Rock and a hard place - My dog and new baby(704 Posts)
Perhaps AIBU is the wrong place to post this, as people can be very scathing. Please be honest but gentle with me!
Sorry this is so long.....
I rescued my dog over 7 years ago, when he was 8 months old. He'll be 8 years old in a few months time. He is a large cross breed (two guard breeds) and weighs over 40kg. He was poorly bred and poorly socialised and has been mentally screwed up by his bad start. He had multiple homes in his short life before coming to us. He did not go through a proper rescue centre and if he had a proper behavioural assessment, I strongly suspect he would have been put down. He would not have been rehomable - not because he's excessively aggressive, but few rescues will home dogs with even the slightest aggression.
His aggression is fear based. He's scared of strangers and other dogs. If properly introduced to a person or another dog, he's fine. In fact, he's a total baby and as soon as you have his trust, he'll love you forever. We spent so much time and money over the years on behaviourists, trainers and socialisation classes. He improved a lot, but he will always be difficult. We always walk him on lead and usually muzzled (as a precaution, he's never actually bitten anyone, the muzzle in more in case of other dogs) and actively avoid other dogs on walks. Walking him is stressful, but we mostly get out and back without incident. We do not bother introducing him to any people he does not need to know, instead we usually shut him away when we have visitors. However if we have overnight guests, he can be successfully introduced with a bit of time and lots of sausage!
Ok, so here's the main issue. When I got him seven years ago, I was not remotely thinking about children and had also expected an 8 month old puppy to turn into a normal dog with enough effort. I underestimated how much genetics would play and that he would never be normal. I thought I could turn him around completely. I couldn't,
I am now pregnant with our first child, although it's early days. It's been a very hard time as I've had hypermesis gravardium and have been (and still am) very unwell. I haven't got out of bed in weeks, and DH is working full time, running the household and sorting out dog. We normally split the dog walking (as Neither of us enjoy doing it due to stress) but he's done it every single day without complaining, even though I know it makes him miserable. I feel awful about it.
Both my SILs and MIL have never had any time for our dog. They aren't animal people and can't forgive him for his issues. As such, we have never introduced him to them. I find them quick to judge him and they all clearly think we should simply get rid of him. Now I'm pregnant, they've already started asking us about what we're going to do. It's so upsetting that I've asked DH to tell them to lay off.
Thing is, DH and I have known for a while that we would need to make a decision eventually, and we've had circular discussions but there's no easy answer.
We've tried for this baby for over a year and it's very much wanted. It's going to be hard enough have a newborn, without the stress about whether or not our own pet will harm it. Also (a more minor issue), our dog can be demanding and pushy. When he wants a walk or food, he will pace and whine, and drive you crackers. This behaviour when I'm sleep deprived with a screaming newborn is likely to push me over the edge.
DH is likely to have to pick up the dog walking for the majority of the time, as I cannot safely walk my dog and a buggy as I need two hands if an off lead dog approaches us (I might be able to cope with a sling, but still doesn't feel safe to carry a newborn and potentially deal with a dog spat). Getting a dog walker is not really an option, as our dog needs 1:1 care from someone who can handle him. I got this dog before DH came along, he's had a very difficult dog thrust on him which he wouldn't have chosen. DH does so well with our dog, but I know he does it for me.
I've tried to consider whether it would be realistic to keep the dog separate from baby during the day? Then let the dog out with us in the evenings? Once the baby has settled and is bigger there's a chance they could be introduced carefully.
Or can they? As I said, my dog is only scared of the unknown and very good when he trusts. The home he came to before is had 3 children under 10 and he was fine with them, but that was years ago. He has never shown aggression to a child, but then again we've never let him very near to them. He's a darling with us, and I do think he has the potential to be fine with our child who will be familiar and constant to him.
But how the hell do we ever find that out? Can I really actually try introducing dog and baby, or is it too risky? I feel like it might be irresponsible to even try.
He's a big strong dog. He occasionally jumps on us if he gets excited. He's heavy and his claws are sharp. He has hurt us both without meaning to. He could easily knock a toddler over, even if being friendly.
Thing is, I love my dog. Nightmare he is, but he's my nightmare and I'm responsible for him. I never wanted to be that person to turf out their pet because a baby turned up. My worries are genuinely to do with safety and whether this situation is manageable.
Thing is, even if we decide we can't do it, he would be impossible to rehome. There are thousands of perfectly nice dogs who can't find homes. My dog will be 8 years old, with aggression issues and also expensive seasonal allergies. Literally, no one would want him. I've had professionals say to be "he's lucky he has you, because I wouldn't put up with him!". I don't want to rehome him, but even if I decide to, I really think we would struggle to find him a home. He'd hate being stuck in kennels long term as he'd be so stressed, and I fear a rescue centre would simply put him down.
If we can't keep him, and no one will take him, the only other option would be to have him put to sleep - which is unthinkable.
I feel totally stuck between a rock and a hard place. DH and I have had this conversation so many times and never come up with an answer, because there isn't one! I think deep down I know it would be difficult, if not impossible, to manage such a situation safely. But I can't bear the idea of turfing out an elderly troubled dog and where on Earth would he go?!
So please be gentle. I'm pregnant, hormonal and ill, and I love my dog very much. So please be honest, but I can't handle a flaming right now.
Have you had the discussion about having him euthanized?
Sorry - just see that you say that having him put to sleep is unthinkable. You may have to think about it - it sounds as if he can not be rehomed successfully and he may be a danger to your baby.
I'm really sorry, and I know you don't want to hear it, but in your situation I would put the dog to sleep. A dog with fear based aggression will never be safe around a toddler or young child, and keeping them separate during the day will be likely to heighten his issues, as he will feel more insecure with less contact he gets from you.
I have no advice but lots of sympathy. You did a lovely thing giving him such a good life so far.
We both know it's the absolute last resort option. Poor dog has some issues but nothing so bad that it would warrant euthanasia when he has done absolutely nothing to deserve it. IF we decide we couldn't cope, I would do my upmost to find him another home before we would consider that. He's a happy dog most the time and I couldn't just kill him for being inconvenient.
Actually sounds like my dog. And we have dc. Lots of dc. And she loves every single one!! You are right to be cautious as you have also lived with the stress of your dog and his weird ways - we have also. But you are his family and the baby will too. Have you thought of a baby gate to have him on the other side when visitors come?
I think he will be fine, OP. Obviously don't take chances but don't make assumptions, either
Note: I used to train dogs, took on a dog that was 'too aggressive' for it's owner, trained him well so he was totally trustworthy (but only for me ) loved him to the moon and back and eventually had to have him put to sleep for similar reasons. I know how hard it was, it's not advice that I'm giving lightly.
He is a happy dog because you manage his issues very well and understand him. You have no guarantee that another owner will do the same.
Oh god, my heart goes out to you.
Is it possible to get a behaviourist in again, with the specific agenda of working towards this issue? I know that it's actually a relatively common problem for them to deal with. You could see what they suggest, and how the dog responds to it, before moving on to a more drastic solution.
Hi, you have my absolute sympathy here! Can you find a dog behaviourist who could help you out at all?
It's not a risk I would take with a new baby.
I'm sorry, but I would pts too. He would be so unhappy if he was rehomed, and what if the rehoming didn't work? And I suspect he will be very unhappy and confused by the baby too.
I wouldn't risk it either, what a horrible position to be in
I think deep down I know it would be difficult, if not impossible, to manage such a situation safely
I think this is your answer. I know it's easy for someone who isn't a dog lover to say, but your child comes first.
Surely the dog harming your baby, perhaps fatally, is more unthinkable than having the dog put to sleep?
He's had a happy life with you, I honestly think it would be kinder to put him to sleep than force a noisy newborn plus all the additional stresses or attempt to rehome and again stress for him.
Give him his perfect day and then ask the vet to your house to let him go xxxx
How has he been with you being pregnant? Has he changed at all? I sympathise fully with this situation; I have a rescue dog who was 2.5when baby arrived. Very nervous of children. I did a lot of carrying a life size doll around and playing cds of crying babies when pregnant to try and acclimatise her- might be worthwhile seeing how dog reacts? We then did a suuuuuper slow introduction..We have noticed she is now a little more defensive when we are out on walks - protective instinct!- and she is still wary of children in general, but she adores baby, who is now just over a year old. And baby adores her. You sound such a patient owner I know whatever decision you make will be fully thought out, I'm sorry for not having more solutions for you
Thank you everyone for your responses so far.
We use a baby gate as part of our introduction technique for visitors he meets. If I introduced the baby, I would use lots of baby gates, protected contact (dog in care or baby in large travel cot etc) to allow dog to adjust and gauge his reaction.
I have thought about a behaviourist but I've never felt the ones we saw did much to help him, really. I do intend to discuss the matter with a dog trainer we worked with who knows my dog well and who is always honest with me. I know she will tell me if she considers the situation to dangerous.
As hard and as horrible as it is, you cannot rehome an aggressive dog, how would you feel if something terrible happened down the line because the people you rehomed him too didn't heed your advice, it is an awful thing to have to do, but in my opinion there are only two options, you keep the dog or you euthanise him, dogs only live in the moment and they don't know whats happening when they are put to sleep, we are the one that know and have to live with the guilt, but I would far rather that guilt than learning that he had hurt/attacked another dog/person, sorry.
You have given the dog 8 lovely years that he wouldn't have had otherwise, its upsetting but I don't think you have a choice
But Ops dog has never bitten?
I do honestly sympathise but people are basically saying "put him to sleep in case he does XYZ."
Oh love how awful for you.
I don't think anyone can tell you what to do but remember you have given your dog a wonderful 8 years and no one else would have done that. Be kind to yourself but be pragmatic too. A very unmumsnetty hug xxx
Many years ago I was in what sounds like the exact same situation, with a very similar dog (rescued but not through centre, poor socialisation, had to walk with muzzle, put away with visitors, literally everything you have described).
I thought when my baby came I could put the dog away and get the dog out when baby was alseep/in the evenings and then see how it went and hopefully look to introduce baby to dog. Dog was very well trained with us, very loving.
I had completely underestimated how much time the baby would take up - you can't just put the baby to sleep and get the dog out, it just doesn't work like that. I also found out it would be massively unfair on the dog. Unless you can have dog with baby, it just won't work. Baby needs CONSTANT attention.
I brought baby home from hospital and my dog actually seemed ok but I felt far too nervous and I was worried that the dog would pick up on my nerves and react badly.
Dog could not have been rehomed. I had to get the dog put down and it literally broke my heart. I feel upset and guilty many years later but I just knew that I could not have chanced the dog with my baby, the risk was too high. I don't think anyone can prepare you for how you will feel towards your baby.
Can you consult a dog trainer?
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