One of my newest clients is a fantastic, sweet, dog devotee named Greta. Greta started class recently with her female adolescent Black Labrador Retriever/Hound cross, Lacey. Greta has a total of five permanent resident dogs and one foster at this time. After class the other night, Greta stopped and asked if I might stay after the lesson to talk with her a bit about some questions she had regarding her current foster. I told her I’d be happy to stay and chat.
Before we proceed, let me say that I am a realist when it comes to shelters, rescues, and dog breeders. In all three categories, some are wonderful, some are middle-of-the-road, and some pose a great threat to the physical and emotional well-being of dogs and their future families. Today, I’m talking about a rescue organization that falls into last category.
The foster dog in question is a large, adult GSD male named King. The way this rescue is run, if you foster for them, the dog is basically yours forever unless you can find an adoptive home – you must do the temperament assessing (which IMO should be left to behavior professionals), home evaluation, interviews, reference checks, introductions to resident pets, answer all the emails, and do all the “sales pitches” to find this dog a forever home – the rescue’s only responsibility is to post a picture on petfinder.
While I’ve not yet met this dog, Greta informed me that he displayed an aggressive response to unfamiliar dogs. You’d hardly know it from reading his petfinder profile, which basically says, “he loves to fetch, swim, play, and cuddle! He would love to be the only dog in your heart.” Recently, he was fence fighting with a neighbor’s dog and Greta’s husband got bitten trying to get the dog away. Luckily, he had a very large, thick winter coat on, so his arm was only (but badly), bruised. Were this a summer time bite on an unsleeved arm, the damage may well have been far more extensive.
Right off the bat, I’m thinking there are a number of red flags here:
* reactivity to other dogs
* history of redirected aggression toward humans
* low bite inhibition – when this dog bites, he bites hard
Interestingly, none of these things were mentioned on the petfinder profile. To me, that’s a pretty big omission! A potential adoptive family saw this dog’s picture and profile on FB and contacted Greta because they were interested in learning more about King and whether he’d be the right match for the family. Greta responded to them honestly,
* Names of dogs, persons, and rescue organizations have been changed.