My Personal Experience With Fear Aggression (Chapter 3)

Posted by Heidi Caccamise on

As my heart continued to ache for what happened, I also felt helpless.  As a lifelong dog lover I had never experienced having a dog with any kind of aggression issues (other than a chihuahua that might take a nip at your ankle here and there just to show you who was the boss). 

I looked in his eyes and just wished I could help him.  I prayed he would just snap out of it.  I prayed this was only a bad dream.  I was hungry for more information.  I needed to know more about the first 6 months of his life.

So, once again I contacted the gal from the rescue who fostered him.  This time, for reasons I will never know, she told me more.  She told me that Frisbee was actually adopted out at 4 months (we got him at 6 months old) and returned because he was "aggressive".  Apparently, the man who adopted him had a roommate with an older dog and for one thing that ended up not being a good mix.  And he traveled a lot so hadn't really bonded with Frisbee (then named Tuco).  One night his girlfriend entered the room where he was with Tuco/Frisbee and he growled at her.   

This made him decide, or so I was told, that Tuco/Frisbee was aggressive and it wasn't a good fit. 

Now, I happen to strongly believe this should have been told to us right away so we would have had full disclosure.  But it wasn't.  I will say looking back on what a cute little guy he was we would still have taken him.  You can see his picture above when he was a puppy.  Seriously, what's not to love?  But it would have been nice to know this.   

I am not entirely sure what we would have done different, if anything, with this added information but I still think we deserved to know the whole truth. 

And just to lay the groundwork for later in the story...there's more to his history than just this that we also were not told. 

Our life at that point with Frisbee was just continuing the training which as good as far as learning his stress signals and how to introduce him to people coming in the house but looking back I don't see where we ever discussed what might be causing the problem.   

And because of that I don't feel we ever dealt with the actual root of his fear aggression in an effort to alleviate it. 

Frisbee was limited to a handful of people he was allowed to be around.  We bought a big wire crate to put him in when we had company and didn't feel comfortable having him loose.  It was also nice using this crate to just give him his quiet space because I  think he preferred that over the excitement of a houseful of people.

It was really a catch 22 though.  When you think about it the more you isolate a dog the more you are deepening the fear of other people.  We knew and still know he needs to be subjected to other people.  But, we have to be very selective about who that is and under what circumstances. 

For all practical purposes, Frisbee is a happy guy.  I've never had a dog make me smile or laugh as much as Frisbee does.  He's handsome, he's loving and...he's unpredictable. It creates a level of stress in our home I wish we didn't have.

Are you wondering why I didn't euthanize him?  Are you asking yourself what you think you would do if you were in my situation?  

It's hard enough to euthanize your family dog when they are old or sick but to choose to euthanize your healthy dog is a decision I don't wish on anyone.

We talked about it but only briefly because I couldn't bring myself to even think about it, let alone actually consider it.

I just dug my heals in and told my family we all needed to be more diligent with Frisbee to keep anyone from getting bitten and to keep Frisbee from being euthanized.  

I guess you might say I made the decision for our whole family and therefore, I was tasked with the majority of the burden of managing Frisbee.

From here life went on.  My parents visit from Arizona with their two little dogs and Frisbee has always welcomed them with a toy in his mouth and a happily, wagging tail. We never had any issues with Frisbee and my parents or their dogs.  In fact, he basically just ignored the little dogs, even when they circled him and growled.  Once again, little dogs trying to present themselves like the Incredible Hulk. 

But when you have an unpredictable dog like Frisbee you can't afford to be complacent. And you can't never say never.  It's only never, until...

We were doing pretty good, sticking to our plan, sticking to the training and being very careful who we let Frisbee be around without a muzzle.  

And that's when it happened.  Another human error made by myself and my husband and once again we set Frisbee up to fail...

Stay tuned tomorrow to see what happens next.

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