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Buddy Becomes an Orphan

Updated: May 8

Part 4 - Owner #2 gives up and brings Buddy to an orphanage (Owner #3).


Two and a half months after Owner #2 bought Buddy from the breeder, they decided they could no longer keep him. They told me the reason they decided to give him up was because of his aggression. The couple decided it was also just too hard for them to manage him with visitors to the home and they felt that Buddy would do better with a more suitable owner; someone who would be a better fit for an aggressive dog.


There is just so much to unpack here. So much was going on with Buddy at this point and so many misconceptions are at play here. In this post we will discuss:


  • What is a suitable owner for an aggressive dog?

  • What was going on with Buddy at this point

  • What is meant by an orphanage?

  • What would have been better options to choose


Let's dive in...



Suitable Owner for an Aggressive Dog


So what would be a suitable owner for an aggressive dog? Is there really anyone who wants to have an aggressive dog who bites uncontrollably? My guess is that anyone reading this would say "NO" if offered such a dog. So why would anyone think that there would be anyone else out there who would want an aggressive dog?


There seems to be a great misconception that there are people out there who are suited to have an aggressive dog or who want to take on the challenge of rehabilitating "damaged dogs" who are aggressive as a result.

The fact is that people like me who end up with these dogs do the rehab out of a sense of duty, and out of compassion for the poor dog who was "damaged" and then relinquished by their previous owners. We do not want to do this, it is a great imposition, it costs us alot of money, we get bitten, we end up with a serious liability as the dog may harm others and we would be held morally and financially responsible, it takes over our lives, and we are stuck with having to make that terrible decision of whether the dog needs to be put down. Not something anyone wants or likes to have to do. But we do it because the dog deserves better than it's previous owners were willing or able to give. People damaged the dog (whether it was intentional or not) to the point that it has become aggressive and we feel we have to compensate for the failings of these other humans. But make no mistake about it, we do not want to have an aggressive dog, and we do not want to be burdened with the time, cost, and headache of rehabbing the dog. We, just like the people relinquishing the dog, want a furry, calm, mellow dog to cuddle with, not one we have to constantly manage for safety.


So to answer the question, there is no such thing as a suitable owner for an aggressive dog. In my opinion, the suitable owner is the owner who is responsible for making the dog aggressive, because they are the people who need to put in the time, effort, and money to do the work undoing the damage they have done to the dog. Only then will they truly learn how to properly manage a dog so they don't end up creating yet another aggressive dog with the next dog they get.


What was going on with Buddy at the time he was brought to the orphanage?


Buddy had alot going on. First, he was still very afraid of everything. He needed alot of time to get used to the scary world after his 6 years of isolation at the breeder facility. Buddy needed a very slow and gradual introduction to the world. He needed to be introduced to only one new thing at a time and be given alot of time to get comfortable with that one new thing before being introduced to the next new thing. Unfortunately, he was being over sensitized with many new things all at once and this only added to Buddy's anxiety and fear, thus causing him to become aggressive.


Second, Buddy had a severe case of heartworm. His first of the 3 required heartworm treatment injections was administered just a couple of weeks prior to Owner #2 deciding to give him up. For anyone unfamiliar with heartworm, the treatment is extremely painful. As the heartworms die, the dead worm fragments travel through the blood, through all the veins, arteries, and the heart as well as any organs in the path before they can be eliminated from the body. It is a very painful process and the dog is in excruciating pain during the entire treatment time which is approximately a 2 month period, possibly longer. Just google videos of dogs undergoing heartworm treatment and you will see the agony they are in. So on top of Buddy's anxiety and fear of the world and the fact he was being overstimulated by things that scared him, he was also in excruciating pain. This would make anyone grumpy and more likely to lash out.


What Buddy needed was a quiet place to rest and recover from his illness, just like any human would need with a similar health issue. But Buddy's environment was not supportive of his needs. And to make things worse, he was sent to the orphanage, which not only is the wrong environment for his anxiety, but is the wrong environment for him to recover from his heartworm infestation. This only served to increase his fear and anxiety, which in turn lead to the escalation of his aggression.

What is meant by Orphanage?


By orphanage, I mean a facility that houses unwanted animals. This could be a shelter, rescue, kennel, or the like. These places, while thought to be a haven for animals, are usually not serene environments conducive to healing. Normally these facilities are over crowded, loud, scary, and uncomfortable for the animals, where they spend the majority of their day in a cage. An animal with a healthy outlook on life can survive the environment for a short period of time, but even an animal who had the best start in life will degrade mentally as the result of being in a facility such as this long term. I have seen this many times where a great, well behaved dog becomes unstable as a result of the constant stress of the environment. There is a physical stress hormone reaction to the stress which causes psychological degradation. So put a dog who is already suffering from anxiety and recovering from a painful disease in this environment and the results are not good. It is no wonder that Buddy's anxiety and aggression escalated during his time in the orphanage.


Buddy was in the orphanage for 5 months. Due to the excessive length of time he was there, the orphanage needs to be considered an owner (Owner #3 in this case). He was there so long that his time there had a great affect on his fear, anxiety, and aggression. We will talk about that in the next post.


What would have been better options for Buddy?


First and foremost, keeping Buddy out of the orphanage would have been best. As stated earlier, Buddy needed to be in a quiet environment where he could rest and recover from the heartworm treatment and be shielded from everything that caused him anxiety. The walks around the neighborhood, trips to the park, and exposure to everything that caused him fear and anxiety needed to wait until he was fully recovered from the heartworm treatment. After the heartworm treatment was done and he was medically cleared, that would be the time to start desensitizing him to the things that were causing him anxiety - one thing at a time moving only at Buddy's pace.


It would have been best to keep Buddy in the environment he had started to get used to. Every time you rehome a dog who fears anything new, you are taking him away from any sense of stability he may have achieved and forcing him into a situation that he fears, thereby escalating his anxiety. Any progress that may have been made with Buddy in Owner #2's home would have been undone by rehoming him. Had he gone to another home which was a quiet home at that point, the damage could have been minimized, but putting him into the chaotic environment of an orphanage was one of the worst things that could have been done for him.


Many people state that their household is too busy or they have too many visitors so giving up the dog is the answer. But what I say to that is the time to think of this needs to be BEFORE you bring home a dog. Once you bring the dog home you have made a commitment that you should not break. Once you bring the dog home, it is your responsibility to make sure you modify your environment to make it work for the dog until you can train or rehab the dog to be able to tolerate the normal environment.


For example, at the writing of this post, Buddy has been living in my house for 14 months. For the entire time he has been here, NOONE has been in my home. That's right, I have not been able to have one visitor because Buddy cannot tolerate that yet. We are working diligently on getting him ready, but because of the level of damage done to Buddy before he came to me it is just taking alot of time - we have to move very slowly and at Buddy's pace (I will write about how we are doing this portion of the rehab in a future post). This has been a great imposition for me. But it is necessary because of the level of damage done to him by the way he was managed before he came here. If Owner #2 had not given Buddy up, but instead had modified their environment, made all the sacrifices needed, and done the work required, they would have been able to get Buddy to the point of having visitors in the house much faster than I can because less damage had been done to Buddy at that point. But, unfortunately, they either didn't know how to proceed (a Veterinary Behaviorist would have been able to advise them), or weren't willing to make the sacrifices necessary and Buddy paid the price, and now I am paying the price too.


I am not trying to bash Owner #2 because I know giving Buddy up was an agonizing decision. What I am trying to do is impress on folks the importance of seeking out the proper professionals who can advise you on the best way to proceed so you can succeed in rehabilitating your dog, and avoid relinquishing your dog to an orphanage.


Read about Buddy's Rehabilitation:






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A Valuable Resource

If you are interested in learning more about dog behavior, here is an excellent book written by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. I highly recommend everyone who has a dog, or is thinking about getting a dog, read this book. You will be glad you did.





Stay tuned for Part 5 - Buddy's time in the orphanage (Owner #3).


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