“Give me two minutes and I’ll give you a new life.” This was the title for a 2020 video about Coco, a young Spanish Bulldog condemned to a government shelter in Spain. Deemed too aggressive for adoption, Coco was scheduled to be euthanized until one man arrived to offer him a second chance.
In the video, which has since racked up over 1 million views on social media, dog rescuer Edwardo Puerta offers viewers a glimpse into his process for calming aggressive dog behavior.
A rescue for aggressive dogs
Edwardo runs the Asproan dog shelter nestled along the rugged coastline of Northern Spain’s city of Santander. Rescued dogs labeled reactive are sent here from all over the country in hopes that Edwardo can rehabilitate them and eventually find these troubled dogs a forever home.
“I’ve been recovering dogs with serious behavior problems for over 10 years now, offering them a chance when nobody else would,” Edwardo says. “This is the one thing I have chosen to fight for the most. Others see hopeless cases while I see opportunity to mend aggressive behaviors before they are sacrificed by the government shelters.”
Coco’s rescue story
Coco, a large Alano Español breed (Spanish Bulldog), was only 10-months old at the time of his rescue, having spent nearly four months locked up in a cell without intervention. “He would lunge and show his teeth in order to protect himself,” says Edwardo. “He was so frightened and no one dared to approach him, thus worsening his isolation and condition,” he adds.
In the video you see Edwardo enter Coco’s cell and lasso a leash as the dog violently struggles to defend himself. “Once we got outside the kennel, Coco began to show his true personality once he knew I was there to help him,”says Edwardo. “Embracing his new found freedom, Coco was reborn on that day.”
Misunderstanding aggressive dog behavior
Hearing that a dog is “aggressive” or “reactive” can strike fear in people that don’t understand what’s driving these behaviors. Many of these dogs have deep-rooted traumas that cause their defensive reactions. Fear and anxiety are two of the biggest components of acting defensive.
A scared dog is suddenly flooded with emotion. He feels unsafe, whether there’s real danger or not. Scared dogs react instinctively, guided by their primal urge to stay safe. So, at the very essence of treating aggression, you need to first find out what’s driving it.
“Give these dogs the chance they deserve,” says Edwardo. “Knowing that many dogs like Coco are alive because someone took a chance and cared enough to help them,” he adds. “For me, this is the greatest gift that life can give me.”
Legal help for aggressive dogs
In January, 2023, the Spanish Council of Ministers initiated a landmark National Animal Protection Law that identifies Spain’s pets as sentient beings, banning the sale of pets in shops, imprisoning animal abusers and converting zoos to wildlife recovery centers. The hope is to encourage a shift in citizens’ relationships with animals. In doing so, animal shelters will no longer be allowed to euthanize pets, like Coco, regardless if they are considered aggressive.