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?

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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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Thank you so very much for sharing this. I recently adopted two new dogs that were supposedly a bonded pair. However, one of the dogs was simply a bully and when she was brought into the house, she attempted to bully everyone and everything in it. still, she was cute and adorable and I felt guilty because the shelter posted pictures of me with both of the dogs, and everyone quickly joined in to say how admirable it was to adopt a bonded pair. I think this is a great example of how about why bonded pairs come with great risk. My brother loves dogs, and came over to meet them. Both times he was over, she was very aggressive, growling, Etc. The first time she went to bite him, I pulled her off him quickly and she didn’t connect. But the second time, she attacked him as he was walking by the kitchen, going for biting his ankle. She missed the ankle, but connected with his sneaker. By then, I had enough. Sadly, the shelter then sent me an e-mail that indicated it was somehow my fault and that she didn’t feel like she was fitting in. During all this, I had done everything to make her feel like she was fitting in, including neglecting the other dogs at times. I had enough. She is going back tomorrow. I was looking for something to make me feel a little bit better and this really helped. Thank you
Alissia Thomas
I have 2 dogs. The oldest is a golden retriever named Leonidas and he’s the sweetest dog ever he loves everybody and every dog. Then there’s Bugs a pitbull/sheepdog mix who’s had a past of abuse and abandonment. Most days bugs loves us and she loves hugs and kisses and belly runs but she doesn’t like people or other dogs. She’s very aggressive when it comes to leonidas and she’s bit him really bad on his ear puncturing it when she was a puppy over food but other than that she’d just snap at him or pull his legs and ears. Today she bit him and punctured the base of his ear over a tennis ball. Now I’m lost because i love both of my dogs more than anything but i know one day she might fatally hurt him. I don’t know what to do and it hurts to think about it.
my husband and I adopted a Chihuahua/Terrier mix about 2 years ago, he’s 4 now. he has bitten us, my family, and our other dog countless times. he has bitten both my husband and I, as well as his mom, in the face. he has some ‘triggers’ but most of the time it’s completely random and unpredictable. I know it sounds crazy that we have kept him this long but the guilt of euthanizing him sounds unbearable. living with him is terrifying at times. even though he’s small (15 lbs) he bites to hurt us, he breaks skin and draws blood. we don’t know why he is this way but assume he dealt with abuse. we love him immensely and when he’s in a good mood, he’s incredibly sweet. he loves attention and cuddling. I know he will continue attacking us, it’s not even a question. we are good at trying not to bother him now but we still get snarled at everyday, if not bitten too. we are moving across the country this summer and I don’t want to bring him but I also feel terrible thinking about any other option. I wish he could be rehomed but I don’t think it’s possible or ethical. I feel lost. I know my husband is willing to keep him because he’s very attached but the idea of living with him for the rest of his life sounds terrifying and exhausting. I love him so much but I don’t know what to do at this point…
Have you spoken with his Vet? It might be some medical condition that he’s dealing with and needs a thorough exam.
I’m really struggling right now. My ex husband, my son and I adopted our male dog from a rescue at 8 weeks old. He had been scooped from a feral mother down South. From the start, we loved him, but had to work with his anxieties: severe car sickness, dislike of the vet or having his nails trimmed, food stealing. As he has aged (he’s now 5), things have only gotten worse. He has bitten a friend who simply pet him (drawing blood), and has growled, snarled and snapped at my son and I repeatedly. He was once okay around other dogs, although oblivious to personal space and boundaries, but is now dog unfriendly. He has been aggressive towards my older dog. As much as I love him, I don’t trust him. If I assert myself with him, he becomes aggressive. My fear is surrendering him to the rescue I got him from, them re-homing him even knowing his history, and him hurting somebody.
I should add he goes to the vet regularly (muzzled), and has no health issues other than arthritis (which I treat). He showed *some* calming with a supplement, but not to a significant degree. I do love him, but I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I know I need to surrender him or something, I just feel so awful about it and stuck. Found this article and felt not so alone. Thank you.
Eugenia & Kurt Steinberg
We adopted an approximately 5 year
Old 19 lb terrier from a rescue we knew! We have him for 6 months loving adorable dog but unfortunately only with us! He is aggressive, constantly barking at all noises! We had a trainer for about 2 months but felt his techniques were to aggressive polking him in the ribs. Pulling his leash real tight etc. He was not the nicest trainer but came highly recommend! But I felt he was an angry and bossy not normal! Now we hired another trainer our rescue recommended. Our rescue said he does positive reinforcements and we trust her! Well he walked in with a muzzle a prong collars! I said I thought you didn’t you ude those methods! Well he said in some cases its necessary! My husband and I love the dog but my other rescue yorkie nows goes after him
and in the beginning they didn’t ‘ Needless to say I have been searching for ans on what to do! We don’t to give him back to the rescue but we are exhausted and spent a fortune which we have no problem but He will bite someone! The rescue seems to blame us even though she only had him for 2 weeks and just new his owner for 5 years at 80
Passed away the family got rid of him
Immediately with no medical records or anything? Please advise? Thank you so very much!
I am in this situation right now. We’ve had our hound mix Kona for 5 months. The first few days at home with us and our four kids, she was great. But then she started to develop territorial aggression. She’s aggressive toward anyone who isn’t a member of our immediate family, especially if they look her in the eye. She hasn’t bitten anyone yet, but it’s because we’ve kept her either confined or on a very tight leash. We’ve worked with a dog behaviorist and Kona made great strides, but we simply can’t afford the triple-digit-per-session fees.

Kona is very trainable, and she’s only like this with people outside the immediate family. At home with her family, she sleeps, she plays, she loves to be loved. But we live in a neighborhood, and we always have people going in and out, and we like to travel. As it is, we can’t take her with us (she shakes uncontrollably in unfamiliar environments) and we can’t leave her in anyone’s care. And we have to be on high alert whenever anyone comes to our home. It’s been very difficult for us to live a normal life.

I’ve reached out to dog trainers I know and they’ve all agreed that for liability issues, I need to return her to the shelter. Unfortunately, I spoke with the shelter and they said that with her issues she’ll likely be put down. So I’ve reached out to other rescues in our area, but no one will take her. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, because I know her aggression is just because she’s scared. And she is SO trainable, I just know she could work through it if she were in a more controlled situation with someone who knows what they’re doing. I just don’t know what to do.

The worst part is that I sat Kona down and explained this all to her, and she just looked at me intently with her one blue eye and one brown eye and then gently placed her paw on my arm, as if to tell me she understood. My heart is breaking.

In November of 2018 we had to put our basset hound Daisy Duke down due to a tumor in her spleen. We had taken in Daisy from a friend of the family who said she didn’t get along with the other dogs. Anyway Daisy was a wonderful dog and we decided we wanted to rescue another Basset hound so in December of this year we adopted Abbie. The day we got Abbie she was loving all over myself and my husband and he was so happy he decided he would just carry Abbie to the car. Well Abbie bit him. We had been told prior to adopting Abbie that the previous owner had surrendered her because she was “aggressive” but the foster mother hadn’t seen any signs of aggression other than her snapping at the vet tech when she was about to be picked up. So we chalked the incident up with the bite toward my husband as her being scared to be picked up. When we took Abbie home she was the perfect dog. She was loving and sweet toward everyone. She does like to play a lot and likes to play tug of war. Fast forward to April of this year when Abbie seems to be adjusted well is loving toward my husband and toward me. She was especially close with me. We were together all day every day because I work from home. She would lay with me on the bed while I was reading and allow me to snuggle her. There were a few incidents in which Abbie barked at my husband when I was sleeping and she was still asleep in her bed and he had come in to pet her and she had thrown herself over backwards barking at him to stay back. She also seemed scared when my 19 year old son would wear his cowboy boots. She would start shaking and tuck her tail between her legs. We would always reassure that she was ok and we assumed her “bad daddy” had worn cowboy boots. Anyway my husband and I came home from a charity even the other night coincidently for a Basset Hound rescue and were playing with Abbie and our 14 year old red heeler, Cinni. We were throwing the toys around and the dogs were having a wonderful time. It got a little late so we were getting ready for bed and my husband had sat in an over stuffed chair, where I had thrown a leather handbag when I got home that evening. I went over to hug my husband and Abbie came up under my legs. My husband assumed Abbie wanted love too so he bent down to give her a pet and hug her like usual and without warning she lunged toward his face. She bit him on his leg and arm before I was able to subdue her. We ended up going to the hospital. It was just awful. Animal control came and took Abbie from us and I will never forget the look in her eyes when I had to give her over to them. I called her foster mom and I am just praying the agency will take her back. The foster mom said she will keep her a forever foster. It appears Abbie is afraid of men and the foster mom was single so she was never really around men for an extended period of time. I feel terrible for Abbie and cry for her every day. This was a horrible situation.
Natalie Stocks
My dog was hog tied & dumped. Hospital was going to euthanize but after a month of having my lunches with him I bought him home. Recently after my older dog passed away I focused on him more. Never has he allowed us to brush him. I have to take him to work sedate & brush. Awful on the leash. My fault as I was concentrating on my 18yr old. Today after going after my husband twice he was booked in with an aggression trainer. 4hrs before I’m cleaning his sore foot as I have for a couple of weeks. Next think I’m 8n the fetal position. 61# on top of me have a snarling the whole time I ended up with a re mark next to my eye where his teeth were. Now the trainer wont help.
I am sitting here crying as I am in the same position that you and your husband were in. I am overwhelmed with guilt, but you have helped and giving me hope. Thank you for sharing your story.
My husband and I had to surrender our Dogo today. Our dog became very aggressive last night and attacked our other dog causing serious injuries. We have had our dodo since he was 4 weeks old. He is now 1 year 6 months and 130 lbs. I love him soooooo much, my heart is broken but your article gave me peace of mind that surrendering him was appropriate. He has been growling at my husband and would bully our other dog at will. Thank you for your making my decision easier.
My girlfriend and I recently took in a dog from a co worker of hers. He had not been fixed yet and is 18 months old. We thought the growling was due to him not being fixed yet so we took care of that. We have been going to obedience classes for the last month with no issues. At home though he has started to become more aggressive than before. He will come over and nuzzle his nose on your hand to give him attention, but 5 seconds later he growls and bears his teeth. We are going to have bloodwork done next week to see if it is a medical condition. If it is not medical, we are going to a certified trainer that deals with aggression in dogs to get her opinion. We love him and want what is best for him, but we also have a baby on the way in July and don’t know what to do when that time comes. Your story sounds very similar to our situation
I can’t believe how many people out there have trouble putting down a dog that they have been bitten by NOT once but sometimes 3 or more times!!! Seriously people wake the F up…. Wow!!
Thank you so much for sharing your story. We have a 2 year old lab mix who we adopted a few months ago. At first he was totally fine with my female friends coming to visit one at a time, but we hosted first my in-laws and then my family over the holidays. He bit my brother-in-law and seriously frightened my in-laws and my dad. When a cousin came to stay, we followed all of our trainer’s guidance on introducing them, and he still bit him right off the bat. He is a beautiful dog, in peak physical health, and he is almost always so sweet and loving with my husband and I – in many ways he has become a true part of our family. But we have also completely altered our lifestyles to keep him around – we rarely have friends over because he has to be kenneled and he barks constantly. We hardly go out because he has such severe separation anxiety and we feel terrible leaving him alone in that condition. I get stressed any time anyone comes to our house – delivery people, neighbors, etc. – because of how aggressively he barks and snarls – what if he got out and bit them one day? We have an appointment next week with a veterinary behaviorist, and I hope that can help. But at the same time I know that we are probably not giving him the life he needs, and that he may even have mental issues belied by his apparent physical health. I, too, work from home and so I spend all day with him – the idea of saying goodbye is extremely painful, but I’m afraid the day may be coming. Reassuring isn’t the right word, but it is helpful to know that others have been through this heart-wrenching process. Thank you again for sharing and for opening a space for discussion.
Just yesterday we had to return our 7 month old hound mix Marshall to the shelter. My heart is broken. He had a severe case of resource guarding that recently resulted in a full attack on my husband as he was trying to fetch a plastic wrapper. Blood was drawn-it was all kinds of ugly. We have two young children and an in home nanny who also has a young girl. Returning him was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I know in my heart it was the right thing. Thanks for sharing your story. Xoxo
Thank you for sharing this article. I have a 10 week old pit bull named Lala. We rescued her three weeks ago from someone who did not want her (unwanted Valentine’s day gift). I did not know much about the dangers of bringing home a puppy that was separated from its mother before 8 weeks. Aside from regular puppy behavior (jumping, mouthing, etc.), Lala was very nice and loved to cuddle when she arrived. Now, she has become super aggressive. She tries to bite as if she were angry at you, she lunges and barks at us, etc. Whenever we come home, she is so excited to see us but eventually she gets aggressive. We try to be calm and assertive and pull her off, but she keeps coming back with a vengeance until we have to put her in a time out. My four year old is now afraid to be in the same room with her and only walks around if someone is holding her. I have to wear boots around the house in case she tries to go for my feet. And I tried everything! I took her to the vet, went to an animal behaviorist, etc. I have to think about the safety of my family (especially since I am due with baby# 2 in June), so we will be rehoming her. We found a nice couple who is willing to work with her and have had more experience than me dealing with dogs. It’s what is best for her, but I can’t stop crying. It’s as if I lost a member of my family. Like I am giving away a child. The guilt is eating me alive and I have thrown up twice now just today. My husband worries that it is affecting our unborn baby, but I can’t help it. The sadness is overwhelming.
Like all the others, I want to thank you for sharing your story. I have a similar story, only I have had my pup for just shy of 7 years. Desmond is a Border Collie/Australian Shepard mix, and has needed lots of extra attention from the gates. He gets tons of exercise daily! I also have a Golden Doodle, and I take them out for long trail runs, walks, we go snow shoeing, mountain biking, hiking … he loves to camp and play, but he is unpredictable and snaps at people. And as he ages this is getting to be more problematic. He escaped my gated yard yesterday, and bit a woman walking by. This seemed unprovoked. She stated he ran through the gate (the latch hadn’t caught completely), bit her and then ran back into the yard. There could be a million reasons why this happened (protecting his turf, sensing danger, etc.) but the essence is, he bit her. And now my problems seem to be more than behavior issues.

I love the little guy so very much, but he obviously needs something other than the suburban life I can give him – perhaps a farm where he can work, maybe a county house, maybe someone who can work with him daily beyond his hour of exercise. I have been struggling with this issue for awhile, yesterday seemed to be the decision point.

My question to you is how do you rehome a pup who has special needs like this? I do not want to see him euthanized, I have to believe that someone out there is up for this challenge! Someone who could work with him differently, offer a different structure and discipline than I have been able to … and if they did, they’d have such a beautiful loving companion. But how do you find this person?

It is unethical to “rehome” that dog. have it euthanized. Aggressive dogs have no place in society.
I have a similar situation and request. I have had behavioral training for my dog and worked with couple of regular trainers and a behaviorist. I rescued the dog at maybe 4 yrs old and have had her for 2 years. I have thought her all kinds of commands. Sit, stay, lay down, roll over, shake, and leave it. She is so loving to me. But strangers, she will try to bite unless I’m holding her back. The command “leave it” even w the prong collar is not working. I do it exactly as the trainer showed me. I use a muzzle always in public, just in case. she goes crazy in the car when we drive by people or dogs. (When we walk, same thing. She goes nuts and is airborne even on a prong collar. I can finally eventually get her to sit after the dog is almost out of site).
In the car today with me, we were in the parking lot after I worked on training and walking her. Some owners and dogs were near the car. She lunges up front being ballistic barking, growling, lunging at my car windows. I can usually tell her “back” and she gets and stays in the back seat. Not this time. And this time when I tried to get her back, she acted like she was going to bite me. I know I cannot do this anymore. Someone or myself will get hurt. I have spent so much money and my heart and 2 years of training and loving her, but someone is going to end up getting hurt. It was clear she was abused and not socialized.i knew that she had been abused when I got her. I had a very kind and patient dog daycare also work with us. They knew she had major issues, too. They loved her but she had ok days and days she wouldn’t play with dogs when I would take her. I really have changed my life to try to make it okay for her. Reading, watching training advice, helpful hints, asking people including my vet.., no one has had answers that worked. Even my vet said it’s major fear aggression and that the dog is crazy and bless me for being a person to take her.
I know because she was returned to a shelter twice before I adopted her, that she’s probably going to end up being put down. I can’t handle that thought because usually she’s wonderful one on one w me. I’m thinking maybe there is someone with a house in the country that wants a farm dog, where she can run around outside? I don’t know. I’m scared I am going to be hurt, or that someone will get hurt. The guilt I feel is so bad because I have tried and love her so much, and keep asking myself if I have done enough. My mom has been saying to give her away for at least a year, and that I shouldn’t feel guilty and have done more than anyone would. It still hurts. And I work in the pet industry, too.

I also wish I could find a home for my dog with someone who wants to work with aggressive dogs that can have a chance at rehabilitation. I just think now that with all I have tried with her, the reality is that I can’t do it anymore. It’s not getting better after all of this time. I have been so consistent with training. But every walk is a nightmare. Every person walking across the street. Every dog, even driving in a car if she sees a person walking or a dog.., it’s out of control. I have followed all advice and training to a “t”. I know that the dog feels tension through the leash, all of it. I have been so consistent and I feel horrible because the realization is that I can’t make it better. When I saw her leap into my front seat in my car, I could have been driving! It was scary. I feel like I have let my dog down. I have cried so much off and on for the 2 years I have had my dog. And I realized I’m not helping her or something just is missing from what she needs. I know it’s to the point that I can’t get to her in the way that maybe I professional having her full time can. I have spent thousands of dollars on trainings and trying to work with her. Lots and lots of hours and patience: still, after tonight…
Where do I find a new home for her? I know if she goes to a shelter, she will be put down. I have been so patient. She needs a country home, someone who lives alone and deals with dogs that are aggressive due to fear and abuse, lack of socialization.
I really need advice on where I can get her a good home. I think the right person can maybe get through to her… I don’t want her to be put down and I don’t want her to hurt anyone. I just want her to be in a home where she and others are all safe. Where she can be happy.

You did the right thing. Taking chances with an infant on the way would be crazy.
You did the right thing.
By re homing him before a bite happened you did your best to give him a chance to grow out of his aggression towards men. I hope his new owners take this aggression seriously. Even if he is adopted by a woman or an all female household, a dog that is aggressive to 50% of the population is a disaster waiting to happen.

So many people will continue to force an aggressive dog to live in a situation it is not comfortable with. Sooner or later someone gets bit. It is painful to consider but humane euthanasia before a bite is better than doing it retroactively after one. Hopefully that won’t be necessary with this dog. By getting him out of a household he was uncomfortable in, you have given him the best chance to have a happy and safe life. Many dog owners let ego get in the way and make a decision based on what makes them feel good versus what is good for the dog.

I know many people will come at you with a dog is a lifetime commitment. That is true. However by taking the dog back to the shelter you fulfilled that commitment and gave him the best shot at having a long and happy life. Sometimes things just don’t work out with a dog. I am amazed we have gotten to where re homing a dog is a bigger deal than getting a divorce to many people.

Best of luck to both of you and congrats on the upcoming baby.

I’m in the middle of this at the moment. My dog is aggressive when leashed and he’s a large, powerful dog. I have other dogs and I can’t walk him with them because he sets them off when he sees a dog. I tried everything but i also cannot afford a trainer. It is absolutely breaking my heart, It physically hurts to think about it. But i am currently trying to rehome him through a charity that will help train him aswell as rehome, so he can walk happily. I selfishly want to hold him close and never let go but i know its not the best for him.
We just adopted a one (1) year old dog from our local Humane Society. He’s adorable in every single way – he loves our other two dogs and our cats, he’s a cuddly affectionate goof ball. He’s perfect except for one thing: He’s leash aggressive – he barks and lunges at other dogs being walked while he’s on leash. I signed him up for his first obedience class at the same place where he was adopted and we concentrated on this one problem. He was the biggest noise maker in the class because of the other dogs, but by the end of the 6 weeks, and with actually training ME to be able to distract him from other dogs on leashes, he’s making excellent progress. Just to enforce what he and I have been learning, I am signing him up again for the same class – then after that, agility training. You might consider looking into an obedience class run by a local Humane Society in your area. It’s a fun thing for him/her also, and at the price of $130.00-$160.00 for 6 weeks, it’s a bargain if you would consider keeping and working with your pet.
We too are going through this. Rango is my sour patch dog, when he’s sour he’s awful…growls and snaps at me when I tell him to get down from the bed or couch or when I tell him to stop lunging and barking at people walking by. Over the 7 years he’s been in the family I felt like I had his aggression under control with a muzzle. However the past 2 I feel like it’s gotten worse, But when he’s sweet he’s such a cuddler and snuggly dog, he loves licking my step daughters face and loves being playful and chasing his tail, however on Valentine’s Day I noticed his aggression had gotten muchworse and he bit down and held his grip on my hand and he tried to bite my son when he told him to get off the couch, he also tried to bite my boyfriend while he picked him up to remove him from the situation. So I made a decision to rehome Rango, it was a tough decision but it was for the best. My parents are sad and aren’t as supportive about it but it’s not something they’re faced with, and my biggest fear is for Rango to really hurt someone and have to be put down. I am happy to say he is going to be with a farmer that my boyfriends dad is good friends with and he has 100s of acres of land for Rango to run around on and be the only dog there. I’m going to go through the stages of grief of having to give him away but I have to keep thinking that it’s for the best.
Kristen Boone
My two year old bloodhound mix has had a ton of medical issues since we got him when he was 5 months old. He had a very negative reaction to a steroid for an allergy reaction around 6 month and ended up having very bad agression as a side effect. This lasted months. He had also had issues with dog fear aggression after being attacked by a dog in our neighborhood the first week we had him. Our poor puppy has had really bad luck in the health department. We found out he had IBD (will be on a steroid for the rest of his life) and on top of this he has become aggressive towards people (we did work with a behaviorist to fix the dog aggression, that is gone). He has attacked my boyfriend a few times and he has bitten (not drawn blood just scratches) a few visitors. This happens so infrequently that I am having a hard time making a decision to give him up or put him done. Yesterday we saw a veterinary behaviorist and she told us that he very liking has a neurological issue that can not be fixed, since he has no obvious triggers when he attacks. Three different vets now have told us we need to seriously consider putting him down. I love him so much but he is a serious drain on our finances with all of his issues (also has to eat only a prescription food). He is also a dog that will be unpredictable for the rest of his life and we were told this can be helped by training him to wear a muzzle so that he can still be around people. I want to make the best decision for him and I just don’t see how anyone else would ever want to take responsibility for a dog who has so many issues. I worry he will not get the love and care from someone else. We easily pay $400 a month just for his food and medicine. On top of this he could bite us or someone else at anytime. I just don’t know what to do…
Please put it down before it seriously hurts someone.
Paying for medical bills and a settlement after an attack will make $400 month seem like nothing.
I hope this doesn’t sound harsh but I can not believe you’d even consider NOT putting this dog down …. Seriously. That is a major accident waiting to happen.
Good luck with everything
I never realized there were so many others that go through this. My boyfriend and I moved in together last April, I have two dogs(male 5/female 1 altered) and he has one(male 4 unaltered). We knew it was going to be a crazy loud house with three dogs but they all got along really well the whole time we were living separately, he was bonding to my dogs and I to his. It all seemed “meant to be” and stayed that way for the first 4 -5 months. November was when his dog first bit me. We had noticed him growling at the youngest dog when it came to food and some toys, he nipped at her one time but we figure he was just putting her in her place in the pack. But then he started doing it to me and my boyfriend. My boyfriend started really getting upset. He has had his dog since birth and they had been through a lot together. I know in my boyfriends last relationship the dog was made to be an outside dog. I also know that after that relationship ended the dog was sent to live with my boyfriends father for a few months until my boyfriend got back on his feet. That is when the separation anxiety was noticed. The dog would bark and carry on like a nut when my boyfriend would leave his dads after a visit. His dog even bit his dads dog one night, as the story goes due to anxiety(I was not in the picture yet). I thought with some love and stability from living as a family and training of course that we could curb the anxiety and it would be fine, we even gave him canine CBD oil because it helps with anxiety. November things took a turn for the worst. My boyfriend immediately was talking about moving out and I was so upset to told him no, we would get his dog fixed, find a trainer, we would figure this out. Well a few weeks later another bite, this time my boyfriend and it was a hospital trip! The bite happened when the dog stole a Christmas ordainment off the tree and was guarding it from us. I found a trainer and we started walking all the dogs, by trainers request I was not to hold the leash of my boyfriends dog but to be around and watch to get my confidence back up being around the dog. We also were given a few tips on how to re-establish dominance in the house. This included a strict “no touch, no talk(other than commands) and no eye contact.” We stuck to it for a couple weeks which is when his dogs stealing things like rugs, pillows, my cell phone anything he could get his teeth on, got way worse. We cleaned up the house and made sure never to leave things on counter tops, we fired our dog walker who would come while we were at work, and told family and friends not to visit until we got this dog under control. We were so scared of him attacking someone else. I feel so dumb now and disappointed in myself for going to the extreme of making our home unlivable, just to keep this dog at bay. I love this dog…ALL MY DOGS. The other two dogs are wonderful companions all the way! Most of the time my boyfriends dog will come cuddle with me and listen when I say come or stop or sit,ect. He will not listen to “drop it” from anyone, even after the trainers advise!! Then this past sunday while I was wiping mud off of the other dog he bit me again!! That’s 3 now. We don’t exactly understand why this started, everyone got along great in the beginning. Now I have told my boyfriend that it is time for the dog to go. We just are not safe, which he already knows. I feel like it is all my fault for even trying, especially since my boyfriend wanted to move the dog away right from the first bite. Some people will probably hear this story and agree that it is my fault in some way, maybe, i don’t know. I guess I had to at least try before giving up. The thought crossed my mind if maybe there is something physically wrong with the dog or if it really is just his personality, i don’t know. I am sure of these four things though: I can no longer live in this unsafe environment, the dogs has put soooo much stress on our human relationships the past couple of months it isn’t funny, my heart is broken over all this I can’t stop crying and my boyfriend is absolutely crushed at having to either loose his dog or break off our relationship/move out. Now I am faced with is our relationship over? If not, how am I going to re-home a dog who has bitten? Who will help us? How much longer will this all go on? What if something worse happens before we are able to find a better home? Is there even a better home out there? So stressed. So heartbroken.
I’m very grateful for your post. I’m currently facing the decision to send my dog back to the humane society that I got her from. I’ve only had her for a month, but I knew after the first week we might not be the best fit. She’s a 3 year old blue heeler. They told me she was a ladies dog, she was wary of men, but loved other dogs. Unfortunately, her behavior towards most all people (other than me) I quickly found out was aggressive. She would lunge, growl, and bark. She tried to attack some of my roommates, so I started boarding her at my friends house (who has four other dogs) while I was at work. At first she was getting along just fine, then I started getting text messages about her behavior, nipping at some of her dogs, aggressively chasing another one, and trying kill one of her chickens. I didn’t want to give up on her I figure maybe I was doing something wrong so I hired a trainer. The trainer basically said the best thing to do is to manage her environment (so keep her away from people), give her treats when she meets someone, give her praise when she doesn’t bark at people, and to muzzle train her. I moved in with a family member to a small town where we would have more space and there would be less people.
We’re a week in and not much has changed. I’m still limited on times of day I can walk her because of her behavior towards people. She bit my mom, so my mom doesn’t feel comfortable around her. I found someone willing to watch her for me so she wouldn’t be cooped inside all day, but she was so aggressive towards them it was clearly not going to work.
I feel hopeless. On one hand I have people telling me I should hold in there and over time she will get better, and on the other hand I have people telling me to get rid of her before she hurts somebody. I feel guilty for not being able to control her behavior. I feel guilty for wanting to surrender her after such a short period of time. However, reading your post and the comments that followed have at least made me feel less alone in this situation.
Unfortunately, this dog was probably surrendered to the shelter where you found her for the exact same reasons you are now living through. Don’t feel bad about returning her to the Humane Society. When you decide to adopt again, bring a trainer who can evaluate personality. Just my opinion.
Go to and surrender her
L.A. Simpson
Excuse the rambling comment that is going to follow … it’s pretty much trail of consciousness and leaves much to be desired in readability.

I’ve been struggling for six years with an extremely dog aggressive dog whose triggers for human aggression seem to be growing. Six years. During this entire time, I have never thought of her as a dog I would have for the rest of her life – the idea of keeping her is honestly exhausting and something I just kind of avoid thinking about. I have tried almost continuously to find other options for her since I got her, but I am upfront with rescues, shelters, or anyone else about all of her issues. I don’t want anyone else to take in this dog who was originally surrendered at 2 years old for being “too hyper” and having the unpleasant surprise that it wouldn’t take much for her to try to kill another dog. And a person approaching her owner in the house is all it takes for her to snarl and lunge at them in an attempt to bite. I have spent more money on trainers and lessons for her than some spend on cars. And nothing seems to be making even a dent in this behavior.

And I am so tired of it, I an mentally and emotionally drained, and I don’t care that she is literally the best dog when it is just the two of us. I’ve had to move from a rural area to an urban one for work, and trying to time her walks with when no one else will be out with their dogs is nearly impossible. I can’t get a day without her lunging, snarling, foaming at the mouth … without people looking at her like she’s a monster and at me like I am insane.

I am so tired of this dog. I don’t want her, and I haven’t wanted her since the second day I got her six years ago. But it was so beaten into my head by dog crazy assholes that once you adopt a dog it’s your responsibility and if you give it up you are a failure and a monster who hates animals. At this point I could never take her to a shelter or rescue – she would end up being completely unadoptable, left with unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar environment, and then euthanized alone. And even with all of this, I am still too much of a coward to put her down by my vet because who the hell gives up after six years of trying?

You need to put your big girl boots on and stop being a doormat for this dog, you are the boss not her!!
PLEASE do not feel guilty about putting this dog down. It should definitely not be rehomed to become someone elses problem. I you are unable to manage it with training, there probably isnt anyone that can.
Please put it down before it hurts someone. Pick a random vet from the yellow pages if you have to but just do it.
Chris Pace
i find it rather peculiar that you admit that your dominance training didn’t work, that you can’t explain why it didn’t work, and don’t ever question the effectiveness of dominance training.
I’m a qualified behaviourist by profession so i’d like to offer my two cents. If your dog growls when approached in a new home, when he is in the bed, near his canine buddy, near his food, on the sofa, etc, especially if that dog has never known such comforts before in his life, it means he is terrified of losing them. Forcing him aggressively to relinquish them confirms his fears and makes the aggression worse. A growl as you correctly say is a warning. Dogs would rather growl than bite becasue getting into a fight is risky. If you don’t listen and act appropriately the dog has no choiuce to escalate, because his calmer way to say F-off didn’t work. I would have asked you to offer alternatives whenever asking the dog to relinquish something, to never do so by handling the dog, to show him you listena nd respect his body language and to show him that there is niothing to be worried about. Not all dogs liek cuddles so cuddles for this dog would probably just make things worse, especially if beibg physically handled has become associated with losing resources. Your trainer was an idiot. When someone gives you advice that makes matters worse 1) stop following that advice, 2) question why it didn’t work 3) seek advice from someone whose actually bothered keeping up with dog behaviour research since the 80s.
You just totally described our dog, Mickey. He was a very abused dog dumped at a shelter with a leg so broken it had to be amputated. You said…”If your dog growls when approached in a new home, when he is in the bed, near his canine buddy, near his food, on the sofa, etc, especially if that dog has never known such comforts before in his life, it means he is terrified of losing them.” When we brought him home he thought his place was outside until we coaxed him into the house.

We lived in a rural area in Ohio and there were no trainers close by. We were attached to Mickey despite his personality and he was attached to my husband. His behavior was always towards me, so we figured it was a woman who hurt him. He developed diabetes at the age of 5, but he let my husband give him his shot. We loved him, we respected him, and we avoided pushing his buttons. He came to us at the age of 3 and we just had to put him down several months ago at the age of 13 because he lost the use of his back remaining leg and we were told he would never get the use back. He refused to let us help him, clean him and bring him outside to do his business. He was also blind, but that’s no reason to put him down.