Considerations for Rehoming Aggressive Dogs

Updated on May 22, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Rehoming aggressive dogs may be challenging.
Rehoming aggressive dogs may be challenging. | Source

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 again.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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.

© 2011 Adrienne Janet Farricelli


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    • profile image


      3 weeks ago

      I have had three mutts for three years. Suddenly one of the dogs started attacking one of the other ones. We have been to the vet for stitches twice in the last week. I got in the middle of the fight (I do know better) and also got bit and required stitches. There doesn't seem to be any stressors and my heart is breaking thinking about giving the aggressive one to the shelter or rehoming it. I don't know what to do. I am at my wits end and just want the fighting to stop. Has this happened to anybody and did it improve?

    • profile image


      5 weeks ago

      I rescued a 2 year old dog about 3 months ago. He's a mixed breed, not sure what the mix is. He play well with my older dog but a little to ruff at times. He is not aggressive around his food, and he welcomes people into the house with the tail wagging and jumping and licking them. The problem is out of the blue, with no warning, he has bit 3 people. The last one was the trainer I hired to help. The trainer believes he was abused and with defend himself when he feels uncomfortable. He can be a very sweet dog most of the time, then instantly attack. After the bites, he will hide and shake in fear. I don't want him put down, but need help.

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      Hi I have a staffy cross I've had her for nearly 9years now and all of a sudden she has turned nasty and frightened 1 minute she's ok and you can stroke her and pretty much do anything and then the next month she will be like the devil teeth out spitting barking growling this has been going on about 4months now I took her the vets and had a growth taken out of her mouth and her bloods done to see if she had cancer some were thy came back ok so now I am lost I don't know what to do as I have a 3year old and a 13year old and I do not want that phone call from the miss when am at work saying she's biten one of the lads or me girlfriend

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      3 years ago

      You will need to separate the dogs for the time being and decide on what you want to do next. Options for cases like this involve keeping the two dogs always separated or re-homing one. It's often too risky to try to work on getting them to get along and there are no guarantees it will work , and since you have children, you don't want them to ever find themselves close to two dogs fighting.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I have 2 dogs I resqued from a no-kill shelter. A 2 year old pit who was raised in a home and a 2 year old lab who was rasied tied up. We have had no problems for a year but now they are fighting. The lab is really beating up the pit...ears ripped, several face wounds and many puncture wounds. I am terrified! I have 3 children and a grandchild! Please help!

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      nature47, please don't blame the breed, it's the owners. Pitbulls are the sweetest dogs with the right owners and many are also therapy dogs. Some of the worse dogs I have dealt with were unsuspecting Labs (the one in my pictures was aggressive towards other dogs and at times re-directed his aggression on people).

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Clearly the dog owner was more responsible than this poor child's parents. This sounds as though the poor tethered dog was set up for failure. How sad.

    • natures47friend profile image


      7 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      What a great, well-written hub. In our paper last night a 15 month old wandered with his Xmas present next door to a tethered PitBull and was picked up by his head and tossed. That dog has been a menace to people and bit the owner to after that. It will be destroyed. Obviously no one had fences or gates here. The parents should not have let the baby wander off but he is alive and will no doubt have scaring. Why do people insist on keeping these dangerous dogs?

      We have so many children malled by dogs....especially Pitbulls....gangs like them.

      Voted everything except are a genius with words.

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 

      7 years ago from US

      Alexadry, congrats for doing a really good job with a difficult subject. You are so right that it is wrong to pawn such a dog off on the unsuspecting, which is what people do when they take such a dog to the pound without informing anyone of the dog's issues. Some dogs can be rehabilitated, but it isn't a job for an amateur, and sadly, with some, the kindest thing is to humanely put them down. Excellent hub, and voted up!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      We are dealing with this issue in my family right now. One of my "grand dogs". He has bitten one person, but the person was taunting my granddaughter. He barks ferociously at all strangers but of course stays detained in a fenced yard. However, two or three times he has gotten loose and seriously, I mean seriously injured two other neighborhood dogs. My son is keeping him for his sister and brother in law and trying to work with the dog. I have been forwarding your dog behavior Hubs to him and we are hoping to save the big Lug. Thanks for all your help. BTW he is a Boxer mix.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      7 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Very interesting... and useful.. I feel so sorry for the animals that are aggressive. there is a reason why they are so aggressive. so sad.. this is a great hub.

      I voted up and interesting and useful and all the above.

      Happy New year.


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