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 Post subject: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:50 pm 
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Dear PPK,

I'm posting here because I know you guys will be objective and because there are many people here who know a lot about dogs.

My husband and I rescued Shelby 4 years ago from a rescue group here that operates a rescue kennel. She's a spaniel/pomeranian mix. When we got her, we were told that she had some "minor issues" with other dogs that we could easily correct. The minor issues turned out to be lunging and barking wildly at every dog she sees. We spent months working with her and saw great improvements. She was even able to play with other dogs in our building. My husband was primarily responsible for our turn around because he primarily handled the training.

Three years ago, my sister died in an accident. Shelby flew cross-country with us for the funeral. (In cabin. She's really too big to go under the seat, but the flight attendants were nice enough to turn a blind eye to the fact that I had a dog on my lap the whole flight). When we got back home, Shelby reverted to her previous behavior with other dogs. It was a really difficult time and my husband and I had some marriage issues. My husband denies there is any connection, but since that time, he claims to "hate" Shelby. He absolutely refuses to work with her or use positive reinforcement like we were shown by the dog trainer. He expects that she will be blindly obedient without any reward and deals with her aggression issues by yelling at her. I've tried getting him to read books about dog training, having the trainer back, etc., but his response is that I'm "choosing the dog over him" if I suggest that his behavior is in any way an issue.

Today, my husband called to say that Shelby lunged and snarled at a little boy in the elevator. From the information he provided, it sounds like the boy came up behind her and was pulling on her tail, my husband pulled her away and she then lunged. My husband said that he wants nothing further to do with Shelby and won't be taking her for walks or feeding her anymore. I work and my husband is a stay at home parent, so it's not an option for me to be the primary caretaker.

I called the rescue where we got Shelby to explain the situation. They told me that if my husband is not willing to work with her, then Shelby's behavior will never improve. On that basis, they didn't think a trainer would be worth while. They suggested that the best course would be to return her so that she can go to a home where she will be treated properly. Shelby has been there for me during times when I've had no other support and I want to do the correct thing for her. Is it really better for her if I return her to the rescue?

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:01 pm 
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i think it's better for her than staying in a home with someone who doesn't like or want her. if your husband is telling the truth and really isn't willing to work with her or, from the sound of it, treat her kindly and responsibly, then i agree that she should be with a different family--especially if he'd be the primary caretaker. do you think he'd reconsider his approach if you said you were seriously considering re-homing shelby?

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:10 pm 
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I'm going to talk to him about my conversation with the rescue tonight, but I'm not optimistic that it will change his approach. We've had so many different people tell us what a sweet dog Shelby is, but he is firm in his opinion that she is a "bad" dog and unwilling to consider the possibility that his view of her is clouded by something (anger towards me, I think).

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:36 pm 
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That's a really terrible situation, but speaking as someone who has an incredibly reactive dog who has required a TON of intensive training and needs constant environmental management, if your husband really has no interest in working with Shelby it's not really fair for her to live in a household where she is not given consistent expectations and treatment. Unfortunately, it is probably pretty stressful for her to live like that and her reactivity issues are not going to improve in that situation. I am a little concerned that the rescue seems to have undersold the emotional baggage that Shelby came with (ours did too), but if they feel prepared to handle Shelby's behavior and keep working at rehabilitation in order to find her an appropriate home, it could be the best solution for everyone.


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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 7:05 pm 
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I can tell you love Shelby a lot, and that's why you need to re-home her.

She is living in a home where a member of her family actively hates her, refuses to demonstrate to her that she can be safe with him, and refuses to communicate with her effectively or consistently.

This is none of my business and you can feel free to disregard my completely unsolicited opinion, but I'm alarmed by your husband's behavior towards Shelby. Not only is it a horrible way to treat an animal, but it is really disrespectful of you and the countless hours you have spent working on Shelby's issues. I would certainly hope he treats his human family members with more patience and compassion.

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:02 pm 
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This is a really tricky situation as everyone has to be on board with Shelby's training.

If you honestly think there's no reasoning with your husband, returning her may be the answer. If there's even the slightest shred of a chance of you getting him to change his mind, maybe taking Shelby out in a muzzle will be enough to help keep everyone safe. But if his anger at Shelby has been going for a long while, I'm sure you're not that hopeful of him changing his mind.

Every so often something happens with my husband and our dog, Tungsten, that will make my husband say he hates Tungsten and a Tungsten doesn't love him and therefore he vows to no longer love Tungsten back (this is usually if Tungsten gets out and doesn't come when he's called. We love right on a busy highway). But Mr Moon can be very fatalistic and the next day he's over it. I've even bought a "Daddy's Boy" dog shirt for Tungsten to wear when Daddy is put out with him (emotional blackmail, anyone?) but I can't imagine trying to convince Mr Moon to love him on a daily basis.

I am usually the last person who recommends that people rehome their pets and try to help them exhaust every option possible and help them find the resources necessary. But you've done all the right things and if your husband isn't willing to be a part of Shelby's life, that's a sad, scary situation. I am so, so sorry for what you're going through.

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:24 pm 
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Has something changed at home since your husband handled the training the first time? Did you have small children then?

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 9:44 pm 
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If your husband is taking out his anger by not training the dog, will giving her up solve the problem? Or will he just find a new thing to be angry about if he's really angry at you and not expressing that to begin with? It seems like there are a lot of issues here that need to be worked through that goes beyond finding a new home for Shelby. That may be a good option for Shelby but it might not solve your overarching problem.

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:12 pm 
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It sounds like you know that you don't have a dog problem, you have a husband problem.

Lunging at a child that pulled his tail one time, isn't a reason to rehome the dog, its a reason to come up with a plan (more training, a muzzle) and it sounds like you believe that the threats of rehoming are really based in his anger toward you and perhaps subconsciously intended to hurt you. It also sounds like your husband is trying to force you into a decision that you aren't ready for, by withdrawing support, which is pretty unkind and ultimately it doesn't work for a relationship if the people involved force one another into decisions, rather than communicating to create a solution everyone agrees to.

bcakes wrote:
he is firm in his opinion that she is a "bad" dog and unwilling to consider the possibility that his view of her is clouded by something (anger towards me, I think).


We were in a pretty similar situation yesterday. Cuddles knocked L down a small flight of stairs. He was overenthusiastic about getting out of the door, and he slammed all 70lbs of his body weight into my 30lb toddler and she ended up falling down 6 concrete steps, smacking her head on each one. It was awful. Cuddles has knocked her over repeatedly in his rushing to get out of the door, but it has never been this bad. My husband was pretty shaken and had a first "gut reaction" of "OK we have to rehome the dog." And then we both calmed down, and figured out a way to keep L safe next time. I say that only to say, that (1) even good dogs still have not so great reactions sometimes, and (2) its not that uncommon to feel overwhelmed and scared that your dog may be more dangerous than you are prepared to handle, especially where children are involved. And hopefully, you and your partner can have a conversation and agree what the next steps need to be.

I would look at 2 things (1) what your husband is willing to do re Shelby now and (2) the root causes of anger in the marriage that have him be unwilling to support you in something that is important to you. 1. Could you hire a dogwalker for a week or two to work with Shelby and just give your husband some time to decompress? Would he agree to taking her out if she has a muzzle on and isn't dangerous to anyone? 2. And then I would work on some of the underlying issues in the marriage. If the anger towards you is being redirected at Shelby, even if you get rid of Shelby, the anger is still there, and I'd worry about where it goes next.

I really feel for you and for Shelby, and it sounds like you feel very unsupported in your efforts to be there for her. I hope you and your partner can come together and craft a solution that works for your family - whether that is rehoming Shelby or further training.

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:29 pm 
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Thank you everyone for your thoughts. To answer everyone's questions:

1. mandycoot: The rescue did say they thought they could find her a more appropriate home. I'm a little worried because I do feel like they undersold how much work would be involved in helping her. I am going to talk to them about what their process would be for finding a new home and making sure she is going somewhere that she will be properly cared for.

2. vantine: We did not have children when we got Shelby. I know that one issue is that my husband feels like he has enough to do taking care of our son and doesn't want to deal with the dog too. However, his issues with Shelby started before our son was born.

3. panda/ericka: To be fair to my husband, I will say that I've presented the situation from my perspective -- which is a currently very angry at my husband perspective. I won't expect the PPK to solve my marriage issues. I'm trying to focus on what's best for Shelby and work on accepting the possibility that it might be a life without me.

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:46 pm 
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If he's feeling as if the dog is a bigger project than he can take on, I think that it might be better to rehome the dog. Dealing with a dog that might snap at a child while your husband is out with your son would be difficult for anyone.

I don't think that finding another home for a pet that is not a good fit for your family is terrible thing. It would seem that she needs someone who can focus on her and spend considerable time on her issues.

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 11:41 pm 
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This is in no way meant to sway you one way or another, but we actually do have experience rehoming a dog. (Our situation was that we adopted two dogs together from a rescue, both of whom had a lot of baggage, and we ultimately decided that they would be better off being separated. My parents took the easier to manage dog and we opted not to tell the rescue of our decision, since we felt they were a bit disingenuous and my parents were the perfect home for him).

Anyways, it was an awful decision and I cried for weeks leading up to and after it, but our trainer was able to give us a small amount of comfort by reassuring us that dogs adapt very quickly to new homes and environments, and that they are wired to form new bonds very easily. I certainly witnessed that when my parents adopted our dog. If you choose to rehome Shelby, chances are very good that it will be much, much harder on your than on her. I know that probably doesn't make you feel any better, but you sound like you're really concerned with Shelby's welfare and that she be homed in the right environment to keep supporting and improving her emotional well being, so maybe it will give you some solace?


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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2013 5:57 am 
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Just big hugs, bcakes. It sounds like you've been going through a lot. Best of luck in your decision!

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:06 am 
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Thank you everyone. It's possible that rehoming might be the correct option in the long-run, but I'm not ready to do it.

After talking this through more with my husband and our trainer, we are going to take another try at keeping Shelby. I asked specifically about the muzzle suggestion that several people raised, and the trainer thinks it's a good option. My husband said it addresses his fear about having Shelby bite someone. Even though my husband still says he's not willing to work on obedience with her, I am hopeful that if he is less stressed out when walking her, she will respond positively.

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:21 am 
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I am glad that you and your husband have a clear way forward!

I do think that it is hard to manage a toddler and a dog. My dog is really calm and pretty obedient, and even so, managing him with a toddler is challenging, and I can definitely see that it would be difficult to do training and manage a child at the same time. If you were able to hire a dog walker, that might allow you to have someone focus on Shelby for the initial stages of training, and give your husband a bit of a break, so he feel less stressed and can rebuild his relationship with her.

I hope you are able to find the best solution for your family and Shelby!

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:51 pm 
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Thanks Tofulish. I'm probably not being understanding enough of my husband's feelings regarding the difficulty of dealing with Shelby and our son together. Since his issues with Shelby pre-date our son's arrival, I've been viewing what are probably genuine concerns on his part as an "excuse." I'm going to suggest the dog walker option in addition to the muzzle. We already have someone that's good with Shelby and I'm sure Shelby would enjoy the extra attention.

Also, I hope L is okay. That sounds like a scary fall.

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:23 pm 
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I'm sure your trainer brought this up, but it sounds like in situations Shelby is around kids, you and your husband need to be more proactive. Our Pomeranian wasn't a fan of small children (she was a nervous little thing and they scared her), and while she'd just try to avoid them, if they kept bothering her or connered her, she'd snap at them (never actually tried to bite, just would bark and try to show them she meant business). So we'd tell them to not follow her if she tried to walk away, and if they wouldn't listen, we'd pick her up so she'd feel safe.

I think it would be useful to tell children to leave Shelby alone, since it sounds like the issue was the little boy was pulling her tail (which couldn't have felt good for her!), and he probably just pulled harder when our husband pulled her away.

If she'll tolerate the muzzle, it's not a bad idea, but I think the best thing for her would be trying to prevent situations where she feels threatened and needs to snap, since behaviors can come conditioned and if she keeps being put in these situations, she may just get to the point where she'll be aggressive without any obvious reason besides a child is present.


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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:20 pm 
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Tungsten can be very reactive but was worse when he was younger. There were times that I would get extremely stressed out about him, and trying to work on his training during those periods was incredibly exhausting when I was in the wrong headspace. Even now, some times I am up to controlling the situation and managing his behaviour, but other times it is safer and healthier for both of us to just keep him removed from whatever the excitement is.

I think that getting things going with a muzzle for the time being will do great things to help your husband feel more comfortable going out with Shelby, and having him more relaxed with her will make him more likely to want to work with her properly again. I'm happy you have found some options to make it work for the time being :)

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 2:19 pm 
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Image

I'll give an update on Shelby's situation once we've had some time with the muzzle to see if it helps. I'm cautiously optimistic that this will work out. In the meantime, I thought everyone might like to see see Shelby. As you can see, poor Snoopy never had a chance.

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 2:21 pm 
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^Super cute! I don't have advice, not being a dog owner myself, but I'm a dog lover and hoping for the best for everyone concerned! <3 <3 <3

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 5:06 pm 
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Aww, what a cutie!

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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:47 am 
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A muzzle can be a great tool; I'm so glad your husband is willing to give it a shot. We use one for our dog in high-stress situations (like the vet). I find that it actually helps promote Signe being calm because the muzzle seems to take some tension out of the situation -- we are calmer because we know she can't bite, and I think she picks up on that. In addition, a muzzle makes people not want to go near your dog at all, which is a bonus for a situation like ours! It can require quite the acclimation period but once Shelby is comfortable with it hopefully you have a lot of success!

I also much prefer a basket muzzle to a fabric one. They look kind of sad and mean, but you can feed treats easily and it allows the dog to drink and pant freely.


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 Post subject: Re: Help! Rescue said I should give my dog back.
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 8:56 pm 
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Yes, people really avoid a basket muzzle!

Dogs have lots of nerve endings on their muzzles, and any pressure on the face can be really calming. For some dogs, just the distraction from wearing the muzzle is enough to keep them from getting too keyed up. Muzzles and head harnesses can be amazing tools.

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