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Is there any hope for her?

(12 Posts)
bimandbam Sat 18-Jul-15 11:02:57

Tentively posting for advice for my dsis.

She has 2 dogs. A jrt she bottlefed from birth and a Arlington bull bitch. The jrt is a joy. The big dog not so much.

For background dsis has 4 dcs. 3 older boys and a 3 year old dd. Her dd has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy.

The dogs have always been house dogs. They were both brilliant with all the dcs.

In the last 12 months she has noticed some more worrying behaviour from the big dog who I will call tess. Tess has snapped but not bitten at visitors to their house. Dcs mainly friends of the older boys. As a consequence of this they built a pen in the garden and the dogs were kept in there when visitors were around.

She then snapped at her younger ds. Again didn't bite.

She is aggressive towards strangers when she is on the lead.

A month ago she actually bit my dnephew. He was talking to her through the pen fence and she nipped his hand through the fencing hard enough to break the skin.

My sister thinks her behaviour started changing when her dd started having seizures though the diagnosis of epilepsy came much later.

Dsis has had the dog to various behaviourists and re homing places. Apart from one lady all have said pts. Sister is heartbroken and clinging to the one behaviourists advice who didn't 100% say pts. She said that the dog was aggressive as she is protecting the family unit. She sees herself as the alpha bitch and is guarding them.

The behaviourist went on to say that it might be possible to rehabilitate the dog and gave sister various bits of advice like only refer to her as 'dog', don't allow her on the furniture, only feed her after the family have eaten etc etc. All advice presumably to put the dog in her place.

The dog has been checked by the vet and there are no health issues.

Dsis is left with either pts or try and retrain the dog. She will never 100% trust her and is petrified that a situation will escalate. Meanwhile the dog is spending most of her time in a pen. Its a large outside run but obviously not ideal. The dog is too large for anyone other than sisters dh to handle if something went wrong. She is walked twice a day by her dh before and after work.

Sister won't rehome her as she is worried in case the dog bites someone. She is waiting for the last behaviourists to try and find a specialist who will foster her. But the behaviourist isn't confident she will ever find anyone.

Sister knows that in all likelihood she will have to make a decision to pts. She won't keep them outside during the winter months and knows that it is unfair on both dogs.

Any advice from anyone who has successfully retrained a dog like this? Or any rehoming centres that could possibly help.

tabulahrasa Sat 18-Jul-15 12:28:17

"The behaviourist went on to say that it might be possible to rehabilitate the dog and gave sister various bits of advice like only refer to her as 'dog', don't allow her on the furniture, only feed her after the family have eaten etc etc. All advice presumably to put the dog in her place."

That won't work, dogs just don't work like that...and they don't speak English so the difference between her name and dog is completely a waste of time.

I know you said several behaviourists...but going on the quality of that ones advice...

Are they qualified registered ones?

bimandbam Sat 18-Jul-15 13:33:19

2 were recommended by her vet. Or at least given as reputable ones. Another was recommended by a local animal charity.

I said the same as you with regards to the advice given by the last one. Dsis loves the dog and is willing to try anything but I said that it would be a waste of time to try much of what she said and could possibly place sister in a vulnerable position. But I don't know enough to offer alternative advice.

The dog has shown aggression when faced with strangers but also around her own dcs. So I don't necessarily agree she is protecting her own.

It is heartbreaking for dsis and her dcs as they are aware of what the probable outcome will be.

tabulahrasa Sat 18-Jul-15 13:42:53

If there are multiple opinions that the dog isn't trainable and should be PTS...I'd listen to them.

Some dogs have issues that will never be resolved and if managing them impacts that much on the quality of life of the dog and the safety of the people living with it is jeopardised as well, well a nice pain free death with someone it loves and trusts is absolutely not the worst thing that can happen to a dog.

villainousbroodmare Sat 18-Jul-15 14:47:00

What tabulah just said.

bimandbam Sun 19-Jul-15 06:32:12

I do agree that pts seems to be the most obvious solution. And I know that it would possibly be the kindest thing for the dog.

Does anyone have any experience of a dogs behaviour changing around epilepsy? At the back of my sisters mind she wants someone to link the two and maybe suggest a home without an epileptic in it could be the solution.

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 19-Jul-15 08:20:18

Well, yes there is evidence that dogs are sensitive to epilepsy that is why seizure alert dogs work, but this dog clearly sees the seizures as a threat to the family that is the very tricky thing.

tabulahrasa Sun 19-Jul-15 13:55:19

Yes some dogs know when seizures are about to happen and it can stress them out...but unless every incident corresponds with a seizure I think she's clutching at straws tbh.

I have a dog with pretty big issues, he's not safe to be around strangers, other people's children or dogs. It's really hard to come to terms with the fact that your beloved pet isn't the nice family pet it should be, especially when you've done nothing wrong and it comes completely out of the blue...

Mine more than likely will never be ok and where I will have to draw a line is if I can either no longer manage him without him having poor quality of life or if my family were at risk of being targeted for his behaviour. At either of those points he will be PTS, it'll be hard, but it's ultimately better for him than passing the issue on to people he doesn't know.

Your sister's dog does not have a good quality of life and her family isn't safe from the dog...I honestly think that trying to rehome her (if a home could even be found) is just delaying the inevitable and would be worse for everyone involved than doing it themselves.

bimandbam Sun 19-Jul-15 18:57:50

Thank you Tabularahsa. I was prepared to defend my sister for considering the pts option and half expected a flaming on here.

I 100% feel that the best option is pts. I have been sensitive of sisters feelings so far but think a pretty brutal chat is in order.

SunshineAndShadows Sun 19-Jul-15 19:10:41

A vet and behaviourist here. first of all. Most vets and shelters know little about behaviour and will refer clients on to the local 'behaviourist' with no real understanding of whether they're qualified or not. The information you've given in your OP indicates that at leats one of the 'behaviourists' is not properly qualified as she is giving advice that is 20-30 years out of date.

The APBC is the registered governing body of qualified behaviourists in the UK. You can find a qualifed behaviourist here www.apbc.org.uk/help/regions or see if any of the ones your sister has used are registered. If any of them are then I would take their advice seriously. If not, I would seek advice from a registered behaviourist.

Your sister's dog is clearly showing very worrying behaviour, however its also intersting that the dog is 'snapping' rather than biting and thus showing restraint in her aggression - this means that she is feeling forced to show her distress through aggression rather than actively wanting to be aggressive. I suspect that if she really wanted to injure someone she would have done so by now.

I also wonder how respectful the children are of the dog's warning signs/stress behaviours (see info.drsophiayin.com/free-poster-on-body-language-in-dogs/ ) The child poking their fingers through the wire at the dog raises some questions for me. Why are they doing that? Its there an element of taunting/teasing even good natured interaction that may be winding the dog up?
drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/kids-and-dogs-how-kids-should-and-should-not-interact-with-dogs

Its difficult to advise without seeing the full picture but your OP raises some interesting questions and I'd suggest getting a registered behaviourist to see the dog for constructive advice

SunshineAndShadows Sun 19-Jul-15 19:16:28

Just to add, that it may be that PTS is the only option and this may be a responsible choice, she shouldn't feel bad. Certainly rehoming an aggressive bull breed is not recommended, and Arlington bull terriers aren't a recognised breed in the UK AFAIK so she needs to be very cautious under the DDA, and aware that teh bitch may have questionable breeding/early life experiences which could impact her behaviour

bimandbam Tue 21-Jul-15 08:08:11

Ty for your replies Sunshine.

She bought the bitch as an 8 week old pup. I don't know where from. AFAIK the nephew who was bitten was stood at the fence and she nipped his hand/wrist as he was talking to her. I wasn't there so can't say what his behaviour was like. He is 2 though so not much more than a baby really.

From what I have seen the older dcs are very good with her. I think if ds just had olders dcs it would be a more manageable situation but with the little one with epilepsy its made much more difficult.

I agree that the last behaviourist is out of date with her advice. And have told dsis this.

Her own vet has tild her that some digs are more vocal than others and where one dog might get up and move away from a situation she doesn't like another will growl or maybe snap to say 'stop please' which I kind of see. And it doesn't necessarily mean that the dog will bite anymore than the one who moves itself. And the nephew who was bitten was invading her space and should not have been allowed to stabd at the fence.

If she does feel overprotective of the family then it must have been distressing for her in that situation.

But my biggest concern is if she is present when a seizure happens and how she reacts and how she might react to a perceived 'risk' to the family such as rowdy play fighting between the older boys or their friends.

It's a sad situation. The dog was impeccably behaved until last year when the seizures started and I do think that the stress of these has maybe exacerbated any potential for aggression that may have been present. I will look at your link and see if there is a behaviourist on there sister will consider. She is desperate to not have her pts but rightly so is very reluctant to rehome unless to someone who is capable and can guarantee that she will be pts if nothing can be done.

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