Re-Homing “Cujo”

I have had a few disturbing comments lately in many different places; from people who have fairly seriously aggressive dogs but who are also threatening to re-home them!!??!!

Recently I was on the phone with a dog owner who was trying to give me the “run down” on her dog.  It seems he had shown signs of fearfulness and aggression as a puppy, but (like most people) they thought it would go away and did nothing about it.

After the second bite, they began to lock the dog up behind bedroom doors when people came to visit but the dog was still out of control, received no obedience training, and was never taken out for any kind of obedience, control or socialization work.

Essentially locking him up was a “band aid” and not only didn’t help the behavior, the frustration from it and being able to “hear but not see” visitors actually made the behavior worse; but of course they didn’t worry about it because he was safely locked away… right?


They were unsure whether one of their numerous children actually let the dog out, whether he just wasn’t really safely secured, or whether he managed to open the door somehow by himself.

But long story short; he flew out of the room bit a child in the face and sent her to the hospital.

This is what I heard from the owner:

“If he bites someone again; we are going to have to find him another home!”

This dog looks like he is about .2 seconds from an “incident”. Thanks to Behind the Behavior for the photo.


I may be out of the loop, but who wants this dog?

I am a professional and I would not want, nor would I take this dog home!

It is my job as a dog owner, home owner, family member, and friend to make sure that my house is as safe as possible and housing taking and housing someone else’s aggressive dog is not something I am looking to do.

Keeping, housing, and training your own dog that happens to have a problem with aggression and keeping a bite from happening is difficult enough!

The Problem Is…  I Hear This Fairly Frequently

People think that because a dog is aggressive; they can just pawn it off on someone else or just drop it at a shelter to be adopted by another unsuspecting person.

And, in all honesty, most of the time they don’t even tell the new prospective family or the shelter that there is even an aggression issue.

Or, they try to convince themselves that if they place the dog in a home without children, without men, without women, without other dogs or animals that the dog will be fine.

Ultimately they are just trying to rationalize a bad situation; even though it didn’t work for them it surly would work for someone else or someone else could handle the dog.

I have never lived in a world where No man, No child, No woman, or No other animals existed.

In the real world, even if you don’t live with children or men or women or other animals; they still exist and will likely come into your home at some point in time.

Even though I have never had human children of my own (genetically) I have still had my friends’ kids, family’s kids and other children visit my home so I would never have wanted a dog that didn’t like or was aggressive toward children!

Thanks to Dog Questions for the Photo

I Hate to be Brutally Honest But…

Sometimes it is in the best interests of the family and the aggressive dog to have the dog put to sleep if they can’t or won’t control him, rather than find someone else to take on the aggression issue and risk more bites and extreme abuse.

I know that, that is an extremely controversial comment.  And, I am talking about “real” aggression and bite history (although even dogs that just growl are hard to place) but let me tell you why I feel this way…

I once worked in a little backwoods town doing some dog training and working with people and their dogs on obedience and behavior modification; I even worked with the local humane society.

A dog with “aggression issues” and a bite history was given to another family.  The family even knew the dog had previously shown aggression, but I am not sure if they thought the dog wouldn’t have aggression at their home, or if they just figured they could handle it.

But, they couldn’t and within a fairly short period of time, the dog who now lived outside bit one of their children.

And then, the man beat the dog to death with a shovel.

I don’t think any dog deserves to die in such a horrific manner and I also am sympathetic to the child who didn’t deserve to be exposed to a dog that was a known biter.

It would have been so much more kind to have the dog humanely euthanized.  It would have been so much less tragic all around, for the dog, the child that had to witness it (gasp) and even the guy that felt like he had to or lost his temper and did it (although I make no excuses for his disturbing behavior).

And for Those of You That Think NO KILL is actually “NO KILL”

It isn’t!

Well, most aren’t.  Most No Kill shelters will still euthanize aggressive animals; which, again, in my opinion is not necessarily a bad thing.

No Kill shelters profess to adopt out all “adoptable” dogs, however most aggressive dogs fall under the “unadoptable” blanket.

And again, I don’t find this offensive.  I think living life in a shelter, with hard concrete floors, with no human interaction or on an “island” with no other companionship is also no life for a pack animal to live!

So Before You Decide to Give Up on Your Dog

Thanks to The Fun Times Guide for the Pic

Realize that people don’t seek out “aggressive” dogs.

Everyone want the “perfect” dog that has no aggression or behavior problems!

And, placing a dog that has shown aggression or has previously bitten with another family, even if you disclose the incident can set up for litigation and the loss of all of your money and property for the rest of that dog’s life.

If you contact a shelter or rescue organization be as honest as possible.  Your dog, who was once a loved member of your family deserves it.

Honesty will help these organizations do the best they can for your pet.

If You Decide to Keep and Work with Your Dog

Find a veterinary behaviorist to help set you and your dog up on a behavior modification program.

Only a vet can prescribe medications that may help you get the aggression under better control!

Stick to the plan and do what they say!

Behavior modification is HARD WORK especially when it comes to aggression.

Many, many changes will need to be made in order to keep your dog and your guests or other people safe.

Don’t let your guard down.

Even if you haven’t seen an “aggressive incident” in several months or even a year or more, does not mean that your dog is safe and no longer has an aggression problem.

It usually means that you have simply been effective at keeping an incident from happening.

Dogs that suffer from aggression issues often suffer, to some degree, with those problems for a lifetime.

There is no magic cure! But, you can work on eradicating nearly all of your dog’s aggression with proper training.

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  1. Kari says:

    Thank you for this post. This is something to think about. I’d like to think most dog owners are like me, that they’d do whatever it takes to keep their dog safe, and keep other people safe from their dog. Sadly, I know that’s not the case.


  2. Paula Wallace says:

    Hello~ We have a Fox Terrier who is a sweet loving dog, until she sees another dog in distress…………..she runs over and trys in attack. Sometimes she gets ahold of their ears and wont let go. She did get ahold of our cat and bite and bite her head then just latched on. We gave r cat away to our son. We have a 17 year old Cocker spaniel and a Corgi/shelt. She does play with them…….thats whats weird! We were thinking about putting her down. But she sleeps in r bed at night. She just has anger issues. Help I dont know what to do!!


    Minette Reply:

    Terriers are known for being territorial and having a “fight ’em” kinda attitude.

    In the show ring when two dogs are liked by the judge they are allowed to “spar” muscle up to see who is more dominant and that dog often wins. It’s crazy!

    Call a veterinary behaviorist, or at least a trainer!

    You can teach your terrier terror to pay attention to you rather than paying attention to other dogs with a lot of work and positive reinforcment.

    Search on our blog, focus and eye contact and you will get lots of articles to read and homework to do that will help!


  3. Trish Mayfield says:

    I have a 9.5 year old male black and tan Dachshund I took 18 mos. ago from an elderly couple who had spoiled him badly. When the husband began to suffer from dementia he repeatedly beat the dog for urinating in their 3rd floor condo; they didn’t walk the dog. He is 10 lbs overweight.

    Utimately the wife came home and found the husband attempting to hang the dog, which was trying to breathe as his little legs kicked beneath him. I had recently lost my cattle dog; my pack was down to one amiable 6 yr old lab, and when I got the call re: Fritz, I said bring him to me.

    After he settled in, Fritz began to show his fight for dominance. He has days, when, in spite of a doggie door, and a nice fenced yard, he will pee 5-6 times in the house. He pees on his two beds, on dog blenkets, on the legs of furniture. He is often violently aggressive.

    I am a 75 year-old woman who was raised by a dog savvy mother, and I have probably had 30+ dogs of my own, well-behaved, balanced large dogs: Great Pyrennes, Rotties, Collies, Aussie Cattle Dogs. However, an old left shoulder injury required surgery in August, and I am doing p.t., and not at my best physically. And Fritz knows it.

    He had severe periodontal disease, and 13 teeth were extracted. He was mild tempered for a week after, and it appeared his pain may have been the problem. However, the agression returned.

    Fritz would do a rip and tear bite if he could make contact. This is a wily 24+lb. muscular guy. And yet, when he is good, he is adorable.

    However, my vet has only seen his good side, so a couple of days ago I dropped off a thumb drive with three of Fritz’s full-blown rages toward me. He has written a prescription for a canine Prozac, but I fear that will only mask the issue.

    I will NOT pass Fritz off to anyone else. I took on the challenge & I will put him to sleep if we don’t get a good solid turn-around in the next 2-3 months.

    Needless to say, I am looking for a positive solution.


    Minette Reply:

    Try the prozac but keep yourself safe first. Prozac may take a while to work and may sedate him a bit, that is okay you can back down on the dosage later. He may need it for the rest of his life… that is okay too!

    If you had rage or bipolar disorder you might also want meds for a lifetime to feel better and normal!!

    Ask your vet about a veterinary behaviorist in your area that can also help with a behavior modification program.

    For many dogs neither drugs alone, nor behavior modification alone is enough to change the problem… you need BOTH.

    I would wall off areas so he can’t get to as many and urinate and I would keep him dragging a little leash around so you an grab him if he becomes severely aggressive and keep him at a distance!!

    But use the meds and call a veterinary behaviorist, not just “any trainer” who has been training for a year or two, someone who can truly help you and knows aggression!!!


    Liza Besso Reply:

    This reply just shows this kind of behavior happens in ALL breeds. Some dogs on the flight or fight drive are more defensive. The improper start in life this dog was given and then the attack back on it by hanging. Not good.

    I’ve had experience with Prozac. It doesn’t always work and only works when combined with a behavior modification plan that included counter conditioning and desensitization. These behavior modifications don’t work over night they take years.

    It requires at lot work to undo the damage that has been done by human ignorance to these types of dogs.

    You have a big heart this is not your fault
    best of luck to you


  4. mary warner says:

    I have a chesapeke/golden(Rusty) that is very loving and a great dog. He has been through the first obedience class and did great. He listens well and is part of the family. He was thrown out when he was a pup about 6 weeks old and we have had him ever since. He is now 10 months old. We recently rescued a german shepard(Baron now 7months old) that was basically the same situation. They get along great and play all the time, BUT Rusty is very funny about his food. I do not feed them together because he will jump on Baron. He is also very jealous when we try to play with Baron. Its like he doesn’t want Baron to get our attention. I have 2 other dogs(much older 12 and 14 years old) and he has no problem with them. Baron is already much larger than Rusty but doesn’t know it yet. I don’t want either of them hurt. I even considered finding a new home for Baron but he is such a great dog I really don’t want to. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to stop this behavior. Rusty is very smart and I know its just a matter of the correct discipline to resolve this issue. I enjoy your website and was wondering if you had any suggestions. He has always been great at the Vet, Groomers etc. even on his first visit. He is very friendly and very social.


    Minette Reply:

    Baron needs to go through the same training that Rusty has been through!!

    Separate them out and train and work with them. Exercise Baron!!! He should be too tired to care about what you do with Rusty.

    Feed them separately and make sure to give them an equal amount of time and watch for signs of hostility or anger.

    My 6 month old puppy is an angry puppy who doesn’t like to share, so I have to have them separated unless I am in the same room with all of my dogs.

    I can’t risk a fight, so they cannot be together… but I know that about them so I make sure they go outside on shifts and I never leave them alone together!


  5. Pamela Graham says:

    We ‘rescued’two staffy x’s from a farm around 2 years ago. We had some introductory behavioural training when they were quite young and they responded well. Then they both got severe mange (probably had it when we first got them), so we didn’t socialise them as it was pretty embarrassing the way they looked. They play constantly and tire each other out and we would walk them at night so no-one could see them! So now they don’t behave well towards other dogs. On their own each is not bad but together dynamite when we see another dog. They don’t get let off the lead in public areas unless they are the only dogs there. Also, walking alone each is fine but walking together on leads there is always competition to get in front, it drives me crazy! I would be grateful for any ideas. Mostly in and around the home they are fine, it would just be lovely to go to the local dog park and know they will not pick a fight.


    Minette Reply:

    If they are dog aggressive they will never be safe at a dog park. Give up on that idea right away so you don’t put their lives or the lives of other dogs at risk.

    They are bad together because they are a pack and are feeding off of each other.

    Separate them out for training and work on obedience individually. Work on having them heel and give you eye contact.

    When they are 95% reliable and giving you great obedience alone, put them together and teach them that you require the same obedience from them when they are together.


  6. Karen Fanberg says:

    Hi..we have had a dilemma with our neighbor (who we like). He has a huge Great Dane, we have a lab/mix, who is 41 pounds. We just got her in August..wonderful dog. The Great dane next door has been dieing to get out to attack Buddy. Well he was successful 2x’s..Buddy ended up in the ER the second time with stitches and drain tubes. I saw the whole thing both times..and the second time I was literally traumatized. That dog picked Buddy up like a rag doll and shook her..twice. The dog had gone under the fence, and the neighbor saw the whole thing. We waited a couple days to see if the neighbor would come and see how things were, but he didnt. So my husband called him and told him what happened and that we have a vet. bill. He said sorry..and that he put up an electric fence on the bottom too. I dont think that is going to stop this dog. Plus we seen his teenage daughters walking him one day..and if Buddy would have been outside, those girls wouldnt have been able to hold that dog back. Plus, my children are afraid to go outside, and so am I. Buddy is even nervous about it. Not to mention our friends and family that come over.This dog tries to get out of his fence no matter who is walking by.


    Minette Reply:

    Get animal control involved if you have to and report the bite.

    Unfortunately there is not a lot that can be done except litigation and reporting of a dangerous dog.

    I wish you and Buddy the best of luck.

    For now you may have to put him in the car and drive him elsewhere for exercise and desensitization.


    Winkie Reply:

    If that Dane were threatening my dogs and coming over the fence to attack them, my solution would be a slug to that dog’s head the second it crossed the property line from theirs to mine.

    Yes, I would get into trouble with the village for discharging a deadly weapon within municipal boundaries but that Dane would be dead. I can pay any fine I owe but dead is forever.

    Learned that from my old man. When the neighbor’s German Shorthair jumped our chain link fence and attacked our dog, my old man blew a hole through the dog the size of a dinner place with his shotgun. Dog never jumped our fence again and the next dog the neighbors got stayed safely confined to a roomy dog run on the opposite side of their house.


  7. Mel says:

    I am the person you spoke about in your article above. My husband and I took in a foster dog that needed a place to destress. We found out after the fact he was in a home for 4 years, at some point in his life mistreated (how exactly we don’t know). The prior owners had one biting incident and got rid of the dog. We’ve had Rocky for 5 months, after 2 weeks we contacted the organization we fostered him from to be told we are his last chance and he will be euthanized if he can’t stay with us. In that two weeks we saw something in Rocky worth taking a chance on and decided we would adopt him, knowing full well the task that lies ahead of us. For the rest of his life we know he can’t be totally trusted around people. We have sought out the services of a trainer in helping us to learn the proper controls to keep incidents at bay. In five months he has come from cowering in a corner and snarling whenever we went near his crate to bringing us toys to play with him with, coming and asking for affection. He is still not totally without incident, but as we break through his walls of fear a loving, sweet do is emerging. He did have obedience training before coming to us; he knows his basic sit, stay, lie, etc and performs perfectly. In the last five months, we’ve never regretted our decision to save his life. I do believe there are many dogs out there that just need someone to take a chance


    Minette Reply:

    Whereas I agree! There are few people that can handle a dog of that magnitude and even fewer that understand the dog will never be able to be trusted.

    Most people don’t have what it take for a lifetime of maintenance and when they see improvement they think the behavior is “gone” and mistakenly let the dog socialize to a point where it bites.

    And, as you said, this dog either needs to stay with you or be euthanized. Some dogs are HUGE liabilities if YOU aren’t willing to do what needs to be done to keep people and other animals safe.

    The truth is; I have owned dogs like this too… but I have kept them safe. Even when my dog was 11.5 and old; I made sure he was on a leash or crated when people came over. It wasn’t worth the risk, even when he almost was too old and sick to care.

    I could have never rehomed him. But, like you I never regretted my decision.

    Just don’t drop your guard 🙂


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