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Discussion Starter #1
Approximately two and a half months ago, my family found a starving pit bull on the street with a spiked choke collar. He’s an absolute sweetheart but he has a negative reaction to stuffed dogs (in such a way were pretty sure they were training him to be a bait dog) and plays a bit rough when he gets excited. These issues were made worse by a negative reaction to some anxiety medication our vet prescribed. With psychiatric drugs not on the table, most of my family are considering euthanasia. I was really hoping someone with relevant experience could give some advice/recommend someone in the Athens/Clarke County area of Georgia who might be able to rehome him.
 

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Not a fighting dog expert but I will pose two questions:

1.) Does this dog show aggression towards actual dogs? If yes, it is unlikely you can fix dog aggression and the dog is a liability.

2.) Has the dog bitten anyone? If he has he is a liability.

If yes to either question the dog is a liability and you have to make a decision. Rehoming is not likely an option.
 

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I feel like I'm not getting a clear picture either. Is euthanasia being considered because he might show aggression towards dogs and people, or has he had worrying encounters with real dogs and humans? Can you describe his rough play in more detail? What specific behaviors lead you to try psych medications? No judgement, honestly! You're clearly trying to do what's best for this guy, but some more details might help clarify things and allow us to give better advice about rehoming him.

If there's really no chance of your family keeping him at this point, I'd start by reaching out to Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue, Inc. - they're based out of Atlanta and may be able to help you out or take him in.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
He does engage in some play biting but has never pierced the skin and when we introduced him to our neighbor’s pit bull, they sniffed and did some play wrestling but my boy got a bit too into it, though he didn’t seem angry at the other dog. We tried the anxiety meds because of the aforementioned play biting. We’re also considering one of those “prisoners rehabilitate dogs” programs but I’m personally somewhat wary of that.
 

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Over-enthusiastic play wrestling or getting a bit intense in play aren't really behavior problems, and actually very normal dog behaviors. If he doesn't have actual anxiety problems, that might explain why psych medications weren't a good fit for him - they tend to reduce impulse control, which can lead to an excited dog getting excited faster and doing more impulsive things, like biting too hard.

Honestly, I think you'll see a lot of progress just by working with an experienced trainer to help you with impulse control and basic commands so you can manage him more safely and understand him better. ccpdt.org has a 'find a trainer near you' function and only lists trainers that meet their standards of dog behavior education and hands-on experience. Many are now offering remote training options due to the pandemic, so you aren't even restricted to someone super close by.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
We have a trainer and she’s concerned about his reaction to the stuffed dog (immediately ripping its throat out) and he has issues where, like, when he gets a grip on me, he has excellent bite control and doesn’t pierce the skin but also doesn’t let go even if we get him with the spray bottle or i vocalize pain. I think that now we’ve gotten him off the drug that’ll settle him down some but I don’t want to understate the issue.
 

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My daughter has two pit mixes and when they play, most people would guess they're trying to kill each other. They are best friends.

Also, our 26 pound poodle mix rips apart any stuffed toy in short order, yet his play with any dog - large or small - is totally appropriate. If I had a trainer who thought that my dog couldn't tell the difference between a stuffed dog and a real one, I'd be shopping for a new trainer.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Of note, he doesn’t rip up non-dog stuffed animals which apparently indicates that he was being trained for dog aggression. The only dog he’s been close enough to interact with was a somewhat larger pit bull (very well trained) and, as said, after the initial greeting they were wrestling and he wasn’t respecting the other dog trying to tap out.
 

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It's a pretty big assumption to make that he's fight trained based on his breed type, reaction to a stuffed toy, and being overzealous in play with another dog (which bully breeds are kind of notorious for in general). It may be worth a second opinion from another trainer, honestly. I recommended the CCPDT because their standards are based on current research into dog behavior, how they think and learn, and they require their certified trainers to be up to date on this information, to take classes to stay up to date, and to have a large number of recorded hours actually training lots of different dogs, so you can be confident someone on their list has a pretty solid foundation.
 

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A good start, then, but I'd still be seeking a second opinion from another qualified professional. I don't see anything in the behavior you've described that is outside of normal bully-breed behavior - heck, most of it could be applied to my 30lb curly-coated water dog. Happily playing with another dog, even if it got over the top, is the exact opposite I'd expect from a dog with a fighting background.

If you feel like he's outside your ability to manage or a poor fit for your family, that's totally understandable. There's no shame in reaching out to a rescue to help him find a home, and it doesn't diminish the good work you did taking him in and getting him healthy again. I just don't see the point in labelling him as an ex-fighting dog without much more robust and conclusive proof than what's been described here.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Just now when I was trying to calm him down after a car ride he clearly wanted belly rubs but wouldn’t lay down for more than a half second and then he started climbing my leg like a tree and going for my arm. We’re thinking about getting him to a rescue associated with BFAS.
 

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I think that sounds like a good idea. Pit bulls and bully mixes can be intense dogs, and he'll probably do well in a home experienced with the breed and prepared for that energy.

When you do contact them, please be careful about calling him an 'ex-fighting dog' as something that's been 100% confirmed, because it hasn't, but rather explain your concerns and what your trainer's told you. This will help them make an informed judgement about what kind of care and home he needs.
 

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It sounds to me like you're here seeking affirmation, rather than advice.
 
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Discussion Starter #15
I’m in a tough situation where I love this dog and he clearly has problems that I can’t handle. I didn’t come here seeking affirmation that we should put him down but telling me that it’s not a real problem isn’t really helpful advice. I appreciate what advice you’ve given me and I’m investigating shelters but I find your general approach to it somewhat dismissive.
 

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You're the one living with the dog and clearly this is your decision. If the situation is untenable, you will do what you need to do and nobody here (not even me) will fault you for it. But if you want to rehome the dog, we would caution you against the assumption that this was a fighting dog in-training. Again, most of the behavior you describe is typical bully breed behavior. That doesn't mean it's the right breed for your family and it's entirely possible that it's not the right dog for anyone. I would hope to give him the opportunity to be evaluated in-person by an expert.
 

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It's difficult because we can't see this dog in person or witness your interactions. Your descriptions sound like a lot of behaviors I'd expect from a high-energy, intense bully breed - low impulse control with play, getting too mouthy, jumping. You're right that these are inappropriate behaviors that need to be worked on, but they're not behavior problems in the sense that they don't sound extreme, abnormal, or dangerous (in the sense that they indicate he will attack you or another animal, obviously jumping and climbing on people or getting too mouthy can cause injury).

Maybe I'm getting the wrong impression because, again, I'm not seeing him or these behaviors, but it's hard to offer advice for something when my impression is that some foundation training and/or lifestyle adjustments would improve things, but the person living with the dog is saying the animal might be dangerous. That makes me reluctant to give advice along the lines of "try this training protocol" in case I'm wrong and the dog does have a more serious issue that needs special handling, which is why I try to suggest in-person trainers in that situation, or a new trainer if the one you're using hasn't been able to help you effectively address the issues.

I do wish you luck, and I hope BFAS helps you work out the best plan for your and your dog. Again, you did an awesome thing taking him in, and it's obvious you care for him.
 

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I think that climbing and going for your arm may well be exuberant play. I know two people experienced with bull dogs (one American Bull dogs and the other Pit Bull dogs).

These dogs often up the ante in play. Attacking a stuffed animal but playing with another dog nicely (in spite of the noise and activity level) tells me he is not truly dog aggressive. He MAY be dog reactive, but this dog knows the difference between a stuffed toy and a real dog.

I have had dogs that would tear stuffed toys to shreds (even when they looked like dogs).

Agree with Ron E..
No one is being dismissive. We want to help but we cannot help with what you decide to do. Your decision is yours and we respect you to allow you to make it.
 

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I think it has already been well stated that the behaviors don't sound (in text) to be abnormal per se but that the inability to see the dog in person is a barrier to giving safe training advice.

But I want to pose some questions for you to consider, answering not required.

If this dog was not a pit bull type dog and showed these same behaviors, would you be as concerned or having the same reaction?

If you did not know where the dog was found and in what condition but rather, say, adopted him from the local city shelter with zero background info, would you be thinking bait dog/dog fighting?

I ask these things because I have seen over the years a LOT of people jump to the conclusion of "bait dog" or dog fighting training as both excuses for and worries about a pit bull type dog's behavior while in reality, even in places where dog fighting is still common (and it is to a degree here), MOST dogs who end up strays or being treated poorly are not connected to dog fighting.

Even old scars can be from getting into a regular fight (not human caused I mean), from wire fencing, from tangles with bad tie-outs, etc.

I have met dogs who had been seized as evidence from dog fighting cases and in my limited observation, they ran the full spectrum of behavior towards other dogs and people. I have also known well young and exuberent pit types who were basically wild and crazy and climbed people and grabbed with mouths and shredded toys and grew with training and time to be wonderful dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
We’re pretty sure he was abused in some way based on his reactions to various inputs. My family ended up putting him with a rescue whose manager apparently has a lot of experience working with pit bulls so a lot of this is irrelevant now but he would bite me hard enough to bruise and wouldn’t let go when I screamed in pain, bapped his nose or got him with a spray bottle. I feel terrible that I didn’t get to say goodbye because of both our mental states at the time and I was wondering if it would be a terrible idea to visit him sometimes, either before or after he gets a forever home.
 
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