Considerations for Rehoming Aggressive Dogs
Dealing With the Aggressive Dog
If you own an aggressive dog, you may have tried a variety of methods to mellow your dog down and make life much easier for the both of you. The methods may not have worked, however, either because the methods employed were downright wrong, or the problem reached a point where there was not much left to do. Now, the aggression may have become an integral component of your dog's life.
Owning an aggressive dog is a very big responsibility, not to mention an enormous liability. The costs for treating dog bites are overwhelming for the average household, and this explains why insurance companies are unwilling to cover dogs with a bite history. As much as you love your dog, you may at some point consider re-homing your dog as an easy way out, but this option is often downright wrong.
Why Rehoming Is Not the Right Approach
Rehoming an aggressive dog may appear to be the easiest way out and the least painful. It makes sense to give your dog another chance and hopefully have somebody who loves dogs take care of him, right? Wrong. First of all, it is not ethically correct to unload a problematic dog on somebody else. It is also downright wrong to do so without even making the new owner aware of the problems.
If you are struggling with your dog, very likely the new owner will, too. Re-homing is a very stressful event for most dogs, and this most likely will result in amplified levels of fear and aggression. The new owner, therefore, may risk getting seriously hurt and the dog may then risk being dumped at the shelter or re-homed again—and the vicious cycle starts.
There are very little cases where rehoming the dog may be a plausible solution. One of them encompasses dogs who suffer from inter-dog aggression. These dogs, which do not get along with other dogs, may do wonderfully in a single dog household. Obviously, the new owners must be made well aware of the problem, so they know in advance they will have to manage the dog carefully on walks and in other places where the dog may be exposed to other dogs, such as the vet office.
Other cases may be when a dog does not get along with cats, small animals, and livestock. These dogs can live virtually trouble-free in homes with no cats, hamsters, livestock, and the like. These are only a few scenarios where re-homing may be a plausible option.
Dogs that have a history of acting aggressively towards people should not be re-homed. Even if the dog acts aggressively towards children but does well with older people, the dog should not be rehomed for the simple fact that it is a liability.
So, what to do with a dog with a bite history? Often, putting the dog to sleep may seem like a too big step, especially if there is room for hope in rehabilitation. It is important to understand, however, that there are times where little can be done for the dog. The best person to evaluate a dog with a bite history is a reputable dog behaviorist. He or she may give you an idea if there is any room for improvement, or if the kindest thing to do is put to the dog to sleep for the safety of all.
Six Dog Rehoming Options for Desperate Cases
The following options are a few steps owners of aggressive dogs should take before considering extreme measures such as keeping the dog tied up for the rest of its life or putting the dog to sleep:
- Consider consulting with a veterinarian. A veterinarian may recommend testing the dog for some medical conditions known for causing aggression. An aggressive dog at times may be simply suffering from pain. There are a plethora of dogs with a history of biting upon being pet on the head, only to discover they were simply suffering from a severe ear infection! There are several other conditions known for causing aggressive displays such as hypothyroidism, chronic pain, and brain tumors.
- Consult with a reputable dog behaviorist/veterinary behaviorist. He or she is the best source to assess and determine if there are any behavior modification programs and drugs that can help your dog. It is very important to check credentials and referrals, since many people can easily call themselves ''dog behaviorists'," nowadays.
- While rescue groups and shelters will obviously not take aggressive dogs (since their goal is to ultimately re-home the dog), they may know volunteers or other people that may take the dog if it's level of aggression has been deemed to be not significantly dangerous by a behaviorist.
- You have the option of keeping your dog confined all of its life, however, this is likely something that will not work for everyone, and one should also consider if this is the kind of life a dog should be subjected to. Muzzles, head halters, sturdy leashes, fences, and runs are a must for those who choose to use management as an option.
- While no-kill shelters and sanctuaries may decide to take an aggressive dog, they will most likely never take a dog with a bite history.
- Avoid do-it-yourself programs to try to solve your dog's aggression. Most of all, remember: You cannot learn how to deal with aggression by just watching a TV show! Aggression brings aggression. Never try to alpha roll, kick, pinch, or grab an aggressive dog by the scruff.
A study completed by Dr. Radosta while at the University of Pennsylvania showed that 86% of owners reported an improvement in their pet’s behavior 6 months after their initial appointment for treating owner-directed aggression.
Considerations for Rehoming Aggressive Dogs
- Sometimes, putting an aggressive dog to sleep is the kindest thing to do, especially when the aggression is severe and the dog poses a significant danger to others. Aggressive dogs often live in a constant state of alertness, arousal, and fear. They often constantly live in ''fight mode'' and lead stressful, unhappy lives.
- An aggressive dog surrendered to a shelter will likely result in immediate euthanasia. Don't be fooled that somebody will want to take care of your dog. Many shelters temperament test their dogs, and at the first signs of aggression, the dog is put to sleep, no questions asked. The shelter is not being mean, it is just being responsible and protecting the public from serious liabilities.
- With oodles and oodles of non-aggressive dogs being put to sleep simply because nobody wants them, it would be down-right unacceptable for a shelter or rescue to have an aggressive and dangerous dog occupy a run. Most shelters do not have sufficient funds to pay for rehabilitation services or expensive testing to rule out medical problems.
- Abandoning a dog is also against the law. Sadly, each year, there are stories of people who abandon their unwanted canines. This can result in considerable fines and even jail time.
Aggressive dogs are ticking time bombs—they can hurt or even kill somebody. Passing the hot potato to people without disclosing the problem can be compared to a criminal act. You may not be hurting somebody directly with your actions, but you can indirectly or potentially leave emotional or real scars on the innocent public.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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© 2011 Adrienne Janet Farricelli