What to Do with a Dog Gone Bad

Updated on May 05, 2014
J.C. asks from Blacksburg, VA
14 answers

Hi, Moms,
I know this site is mainly for kid questions, but I am hoping someone can help with a dog question. We adopted a dog about a year ago. At first he was very good, but after a few months he started growling occasionally. We talked to a trainer and our vet but instead of getting better he kept growling more and more, until he was growling several times a day. We know he was abused before we adopted him so we tried to give him every chance to get better now that he has a good home. But he just bit my husband - not a nip, a bite. We are heartbroken because now we know we can't keep him - but is our only choice putting him to sleep? We can't really give him to someone else if he growls and bites. And I think we have already given him more of a chance than most people would have. Most of the time he is a great dog and it is killing us that we have to put him to sleep, so I was wondering if anyone knows of any other options. Thanks, moms!

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So What Happened?

Update for those who want to know more about when the dog bit my husband: My husband was lying in the floor with the dog patting him. He (my husband) shifted - changed position - and the dog growled, and then bit. Also - I wish we could have a trainer come to our home to work on the problem, but we also have 2 kids so I don't think it is safe anymore to keep this dog in the house with us. Thanks!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I'd find a home for him where he can be outside and run around. Not an indoor pet so much as an outdoor friend. He can live and play and chase critters.

Biting someone because they moved unexpectedly does indicate he's been abused. I'd give him away but only to a calm quiet adult only home if he's going to be inside.

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answers from Chicago on

I'm afraid to say that no one will take the dog.

We had a similar thing happen with our dog. The morning after he bite my husband and broke skin, we took him to be put down. I still remember how excited he was to be going on an adventure. it was a hard day.

The problem is that a shelter or rescue cannot place a dog with a history of biting.

We worked with a trainer for over a year with our dog. he had a lot of anxiety. We had him on meds, etc. Sometimes dog just go a bit crazy.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

This is really sad. I had a chow chow about 20 years ago. I got him when he was a puppy. When taking him to the vet to start his vaccinations the vet told me that I needed to be very hands on with the dog getting him used to people and used to touch. He told me to touch his paws, touch the inside of his mouth, pet him when he was eating food as a puppy so he learns not to be aggressive with his food, take him for walks....etc etc....I did exactly what he told me to do and he was a good dog not aggressive at all. He slept in my room with me and my dad and mom used to come into my room to put my clothes away (I got him when I lived with my parents) and he never bit or growled or showed any aggression towards anyone, then one day it changed. I was out of town with a friend and my dad went into my room to get the keys to my car because he had to move it, when my dad went into my room Braxton (dog) starting growling at him and my dad was trying to talk to him, Braxton lunged at my dad and tried to bite him and out of reaction, my dad closed his fists and hit my dog. That was the first incident. He told me about when he came home, we figured that maybe my dad startled the dog or something?? Then about a month later, my uncle was over and as he was leaving out the door, my dog bit his ankle and broke the skin. My uncle wasn't even paying attention to the dog he was talking to my dad? About two weeks after that he started growling and showing his teeth to me whenever I would feed him. It scared me. Chow Chow's are very intimidating dogs. A week after that I was feeding him and when I went to set the bowl of dog food on the floor, he nipped at my hand and was growling and showing his teeth. We had no choice but to put him down. We talked to the vet about why this was happening. He said that chows are bred to protect property and it was in his blood?? we just couldn't risk Braxton serioulsly hurting anyone. He was only 2.5 years old.

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answers from Washington DC on


What breed is the dog?
What age is the dog?
Do you know ANYTHING about his background?
Is there anything particular he is directing his growling?

I'm sorry - what was going on when he bit your husband? before you put him down - tell the whole story, please. What was going on? Were they playing? Was he petting him? Was he moving his food? WHAT? Or did he just walk up and BITE him?

If he just walked up and bit him...I'm sorry...I would put him down. I too HATE the idea of putting a dog down. However, IF he bit for no reason??? It's nothing to mess with.

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I really love dogs but a dog that bites with young kids is not a good mix - obviously. We also rescued a dog. Fortunately good luck but I say if we can't keep him for some reason, I would put him down before I put him back in a shelter. I think the shelter if more cruel. Putting a dog to sleep is almost instantaneous. I've seen it. I think leaving the dog again in a shelter is heartbreaking. And there are soooo many good dogs who need homes. I think we need to be practical and put our resources to them. That wouldn't be the case in a perfect world but it's not a perfect world. You likely don't have the time and money that this dog needs and even then he may be a lost cause. Put him down and don't torture yourself wondering if he got a home and if those people will be nice to him etc. sorry and I really love dogs so not trying to be heartless.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

Growling and biting are usually a sign that the human is doing something the dog does not like. Do you know for sure the dog does not have any chronic pain areas? One of my jacks bites if you touch his leg and after further investigation we found he had a bad knee. My other jack will bite if you force him out of his kennel so we simply don't do that and let him come out on his own when he is ready. Discovering your dogs trigger and getting further training should help. If you feel you must rehome then do so, but PLEASE don't go out and get another dog. Growling, and to some extent, even biting, are normal dog behavior that needs professional training, most dogs are not perfect 100% of the time, and most dogs will bite at least one person at one point in their life. Its not fair to let another dog fall in love with your family only to discover he too is not good enough.

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answers from Seattle on

I will be honest here (and I love animals and have a dog myself) - a dog that growls and bites without obvious provocation is a danger and a liability issue.

No amount of training, no amount of time gone by without incident will ever reduce the liability or restore my faith in that animal.

If you have adopted this dog from a rescue, find out if your adoption contract contains any kind of return clause. Some rescues require that any animal they adopt out is returned to them if you are not able to keep it for any reason. You should still fully disclose what happened, but this would obviously be the best solution.

If that is not possible I would have him put down.
A dog that growls and bites is not adoptable by anyone else. Some people certainly choose to keep the animal and try to resolve issues with intense training and medication, but honestly I don't that that is a safe option if you have young children in the home. You would pretty much have to dedicate most of your time to rehabilitate an animal like that for the rest of that dog's life. That may be an option for some people, but it is not for most.

Do NOT rehome the dog privately. Not even if you fully disclose the issues. If this dog is rehomed, even if you were completely honest about what happened, and causes some serious injury to someone you may be held liable!

It sucks, but sometimes putting an animal down really is the only responsible solution.
Good luck.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

You talked to a trainer but did you actually take the dog to obedience classes and reinforce the lessons at home?
Some abused dogs are so deeply psychologically damaged that they can't be rehabbed. We had one like that.
We did obedience training and large field socialization classes with her, put a pheremone collar on her, and even put her on Prozac. And still she repeatedly attacked my dog with no provocation other than him walking into the same room as her. We finally had to put her down, but that was after working with a trainer and several vets for over a year trying to find a solution for her dog aggression issues.

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answers from Portland on

I have to agree with Wild Woman. There should be more to the story than what we are getting. Dogs generally don't growl for not reason. It is a warning that something is going on. That something is not ok. Dogs growl before they bite. What was going on when he bit? Some dog breeds have been bred improperly and so they might just bite for no reason. If that is the case, then yes, you do need to put him down. It isn't fair to the next person he bites and maybe scars for life. But, we need more information.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I have to agree with Wild Woman. If you truly want to help this dog you need to put in more information and not just talk with a vet or trainer. Abused dogs can be jumpy depending on their situation.
I currently have a dog that I got at a young age. She has been put through all the training courses but she can still be a little bit skiddish. Once you figure out what the issue may be, you can work from there. Dogs take time and patience and even more time and patience with an abused dog. The shelter should have known about this and with young kids should not have placed him with you.

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answers from Columbia on

Take the dog to professional training! "Talking to a trainer" isn't actually training.

You knew what you were getting when you adopted him. He has issues. Now it's time to actually put in the work to heal him and make him a confident, happy dog. Getting him into regualar, weekly training courses will absolutely help with that! Especially since it's usually OWNERS that need the most training on how to work with their dog.

We adopted our wonderful Border Collie/Brittany Spaniel mix from the shelter. When she came home she jumped all over people, pulled the lead, was food aggressive, toy aggressive, and would nip the kids when they ran (helloooo, herding dog instinct!). I took her to training classes and she learned SO fast. Many of her issues resolved themselves JUST based on her confidence in knowing the house rules and what's expected of her. She knows her place and she knows how to listen. But you can't give your dog that confidence and resolve those issues with good intentions, you have to WORK with your dog!

I hope you don't put him down before actually finding a good trainer and going through classes (not a Petco trainer, but a real one).

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answers from Washington DC on

I would try a dog behaviorist. See if your vet or a local pet shop or kennel can recommend one.

We had one come for our last dog after she snapped at my son who was learning to walk and toppled over on her. The behaviorist gave us 8 more wonderful years with our girl.


answers from San Francisco on

When we got our puppy, we contacted a trainer who came highly recommended, and she made several trips to our home before we began group lessons. I would recommend that you hire someone like that, who will come to your home. Our trainer told us that in addition to people with puppies, a lot of people hire her because they've adopted an older dog who was someone else's "problem." Dogs who growl, bite, act aggressively, etc are her specialty, and she said that in 8 years in business, she's never had a family she couldn't help. So, I would contact a good trainer ASAP. You knew when you adopted this dog that he had been abused - and abused dogs need a lot of re-training to learn their place and new behaviors in a non-abusive household. Frankly, I'm surprised that the place you adopted him from allowed a family with young children and no experience (I'm assuming) with this type of dog to adopt in the first place, but it is what it is now.

As a last resort, contact the rescue/shelter you adopted him from and let them know he needs to be re-homed.



answers from Las Vegas on

If you are not interested in putting him down, I agree with finding a shelter in your area.

One bite is enough for me, I would find a way to get rid of him/her.

However, I do think laying down with the dog at his level is a no-no. As well, the dog may not like to be patted.

We adopted a Rottie which was an outside dog. We left her in the house for a few hours and when we returned, she tried to dig her way out the front door. She was afraid she was locked in. So we have to keep her outside when we are not home and inside when we are here. It is hard because it is extremely hot here, but she has her own room outside and we just prop the door open. She just doesn't have A/C. Anyway, she did her share of growling when we first got her and I believe if we had not left her alone when she growled, she would have bitten. It's a little message to be left alone.

Yes, perhaps you can get on the phone and find a shelter with a little more freedom for him/her to roam.

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