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Couple running out of options in dealing with aggressive dog

Dear Joan: A little over two years ago, my daughter, a Seattle resident, adopted a dog from a group that picks up strays and matches them with human companions. At the time she took in “Radar,” he was short of 10 weeks old, and she was single.

She and Radar, a lab/pit/other-stuff mixed breed, are thick as thieves. However, she soon discovered that Radar has a mean streak. She was able to track Radar’s sister’s family and found out that the two were all that remained of a litter that was found in a bag with a homeless person. The rest of the litter was dead in the bag, and the woman was trying to sell the last two pups.

Apparently they had developed puppy herpes, which I guess affects the brain, and were malnourished.

Radar is beautiful and spunky, but a little dimwitted, and he has an aggressive streak with other animals and everyone who isn’t my daughter. Even then, it’s iffy. Radar’s sister was eventually euthanized for attacking her family’s other dog.

Fast forward two years. My daughter has married and would like to start a family. However, Radar should never be around children — and most other people. We have talked with adoption and rehoming agencies, Best Friends Animal Society, veterinarians, trainers and more.

Jean, my daughter, put out his history on Facebook. She has Radar in therapy, working with behavior trainers, and has him on doggy Prozac and other calming agents. She does not want to put him down. We are savers and lovers. We just can’t euthanize him. It will kill Jean to do that.

Do you have any suggestions? We are trying desperately to find a home for Radar so that Jean and her husband can begin their family journey. We are all at a loss as to how to help her.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

— Rebecca H., Los Altos, Calif.

Dear Rebecca: This is a very difficult situation, and I have nothing but praise and respect for your daughter. Recognizing that a pet would not be good around children is something a lot of people fail to see or accept, and that is a dangerous road to take.

Your daughter and her husband need to make a decision on whether they want to keep Radar and continue to work with him on his aggressive behavior, or to find him a new home.

Dogs can be trained and the aggressiveness dealt with, although it will always be something they’ll need to watch out for. However it is a behavior, not a breed-specific trait and I found no link between puppy herpes and aggression. Retraining does involve a lot of time, work and money, but it’s not impossible. I’d recommend she continue working with a professional dog trainer and behaviorist.

If they decide they aren’t able to take that route, that doesn’t make them bad people. They will need to find Radar a new home. Many pet-adoption groups will take the dog back if it doesn’t work out, so that should be the first call.

If, for some reason, your daughter and son-in-law don’t trust that the group will be forthcoming to potential adopters about Radar’s history, then they should contact other agencies. While Radar might not be a good fit in a home with young children, he might be perfect for another family.


Joan Morris is the pets and wildlife columnist for the Bay Area News Group.


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