What to do with an dog with history of aggression
December 5, 2011 10:59 AM   Subscribe

What to do with my dog? Rehome or put him down?

Approximately 7 years ago my ex and I rescued this hound mix, and I've been committed to the dog for 4 years after the breakup. Now I'm at a crossroads in my life where I am not sure if I can keep the dog, due to financial and life circumstances.

When I first got him, he had a host of issues, including resource guarding, fear aggression, and leash aggression. For some idiotic reason, I decided to keep him instead of returning him immediately, so now I'm stuck with him.

I've worked hard on him, and now he's a lot better. Resource guarding/food agression is 98% gone (old behavior crop up when he steals an extremely delicious morsel), he's very quiet and popular with people, doesn't bark.

However, he has bitten six times (myself included) in the past. Two incidents was due to fear (during 4th of july), three was due to resource guarding, and finally one because he was lunging at other dog (leash aggression) and my girlfriend's hand got bitten as she was trying to restrain him.

Even though he's getting marginally better, I was unable to lick the leash aggression problem. Also he's socially inept which causes problems at the dog park (he'll get overtly aggressive and try to dominate other dogs), so I don't take him to the park anymore.

And there's financial constraints. I'm moving across the country to pursue better economic opportunities. I'm quick-ramen-poor with a lot of debt, I've gotten to the point where I am not sure if I can afford my dog any longer in addition to moving expenses. Also I suffer from moderate to severe depression, and the expense and stress of taking care of my dog is becoming unbearable.

TLDR: What are my options for giving away/rehoming middle aged dog with history of aggression? Do I have to put him down?
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is he a mix of any sort of identifiable breed that has a breed rescue association you can contact? They seem to be the most willing to take dogs that might otherwise not be considered rehomeable by others. Some breed rescue operations seem fairly flexible in what they will accept (my sister got a lurcher she found abandoned taken in by a Greyhound rescue association, for example). It might be worth trying to call around at least.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:07 AM on December 5, 2011

Please reach out to whoever have this dog to you - even if the rescue group has mostly new faces, they will want to help. If that group isn't around, try others.

Did you work with a trainer? Get back in touch. They may have ideas.

Good luck. I hope you are able to avoid killing the dog.

Any chance the ex could take custody of pitch in for some dog support?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:21 AM on December 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Please reach out to whoever have this dog to you - even if the rescue group has mostly new faces, they will want to help. If that group isn't around, try others

Yes, please do this. If the original rescue group is still around I feel sure they'll be able to help you. If not, less sure but still I think it's your best option. I think of myself as an animal person, but those rescue people are 1000% more animal people than I'll ever be and they can get a lot of good things done.
posted by sweetkid at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should also consider more than your current finances and think about what could happen if the dog bites someone who isn't placated with an apology, not to mention your already being aware of its propensity to attack (to whatever degree).
posted by rhizome at 12:08 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding contacting your ex. If my ex couldn't keep our dog, I'd take her immediately.
posted by fshgrl at 12:39 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Could you contact the mods and have them add your location to the thread? Perhaps mefites could help you find a local organization that might be able to take the dog.

I think the thing to do is to do your very best to find a group to rescue the dog, while being completely honest about the his aggression problems.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:15 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you suffer from moderate to severe depression, I would think that getting rid of your dog is the worst thing you could do.

I'm not getting a lot of emotion from your question, but maybe that's just because of the way you wrote it. Has the dog benefited your life? You have clearly spent a lot of time and effort in training him. Do you love him? How would your life have been different, if he hadn't been around?

A dog is great for clinical depression. It provides unconditional love, and forces you to get your ass up off the couch and go outside. Dogs anchor us to the real world, in addition to providing a level of emotional support that everyone needs. The worse your circumstances, the more you need it.

If your depression was magically lifted tomorrow, would you still want to get rid of the dog? Or is this just an expression of your depression, just another example of the "pushing away" that depression engenders?

You are ramen-poor now, and believe me, I get that. But poverty is temporary. Dogs are pretty cheap, as these things go. What if six months from now you get a big bonus or a raise? Would you kick yourself for sending your dog away?

If you got another dog, would you occasionally look into its eyes and think, "You're a pretty good dog, but you're no X. That dog was a real jerk, but I sure loved him."

A dog with an aggression history like that, with domination issues and a substantial bite record, you may as well just put him to sleep directly. I think you should keep him, instead.
posted by ErikaB at 1:17 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

When did that last bite occur? You've had him 7 years. If he's still a biter about 5-7 years in a supportive home with consistent training, then you may be up against problems which cannot be fixed. I'm sorry. I'm sure this is absolutely heartbreaking. Whatever happened to your dog before you adopted him may simply be too traumatic to be undone.

Try a breed specific group to see if they'll take him. If not, you need to discuss your options with his vet.
posted by 26.2 at 1:33 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think your life and happiness is the most important thing, and if your dog is bringing you more trouble than goodness, then I think it's a valid decision to move him on. If he has an ongoing problem with aggression, I don't know how right it would be to try to rehome him. I can't imagine anyone voluntarily taking on an aggressive dog unless they wanted to exploit that behaviour in some way, and it wouldn't be right to pretend he doesn't have problems.
posted by thylacinthine at 4:51 PM on December 5, 2011

Sounds a lot like my dog. She's a rescue dog. I've worked hard to try and eliminate her aggression when on a leash, but I'm resigned to the fact that she'll always have those behavioural problems.

If you're sure you can't keep the dog, please take the time and effort to rehome rather than euthanise. If you've had him for 7 years, a few weeks or a couple of months finding someone who can put up with his...idiosyncrasies shouldn't be that big a deal.
posted by idiomatika at 4:55 PM on December 5, 2011

With similar circumstances I put a dog down because I just assumed that no one would want her. I was also so overwhelmed with my circumstances that I made a hasty decision. I am really sorry I didn't at least try to find the dog a home. I felt bad about it for years. I still feel bad.

You may need to euthanize the dog but just don't assume no one will want him.
posted by cda at 5:49 PM on December 5, 2011

If you decide to put the dog down, don't beat yourself up over it. You've given a problem dog a good place for 4 years. Now you need to move on. For your own piece of mind, you might try talking to a rescue group about the possibility of placement, but these economic times are really hard. My local groups are overwhelmed with animals that have no behavioral or health problems, and they are having a hard time placing them.

Sometimes all you can do is let something go. Don't let anybody guilt you over whatever decision you make.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:35 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

We're about to put down two dogs, one for that reason. We have a child coming home who will be too delicate for the dogs in the house. One is very very old, almost 14, and her litter siblings have already passed from old age, so she is losing a few months of life left, but the other one has at least 3-4 years left in her life. We have advertised rehoming her, and I am contacting the rescue place we got her from as a young dog but I'm pretty sure from previous conversations with them that they will have no place for her. She is a sweet dog to me, but vicious and terrified of children. My kids have to avoid her when she's in a mood. We can't risk her biting the baby, given her history, and rehoming a rather old dog who is either hiding under furniture or growling and nipping - no takers. She has been through dog training, and is well-behaved at home and with other dogs, but at some point as an abused puppy, she learned that men and children are hurtful and cruel, and she has never gotten over this.

I think the reality is that there are far more dogs needing homes than homes available. A damaged dog that has been given several chances is at the end of the list after younger, emotionally healthier puppies.

What we are doing is making their last months as comfortable as possible. We are also arranging for them to be euthanised at home, surrounded by us and in familiar territory. I hate the idea of their last moments being at a strange vet's office.

It is a really hard decision to make, but if you can't find a home for her, then at least make her end comfortable.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:56 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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