Jekyl & Hyde Rescue Dog w/issues

Posted by gjrupert
May 13, 2008
I desperately need guideance on how to handle a stray that I found. He looks to be a "Flat Coated Retriever & est. age is 2 yrs old. He had been dumped in the country near my house and had fended for himself for over a month, when I found him. Neighbors say he had been sleeping in a farmer's barn, but staying in 1 field, waiting for his owner to return. Obviously he had major trust issues, and I approached him slowly over a period of 6 days, bringing him food am & pm until he finally came to me and nuzzled my leg, letting me bring him home. At that time, I saw no sign of aggression other than his wanting to mount my 4 existing dogs. My goal was to heal him and find him a good home, so I had him neutered & all shots. His temperament at the vets was great. I didn't mention that he is very bright and is very good at all basic commands. He loves belly rubs and would play ball 24/7. Here is my problem: He shows extreme agitation and aggression towards anyone that comes to potentially adopt him. He barks, shows his teeth and if not leashed, would attack. Now, I can take him to the pet store, walk him around the other people & animals & he is good. It only seems to be a territorial/posessive thing & I think it is because he now trusts "us" and wants to protect us. My problem in understanding this behaviour is that he doesn't present himself as a dominant dog. He sits and lets me go through the door 1st, obeys commands, is a totally loving dog - but then there is this flip side to him! Obviously I can't place him in a home if I have these fears that he will bite someone! How do I get him over this? Any help would be appreciated.
Posted by Tarnador
May 16, 2008
Well done for rescuing him - I love hearing about dogs who are given a second chance in life, poor things deserve it.

It seems you are doing most of the things correctly as he is turning into an obedient well mannered dog. However you must keep asserting yourself as alpaha dog. Sometimes people who rescue dogs want to make up for all the bad things that have happened to the dog in the past, and as a result can sometimes spoil them and let them get away with too much because they feel sorry for them; and this can lead to problems with the dog thinking of themselves as pack leader.

You need to make sure your dog knows that everything belongs to you and is your property - including his toys and food (at the moment he thinks you belong to him). He cannot take anything or sit where he likes without your permission. So if you want him to sit on the sofa with you then you must invite him - he cannot jump and sit there when he chooses.

If he wants to play, don't let him bring you his ball and "ask" you to play. You decide when to play and you initiate the game and stop when you decide.

Don't let him be protective of you - it's your job to protect him.

Same with affection, if he comes to you for a cuddle then ignore him. If he lays at your feet hoping for a belly rub then don't. although a dog asking for a cuddle does not appear to be dominate behaviour - it is, because he is asking you to do something that he wants. I know this can sound harsh but if you want to show him affection then you must decide when and call him over, and only then can you give him belly rubs etc (and this is best when he is behaving himself and being totally relaxed) -

There are lots of other different subtle ways in which a dog displays dominant behaviour, but people take it as being cute or clever or funny.
I'm sure you will succeed with this dog and he will make someone a lovely pet.
Posted by gjrupert
May 16, 2008
Thanks Tarnador, You are right about my feeling sorry for him, and because he is so sweet, it is really easy to spoil him. I have rescued a few other poor souls in the past, but none of them had any aggression issues, so I either kept them or was able to find good homes.
As I said, I have 4 labs and am just now realizing that they are also spoiled but since they are so even tempered I never had a need to exert my dominance over them. I have been really trying to let Buddy know that I am his Alpha by making him obey commands throughout the day, but had not thought about some of the more subtle things that you suggested (I cuddle him when he wants it, play ball when he comes to me with it in his mouth, etc) - I have seen this as "sweetness". So, I will try to do more to assert myself. Thanks so much for the reassurance.
Posted by gjrupert
Apr 6, 2009
Hi, I thought I would post a delayed update on the rescue dog here. Happy to say that with much effort and hard work (Buddy & us) we have a wonderful, most loving and obedient family member! We fell "so" in love with him that we decided "not" to adopt him out, but rather to keep him with us. After everything he had been through, we realized that it had build such character in him & he was so deserving of a secure, loving home - ours!
For those of you out there with aggression issues, please don't give up! This guy was the hardest challenge we had ever faced, but he now greets all visitors with a wagging tail & we are so grateful to have him!
Posted by LetsPlay
Apr 7, 2009
Hi there,
thanks so much for your efforts. Buddy is a very lucky dog!
It's great to hear that all your hard work payed off.

All the best to you!