Sylvia – Notes on a Foster Dog

Sylvia is one of many dogs taken to the Humane Society of Jefferson County after Animal Control removed them from a hoarding situation.  Most of them are Shar Pei mixes, as is Sylvia.  All of them exhibit some degree of fearfulness.  Some also get aggressive when scared. Sylvia was by far the worst and the staff at the Humane Society knew they were not equipped to work with a dog so fearful, so they appealed to Steele Away Home – Canine Foster and Rescue to help.  But not before she stole the hearts of the shelter staff.

Sylvia had recently given birth to a litter of puppies, which she lost due to her living conditions.  At the shelter, a litter of motherless pups were brought in and they tried giving them to Sylvia.  She eagerly adopted them and mothered them until weaned.  But she needed special accommodations because she was so protective she’d charge the fencing if any dog was walked by.  Once her foster mother duties were completed, she went into foster care herself.

Amy Huff was her first foster home and brought her a long ways from the terrified, aggressive dog she was.  But Sylvia needed more group interaction, so Amy began bringing Sylvie here to play in our yard, meet our dogs and to meet me.  That went well and after a few weeks of visits, Sylvie came here to live, and I’ve been working on socializing her further.

Sylvia is now quite accepting and friendly with both me and my wife, Marie. She has gotten along well with all of our dogs … to a point. The first relationship to get trashed was with Blondie Bear.  At first Sylvia ignored Blondie while they were in the yard together.  But after a while Sylvie decided to challenge Blondie:

I needed to step in quickly to avert a potential fight.

That relationship has degraded from there.  Because Blondie does not slap her down for insubordination, Sylvie figures she’s the boss and gets nasty any time Blondie wanders by.

Sylvia once attacked Cochise as well.  He was just walking past, minding his own business when she attacked him.  Since then, Sylvia plays in the yard alone.  This also means she cannot come in our house because Blondie and Cochise (our mentor dogs) live in the house, so further house-manners training is out of the program.

I have tried working with her, and a professional trainer was contacted by the rescue, but we both feel that since there is no consistent trigger to her outbursts, we have little to work with.

Amy has talked to the shelter about taking her back since none of our rescue partners will accept a dog who needs to be the only dog in the family.  They don’t see any hope in her either, but will euthanize her if we want.

That is NOT what we want.  So Marie and I are thinking outside our normal box and approaching no-kill shelters and new (to us) rescues in hope of finding one that will help Sylvia find a suitable home.

  • Sylvia is 7 years old.
  • She has been spayed.
  • All her shots are up to date except rabies and she is on heartworm preventative.
  • Amy had her crate trained and pee pad trained.  We have not been able to further housebreak her because she would need to co-exist with Blondie Bear.
  • Sylvia bunks in a pen and has Julian and Buddy as neighbors.  She is amiable with both of them.
  • Sylvia does show strong alpha-dog tendencies including an insistence on peeing on all the spots the male dogs have marked.

Sylvia plays with “The Gang” in the yard. Cochise is missing: he’s taking a nap. (This was shot a while back)

Sylvia plays better with Julian when Josie is not in the mix.

As you can see, Sylvia can play well with others. Her problem is that on the rare occasion she pops off and goes aggressive on someone. This is now an on-going issue with Blondie Bear – probably because Blondie is the alpha female here. Blondie never initiates these hostilities.  Sylvia does not show open hostility toward anyone else, and she has been in the yard with Julian recently.  Julian is a laid-back teddy bear of a dog, so he poses no threat to Sylivia’s dominance.

If you are able to help Sylvia find a home, please e-mail us at and thank you!

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