A few months ago, I pulled an Australian Shepherd mix (Caleb) from a rural shelter in Georgia. A huge amount of effort was placed into even getting the dog here (I am in New England). He arrived emaciated, covered in ticks, and infected with heartworm. After a fundraiser and three months later, he is heartworm free, tick free, and gaining weight. He is set to be neutered on Tuesday (so please keep in mind that this dog is unneutered at the present moment).
At first, I noticed little quirks with his behavior. The first time I tried to bathe him, he snapped at me. I quickly corrected him. He didn’t snap at me for three months- not so much as a growl. For others, however, it is a different story.
It started with just growling. He would shy away and growl when someone tried to pet him. But he would go to people- he even climbed in my father’s lap several times. The growling quickly turned into snapping after his heartworm treatment was complete. At the vet, he tried to bite anyone who touched him- I had to hold him for the last part of his treatment.
Once he began to feel better physically, his behavior detoriated rapidly. He would growl and snap at anyone who entered a room with me in it. He has bitten a few people- but never hard enough to even break the skin.
Up until today, his only exception has been me.
For the past week, I was on vacation, and had to kennel Caleb. The kennel staff reported that he tried to bite several people while in their care (this doesn’t surprise me).
Caleb came home two days ago.
Yesterday, I brought home another unneutered male- a mini Aussie. Caleb (the first dog) did what he usually does upon meeting new dogs. He growling, lunged, showed teeth. I corrected him (once having to actually physically hold him back by his scruff because he was going for the new dog). After he got over the initial reaction of there being a new dog in the house, he simply got used to the idea and followed the second dog (Pyg) around the house.
Today, while I was petting Pyg, Caleb lunged at him. There was a quick fight during which Pyg backed off and Caleb kept advancing. I promptly separated the two of them, and muzzled Caleb (which he usually doesn’t mind too much). I was out when this occured so I had to drive back home with both of them in the same car (uncrated, bad idea, eh?). As we’re driving, Caleb is still muzzled. He crawled into my lap, and put his face next to mine- something he routinely does. This time, however, he growling and lunged at my face so hard that the force of his muzzle hitting my face actually hurt. He was fine with me afterward.
Many hours later (about twenty minutes ago), Caleb was laying on the floor in the belly up position. He does this when I want him to go in his crate, and I usually pick him up to get him in, but given today’s events, I didn’t want to push my luck. Instead, I tried to coax him into his crate. When that didn’t work, I leaned down to pat his belly and he lunged at my arm. He seemed to realize halfway through his attack that he was attacking mom, becasue I felt his teeth on my arm, then he backed off, nipped my finger, sniffed, then backed away again.
Up until today, I was determined to fix this problem of his, determined to see if there was anything I could do. I thought he would never go after me- but now I realize that you can never say never with dogs. He has not done any serious damage yet, but I feel like it is only a matter of time. Should I stick with my plan of seeing a behaviorist, or does it sound like this dog is too far gone? I’m going to think this over for a few days and see if his behavior improves, but it is getting to the point where I am anxious about petting him.
It is very important for me to mention that this is not a dog I intended to keep. He is a foster dog, and I was planning on adopting him out once his problems all seemed to be settled. But now I realize I could never give anyone this dog. He is not trustworthy, and I don’t know if he could ever be trustworthy.
Some opinions and advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you guys. I think I already knew that euthanizing him is what I needed to do, so I really appreciate the honesty.
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