Unwelcome visitor, what to do?(3 Posts)
Beware, this is long! I appreciate anyone who knows a bit about dogs taking the time to read. I don't have a dog (although I would love to have one, had one before kids and I do love dogs). I currently have a friend staying with me who does have a dog - it's an open-ended stay, could be weeks, could be months, and right now I suspect it's more likely to be months than weeks.
The dog is small, and an ex-rescue who has been with it's current owner for about 2 years and is around 4 years old now. The owner has some mental health and general health issues, clearly none that they feel bars them from pet-ownership.
I know enough about dogs to see that this dog suffers from separation anxiety, food aggression, has dominance/security issues and will bark and run at people/dogs/bikes on a walk and attempt to hamstring/bite anyone who doesn't stand their ground (not sure what that behaviour is called, but I would call it aggression). The dog has clocked up a few 'mild' bites on family members and their dogs - provoked by people/dogs being in the wrong place at the wrong time rather than because they were actively distressing (harassing/cornering/teasing etc) the dog. The dogs general level of obedience is poor, with it deciding very much whether it listens to commands it does know or not most of the time. If the dog was a big one I suspect it's problems would have got it into a whole heap of trouble by now.
The owner loves this dog very much and family/friends have pointed out the dogs behaviour is bad. The owner often brings up the dogs unknown past as the cause (which may be right BUT they have had this dog a couple of years now and the 'past' isn't around now to take responsibility for the dogs current state). The owner bought a muzzle but rarely uses it, the dog is off-lead more often than on-lead.
The dog has been living with me a couple of weeks now, and in this time it has bitten my niece, a relatively minor bite which broke the skin of her finger, and my daughter (9) no blood drawn that time, but to me a bite is a bite is a bite, it is crossing a line in doggy-human etiquette I consider very serious. The dog frequently growls at both me and the owner if things don't go the dogs way.
I have 2 young children (5 & 9) who have only really had experience with other very friendly dogs in the family and never lived with a dog, so they are not really very dog-savvy. The 5 year old is awaiting a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder, which obviously has a big affect on his interactions with the world, he is impulsive, driven to touch everything, boisterous and extremely active. He can't help his behaviour.
My kids are away at their dad's for a few weeks, and due to the dogs behaviour I have told the owner that the dogs behaviour is unacceptable in my home, I feel strongly that my children will be at risk of a more serious bite than has already occurred when they come back. I do not want the dog here with my kids as things are, the owner is someone I love and they are very welcome to stay until they get their life back in order. I know the dog is loved so I have said the owner has these two kid-free weeks to show they are going to take full responsibility for the dog by:
1) Exercising the dog - they don't work so have time for dog walking. I have said the dog must go out at least twice a day (if you can't give a dog that much you shouldn't have one as far as I'm concerned), and suggested more would be better as walking is really good for dogs (and people).
2) Spend time a few times a day (short sessions) training the dog in general obedience.
3) Work on the dogs real issues every day; separation anxiety, food-provoked aggression and general aggression towards strangers. Walking and general obedience training should make these issues easier to deal with too.
4) Keep the dog under control/close supervision at all times while it lives here.
For the first couple of days I tried to offer a bit of support as I have trained a dog before, I'm no expert but I do know the basics of general obedience training - 'high/low-value' rewards, timing, consistency, positive attitude. The dog is smart and food motivated. The owner proved much more resistant to training and has largely ignored/resented my advice. When it comes to other issues there seems to be some really good, positive advice on the internet - I am no expert and not really in a position to advise (I don't think the owner would/could employ a behaviourist which I do realise would be the best option). I have no doubt this dog can be turned around and go on to have a happy life, it has developed very bad habits rather than being a mean dog (although I would never agree a dog with it's history should live with children or an owner who didn't understand dogs well).
It's been a week now and I am wondering if it is my fault that nothing has really been done. The dog has been walked, but not much even by the standards of owners who have busy lives (it has been 16 hours and counting since the dog was last walked, and that was a 10 minute walk...). It has done a bit of half-hearted training a couple of times in the last week which isn't positively reinforced at all in general life. As far as I know nothing has been done at all about the 'issues'. I do work 5 hours a day so I'm not here all the time, but it appears the owner has been in bed all the time I have been at work, unless they have also been out for the day. I realise that mental health issues can make it very hard to be motivated/get things done, I have suffered from severe depression in the past so I do understand.
From where I am sitting right now the owner is not fulfilling their obligations as concerns the dog living in my families home, and I said quite clearly that if they don't then the dog will have to leave when my children get back. They are going to lose the dog they love/become homeless with the dog as things stand. I feel like I am being a bitch (I'm not, this dog should not be living with children end of and I have very grave doubts about how fair it is on the dog to have this owner) and the owner is going to blame me for being intolerant/unfair when I tell them the dog is no longer welcome.
What am I meant to do now? This person is an adult and I feel very uncomfortable giving orders re the dog. Do I just leave it and when the dog gets it's marching orders next week just say oh well, sorry, but it's your own fault? Do I have a talk about how the first week has gone and ask if the owner would like me to take a more active role? Do I spell out word for word what needs to be done to keep the dog and point out when it isn't being done? I feel really bad about the whole situation and it is causing me stress, if the dog has to go there will be great distress from the owner I think too (I don't think they will go and live on the streets rather than lose the dog but it's possible). Do I say the dog can stay if it is under control at all times and forget about expecting the owner to do anything to improve the dogs behaviour, they won't be living in my home forever? I can't figure out the best thing to do, the clock is ticking and I would very much welcome some sound, fair advice from someone who isn't as involved in the situation as I am.
I wouldn't have anybody's dog who had bitten my child in my house tbh so would be insisting alternative arrangements were made. The exercise and the training should be happening routinely as a matter of course but I think it's unreasonable to expect you to have, in your house, a dog that is known to be aggressive when you have children
You sound very knowledgeable about dog behaviour and all the things you suggest are very reasonable but the dog has already bitten two children and the owner is, for whatever reason, disinterested in training the dog. You know the answer, there is only one option, the dog cannot stay for a minute longer after your kids return. It would be negligent to keep this dog around children and frankly, even as an adult, I would not want it in my home. It is sad the dog has had a bad past but its owner need to wake up to the reality of having a reactive dog. With a lot of effort she may be able to turn the dog around but things will only get worse if the dog gets no training and no exercise. Can the rescue it came from take the dog back?
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