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Doggy Dilemma: grumpy old retriever now untrustworthy with DS (3yrs). What to do?

(170 Posts)
Time2Hibernate Tue 20-Oct-09 13:42:48

We have a retriever who has always been fairly dominant all his life, and so we've had to keep the upper hand to reinforce his position in the family. He was fine with DS when he was born, but as he has got older, so he has become very grumpy and unpredictable with other dogs, people and specifically DS.

When the dog was about 11 months (ish) he used to bite quite a bit. On one occaision he bit and wouldn't let go of my DH on the arm as he tried to put him on the lead, fortunatley it was winter and it was through a thick wax jacket. It took both DH and me to release the dog's jaws. This was prior to him being castrated which happened swiftly after the incident. He calmed down a lot with no repetitions of biting.

The dog is very big - lying down stretched out he's the same length as my DH 6'2" and weighs a hearty, all muscle, 7 stone. He knocks me off my feet if he barges past.

Couple of examples:

DS who has been playing, minding his own buisness. I was in the garden with DS who momentarily walked down the side of the house between the wall and fence to get his trike. I hear DS get distressed calling me I rush to the side of the house (which is feet away) to find the dog pinning DS to the corner, staring him out, rigid and fixed. I called the dog who fortunatley backed off immediatley, slunk past me looking guilty, and I put it immediatley into a room, away from us all.

DS wanting to come into the kitchen from outside. Dog walks to doorway and stands deliberatley in the way and then faces DS off, who is oblivious to doggy NVCs and says to the dog: excuse me...may I come through? Starts to push through and the dog's face goes towards his head. I didn't see the jaws open but the dog wasn't going to let him through and I was able to grab the dog and push DS away.

These situations occur in seconds and thank heavens, again, I was on hand to see what was happening and prevent anything serious.

I have talked to the vet the dog is grumpy, unpredictable and more difficult to manage than ever, who just said that there was nothing they could do. "Dogs get 'cantankerous' (sp?) in their old age and can revert to type as they were in their 'teens' and that's just the way it is". The dog has been checked out for various ailments and nothing evident.

I'm in a real quandary. He is unpredicatable and I have lost trust in him. If I want to keep him then he has to be shut away from children, animals and people as he just suddenly runs at them. Having a 3 yr old in the house in areas that he can't go because the dog is around is awful too. It's like having and open and closed prison and I'm the warden.

I have tried everything I can think of: training, retraining,feeding after us (which is the norm) and he's taken out for two good walks a day etc and the dog is geniuinely a grumpy, beligerent old dog, who knows how to be good but chooses when to be.

Unfortunatley, the times that he picks on DS are becoming more frequent and I'm really concerned that the 'what if' scenario is going to become a reality.

I'm so close to taking him to the vets to ask for him to be put to sleep, as I want to remember him as the nice dog we once had, without regret. But my vet is not pro putting animals to sleep so I don't know what to do or what to say.sad

Suggestions??

claricebeansmum Tue 20-Oct-09 13:45:54

I really can't help but this is an awful situation to be in - when the family pet goes wrong. sad

How old is the dog?

SpawnChorus Tue 20-Oct-09 13:46:30

The "what if" scenario almost certainly will happen. You need to get rid of him before you end up with an "if only" situation.

Can he go and live with someone else (who has no kids)?

Cadelaide Tue 20-Oct-09 13:46:51

Awww. really sad for everyone concerned.

I too would be very worried. I'll bet you could rehome him though via a reputable charity?

Time2Hibernate Tue 20-Oct-09 13:55:22

He's 11 now. I've asked the retriever rehoming place and they won't take him as they are full. It's the same story with everywhere that rehomes pets.

LittleRedCar Tue 20-Oct-09 14:16:20

Have I read your OP wrong, or would I be right in thinking this dog has done nothing except stand in front of your ds?

The incident with your dh when the dog was 11 months sounds like puppy mouthing - unacceptable yes, but not necessarily aggressive.

If you do actually want to keep the dog I suggest you consult a qualified behaviourist as it sounds like you understand very little of dog behaviour.

The dog didn't look 'guilty' - dogs don't feel guilt - he was showing fear as a reaction to you telling him off, or his anticipating being told off.

What exactly have you been doing all these years to 'keep the upper hand', I wonder.

choccyp1g Tue 20-Oct-09 14:17:53

To me it seems that either the dog has to go, or DS remains at risk.

LittleRedCar Tue 20-Oct-09 14:17:54

And feeding dogs after us is outdated, disproven claptrap, btw.

Poor dog sad

claricebeansmum Tue 20-Oct-09 14:20:19

Why is that disproven? It is sort of working for us. What is the current thinking then on keeping the mutt --off the table-- in her place?

LittleRedCar Tue 20-Oct-09 14:25:03

lol - yes, off the table certainly grin

The pack theory was based on a small study of captive wolves. Over the years a whole raft of scientific studies have shown that a) dogs don't behave like wolves and b) captive wolves behave as only captive wolves do.

Dogs have different personalities - some are dominant, some subdominant and some are naturally submissive.

If you treat every dog as a dominant individual you can actually create a fear-aggressive dog which will bite out of fear.

Sadly, pack theory is stll 'sexy' and makes good tv. Ask any qualified bahaviourist, any dog welfare organisation, any of the verterinary schools, and they'll tell you it is wrong.

You can't put a dog to sleep because it stands in front of you.

jabberwocky Tue 20-Oct-09 14:25:30

We had this situation when ds1 was born. The dog had to go. I was not going to sit by and wait for the unthinkable to happen first and then do something. We were very, very lucky to find someone to take her but if it had come to it I suppose we would have had to put her down as she had gotten quite mean and unpredictable.

Arsed Tue 20-Oct-09 14:33:14

Honesly, if i thought any animal posed a threat to my children and i couldnt find anywhere suitable for it to live then i'd have it put to sleep.

LittleRedCar Tue 20-Oct-09 14:38:55

Yup, me too.

But all this dog has done is stand in front of the child shock

Arsed Tue 20-Oct-09 14:42:48

I suppose though that after 11 years the Op knows the Dog, hopefully maybe there was more to it than 'just standing in front of'.

Ewe Tue 20-Oct-09 14:44:26

I don't think it is quite as black and white as that LittleRed.

I am sure the OP wouldn't be considering putting her dog down just for standing in front of her child. She clearly felt threatened by the dog and sensed aggression or dominance. I think it can be difficult to describe such situations without being in them iyswim.

I personally would have to find another home for the dog. If you're feeling constantly nervous and on edge it can't be good for any of you

LittleRedCar Tue 20-Oct-09 14:49:02

Well the vet won't put the dog to sleep - and I've never known a vet who would refuse to do that in the case of an aggressive dog.

LaurieScaryCake Tue 20-Oct-09 14:52:51

No, he has stood in front of the child fixed and rigid - he is clearly threatening/threatened by and to the child.

My grans dog was like this - we all loved the grumpy bugger very much but we were lucky that even as girls we were old enough to gain the upper hand with him. He was a golden lab.

I would rehome him and if I couldn't I would manage it til it became unamangeable and then I would have him put down.

Whatever you decide make the most of the time you have left with him - you clearly love him sad

LaurieScaryCake Tue 20-Oct-09 14:55:22

The vet will put him to sleep, there are many people putting healthy animals to sleep at the moment sad because they can't afford them. I've had the misfortune to spend dozens of hours in there in the last month as my own dog has been sick - I've heard the nurses talk of 3 and I've seen one man come out crying cos he couldn't afford to keep his 13 year old dog any more.

LittleRedCar Tue 20-Oct-09 14:58:32

It's an enormous, erroneous jump from a dog standing in front of you to a dog being aggressive.

And it could cost this poor dog his life sad

Gracie123 Tue 20-Oct-09 14:58:52

You have got to get rid of this dog now! If your vet won't do it and you can't find a shelter to take it, try free ads! Or drive somewhere to find a vet that will.
Your ds life is at risk. I was attacked by a very 'friendly, family' dog when I was 3, much smaller than the one you describe. I was nearly killed, went through years of plastic surgery and still show the scars today. I suffer PTSD and this was a dog who had shown no aggressive behavior before.
Pets that could kill a child should not live with a child. No excuses.
Please do whatever you can to ensure the safety of your child first.

stressed2007 Tue 20-Oct-09 14:59:08

There are many many rehoming charities - just because one wont take him does n't mean others wont. Where are you based?

what about the dogs trust..they advertise never putting healthy dog down.

LittleRedCar Tue 20-Oct-09 15:20:37

And 'fixed and rigid' could have a heck of a lot to do with the dog being geriatric...

Here's hoping Grandpa gets out the way faster wink

Blondeshavemorefun Tue 20-Oct-09 15:37:02

how old is your ds?

sounds to me that maybe your ds pulled woofa ears/fur etc and thats why he was staring at him

i think you would be wrong in putting your dog to sleep as he hasnt done anything wrong sad

i am not saying you have to wait for dog to attack your ds but just to keep an eye on both dog and ds

AxisofEvil Tue 20-Oct-09 15:51:55

I'd second a behaviouralist and see what they say. Got to be worth a try if the alternative is the dog being put to sleep.

Gracie123 Tue 20-Oct-09 16:35:57

So what if ds did pull his ear? I agree it's not nice for dog, but that's just another good reason why dog should not live with them. She is hardly going to re home ds. Until he is old enoughto live with this type of animal, he should not be living with this animal.

Could you make the dog live in the garden whilst you look for a home? Maybe you and ds could just play in the front?

I know it's sad to lose a pet (particularly one you have had for so long) but surely your ds welfare has to come first. Don't listen to people who say this is nothing. You know your dog, and if you are concerned then this is a big deal. Your dog is quite capable of killing your child if he chooses to.

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