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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?

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Fri 27-Sep-13 14:20:35


TheTruffleHunter Fri 27-Sep-13 14:38:56

Oh Stairs I really feel for you.

I have a rescue GSD cross who is also completely attached to me to the extent that he will not go for a walk or be fed by my DH, and I really think that it would be kinder to him to pts (horrible thought!) rather than rehome so I absolutely get where you're coming from. Fortunately he is great with my 6 month DD.

Don't Dogs Trust have a place in N.I. where the un-rehomable dogs go where they can be looked after by specialist handlers? Might be worth a call if you would be prepared to fund his place?

TakingTheStairs Fri 27-Sep-13 15:37:19

Thank you.
I appreciate the thought Truffle, but I'm not sending him to a rescue centre where he will be confused and upset and wondering where DH and I are and make his issues even worse. They may have specialist handlers but it's not a home sad

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Fri 27-Sep-13 16:00:55

I think the best thing you can do now is just love him and spoil him rotten. You have done and are doing everything you can. This isn't your fault, you didn't make him this nervous , and don't let anyone make you feel bad. I don't think anyone can disagree that you have done so much to help him and I hope one day karma gets those who are responsible for this.

I will keep hoping for a miracle for you all, but I do agree that PTS may well be the best option if this miracle home can't be found. X

TakingTheStairs Fri 27-Sep-13 16:05:39

Thanks so much wheresmycaffeinedrip thanks

I can't wait to get home and spoil him with cuddles and kisses.
I get so wound up when I think about the people that made such a lovely dog this insecure and defensive.

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Fri 27-Sep-13 16:10:14

Whatever happens now jut be thankful you found each other. It may have been a difficult road with no happy ending but without you he never would have known what a loving home was. You gave him something no one else did an something every pet deserves but sadly many never experience. You made a difference to him. And im sure he would tell you that if he could. X

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Fri 27-Sep-13 16:11:46

Whatever happens now jut be thankful you found each other. It may have been a difficult road with no happy ending but without you he never would have known what a loving home was. You gave him something no one else did an something every pet deserves but sadly many never experience. You made a difference to him. And im sure he would tell you that if he could. X

TakingTheStairs Fri 27-Sep-13 16:16:22

Thank you so so much. That is such a lovely thing to say

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Fri 27-Sep-13 16:28:41


Booboostoo Fri 27-Sep-13 17:13:20

I've had to put an aggressive horse to sleep after 4.5 years of trying every vet, behaviourist and trainer around and getting the same answer: too dangerous to handle and ride. It's a horrific situation to be in and it takes guts to PTS an otherwise healthy animal but you have to be strong and do what is best for him. Because at the end of day, hard as it is, it is best for him to be PTS rather than go through the upheaval of another rehoming, the possibility of an unsuitable home, the disaster of a further rehoming and so on, always with the possibility that he will bite someone more seriously. The worst bit is making the decision and carrying it, afterwards you have the happy memories and the knowledge that you did the right thing by your pet.

idirdog Fri 27-Sep-13 17:23:39

There is a huge difference between training for 4.5 years and just a few months as in this case. Everything has not been done, she has only had the dog a few months, but very similar to another thread, has now got other things going on in her life and the dog is too much effort to keep working on.

The threads do not add up. " Our cleaner says he is lovely with her when I'm not there," then why can he not be rehomed - if he is better without you.

" If anyone comes over we have to have them basically sit down and not move for fear of him freaking and biting." - just put him in a room away from your visitors

How do you know there is no home for him - I have rehomed 8 "aggressive" dogs (they have never bitten me or anyone since I have had them). I knew they were aggressive and was quite happy to take them - i am not the only one who does this.

Your mind was made up from the start of this thread - so then just do. It does my head in when people post but have no intention of changing their mind but just need people to tell them it is ok.

Booboostoo Fri 27-Sep-13 17:42:37

I understand what you say idirdog and I feel your frustration in general. In this case I was going by the OP's claim that the behaviourist felt this was one of the worst cases he/she had seen. That is a pretty damning conclusion. I suspect that many of the cases behaviourists see can be helped with the right training so for a professional to make such an extreme claim must be rare and has to be taken seriously.

Floralnomad Fri 27-Sep-13 17:49:20

OP can I just ask ,had you not had the incident with the dog in the park would you still be going along this path or did that influence this decision?

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Fri 27-Sep-13 17:52:00

Years in isolation wearing a muzzle is not exactly a life is it though idirdog do you really think that if there was any real hope that the vets and specialists wouldn't be thinking the sane thing.

TakingTheStairs Fri 27-Sep-13 17:57:41

I'm not saying he can't be rehomed. I'm going to do my best with as much as help as possible to find another home. But I am saying that with all his issues it is going to be very hard to find a home for him.

If you are willing to try and help me find a suitable home for my fear aggressive, guarding, herding, biting, insecure, scared of men, over attached (hence why he freaks when I'm there) scared of eye contact dog then please do

But idirdog you decided from the beginning that I wasn't being responsible enough. You accused me of doing no research and of not using a properly qualified behaviourist. Both accusations were untrue.
And as I said above, the behaviourist said (today, after a long talk) that in his case I was doing the right thing
You don't know my dog. You don't know his issues. You have decided I'm not doing enough when I have tried my hardest for him.
I'm glad you're so perfect. It must be very reassuring for you.

TakingTheStairs Fri 27-Sep-13 17:59:51

floral, that had no bearing what so ever. That was 100% not his fault. I don't count that towards his issues at all. He was attacked, and he tried to get away himself

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Fri 27-Sep-13 18:00:06

And yes it has only been a few months but trauma can affect animals that way. As it can in people. Lives can be changed forever in a split second and they never ever recover. If a dog can't be a dog, run play enjoy company and affection, then what life will that animal have. Keeping animals alive just so you can pat yourselves on the back for a job well done is not always what's best for an animal.

Wheresmycaffeinedrip Fri 27-Sep-13 18:01:54

That was to idirdog not you stairs x

TakingTheStairs Fri 27-Sep-13 18:09:54

I thought so caffeine but thanks for clarifying.

idirdog Fri 27-Sep-13 18:11:56

But it need not be years of isolation in a muzzle. One of the dogs I now own was tied with a metal chain 24/7 because it was thought to be too aggressive to ever go out. It had seen so called behaviourists, however in different hands with someone who had time and knowledge the dog has shown no aggression at all. He regularly competes at agility and is happy amongst people and dogs.

I do have one dog that is very very nervous and fear aggressive. He is fine on our land but he is not taken out and about but he has a fantastic life - loads of training, tracking and working trials but all done without anyone else about smile

I could go on and bore you with the histories of the other dogs but my point is that there are people out there who are willing to help BUT it will take time to find them.

The OP can not cope - fine - but I do feel that the dog does stand a chance with someone else even if it is difficult for the OP to find them.

I guess I am being hard on the OP (for that I apologise) but so often dog behaviour comes to a head when other things in life get in the way.....and that is not the dogs fault and I feel that some owners just need to face up to their responsibilities.

In 20 years of working with dogs I only once seen an aggressive dog that needed to be PTS and that was due to a brain tumour. Yes it took time to work things out but there are nearly always solutions that are better for the dog than PTS.

However if an owner feels that is the way forward for them - then do it but don't ask for public approval, it is the owners lot to live with their decision.

idirdog Fri 27-Sep-13 18:12:59

TakingtheStairs I have already rehomed two MN dogs - this is your responsibility but I will pm you some contacts.

idirdog Fri 27-Sep-13 18:14:51

Takingthestairs You are right we do not know your dog so why ask on here for opinions? That is exactly my point..... you post people give advice and unless we agree with you we do not understand the situation but if people agree with you they do.

Be honest with yourself over this decision

TakingTheStairs Fri 27-Sep-13 18:19:40

You're right. It is my responsibility. But thank you in advance for the contacts. Any help is most gratefully received.

QuietTiger Fri 27-Sep-13 18:25:47

OP, I am not going to comment on the rights or wrongs of PTS for your dog, I am only going to tell you our story.

DH & I are very experienced collie owners. We work our dogs, as well as have several pet collies with "issues" (one has nervous aggression). Because I am experienced with collies, I was asked to take a "failed farm dog" by a friend of mine, who had been living on the end of a chain in a kennel for 7 years. She didn't want to PTS, but couldn't cope with taking him on herself.

He had serious issues, one of which was that he'd break out and disappear. He was also food aggressive and whilst most of the time he was OK playing with other dogs, he'd occasionally snap and become dog aggressive. He was frightened of strangers, had issues with cars, was herdy, would nip, and was desperately insecure with severe separation anxiety. We discussed many times the PTS option and many times tried "something else".

We had him 6 months. We tried many things, including using a qualified behaviourist, following her advice once it was given, and trying to implement the changes recommended. One day, he turned on one of our other dogs for no reason other than he was looked at wrong. One minute he was calm and lying down, the next minute he was trying to rip our dogs throat out. He then attacked and bit DH, because DH stupidly tried to break the fight up.

Our vet was present and saw the incident when it happened. She was on the farm seeing some of our cattle at the time and was talking to DH next to the dogs.

The vet, at our request, euthanaised him there and then. Not because it was "revenge" for him biting or "he was a dangerous dog", but because he had so many issues he couldn't cope with life. I could have very easily passed him on to a specialist collie rescue, because I work with one, but all that would have happened is that they would have been handed a completely un-rehomable dog and he'd have languished there in a kennel permanently.

I was not happy that we made the decision to kill him. I use the word deliberately, because that is what we did. But I also strongly feel that I did my best by him. We took responsibility for his life. He wasn't passed from pillar to post and home to home because we couldn't cope, but couldn't bear to make a tough choice, he wasn't abused, he wasn't confused because he'd been dumped and abandoned, he was relaxed and calm and was held and cuddled by my DH as our vet stuck a needle in his leg, and in familiar surroundings while he died.

I can't tell you what to do. I can only tell you that you took on your dog and you owe it to him to take responsibility. Regardless of what that is. No doubt there are many people who would flame me mercilessly because I elected to put a "healthy" dog to sleep. But I also don't worry about where he is or what has happened to him because I passed him on.

ender Fri 27-Sep-13 18:37:18

idirdog has said what I wanted to say, but put it much better than I could have. I was worried about causing offence to OP who's already upset but this is a dog's life at stake.
You said you've ruled out rescue because you don't want dog to be upset, but he might be fine.
Couldn't you at least have a look at some rescues? What have you got to lose? If you find one that looks OK see how the dogs seem, talk to the people that work there, you might be surprised. I know I was when I visited the one I got my dog from. The foster carers had other dogs , some were there because of biting, fear aggression etc with previous owners and were in process of re-training. They were all running about playing happily together.
It may take time to find the right place but surely its worth a try?

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