Why We Adopted a Dog and Then Returned Her

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When my wife and I were looking to adopt our first dog, we had one — and only one — deal breaker: aggression.

At the time, we had little experience with dogs. Aside from acting as the designated doggy sitters for a few of our friends, we had never had long-term responsibility for a dog, and we certainly didn’t have experience handling a dog with severe behavioral problems. We knew this about ourselves.

Plus, we live in Chicago, and there aren’t many dog-friendly apartment buildings, which means if a building does allow dogs, it’s usually packed with furry tenants. On top of that, a few of our neighbors were new parents, which meant there were both dogs and babies in our building.

A not-so-dog-friendly area of Chicago by Michael Rosebrock / Shutterstock.
Chicago doesn’t seem as dog-friendly as other major U.S. cities. (No Pets Allowed sign in Chicago by Michael Rosebrock / Shutterstock)

So, when we had an in-home consultation with one of the local Labrador Retriever rescues, the very first thing we said was, “We don’t mind working with a dog to correct most behavioral problems, but we absolutely cannot adopt an aggressive dog.”

They eventually paired us with a pup named Sadie, a super-sweet, one-year-old Lab. In her description, it said, clear as a bell, “Great with other dogs and kids.”

We were so excited. We’d put faith in the system, and after lots of hard work, our rescue counselor had found a good match for us. Looking back, I know now that we relied too much on the counselor. We did meet Sadie briefly before we picked her up, but we didn’t really do what we should have: get to know her. We didn’t ask to see her interact with other dogs. We didn’t go for a walk. We met her, found her adorable, and left the rest up to our adoption counselor.

We spent the next couple of weeks preparing to give this adorable dog a new life. We bought a bunch of supplies, puppy-proofed our house, and prepared ourselves to be awesome pet parents. Honestly, we were in love Sadie before we even picked her up.

On the way out of the shelter with her, we passed another dog. I didn’t think anything of it, really. I’d been told she was dog-friendly, so I let her approach the other dog. Immediately, Sadie lunged and nearly landed a bite. If it weren’t for the quick reaction of the other handler, his dog probably would have been injured.

This took me totally off guard and shook me up quite a bit. I put Sadie in the car and went back into the shelter to tell them what happened. Our adoption counselor wasn’t worried at all, “She’s just had surgery,” she said. “Lots of dogs exhibit these kinds of behaviors when they’re recovering.”

I was wary, but I trusted the counselor. She knew our situation, and I’d made sure she understood that we weren’t experienced dog owners. I remember saying aloud to myself, “Relax, Perrin. I’m sure it’s fine.” And we went home.

The next two weeks were a roller-coaster. Within the boundaries of our home, Sadie was one of the sweetest dogs I’d ever met. She was affectionate and smart. She listened. She followed me around and knew a few basic commands. But most of all, she was funny. She was a very easy dog to love.

Labrador Retriever by Shutterstock.
We don’t have any photographic memories of Sadie. (Labrador Retriever by Shutterstock)

On the other hand, though, she had altercations with every dog she encountered. As she recovered from her surgery and returned to her normal state, the incidents got progressively worse. If Sadie wasn’t lunging at passing dogs, she was barking from across the street like a total maniac.

The worst, though, was when we’d pass a baby in the stairwell. Sadie never lunged at a baby being carried in a portable car seat, but she’d growl. I’m not sure if she was growling at the baby or the car seat; either way, it was enough to terrify me. Our stairwells were tight, and even at 30 pounds, she could physically yank me around. What could (or would) Sadie do at 65 pounds?

So we had a terrible decision to make: We’d fallen head over heels in love with this dog, but we just were not equipped to handle the aggression — and the danger to our neighbors, their dogs, and their children outweighed our affection for Sadie. So we took her back.

It was utterly heartbreaking. We’d only known Sadie for a few weeks, but we’d been talking about and preparing to be dog parents for nearly a year. It was like the opposite of Christmas.

It can be excruciating to relinquish a dog, especially if you have already fallen in love like we did. But sometimes a dog is not right for you and you are not right for a dog. Even within our little Chicago neighborhood, I’ve seen half a dozen dog attacks. Almost all of them resulted from an inexperienced owner handling an aggressive dog.

The weird part is that because adopting a dog is such an emotional experience for everyone involved, it can feel taboo to take a dog back to the shelter. In our case, our adoption counselor was furious, and she let us know in no uncertain terms. Honestly, it makes sense. She devotes her life to rehoming dogs, so I’m sure it’s not easy to take one back in.

In the end, I learned a few hard lessons. First, even well-meaning adoption counselors make mistakes. Second, you should spend as much time as possible with a dog before adopting, taking advantage of trial weekends if possible. And third, it’s okay to tell the counselor that you don’t have the right level of experience or expertise for a particular dog; it doesn’t make you a bad person.

If you read this far, you’ve probably got a burning question: Did you ever get a dog?! Not only did we get an amazing dog (and the love of our lives) named Chewie …

Our first dog, Chewie. (Photo by Perrin )
Our first dog, Chewie. (Photo by Perrin Carrell)

…but I discovered that I have a pretty ridiculous passion for helping other dog owners, so I started my own dog blog.

What if I had to do it all over again? I think I made the best decision I could have at the time, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better dog than I have now!

Have you ever returned a dog after adoption? Did you feel guilty? How did you cope? Tell us your story.

Read more confessions on Dogster:

About the author: Perrin Carrell is a long-time blogger living in Chicago with his wife and dog/gremlin Chewie. He has a rather unhealthy obsession for all things dog, so he channels this energy into his blog, HerePup. If you have a soul and love dogs too, you can find more cool stuff on their Twitter account.

32 thoughts on “Why We Adopted a Dog and Then Returned Her”

  1. We just returned our rescue, but our reason was because our dog became aggressive towards the rescue. Our rescue girl deserved so much more and we knew that she would find a better home. What we did for her was pay for half her adoption fee because it was pretty expensive and paid for a lesson with the trainer we had so she could do a free training session with the new family. It absolutely broke my heart. It wasn’t her fault, it was ours. We didn’t introduce her to the family properly or to our dog and we failed her. I strongly agree with your notes about spending more time with the rescue, especially if you have resident dogs. Take your time, see if you can bring them home and get your resident dogs use to having them in the house. Absolutely heartbroken today but I’m sure our girl will find her forever home soon.

  2. Patrick, I am no expert …. but I think that it is better to make this difficult decision early (or as soon as you notice that the issue cannot be resolved bt giving it more time) before more damage is done to the dog(s). I strongly believe that it will only make it harder for both the dog(s) and the owner if you wait…. I might be wrong… it’s just my opinion and gut feeling….

  3. I adopted a dog 9 years ago when he was only 1 month old. Last year I bought my own apartment and started to seriously consider and plan on and prepare for adopting one more dog. I picked out one who was described as the sweetest little thing and we (my dog and I) met her a few times in a park to see if and how they get along. There was no growling or showing teeth. They were both fine. Since my apartment was not yet ready for moving in, I asked the shelter to keep her for me until we are all ready to move into our new home. Everything went well according to plan. I adopted Becky on the scheduled day and we moved in. At first she was terrified from the new surroundings and all the new sounds and people in this neighborhood. So of course I decided to give her time to adjust and took two weeks off from work in order for us all to get used to each other in our new home. She was improving each day….unfortunately, as the 3-year-old Becky improved and relaxed more every day (and I was thrilled about it), my 9-year-old Napoleon went in the opposite direction with his behavour. The better she did, the worse he did. They never attacked each other (at least not in my presence) and seem to stay away from each other, but they never got close to sniff or play with each other. It got to the point where they don’t want to sleep in the bedroom at night and she sleeps in the living room while he is with me in the bedroom. And during the day he is stuck to me like glue and i can’t seem to make a step without me tripping over him which is not a normal behavior for him. He eats and drinks less while her apetite improves. I have to beg him to eat and even hand-feed him twice a day. Today was day 8 of our time together and I had to make the heart-breaking decision of returning Becky to the shelter because Napoleon is not doing well around her and she obviously will do much better in a family where there are no other pets. So tomorrow or the day after that will be the day I return her and I feel extremely guilty ….. guilty does not even begin to describe how I feel… I’m heartbroken because I fell in love with her the moment I first saw her and even more so when I met her in person. But I guess that their behavior outside does not always guarantee that it will be the same under the same roof. I’ve had pets ever since I was little and now as an adult I did all the necesssry research regarding an adoption of a second dog and introducing it to the existing one. I prepared myself the best I knew how for over a year….. and my heart was in the right place…. I had the best intentions of giving Becky a warm and loving home…. and I am not the type of person who easily gives up when determined and committed to see something through…. however, I did not expect this kind of behavior from Napoleon….and seeing that it is not improving but getting worse….. the relationship between the two of them…. it made me think real hard and made me come to a conclusion that they are not compatible with each other….. they are complete opposites of each other like night and day….. and no matter how much I try…. one of them will always suffer….. and so will I by worrying about him/her…..so even though agression was not the issue…. or making a mess inside the apartment…. the least expected thing turned out to be an issue….incompatable personalities when living together under the same roof. So instead of makinh everyone miserable by trying to accommodate and please everyone….. I came to a conclusion that the best thing is to return Becky to the shelter before thins get worse and aggression surfaces as a result to this incompatability which I noticed within the first week. It breaks my heart to give her away….. but I believe that she will be much happier with another family which I will help find as well. How I cope with this? I don’t know what to do with myself….. I feel sad and horrible and miss her already….but deep down I know this is best for everyone. So please don’t judge…. it is so easy to do so from the side….. but going through this…. I know how I feel and it will leave me with a scar for the rest of my life…..perhaps in the near future another oppotunity will present itself for a better match…. until then I will miss Becky from the bottom of my heart… but I will not give up on the idea of adopting a second dog.

  4. I had a similar experience. Beautiful looking dog, very smart and friendly..to the point of obsessive. Could not sit still and content, had to follow all the time and needed attention constantly. Became obsessive with my daughter, wouldn’t let her do much..he lunged at other dogs and snapped to bite not only a friend’s dog, but the friend too when she tried to hug me. I’ve had lots of dogs in the past, but this dog was different. The shelter said he was found “free” on Facebook, rescued, then put up for adoption. We were his first adopters. Never adopted before..and they specifically said he was cat and dog friendly, but he wasn’t. I will never adopted from a shelter again. They refused to refund. We really had no idea the type of dog we were getting..and my lesson is, at shelters you can’t interact with them as you can at home. They are handled by the employees and you have to make a decision whether the dog is a good fit or not..in a matter of minutes. I can deal with lots of issues, but aggression and obsession isn’t one I’m willing to tackle.

  5. My issue is how long do you spend trying before returning a rescue that is not a good match. do you wait until the dog is settled and more attached to it’s new home or make the decision early before more damage is done?

  6. There are a lot of judgmental jerks commenting on here. Geez!

    I had a dog for 4 days and had to return her to the shelter where I got her. She was on pain medication for two dog bites when I got her (she was adopted out and immediately bitten by her adopter’s existing dog. Even though they had met at the shelter and been fine, their dog became dominant and aggressive on its own turf, so they returned the new dog for her own safety). She had a lot of energy, but she was young and I was willing to work it off with her by taking her on long walks, etc. She got along beautifully with my cat, was great with the few kids in my building and all the other dogs. But, she was nearly 40 pounds (and the shelter had said she was 25…quite a difference. She didn’t look that big, but she was solid).

    Everything was fine until the pain meds ran out and her real energy level came through, but even that I could work with. But, her fear of elderly people with walkers came out at the same time. She nearly knocked over a 90 y/o woman in my building’s elevator. I physically had to put myself in between them when she jumped at her in the small space to body block her. I couldn’t have held her back otherwise because of her weight (and standing on her back feet she almost reached my shoulders). Then, it happened again to a different elderly person with a walker in my building. And in our parking garage she barked and lunged at another person with a walker. I was more than happy to hire a professional trainer, but when you live in a city apartment building like I do (and the original writer on here), there is no choice but to take the dog through the halls and down stairs/elevators to take the dog outside. It’s not like hiring a trainer to come work with the dog in the backyard in the meantime and avoiding walks is an option in Chicago.

    Most of these behaviors/fears aren’t going to be resolved in one session with a trainer, and most trainers aren’t going to be able to be at your house within 5 minutes of the first manifestation of the issue. It only takes ONE TIME for the dog to unintentionally do permanent damage (had I not acted as quickly as I did, she could have seriously injured that old woman). My neighbor in the apartment next to mine just got a hip replacement (he’s 75) and uses our hallways with his home health physical therapist to practice walking with his walker. Had my pup been in the hall at the same time as him, I know it would have been catastrophic. Fortunately, that timing never occurred. Several other people in my building use walkers (I have a lot of old folks around), so I couldn’t avoid them no matter how intentionally I tried to plan her pottytraining breaks.

    I cried the entire 2 hour drive back to the shelter (I specifically picked out this particular dog, missed out on her when she went to her first adopters, and then happened to see her posted again when she was returned and adopted her immediately), but I knew I was doing the right thing for her. She also ate through her harness while I was walking her, and I live at a busy intersection. She had NO fear of cars, and tried to run toward them. Fortunately I had a collar on her along with the harness and was able to quickly grab her and reattach the leash to the collar instead of the broken harness. When I returned her to the shelter I gave them a long letter with information I had learned about her from my time so that she would find the right family and wouldn’t get returned yet again. It also helped that I knew she was popular (the first time I tried to adopt her there were 7 of us in line to meet her), so it’s not like she would be sitting in the shelter for months. She was adopted out within 24 hours again, oddly enough to a friend of a friend, and he was able to connect us on snapchat so now I get to see her in her new home, and she’s so much happier. They’re in a suburb with a single family home and a fenced in yard, a young active couple, etc. But, it was still extremely heartbreaking for me to give her up. I used it as a learning experience, and learned that realistically, I need a smaller dog that I can easily pick up in case there’s any aggression in the hallways or elevators.

    I can’t fault the OP for doing the right thing. If her dog would have attacked someone, especially a child, and caused damage (or worse), the guilt (not to mention legal ramifications) would be unbearable for everyone involved. The only people who “don’t deserve a dog” are the ones who get bored of their dog and return it. No one who has posted here has fallen into that category. It sounds like everyone made the extremely hard choice to do what was right for both the dog and the family/neighbor’s safety.

    And honestly, it sounds like shelters need to do a better job, too. There’s a lot of stories on here where shelters completely ignored the requests of the adopters, and the adoption counselors are the ones who are supposed to know the dog best, so why wouldn’t the potential adopter believe them? Similarly, since I returned my first pup I’ve gone to a handful of other shelters to meet smaller dogs that caught my eye. Almost all of them have tried to pressure me into decision that I wasn’t ready to make. I heard everything from “oh, she chose you. She loves you. She’s so happy. You need to take her home” (even after I specifically said that I was having doubts and wasn’t sure) to one shelter director saying “oh, well she’s popular so she might get adopted this afternoon if you don’t take her” when I said I was going to think about it over night and come back in the morning. I understand that they want to see their dogs get adopted, but it’s a living creature. Trying to push someone into adoption when they aren’t quite ready to do so won’t end well. (And I’m so thankful I didn’t adopt that dog that they were trying to sell me on. Even though I spent 4 hours with her at the shelter, and stuck around a little longer, it turned out she had aggression and possessiveness issues. She had growled and snapped at another dog that I went to pet while she was half on my lap. I was terrified of what would have happened if I got her home and that had been my cat. She had been sweet with all dogs and cats that day until that point. I now intentionally check for possessiveness/jealousy when I view dogs at shelters. If you have multiple pets, I recommend you do the same when you’re thinking of adopting a little one.).

  7. A lot of these comments are pretty harsh and unwarranted. If you do not know the situation, you cannot judge the decisions made.

    This morning my husband had to take our adopted dog back to the humane society. We have a cat and we had them to the point of being on the bed together without caring the other was there. Then, one night while petting both of them, the dog lunged and almost bit the cat twice (she’s a fast cat). We were willing to keep her and give her time to work on behavior. The next day, my in-law’s dog got in the way of our dog’s treat and she split open his face. My husband made the regrettable decision then to take her back.

    You see, we have two small children as well. While our dog showed no sign of aggression to people, at what point or what would it take for her to turn on one of the kids? If we turned our backs and the cat got too brave, would she kill the cat? These were the fears we had. Like this article, we have prepared and waited for 3 years to get a dog. We researched and searched for a good fit. The humane society told us she’d be great. THEY adopted her to us, only 1 day after they had her at the shelter. They didn’t know her well enough and should have waited longer before putting her up for adoption.

    My 2 year old and I both have severe anxiety. We hoped for a dog that would help us and become part of our family. Instead, our dog’s lashing out has caused a rift between my in-laws and sorrow for our family.

    Please don’t judge people for having to surrender an animal. If they are upset doing it, they likely have tried all they could to make things work. Be kind to each other.

  8. Every dog is an animal and many dogs need to be trained when it comes to aggression. Your dog was essentially a puppy. Instead of working with it and trying to train it, you took the easy way out and gave it back. I’m not saying you’re a horrible person, but you are definitely living in some kind of fantasy land. It took me months before I could get my dog to stop being aggressive and stop barking at everything. Do you know why I stuck with it? Out of love. You don’t seem to want to love a dog. You just want a dog who is everything that you think it will be. So that being said, while I said you’re not a horrible person, you are definitely not a person who deserves a dog. Because with owning a dog, comes patience, compromise, caring and the willingness to train and not just abandon it because it doesn’t do exactly what you want, when you want. What a ridiculous person to think that this is okay.

  9. The writer specifically asked for a dog with NO aggression, and that’s not what the rescue paired them with. They should not feel guilty returning a dog they didn’t feel they could rightly handle. It’s unfortunate this happened but it’s better for the dog, owners, and shelter. The dog can be adopted out to a different owner more experience and in a better situation with no small children or other dogs around, and give the dog the training she needs. And the writer can get a dog they feel more comfortable with as their 1st dog. They’re are lots of people who deserve criticism for returning their dogs, Myself included. When I was in my early 20’s I’d just broken off my engagement, I was young and dumb and convinced myself I was going to die alone, and my childhood dog had just died. I was deviated, on so many levels, so on a whim I decided adopting a dog would solve all my problems, never mid the fact I worked 12 hour shift 5-6 days a week and had just started getting into the party scene. I was never home I had no business getting a dog, but I did I got a one year old corgi from the shelter named Scooter. But he was my old dog and I couldn’t take care of him. I got him for all the wrong reasons, I was irresponsible and I still feel terrible wit to this day. I ended up rehoming him to one of my good friends family friends, I still get updates on him 5 years later. They trained him to be a therapy dog for their autistic son. He’s in the best possible place for him now. I was completely wrong and got really lucky things worked out the way they did. And 5 years later when my coworker asked me to take in her terrier mix I was super super gunshy. I didn’t want to repeat Scooter, I felt guilty still. Like I should never own another dog in my life, but I took in my Sunshine and she’s been the best thing to ever happen to me. She chill, and sweet a little funny looking but I love her to death and I’m more then ready for the responsibilities now. It doesn’t excuse the mistakes I made when I was younger, but it sure has made sure I never repeat the past.

    So TLDR the writer in the article shouldn’t feel guilty because they asked for NO Aggression, people like them aren’t the problem, on the other hand people like me are the problem.

  10. T~ you did your best love. Far above and beyond your sense of duty and you learned (the hard way) I’m so sorry that you had to suffer this way. You consulted with your trainer and followed his instructions. I think that he/she could be held liable as well as the shelter.
    I’m 60 yrs young As a child, my parents owned several types of dogs and cat’s and a bunny. My Auntie owned a Saint Bernard, a Boxer, Weineramer and a nippy little Pekineese that growled and bit me. She immediately removed it. Back at my house, my moms German Shepherd was having her babies in my room! The next door neighbor boy wanted to see them. So I asked my mom if it would be ok and she said yes. BIG MISTAKE! and in no time she was up and bit him. He went home and mom called the humane society. Our dog was quarantined at home. The boy was OK. But still had to get rabies shot. So lesson learned for mom and me. Animals are just that animals. We must respect them and make sure to keep them safe. Well, that was the first and the last time that ever happened. Mom bought a little Dachshund puppy (Smile)

  11. Me and my partner just adopted a 12 week old lab/pit mix from our local shelter last week and just brought her back today! We’ve been wanting a puppy for months now and when we saw Lexi, it was love at first sight. She’s absolutely beautiful with dark blue eyes and an almost bluelike coat to her. She was so sweet when we sat with her and played for almost an hour. We knew she was the one, so we took her home. We bought all the puppy toys and treats that she could ever want. We puppy proofed our home and got ready for this next chapter in our lives. We are both early 30’s with no kids yet and we work from home so it was the perfect time to spend quality time with her and get her properly trained because both of has have never owned a pet or know particularly what we are doing. We own our home and have an awesome backyard a dog would drool for. We hired a great trainer with over 10 years experience and he taught us some basic commands to get her started. Over the next couple of days she was an absolute angel, learning the commands amazingly fast and being super responsive. A couple of potty training accidents but no worries to us, we have hard wood so easy clean up. We gave her ample outside playing time, as much as she wanted. She ran up to the door when she was beat and then always napped like a champ. She nipped and lightly barked during playtime but all normal puppy/dog behavior. On day 4 she lost it! While outside running around she looked at me and came running full force and attacked. I thought she was running up to jump and give me kisses like she normally did. No playful attack, I’m talkin vicious, pupils dilated, growling, snarling, barking and continuously lunging at me to bite me. I had to hold the leash to restrain her and that almost wasn’t enough. My partner had to come to my rescue and help restrain her. It shook me up so much, I immediately called our trainer and asked for advice. He gave me some helpful tips like saying “ouch Lexi that hurt, I don’t like that” and redirecting her with treats or toys. The next time (that same day) it happened again inside the house. I did the “ouch” thing and it worked! I was so relieved she stopped on her own and looked at me as if saying “my bad, I didn’t know that hurt you” I felt much better and we moved on. The next day I was alone with her as he was at a gig for most of the day. The first half of the day was perfect! She was loving and we played with a ball and she even started bringing it back to me. I was amazed we were playing fetch this soon! She cuddled with me before her naps. We got ample exercise in the yard and then after lunch the next play time outside she turned on me again! This time even worse than before! She actually got multiple bites off and had the death grip on my pants and would not let go! My trainer told me to try putting my finger on her tongue and press down as they don’t like that feeling. I did it and it worked she immediately backed off but then came back with even more of a vengeance so I think that only enticed her to go even crazier. My trainer said he was honestly quite surprised she was exhibiting this much agression at such an early age and her behavior was a little worrying to even him. In the house, I had to put her on time out, I sectioned off the kitchen where there was nothing that could hurt her and she did not like timeout. Barking loudly, whining, pacing and throwing all her toys/bedding around. said don’t look at her, touch her or talk to her. So I gave her some space. She took 3 chunks out of my walls and baseboards in different locations! I came back in after she calmed down as he said and she was just waiting for me! She pounced continuously with the such agression in her eyes until she finally tired herself out and fell asleep. I was shaking at this point and did not know what to do. I’m sure she sensed my fear and that didn’t help but I couldn’t control it. My legs were destroyed, my house was destroyed! My partner came home that night and found me in a reck. I had a meltdown and could not stop crying because I was a prisoner in my own home. He got her to calm down and she wasn’t attacking him like she was with me. She responded to his commands and his treats and when I came in the room it was back to attack mode. We made it through the night! The next day she was at it again all day! We decided we weren’t equipped to handle a puppy with this kind of agression. My partner did not feel comfortable leaving me alone with Lexi and most importantly I didn’t feel safe being with her. We don’t know what happened, we listened and tried to do all of the right things. Gave her nothing but positivity and love. It was as if a switch just went off and she didn’t go back to being the sweet puppy we had for the first couple of days. We know things like this could be worked out with proper training but I was not prepared to go through living in fear to accomplish it not knowing if it really ever would truly change. This morning we woke up with the firm decision to bring her back. I cried of course because I didn’t want it to come to this and never imagined it would. I suppose I had a fantasy of what puppy life would be like. I dreamed of cuddles, hikes and someone to take naps with when my guy was gone. I knew there would be difficulties like no sleep, a lot of attention focused on her, potty accidents everywhere and even losing a few favorite pairs of shoes. What I didn’t even think of ever was being attacked by the cute puppy I couldn’t walk out of that shelter without. So on this morning, we woke up and I have to be honest as sad as it was I felt so much relief because she woke up with a vengeance! We didn’t even have to second guess ourselves, there was no “oh she’s acting better now, let’s re-think this” she was a terror from 5am! She started with the growling and stare down at me and then shortly after she lunged and grabbed a hold of my pajama pants. Then she went after him. Sunk a nice bite into him and drew blood while we were back in the house after her morning backyard frolicking. We both knew in that moment we were making the right decision for us. I sit here writing this now after we’ve dropped her back off to the shelter. I don’t regret my decision at all. I will miss that cute puppy that cuddled with me and let me rub her tummy but the puppy that was out for my blood over shadows it by a large margin. Like I said, I’m not sure what went wrong with her to make that shift but I couldn’t stick around to see it get any worse. We got her at 12lbs and she was already larger in that one week we had her. They anticipated her to get to 60+lbs. I couldn’t fathom this behavior continuing on even if she was 20lbs which I’m sure is right around the corner considering how fast they grow. I’m sure I will receive backlash from those who feel I should have stuck this out and got the proper training to help her. To those people, I respect your opinion but I tell you, you weren’t there in those moments this happened. You don’t truly know the extent to what we and I personally had to deal with. So I say please try and remain judgement free. I’m sure Lexi will find an amazing home with someone qualified to handle that kind of rage and aggressive behavior. My partner and I just weren’t the perfect match for her. The shelter was completely understanding which eased me as I have read so many dreadful stories of people getting shamed and being talked down to for making this decision. If you feel unsafe and fear then you should be able to make the decision that is best for you and only you. I do wish to give another go at this in the future, but for now I must decompress and get some sanity back.

  12. I am feeling so sick and sad that I’ve been on the internet searching this issue, trying to find some peace. We adopted a 3 year-old, 100 lb. Shiloh Shepherd on 8/12/17 who was purported to be “good with dogs and people of all ages.” About 2 days after adoption I took him to my vet’s office just to get acquainted with the facility and everyone that worked there. However, I did inquire about a gentle leader while I was there and the groomer attempted to put one on while I held the leash. He fought it, she persisted and he bit her. I rationalized this incident as the dog was new and she should not have pushed the issue when the dog resisted. Over the next few weeks I became aware of what I believed to be some serious dog to dog aggression; my dog would “greet” other dogs with vicious barking and lunging. I obviously tried to keep away from other dogs out walking but I was constantly fearful of an off-leash dog – I was hoping to address this dog aggression after I got some boundary training done. Our dog seemed to be VERY fine with ALL people, including small children. Weeks passed and my husband and I become absolutely in love with this dog; we passed the 2 month mark and were in awe at the progress the dog had made. But 4 days later he bit an acquaintance of mine coming towards us on a nature trail, breaking the skin. A week and a half later, a friend of mine walking by our house with her small dog (and whom our dog had met a few times early on but now was barking excessively at her) extended her hand into our fence, saying the dog’s name and he grabbed the sleeve of her jacket and wouldn’t let go until he ripped it. Strangely, both these occurrences involved women wearing black, bulky clothing. After speaking with a reputable dog behaviorist who likened our dog to a loaded gun without a safety my husband and I made the decision to return the dog to the shelter from which we adopted. This gorgeous dog is an absolute sweetheart with us and we are heartsick, especially since we three have bonded.

  13. I am going through a rather difficult situation myself. It kills me to see so many people say ‘how dare you not work through the problems’ because I really wanted things to work with the dog I just recently adopted.

    My boyfriend and I have talked about adding another fur baby to our family for some time now. (We currently have a dog I rescued before we got together). The time seemed right as one of us is always home and we have the time to dedicate. When we went to a very highly spoken of shelter- we told them what we we were looking for. A dog that is good with other dogs, apartment living, and not aggressive. We had our eyes set on a 6 month old mix and almost finalized our decision. The girl who was helping us asked if we wanted to take one more look before making our decision and we agreed. She brought us to a 2yr old “Australian Cattle Dog Mix” and spoke VERY highly of this dog. “He is trained,LOVES other dogs, never shown aggression, sweet as can be-just shy” We then changed our minds and then thought that this might be the right fit for us. We can deal with a shy dog, no problem. Fast forward a day after we adopted him- and he attacked our current fur baby (keep in mind, our current dog is 25lbs and the dog we adopted is 55lbs) my boyfriend and I were unloading groceries and had our eyes off the two dogs for maybe a minute when I heard my little one screaming. There was no food, toys, etc that could have caused a scuffle. I gave our new dog the benefit of the doubt and made sure to keep a very close eye on the two of them. After constant watch, I realized how the new dog was attempting to dominate our little one who was clearly terrified after the first incident. He would corner her to where she couldn’t move- he was obsessed with her every movement and I became very uncomfortable with the way he watched her. Of course I was doing my best not to show my stress or worry because I know that this can add fuel to the fire. It was not an option for me to ‘train’ our new dog as he was still not completely trustworthy of my boyfriend and I. I did my best to start (rewarding him with treats when he did what I asked, attempting to train him how to sit, being calm and assertive when approaching him, etc) 3 days after adoption- my little one is sitting in my lap, minding her own business when the new dog comes to sniff her butt. I let it happen because I know this is normal dog behavior. I noticed the new dogs lips start to quiver and he lunged at her trying to aggressively bite. That was it for me- my current dog had been in a miserable state after the first incident and I refuse to risk anything further from happening. I am so glad that all of you are dog “behaviorists” or have the money to spend on dog aggression training- but I don’t. I trusted in this animal shelter when they told me that this dog was great with others- but is clearly going after my little one for no reason at all and keeping her in constant fear.

    I can deal with a dog who is not potty trained, rambunctious, chews,etc- but I will not risk my little ones life because I was misinformed on the dog I was adopting.

  14. Amy, get off your high horse. I’m SOOO happy you think you’really such a perfect person, but that doesn’t give you the right to judge someone for something that is clearly overwhelming for them. It doesn’t sound like they gave up at them the first sign of trouble. True, behavior changes after a few weeks or even months, but aggression is a sensitive issue tbat can easily get worse and often can’t be cured. Even if they were able to consult a trainer and put the aggression at bay, would you really rather have the dog living in such an environment where he was clearly uncomfortable? If you hated loud noises and commotion, you could learn to deal with it and not express your frustration, but would you still be happy living in the middle of a city? No, you’d move and change your lifestyle to one that makes you calm and happy. It sounds like these people made the decision to let the dog find a family who could give him the kind of life he would thrive in rather than try and train him to just deal with his surroundings. If I hear about a person returning a pet to the shelter, I just understand that the people and their life weren’t right for the dog and am glad they are getting another chance to find a place that suits them perfectly.

  15. I think it’s really crappy for anyone to,make any judgements of the author. He feels poorly enough. Besides, training doesn’t fix reacticity. Yes, you can learn coping skills, as can your dog… Based on the level of reactivity, it can be a tremendous amount of work! Like one of the people in a couple needs to take a part time job to replace their full time job, tremendous amount of responsibility.

    I only know bc i have a reactive dog myself, though I am fortunate to have had the part time job already. I have to be constantly vigilant, scanning the horizon for other dogs. When my dog does interact with other dogs, I can’t even look at the other dog’s owner lest I miss the first muscle twitch letting me know it’s getting to be too much. At this time, we can’t attend group classes or dog sporting events with the exception of herding. It’s as though,people are deaf when you ask for distance so your, dog can participate too. After two years of training on our own, soon we MAY be able to take part in a group class.

    Unless you’ve lived with and trained every level of dog reactivity, sit down and zip it. There are no easy fixes for reactivity.

  16. Carole A McCabe-Joy

    I work in dog rescue. We try very hard to pair the right dogs with the right households. But with that said, if it was a child wouldn’t you get a therapist, go to therapy, try your hardest to make it work? Or would you just throw up your hands and say OH WELL to much for me to handle. Your choice, you made a commitment, it would be nice to see people turn to professional dog trainers to help them with these problems rather than just return these poor animals.

  17. Should I feel guilty for wanting to retur
    a dog who has growled and nearly snapped at my 5 pug puppy on day one when he was merely trying to approach her and smell her? And she was supposed to be “dog and cat friendly and love everyone”. In a way it was like she was guarding my mom from him (she was sitting by her). Idk of training would do anything but I do not want to risk a pug puppy I had to dish out quite a bit of usd for my puppy (they even charged extra to meet at a mutual location for us to pick him up). It just doesn’t seem like we should keep her at all, especially because there was nothing about territorial aggression anywhere in her records. I don’t want my puppy being but because he’s just trying to play and do puppy things. She’s also growled at him as well.

  18. I’m commenting on the original article. For the past 40 years we have been adopting unwanted dogs, but the two times we took from a pound we had to return, and I don’t feel guilty. The second time, I explained to the girl who knew the dog that we couldn’t have a dog who had spent it’s entire life in a cage, and I didn’t want a young dog. And I told her that we had had to return a dog with this background because we just couldn’t cope with her (and we exchanged her for a sweet dog who had a wonderful life with us for the next ten years.) So what did she give us? Exactly what we said we didn’t want. She was desperate to find a home for this dog and just didn’t want to hear what we were saying. I understand that, but it’s such a mistake. And I’m sorry but the people who should feel guilty are the ones whose dogs end up in the pound – but of course they don’t have any such feelings.

  19. Your dog is a mix of two breeds that usually both have high prey drives. We have 3 dogs – a pug, a lab/American bulldog x, and a Rottweiler. Our rottie has an exceptionally high prey drive, and while he gets along fine with his “sisters”, he absolutely is NOT trustworthy with any other animals. And we’ve had him since he was 9 weeks old. But you see, that’s what we signed up for! Sometimes rotties are friendly with other animals. Sometimes they aren’t. But I never thought to myself ” well, if he doesn’t behave the way I hope, I’ll just take him back”. Did you not make a commitment when you took this dog? I’m sorry, I know you’re looking for understanding, but I just can’t. Did you give this any thought at all? Did you ask anyone if this dog had ever lived with cats before? Did you ask whether the dog had exhibited any predatory behavior with other animals at the shelter? Did you ask about his personality, and whether he had had a temperament test while at the shelter? I would think that shelter staff would have been able to help you answer those questions. Bottom line – this is a shelter dog. Probably abandoned, or surrendered by some other people who didn’t “care” to deal with his behavioral issues. He deserves better than someone who just gives up.

  20. LK-

    I get where you’re coming from. I do. I’ve had the hardest breeds and the smoothest. I’ve also had my childhood cat maimed by a dog after allowing them to work it out. I continued to maintain cat/large dog relationships thereafter, only now I’m wary of particular characteristics that I hadn’t thought to consider prior. I assume others removed from my experience do not see the importance of distinguishing personality compatibility.

    As I said, and I stand very firm on this: my dog has the capacity to get along swimmingly with Cat 1. The fact that he can get along with Cat 1 says nothing about his capacity to get along with Cat 2. Cat 1 and Cat 2 are drastically different creatures from each other, and they elicit drastically different responses from my dog. His curiosity in Cat 1 is one that can absolutely, without a doubt, be trained out by exposure, boredom, and a quick angry swipe of the kitty paw. But his curiosity in Cat 2 far surpasses the threshold of appropriate, and given her age and exceptionally small size (think 6 month old kitten), she would NOT survive any altercation with him, playful or otherwise. Both Cat 1 and Cat 2 have plenty of experience with dogs. Cat 2 has never before acted in a way that makes me fear for her safety.

    I am all for trying until your bones break, but some things warrant a logical decision. Of course I’m devastated; he’s my brave little boy and I love him to pieces. But I adopt from rescues for a reason, and they can perceive me in any way they want.

    Your dog seems like an absolute goof. I googled the combination breed and they look like huge, adorable monsters. We recently determined that mine is a Malinois/Pitbull mix — he’s such a silly joker. We’re attempting to gauge compatibility again this weekend. Should a similar reaction occur, then we have to trust our own instincts in the matter.

  21. If your cat still has his claws, the aggressive dog will find out soon enough who REALLY is the boss of the house.

    A qualified dog trainer will give you the tools to be able to calm your dog in meeting situations. Three good commands to know are “leave it”, “sit”, and ” no”, all coupled with making sure the dog pays attention to your commands. A hefty tug or two helps reinforce where the dog’s attention must be.

    We decided a year ago to add a dog to our fourth cat managerie. And on reflection , we didn’t want just dog;.we wanted “A DOG”.

    At a not-o-nearby shelter we found a Lab-looking dog who was HUGE. He’s a cross between black Lab and an English Bulldog Mastiff…All 130lbs of him.

    He’s the sweetest guy in the world, and we are certifying him as a therapy dog. He loves people, he loves dogs, he loves cats, and he loves the local squirrels, Chipmunks, foxes and wild turkeys.

    He wants to run to greet the dogs,and the other wildlife, but the turkeys turn and spread their wings ad tail feathers. He’s a bit of a wuss when it comes to the turkeys…he thinks the are bigger than he.

    The run and greet can tear the lead from the hand with ease and cause a serious fall.

    We’ve had success sitting him when another dog approaches making sure that we are between him and the other dog, and having a great ready should he need more destruction.

    Zeus only wants to make friends, but with his size and his speed, and his power, he can be intimidating.

    It has taken time for the behavior expectations to get across, but he is much better over the year of training we have given him.

    Dogs can learn what you expect of them because the thing the want most to is to please there humans.

    Keep that in mind, and keep up the training. The dog that YOU love loves YOU far more completely than you can ever imagine. He loves you and trusts you. Give him the chance to prove it to you.

    He will, and will far sooner than you might think.,

  22. I understand, but growling at a baby in the hallway harms nothing more than the expectations you have of a dog you want. Also it’s basic etiquette not to approach others on the street, especially if you know nothing about your own dog.

    The dog I have now is incredible, but he came from a rescue who did not know the first thing about him. They oversold a neurological condition and undersold his finest qualities, which ultimately resulted in him not getting adopted for several months.

    Unfortunately, his high prey drive did not show itself until a few days after the home visit. I have a particularly small, fast, senior cat who usually gets along well with dogs. Despite being otherwise perfect, we cannot in good faith keep him in the same home as something so readily killed, and we cannot keep her sequestered until she dies. My other cat is huge, mean, and aggressively defensive. I trust her to acquaint herself just fine, and I trust him to forego his instincts and get bored with her. But the smaller one? Absolutely not.

    I do think this article addresses an aggression that can be trained out with time. I also believe that, had my littler cat been heavier than 5 pounds and less eager to run from danger, we could have successfully introduced them with minimal damage. As it stands, the personalities of both animals can lead to a fatal mistake. I would be at fault for any injury that came to my best friend, and my dog would be branded legally dangerous, which would dramatically hinder all future prospects for adoption. By returning him to his rescue, he will simply be relisted as “maybe no cats.” My cat survives, another family has no surprises.

    I wish my dog simply hated stranger dogs like yours did, because all we’d need is patience and a behaviorist to help him figure out how to cope.

  23. My sister adopted a reactive dog about 12 years ago. He is a small dog and reacted quite badly to dogs larger than himself – lunging, snarling. She worked w/him with a trainer and on her own since then. He is stubborn but so is she and he has gotten much better over the years, though I’m sure a lot of that is him aging. He lives in a house with multiple cats and another dog who is much smaller than him and they get along well. The little dog has his own issues – he’s a biter. A whole other story. I should say that my sister is a rescuer, though cats are her specialty. Thanks to her, multiple ‘throw aways’ have a safe and loving home. BTW she is always glad to take a cat back for whatever reason. Yes it’s frustrating but it is just part of the process sometimes.

  24. A trainer can most surely help the dog work through the aggression. Dont give up there help for this issue!!!!!

  25. CeeJae
    I am not worried her kennel cough. I am nursing her through that and she’s almost cough and phlegm free.
    It’s her aggressiveness towards other dogs leash to leash. She seems like she wants to fight. Honestly it scares me. She’s very strong.

  26. Maureen: Take your PUPPY to a kind, loving, EXPERIENCED obedience dog-trainer! Or simply keep the dog home in a fenced-in yard and do not permit other dogs around – at the very least until he is trained not to be aggressive around other animals, if ever.

  27. I would NEVER just return a dog after already making a commitment! Just because a dog is coughing, doesn’t mean it has true Kennel Cough! (Dogs catch coughs just like people do, and they sound terrible!) I would FIRST give the dog a chance to settle in and settle down before taking him or her ANYWHERE! You must FIRST bond with a dog so that the dog will listen and obey. If your dog doesn’t see you taking control of a situation, then the dog will attempt to take control. PS: A 12-month-old dog is a puppy, a.k.a. a BABY, and needs to be taught how you want him/her to behave. Do you send your baby into the world without first teaching some basics? No! If you don’t know how to teach a dog, then find somebody who does so that you and your dog may learn the basics first, which is taught via love and rewards. Otherwise, get yourself a goldfish!

  28. I adopted a reactive dog 6 weeks ago. We were told he doesnt like other dogs or cats so we were prepared for it. However, he doesn’t lunge or bark he stops and stares, and will not move.
    We began training 2 weeks after adopting him and our fear has gone away. I do feel like our vibes guide the situation. We do avoid other dogs as much as we can, but Im happy to say, when we run into a barking or nonbarking dog our guy looks right to us for the next step. Which is usually a turn and walk or run the opposite direction.

    It can get better! It is our first dog though
    Maybe training so you and the dog know exactly what to do. Good luck

  29. I am so upset. My son rescued a 12 month old dog but his wifes cat didn’t like the dog so I took her with open arms. The day he picked her up they had just spayed her at the shelter so she was very low key. After a couple days she started coughing and the vet said kennel cough. All along she was very sweet to all people who entered my house. However, she always has an aggresive issue with other dogs when walking her on her leash. I’m not too experienced with that kind of situation maybe I send out fear vibes I don’t know. So my son and I are contemplating bringing her back to the shelter. I cannot stop crying.
    Please give your opinions. I’m a mess.

  30. We adopted a 5 year old shelter dog that I fell in love with. He also had some aggression issues. He had definite ideas about who he liked and who he didn’t like. He did not like my sister, but loved my mother! He liked my husband very well, but when he got in my hubby’s face, that was it. Luckily he didn’t bite him, but my husband was concerned that he might turn on me, even tho he and I got along great. At the shelter they had said he didn’t like other dogs, but he did fine when he met dogs (?) I consider myself a fairly experienced dog owner, but my previous dogs had been younger, one had been my sisters dog (from a shelter) and she knew me and the next one was a puppy I had picked out. It’s hard not knowing their history, but some of it you can figure out by how they act. Taking him back was horrible and I still feel horrible about it even after months.

  31. Did no one teach you about decompression after leaving the shelter? Training? I think you have every reason to feel guilty, personally.

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