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My heart is breaking, am I making the right decision? (very long)

(78 Posts)
TakingTheStairs Wed 25-Sep-13 14:36:37

Please be gentle, as I am very upset and have been crying for days but am genuinely trying to do the right thing for my dog.

His history
My DH and I rehomed a dog in Feb. At that stage he was just under 3 years old and we were his third home.
We have been told by several sources that know the dog, that he was very very badly treated in home number 1. (breeders)
Home number 2 said they bought aged about 1/1.5 him primarily to get him out of the awful situation but they also bought him as a Sire as he was the "perfect example of his breed"
After they had had him about a year, DH and I called them saying that we didn't want a puppy but we were looking to re home that particular breed and if they knew of any dogs needing homes to please let us know. They said they had bought him as a Sire but they had had no luck with him for over a year and as they were a working kennels, they couldn't just keep pets.
I asked all sort of questions before we went to meet him any issues/level of training etc. We were told he had issues previously but he was mainly fine. There were a few red flags that I didn't realise we red flags at the time but we took him and brought him home.

With us
It took him over two weeks to get used to my DH, he'd be fine with him in the evening and the next morning would growl at him as if he'd forgotten him. Fine, we expected a settling in period. But it seems that he doesn't trust any men and is only okay with my DH as we made sure he fed him and did half the walks so he would associate good things with him.

But basically, what has come out over the past 7 months is that he has a lot of issues. We have tried so hard to work with him. He has had one on one training, group adolescent classes, a big session with a behaviourist and he has a professional walker/ trainer that he goes out with every day (The behaviourist we took him to said she hadn't seen anyone as nervous as him for years and he had really bad fear aggression).

DH and I have tried to do everything these professionals tell us as I know so much of the time the issue is with the owners doing the wrong thing.

He is a guarder, a herder and he bites. He is muzzled now when we go out but he has nipped or tried to nip SO many times. Thankfully no 'proper' bites. Sometimes when he felt threatened which I understand (but don't think is acceptable, no matter the reasoning) but sometimes with no logic.
He has fear aggression and over attachment to me. Our cleaner says he is lovely with her when I'm not there, but if I'm home he is defensive and barky at her.
The dog walker has mainly no issues with him on his walks.
He has great recall, is so lovable and clever, but unless he is in his comfort zone of being at home with just DH and I he really is at the limit of his coping levels.
We can't bring him anywhere, we can't have anyone to the house, despite months of training and working on that. If anyone comes over we have to have them basically sit down and not move for fear of him freaking and biting. Keeping him muzzled in the house isn't the answer as he would still freak and scare people.
His walker/trainer came over at our request to have a big long chat about his behaviour on Sunday and said that she thinks we needs to rehome him. I'm 7 months pregnant and we genuinely think that the baby is going to tip him over the edge with his coping levels. He needs constant vigilance as it is, and when the baby comes he is going to be more unstable when we are going to have less time to work with him.
we have tried so so so hard with him and we love him SO much, but we just can't seem to provide the right environment for him.
I don't think he should have been re homed with us in the first place tbh, it is not the right fit, but he was and we are trying to deal with the situation the best we can.
I love him and we have tried so hard but we are obviously not the right environment for him.
His vet and his walker both say that he needs to be rehomed with a professional: a behavourist or a trainer that is willing to take him on long term as a project, but the damage that was done to him when he was young is so deep that it may not be able to be reversed.
The easy option would be to send him back to the breeder that we got him from, but we were certainly not given the whole story when we got him and I don't trust her not to pass him on to another unsuspecting family which is not fair on them and certainly not fair on him

I am so sad about the whole situation and am struggling not to cry as I type this. I just want to do the best thing for him. It's not that our baby is taking precedence, it's that we already can't trust him and we are worried the baby will push him over the edge. If we had another 6 months to work with him we would. He has improved since we got him but not enough. Even his trainer says the progress is too slow.

We are doing the right thing aren't we?

CurlyhairedAssassin Wed 25-Sep-13 18:29:41

Sorry to hijack slightly but I was concerned to read about the breeder running a working kennels and they don't keep pets? In what way is that not a puppy farm then? Particularly if they are choosing to breed from a dog with known behavioural problems. confused. To me it sounds like the "breeders" have seized upon a gap in the market if the breed is rare in this country and see it as a chance to make some money. When I've had dogs in the past they have been from breeders but the parents have been show dogs AND pets and kept as such in the family home.

Is it easy to make the mistake of buying from irresponsible breeders? Am just worried in case we decide to get a dog in the future and get the wool pulled over our eyes like the poor OP.

TakingTheStairs Wed 25-Sep-13 18:49:35

I don't think they were puppy farmers. We did go to their home and see all their dogs. I think they bought a Sire that didn't work and they saw a way to try and make some money back. They probably gave me the no pets line to seem less harsh. They do have at least four dogs that breed but are pets too iykwim.
But was I taken in. Yes.

davidtennantsmistress Wed 25-Sep-13 19:08:17

If I may, I had a gsd who was my pride and joy, we had him from a pup but for some reason he was a nervous dog, I suspect xh tbh, however I didn't see anything, he would herd us when we were out, he would defend me to the hilt and he would push me out of the way on his hind legs when xh came near.

When I fell for ds1, I was scared stiff that he wouldn't take to ds, positively petrified, however in my heart I knew that if it came to it I would re home but we had to try for my sake as much as the dog.

He was 3 when ds was born, I stopped in hospital for a good spell, and xh would take home every scrap of everything that ds had touched peed on, been cleaned with so that the dog could have a good smell, likewise every toy teddy item for ds I set up before he came along and let the dog have a good old rummage through it all, if he tried to take the toy he was told to leave, he slowly learnt what he couldn't touch.

The day we brought ds home, I was so scared that it would go badly, however, to my surprise, I went in cradling ds in my arms head on my shoulder and knelt down next to the dog, close enough for him to sniff, but far enough away for me to get away if needed, xh held the collar gently. The dog bless him, sniffed ds head, very gently. I'm not sure what went through his mind, mostly inquisitive I think, but from that day he had his snout next to ds's feet in his bouncer. Or laid next to him if I left the room obviously he was removed, and likewise the dog was not allowed to roll on the floor with him.

Ds and the dog were the best of friends, the dog saw ds as no threat as was an extension of me, and he knew that I would protect ds if I had to.

My long winded point is, is it possible for your walker to foster your dog, on as a three month basis, when the baby first comes, and have you guys try to see if he would fit in with the family. Be guarded yes, but give him that chance. You never know, it maybe the very setting he needs to settle him down, oh and fwiw my gsd, would also be the same as yours in the house.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 25-Sep-13 19:25:09

Curly, we got our current (totally unproblematic) dog from a breeder who'd kept him as a potential show/sire but then he started to go bald so they wanted to find him a 'pet' home. They said they'd have had to neuter him if they'd kept him, which they didn't want to do (breeders don't always think quite like most others on that subject). But he had been a pet up to that point, the dogs all lived in the house. I think breeders simply can't always afford to keep too many non-breeding dogs - its a bit of a catch-22 that if they're doing it properly its not very profitable.

CurlyhairedAssassin Wed 25-Sep-13 19:36:53

Thanks. OP, it sounds like you did all you could to be sure it was from a reputable set up then. I really feel for you.

TakingTheStairs Wed 25-Sep-13 20:24:00

I'm so glad your gsd settled. That's wonderful

But what also runs through my mind too is where do we draw the line in terms of biting. I'm ashamed to say how many times he has nipped and I don't want to wait until he has been freaked out by the baby and bitten or gone the other way and got over attached to the baby and won't let anyone near the baby.

He is already so nervous

TakingTheStairs Wed 25-Sep-13 20:24:45

And thanks Curly

Floralnomad Wed 25-Sep-13 20:45:39

Just as an aside have you had him neutered ,as that would render him useless to the breeder so they are less likely to want to hold you to your contract .

davidtennantsmistress Wed 25-Sep-13 20:48:02

Does he learn from the nipping at all?

Perhaps in these instances depending on the breed finding a farm maybe of more use? Lots of open space to run about on sort of thing?

TakingTheStairs Wed 25-Sep-13 21:09:20

We haven't had him neutered as we have been told it would make his fear aggression worse. But oddly the breeder wanted us to have him neutered, I presume so we didn't breed from him (which we never would have done anyway)

The only thing he seems to have learnt from his nipping is that it is effective at getting what he wants, people away from him. The qualified behaviourist told us that unfortunately negative reinforcement can be stronger than positive (treats, clicker training) which is why it has been so hard to break the habit.

Arudonto Thu 26-Sep-13 02:17:40

I am going to go completely against the grain here and say that I would personally PTS..and I think you are being very very unreasonable to consider rehoming a nervous dog, with a strong attachment to one person, who bites........

Perhaps a professional could take him on and manage his issues..... but yet another change of home and owner is not exactly going to a stressfree experience for the dog. Especially if he is very strongly bonded and protective of you as well.....

But living with an aggressive dog (nips are aggression and he has learned to use this to his advantage...also just because he has not broken skin yet doesn't mean he wont if he is pushed to his limit) is not a nice scenario,not being able to have people over in case the dog freaks out and bites them is not a way to live longterm.

Dogs are not toys and are not disposable in any way shape of form but at the same time having a dog should enhance your life more than they should limit it.....How is having this dog as a pet enhancing you life?Do you think the dog has a happy life when he feels scared enough to be trying to bite this frequently? Both you and the dog sound pretty stressed out to me.

The changes that are coming with a baby in the house are quite likely to increase his anxiety as people coming over to see the baby,new equipment in the house and a whole new range of noises and smells from the baby could be a tipping point for him...and from reading your description it sounds like he might never safe to be trusted to be unmuzzled anywhere near a child who might spark his fear aggression. That would just be irresponsible parenting.If he is fine with a newborn.... how do you think he is going to handle a toddler screaming and babbling around the house and trying to play with him? Do you have the room to segregate him completely from a child areas until the child is is old enough to learn how to interact with the pet and not be bitten?

It sounds like you have done a serious amount of work and have had a lot of professional help....and you still have a an unsafe animal in your house....What sort of environment do you see him thriving in?He needs to be muzzled when out in public in case he bites people...he has had 7 months in a stable home and professional training and advise and has made very little progress.....

If he was mine he would be given everything he enjoys for one last day and then taken to the vets happy as larry not knowing what was going on then go for his final sleep....

_Sits back and awaits flaming_

LeoandBoosmum Thu 26-Sep-13 02:28:32

Do you have the dog insured? I know our insurer (Pet Plan) will pay so much towards behaviour therapy. I know it's very difficult but I don't think the problems are insurmountable with the right help and advice. Please don't get such a young dog with so many other great qualities PTS. I wouldn't send back to the breeder either. If you try to rehome I think it would further compound the dog's problems. The problems need to be addressed. Rehoming is not the answer for a dog that is already insecure. What happens if the next person gives up on him? Please try to keep working with the dog (if you're not insured and you have some funds then you might see incredibly dramatic positive results with a dog behaviourist). I'm not meaning to guilt trip you. You sound like you really love the dog and want the best for him. I hope you can get meaningful help (there is actually a lot of good advice/ forums on the net who might be able to offer much better insights than you'll get here). Your dog sounds so lovely in so many ways. Someone's got to stay the course with him - I hope it can be you.

TakingTheStairs Thu 26-Sep-13 07:21:56

Thank you Arudonto and LeoandBoosmum
You both make very valid points. We (DH and I) don't want to pts if possible as he has good qualities but they are definitely outweighed by the issues. But we also don't want him passed from pillar to post which is why we really want to get him rehomed with someone that should have more success with working with him, a trainer or a behaviourist, who will keep him forever.

TakingTheStairs Thu 26-Sep-13 07:23:36

Leosmum, we have seen a behaviourist already unfortunately

confusedwwyd Thu 26-Sep-13 07:42:05

theres nothing you can do once he leaves you to control whether he gets passed on. i would have thought it would be even more likely especially if he is a rare breed. its not up to your dog walker whether he gets pts or not and the only way you have any say in what happens in the future is to pts. how would you feel if you found out his new owner passed him on to a family with young children? pts isnt always the worst that can happen. obviously its not my dog and you must do as you feel is best but there arent a lot of homes out there for fear aggressive biters.

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Thu 26-Sep-13 08:16:22

TTS it is just so very hard isn't it sad I think I would only consider rehoming him if your dogwalker will keep him, not foster him or someone a behaviourist you trust can guarantee will not 'pass him on'. If your dog walker would keep him (as long as she totally realises what he is like at home), I'd let him go now, if not I'd see how he goes with the baby things arriving, the baby arriving and people coming to the house - if he's getting too anxious then I would probably do the kindest, hardest thing ever, and PTS sad A little while ago someone said something along the lines of 'animals don't think in terms of 'a future' - it is the 'here and now' that matters' so they are living in the moment'. He wouldn't know what was going to happen and he wouldn't be unhappy & anxious anymore and all of the regret for his 'future' would be yours, not his. I hope that makes some sense. I really, really feel for you, it's a truely shitty situation x

TakingTheStairs Thu 26-Sep-13 08:28:33

Thank you confused and chipping. Our dog walker is fabulous but I'm feeling a little railroaded by her into not pts. He is fine with her as he is never in a stressful situation for the couple of hours he is with her per day but she does know what he is like as he stays with her if we are away and for that reason she doesn't even feel she can take him full time as she already has one high maintenance dog and can't give attention all the time to ours.
You're right , Confused, I have no control over his situation after he is gone and I don't want him ending up somewhere where he is passed on again.

After hours and hours of taking with DH last night and this morning, we are going to continue in our search for a behaviourist/trainer/professional to take him on forever. He is not suitable as a family pet. If we can't find that for him, he will be pts. It is harsh but the kindest thing for him.

Lilcamper Thu 26-Sep-13 08:45:50

I really would suggest looking here APBC or here PPG

ender Thu 26-Sep-13 09:01:03

Have you completely ruled out asking a rescue if they can help? You might have to search but there are some fantastic ones where dogs are fostered by really experienced caring people. I've recently adopted a dog that had been badly treated as a tiny puppy, he'd been through 3 owners because he had some issues. He was in a foster home with other dogs, a huge garden, and was having a lovely time. The rescue had done a lot of work with him and I really got to know him before I finally brought him home and he's turned out to be a lovely dog.

JesusInTheCabbageVan Thu 26-Sep-13 09:02:45

Hi OP,

A very brave post, given the way these types of threads can go. I'm not expert and can't offer anything constructive, but wanted to add my voice and say: it's clear you've tried everything you can think of and worked really hard with him, and I think you're doing the right thing.

Yes, things could work out brilliantly with your baby, but I really do think the odds are stacked against you and I think it's a chance in a million. If it doesn't work out - without wanting to sound alarmist, at worst your baby could be in danger even if you are careful with supervision. Our greyhound was the gentlest boy on earth, but was clearly affected when DS was born. He NEVER acted out towards him, but had terrible nightmares for a while. One evening we were sat on the sofa - dog to one side of us, DS in moses basket on the other side of the room. Suddenly our dog ROARED, shot out of bed and across the room. He was asleep and (presumably) woke up in mid-bolt. He just stood there with a WTF? expression which would have been funny if it hadn't been so shocking. If he'd gone for DS, I think he would have got there before we did.

TakingTheStairs Thu 26-Sep-13 09:29:33

Lilcamper those links aren't working on my phone so I'll check them later. Thanks though

ender I don't want him going into rescue and I think with his biting history he wouldn't have much luck

Thank you so much jesus you are so kind. I'm so glad it worked out with your two boys thanks

LeoandBoosmum Thu 26-Sep-13 18:13:37

TTS, one thing I'll just add is that there are dog behaviourists and dog behaviourists! Did this person come recommended? Were they able to show you examples of successes with other dogs? Even dog behaviourists have specialist areas so it is worth ringing a few and being detailed/ asking questions. A good dog behaviourist will be open to you asking questions to find out if they are the most suitable for the job, especially if you explain it's make or break. Your vet may be able to point you in the right direction... Have you spoken to your vet? Where in the country are you (if that's not too personal a question)?

TakingTheStairs Thu 26-Sep-13 22:03:51

Hi LeoandBoosmum. I have spoken to the vet a couple of times , and I'm going to speak to our behaviourist from Company of Animals (vet referred and properly qualified) for more advice
Just waiting for her (the behaviourist) to call me back.

Nothing is being done in a hurry or without a lot of thought and proper qualified advice for our dogs best interests.

TakingTheStairs Thu 26-Sep-13 22:04:17

And I'm in London smile

TakingTheStairs Fri 27-Sep-13 14:17:10

a little update.

I've had advice from our trusted, vet recommended Company of Animals APDT/CFBA behaviourist.
She said that he is one of the worst cases she has ever seen, that he was incredibly nervous and that our chances of re homing him are slim. To try, but if we are honest about his issues, there are very very few people that will take him on.
That we are making the right decision. That we know in our heads it is the correct thing to do, it's our hearts that are making us doubt ourselves.

And that it would be kinder to him, if we can't find a suitable re home, to have him PTS when he is loved and comfortable, rather than risk him being passed from pillar to post and then PTS anyway.

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