Aggression Coding Terms to Watch for When Adopting a Dog

Aggression Coding Terms to Watch for When Adopting a Dog

by / Wednesday, 09 September 2020 / Published in Dog Bites
Aggressive dog resisting a person

A dog can make a wonderful addition to a household and when people make the decision to bring a new dog into their home, they often do so by adopting a dog from a shelter instead of buying one from a breeder or a pet store. People have very good intentions in doing this, especially since they often specifically look for dogs at no-kill shelters.

No-kill dog shelters have the goal of helping every dog they can find a good home and, on the surface, this seems like a very noble and respectable mission. However, not every dog who ends up in a shelter is easy to adopt out and some shelters have been known to use tricky wording in their adoption listings to disguise worrisome behavior.

Every person who wants to adopt a dog is going to be looking for something different in their new pet and adoption listings play a very important role in helping people find the right dog for them. Some people need a dog who gets along with children while some have other pets at home and need a dog who can get along well with other animals. Some people might specifically be looking for an older dog or they don’t have other pets to worry about and could take in a dog who is friendly with people, but not other animals.

Regardless of what a person is looking for in a dog, shelters need to be as upfront as possible about a dog’s behavioral history so that people can find a pet that would be a good fit for them and better prepare to handle its needs. When people don’t have a clear picture of a dog’s behavioral tendencies, the mismatch could end in tragedy. An aggressive dog triggered by loud noises could end up going to a family with young children. Or another dog could get attacked while out on a walk if someone didn’t know the dog they just adopted has a history of attacking other animals.

As you look for the perfect shelter dog for your family, it’s important to read adoption listings very carefully and read between the lines for coded red flags about behavior. For example, if a dog doesn’t do well with other cats or dogs, a shelter might use phrases like “cat/dog selective” or “cat/dog reactive” or state that it needs to be the only animal in the home. Or if a dog has a history of difficult behavior, the listing might say the dog needs an “experienced owner,” a “unicorn home,” or “a select family.”

Be particularly watchful for any wording that relates to aggression or behavior. In some cases, you might see words and phrases like “lack of impulse control,” “reactive,” “needs to learn some manners,” or “exhibits mouthiness.” Any reference to mouthiness may mean a history of biting and references to needing training or being overly reactive can mean aggressive behavior. If a dog is described as being “rambunctious,” “over exuberant,” “high energy,” or as being a great jogging companion, there’s a chance they’d be likely to jump on someone and knock them down, which can lead to serious injuries, and you’d need to be very careful when letting visitors into your home. Or if a shelter talks about a dog being a great jumper or an escape artist, that means you’ll need to take extra care to make sure it can be securely kept in your yard.

In some cases, an adoption listing might mention a dog having problems with anxiety or stress. They might say that the dog would go home with “transitional medication,” is taking anti-anxiety medication, lacks confidence, reacts badly to certain stimuli, or has trust issues or PTSD. In cases like these, try to find out more about what exactly this means, why the medication is being given, or better yet, try to request the dog’s unaltered medical and behavioral records.

If you were misled about a dog’s behavioral history and that dog attacked and injured someone while in your care, one of the best things you can do is find out about your legal options. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to talk to an experienced Michigan dog bite lawyer. Contact us today for help with your case.