Just because a dog comes through the shelter or a rescue group does not necessarily mean that said dog was subjected to physical abuse, emotional abuse, or both. It doesn't even necessarily mean that they were neglected. What it means is that they were fortunate enough to end up in a shelter or rescue group who invested in their future. Assuming that dogs that come through rescue or from a shelter have been abused in some way actually does a disservice to those dogs! The biggest misconception I hear is that a particular dog "must have been abused because he is behaving aggressively." The reality, however, is that aggression isn't the typical response of a dog who has been abused. Rather, dogs who have been subjected to abuse tend to be on the fearful side, shrinking away from contact, and behaving apathetically to interactions with humans. They don't lash out, they retreat into a corner or into themselves. With consistency, patience, and predictable outcomes, these dogs can blossom into individuals who aren't afraid and seek attention rather than avoiding it. On the contrary, dogs who behave aggressively are the least likely to have come from situations involving abuse. Does that surprise you? Want to know where their aggression comes from?
It comes from lack of socialization. With other dogs, with people, and often both. It comes from their genetics. One or both of their parents were aggressive too and passed that trait along to them. Jumping to the conclusion that an aggressive dog must have been abused and therefore deserves extra special attention and extra resources to "recover" is a fallacy. Aggression isn't a curable problem. It's not like teaching a dog not to jump up or not to pull on leash. Yes, aggressive dogs are anxious dogs, but most people aren't equipped to deal with aggression long term because it IS risky. There is liability involved. It may sound inordinately harsh, but I'd much rather see shelters, rescues, and my clients investing their time, money, expertise, and love in all of those other dogs who are free of issues in aggression.
I also know that sometimes prospective pet owners aren't given the full story. They aren't told about the aggression or it is glossed over. Or they are told that the pet was abused, thus pulling at the heartstrings of that prospective new owner, when there is no evidence to support a claim of abuse whatsoever. I think humans inherently want to "fix" these dogs and think that showering a dog with love and attention will reverse the aggression. I am here to tell you not only will it not fix the aggression, it might make it worse, and your heart will be broken in the process.
Finally, while it may just be semantics, I think it does a disservice to a dog to be continually referred to as a rescue throughout their life when, in fact, said dog has been with their owners since they were puppies, for several months to years, etc. Once you adopt that puppy or dog from a shelter or rescue, he is now your newest family member. Celebrate and welcome them into your family by introducing them that way!
As always, if you are having trouble with your pets, including aggression, please don't hesitate to ask for help. That's why I am here.
These two cuties are just waiting for a human to love and invest in them. No fear. No aggressive posturing. Just curiosity, trust, and a willingness to engage!