on my family members and our other two dogs, who have no issues. I am scared they will not be able to rehome her, she has bitten, not fully punctured. I fear that if I leave her at the shelter, she will be traumatized all over again. I don’t even know if that makes sense. This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to consider. When I adopted her, it was forever, I committed myself to her happiness and to loving her. However, I also love my family and I have a commitment to them and the two dogs we had before her. Everyone is walking on egg shells around her, wondering when the next time she will be aggressive. I have two more things I am going to try. The behaviorist wants to try her on a mood stabilizer (I am willing to try anything) and I want to get her into some type of training to give her a job – nose works was suggested. If we don’t see a significant decrease in behavior soon, I will have to give her up. Thank you for helping me see that even though she has times of happiness, she may not be truly happy.
Tore N Fjelldal
Of course this is not easy, and we love our dogs, but in my opinion you have let this develop too far. Either you can make the dog turn safe this summer with help from a specialist/dog trainer, or you just keep the dog because of love, not reason (but should send it away). Too many dog owners loose their head for love, and make millions of excuses to why the dog behaves like it does, and that the situation is the problem, not the dog. Sorry for being cruel!!!
Amy Wilson
Your dog is unsafe and aggressive. It really doesn’t matter why. Put her down. Don’t pass the decision on to someone else. You know what the right choice is.
You failed at being a dog owner, congrats.
Tiff R.
Stevey, congrats to you as well for failing to be a decent, considerate human being.