Fearful Pit Bull
I am a volunteer at our local animal shelter and I am fostering a pit bull mix that had been at the shelter for 3 mos. Her name is Tugger and she's approx. 2 yrs. old. (she was a stray).
From the day I began interacting with her at the shelter it was clear that she had trust issues. She would cower when anyone approached her, but she would always have her tail wagging.
Eventually, she would roll over to have her belly rubbed. Because she was at the shelter for 3 mos., the director felt that she was "depreciating" and would need to be euthanized based on "fence fighting".
I didn't buy it and I brought her home. I admit that I had been wary given everything that you hear about pits, but Tugger has changed my attitude entirely. Unfortunately, my husband is not so convinced.
She's very bonded with me and has proven herself to be a wonderful, loving dog; however, she is extremely fearful of my husband. She barks when he comes through the door and I can tell that he's concerned that she may bite him.
My husband has been patiently working with her by providing treats and coaxing and she seems to be making very small progress. We attempted to walk her together and she wasn't comfortable with it. She has a way of looking at him that has us both wondering if she's going to bite.
I have two cats and the meet and greet didn't go well so they have to remain in a bedroom. A visit to the Petco adoption day was stressful for me because most people don't get that dogs need to be approached in a certain way. She was very good, but two encounters with very assertive dogs didn't go well.
She seems to be afraid of everything. We walk on a windy day and she jumps at every noise. Tugger also has a very bad habit of pulling when walked on a leash. I am covered with bruises from either falling or being pulled into an inanimate object. We are now working with a gentle leader, but again, I'll get the look that has me wondering if she's going to fight back.
The whole experience is taking its toll on my family life. I am afraid that if she goes back to the shelter she'll be euthanized, but I can't see her being adopted the way she is either. Is there any hope for a dog with fear issues specifically towards men and is it possible that her fears could turn to aggression? Also, she whines when I'm out of her sight. Will a new adopter have to contend with separation anxiety?
You were able to connect with Tugger and win her trust as her foster mom. So, I believe it's a matter of finding Tugger the right home which I will grant you is a lot harder than it sounds.
It seems like she would do best in a home with no other pets. Someone who like you, has the gentle manner and patience to win her trust first and who will then gradually socialize her at a pace she can handle. And not insist on pushing her past her limits. Though this may not be representative of the typical person looking to adopt a dog--such people and situations do exist.
The problem for the animal shelter where you volunteer is that finding the right home for a dog like Tugger may be a matter of months or even a year or two rather than days or weeks. They can't help but think in terms of all the other dogs they might help if Tugger weren't taking up their kennel space. And so, yes, if you take her back to the shelter, there's a good chance she'll be euthanized.
Although your husband is wary of her, it's sounds like Tugger has a special place in your heart and you want a happy ending for her. I would suggest you talk to some local pit bull rescues about her. They may not have room for her. But they may be able thru their network to help you find the right home for Tugger. Pit Bull Rescue Central
maintains a list of rescues by state. You can also list her on their website for free and they will pre-screen potential adopters for you (providing you have permission from the shelter to handle her adoption yourself).
About Tugger giving your husband the "whale eye"
(which I presume is what you're referring to--where a dog cuts its eyes to one side so that a lot of the white is showing), this is a sign of concern and discomfort. The dog thinks it's a situation that bears watching. It doesn't necessarily mean she's going to bite. (She could, of course, but that's true of any dog.) In fact, it sounds like she hasn't offered to bite anyone at this point. But, she is on high alert for possible threats.
If this is directed towards your husband, advise him to back off. Give her some space until she relaxes. That space is her baseline for comfort. Requiring her to go past it should be done slowly. Small gains should be praised and rewarded. A book you may find helpful in easing the tension is Patricia McConnell's The Cautious Canine - How to Help Dogs Overcome Their Fears
Best of luck to you. I hope you are able to keep Tugger with you long enough to find her the right home. Please feel free to write back and let us know how it's going.