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

To sustain this free service, we receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Our review process.

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?

Disclaimer: Information regarding insurance company offerings, pricing and other contract details are subject to change by the insurance company at any time and are not under the control of this website. Information published on this website is intended for reference use only. Please review your policy carefully before signing up for a new pet health insurance contract or any other contract as your unique circumstances will differ from those of others who may be used for example purposes in this article.
Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

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.

171
Leave a Reply

avatar
newest oldest most voted
James
My girlfriend and I rescued a 1.5 year old terrier mix 3 years ago. He was my first dog. He was always leash aggressive and has resource aggression. My girlfriend has never really bonded with him, but he became my little man. We attempted some interventions…not very invasive ones…but there was no improvement. We rescued our second dog..a 2 year old chihuahua mix about a year ago. This new dog has never met a stranger, and it wonderful in every way, shape, and form. My girlfriend loves our second dog while our first is an afterthought. The dogs get along well. Our first dog also occasionally pees in the house (very rarely..but still noteworthy) and barks/howls at all other dogs and most people. We aren’t comparing the dogs…but the drastic differences are unavoidable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace to all of you.

Mathilde

Leslie
It’s better for this dog if it gets rehomed in my opinion. The bottom line is that you have a new grandson and a son-in-law who uses a tone that is threatening to this dog. It deserves to be with people who truly understand the breed and a family who will not go all over the place trying to justify getting rid of it. And, by the way, it chews up things because you are leaving those things where it can reach them. You could have provided this dog with its own chew toys like bully sticks. I feel for your remaining dog because it’s probably next and you are removing it’s buddy that it’s bonded to. This dog deserves a family who will appreciate it. We’ve had an aggressive dog and what you describe ain’t it.
Julie Howard
Thank you for your story. I’m sorry that you had to go through that. We have a lab/retriever mix that we got from the shelter. We got him as a puppy. His name is Tucker. Tucker is about 3 years old now. He has a lot of anxiety and fear. He barks at our neighbors and jumps on the fence like he wants to jump right over and attack them. They are terrified of him. When my teenage daughter went to get him when he was barking at the neighbors, he whipped around and put his mouth on her arm. When I called the vet, they said that counts as a bite even if he didn’t sink his teeth in. Their prognosis of him was very grim, saying that a lot of dogs like him end up being put down. He still gets snippy with her if she tries to get him. We called the humane society and they kindly sent a dog trainer over. She told us that he is an extremely high anxiety dog. We worked with him a bit in the back yard with high value treats trying to associate good things with the neighbors. This helped a bit, but he still barks at them. Now, last night we had my husband’s parents over for dinner. He was beside himself. It took all 4 of us – Me, my husband, my 2 teenage kids just to keep him “calm”. He barked the whole time. He was panting the whole time. He wore himself out. The last straw was when we took our party to the couch. By that time, Tucker we thought was getting used to them. They had been feeding him treats all night. He even sat on the couch with them at one time not barking. Then when my mother in law and I were in the middle of a conversation, seemingly out of nowhere he jumped on her and put his face on the side of her face and nibbled on her ear. He then put his face on the other side of her face and teethed her other ear. We pulled him off, but I don’t know what that was. It was very scary because we didn’t know what he was going to do. She then told us that she thinks we should get rid of him because of liability. He’s too unpredictable and he definitely could bite someone. My daughter, who loves animals, was crying at the idea last night. She wants to invest in more training. But I don’t know if we can train this out of him. We can’t ever have anyone over because of him. We can’t go on trips, because we can’t have him boarded. But we love him and don’t want to see him go at all. I don’t know what we will do, but I wanted to let you know that you are not alone in this emotional roller coaster.
Kat
Gosh I needed this. I’ve cried for days trying to make the decision, but hours yesterday over it since today is the day for a similar situation.
We found our dog on the side of the road. Had no intentions on keeping him, but after attempts to find him a place we ended up with him for a year. He’s always pulled on leash and had times where he’d go nuts with small dogs approaching. Well a few weeks ago our other dog let them out and he went after a neighbors dog. Thankfully we didn’t find out what would happen b/c the dog got away, but the neighbor called the police on us. It was horrible.k He’s always been loving with all of us and nuts when people come in the house, but immediately calms once he realizes they are ok. However, I’m not the alpha and I’m with both dogs all day. My anxiety and stress have increased significantly with having him and going on walks in the neighborhood is horrible for fear he may get away from me. My living situation has changed and it’s unmanageable by myself and outside of sending him away to a doggy boot camp and spending 1,000s I’ve done everything. Today I’m going to bring him to a shelter. He was never meant to be ours, but I want to give him the best chance of being chosen. It has torn me up! Thank you for the article!!!
Sad trainer
Your dog wasn’t aggressive, that’s laughable. You could’ve kept your “beloved” pet had you told your husband to START paying attention to body language indicating the dog does not WANT affection at that moment, and STOP invading the dog’s space by moving him when he is sleeping or “cuddling” – which is stressful to a lot of dogs. Get your other dog it’s own bed, START respecting your dog, and STOP using outdated pack or “alpha” theories, and STOP trying to exert “dominance” over your dog. Instead use SCIENTIFICALLY BACKED behaviorists who have studied canine behavior and learning theories. This is a really sad read as it follows such a predicable path – dog feels uncomfortable and invaded in his own space, owner uses harmful and outdated training methods causing dog to feel even more confused, insecure, and uncomfortable, thus causing dog to escalate behavior.
Jenna
You have helped me so much by reading this. I have rescued dogs before and my last girl I had for 19 years and after 2 yrs wanted to fill that void so was going to get a puppy from breeder but strong believer in adoption so spontaneously we stopped at the rescue and my adult daughter pointed out such sweet sad eyes just pleading to leave. I told them I need a dog good with people and dogs. They had labeled her a wallflower and she was sedated from spading. I quickly realized how high energy and strong she was. Pulled me down so I enrolled in private lessons. She loved my sons dog but was unpredictable with others. Also with people she would act scary but then was fine. I was living my life around her trying and constantly on edge. I thought when we left Fl. ,where she was a stray at 1 yr old and had already had pups, and came to our home in NC it would be different. Her hunter instinct really kicked in ( black mouth cur mix)and she would bark aggressively at people walking by our house I was told fearful aggressive. I can only say I hope there is a special place you know where for the monsters that harm and ruin these precious creatures. She was so smart but was subjected to who knows what. I called rescues and tried myself but knew this wasn’t going away. I had only had her 3 months and shortly after adoption found out my daughters rare brain cancer is back and she loved my daughter and was such a great car traveler. I knew the way I was living with the stress of trying to make things better with her was a pipe dream and surrendered her. I have been torturing myself for 3 days now with the would’ve could’ve should’ve. Wondering if I should go get her etc. I made the right decision I know because even though she may never have bitten anyone I would have made myself sick over worrying about it. I blame the rescue organization for putting us through this heartache and reminds me of the comedian that said he got grief about buying a puppy instead of rescue and he said for once I want to be the first one to f up my dog. Yes it’s just a joke but if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. I know everyone’s heart is in the right place it’s just so darn tough doing this and I feel all your pain and knowing I’m not alone does help. God bless you all.
Christopher
Thank you for this amazing article. my wife and I are going through a similar problem we have a beagle mix named jax whom we adopted from a shelter at 3 months old but the shelter could not tell us much information at like how his prior owner treated him and even what he is mixed with. He is now a year a d 5 months old and He is somewhat aggressive towards random people where he would randomly bark and growl when I walk him but it’s only like 1 in 20 people which we have no idea why. Also he has bitten me a few times when he has something he knows he’s not supposed to have. When correcting a bad behavior he can show teeth and get pretty upset. My wife is absolutely devastated with the thought of giving him to a shelter or finding him a new home. It’s not easy for me as well but we dont know what to do. I feel as if we’ve tried everything including a $1000 board and train program. Should we made the same hard decision?
debra
my same story but mine is from a breeder i paid 1600 for board n train as she keeps attacking everyone
i give her 24 7 love and have tried it all
now im balling n need to see if breeder can rehome if not im not sure what to do
justin
I don’t believe that aggressive dogs should be rehomed. That is just kicking the can down the road and avoiding responsibility to deal with the issues. Euthanize the dog and ensure it can’t harm any people or other pets. That’s the responsible thing to do.
Fox
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.
justin
You have the responsibility to protect your older dog and instead you’re letting him be attacked repeatedly by an aggressive pit bull. This is not a tough situation to see the way out of. Send Bugs to the great kennel in the sky and don’t get anymore pit bulls.
S H
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…
Jayne
Have you spoken with his Vet? It might be some medical condition that he’s dealing with and needs a thorough exam.
ENK
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!
Kasey
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.

Alexandra
I am going through the exact same issue however the rescue we are working with has been very supportive as we have worked through accepting our dog’s needs are greater than our ability to help him. Increasingly, our dog has become aggressive not only to visitors to our property, but is now lunging at people on the street. We have a young child and we can’t risk putting either our child or the dog in a harmful situation so we are returning him, which is completely heartbreaking. He looks at me with his big brown eyes and I am filled with guilt but I know he needs a quieter home, with an owner who understands how to help him through these issues. He is going back to his foster mother tomorrow, and the only thing that makes me feel better is knowing he is going back to a wonderful person, and that his time with us over the last three months will ensure he goes to a home who fully understands his needs, and loves him for all his great qualities. I wish you the best, your story was helpful for me to read- thank you.
Swan
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.
Susan
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.
Gigi
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.