I am mortified… rescue dog aggression

posted 1 month ago in Emotional
Post # 2
2598 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: City, State

Bee, kindly, I think this is a situation that calls for professional help. You and your fiancé can work with them to the best of your abilities, but you need an honest, third-party evaluation of these dogs, and it needs to come from someone who is experienced with  large breeds with aggression issues. 

I know you realize it was a mistake to walk them together, so I won’t harp on that. Some dogs need a lot of work before they can politely be in public, and some never can be. Your dogs may not be the kind you can take on walks together, ever, and they have to be walked as individuals. Pack behavior (one getting ramped up by the other’s energy, which can then flow back and forth between them) can be an absolute force. One may be able to be walked in public and the other has to stay home and get plenty of yard time and exercise, indefinitely.

When you take on the burden of rescued dogs (adopting or fostering, I’ve done both), you need a good behaviorist on speed dial. It is a cost inherent in rescue work. They’re not all going to be model citizens off the bat, and some will always need the support. 

Post # 3
233 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2019

We have a rescue dog who is dog reactive. He only reacts to dogs being close to him where he feels threatened. Sometimes aggression is actually reactivity.

1) we set clear boundaries. No getting on couch, no crossing threshold without command, no eating without command, etc. This shows him we are the alpha and have life in control. He doesn’t need to get anxious making decisions because we are doing them for him. 

2) we used a slip lead (think Cesar Milan). A harness will put aggressive dogs in attack mode. We have a reactive not aggressive but a quick little pull on the slip lead will bring him back to focusing on me and not something else on the walk. He also walks beside and slightly behind us. Not in front. Remember we are in charge not him. Walks are for walking, playing in the back yard is for sniffing and playing. 

3) We use static collars aka ecollars. Yes, I know highly controversial. However, without that he would have had to be put down because he would have ended up killing a dog. This collar saved his life. It allows him a life where he can leave our yard and go on walks. We test it on ourselves before putting it on him. Now we only have to beep it and be instantly focuses on us and not whatever is upsetting him. I’ve heard of collars that only beep or only vibrate, so would also be an option for people. 

4) We did lots of focus work on walks. Randomly making him sit, or make eye contact with us, or going in random directions so he had to focus more on us and less on things around him. 

I would never tell someone not to go to a trainer. Just remember that not all are created equally. And never listen to the first one who says the dog will need to be put down due to behaviors. It’s not about what’s comfortable for us, it’s about giving them their best life. 


Post # 4
577 posts
Busy bee

Don’t be too hard on yourself. I’m sure you’ve been doing great work with the dogs, and this incident doesn’t take away from the progress they’ve made. I love rescue dogs myself, I spent years volunteering in shelters, and I plan to start fostering dogs soon. You and your fiance are heroes to these dogs, and you deserve major kudos for being so dedicated to them.

It’s not unheard of for dogs to show aggression toward other dogs, and you can’t always predict how dogs are going to react to each other. Since both of your dogs are big, there’s nothing wrong with walking them individually. I did that when I was dog-sitting for my neighbors, who have two big Labs who are very friendly but very powerful. They’ve never really been leash trained, so they pull and tug on the leash the whole time. I’m a small person, and I just knew I couldn’t handle both of them at once, and it wasn’t even a matter of aggression.

You’re not doing a terrible job. These things happen, and it sounds like you did your best to control them. Nobody got hurt, so just take it as a lesson learned. From what you’ve said, it sounds like you and your fiance are the best owners for these dogs, because you’re so committed to their training and you understand how important it is. Even the most experienced dog trainers have challenges like this. You’re doing just fine.

Post # 5
1628 posts
Bumble bee

Look on this positively – it could have ended up so much worse.  You’ve had a clear warning that a)you can’t walk the dogs by yourself and b)they need a lot more work, and you got that warning without anyone being seriously injured – it could so easily have ended with the other person or dog being badly hurt.  

I second advice to seek help from a behaviourist (not a trainer).  Please look for one that uses positive reinforcement rather than punishment.  And please DON’T follow Cesar Milan’s advice – he works by suppressing the dog’s natural reactions, but doesn’t actually deal with the underlying problem, so instead of letting out the aggression, the dog bottles it up – problem with that is that when the dog can’t take it any more, it suddenly breaks out.  There have been several tragic cases of dogs that were supposedly ‘cured’ by his methods who have suddenly attacked with no warning and caused serious damage.  

For what it’s worth, your dogs sound more as if they are bad mannered and bouncy than aggressive.  I suspect if they had been truly aggressive, this would have ended very badly.  But it would only have taken the other dog reacting to escalate, so you need to be putting things in place now to ensure it can’t happen again.

Best wishes.  Rescues are tough to work with, but so rewarding when it works out xxx

Post # 7
5461 posts
Bee Keeper

Don’t be embarrassed! You’re doing a great thing by giving these poor dogs a home. What I would do is contact a trainer immediately. He/she can help you control your dogs, recommend better collars, etc. 

Post # 8
119 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: May 2018

So one of my dogs ALWAYS barks like a crazy dog at all other dogs. He’s not aggressive at all, but the way he carries on barking and pulling he acts like it. This dog can be boarded fine, can go to day camp fine, and has been through professional training (where he went to doggy school for weeks). He is the way he is, the only correction he seems to respond to is a choke collar which we don’t like to use anymore since he had a really bad respiratory infection awhile ago. Sometimes dogs will never be perfect, do what you can with them but realize there is only so much you can do. Keep them and yourself safe though!

Post # 9
1774 posts
Buzzing bee

First of all, I commend you for having such a huge heart to adopt two dogs that would have otherwise been left neglected or in a rescue shelter for all of their days.  We need more good people like you and your fiance because there are so many dogs out there that aren’t given the chance to be in happy, safe homes where they are loved and cared for.  Second, you acknowledged to the lady that you were sorry about what your dogs did and took full accountability and no one got hurt.  That’s all you can do.  Dogs can overpower their humans and I have seen it happen.  These dogs had difficult lives before and still have a lot to learn in terms of how to behave and control themselves when out and about and around other dogs.  I agree with contacting a trainer to help you out.  I am a dog owner too but have a very small dog and recently out on a walk, a big dog got out of control and jumped on my dog and the owner did nothing – she didn’t even try to pull her dog back off of mine or control him or say sorry or anything. That really bothered me and seemed like she just didn’t care.  So good on you for doing/saying something!  Best of luck with your doggies!

Post # 10
320 posts
Helper bee

You are doing your best and that’s all you can do. I would agree that it would be best to get a professional involved though.

Try not to beat yourself up. The lady walking her dog is likely also a dog person and is very understanding. I have been on both sides of this. I have a neighbor whose dog goes CRAZY at the sight of other dogs, so we have to run and hide from each other if we are walking our dogs at the same time. Her poor dog was attacked by another dog and is very aggressive. On the flip side, my dog is very shy and, while she will warm up to anyone with time, she does not like to be pet right away by strangers. When people ask to pet her to say hello, I have to say “please, no” which is a little embarrassing, but I know it’s the right thing.

I’d suggest to get a behaviorist involved and give yourself some grace!

Post # 12
1535 posts
Bumble bee

I agree that some 3rd party behavioral help is needed. You might consider taking the dogs out one at a time to work with them.

This exact situation happened to me last year but we were on the receiving end of someone that had rescued a very large dog and was working with them off a lead in a baseball diamond. Their dog came after my small dog so quickly, I couldn’t pick her up in time and the dog bit into her back and would not let go. I ended up having to have the guy drive me to the pet emergency after he put his dog back into the house because we were too far away from my car. Thank god my dog made it. He ended up putting the dog down even though we did not ask him to. We reported it but were not going to sue or anything. It was a very scary situation for me too because the dog knocked me over and I couldn’t get my footing to stand up to knock the dog off. My dog yelps when any big dog gets even close to her now. 

Post # 13
82 posts
Worker bee

I think you need to do much more than consult someone at the end of the month. Your dogs knocked a person down and could have seriously injured her! This is an emergency you need to address right away. I personally would not be at all understanding in her position. You do not sound capable of handing your dogs, deliberately adopted a difficult one, and need to talk to the rescue about their recommendations for training and what to do if you can’t manage these dogs. 

Post # 14
460 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2022

View original reply
@floridagirlblue:  Don’t feel awful, things happen! You are taking responsibility and are extremely lucky no one got seriously injured. With that being said, I echo the other posters who say this is an emergency situation and you need a behaviorist or trainer or both IMMEDIATELY. My brother in law was recently bitten by a friends dog, it caused an infection, he had to go to the ER, spend tons of $ & time and almost lost his finger. He still can’t move it and has to go to PT. He gets married to my sis in July, will likely still have a sling on his hand. And he was lucky it was just his finger. His friend felt HORRIBLE but unfortunately feeling horrible doesn’t get his finger back and working. All you can do is your best, and your best needs to include professional training or not exposing them to the public. You will get the training the dogs need and make other changes like only take one at a time out etc and you will be in good shape! You can do this! Don’t beat yourself up 🙂 sending hugs!

  • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by megs229.
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