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Considerations for Re-homing Aggressive Dogs

Updated on September 8, 2013

Dog-aggressive dogs may do well when re-homed in one-dog homes


Dealing with the Aggressive Dog

If you own an aggressive dog, very likely you may have tried a variety of methods to try to mellow your dog down and make life much easier for the both of you. However, the methods may have not worked, either because the methods employed were downright wrong, or the problem reached a point where there is not much left to do, and therefore, the aggression has become an integral component of the 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 quite prohibitive 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 giving your dog away, and re-homing him may appear to be the easy way out, but this often, may be downright wrong.

What to Do With an Aggressive Dog?

Dogs aggressive to people should not be re-homed
Dogs aggressive to people should not be re-homed | Source

Why Re-homing is Not the Right Approach

Re-homing 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 to somebody else. And of course, it is 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. Actually, 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 be back to start, risking to be dumped at the shelter or re-homed again to the next unfortunate owner. A vicious cycle has formed...

There are very little cases where re-homing 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 one-dog only 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, are dogs that do 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 of the cases, you can count on your hands, where re-homing may be a plausible option.

Dogs that have a history of acting aggressive towards people should not be re-homed. Even if the dog acts aggressively towards children, but does well with older people, should not be re-homed, for the simple fact that these dogs are a big liability, and very likely they will meet children one day or another, and the risks to take are too high.

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 at times, there are cases, 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. We will look at some options of last resort.

Options for Desperate Cases

The following 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 put 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.

* On a positive note: According to k9 aggression '' A study completed by Dr. Radosta while at the University of Pennsylvania of dogs who were diagnosed with owner directed aggression, 86% of the owners reported that their pet’s behavior had improved when interviewed 6 months after their appointment.

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. Management: you do of course, have the option of keeping your dog confined all its life away from people or other dogs, 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 at times, 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, and most of all, remember: you cannot learn how to deal with aggression by just watching a TV show! Aggression brings only aggression. Never try to alpha roll, kick, pinch, or grab by the scruff an aggressive dog.


  • 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 euthanasis. 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. And 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.
  • And of course, worth mentioning is that abandoning a dog is 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, but you will indirectly, potentially leaving emotional or real scars to the innocent public...


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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      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

      Heather 2 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 image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 years ago from USA

      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 6 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

      natures47friend 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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.