View Full Version : Help please aggresive rescue girl

5th May 2007, 11:31 PM
I have a 1.5 year old neutered male cav, Murphy. He is not at all dominant and is a total love we had from a puppy. We had a german sheperd mix that just passed away in January, and our Murphy was awful lonely. We wanted another cavalier because we just love the breed, and we were fortunate enough to find a rescue dog locally.

We brought Sunset home today. She is almost 3 and is not spayed. Likely from a puppy mill or bad breeder situation. She is a sweetheart with me and my kiddos, but she goes after Murphy in a truly aggessive manner. Now this poor pup has had no training, and we will stick with her.. but she is bigger than Murphy... I haven't been able to leave them in the room alone. I thought she was sleeping, and she crossed the room and lunged at him. She is a sad soul. When corrected, she hides in corners. She will need alot of love and patience.

Any hints to get past this aggression? Poor Murphy just loves her so too. He isn't in her personal space either, as I think he is sorta frightened of her.

I appreciate any help!!

5th May 2007, 11:47 PM
First off: get her spayed! That should be top of the agenda -- it should help behaviour to some degree. Most rescues usually spay and neuter before rehoming so if/as this wasn't done I'd set that up right away.

Also: I'd go back and talk to the rescue for advice as any good rescue should provide full backup when homing a rescue as they do tend to have a few issues.

I also have information pinned at the top of the breed rescue section here and information posted to my own rescue site, www.ckcsrescue.com (http://www.ckcsrescue.com), that should give you some good and useful links. :thmbsup:

Now as for this issue: it would not necessarily be unusual for a new rescue to be this defensive at the start, so all introductions should be very carefully made and supervised (and the dogs never left alone together until you are very sure they are friendly) but you will need to be extra cautious if she is going for your dog. Did the rescue tell you how she was around other dogs? Has she been fine with others before going to her new home withe you? If she has been OK, that will be a clue that she should settle.

Rescues often get extremely defensive of their new people/home and very jealous. She needs to learn that this will not be tolerated -- but dealt with in a kind and calm way. :) I'd not scold, but give her a time out on her own in another room for 5 minutes or so when she behaves like this. It is useful to have a phrase you will lose consistently to indicate the wrong behaviour -- just something like, "Ooops! You lose!" (likewise a consistent phrase or word for good behaviour like 'Yesss!" is also helpful as she will learn good v bad). I would NOT use corrections on her such as scolding or anything that causes her to go off and hide.

But you also want to start a program that will help these two dogs get to know each other. Getting them outside the home to do this is much better that keeping them inside where they see people and possessions to defend. Get them out together on several walks a day where they are on neutral territory. You will likely find they very quickly can be walked together with no bother and this will start to translate back to the house.

If it doesn't, and she remains aggressive, this is really an issue for a professional trainer. I'd look for someone with an APDT qualification as these will be primarily people who use gentle rewards based methods, no correction/punishment methods, which I dislike anyway but can be a catastrophe with rescues.

You can search for trainers in your area here: http://www.apdt.com/

5th May 2007, 11:50 PM
Also have a look at the articles here:


especially the ones on desensitising from possessive behaviour, dropping the head to defuse reactive behaviour, and stress indicators.

Dee also recommends these hoodies to calm reactive or scared dogs:


They are fabric and the dog can see through them though they initially look like hoods that blindfold them -- they just cannot see as much and so are less stressed. She has info on ordering them on her site I think. My friends Tara and Lisa use them with reactive dogs here in Ireland.

6th May 2007, 12:26 AM
for the suggestions. I like the time out idea. I will check out the links as well.

She was good with other dogs at the rescue. I saw it myself when we picked her up.

We have had them both on leashes in the yard and they are better together outside. The issue started when we brought her in.

I will have her spayed directly. She needs professional grooming as well.

I thought of contacting the rescue, but I was afraid they would think I was quitting on her - and we won't do that! I am sure they may have some advice and guidance though.. so I will get in touch with them immediately.

Thanks again! I had visions of my two cavs snuggling up together. I need to manage my expectations as well... perhaps in time.

6th May 2007, 12:41 AM
Oh, if she was fine with other dogs, I am sure she will settle. :)

It can be really upsetting to a rescue to be moved and then moved again so they may react with some fear aggression -- probably the case here. Just being calm and consistent -- think of how you'd manage a scared child, firmly but gently -- is the right approach.

Also don't give her too much attention. I know that is the natural inclination but it can actually stress out a dog even more and also, cause her to expect lots of extra attention and hence, make her more defensive towards your existing dog. Also don't give her ANY special privileges (eg don't tolerate things now you wouldn't tolerate in the future -- begin as you intend to carry on. Changing the ground rules after initially being very relaxed about letting a rescue get away with things is really confusing for them but worse, cements bad habits at the start). I'd just act as if she has always been there -- kind of semi-ignore her and let her find her feet. Be sure to give attention equally to both dogs and maybe a bit extra to your original dog when not in the new dog's vision -- just to reassure him about this new situation. I actually mostly ignore rescue fosters -- you'd be surprised at how reassuring it is for them and how much less stressful to them to not be singled out.

It may take weeks or months for them to accept each other so just be aware of the need for lots of patience. Also, they may never snuggle and be best friends so consider it a bonus if they do settle in together and become that close (though they almost certainly will!) -- it can be especially hard for puppy farm dogs sometimes as they have not had normal interactions with other dogs before, generally; and all dogs are different -- some are just less inclined to need close contact of that sort. You will still be making a rescue dog very happy though regardless! :)

My rescue girl, my third dog, took a long time to want to sleep with the two boys and while she and one of the boys took to each other right away, the other wasn't interested in having her next to him for months -- it was about 7-8 months before they'd all sleep in a dog pile. So it can take a good while. He is still pretty indifferent to her in day to day interactions though they will sleep together now.

Cathy T
6th May 2007, 03:58 AM
I thought of contacting the rescue, but I was afraid they would think I was quitting on her - and we won't do that

Don't hesitate to contact rescue. That's what I would want someone to do if I were in that situation. You just need to explain that you are NOT giving up...just need some help. Rescue should be there for you before, during and after placement.

6th May 2007, 10:17 AM
Can I just say this is exactly the situation we have with our puppy farm ex stud dog, Bradley.

We have had him nearly 10 months and we decided right at the start that we would never give up on him

My first mistake was cossetting and cuddling him too much during his first month with us. It was after the first 4 weeks that he got protective of me and his favourite chair.

He dislikes one of my Cavs, Cailean. If Cailean gets into mischief, Bradley will tell him off. Bradley used to start fights, but has stopped that now. Instead he just grumbles usually. He can be a grumpy dog in general - depends which side of the bed he gets out in the morning ;)

We give him time out, usually in the crate in the other room. Telling him off makes him scared and I believe this is counter-productive, as I think his aggression is fear-related anyway. It's more of a 'punishment' for him not to get attention.

I think it's great that you're 100% committed to this dog and that you're not giving up. This is why I didn't contact Bradley's rescue too, but sought answers elsewhere.

The way I look at it is, at the end of the day, Bradley now has more than he's ever had in his life and he's happy. Ok, he may not ever get over his issues, but I don't think humans would either if they were kept in a puppy farm/mill.

Even with their issues, these dogs know they have your unconditional love and that's what makes it worthwhile.

Good luck x

6th May 2007, 11:58 AM
I haven't had any experience with rescues, but when we adopted Sonny (intact male) 4 months ago he was a bit snappy at our big gentle Sam the Boxer (neutered). Sonny would get up on a chair & snap at Sam's face as he went by. I must admit it did worry me, and Sonny had come from a good loving home, so it puzzled me a bit. We made sure not to leave the dogs together & unsupervised. When Sonny would do this I'd say a "uh" to him, followed by "good boy Sam" so that Sam would know the "uh" wasn't aimted at him. I'd give Sam a pat so that Sonny would see that his snapping resulted in him getting ignored while Sam got the petting. I made sure to let Sonny see me feeding Scarlett (the alpha), followed by Sam in order to display the pecking order. I honestly don't know if any of this was the right way to handle it, or if that made a difference, but I am please to say that after about 3 days this behaviour stopped & Sam & Sonny now get on really well and Sonny has taken his place in the pack.

I think in this case Sonny was probably just feeling very insecure in his new home & surrounded by dogs 4 times his size. Hopefully your little girl will settle down too when she realises she has landed in a loving home and with some ready-made play mates. :xfngr:

6th May 2007, 01:14 PM
I contacted the resuce, and they confirmed she was wonderful while in their care. She was even kept with another cav (a male) from a different breeder and did well. They suggested she is just settling in.

She is also aggressive toward our cats. A bark and chase sort of thing. We live in the country near loads of barns, and we have stray cats living outside as well. She went after those cats too.

I believe we have a long road ahead! She did do business outside this morning, so that is a plus.

She is certainly a love with me. We are up by ourselves now, and all is peaceful. I am ignoring her though, because I do think she could become possessive of me. I seem to be her strong favorite already.

I am going to need to use the crate to housetrain her.. We never used the crate as punishment for Murphy, so it would always be a safe place for him. I think I will need to give her time-outs in a seperate room.

I also like the suggestion of petting Murph and ignoring her.

Thanks for all the help! Please feel free to provide any other thoughts, adivce or insights. It is nice just to know we are not alone...

6th May 2007, 02:51 PM
Mixing with cats should also be controlled initially (or permanently depending on the dog's inentions!). I've got lots of advice and links for cats and cavaliers here:


I nearly got rid of Lily immediately when she came in as a foster as she was so aggressive with my four cats -- I really dd not think she would possibly settle in -- and at the time, she was just a trial foster (she had to lose a lot of weight before she could be spayed and rehomed, which would take several months, and I didn't have any fosters that could take a dog for so long so unusually she ended up with me, my dogs and indoor cats in a small house!).

But amazingly she learned very fast not to chase the cats -- she got a firm 'no cats!' and sometimes a time out -- but got lots of praise, which she was eager for, when she behaved. ANY time a cat was noticed by her but she didn't react aggressively, no matter how far away she was, she got lots of praise and 'good cats!" and maybe a couple of treats (good to carry some kibble in a pocket all the time and then you can quickly toss a treat). Within a week she was OK and now, she even sleeps with the cats sometimes. She will give a ltitle play chase now and then (and of course any cats not her OWN cats get barked at) but this was a 100% turnaround for one of the worst dogs I've ever had around cats.

Friday's Mommy
6th May 2007, 04:59 PM
I just got a new rescue that's been here only a week now. She is also more agressive then the other 2, especially with food. She snapped at the other dogs coming up to her while she was eating and then also snapped at one while I was giving them all treats. She's deaf so I couldn't do any scolding. I know from the foster she came from that she was skin and bones when they got her and also the foster home had German Shepherd dogs. I just firmly picked her up and put her in the next room away from the other two. I haven't had an issue since.

I talked to another women this week who had gotten a rescue a couple of months ago and said she had the same issue for the first couple of weeks, but it went away. I figured she is trying to learn her place in the pack and is nervous for her food and her place like she probably had to be in the past.

When sitting with me on the couch I place the other two closest to me and her farther away, not sitting right next to me. I hate doing this to her but she has to learn her place. I also put her dog bowl down last and she gets a treat last. She also was snapping the treat out of my hand, but I've held onto the treat and only give it when she takes it gently. She's doing very well now and she hasn't had any snapping episodes in the last few days. She's already laying in a dog pile and resting her head on the others (which she didn't do at first)...them too with her and are all getting along well. I didn't leave them alone at first and they were always monitered inside and outside.

Hopefully it will all settle in for you. I've learned this last couple of months that taking a rescue is a lot of work...just like a puppy, but very, very rewarding!

13th May 2007, 04:30 PM
Well, Ms. Sunset has improved greatly during the week. She is no longer lunging, growling or showing any aggression toward Murphy. She also spends hardly anytime in her corner. She does romp and run about the house some, and really enjoys to be petted and held and loved. I think she is a great dog - you have to love that Cavalier spirit even after a tough few years! She and Murph are co-existing peaceful.. a little leary yet (I think Murp doesn't trust her just yet - she was pretty fierce the first few days), but I think they will be best friends in time. When we are not home, we still leave them in seperate spaces in the house.

We still have some issues with the cats. She gives great chase, but does not hurt them even if she corners one. I had my daughter put her in time out after she cornered a cat the other day, and the cat turned around and swatted poor Murphy who was nearby.

Sunset has a grooming appt this week, and a trip to the vet as well. We do go on vacation next week, and she will be staying with family - so I hope it doesn't set her back too much.

Thanks to all for your responses and replies! I think she will be a love in time!

Friday's Mommy
13th May 2007, 05:36 PM
I'm so glad to hear that Sunset has settled! To me it's very rewarding to see the little rescues become a happy, healthy, loving member of the family. I'm also glad you didn't give up on her. You're a good mom!!

13th May 2007, 06:00 PM
That sounds much better -- you must be really pleased! You've clearly made her very comfortable and happy. :)

On the cats: in this situation and until she is not responding to them at all, I'd really try to keep her under control -- eg on a lead -- when they are around and manage the introductions so someone is guiding her behaviour. A time out after she has already done the whole chase probably won't be connected to that activity and probably won;t discourage the chasing -- she needs to know not to give the chase in the first place and that is the point at which to intervene with a firm NO and perhaps for a time out. This may mean keeping her tethered to you by a lead tied to a beltloop or similar in the house; so she never has the chance to do things that are not being observed closely while she settles in.

I say this out of concern for both her and for the cats. Being chased by dogs is extremely stressful for a cat -- enough to make them take any chance to run away permanently or stop eating etc (cats cannot go without food for long, in the way dogs can). They can become quite ill from such a situation. Also, just because a dog didn't go for the cat this time when cornered doesn't mean they won't try at another opportunity, especially if they are not used to cats and because cavaliers are considered a strong prey-instinct breed. They need to know they are NEVER allowed to chase. I do both cavalier and cat rescue and know way too many stories of dogs that have killed cats. The flip side is that cats swatting at dogs can easily seriously harm or blind a cavalier and a scared cat will aim right for the eyes and face. There are at least two cavaliers on this board who have lost eyes in similar situations -- so it is really important that cats not ever be put into a situation where they try to swat at dogs. I know this is inconvenient but believe me a lot better than losing a cat permanently or having a half-blind dog. I am sure she will eventually settle around them but just in case, you do need to be prepared for a dog that will not be able to be around cats and consider how to manage that. :thmbsup:

14th May 2007, 07:55 AM
We had a very similar situation with our rescue dog Brandy and the first thing we did was neuter him. We also did as Karlin suggests and removed him from the room whenever he was aggressive - I suppose you could call it a timeout. He learned that he did not get to be with us if his behaviour was unacceptable. Six months on and he is so much better. He realises now that it is not acceptable to be aggressive towards our girls. He sleeps in the living room and the girls sleep in the kitchen but we can now leave the connecting doors open. They are even starting to cuddle in the same bed together. However, when we leave the house he stays alone in the living room because we still cannot trust him fully. I would advise that you take absolutely no risks until you are happy that she will behave.

It takes time and a lot of patience but as you have seen after just a few days the situation can improve greatly. I think consistence is the key - your girl will be happier with a set of rules and a routine.

Best of luck!

brid kenny
14th May 2007, 12:33 PM
I had a foster dog who tried to dominate Phoebe. Lots of time outs worked really well.