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. Learn more about dog on dog aggression.

What Do Trainers Advise For Aggressive Dogs?

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

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

The Toughest Decision We’ve Ever Faced

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

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

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

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

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

Why We Chose To Say Goodbye

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

We All Need To Feel Safe At Home

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

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

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

Young Kids & Aggressive Dogs

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

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

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

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

Hoping To Stop The Growling Before It Escalates Further

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Told Close Friends & Family

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

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

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

Why Was Our Dog Aggressive?

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

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

How Is Kopa Today?

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

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

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

What Can You Do In A Similar Situation?

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

Have you had to say goodbye to an aggressive dog?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories, and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly's 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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September 15, 2020 5:05 am

I got my Basenji at barely 4 weeks old (I know I shouldn’t have but he was too cute and looked so sad that I had to take him).
I had a Caucasian Shepherd/German Sherpherd mix at the time as well who was very well trained but didn’t like my new puppy.
I used the same methods of training. I used on my older dog with the new one but he is just very strong-willed and wouldn’t listen mostly.
He was sweet with my niece and nephew and people around him when he was younger but after 3 months, he became very aggressive.
Sadly, my older dog died and then he just kept getting worse after.
He’s never bitten anyone but he lunges at people and growls aggressively and I can’t even take him out of my house anymore because he growls at every stranger. Even when I put him in the car he does the same, he climbs my lap (as I’m driving) and growls aggressively at passersby that I just have to take him back home to avoid accidents.
He food guards a lot and becomes extremely aggressive if you go near his food or just stand close to him.
But he’s a darling with me, playful, cries when I go out, excited when I get back…I just love him so much but yesterday he growled at me for a very quick second and then realized what he did and looked sad. He’s been getting worse with his aggression to other people that I’m scared he’ll bite someone one day.
He always has to be on a leash when people come over now cause he would lunge at them and try to attack.
He needs a check-up from a vet but I have to pay for home service cause I can’t take him out cause of his aggression and he wouldn’t let me put a muzzle on him for his shots.
He also doesn’t eat when I’m home, he’s very picky with me, but when I go to work he eats fine. Now I quit my job, he doesn’t eat so well, he would only eat my personal food or his treats or chicken/meat/fish I buy cause he wouldn’t eat dog canned food any more.
Also when he tries to attack people, he rarely listens to me when I try to stop him.
I’m giving him away today and I’m extremely sad. He’s 1 year and 1 month old and I’m very heartbroken I have to do this.
This isn’t the first time I thought of giving him away but I cry endlessly that I change my mind but this time I have to cause I’m stuck, I can’t live my life worrying he’ll attack someone or even me.
I’ve been crying all week and yeah it does feel the same as losing a dog.

September 8, 2020 8:01 pm

I have had to say goodbye to an aggressive dog and it wasn’t easy. I tried for a year and a half and didn’t want to give up on her. I adopted her when she was about 3 months old. When her issues arose a couple of months after adopting her, I sought help but training was too expensive and there aren’t many resources where I live. She was dog aggressive, cat aggressive, and resource guarding/resource aggressive amongst other behavioral issues. She bit multiple times and each time had to do with resource guarding and fights in the dog park because she would bully other dogs. I was so distraught and was depressed for weeks. She is currently waiting on a rescue group to go through extensive training. Even with all of her issues, I loved her immensely and miss her so much. I really hope she will get the help she needs and go to a good home.

September 3, 2020 7:47 pm

I am so happy that I have found this article. It absolutely makes me feel better to realize we are not alone. I have never been so distraught in my life. We got our first-ever golden retriever puppy in February at 3 months old from a puppy store. My two grown daughters both have dogs and they thought we needed a puppy. Unfortunately, we got a bad dog.
In the beginning, he bit my husband so we took him to a veterinary behaviorist who put him on reconsile (Prozac) and clonidine. He was diagnosed with possessive aggression. We thought he was ok on his meds, and the doctor kept upping them according to his weight. He bit my husband again. We said three strikes and you’re out. Well, yesterday he bit me very aggressively on my arm and my boob. No one wants to take in a dog who has bitten. There was a guy working at my house who will take him, so we are giving our beautiful pup to this guy tomorrow. He has a husky as well, and our pup loves other dogs…we are so torn with our decision and we keep going back and forth, but we know the right thing is to give him up. So sad…

September 5, 2020 8:26 am
Reply to  wendy

Suggestion: Go to a shelter and adopt a homeless puppy or dog. Puppies in stores come from puppy mills and most of the puppies are inbred and have many problems including, but not limited to illness, and are kept in deplorable conditions.

July 25, 2020 1:17 pm

This is a great article, my fiancé and I rescued a dog a couple of months ago and unfortunately had to return her after two weeks as she bit a man’s hand firstly, and then a week later she suddenly turned on my fiancé when he wasn’t doing anything. She was a big, heavy dog with a strong jaw and she was really going for him and frothing at the mouth. He managed to get in another room and barricade himself in. We too plan to have children and so that was the biggest deal-breaker to think that she could do that so suddenly without warning. We were heartbroken to give her back and I just felt like the worst person in the world as the rescue charity really made us feel bad, told us they didn’t believe us and said we had no patience. After the first biting incident, we were put in touch with a behaviorist who also said we weren’t being dominant enough, although the tips and advice she gave me seemed to make the dog worse and she would sit staring and growling at me when I acted dominant. This article has made me realize that we’re not awful people, we just couldn’t provide the right environment for that particular dog and didn’t want to wind up with her seriously injuring somebody.

July 23, 2020 6:35 pm

We have an issue with our dog. Out of nowhere, within a week, she ran out of the apartment and tried to attack the mailman. Then today, she tried to bite a stranger’s dog in the neck. We have no idea what else to do with her or even where to start.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
July 24, 2020 4:12 pm
Reply to  Nathan

First, I would speak with your vet to see if there are any underlying issues. Many times aggressive behaviors stem from anxiety or underlying medical conditions. One of my previous pets became aggressive toward one of my other dogs before having seizures. After being placed on treatment, the issue was resolved. This is definitely not always the case but it is important to check.

July 19, 2020 1:10 pm

Thank you so much for this article. We adopted a beautiful husky about a month ago. From the beginning, he growled menacingly at my husband. We decided it was food aggression. We purchased a crate and hired a trainer to help us become better owners and to help in retraining some of the dog’s behavior. He bit my husband twice, drawing blood. He has nipped at both of my sons (high school age) but we persevered with the training. Then, while I was petting him, he lunged at me and bit my arm rather severely. We have now decided we must take him back. I’m heartbroken, but we just can’t live in fear in our own home. I am filled with guilt, but what else can we do? Thank you again for this article. It has really helped to know that we aren’t the only ones who have ever had to deal with this.

July 27, 2020 6:14 pm
Reply to  Kimberley

I know how you feel after having my dog for over a year since she was 3 months old…it is heartbreaking. It’s only been a couple days and I’m so heartbroken and torn but know I couldn’t continue living this way. It happened so suddenly and just the shock of it. I tried for a year but nothing I did was enough. When I surrendered her, the shelter said she needs extensive behavioral training and rehabilitation and that they commended me for sticking it out so long when other owners would have given up a year ago. I don’t think anything will ever make me feel better, but time heals. Thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences. It makes me feel less alone in this.

July 17, 2020 9:12 pm

I have a 6-year-old Collie. We’ve been together since he was 8 weeks old. He’s my best friend- the first dog that was all mine. I love this dog dearly. Unfortunately, he’s never been a big fan of changes. In the last 4 years, I met my husband, got married and moved. We added a baby, had another big move. I got very ill and was in the hospital for 2 weeks, so he didn’t know where I was for 2 weeks. Then 7 months ago, we had our second child. He is the most loyal dog, and loves his entire life to make sure I’m safe. He’s always been a bit of a nervous nelly, but now that our oldest is 2 and the busiest boy you will ever meet, he is a nervous wreck. He hates all the unpredictable movements of the toddler, hates all the clutter of toys. And of course, our son loves dogs so he just wants to let my dog all day. My dog has never bit, but I can tell that if backed into a corner without an escape he would probably nip. Bottom line is- he’s not happy. He’s so nervous- and paces all the time and he just never settles. I’ve found a rescue that is excellent but I’m having a hard time letting him go. Please, someone, tell me it’s the right thing to do.

June 19, 2020 6:27 pm

I have one that for the first time can not get her to stop her aggressive behavior. I am looking now for a good spot for her to go. She will be friendly and playful, then at a moment’s notice, she turns into a fighter. I can’t let her near little children for fear she will turn on them. I can’t control her when she hits the red zone. I today put her in a shock collar, for the very first time in my life I have had to go, buy and use a shock collar. She attacked another one of the pack and the shock collar did not work on her during her frenzy. I have to step in and yank her off the others, they will not fight back but it is just a matter of time before one of them will fight back. She turned to bite me until she saw me and she stopped but turned to go back after the one I pulled her off. She has been here for almost 5 months. She was abandoned, no one would take her, so I took her in hopes of finding her a home after getting her fixed, but then I saw the aggression in her and knew she could not go to a home with little children, or another dog. She finally settled in with my three I had, but occasionally will fight but it was short and as soon as she would see me she would stop if I could break her attention on the other dog. Today she tried to get my neighbor’s little boy through the fence. He got close to the fence. So I put a shock collar on her. She was in her fighting mode today and attacked my son’s dogs when they came over. We have worked hard to not allow fighting, we have rescued pits and Dobermans. She looks like she has mountain cur in her. If anyone has any suggestions, please help. Tomorrow I am going to start looking for a place that might take aggressive dogs and maybe they will be able to retrain her. I don’t believe in shock collars, but if she ever hurt a child, I could not live with that. I am 67 years old and don’t have the energy to work with dogs like I use to. This one, don’t know what her situation was before she came. She is lovable one moment and then like a switch goes off and she turns into a wild fighter. Her eyes have always been blank, never have I seen one time any glimmer of light in them, I am willing to listen to any suggestions.

July 27, 2020 6:14 pm
Reply to  mary

It’s so hard I know…mine that I surrendered a couple of days ago was the same way. She would be loving but you never knew when she would snap. I hope it all works out for you.

July 15, 2020 8:05 pm
Reply to  mary

Stop with the shock collar. It’s cruel and you are making the situation worse because you are hurting him. Surrender him to a NO KILL shelter/rescue with the provision that he only gets adopted into a home without other animals or small children. That’s not an unusual request.

June 11, 2020 11:36 am

This article made me realize that I made the right decision with my Harley. We adopted him from our local shelter in July 2019. We surrendered him yesterday. The first month with him was amazing. He was playful and gentle and very cuddly. He’s an 80lb American Bully btw – but anyway, after a month or 2 he started growling at my fiance who at the time worked 2nd shift, whenever he would get home and come to lay down, Harley growled at him. Which then turned into Harley growling at him for just walking in the room. So we started crating him at night. He loved his crate and slept well in it. He used it as his little safe space to go hide when he got stressed which slowly started being all the time. He was always on edge. He kept going after our little boxer mix which I don’t understand – she was his favorite to cuddle and sleep and play with. It just doesn’t make sense. Things kept escalating and in order for him to have any chance at a new home, he needed to be surrendered. We tried private lessons and group classes and worked with a vet that studied behavior in dogs. She suggested he be returned before he did something that would prevent him from being adopted at all. She said he needed an only pet household. Reluctantly, I gave in. We took him last night after he, again, growled and actually lunged at my fiance. I am heartbroken. I feel like a failure. I am trying very hard to keep myself together and convince myself that I made a good choice but all I can see is him scared, in a cement cage, alone. It’s eating away at me but he’s signed over and there’s no going back now. Part of me feels like some of the weight has been lifted off my shoulders. But, I’m heartbroken. He was my best friend since we got him, my shadow. And now, I’ll always think I could’ve tried something else I could’ve done something else for him. But it’s too late.

June 22, 2020 1:57 pm
Reply to  Jaelyn

Jaelyn, I am walking in your shoes. I have an American Staffordshire bull and he is part boxer. The first year was amazing and then just like you, the growling at my kids and now my husband. He is scary looking and my kids and husband fear him. I visited a behavioral vet and my dog is on meds. I thought this would help him and it has a lot but my dog still does not want to share me with the family and is alert most of the time when others are around. I am trying to find him a home. He is fantastic with me and if I lived alone, I would never think of giving him up. I keep attempting to rehome him. I have thought the same as you about my boy being scared in a cement cage etc. It is a constant heartache. I just wish I could find a person who lives alone and is sensitive to this great dog’s needs.

July 27, 2020 6:19 pm
Reply to  veronica

Thank you for everyone’s responses. I dealt with the same exact things, the sudden aggression and the lunging and biting. I think I ignored signs because I loved my dog and didn’t want to give up hence the biting incidents. It’s been only a couple of days since I surrendered her and it hurts like hell but reading everyone’s comments lets me know I’m not alone.

June 15, 2020 11:43 pm
Reply to  Jaelyn

You absolutely did the right thing. Keep in mind that it started with growling and then he lunged at your fiancé. I can tell you that it would have only gotten progressively worse. You returned him before it would have gotten to the point of biting. There are so many homeless dogs out there without issues. Give yourself a little time if you need to, and then take a stroll through a shelter to meet the one meant for you.

June 5, 2020 11:56 pm

Thank you so much for this post, especially for detailing your decision-making process. I know some folks bring lots of judgment to the rehoming topic, and maybe this piece will help to reduce that.
This hit close to home as I’m considering rehoming a 13-year old Lhasa Apso mix who bit me and drew blood from both sides of my hand. He becomes sullen sometimes, and has sporadic bouts of snarling and attacking. I’ve looked for patterns, behaviors that might trigger them and I’ve not found any consistency.
I’d been fostering him for 2 months, and decided to return him after the bite. ( Mind you — I thought I was the only person he’d bitten….)
The woman managing his care (a relative of Jam’s original owner) planned to euthanize him — not because of the bite, she said, but because he was old and had some trauma (which she never specified), and worried Jam would put her son in danger if she brought him into her home,
I decided I couldn’t be the catalyst for his death, so decided to adopt him. A good friend (and long-term dog mom) is cop-parenting him, and her support‘s really helpful. I figured I’d learn a lot from her (plus zillions of You Tube videos) and parent better.
But get this: Jam has a history of biting people — which I learned from his former vet (who I called for some records). In fact, he’d boarded Jam and found him dangerous, even recommended last year that Jam be put down. That was news to me. The niece knew his bite history but never mentioned a word of this to me.
You wrote about the importance of everyone and every animal feeling safe – individually and together – in their home. That really resonated with me. I haven’t felt safe with him since the bite, but don’t want to admit it.
So today he went for me again — no bites, but snapping and snarling while I brushed him – something he usually likes. That freaked me out. My co-parent pal offered to take him for a few hours tomorrow. Which is great, but I need to rehome or surrender him. Our local Humane Society has a behavior mod program for aggressive dogs, so I’ll start there. If I do decide to euthanize him (if the HS won’t admit him to their program), Jam’s co-mom has offered to take that on.
There’s no joy in any of this and the feelings of loss and heartache are real. Kopa was so fortunate to have such reflective, thoughtful parents. I’ve just started this journey, and can’t stop the tears.
Thanks for your work. My best to you and yours.

Morgan Patterson
May 27, 2020 8:54 pm

My mom has an aggressive dog that she can no longer take care of. She would be heartbroken if she found out her dog was put down. Her dog has a fear-based aggression. We live near Reno Nevada and are looking for any suggestions as of what to do because At this point we don’t know what to do. There are no-kill shelters like the humane society but we are afraid that this dog might attack another dog or a person in the shelter. If that were to happen they would have no choice but to put the dog down.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
May 29, 2020 10:05 pm

There is training that can be done for aggressive dogs. I would recommend first seeing a vet or trainer for medication and/or training to calm the dog down. If it is determined to be fear-based, there are medications that can help such as trazodone. I have several friends in rescue who have had this experience with their dogs.

May 22, 2020 1:28 am

Thank you so so much for your post & to everyone in the comments. You made me feel less alone. Two weeks ago I made the extremely difficult decision to surrender (feels like there is no good way to word this) my recently adopted dog. Mumu was 4 years old & we were told was a husky/lab mix and my roommates & I had fostered her for 3 months before I had decided to adopt. We were told she was returned by the original family who had her for 3 years because of her becoming agressive towards the mom and other dogs, prior to this she was in training to be a service dog. (Always felt there was more to her upbringing then we knew) We were told other dogs and toys were a trigger & she was on anti anxiety meds to calm her due to good anxiety. The shelter had also had her work with a behaviorist prior to any meds. While fostering mumu she was the sweetest dog so cuddly & seemed to love all people. I became attached & bonded to her like no foster before. I knew I had to adopt, we made a great pair. After having her for 2 months and playing successful fetch at the park with sticks. we tried a rope toy which she was great with. So another month later after I had adopted I gave her another toy this was when she snapped on me biting my hand & forearm, shaking & I couldn’t get her off. Once she let go it was like she snapped back into reality. So remorseful. I immediately put her into her crate so we could be separated. I was shocked, scared & in pain. I called her vet right away to get advice & also reached out to the original behaviorist she worked with. I decided after making a plan with them we would work through this. No more toys, all removed from the house. Well about a week later my boyfriend & I took her to the park where she found an old tennis ball. Due to the previous event I told my boyfriend don’t try to get it from her she’ll drop it eventually. We ended up back in the house & she still had not dropped the ball… She came & sat next to my boyfriend & he started to pet her. She then turned & viciously attacked him. I got her into her crate & off to the emergency room we went. We had multiple injuries to his hand & arm & had to get stitches. He loved this dog more than me & begged me not to give up on her. So I was thinking about what to do when a few days after his attack she tried to lunge at my roommate, no triggers involved this time. This was my biggest fear. I knew what I had to do. This was one of the toughest decisions I had ever made. I cried everyday for a week. I loved mumu so much. I miss her everyday. However I knew I couldn’t live in fear & no longer trusted my once sweet girl.

July 13, 2020 2:40 pm
Reply to  Hailey

I never knew there were so many others going through this. We adopted a shepherd, lab mix who at the time was 8 months old. I have 3 boys, the youngest at the time was 2. Everything was great. We loved him and played with him and he was crate and leash trained. We started noticing that he would bite at his paw until it was so bad we had to take him to the vet, which no dog likes, they wrapped it and he would chew through it. We had to put a cone on his head. Then it’s got to the point that he would get the cone off and growl at my husband and I if we dared to try to put it back on. Then he had something with his ears like a buildup of wax, the vet gave us drops and we had to massage his ears each time we put them in. He growled and snapped at us. We couldn’t do it. Being busy with the kids he started gravitating toward my husband more and more. Then on my fortieth birthday, it turned into a nightmare! Our dog was sitting on the floor in front of my husband, they had just gotten back from a walk and his paws were muddy. Just like I did a million times before I had a towel and was wiping them off, talking with my husband, and not paying too much attention to the dog. There was no growling this time to let me know to back off! He mauled me ripping at my ear and my face, my husband couldn’t get him off! I finally made it to the bathroom and shut the door. Thank god the kids were being supervised in the pool and didn’t see their mom covered in blood. My husband managed to get him into a bedroom. Ambulance came, police and animal control, neighbors the whole thing. I begged animal control not to take the dog, we had to show him his rabies tag and they said it was up to us. It took 18 stitches and a plastic surgeon to close my ear. Took a month for everything to heal my bruised face and all the cuts. I looked like a domestic violence victim! My husband has a full-time job, I was home and had to do my normal routine of walking him and that meant getting close enough to put the harness on. There were no more incidents for a while and we dropped our guard. Moving forward, the kids lost interest so he became mine and my husband’s responsibility. From then until today, he has bitten my husband and I multiple times. This past February, he got my forearm, I should have went to the ER but I didn’t. I noticed it wasn’t healing and it was a mess. The doctor couldn’t believe I had waited, sent me to the hospital were I had IV antibiotics for hours before being sent home with more medication. This has broken my marriage. My husband refused to “put him down “ chose the dog over his family and was going to move out until the Covid hit. We live in fear! I don’t walk him anymore and he takes Prozac. Between the fireworks and thunderstorms, he was so freaked out even on the medication. We just spent this whole week with an appointment to euthanize him and we couldn’t do it! He is otherwise a good dog. He is healthy and happy most of the time. We can’t continue living this way, it’s not normal. We have to keep doors closed so he’s not alone with the kids. Everything revolves around not getting attacked. So now I’m searching for someone who specializes in this area and can take him. He can’t live here anymore, we have done everything we can.

April 15, 2020 10:21 am

I have a 3 year old 40lb pittie mix. My boyfriend and I adopted him so I could have a friend considering I moved from my hometown in Ca. to his in Ga. and didn’t know anyone. We adopted him from a shelter when he was 2 months old and by the time he was 7 months old, he was diagnosed with a liver shunt. We went through with the surgery to fix it, as we were told it was on the outside of his liver. About a year or so later, he was still showing signs of the shunt and when we took him back to the original surgeon, it was explained to us that, although the blood vessel they closed off looked suspicious, it was not the vessel causing the problems. The shunt was inside his liver which meant a much riskier surgery that he may not even survive. We opted out considering we have gotten to a point of good health with a full blown shunt with a strict diet and daily medication.
Flash forward to present. Our dog has had a bit of a history with aggression. Most of it stems from fear/protection and he would just up at the door if anyone came over, completely blocking it from my boyfriend and I and would growl and bark and have a full Mohawk running down the length of his body. Within the last month, he has bitten my boyfriend 3 time. In the time we have had him, I have been bitten twice (blood drawn and permanent scarring), and he attacked my foot one day while I was trying to move his treat ball (luckily I was wearing boots so there was no damage) and he has gotten my boyfriend four times, each time drawing blood and doing damage.
I have been fighting for my dog, putting him through training, working with him, talking my boyfriend down from getting rid of him or putting him down, but I know we can’t live like this. It’s always a matter of when he will bite again, not if. I don’t want to let him go considering he is a ‘special needs’ dog due to his health situation not to mention he’s an aggressive pit mix. But we’ve run out of options. I’ve spoken with our trainer about doing more work with his aggression, but I know my boyfriend doesn’t want to put any more money into him if he’s just going to continue attacking us. I’m heart broken, but I know the more we hold on to him, the more likely he will become a liability to our friends, family, and neighbors. :'(

May 22, 2020 8:07 am
Reply to  Brittney

Keep the words “big lawsuit” in the back of your mind. You’ve done more for this poor dog than most people would have.

May 18, 2020 9:02 pm
Reply to  Brittney

I’m so sorry Heartbreaking situation

Apiffany Gaither Billings
April 16, 2020 12:51 pm
Reply to  Brittney

Here is an article regarding training an aggressive dog. Sometime aggression has an underlying issue. Good luck and let us know if you have any other questions.

Cara Hearon
April 9, 2020 3:06 pm

Two weeks ago I have my sons dog away to a new home. He was getting more aggressive and actually bit my husband. I have not found a way to forgive myself. We spent two years alone while my husband worked out of town. His aggression was at my husband . He was very protective over me. And food. Unfortunately the people that took him told me I could come see him. As of date I only get reasons why I can’t go see him. My heart is broken

March 31, 2020 6:58 am

We are at our wits end. We adopted a rescue puppy. He is only about 4 months old and we’ve had him for a month and a half. He is the sweetest little guy but of course, there’s a problem. He bites. He’s almost like a child who plays rough and gets out of control and bites. We did have him in training but everything has been called off because of the CoronaVirus. The trainer loved him. He learned quickly and was soon the dog the trainer used to show others what to do. He is very, very sweet MOST of the time but when he bites, it hurts. We take him to doggy daycare one day a week, which is great for him. We really can’t afford more than one day. From the get-go we’ve let him sleep with us. We have no idea what his past is like but of course, we suspect his start in life was less than stellar. One night we was sleeping almost like he was in a zone. He was chewing on something while sleeping and it was keeping us awake. My husband went over to take the chewy away and the dog went junk yard dog on my husband. I was scared and so was my husband. He got bit. It was almost like the dog was in survival mode. In fairness to him, it was dark and I think he was startled. Then it was like he realized it was us and he snapped out of it. We are constantly saying “one more time” but the truth of the matter is we’re torn. We have an extended family situation at our home that includes an 8 year old grandson. We aren’t sure what to do. We’ve all grown to love the pup but it’s like …. what if. We don’t know how to deal with the biting. I don’t really think he’s getting enough exercise. We all work and live in a place that gets dark early. Tonight we are supposed to have a family talk to discuss the dog’s future with us. I don’t want to get rid of him. I feel so sorry for him. But on the other hand, I’m afraid of “the next time.” Thoughts, ideas for the biting. We’ve tried showing him who is the alpha but it really hasn’t worked for us.

March 31, 2020 11:10 pm
Reply to  Lori

Have you ever had a dog before? This is a 4 month old puppy. They are mouthy and they like to chew on things. Have you supplied him with chew toys (bully sticks or Himalayan chews) And yes, you startled him out of his sleep, and no, you don’t take food or a chew toy away from a dog who is chewing on it. Do this puppy a favor and return it to where you got him from so he can be adopted by experienced dog owners.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
March 31, 2020 4:39 pm
Reply to  Lori

Hi, I know some trainers are offering virtual dog training due to recent circumstances. That may be an option. We also have an article that may help.

Michelle Cory
March 24, 2020 3:17 pm

Kikberly , what kind of dream world are you living in, I don’t knowof a know kill shelter that does rehab if you return the dog, The aspca, dosent take indiv,iduals dogs, I didn’t have any alternative but eauthanization

March 13, 2020 10:51 pm

Hi I rescued a dog that was going to be euthanized He is a Pitbull but wasn’t told that he is deaf That’s ok though we started working on hand signals He was ok but startled easy he was really bonded to me Then one night I went to get off the couch and he was at my feet I bent down and he bit me just below my eye I didn’t give up thought Startled him wasn’t his fault He continued to be stuck to my side We then rescued another Pitbull they get along but both are jealous of affection I give to each one He deaf boy Mack is starting to really get aggressive with the other boy now. He has been so loving I thought I really was making progress Tonite I was petting and he snapped lucky my face was not close I’m
At a loss I thought he was so good had come so far and was so loving I’m
Devastated not sure what to do now.. I’m afraid of him and I never was I felt he looked at me as the Alpha abd souls submit But now I’m scared of him
He would fo severe damage to me and any other living thing..Nobody will take an aggressive deaf large Pitbull .. I can’t bear to think of where he will go

Apiffany Gaither Billings
March 16, 2020 9:21 am
Reply to  Lisa

Hi Lisa, I am sorry to hear that you are going through that. Have you looked into training for Mack? Here is an article regarding aggression training that explains tips and potential reasons.

March 2, 2020 3:07 pm

We purchased a havanese/shitzu mix several years ago. His name is Oreo, and he is my 13-year-old daughter’s dog. He has become more and more aggressive, biting me several times. We have another dog, an older chocolate lab, and they cannot be in the same room. We have no idea why Oreo has started biting growling and lunging at us and our other dog.He growls and lunges at us daily. I have three children, the youngest being 4. I cannot trust Oreo, especially not with my youngest. IF anybody knows of shelters taking aggressive dogs in the Los Angeles area, it would be greatly appreciated. We have decided it is best for our family to rehome him.

March 3, 2020 4:45 pm
Reply to  Cecilia

Before rehoming or giving up to a shelter, I would have a very thorough examination done to rule out any physical illness that might be behind this change in personality.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
March 3, 2020 9:17 am
Reply to  Cecilia

Sorry to hear what you’re going through with Oreo and having to make the difficult decision. Perhaps search for rescues within Los Angeles who train and rehabilitate aggressive dogs.

February 29, 2020 4:00 am

My fiancé adopted a pit bull, Blitz 3 years ago. He was previously abused by past owners as he has cigarette burns on his legs. His aggressiveness became real once I moved in with him a year ago with my two dachshunds. We introduced him to them before and they got along. But later on I noticed he would bite the dogs if they got near his food bowl. Which we both now noticed he was territorial aggressive. But his aggressiveness escalated over the time I stayed. We can’t even give him toys because of how much he would growl and become aggressive toward my other dogs. He would growl showing teeth if you touch his ears or paws. We had to stay at my family’s house for awhile. He does not like children, he growls at them and while my 4 year old niece was getting ice cream he bit her on her leg. He left teeth marks and a bruise but did not break the skin. She was severely bruised. Apparently he bit our neighbor a young boy way back which I didn’t learn of till until he bit my niece. His attacks toward my dogs also increased to them walking by his dog bed. It’s gotten way out of hand when my fiancé laid beside him recently, bothering him because Blitz started growling at my fiancé while he was petting him all over. He bit him on the hand and he had to get stitches. We don’t have the money nor the time to train and hire a trainer. My fiancé is in complete denial and does not want to get rid of him. Only when he bites my dogs for that one day wants to get rid of him but then the next day acts like nothing ever happened. Blitz recently bit my dog (nothing new) and I finally had it and completely laid down the line of wanting to take him back to the shelter. Hopefully this time my fiancé will finally come to his senses, as I hope during those many times he bites. I can only hope as Blitz is becoming a strain to our relationship and I want to have children in the future, but with this dog I am completely sure my child will end up dying at a young age.

February 16, 2020 9:39 pm

Thank you for your article. I googled “adopted dog aggressive” and it popped up. We recently adopted a 2 year old Boston Terrier and he is the sweetest most gentle little guy but 3 times (most recently just now) he has aggressively attacked to kill other dogs. Im heartbroken, my family is devastated… but we have to give him back to the shelter. We have been working with him consistently for a month and we are at a loss. I can’t stand the thought of him hurting another dog. I don’t know what his last family put him through, can animals just be born like this? Was he hurt as a puppy? We tried our hardest and we love him so much, but he isn’t safe and hes a liability.

Thank you guys for all your stories, it helps to read and learn so we don’t feel so alone in this terrible decision.

February 22, 2020 9:30 am
Reply to  Desiree

You said you’ve been working with him. Does that mean in an obedience class? If not, that would be the first place to start. Also, there is such a thing as leash aggression. Does he do this while on leash? If so, that’s one of the behaviors that is worked on in obedience class. It’s worth looking into.

February 7, 2020 2:17 am

This is literally my exact situation & I don’t know what to do. I am so heartbroken & have been balling the whole time while reading this. I couldn’t bear to think if she didn’t make it to another family who will love her. Cleo has been my best friend since I’ve had her… but I can’t have her biting me or anyone else. She made me bleed today… I’m so sad. She’s so sweet & smart, but I feel like I’ve tried everything. I want to give her another chance, but I have to fix it soon because I can’t keep living like this.
If anyone knows of any good options in Denver area, let me know…

May 27, 2020 12:44 am
Reply to  Kelly

I’m in a similar situation. I’ve had my dog for going on 3 years now. Aggression started about a year and a half ago. I’ve been trying everything since the start, but this dog has ruined my relationship with my family. I’m moving in with my boyfriend, and today my dog went after him 4 times out of no where for no reason. I’m working with a trainer, his vet had been working with me since the aggression started. He’s on anxiety medication. My dog is like my child and the last thing I want to do is give him up-it would absolutely devastate me- but I just don’t know what else to do. I feel like I’ve tried everything. As much as I love him, I hate living in fear of what if he snaps or attacks. My dog has also bitten to the point of making me bleed as well as relatives. I feel hopeless.

February 8, 2020 6:03 pm
Reply to  Kelly

What triggers the bites?

January 30, 2020 5:11 am

I agree with everything you said in this post except for the fact where you said if the kid pulls their ear or tail you wouldn’t know what would happen. Well first of all, kids should be taught how to approach a dog. To let the dog smell the hand first and make sure the dog agrees to being pet. People wonder why their kids get bit but I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if someone pulled your hair or arm would you?

January 6, 2020 2:38 pm

The problem I’m having is I am being sued by someone my rescue dog bit, and as a result have lost my insurance coverage. Which means I risk my entire life savings were my dog to bite again and I were sued. I have been working with a trainer and took him to the vet. I am a wreck about that as how do I spend 100% of time with my dog? No daycare? No boarding? No one can walk him. It’s a nightmare

January 7, 2020 1:53 pm
Reply to  Wiggy

How long have you had this dog? Does your trainer say that your dog can be helped? If you have adopted this dog a relatively short time ago, return it. Living the way you are living (basically hostage to a hostile dog), is a terrible way to live.

January 3, 2020 8:43 pm

I am currently struggling with what to do with my 2 year old lab/chow mix. We adopted him from the local shelter about six weeks ago and told he needed work on his manners and was obviously a very energetic dog, given his age. We worked on setting a schedule for meals, walks and play times and with the four of us living in the household, he has been fine. The issue has become anyone who comes in the household or even anyone he encounters while out on his walks. He becomes extremely aggressive, barking and trying to lunge at the person. He nipped at someone visiting my home (luckily he only got their coat) but yesterday he actually made contact with someone while out on his walk who was trying to pet him. The person ended up needing several stitches and my husband is wanting to take the dog back to the shelter because he is concerned with the potential liability issues moving forward if we were to continue to keep him. I want to believe that the dogs behavior could be adjusted but my husband is unwilling/afraid to take the chance. I feel extremely guilty about taking this dog back because I want to believe that overtime and with work his aggression could be dealt with but my husband thinks as keeping him is playing with fire.

January 30, 2020 5:16 am
Reply to  Maria

With dogs and being pet around strangers. Have the stranger stop and have the dog approach the stranger. If the dog smells the person and seems interested then that person can reach down to have the dog sniff their hand. With aggressive dogs try asking the person to stand where they are before you take your dog to approach them with their palms open and down to their sides. It’s a sign of I come in no harm and you can see that I have nothing in my hands and I don’t plan to hurt you.
Dogs have a bubble like us humans do. If you are worried about strangers getting bit. Try to see if the dog is even interested. Have the person stop and the dog approach the person if the dog wants to. Then the dog interprets it as I’m going to you. Not you are overstepping and coming into my space.

January 7, 2020 1:49 pm
Reply to  Maria

I’m not seeing anywhere in your post about obedience/training classes. Maybe your husband would agree to that. If that doesn’t work, then I would consider taking him back from where you adopted him before legal liability becomes a reality. No one, by the way, should approach a dog they are not familiar with to pet it.

December 28, 2019 9:20 am

Some of these stories are so sad, but what i find unbelievable is that hardly anyone is mentioning getting help for their dogs. At the first sign of aggression get a vet check, swiftly followed by a qualified behaviourist. And by this i don’t mean one who will advise you to be more dominant as in the original post. Trying to dominate a dog with fear aggression is only going to make the situation worse. Please guys instead of posting on forums get out there and get some help. Some of these issues are for things like resource guarding which can be resolved with a lot of time, effort and professional help but it can be done. Don’t just give up and rehome them. And the admin should not be recommending rehoming (which could result in euthanasia) just by reading a few paragraphs!! I’m not saying re-homing is never necessary, in some cases it is but please give your dog a chance GET PROFESSIONAL HELP!!!