A Cautionary Tale – Please Learn From My Mistakes

Fostering a dog-aggressive dog presents dangers even experts can't always predict.


Note: This blog post is long, and an explanation for the editorial published in the July 2017 issue of WDJ.

Not quite a year ago, I told you about Ruby, a Cardigan Corgi I fostered for my local shelter three years prior. She had found a home, but was being returned to the shelter, and I had decided to foster her again, to try to assess what had gone wrong.

When I first fostered Ruby, I had observed that she was a confident, tough little dog, who would freeze and give a “hard eye” look at other dogs when they crossed her in some way, but I never saw her display any overt aggression. Also, she responded to a verbal reminder – even just a mild “Hey Roo-bee . . .” – with a tail wag and a return to a loose, relaxed posture. Eventually, Ruby found a home with a relative of a friend.

brown corgi

A few months after she was adopted, I received a couple of calls from her new family. It seemed she had apparently caused (or at least, had been an active participant in) a number of dog fights and dog-aggressive events. In each of the two incidents that her owners called me to discuss, I pieced together a clear case of “trigger stacking” – wherein the dog is put into a situation that contains several stressors, and after more than the dog can handle, acts out aggressively to put some space between himself and the stressors.

In the first case, her owner took her on an evening walk that suddenly turned rainy. The owner took refuge at a friend’s house. The friend didn’t want a strange dog in her house, as she had a small Poodle who was fearful of other dogs, so the owner left her in the friend’s yard while she visited with the friend indoors. Ruby started panicking and trying to get into the house, and fell into a fishpond, and couldn’t get out! Her owner and the friend had to help her get out, and then, feeling bad for her, they let her into the house and started drying her with a towel and hair dryer. I lost count of the many potential stressors by this time in the story. When Ruby caught sight of the Poodle, she launched herself out of her owner’s lap and “without warning” attacked the Poodle, leaving several punctures that required emergency treatment.

I walked the owner back through the story and explained the many ways she had given Ruby more to handle than she was capable of dealing with. I suggested that, since she had left deep punctures when she bit the other dog, her owner needed to consider that she would be likely to do damage if she was ever in a stressful situation with another dog. I recommended she avoid other dogs unless she muzzled Ruby, and not take her to other people’s homes where there were other dogs (and not allow other dogs in her own home). I also recommended that the owners consult with a local trainer, and reminded them that they could always return Ruby to the shelter if they were in over their heads with her aggression.

The next call I got was regarding another fight. This time, the owner was walking Ruby during pre-dawn hours at a beach where dogs were allowed off-leash. Ruby was on a leash, but was approached by an off-leash dog. The owner shouted for the other dog’s owner to get her dog, but the other owner couldn’t call the dog off in time, and Ruby dove in and started a fight. Once again, she bit the other (bigger) dog badly and the dog needed emergency treatment.

At this point, the owners did consult with a trainer. They also decided they wouldn’t take her to any other places where they were likely to encounter off-leash dogs. They loved Ruby at home, and said she was very affectionate and funny and well-behaved there. They were just a little sad to be unable to take her out without worrying about a dog fight.

But last year, the owners divorced. The wife kept Ruby, and moved into an apartment without a yard. A runner herself, she started jogging with Ruby before it was light out, to make sure Ruby got enough exercise. But after yet another fight (initiated by Ruby when she was approached by another off-leash dog), the now-single woman owner decided she couldn’t handle or manage Ruby anymore, and she returned the dog to my local shelter.

I believe that dogs who are a danger to humans and other dogs and animals don’t belong in mainstream society. I also don’t believe that a dog-aggressive dog should be warehoused in some sort of “sanctuary” for the rest of his or her days; I think social isolation for these aberrant individuals is cruel, not to mention costly. Given that so many behaviorally normal (and certainly harmless) dogs are being euthanized in shelters, I accepted the hard fact that after three years and a number of traumatic events wherein Ruby seriously hurt other dogs, she may well end up euthanized by my shelter as unadoptable. But I also wanted to see Ruby for myself. I could see so many reasons for the stress that would cause her to act out, and wondered if she could be placed in a less-stressful home safely.

I met Ruby and her owner in the parking lot of my local shelter. She was just as cute and engaging as the last time I saw her. I was waiting for the moment when she saw another dog to see if, after three years of inadequate management and “practice” with aggression, she would immediately show signs of tension, anxiety, or aggression. We took Ruby into the shelter, where her teary-eyed owner signed the surrender paperwork. Within a minute, someone else brought a dog through the shelter lobby on a leash, and I, holding Ruby’s leash, watched Ruby carefully. Her eyes flicked to the other dog and then away. Her demeanor didn’t change. She was wagging her tail and her body was loose.

I had spoken with the shelter director earlier in the day, and had asked if I could again foster Ruby, even just for a couple of days, to observe and evaluate her behavior again, just to satisfy my own curiosity. I had a theory that Ruby might be just fine if she was placed in a home with someone who was familiar with signs of stress and anxiety in dogs – someone who could interrupt and redirect her, and certainly manage her proximity to other dogs (with gates and crates, etc.) if these signs were observed. And I thought that her dog-aggression may have been exacerbated by all the classic triggers that a dog-aggressive dog living in an urban area with people who are not particularly dog-savvy are often exposed to: daily walks in close proximity to other dogs, a tight leash, a tense owner, hours of inactivity and social isolation for long working days, and no opportunities, ever, to run outdoors off-leash.

If Ruby had responded to the sight of that other dog with immediate signs of aggression – pulling toward the dog, having an outburst of growling and barking, etc. – I would have left her at the shelter, and let the shelter conduct their own assessment, come what may. But now I was curious: Were all of Ruby’s past aggressive encounters with other dogs avoidable, through good management, acute observation, and a reduced stress level?

I had Ruby signed back over to me as a foster dog again, just for a few days, so I could investigate further. I hated to think that I had made a terrible mistake when I had evaluated her three years before; was she actually a dangerous dog who I had helped place into a good home, setting everyone up for disaster? The converse was also awful to consider: Was she basically a good dog, put into a bad situation with clueless owners, who routinely exposed her to far more stress than she could handle?

I first took Ruby to the house where I have my office, two blocks from where I live. I had left all my dogs at my home. I wanted the Corgi to have a chance to re-familiarize herself with the house and the backyard, and all of its dog-smells. I wanted to see how she would respond to the dog who lives on the other side of the backyard fence, and to the sight and sound of dogs walking by the front of the house. In both cases, I could see her notice the other dogs, and get a tiny bit more alert or tense, but she immediately responded to any sort of verbal interruption – calling her name or a warning: “Ah ah, Ruby…”. She would instantly look at me, wag her tail, and return to a nice, loose posture.

Over the next few days, I watched Ruby like a hawk while I introduced her to my dogs (one by one, starting with large, experienced, dog-savvy Otto; then a large, wiggly, doofus adolescent Woody; and then small, “don’t tread on me” Tito). I was most cautious about her with Woody and Tito, for different reasons.

I was worried that Woody, who tries hard to get every dog he meets to play with him, would push past Ruby’s boundaries and trigger her aggression – and I didn’t want to set him up for a bad scene. I am doing everything in my power to make sure I am helping to mold him into a perfectly socialized, non-anxious, non-aggressive pit-mix. But Woody didn’t seem very interested in Ruby, and when she gave him a hard look, he left her alone.

I was more worried that Tito, a 10-pound Chihuahua-mix, would give a hard look of his own to Ruby. Tito had a chronic back problem that hurt him at times, and though he usually just got out of the way when other dogs were around, he often growled and snapped at other dogs if he thought he might get stepped on or knocked over, in an effort to make some safe space for himself.

I used gates and crates and lots of treats to keep everyone separated and yet loose and “normal,” without tension or tight leashes. Ruby did fine.

I took all of them (first Ruby and the two big dogs, and then the next day, Ruby and all three of my dogs) to a local open-space area where we took long, off-leash hikes alongside a lake, where they could also swim to their hearts’ content. Ruby was so happy; she ran and swam and stuck right by me, just as she had three years ago when I fostered her the first time. I saw her do the momentary freeze/hard look thing a couple of times, when one of my other dogs crossed her path, and each time she immediately responded to me calling her name by looking at me and wagging her tail. I rewarded her with a treat each time she redirected her attention from them to me.

dogs in a lake

After a week of this, I was confident that Ruby was an adoption candidate – with some restrictions. I didn’t think she should be placed in a house with small dogs. Though she had been involved in fights with dogs of all sizes, she had bitten and badly punctured small dogs in each of those those incidents. And while I thought she would be best placed in a home with NO other dogs, she would probably be fine in a home with a larger dog and a person who was very experienced with dogs and observant of their behavior. I thought as long as someone was paying attention and managing her behavior, and reinforcing her for turning away/softening every time she so much as thought about getting stiff or confrontational, she’d likely be ok. At least, that was what I reported back to the shelter. They would want to do their own assessment, of course. But I felt I would be able to promote her to friends and try to find her a more appropriate home than her first one. A ranch would be perfect – with room to run, little if any time on a leash, and only big, well-socialized, familiar dogs to hang out with. In my part of the state, a home like this shouldn’t be hard to find for a cute, smart, tough little dog. I resolved that on Monday, I’d take Ruby back to the shelter so they could assess and hopefully place her.

On Saturday evening, I loaded up Ruby and my three dogs, and picked up a friend and her little dog, and we went to the lake. There is a spot I know where there are rarely other people, and if there are other people we could get far away from them with our pack of dogs.

When we got out of the car, I had Ruby on leash at first, so I could see how she responded to Samson, my friend’s tiny (4-pound) dog. She did glance at him – but she was more interested in the water. Nevertheless, we were super careful to keep Samson and her far apart; he’s just so small. It was Samson’s first exposure to a body of water, and my friend was having fun encouraging him to wade and then swim.

My big dogs took turns fetching a toy I threw for them in the lake. Ruby was having a blast by herself, alternately running up and down the shore of the lake and swimming, biting at the waves caused by the wake of ski-boats hundreds of yards away. Tito was wading at the edge of the water and playing with a tennis ball by himself, dropping it into the water and “catching” it again and again.

chihuaha mix

We had been at the lake for about 30 minutes when it happened. My friend and her dog were on shore about 50 feet away. I was standing waist deep in the water, with Tito onshore about 10 feet from me, and Ruby swimming near me. Tito was momentarily without his ball; I think he was watching the big dogs, who were swimming out in deeper water. Ruby swam by me, and waded out of the water, and, as she passed by Tito, she suddenly just pounced on him. There was no warning from either dog. Tito, who can growl and bristle at other dogs, didn’t. He was distracted, and not paying attention to Ruby. She just grabbed him across the back of the neck and shoulders, and started shaking him like she was killing a rat.

My friend quickly picked up her little dog. I took three steps and grabbed Ruby by the collar and scruff of her neck, actually lifting her off the ground – but she wouldn’t let go of Tito. He was yelping – screaming, really – and she wouldn’t let go. She wasn’t growling or vocalizing, she seemed quite calm, she just wouldn’t open her mouth. Still holding her off the ground with one hand, I started pounding her on the head with my other fist, but I was looking around to see if there was a stick or something I could use to pry her jaws apart. And then she just opened her mouth and let Tito go. He took off running, screaming, for the car, which was parked about 100 yards away.

For a long moment, I considered drowning Ruby on the spot. I was shaking, of course. Mad. Upset. My friend ran after Tito, crying. I don’t know where Otto and Woody were when the whole thing happened, but they had come out of the water and were standing about 20 feet away, frozen, fearful.

I carried Ruby, still by the scruff, to where my leashes lay. I clipped a leash to her collar and walked her to the car. She was calm, wagging her tail and behaving a little deferential to me (given that I had just been pounding on her). She didn’t seem aroused at all.

Tito saw us coming and retreated under the car. I put Ruby in the “way back” of my car, and tied her there, so she wouldn’t be able to jump over the seats into the main part of the car. I lay on the ground and called to Tito, who was whimpering in pain and fear. I couldn’t see any blood on him, which I could barely believe. He crawled toward me, but screamed when I tried to touch him. When I opened the car door, he jumped into the car, on the front passenger floor. We put a towel over him; he was all wet from the lake, and though it was super hot out, he was shivering.

We got everyone else back in the car. I tried to be calm while driving home, though of course my friend and I were discussing and recounting what had happened as we drove. Neither one of us could believe how fast Ruby’s attack was, and how calm. It was exactly as if Ruby had seen a rat and tried to kill it – a purely instinctive thing.

On the way to the emergency vet hospital, I dropped off my friend and her little dog, and dropped the other dogs at my office (with Ruby locked into a room by herself). At the hospital, they admitted Tito immediately, giving him something for the pain right away. They used an ultrasound to see if he had any internal bleeding; they didn’t see any. They took x-rays, and nothing was broken. But he did have some punctures, hard to see under his wet coat (he never shook off, he was in so much pain), so they were going to put him under anesthesia, and clip and clean the wounds, and insert drains. They said they were busy, so it would be at least an hour or two before he was ready to go home.

I texted a dog-trainer friend from the vet’s office, and she said to come over. We sat for an hour in the dark on her front lawn, discussing what happened. She told me some of her war stories about dog-aggressive dogs. She told me not to blame myself – but of course I do.

The vet called and said she wanted to keep Tito overnight because he was in so much pain. For the same reason, the next morning, they gave him both a shot of another pain medication and applied a Fentanyl patch that would time-release strong pain-relieving medication to him for the next five days. I picked him up at about noon the next day, Sunday, with antibiotics and an oral pain medication to start him on Monday.

I sent a message to the shelter director, explaining what happened. I sent the same message to Ruby’s former owner. I recommended that she be euthanized, and both her owner and the shelter director concurred. Her owner messaged me back: “I am sad, but I agree that she should not be allowed to do this ever again.”

The shelter director said I could bring Ruby to the shelter that day (which was a Sunday, and the shelter was closed), but I didn’t want her to be punished by a day or days spent in the shelter; she had been there for weeks before I fostered her the first time and I knew it would be highly stressful for her. I said I would keep her separated from other dogs until the shelter was open.

I was working through Sunday, so I had Tito in my office, on a comfortable bed on the floor by my chair, and Ruby gated in another part of the house with access to the backyard. My big dogs were at home. Tito was quite sedated with all the pain meds. He sat up once in the early evening and drank a lot of water that I offered to him. But I was concerned about how quiet he was. At about 10 that night, I called the emergency vet again and asked how long they thought he would be so quiet – how long the pain meds would have him so sedated. They asked about his breathing, and I told them it seemed normal, neither fast nor slow, regular. His gums (capillary refill time) seemed fine. He would wake and focus his eyes on me if I called his name and told him he was a good dog, but he didn’t wag or try to get up. I was told that he would likely be quite sedated until the morning, but of course I should bring him in if he worsened in any way. I kept looking at him as I worked.

At some time after midnight, I heard a noise. Tito was still lying on his side, but his legs were paddling like he was running in a dream. I called his name, but he wasn’t sleeping. His eyes were open, unseeing. He was having a seizure. I scooped him up, bed and all, and put him on the front seat of my car. I started driving to the emergency vet, crying, saying, “Oh Tito, please, I’m sorry, hang in there, Tito.” As I was driving onto the on-ramp to the freeway, perhaps four minutes after I first saw him seizing, his body gave one final convulsive jerk, with his head up and backward, and then all movement stopped.

I think his death was caused by internal bleeding and/or a blood clot. I didn’t continue the drive to the vet, so I don’t know for sure, but it’s the most likely explanation.

And it was all my fault. For bringing Ruby home. For exposing Tito – and my friend’s tiny dog, oh my word – to Ruby. For failing to anticipate that happy excitement might also trigger her dog-aggressive behavior. For not taking Tito to the vet earlier that night, when I was first growing concerned about how quiet he was.

I drove home, sobbing. I transferred Tito’s body to the back of my car, petting him and apologizing uselessly. Early in the morning, I buried him in the backyard, with some of his tennis balls and a handful of treats.

Later that day I took Ruby to the shelter. I had messaged them about Tito, and told them I didn’t want Ruby to suffer, but I thought she should be euthanized. I showed them the text that her former owner concurred. They agreed. They allowed me to be present, as an owner should be, in my opinion, during euthanasia. I stroked her head and said what you can’t help but say while a dog is being euthanized: that it’s okay, and she’s a good dog, and I’m sorry.

And I am. I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am.

I admire, respect, and appreciate the work of owners and trainers who work to manage and rehabilitate dogs who have bitten people or other dogs, but I don’t think I’ll ever be trying again. And for this, too, I’m sorry.

Lessons from Fostering an Aggressive Dog

Many of you will be shocked by this decision. Some of you will disagree. Some of you might say that she could have been rehomed somewhere without dogs, or sent to a sanctuary somewhere. All I can say is, there are many dogs who have never attacked other dogs and could use a chance to show what good dogs they are, and I thought this dog had all the chances she deserved.

I’m sure that some of you will judge me. Don’t worry, I have spent the better part of this past year judging me.  But if recounting my mistakes will prevent anyone else from making the same ones, Tito’s death won’t be in vain.

1. Ruby was a smallish dog, so I didn’t think she could be so deadly – that was stupid. Any dog who bites, and especially those with a demonstrated tendency to puncture when they bite, can kill or fatally injure another dog. Given her past attacks, wherein she bit other dogs (with punctures), I should have had, at the very minimum, a muzzle on her around other dogs – and realistically, she shouldn’t have been around other dogs at all. And I never should have allowed my friend to have her small dog present. If there is anything I am grateful for, it’s that Ruby didn’t attack Samson. I’m also grateful that I hadn’t yet helped Ruby find another home somewhere else, where she may have had the opportunity to attack another dog.

2. I thought that because I was so close to Ruby, and watching her carefully, I would be able to prevent any aggressive act she might contemplate. In retrospect, that, too, was dumb. I was RIGHT THERE. But she was just so fast. My friend and I have discussed that moment dozens of times since it happened, and we both agree: she showed absolutely no premeditation.

3. Because I had thought that almost all of Ruby’s past attacks had happened when she was leashed, I thought that leash frustration and stress about being leashed was a huge contributor to her aggression. I thought that as long as she was off-leash and happy and (it seemed to me then) unstressed, she wouldn’t do anything aggressive – but that was badly misinformed.

4. I had always thought Ruby’s aggression was tied to stress, and that she had acted out aggressively when she had been put into stressful situations that were past her ability to handle. But, I’ve since learned that I was terribly wrong about two major concepts having to do with canine stress:

  • I thought of “stress” as only unpleasant things. It was clear that she was stressed when around other dogs when she was on leash. It seriously never occurred to me that a dog could become physiologically aroused by happily running, swimming, and playing fetch – and that this biochemical state of that arousal might be nearly identical to a dog in a “fight or flight” situation. One might call it “good stress”, but its effect on a dog’s behavior may be no different than the unpleasant kind of stress.
  • I also thought of “stress” as having an influence on a dog that same day. I did not know that it can take days for a flood of stress chemicals to completely leave a dog’s body. And it never occurred to me that the months and weeks and days prior to the incident would have a bearing on the events of that day. Her owners’ divorce, move into an apartment, perhaps even the daily jogs on leash (in proximity to other dogs), being sent to my house . . . all of those things could have been working to keep Ruby in a state of physiological stress.

I discussed this whole incident with Whole Dog Journal Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA. Pat was incredibly kind and empathetic, but she also helped me see where I had made mistakes. I asked her if she would write about dog-aggressive dogs for WDJ, and we talked about various angles for an article. The article she eventually wrote appears in the July issue of WDJ (now online and in print). In the article, and another past article referenced in the current issue, Pat explains how dog-aggressive dogs need to be managed, and how that can be accomplished, if their owners are willing to try.

I’m sorry that I personally wouldn’t be willing to try to manage a dog-aggressive foster dog again. The potential cost and trauma is too great. If one of my own dogs ended up being aggressive, I’d of course do anything in my power to keep him or her safe – and all other beings safe from him or her. I now know that I would have to do much more than I actually did. I’m sorry for that, too.


  1. I complety emphasize with what you went through. My girlfriend just moved in with me about a month ago and her 45lb mix breed dog is very dog aggressive. Her dog has even tried attacking my 235lb Male Mastiff on several occasions already. The issue is that Thor, mastiff, doesnt see this little dog as a threat and all he does is just swipe a giant paw at her and sends her flying away. So now the little dog will try going at him when he isnt looking. Unfortunately she spends most of her time in a kennel now why we figure out what to do with her. Thor isnt the only dog she has been aggressive towards. Your article has given us some perspective.

  2. I’m reading your story and I feel so much relation with the situation that happened to me yesterday. I have been fostering a pocket pitt for months, super sweet, never showed a spec of agression. I live in an apartment with tons of dogs, and very cautiously while leashed I would watch how he would interact with nearby dogs. Always great! I have a pomeranian named penny, she has been around many fosters I’ve had over the years. Shes great with all dogs and very loving and sweet. Shes also 11.
    Well yesterday, I got home from work, walked the dogs like normal, fed them, and started making dinner. Bobby, the Pitt was on the couch playing with his toy. He looked over at me, (about 10ft away, back of the couch to me) I looked at him feeling everyone was calm. Penny started walking around the couch to her bed I assume. I turned back to cooking as she was walking around the couch. And that’s when it happened. In that 5 seconds Bobby jumped off the couch and grabbed her and shook her like a toy. I immediately ran and tried to pull him off, sticking both figures as far down in his ears as I could. ( he was on eardrops and yelped everytime I put meds in them) so I thought it would hurt him enough to break his contact. After a few minutes of him steady biting her, jaw tight. I grabbed a curtain rod and was hitting him. Nothing. At this point there is blood, poo, pee, food everywhere. We are now in the kitchen. (3rd place we have moved around too) I’m laying on top of Bobby, legs around his lower body, both arms under his neck trying to choke him. I’m screaming for help because I am alone. After a few minutes of this struggle, penny crying and bleeding, Bobby trying to tighten his grip. I jump up, grab the leash, loop it around his neck and pulled this 50lb dog up off the ground for a good 5 minutes until he finally let her go. We are about 15 mins in at this point. My arms are on fire, penny runs to the corner. I pull the leash still as tight as before and wrap it around the front door handle. Just trying to catch my breath and figure out how to get penny (5ft away stuck in this corner) to go the other way into the room. But she was frozen in fear. Finally 5 mins later my neighbor knocked. I was at the front door holding Bobby (who still hadn’t passed out). I opened the door and he took the leash from me so I can get her into a room. He allowed me to have a few minutes to catch my breath (my arms didnt work, they were on fire from holding a 50lb dog up for 5mins). I called my husband who was a couple blocks away and he came within 5 mins. I called the rescue immediately and had them come get him. While I left to take her to the hospital. Vet took her, ran tests. Xrays etc. He came out and said…shes hurt badly and in shock but it’s not life threatening. She has 4 broken ribs, brusing, lacerations or puntures on her head, eye, nose, abdominal (also air between the lung and tissue from the shaking in this area), inside her mouth and her arms. I had pulled one of his teeth out of her abdomen. They kept her for a few hours (they wanted to keep her over night but it was $1,200 more than I had already had given them and I honestly didnt have it). We are home now and she is sedated and in pain, I’m watching her closely. The vet said shes a tough girl and amazingly Bobby didnt bite all the way down which would have killed her. He said he thinks Bobby thought she was a toy. Which makes sense. I just wish I had seen ANY signs of aggression for anything prior. So I’m now obviously online reading and I came across your article. I’ve been sitting here thinking about what I should have done, what I could have done, feeling so guilty for putting penny in harm’s way. Feeling scared shes more hurt then the vet thinks (kinda like your situation). So many emotions. I just want my little girl to be ok. But I dont think I’ll ever forgive myself for letting my guard down and not protecting her more closely.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I dont feel so isolated and alone in my thoughts and emotions. The guilt and the remorse are overwhelming. Shes been nothing but the best little dog and she trusts me to protect her. I’m just so beside myself over the whole thing.
    Thank you again for sharing.

    • Do NOT feel guilty i know deep down you just wanted to help the dogs and give them a happy life. About 5 years ago my family had to put down our dog, he was a mix about 90lbs. We had gotten him from a shelter when he was about a month old he was a litter of one. I loved him to pieces he was such a sweet dog to us but he was super leash reactive to other dogs due to lack of socialization as a puppy. He also was aggressive towards strangers. We were forced to use a shock collar on him because he had attacked two people at our house on separate occasions. My sister moved in with us and one day when she was talking to our step mom he lunged across the room and bit her face for no reason. He was immediately put in a sit and stay, he listened and backed off immediately he was a very well trained dog. It all happened in a matter of seconds but it was awful. We were forced to put him down. My sister is very petite and was nervous around him because he was a big dog so I am not sure if that had anything to do with it. I miss him very much but we had to put him down and i completely understand.

  3. Thank you for the sincere article. Currently my dog Nevaeh that is dying years old is sitting quarantined for the 4th time. My heart is breaking for her and I actually have felt suicidal. She attack Gemini how many times and I used to think that it was just whenever we were going to the car for a car ride. But then I noticed later on how Gemini’s legs were swollen and there were wounds on her legs which indicated to me that she has been fighting Gemini whenever I wasn’t around. Gemini passed away away on Easter 2017. She passed away of old age but she really wasn’t that old she was only nine and a half. Now I have my dog Lulu who was my sister’s dog and she is nevaeh’s Mom. Lulu is about 11 and I’ve only had her for about a year. Every time I think I found out a trigger she would surprise me with a new trigger. She has that excited attacking mode. But sometimes it is stress. My boyfriend and I have both been attacked during arguments. And I mean serious attacks on the ankle. I’ve been bitten at least 10 times. I’ve had most of these from people they can put her away. But the other day when she attacked Lulu again when I had been keeping her away from Lulu but and incident happened where they had come face-to-face. Because currently I am in an RV and I don’t have the space or the room to try to keep them completely separated even though that has been my goal. So my dog Goliath was going out the door and Nevaeh was standing there and I hadn’t rotated dogs all the way yet and Lulu took that as an opportunity to come in through the door and when she did she was immediately attacked and I tried to pole Nevaeh off of her and when I did my hand was bit and two places. I have an extreme swelling in my thumb and I have bruises covered all over my hand and wrist. I work with my hand so this is been really devastating and it is another hurt on my already hurt hand. I have fought to keep this dog alive and give her everything I possibly can and hope that I can spend the rest of my life with her. And I am trying to say that I’ve done everything that I can and it’s time to put her down. I really almost put her down so she did have to sit 10 days in quarantined but then I didn’t think I was going to get her body because they would send it away for rabies even know she had a rabies shots she still had to go to quarantine. I miss her so much. And I’ve cried so much. And she’s not allowed back on property and I was going to see if I could find a foster that would help a dog that is aggressive for a couple months until I can get into a bigger place. So actually there’s not even any place for her to go. I have not had any luck with any Fosters. I just need to share my story because I’m hoping that somebody and come along and tell me that I’m doing the right thing. She’s a bit a little girl and 2014 and the aunt assaulted me and had me on the ground kicking me in my head and face for my dog nipping at her niece. I’ve went through so much for this dog. Please give me some encouragement I need some. Thank you

    • Doing the right thing means taking accountability for our actions and making tough decisions to do the most good. This person did neither of those things; instead hoped a random savior would swoop in and magically save the day and an aggressive dog. Continuing to put other people and animals at risk while also actively knowing they were being bitten? My guess is that drugs and/or mental illness contributed to this person not thinking clearly. These poor animals.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience. Two days ago, I had to put down my beloved 2 year old rescue pup Homer, after multiple bites, and a shrinking world that ultimately resulted in wearing a muzzle, having no unfamiliar visitors, and a very small number of people he was comfortable with (most of whom he had bitten at some point). I worked with three trainers, tried various medications, nutritional changes, clicker training, positive reinforcement, and an e-collar. I worked hard with this dog, and know his issues were genetic. I could not have loved him more. Sometimes, this is the only solution, and while my heart is completely broken right now, I know I made the right decision. I urge anyone with an aggressive dog to work with trainers and a vet- and if he or she is not improving (or you can’t trust anyone to watch him because of possible injury) to forgive yourself and consider this option.

  5. I am in a situation like this one right now. I have an 8 year old Pomeranian/ Pekingese mix named Louie that has lived solely in my bathroom for the last 5 years. I won’t go into how he came to live in the bathroom just suffice to say my home isn’t a one dog home and Louis CANNOT be trusted around other animals. I don’t even trust him around my grand-babies. He has snarled at me on occasion and also at my husband. He has to be taken out (with much fight and drama) about every 6 months for grooming, and that is a major ordeal every time. Anyway, my husband died, he died suddenly and every unexpectedly on Christmas Eve 2019, so 9 weeks ago. And now I have to deal with this alone, no one else to help me get this dog out of the bathroom, he weighs about 30 lbs and is very strong and he fights. He won’t let me put a leash on him or pick him up. ITS HELL, and I don’t know what to do. I spoke with a vet about a year ago about putting him down but she made me feel so guilty I just had him groomed and left. I mean what do I do? Does anyone have any suggestions? I am never mean to him, he has a fan, he is well fed. Right not he is in dire need of grooming, (we planned it for January but Michael died) so he now has a poo patty on his butt so he for sure wont let me near him. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to rattle on I’m just at my wits end and desperate.

  6. I found solace in your words. My sweet rescue JJ, a LabraDane, is scheduled to be euthanized in 10 days. He has attacked my other two dogs on multiple occasions since adopting him a year ago. He is a funny guy and then all the sudden he becomes a dog I don’t know. He will go after one of my other dogs, totally unprovoked, and tries to shake them dead. He went after my golden today and as she was screaming and I was trying to get him to let go he bit me badly. I cannot go to the ER because of COVID19. I will try and have a video appointment with a medical professional tomorrow. I have pored love, training, vet visits, and animal behaviorist consults to no avail. Sadly, my love cannot fix what is broken in him and that is what hurts the most .

    • This is awful for you. My dog hasn’t bitten but is getting much worse with her anxiety and aggressive behaviour since social distancing all the work we have done is gone! She now thinks distance is safe and anyone walking past is fair game.

  7. Oh my! I’m reading this in tears. My dog Sammy is getting slowly worse with her fearful lashing out. She’s not bitten but she’s barking at anyone who comes close to me or our family. We’ve followed training also she hasn’t changed. I’ve just got my gentle kind happy go lucky other dog home from a double surgery and sammy is petrified of her and growling.

    I wonder does this escalate to full of attacks one day! How many trainers do you see before you think I’m lost. How long do you trust a dog to just growl and bark in fear when you do nothing but show them they are safe.

  8. I am crying as I read your article, mostly for you. Euthanizing Ruby was your only option, which you know, but both Tito’s death and Ruby’s death will never stop hurting. I am so sorry that your generosity was so punished and I wonder how much cumulative pain and agonizing over the best course to take in various situations that people who care for and about animals can take. We go to our graves with those scars, no matter how hard we tried, and whether the damage was in our control or someone else’s fault.

  9. I am finding great solace in this article as well. I took in a 1 year old German Shepherd from my parents as they were physically unable to handle him. With social distancing he was never well socialized and they didn’t feel safe taking him to a trainer because they were high risk if they caught COVID-19. I didn’t know how bad things were until I tried introducing him to potential adopters and he barked like crazy and tried to bite if they approached the fence. I worked with trainers to ease the fear based reactivity but it only continued to worsen. Obviously at this point I realized he couldn’t be adopted by a normal person. Then he bit the neighbor who tried to pet him over the fence. He was warned and I am mad he put the dog in the position to bite him but the dog should have never have thought biting was an option. I sent him with someone for more training in hopes that being away from the yard he was always protecting and away from me would help. It didn’t, he continued to worsen. Then we tried meds, but it seems it is too late. Inside he is ok, albeit anxious and paces for chunks of time despite being exercised and being given mentally stimulating activities. Now I don’t even feel safe taking him outside because everything sets him off and he charges the fence ready to attack. The worst is that he really does not like kids for some reason. I have him on a tie out and behind a fence but I know if he tries hard enough he can break free and jump the fence and I am not strong enough to stop it from happening. My vet is reluctant to put him down and I get that he’s otherwise physically healthy but I cannot risk someone else’s safety anymore. The vet finally agreed that he’s just not safe anymore and he will is being put down in 4 days. I’m devastated. 90% of the time he’s a loving goofy dog. I feel like I have failed him in so many ways. I really did the best I could and used every resource I had but it wasn’t enough. My head knows this is the appropriate thing to do but my heart may never recover.

  10. I just went through something similar, luckily my dog didn’t die. My foster dog showed no warning signs. My dog was sleeping when she was attacked. My husband and I had to pry the foster dog off of her. She had a large puncture in her neck and blood was everywhere. I really thought she was going to die. We took the foster dog to the boarding facility the rescue is contracted with. I keep going through it in my head wondering if I could have prevented it. I feel so guilty for ever bringing her into my home. She was surrendered because she bit her owner which we told was a minor bite she to the owner over stepping boundaries. The rescue still wants to try to adopt her out… But I’m scared she might hurt another dog or a cat.