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I am reprinting an e-mail I rec'd from my local rescue group, please read through and any suggestions would be great...They really seem to want to save this animal. If you know of anyone in the NC area that can help, please advise! Thanks guys

Hi Guys,

you are receiving this email because I am out of ideas


We were contacted by a woman who's neighbors have a 4 year old, unneutered, white male GSD...possibly mixed with something else but I'm not sure what. He's about 100 lbs!

Damien (yes, that's the dog's name) was owned by a young man who committed suicide infront of Damien when he was 2 years old (the guy shot himself). Damien then went to live with the guy's sister and husband, which is where he is now. According to these folks, Damien was never well socialized. After moving to the young couple's house he was also kind of segregated from other people mainly because his new owners didn't know a lot about him and I think were a little intimidated by him.

Soon after getting Damien the couple had a child. I believe at that time Damien got moved outside. The child is now 18 months and whenever Damien sees him through the glass door he goes ballistic. Barking, ramming the door, jaw snapping. Obviously the young couple are terrified that Damien might get the child one day.

So, they started looking to rehome him. They know he will be hard to rehome, and they are realistic and understand he may have to be put to sleep, but they are trying everything to help this dog. One of our volunteers assessed Damien and felt that he was a good dog, just poorly socialized. ***Bonnie feel free to email back with your own comments*** The couple brought Damien to our adoption event so more of us could meet him.

Two of us took him for a walk away from his owners so we could evaluate him. He was nervous and kept looking back to where his owners were. He relaxed a little and started sniffing around. I was able to rub his back and head and he would make eye contact with me. I got Rabecca (one of our most experienced dog handlers) to come up to meet him. Right from the get go he didn't like her. She went to run her hand down his back and he growled and snapped. She got me to try it and once again he was fine with me.
She then had me push it further and reach down to his flanks and the side of his tummy. He was ok but I could tell he was stiffening. I gave it a little more time and then reached over him to put my hand on his tummy. He growled, I removed my hand, I put it back, he growled..deeper, I removed it and tried once more and he made eye contact with me and whirled around and went to snap at my hand. I went back to patting his head and back and he was fine.

When I took him back to his owner I asked the guy to rub him on his tummy. He immediately got the growl and snap, but it wasn't as forceful as with me or Rabecca.

I guess our bottom land is that there isn't a place for him in the rescue. He is way too much dog and way too dominant. He needs to be brought back in line but I don't think we have the resources for that. He is definitely dangerous when pushed out of his comfort zone - and it really didn't look like fear - he was pissed off at us. He didn't want to be touched on his tummy and the way he was going to get out of it was biting.

That all said, I can tell that there is a GOOD dog in there. And I really admire how hard the young couple is working at trying to find a solution. Honestly, I am shocked that they are trying so hard..it would be easy to just dump him at a shelter or have him put to sleep without any fuss. But they really do care and I think they can tell that he's a good dog too - just way out of line.

My question to all of you is do you know of ANYONE or any facility that could work with this dog? There is no guarantees that he will turn into a reliable dog - maybe Jane or Sylvie could put their 2 cents in and say whether or not dogs like this can ever be trusted- but there is something about him that makes me want to try every avenue open to me. You all have a lot of experience and a lot of diversity in background, which is why I am contacting you.

ANY help you can offer would be so gratefully appreciated.
 

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This has to be just a regular common problem that can be corrected by a good trainer.

Hopefully someone will step up!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I dont think anyone knows the breeder/lines at all since his owner committed suicide. I will see if I can get a pic of the dog though. I just hate to see a dog destroyed if there is help for him.
 

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What about his health? Maybe he has some pain, hips(?) so is snapping due to not wanting to be touched...if he is an outside dog, would the owners be aware of that?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
That is definately a consideration onyx, I thought of that as well, but I guess I just thought that would have been checked already, but she didnt say it had been, I will ask, Thanks
 

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Sounds like the dog just doesn't know what to expect from anyone or anything and he's erring on the side of caution and taking just about everything as a threat. The good news is that he isn't really unpredictable - I mean, he's trying to communicate his intent, rather than just going for someone. The growling, the stiffening, even the snapping (I usually assume that if the dog wanted to bite me he would have probably succeeded) are all him giving warnings to back off rather than hurting someone.

That said, it takes a really experienced handler to rehab a dog like this and most rescues can't rehome them for liability reasons. Possibly you might be able to find someone in rescue or the greater dog fancy who wants to adopt him themselves (and enjoys a project)?

Grace was like him when we got her. In her case she had a history of abuse and, as an intelligent dog, she'd decided people were not to be trusted and flailing hands near her head were bad news.

Now, of course, she's the Very Best Dog Ever.


My general outlook is that if the dog is thinking (versus just reacting), and he clearly is thinking, then he's reachable. It's just finding someone with the time and energy to convince him to readjust his thinking on some things. It's hard when they're so big though because they have the potential to do so much more damage than a small dog.
 

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Quote: He didn't want to be touched on his tummy and the way he was going to get out of it was biting.
Exactly. And the thing is, he's right. And my money would still be on fear rather than dominance but it basically comes down to the same thing - If something makes him uncomfortable, he growls and snaps, and the person stops. He's smart enough to have trained the people around him. What's so sad is that he's probably extremely smart and that same intelligence re-routed could make him the dog of a lifetime for someone.

I always say, it's a lot easier to mess up a smart dog than a dumb one.


Quote: say whether or not dogs like this can ever be trusted
I think what that really comes down to is if he can learn to trust people. If he can learn to trust people, than he can learn to be trustworthy himself. If he can't or his nerves are unstable for genetic reasons, then it's another story.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks, everyone, there has been some response with some experienced K-9 handlers that may want to take him on as a pet or project). Like you said, a rescue just isnt equiped to give this poor guy what he needs to recover, I think he is smart too and with any luck someone with a ton of experience and patience will gain his trust and be rewarded with an awesome dog. I'm just trying to get some exposure for him and maybe someone knows just the person to help this guy.
 

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Re: Can this dog be saved? Suggestions please! (lo

You know, this does not sound like a bad dog. Confused, fearful, apprehensive and dominant - yup! From what you have told us he has had numerous opportunities to bite someone but he has not. And you know that he certainly could have!
I believe that he could be brought around but it will have to be by someone that really knows what they are doing.
I certainly admire the young couple because they obviously care for him and they only want what's best for him. They could easily just cop out.
 

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Re: Can this dog be saved? Suggestions please! (lo

Originally Posted By: EJQ
I certainly admire the young couple because they obviously care for him and they only want what's best for him. They could easily just cop out.
Well, I do not really admire them. They've had the dog for two years and they know nothing about him. They didn't socialize him, kicked him outside, didn't train him, didn't neuter him, didn't do anything.
But I do admire people who want to help and save this confused dog that needs a real family.
 

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Re: Can this dog be saved? Suggestions please! (lo

Originally Posted By: GSD07Well, I do not really admire them. They've had the dog for two years and they know nothing about him. They didn't socialize him, kicked him outside, didn't train him, didn't neuter him, didn't do anything.
They also ended up with a dog they never intended to have, took him in during a period of extreme grief (her brother committed suicide) and probably did the best they could. These aren't folks who went looking for a dog and then failed the dog miserably. For all we know, they might never have owned a dog (esp a GSD) on their own and don't know a darn thing about owning a dog, including the fact that dogs should be socialized, should live inside the home with the family, trained to do more than sit and down, etc.

Maybe they haven't done the best job ever, but gosh darn it, the woman lost her brother in a tragic way and took his dog in when she could have dumped him at the pound on her way to the funeral. Who are you to be so judgemental? And what good does it serve, anyhow?
 

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Re: Can this dog be saved? Suggestions please! (lo

Originally Posted By: 3K9Mom
Maybe they haven't done the best job ever, but gosh darn it, the woman lost her brother in a tragic way and took his dog in when she could have dumped him at the pound on her way to the funeral. Who are you to be so judgemental? And what good does it serve, anyhow?
I agree, that doesn't serve any good and I don't intend to get into any argument here. If you reread what I posted you will notice that I just said who I admire and who I do not. I don't blame anybody and just hope for the best for the dog. Please also save your anger for a different occasion since I'd had enough of my own share of tragedies and had never used it to justify my ignorance. Sorry.
 

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Re: Can this dog be saved? Suggestions please! (lo

Can this dog be saved you bet. And the couple could have had the dog put down a few years ago, but decided to keep him, so I give tham a great deal of credit.

What I would like to see is someone from our southern states step up to the plate and try and personally help the dog. Perhaps someone that has dealt with and managed to help a few other adult dogs.

Ironic perhaps, but in my State a few rescue groups take the more aggressive adult dogs and work with them. Generally, the dogs come from the Wisconsin Humane Society.

I have no idea if such groups exist in Kentucky, but it would be nice if someone would step up to the plate and provide some help.
 

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Originally Posted By: Betsy He is way too much dog and way too dominant. He needs to be brought back in line but I don't think we have the resources for that. He is definitely dangerous when pushed out of his comfort zone - and it really didn't look like fear - he was pissed off at us. He didn't want to be touched on his tummy and the way he was going to get out of it was biting.
I seriously doubt that this dog is truly dominant or needs to be "brought back in line".

He is undersocialized and fearful. Many dogs naturally are uncomfortable having their bellies, feet and rear ends handled, and they need to be desensitized to that by positive means. It doesn't mean they're dominant. It's a very common issue with a lot of dogs. Lots of handling from puppyhood teaches them it's no big deal, but I sort of doubt this dog had that early handling.

The growling and snapping doesn't indicate dominance either. It is a natural warning behavior for a dog. Don't like something.. give a warning. If that warning isn't heeded, escalate the warning. The fact that he is moving up the ladder in proper succession.. starting with a growl, then a stronger growl, then a snap... rather than just escalating directly to biting shows he's got a good head on his shoulders and doesn't want to hurt anyone. He just wants them to stop doing what he dislikes. And no doubt this behavior has been reinforced many times. He growls or snaps, and the people stop doing what they were doing that he didn't like, so he's learned that growling and snapping is a perfectly acceptable, and very successful, reaction.

Yes, this dog can be helped. But it will take time and patience and positve methods. And whomever takes on that challenge must NOT make the assumption that the dog is merely "dominant". That sort of thinking will likely lead to the dog being handled in the absolute wrong manner, and will make matters worse. He needs someone who will give him positive experiences and help him get over his trust and fear issues with people, not someone who will add to them by trying to give the dog an attitude adjustment because they think he's "dominant".
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks Chris, I always enjoy reading your posts. I havent heard back on this dog, I'm afraid to ask. But this point as well as one made about the urinating dog (another post) really help put a solid argument together about this whole dominance and alpha thing...I really do agree that too much focus is put on that, instead of understanding the dogs needs to begin with.
Thanks everyone for you help in this, I will be talking to Andrea shortly and will ask on the dog.
 
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