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HELP! Aggressive adopted dog.

(48 Posts)
Topaz25 Tue 14-Jan-14 06:51:13

Please don't flame me, I couldn't possibly feel worse.

My 2 dogs died of old age in 2012 and I was really devastated. I still miss them every day. We had a very close bond, they were my babies.

I've really been missing having a dog around the house. I felt really guilty when I heard about all the rescue dogs looking for homes. I thought I would be able to provide a good home.

I saw an advert for a dog at a local pound which said he was really friendly and playful. I met him at the pound yesterday and things were going OK until a worker gave me a sample of food to take home. He tried to grab it, I tried to put it my bag and he growled and snapped at me. The workers did react quickly by removing him from the room but they asked straight away if I wanted to go ahead with the adoption. If I had been given ten minutes to think about it I would have said no. I agreed because I was still in shock, I already felt emotionally invested in him and I was worried he would be put to sleep. They assured me he'd never done anything like this before so I thought it was a complete one off. I felt bad and thought maybe I had done something wrong. They said he probably just had issues around food and I thought we'd just be really careful with food but when I got him home he snapped at my husband just for stroking him so it's not just food related. I understand he may be scared of men but now we're scared of him! I really don't think we are qualified to help him with this, we can't cope with an aggressive dog, which is why we went for one who was advertised and assessed as friendly! We could deal with other issues but not aggression. I think I made a huge mistake getting him. I feel so guilty. I don't feel I can bond with him because I'm scared of him. I have been crying all night about this. I don't want to mess him around but it would be more disruptive to keep him longer and realise we can't cope. I just can't imagine the next ten years when I'm already scared of him! I do feel mislead by the kennel. I would never have gone to view him in the first place if he hadn't been advertised as friendly! Then they made me sign a statement saying I was aware of his issues when I was still in shock after he snapped at me!

This has made me think it was a big mistake getting another dog. I thought I was ready, I had thought it through and thought it would be really positive for our family but now I realise I was idealising things and not thinking clearly.

I was looking forward to taking him for lovely long walks but now he'll need to be muzzled and on a lead at all times. I was hoping to have the bond I did with our previous dogs but I don't feel I can bond with him because I'm scared of him.

Also, although my husband and I don't have children yet, we do want them one day. We couldn't trust this dog around children so we would have to put our lives on hold for him. He's not a good fit for our family.

I'm really not a bad or irresponsible pet owner. My previous dogs were rescued and I have other rescue pets. I work with animals. I've always done everything I can to help animals. I previously would never have considered giving up a pet but I feel so out of my depth. I should never have been given this dog in the first place!

I feel like my options are to return him to the pound, to try and find a specialist breed rescue for him, or to go through months of training and trying to 'fix him' when he's gone for us twice in the first night! WWYD?

VivaLeBeaver Tue 14-Jan-14 07:10:34

I had this with our dog. Got him home and he went for dh within five mins. Over the next few weeks he managed to bite a few people, bad enough to just break the skin but that's it. So not really nasty bites.

I was scared of him.

We've still got him. Had him over six months now and he's 99% better. He can still snarl nastily at dh over certain trigger points. Ie dh was blow drying dd's hair last week and the dog went berserk. But then this morning the dogs curled up in bed with dh quite happily. Dogs fine with me and others now. I'm no longer scared of him.

We spent quite a bit of money on training. It helped that he was a small dog. If he'd been bigger I don't think he'd have stayed.

If you do decide you can't keep him please see if you can find a no kill rescue type place rather than the pound. He may just be feeling very unsettled and scared at the minute. It could improve.

RedactedEdition Tue 14-Jan-14 07:13:29

Hi, OP.

Firstly, try not to beat yourself up. Doubtless there will be some who are very ready to criticise, but wisdom is only ever gained by experience - and show me the person who has never made a mistake!

I don't think you should keep the dog. That would be following one "heart ruled head" decision, with a second. The fact that you are already scared of him is not a good place to start re-training from. The dog needs serious training, from someone who knows what they are doing.
However, that is not something he will get at a "pound".

You don't say if you are in the UK, and I can only offer suggestions which are UK based, but here is what I would do .........

1. Contact the Breed Rescue (note, there may be more than one for the breed, you don't mention which?). They will usually be pleased to hear that a dog has been saved from a pound, but you need to be totally honest with them about what has happened, and advise that if they can't take him then you will have to take him back. (Caveat: were there any rules applying to your homing from the pound? - are you legally obligated to return him there)

Hopefully, breed rescue will help quickly. If not ...........

2. Contact a local no-kill, reputable, rescue centre which re-trains difficult dogs. Again be totally honest and say if they can't help immediately you have no choice but to return him to the pound.

3. If you have no luck on wither route by the end of the morning, then I do think you need to return him this afternoon.

There will be people who strongly disagree, and suggest that you may be able to transform the dogs behaviour. People do retrain successfully but, from what I read between the lines of your post, it would not be the best (or safe) course for you.

Topaz25 Tue 14-Jan-14 07:21:25


Thank you for sharing your experience. Your dog is very lucky to have you. I wouldn't have been able to cope with biting. I'm glad his behaviour has improved.

The problem is, this is a bigger dog (husky x). My previous 2 dogs were Akitas so I am used to big dogs that need strong and confident handling but they were not aggressive at all and I never felt scared of them. I will look into training and also no kill rescues. I actually volunteer for a rescue but I am afraid to ask them for help because I am worried they will judge me. I don't want to send him back to the pound because I think they handled the whole situation badly but I do wish I hadn't taken him out in the first place. I don't know what to do for the best.

Topaz25 Tue 14-Jan-14 07:23:50

RedactedEdition Thank you so much for your advice, you made some good points. Thank you for understanding. I will look into rescues. I do feel I am not the best person to help this dog.

RedactedEdition Tue 14-Jan-14 07:27:30

Breed rescue probably won't take a X
Depends - some will, but many won't.

Honestly, if you volunteer with a rescue who are good .... offer training ...don't destroy ... you need to swallow your pride and ask for help. In the best interest of the dog.

A bit stunned, though, that you went to the pound in the first place and not the organisation you work with.

Topaz25 Tue 14-Jan-14 07:36:02

He was advertised as a husky, I just think he might be a X so I will try a breed rescue in case. I will also talk to the rescue I volunteer for. I haven't been volunteering there long. I probably should have gone to them but they are a no kill rescue so I know the dogs are safe and when I saw this dog on the pound website it tugged at my heartstrings because I was worried he might be put to sleep and wanted to help. It is an example of a "heart ruled head" decision, like you said.

Topaz25 Tue 14-Jan-14 07:41:58

The dogs at the rescue are mainly from the pound anyway but obviously they are able to work with them more to deal with any behavioural problems.

coco44 Tue 14-Jan-14 08:12:11

YANBU - get shut!

BunnyBaby Tue 14-Jan-14 08:30:36

Get rid, and don't feel guilty, you don't know the history and what if he went for a child / adult / other animal.

We had a pedigree pup who was so well trained you could put bacon on his paw without him touching it. He heeled, recalled did everything BUT did not want to accept his place below the children and would growl if they walked through the kitchen when he was eating. We never left him unattended and he was crate trained so safe from kids / vice versa.

Sometimes you just get a bad dog. I have a friend who trains prison dogs who advised she wouldn't have him around children. From him being bought to our home we worked closely with a hearing dog trainer as we wanted the best for him from day 1. We sent him back to breeder and my other friend who trains the prison dogs did a bit of digging and noted other poor markers like 60% inbred, symmetrical balding patches and moments of dizziness and wondered if he was genetically compromised. This was from a line that was best of Breed at crufts. Apparently this level of inbreeding wouldn't be allowed for certain lines but acceptable for others. She feared for the other dogs in the litter.

We felt awful. My husband and I were inconsolable as we'd waited 10 years to have this dog, and every other pet we had was a rescue that needed some work. We couldn't risk him attacking the children / us / anyone else. My son 6 was heartbroken and sleeps with his blanket still a year on.

It was the hardest decision ever, but it was the right one. We couldn't have an unpredictable dog with small children and toddlers. As soon as he went we knew we'd made the right decision. We also made clear to brewed that he must never be in a home with children, and noted his trainability but aggressive traits.

Don't be hard in yourself!

Topaz25 Tue 14-Jan-14 08:40:00

Everyone has been so understanding, thank you. I have been feeling awful about it.

RedactedEdition Tue 14-Jan-14 08:53:32

Well, it wasn't the smartest thing you could have done
.....but as I said show me the person who has never made a mistake.
The difference is that you are now looking to do the right thing by the dog.

Topaz25 Tue 14-Jan-14 08:59:36

Yes it was definitely a big mistake but I think I will learn from it. It has really made me realise I need to consider things carefully and make decisions based on logic, not emotion.

I don't think the pound handled it well either though. I think if a dog demonstrates aggression during a meeting with a potential adopter, they should not be released for adoption immediately and should instead be reassessed. I know I made a bad decision based on emotion but it should not just have been left to me to decide if I wanted to go through with the adoption, there should be procedures in place for this situation. I will write to them about it so that hopefully things will be handled differently in future.

ADishBestEatenCold Tue 14-Jan-14 10:30:33

I think you have made the very best decision in seeking all available help today, Topaz25, and if that means you can't keep the dog, then that's not something to be ashamed of.

Yes, try breed rescue and involve the rescue you volunteer with. Take their advice every step of the way. I can see your point in not seeking a dog from them in the first place, but your thinking was muddled. If you had adopted a dog from a good no-kill rescue, that would have freed up a place for them to properly rescue another at-risk dog. We all make mistakes and I know you won't compound that mistake by not being very open with them now. They won't judge you.

My main reason for posting is to say that I think the dog 'pound' that forced rushed this dog upon you have acted with gross negligence and are so unprofessional it's frightening. I don't care what you signed, I think they are (at least morally) culpable.

Was it your local authority pound? Please, please officially complain. Get the dog rescue you volunteer with to help you with the complaint. Get mumsnetters to help you. But please complain!
If it wasn't a local authority pound, it still has to be licensed with them. Still complain. Get the council's animal inspector involved and take your complaint as far as you can.
They have acted with no vestige of responsibility or care for either you or this poor dog.

Good luck and do let us know how you get on!

Topaz25 Tue 14-Jan-14 17:36:42

It is the local authority pound. They did ask me a few times if I was sure about taking the dog but at the same time they asked this straight after the incident so I didn't really have a chance to process it. I think they should have called off the adoption, at least temporarily so he could be reassessed. They shouldn't have put the responsibility on me to make the decision when I was upset. It definitely worries me. I will officially complain. I had no idea the pound was this bad. If a positive has come out of this negative situation it is that the dog is out of the pound and if we can't help him hopefully he can go to a no kill rescue for rehabilitation. It could be worse, he could have ended up with someone who didn't care about his wellbeing or wanted to exploit his aggression, since the pound don't do background checks on adopters.

He has growled at our housemate today but didn't snap. It's unbelievable that the pound didn't see any sign of aggression in the 3 weeks he was with them when we've had 3 incidents in 24 hours.

When we took him for 2 nice long walks today he was fine. Sometimes he will be nice and happy, wagging his tail. If I'm sitting in the same room as him he will come over for a fuss. It's weird because it's not like he hates or fears us, sometimes he will be perfectly relaxed and happy in our company and then sometimes he gets angry without warning.

He is booked in to see a vet to rule out any medical problems contributing to his aggression. We are also going to talk to a behaviourist. I am going to talk to the shelter where I volunteer when I am in tomorrow. DH has suggested giving the dog a couple of weeks before considering surrendering him to a rescue.

Topaz25 Tue 14-Jan-14 17:42:11

It's a rollercoaster, this morning I was sure I wanted to take him to a rescue, I was nervous about even going downstairs to walk him but then he wagged his tail and bounded up to me in a friendly way and we had a lovely walk. Then he growled at my housemate. So up and down.

VivaLeBeaver Tue 14-Jan-14 19:30:36

Have to say with a big dog like that I'm not sure I'd keep him. Are you muzzling him in the mean time with a basket muzzle? Though I guess he may not be muzzle trained so that might stress him out.....dunno what to say really. I'm sorry that you're in this situation.

toboldlygo Tue 14-Jan-14 19:48:51

If he's all husky as opposed to a cross then please feel free to PM me - I volunteer for Siberian husky rescue - or contact SHWA directly. smile

It's very difficult to say without observing the dog but it's entirely possible that his behaviour is not true aggression and can be worked through. Having an MOT with the vet is an excellent starting point though don't necessarily rely on them for behavioural advice - ask for a referral to an APBC behaviourist.

Topaz25 Tue 21-Jan-14 20:46:06

We really bonded with him this week and his behaviour seemed better then today he bit our house mate! It was a terrible shock. I am frantically looking for any no kill shelter that could rescue and rehabilitate him and I would appreciate any help with that.

We really don't want to have him put to sleep but we don't feel safe to have him in the house. If it was just my husband and I it might be different but I can't risk my house mate's safety. I feel terrible.

Topaz25 Tue 21-Jan-14 20:59:13

I have already tried the shelter I work with, another local no kill shelter and Siberian Husky Aid Rescue & Education.

Topaz25 Wed 22-Jan-14 09:56:49

It's very hard because we still love him, we just hate what he did. Most of the time he is so friendly but we don't feel we can handle the aggressive incidents. I am so angry at the pound for putting us in this position, they gave the impression he was friendly but had a few issues with food, this goes way beyond that.

rumbleinthrjungle Wed 22-Jan-14 12:05:37

Argh, this must be very stressful for you.

Adopting a rescue dog is like fostering or adopting a child - you're not taking on a blank slate. You're taking on a being who has experienced instability, loss, trauma, and often ill treatment, is not going to cope well with transitions and yet another new place, new people and a whole lot of uncertainty about what might happen to them, and it has an effect on them. You are almost inevitably going to be working through some behaviours this big change and stress in their lives is going to produce.

It's easier to manage with your eyes open and prepared for these behaviours, to understand what they communicate and where they are coming from, and that the dog is telling you about its fear and uncertainty. You also need strategies ready to know how to respond and what will help, and of course you're also going to need to balance this what you and your household can handle and is within your comfort zone. These might be just settling in behaviours that will pass quite quickly, you're not necessarily looking at a major lifetime temperament issue.

There are plenty of good books, good dog trainers (run from anyone who wants to tell you about dominance stuff, see who the shelter recommends), good online forums of people who regularly take on and settle rescued dogs who can help you find information on how to help the dog settle, but it is going to be a case of gently settling the dog into its new routine, letting all of you build up trust and familiarity and establish a relationship, and acccepting that it is going to take time and teaching to have a happy, completely well behaved pet like you have to train a puppy, and you may not get there immediately. Snapping and growling are the dog communicating it isn't comfortable with what's happening or doesn't feel safe, and this is going to happen easily in a brand new home with so much uncertainty. It's not necessarily threat behaviours, but with a dog you don't yet know well or trust I know it can be scary. If you can spot a trigger - like food - then change the situation so the trigger can't happen. Ie the dog goes in another room with the door shut while you prepare food for it, put it on the floor, then let the dog in to eat it. That avoids any negative habits getting started.

The rewards of working through this with a rescue dog can be very rich, but it is work, and unfortunately rescue centres don't always help or prepare people enough that they have to help their new pet settle and overcome what it's been through. If this dog does turn out to need more than you know you can give it then there is no shame at all in returning it to the shelter it came from with your advice on what they need to look for in finding him the right owner. You're doing everything a responsible owner could possibly do, including asking advice. I really hope this works out for you.

rumbleinthrjungle Wed 22-Jan-14 12:12:00

And yes, completely get you're experienced and know all of this (do not mean to patronise!) but know too when I'm worried I'm doing something wrong, I question myself and what I'm doing and sometimes it helps to think through the basics again.

I really would go back to the shelter he came from if you decide he needs to go back; that's his familiar place, familiar people, and they need to do the additional work with him rather than him starting all over again with yet more new places and people. You have nothing to be embarrassed about at all in going back.

Topaz25 Wed 22-Jan-14 12:43:47

Thank you for your advice, it was helpful and not patronising at all.

I would have been willing to work with him but now he has bitten my house mate I don't feel I can take the risk of keeping him. The problem is I got him from a council dog pound, not a shelter so there is less support. When I got him they said they would take him back if necessary (but he may be put to sleep) and give me a replacement dog! He's not a broken TV! I don't think they would be able to handle his issues and I wouldn't want him to think he had been abandoned again and die alone and frightened if they did decide to put to sleep. I also wouldn't want him to be given to someone else who didn't know what they were getting into. I've lost faith in the pound's rehoming procedures. They originally told me he was friendly and then that he has some issues with guarding food, his issues are more extensive and weren't picked up on in their evaluations. The pound also don't do home checks, so they could give him to a dog fighter or a BYB. That is why I am looking for a specialist rescue that could help with his issues. In a way I wish I could give him back to the pound I got him from as it would be much easier but I don't trust them. I think I would prefer to have him put to sleep myself than put back in that situation.

Topaz25 Wed 22-Jan-14 12:45:58

I hope my reply did not come across as angry at you, I am angry at the pound!

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