Can you just be temperamentally incompatible with a dog?

(62 Posts)

We have had a rescue dog since September 2013. Did lots of research before we got her, took our time etc. Thought we had the right dog. Once we got her home she wasn't "the same dog" we had visited in the foster home. She was very difficult and made our lives hard and unpleasant.

Training has improved a lot of the actual problems, but I just don't like her, and I don't think I ever will. sad I am the one with primary responsibility for her, and the one at home most of the time. We live abraod where the school day is morning only, and have 3 young DC, so I will be home most of the day all the dog's life. She makes me enjoy my home less and makes me feel miserable the moment I walk up the drive.

I hate the way she jumps up and tries to walk under my feet every time I move about. I hate the fact that although she is not agressive at all with the DC she has no interest in or afinity with them - if they are ill or sad she doesn't do the doggie sympathy thing, instead she barks and tries to get between them and me, to stop me focussing on them and make me focus on her. I can now tell her to sit or put her outside - but she lacks the traits that make many dogs lovable IMO.

I enjoy walking her and don't mind feeding her (though I hate how she throws herself at the kitchen door at feeding time, and this is one we are not managing to stop). She has improved, behaviour wise, in the 5 months we've had her. But I don't like who she is sad The kids don't like her much because she doesn't seem to like them much - or rather she doesn't acknowledge they exist, adn they were so excited about getting a dog (the older 2 are 8 and 6 and old enough to interact sensibly with her, but she ignores them unless they are holding food or opening the front door...

Help! Has anyone been in this position and changed it. She's supposedly 2 years old, and certainly a young dog, I find myself thinking that she'll live the kids' whole childhoods and I will be a miserable git the whole time they are growing up becuase of my owen mistake in getting a dog, for all we thought about it for years before going for it and thought we had prepared. sad She is a mixed breed but somewhat cocker spaniel like, though finer boned. I walk her for an hour a day through forest, but she has selective hearing and when outside our property has no recall, so she is always on a lead. She responds to training well when everything is calm and quiet around her and she is in an enclosed place, but it goes out the window when there are distractions.

I wish every waking moment that we had never got a dog.

SnakeyMcBadass Mon 13-Jan-14 10:24:25

Oh dear. I think it is possible to just not 'gel' with a dog. My DH is ambivalent about our spaniel, but adores our cockapoo. I do wonder if you're expecting too much though? It sounds like you had an idea of a dog in your head, and that the actual experience is different. My dogs aren't sympathetic if the DC are ill or sad. They're dogs. They might lay with them on the sofa, but that's because it's comfortable grin Most dogs don't adore small children ime, they tend to prefer older children who can interact appropriately. You can teach a dog to play, which means they will be more interactive. Does your girl like playing any specific games? If she's spaniel like, she'll probably enjoy fetch and find it games. Likewise, you can teach recall so that you can let her off lead. My spaniel can cop a deaf 'un if it suits, but consistency is key. Anywhere you can safely let her off lead to practice recall?

lougle Mon 13-Jan-14 10:26:56

What a sad post. You've only had her 5 months, and she is 2 years old. In dog years, you've had her 3 years and she's 14 years old! It's no time at all. She needs to build trust with you and the children. Dogs respond to affection and they know when people like them. They are incredibly astute.

My dog knew that DH tolerated him - he would feed him, stroke him, etc., but the real affection wasn't there. Then, something softened in DH and he started to give him a random pet when he didn't strictly need to, etc. Patch has latched on to that and smothered DH with affection. DH has responded to the affection by returning it - they're building a huge bond.

Food is a basic motivator for a dog. If you want your dog to love the children, carefully support them to give her the food, etc.

Give her time. She's only known you such a short time.

lougle Mon 13-Jan-14 10:29:09

Patch adores our children and will always want to sit with them if they are poorly. They get annoyed by that! They spend most of their time pushing him away or shutting the door so he doesn't get their food, etc. The poor thing comes back time and time again for more. stupid mutt .

I think most dogs have some undesirable traits. You just trade the good for the bad. Just like people.

Thanks for replying Snakey - the only safe place to practice recall is our own garden - she has the hang of it there, esp if food treats are involved... but we live very rurally, which means that if she ahd recall there are lots of wide open (unfenced) fields and huge tracts of forest where she could be off the lead, but there are no enclosed dog excercise fields or anything like that. We went to a training class and she had recall in thier training field too, but mainly because there I was her point of sanctuary I think (she remains anxious about other dogs, but that isn't a big issue as you can walk for an hour here and not see another human or dog).

She hasn't really got the hang of fetch - she will only bring the toy back if I throw, and only in the living room, not even in the garden. I tried with a dummy in the garden and she just kept runing off to worry it, then when she worked out that she got the treat if I had the dummy she started to sit and wait expectantly every time I threw it - I think she thought she was being trained to "leave" not to "fetch" grin In the house she will fetch and return one particular tied rope toy, but won't do it for anyone but me... hmm She is somewhat fixated on me and I can't move around the house without her following me right, directly under my feet, and if I go into a room she is not allowed in she either throws herself against the door or sits quietly outside it til I come out, even if the DC try to interact with her, which to be honest irritates me hugely.

lougle Mon 13-Jan-14 10:35:50

She's bonded with you - it's a good thing grin

She'll bond with them too. It will just take time.

In the nicest way possible, i think you may have had a romanticized idea of what it is like to have a dog. I wouldn't expect a dog to act worried about the kids if they were ill, or do the whole loyal friend act unless they're used to getting lots of attention from them.

I would guess that your children are picking up on your dislike of the dog and the will almost certainly be picking up these vibes from all of you.

Have you tried acting like you want to feel, so make a huge fuss of her like you think she's the loveliest dog in the world. She will probably start to give a bit more back in terms of affection and loyalty once she feels like part of the family.

lougle she is fixated on me and I don't like her sad The DC initially loved her, and my poor 6 year old ties himself in knots over how he feels about her - he says he loves her but she makes the house stressful and she doesn't love him so he wishes we'd never got her - and she ignores him as if he is an inanimate object, unless he is holding food or trying to answer or go in or out of the front door.

My eldest gives her her lunch and my DH her dinner, I only do breakfast (for logistical reasons). She has 3 meals a day due to very sensitive stomach and the fact she was emaciated when we got her - she is up to correct weight now and has been for a while.

MrMini I grew up with dogs, though she is the first I have owned myself, as an adult. She is nothing like the dogs I grew up with, temperamentally. You may be right though, maybe I had misremembered. My parents still have dogs, and they are not so - well - needy, or clingy, for want of a better word.

Acting the way I want to feel may be a good suggestion though. I will try. She is a bit "give an inch and she'll take a mile" - the more I fuss her, the more she pushes the DC out of the way to be fussed more. Of course I liked her at first, before I "got to know her" and I paid lots of attention to her, but have started blocking her out more because of the way she barks and pushes between the DC and I every time one of them wants me - esp if they are hurt or crying or the little one wants picking up - so now if a DC wants attention I either put the dog out or block her mentally and ignore her, because if I don't she is encouraged by being given a stroke and barks and shoves herself between the DC and I more and more...

SnakeyMcBadass Mon 13-Jan-14 10:46:23

Interesting that you say she ignores the children. My spaniel ignores what makes him anxious, in a 'I can't see it so it's not there' kind of way. I wonder if your girl is a little fearful of your DC? She sounds like she has attached to you as her point of safety. Thing is, the more you reject her the clingier she will become. Perhaps it's time to have a really good and honest think about whether you have made a mistake sad It's never desirable to rehome a dog, but it's also not desirable to just put up with one. She deserves more, to be frank (And I do understand, the Bastard Spaniel has driven me to my knees on occasion, but I love him however much of a PITA he's being).

SnakeyMcBadass Mon 13-Jan-14 10:49:54

My spaniel is very needy. I think they just are. With regard to pushing in between you and the DC, I'd put a stop to that with a firm 'No' and leading her to her bed, then treating when she is 'good'. My spaniel needs firm boundaries, I think because he's very bright. You need to be consistent and firm while also being gentle and kind. It's a fine balancing act, because my chap is a nervy, sensitive arse grin

Snakey I am thinking that too. It is a dilema as I have no odea of anyone who would take her. The charity we got her from have been very uncommunicative since they'd safely passed her along, despite offering support, and I doubt they'd take her back - they use foster homes rather than having a kennels as a base so there is nowhere to take her to and insist they accept her. Taking her to a general dog shelter feels wrong - after all we can keep her physically safe, well fed and exercised. There is no bond though.

I will try MrsMini's "acrt the way you want to feel" advice for a week or so - it works for pretending to feel confident etc. so maybe it could work in this case... worth a try. I am sure Mrs Mini is right that the DC pick up on how I feel about her, from odd comments they make. sad

Blimey "a nervy, sensitive arse" - that's exactly it snakey grin I appear not to tolerate that well and didn't know it was a spaniel trait - though she isn't all spaniel, its just sort of what she looks a bit like...
The dog my parents had when I was the age my older kids are was a lab-spaniel mix and wasn't like this... they had her from a puppy though, a mix breed but an accidental pregnancy of a friend of my grandmother's dog, not a rescue.

SnakeyMcBadass Mon 13-Jan-14 11:03:38

grin I think spaniel types benefit from having a job to do. Is she easy to train? Could you try clicker training her to do some tricks? My woof will pick up new tricks within 5 repetitions. He can roll over, put toys away in his box, fetch certain toys, close doors etc. Wearing them out mentally makes a huge difference to behaviour. One of my boy's favourite activities is 'Find it'. I shut him outside or inside, and hide tiny bits of food all over the house/garden. He will spend half an hour very happily going over and over the ground in the hope that even more treats will appear, and it gets him thinking. In an emergency, I just fling his kibble all over the garden and leave him to find it all. I enjoy watching him work, and that helps me to bond with him. Is there anything specific you enjoy doing with her or that makes you smile? You need to find something that is fun otherwise it is a daily grind of work and responsibility.

Floralnomad Mon 13-Jan-14 11:03:48

Perhaps she is not keen on children but could you not play with her and the older 2 which may encourage her to think they are fun . Get an agility course for the garden and get the kids running about with her ,or get your eldest to look up clicker training online and start doing that . Hopefully then her attachment will change a bit . Our terrier is obsessed with me ,I do all the walking ,feeding etc and nobody is allowed to hug me or he gets really upset , but my children are older and find it funny so they just do it to wind him up ( poor dog) .

sugarandspite Mon 13-Jan-14 11:09:26

Our trainer recommended DH and I hand feeding all meals to our dog to help build up a close and trusting bond with him.
Pretty icky at first but seemed to help.

I also agree with another poster that giving her opportunity to play with the DC should really help too. We find fetch tricky but our boy adores tug - with a particular toy and set of rules so it doesn't get too overexcitable. Or get DC to sit on the floor and hold a rawhide chew for her while they watch TV etc?
Just so they become providers of 'nice stuff' to your dog, rather than people who stop you being with her.

I think if it were me I would agree that we as a family would work really hard at more closely integrating her into the family for say 5 months (and decide specific things to do) and then review how it is then.

lougle Mon 13-Jan-14 11:32:30

Oh yes, we did the hand feeding thing, too, because Patch was quite a nervous dog.

Thanks everyone. Feeding is a tricky one because she is a rescue who was starving when found (literally) and when we got her she had absolutely huge food stealing and defending issues - she was painfully thin and would leap and steal food from the DC's plates or hands even when they were standing up (not just the toddler but the older 2, who are both in age 9 clothes so not small-medium dog head height). She also inhaled her meals in under 5 seconds. In order not to end up with a snappy dog I only let the DC give her her meal (in a bowl), and the oldest is allowed to drop single pieces of kibble in front of her as rewards when she trains her.
Nobody is allowed to go near her raw-hide chews once she has them, though the eldest is allowed to make her sit and then hand them to her. This (and feeding her 3 times a day, and changing her food so that she no longer has constant bad diorreah and has achieved a normal weight) have reduced her food issues so that the DC can now eat their own food in front of her, but I am reluctant to have them hold her food while she eats it - recipe to invite her to bite I think sad

I wouldn't say she is easy to train, though we have made some progress... Theory of the charity we got her from was that she was intended to be a gun dog (she has a docked tail) and didn't make the grade due to being too giddy, so was abandoned.

I shall begin with the attitude adjustment - have been fussing her more, but so far this is only causing her to jump up and put her paws on me, which I had recently managed to put a stop to... Shall continue for a week.

Setting a point a few months ahead to review is also a good idea.

This isn't going to be a particularly helpful post...

We have had a our springer for just over a year now. I love the very bones of him.

It wasn't always this way.

I felt that I needed to 'do it right'. Read every book going. Confused myself. Met his needs (and more, poor sod was socialised and trained to death!) but forgot to love him I think.

I posted on here. Was supported. I relaxed with him. The love came. Initially a trickle, then a drip, then a big flood smile

I didn't do anything different really. Perhaps interacted a little more on walks but nothing major. I just relaxed I think. I let myself enjoy him.

We are getting another dog on Saturday. God, I am looking forward to it, looking forward to the nipping and the mess and training and the chaos. I missed out first time.

DH just went with the flow and never read a thing, although did most of the KC obedience with Ddog, as he enjoyed it so much. The dog and DH adore each other, absolutely bonkers for each other.

The DC are lazy tbh with the dog, therefore the dog, although he loves them, has bonded best with DH and myself.

I second the idea of the games. 'Find it' with either a toy or food is an absolute favourite for us both and occupies the dog for ages. He's just had a kong too, which took about 20 minutes to eat.

Good luck.

lougle Mon 13-Jan-14 12:52:10

"have been fussing her more, but so far this is only causing her to jump up and put her paws on me, which I had recently managed to put a stop to..."

At the moment, she's treating your affection like someone who's starving would treat their first meal - she's getting as much as she can while it lasts.

That will fade as she realises that you intend to fuss her consistently.

SnakeyMcBadass Mon 13-Jan-14 12:55:50

need I remember your earlier posts and how miserable you were, I'm so glad to hear that you've grown to love your bonkers spaniel smile I remember the early days so clearly, the upheaval, the crushing sense of responsibility, the desire to be a 'perfect' dog owner...The dog didn't give a shit as long as he was fed, warm, exercised and loved. I was having panic attacks hmm

Was she in a foster home with children? How long for? Did she bond with them at all?
Tbh, it does sound like this is not the right dog for you: an abandoned, needy and nervous spaniel cross would not be my first choice for a family with 3 children esp. if first-time dog owners.

Can I ask which organisation you got her through? Because they should provide back-up support and if necessary organise a new foster home for her. (I'm also in Germany and got our second dog through a rescue organisation, as did a friend of mine, I'd be very interested to know)

I also think that the sooner you make the decision, the better it will be for the dog. The longer she is in a home where she's not really wanted, the harder it will be to find somewhere new for her.

* snakey* - I expected to get slated, deserved to in a way. You were very kind and understanding I remember (and perhaps a kindred spirit over the internet smile. I am by no means a perfect dog owner, but I think that I am a good dog owner now and our dog means the world to me.

I think we sometimes 'humanise' dogs, give them feelings and emotions that they are incapable of having.

Good to read you 'two dog' stories smile

ps - needy dogs can be wearing. Mine won't got for a wee in the garden on his own!! Once I accepted him for who he was, that got easier. Not saying you should, but it's a way to deal with it.

NuttyMuttie Mon 13-Jan-14 15:58:12

I think your post is incredibly sad as your dog is just being a dog.

"Once we got her home she wasn't "the same dog we had visited in the foster home" so the only thing that has changed is her environment so that means she can be the dog you want and maybe it is you that has changed her behaviour.

All the issues you have mentioned can be trained so that you dog gives an alternative behaviour. Many of the behaviours your are describing is appeasement behaviour. eg your dog is aware that things are not correct so is trying hard to make you happy/alter your mood.

Train her to have a settle eg every time she is in her bed reward her - Get a cup of coffee sit near her and (possible feed one of her meals this way) if she is cam in her bed she gets the reward. She will start to go to her bed and each time she does reward reward.

Start to move away from her and then throw the treat into her bed when she has stayed and you are able to move away. Just increase the distance over time and reward.

Very few dogs do the cuddling up to ill people generally they do not like illness and will take themselves away - there will of course be the exception that will but this is very normal doggy behaviour.

The reason she gets between you and the dc's is that dogs do not understand physical closeness. If two dogs are very close in a fight situation a third dog will try to split this up - they will do this by standing between the two dogs. Your dog is misunderstanding the closeness between your DC. This is clearly a sign of an anxious dog so I would ignore the behaviour maybe just put a hand down to her to show her it is not a situation she needs to be concerned about.

I would seriously get the DC and you clicker training. This will grow the bond between you all and give the dog something else to think about rather than try and guess what you want her to do. She is aware the mood is not happy.

Clicker training is all positive so she will only get rewarded and will be happy to offer behaviours - usually DC's are fantastic at it. Get them to teach her some tricks - the dog will love the happy reaction she gets from you when she does it right.

Re feeding Get her on a lead before you start to prepare the food do not let her throw herself at the door. She needs to be calm before her food is given to her. Do this with small amounts of food in your hand with your hand closed. She will try really hard to get the food (you may want to have gloves on) when she backs off and she will click and give her the food - she will learn that by waiting she gets the food not just grabbing it - this can take time with a rescue dog that has been starved so I may leave this to a later date to introduce. But you can stop the throwing at the door behaviour.

Get a tuggy or a flirt pole (not weird at all honest!) It is a pole with string on it and a toy on the end gig it around like a cat toy and your dog will love to chase it and play with it.

I would also look at going to a training class - at first you may feel despondent but when you see your dog doing well and learning new tricks and possible being the best in the class or getting an award I promise you that you will feel very differently about her - make sure that it is a positive training class run by PPG member or APDT.

She is just being a dog.

The dog that runs behind the children wagging its tail and lies with its head on their lap, fetches the paper, ball looks loving at its owner, walks perfectly to heel - usually has had hours of training,and is not just born.

I feel so depressed reading you post and hope that things work out for your post OP. sad

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