I have a rescue 3 year old English bull terrier who was treated badly, and when out in the garden is very aggressive, barks and tries to jump over our fence at anything or anybody who goes by. I have tried to calm him down when he does this, but he turns, snarls at me and carries on. We have had friends and neighbours round and he has been good with them, but even if a neighbour goes past he goes mad - even though the same neighbour has been round our house and he has been OK.

Also, the second time a friend called (the 1st time he was good with her) she was inside the gate he aggressively ran to her barked and tried to bite her, also when we walk him, any noise or again anybody / anything passing by, makes him stressed and pulls extremely on his lead. Other than that he is extremely loving and affectionate with me and my partner and follows us round like a shadow, we love him so much, and hope someone can give us some advice and help.

  • 1
    I'm going to upvote you because there's a lot of people who are in your shoes right now.
    – rlb.usa
    Sep 22, 2015 at 15:53

3 Answers 3


You have a problem. An aggressive pug might maim an ankle. An aggressive bull terrier can easily kill a child.

Bull Terrier

Bull Terriers can be both independent and stubborn and for this reason are not considered suitable for an inexperienced dog owner. They are protective of their family, although comprehensive socialization when they are puppies will prevent them from becoming over-protective and neurotic.

Yes you see videos of bull terriers sleeping with babies and playing with cats but they were probably in that environment since a pup. An adult pit that has been treated badly is really hard to rehabilitate even for an experienced dog person.

If the dog snarls at you that is very bad sign. The dog does not accept you as the alpha and does not take instruction from you.

Follow you around the house like a shadow is also not a good thing. This is a dog with protect instincts in full force.

You, your partner, and the dog need to see a professional trainer. If you cannot get the dog under control you need to consider giving up the dog. And next time rescue a passive breed.

If you want a guard / protection dog then get one as a pup or pay big dollars for professionally trained dog. An aggressive rescue is just an aggressive dog.

  • 1
    I agree with you about everything you said except that I think it would be better for the poster to stay away from rescue dogs altogether, and to just get an easily-managed well-rounded dog that isn't going to be a hassle. Things are so far out of control here, and rescue dogs are very hard to rehabilitate to begin with. The lack of mention of a trainer or any tools doesn't sit right, because a rehabilitation owner needs that resourcefulness in order to be successful. Just loving a rescue dog isn't enough, there's far more involved.
    – rlb.usa
    Sep 22, 2015 at 16:49
  • 2
    @rlb.usa I work with a rescue agency and we successfully place a lot of dogs. We don't place the dog if there is not a good fit. There are so many loving gentle rescues that need a good home. It does not take us long at all to know a gentle dog. I am one of the people that takes in the larger dogs suspected to be aggressive during the week and if we cannot get the dog under control we just don't place it. As sad as it is we just plain stopped taking in bull terrier.
    – paparazzo
    Sep 22, 2015 at 16:58
  • English bull terriers aren't the same as pit bulls, though I think your answer mostly still applies.
    – Kai
    Sep 23, 2015 at 14:44
  • I'm not sure whether to upvote or down vote this. Frisbee is right in saying that rehabilitation will be hard and to enlist the services of a good trainer, which isn't always easy to find. But your dog is not "trying to be alpha", dominance theory has been thoroughly debunked. Neither is there such a thing as a "passive breed". Your dog isn't aggressive because it's a bull terrier but because it's been treated. However there are dogs that are more suitable to novice owners than others, and a bull terrier does not fall in that category.
    – ThomasH
    Oct 2, 2015 at 13:15

I feel that this dog is way beyond your skills as an owner. You haven't mentioned the possibility of a trainer, and that doesn't bode well, either.

Your dog is a ticking time bomb and he will eventually attack another human, child, or animal, and quite possibly kill them. Do not, under any circumstances, ever take this dog to a dog park. Your yard is the only place he can be off-leash. These are not nice things to say, but you need to come to grips with the fact that right now your dog is a liability and you have no control over your animal. I would recommend going through your yard and making sure there is no place he can jump over, dig under, or chew through the fence.

i have tried to calm him down when he does this but he turns and snarls at me and carries on

Snarling at his owner is not a good sign at all and I would not be surprised if you get bitten by this dog the next time you do this. You didn't describe how you're trying to calm him down, but it's not effective, and quite possibly making the situation much worse. Only a professional can help you with this.

makes him stressed and pulls extremely on his lead.

Make sure that he cannot pull free of his lead, snap the metal parts, or get loose of his collar/harness/leash. You are using your sheer body weight and force to keep the dog under your control, and this is an accident waiting to happen. If either you or your wife walks him and you are not paying attention, not feeling well, or are ill/weak, it's very likely the dog will get lose and bloodshed will occur. You will want to talk to your dog trainer about prong collars.

Other than that he is extremely loving and affectionate with me and my partner and follows us round like a shadow, we love him so much

This is not enough reason to keep a dangerous animal that you cannot control. You have a lot of hard decisions to make. Surrender is hard. Training will be long and very hard. You need to be honest with yourselves and determine if you both are capable of getting on board the trainer's program and devote all of the time and energy to participate in its rehabilitation. Special emphasis on both you and your wife, if only one person participates, the non-participant undermines all the training.

  • Some good points but a little harsh. Really, get bitten the next time you do this? Still +1
    – paparazzo
    Sep 22, 2015 at 16:41
  • @Frisbee The dog can easily redirect its anger when the owner tries to calm him. Dogs can really get into the zone, and there is no hard-set number on how many warnings a dog will give to knock it off. It may be ten, it may be two, it may be zero. You're right, it is a hard pill to swallow, but when you own an animal, you're responsible for it, and everything it does, and that's a very stark contrast to "we love this animal".
    – rlb.usa
    Sep 22, 2015 at 16:44
  • 1
    OK I don't agree. This appears to be dog in protect mode. It follows them around the house.
    – paparazzo
    Sep 22, 2015 at 16:51
  • 1
    Hello, i am the partner of Bruce who posted this message. May i first of all say that Spoon is an English Bull Terrier NOT A PIT BULL. he is our 3 rd rescue bull terrier, so we know the breed, our others were both beautiful GOOD dogs. We are taking steps to educate spoon and he will NOT be going back to the rescue. We will do all in our power to train him and make him safe even if we cannot eradicate his behaviour. The rescue centre is helping us find a comportementaliste to train him. Thank you for all your suggestions, we have taken them on board. Sep 26, 2015 at 7:47

Have you met with a behaviorist? This is very uncommon behavior for the breed, the English Bull Terrier is known for having a friendly demeanor, both AKC and UKC breed standard refer to viciousness as an undesirable trait, so the fact that this dog is aggressive to people is extremely concerning.

I would meet with both a behaviorist and a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues and have them formulate a plan to handle the dog's aggression issues. For the time being, I would not take him in public without a muzzle, make sure your fencing and containment for him is adequate and keep him away from people. It isn't worth the risk of him attacking anybody.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.