Rehabilitating a Former Bait or Fighting Dog

by Thea
(Prescott, Az)

I have had this sweet girl for 3 years. She was wounded & bleeding all over and had been used in fights. She is the most loving dog as long as there are no other animals around. She's ok on walks, but definitely cannot be around other dogs.

Would I be doing more harm by putting a good muzzle on her when someone comes to the house with their dog? Is it completely hopeless to take her to the dog park or any friends place that has dogs? I would love to see her play with another dog but I do not have the money for a trainer. PLEASE HELP!

Gale's Reply:

Hi Thea:

While you may need a muzzle for vet visits and other situations where dogs cannot be avoided, I would not use it as a tool to try to facilitate meeting other dogs. If her aggression is fear-based, it may just make her feel more vulnerable being exposed to other dogs and unable to defend herself.

Even if she improves in her tolerance of other dogs, I would never take her to a dog park. You have no control over other people's dogs. And sadly, as often as not, the other owners have only marginal control over their own dogs. It's not a good place for a dog that has been traumatized by other dogs in the past.

You may be able to re-condition her responses to other dogs through a counter-conditioning program. Emma Parson's Click to Calm - Healing the Aggressive Dog is the best manual I've found on this subject. While you don't necessarily need a trainer to do the job for you, if you are going to do this, you would be wise to set aside some money so that you can obtain professional consultation from a behaviorist as you need it.

You say that your dog is loving to humans and does fine on walks and you've gotten along like this for 3 years. So, at the end of the day, maybe nothing really needs to be done.

Your dog doesn't need doggie friends to be happy and well-adjusted. She just needs you to understand her and manage her environment to avoid trigger situations as much as possible. It sounds like you've been doing that already. If she's a happy dog and the situation is manageable, I wouldn't try to fix what isn't really broken.

Comments for
Rehabilitating a Former Bait or Fighting Dog

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Jan 03, 2012
dealing with agression
by: Beckyg

Although our male was never used in fightn situtation, we have same situtation w/our Scooter..we use pitbull muzzle which is very effective,its probable the best its going to ever be..our dog.very aggressive with all animals,strangers, even children..he can b socialized, but it takes time..we are resolved to our situtation and very careful and observant with him..This may be the best u will ever have..We live on amountaneous region in Tennessee and don't have a lot of visitors, only family who visit from out of state, so scooter essentially been issolated from People and animals...Everthing is excellent and well controlled, he is in docile state as long as he wears his muzzle..he can be around people,children, and other animals when he is muzzled.. He seems to no he's to be on his best behavior when he's wearing the muzzle..

Jan 03, 2012
Best to be realistic!
by: Anonymous

As much as you wish it were different, the best course for you and your girl is to let her be your guide! You can steer her, but you cannot CHANGE her past. I would only push beyond her comfort zone in SMALL increments, but only in controlled situations. The key here is that she trusts you to protect her from being put in a situation where she feels the need to defend herself or you. She must trust your leadership above all else, every day, every situation. This comes with time, and CONSISTANTLY being a fair, even-handed obvious leader, no matter where you are or the situation. She must believe that. Otherwise, safety for all is your responsibility and trumps your desire for her to be more social!!! I would love to see my adopted Pitbull play with other dogs, too, but I KNOW I could never trust this to be safe for all. I accept it, and his nature, and my own limitations, and keep everyone safe. Also, my vet 'gets it', and is very accomodating- scheduling us when the office is slow, so any other animals can be shuffled into rooms, and my dog doesn't see them at all. Find a vet who cares enough to prevent a possibly bad situation. Best wishes.

Jan 18, 2012
fighting dogs
by: carrie

i just want to thankyou for helping dogs that have been in that sitution thank god for people like you god bless you good luck with any pups you get

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