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Rescue dog from overseas- any good experiences- really worried

(32 Posts)
wheresmymouseorgan Wed 15-Jan-20 12:04:18

Hi. We adopted a dog from a local UK rescue centre about 6 weeks ago. we were told that he was from Bosnia and would need some training re walking on the lead etc but assured that he had a great temperament and would make a good family pet (which certainly seemed to be the case when we met him several times at the centre). He is 3 years old approx.
We are making progress with getting him to walk without pulling on the lead, sitting when told etc. However, he barks and lunges at some people (mainly men) and dogs. We have managed to carefully introduce him to some visitors (women) by meeting the outside the home first but when we have tried the same with a male friend he barked a lot and seemed very aggressive. I am currently choosing walks/times carefully to avoid people and ensure I can keep a distance if we do encounter any men. Interestingly, if we are somewhere busier he does seem to be more accepting of people but from what I have read this is probably just because he has shut down with all the possible triggers around.
I am in the process of training him to accept a muzzle but due to his unpredictability I dare not have visitors round and I am worried when we are on walks. I am looking for a 1:1 dog trainer and have spoken to one who seems quite worried by what I have described and I have to say so am I.
Has anyone got any experiences of turning around behaviour like this with a rescue dog? I am starting to think that I need to decide whether I am prepared to put up with this behaviour for the rest of his life or return him to the rescue centre. I really don't think I have the mental strength to accept that for the next 10 years or so I cannot have friends over without worrying and to have to walk him at 5am or in empty fields every day. But I know that my children will be devastated if I send him back and I will feel incredibly guilty for failing him.
Any thoughts or advice? I really think I need to make a decision sooner rather than later to avoid everyone getting more attached and making things even harder.

OP’s posts: |
StuckBetweenDarknessAndLight Wed 15-Jan-20 12:12:16

OP, you will get flamed on here for having an overseas dog so be prepared.
Aside from that, I have two and you need a behaviourist rather than a trainer. Preferably someone with experience with rescue dogs from overseas, they do have their particular issues.
I had lots of problems with mine, bless her, it's been a long hard road. There are lots of FB groups that can support you. PM me if you want details.

StuckBetweenDarknessAndLight Wed 15-Jan-20 12:13:16

Reactive Dogs (UK) on FB is really good btw. Come and join us Ninjas!

carly2803 Wed 15-Jan-20 12:20:45

Im a bit harsh, i do not have the energy for reactive dogs anymore, been there done it got the t-shirt.

I would rehome him back to the charity - and let them find another home for him

then get a dog from the UK, where you know the history - breed specific rescues.

CMOTDibbler Wed 15-Jan-20 12:28:29

He sounds like he is very reactive, probably out of fear. I have heard that a lot of these dogs from overseas do really struggle with this, and they are very different in kennels to when they are in a home as they are so shut down in kennels.
The rescue I am involved with took on a couple of Romanian dogs last year (really not a normal thing for them) and I know they needed a huge amount of work with very experienced fosterers to get them to a rehomable point and even now they face a lot of challenges. Managing a fear reactive dog is a long haul, and personally I would really consider whether you can do this, as it will really restrict your life and what you can do

GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Wed 15-Jan-20 12:29:21

If you have to give the dog up for your own well-being, you have no need to feel guilty. You tried, which was better than not trying at all. Besides, you were not expecting these issues, or not to this extent: this was not what you signed up for.

Get an assessment by a good behaviourist asap and go from there.

Wilmalovescake Wed 15-Jan-20 12:31:15

A dog trainer who is “worried” by dog reactivity isn’t going to last long in the industry!!

Try someone else. It’s perfectly overcomeable but you won’t know if you don’t try.

GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Wed 15-Jan-20 12:33:19

PS and yes, I agree with CMOT, reactive dogs are restrictive to own. I'd add that they're exhausting.

Herpesfreesince03 Wed 15-Jan-20 12:45:49

I’d try and give him back to the rescue. I have family that own rescue centres in Spain, and even there they have very different ideas to us how to match dogs with families. For example in the uk it’s very hard to find a rescue dog that’s suitable to homed with young children, yet abroad most rescues will rehome almost any dog with any child. Their priority is to get the dog out of the kennels ASAP and shipped out into a home, and they’ll tell you whatever they think you want to hear to offload it.

wheresmymouseorgan Wed 15-Jan-20 13:25:37

Thanks everyone. I think you're telling me what I feared really- we either need to be prepared for a long, restricting path to managing his reactivity or send him back to the rescue centre.

The trainer I spoke to did not say she was 'worried' in so many words but did keep emphasising the need to protect others from him and the legal consequences if he bit someone if they came too near which I read as her thinking it was a worry.

I'm afraid my husband and children seem to think that a trainer/behaviourist will be able to tell us how to 'fix' him and it sounds to me like that's not going to be possible. The big problem with this is that I am the one home most of the time to deal with him (including what the hell I can do with him if we need workmen in the house etc) so I have to decide whether to devote the next 10 years or so to working around him or be the bad guy who sends him away. Having recently taken a significant pay cut to get work that allows me more time to enjoy a bit of time with my children and to have a social life etc I'm not sure I am prepared to tie myself down again to being default 24/7 carer for a reactive dog. I know whatever decision I make this is not going to be easy

OP’s posts: |
DogInATent Wed 15-Jan-20 13:45:47

You've found one of the risks that's repeatedly warned about whenever overseas rescues are mentioned here.

- the dog isn't what you'd been lead to expect. Dogs can change between the shelter and your home, but there are also a variety of tricks a rescue shelter can use to make a dog appear calmer when you meet it.
- there's no support from the rescue organisation and you're being left to resolve it yourself.

Return the dog. Any responsible rescue organisation will accept that placements do not always work out.

Please name the rescue organisation/shelter. Unless these stories are made more widely known more people and more dogs will fall into these situations. It's not good for the people and it's not good for the dogs.

PracticallyFamous Wed 15-Jan-20 14:03:12

You don't 'fix' a reactive dog, you just learn how to manage his triggers better. It's a long haul, requires you to be constantly vigilant (one thoughtless owner letting their off-lead dog barrel into yours can set you back months) and it's emotionally exhausting. I don't think I could do it again TBH, much as I loved our old fear-aggressive chap. Mind you, we did make improvements with him using counter-conditioning, and his later years were much happier than the first couple we had him.

I really feel for you OP - it's a hard thing to sign up to, but the poor dog can't help it either. If the shelter takes him back, do you think they'll be honest about his needs to any future prospective owners?

wheresmymouseorgan Wed 15-Jan-20 14:33:27

@PracticallyFamous- that's one of my concerns too, what will happen to him if we take him back. They are a small local centre and clearly care of the dogs (I can't see why else they would be involved). However, I don't feel that we were prepared in any way for what we might face. They also rehome UK dogs and we went to ask for their advice on a suitable dog for us- we did not set out to adopt from overseas and so were very naiive about this (once we met him he seemed exactly right for us and seemed happy around all people and animals so we did not consider the possibility of behaviour problems as he settled in). They have said that they will take him back if that's what we want but I feel like a terrible person for thinking that this is probably the only option for us.

OP’s posts: |
GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Wed 15-Jan-20 17:09:22

If they did not adequately prepare you for how the dog might be, they're the terrible people, not you.

IME rescues vary massively. I've heard of dogs from abroad slotting brilliantly into a new home after being fostered and assessed. I've also heard various local horror stories: a couple being guilted into taking two tricky dogs not the one they went to collect, an overseas rescue who is seriously reactive to other dogs...

Posters on this board (me included) put a lot of effort into warning people away from puppy farms. We should do the same with dodgy rescues, including those that mean well, but end up placing dogs in inappropriate homes and causing people stress, guilt and misery.

StuckBetweenDarknessAndLight Wed 15-Jan-20 17:41:20

Will the rescue take him back OP? Mine said you could only rehome through them but then made it impossible as their priority was rehoming dogs that weren't already homed. As with Practically, I love my girl absolutely but it's taken 4 years to get her where she is now. It's hard work and requires a lot of commitment.

somm Wed 15-Jan-20 22:16:32

Having adopted a fear 'reactive' dog in this country 10 months ago I'd like to point out that there's a difference between fear reactive and fear reactive aggression. My dog is a large boy who is terrified of absolutely everything, because he spent eight years only living in greyhound racing kennels. He didn't know an empty carrier bag could, in the wind, take off out of nowhere but wouldn't actually kill him. He didn't know an unknown noise didn't need him to dive into the nearest underground bunker. However, in the time we've had him he's never once barked, let alone growled (at the most he occasionally squeaks and obviously he's very much teased :-)) Even though he's scared of so many things I couldn't imagine he'd ever attack a fellow dog, let alone a human. But, for others' peace of mind not ours, as a large greyhound he's walked in a muzzle and as a racer he'd have been used to being muzzled.

We did, several years ago, adopt a whippet/greyhound who was fear related aggressive, although only with other dogs he came across not humans. His aggression amounted to leaping on the end of the lead and barking a lot. He'd never have chosen to physically attack another dog (due to fear of being attacked himself), but fear can result in dangerous behaviour. It didn't with him, but he was walked on a 'Halti' head collar - much easier for control than a normal lead and collar. Of course, if you're worried about your dog attacking inside your home that's a whole different ballgame. However much you love the dog you have people's safety to think about. I understand that.

As far as adopting from abroad is concerned, I'm sure there are many trustworthy rescue organisations that wouldn't dream of misleading people into believing adopting a particular dog is safe when it isn't. We're now on our third adoptee from the same rescue place in the UK and I trust them enough to know they wouldn't dream of allowing a dog to go to a new home if the dog wasn't to be trusted. But there's probably other rehoming places here that wouldn't be as scrupulous.

Branleuse Wed 15-Jan-20 22:22:00

This isnt an issue specific to overseas dogs. This can happen with a dog thats been traumatised. It looks like hes probably been beaten or tormented by men. Im not sure how you can turn that round tbh.

Ive got a spanish dog and I know quite a few people with foreign rescues and none of them are aggressive, so i think you've been very unlucky. Well done for trying though. Maybe this poor thing is just not suitable for home life

Motorina Thu 16-Jan-20 08:55:16

I would return him without a doubt. Dog ownership can enrich your life - my two are an absolute joy - or can take over it. When I had a badly socialised reactive dog every walk and every knock on the door was a worry. It’s hard work which takes time, and no way would I take it on unless I had to.

Motorina Thu 16-Jan-20 08:57:29

(I’d add that unless your small local rescue is taking dogs directly from overseas, he likely ended up there after his initial adoption into the UK broke down. This is not in common. None of this is his fault, poor chap, but neither is it yours.)

Purplecatshopaholic Thu 16-Jan-20 09:03:34

I have a rescue dog from Spain. When I first got him he was very similar to yours by the sounds of it. He was scared basically. Lots of socialising, lots of patience and some work with a behaviourist and he is the most wonderful family pet. Great with people and other dogs now as he has learned to trust (god knows what he went through in his early life). I hope you stick with it op, sending him back would be so sad if you can give him the time he needs. Good luck

Oliversmumsarmy Thu 16-Jan-20 09:18:06

When we had ddog we met a lady with a pure bred UK born dog who was reactive to everything and men.

In the end dog got prescribed Valium and was definitely more chilled.

Trainers and behaviourists could only go so far.
Pills did the rest

OnTheEdgeOfTheNight Thu 16-Jan-20 09:37:04

I think an honest conversation with your family is needed. Whatever happened to your dog in the past cannot be undone. The dog will not be "fixed". You will always have a dog who needs to be carefully managed. This will affect your day to day life. You all wish it wasn't so, but this is the situation you are in.

How old are your children? What do you think will happen when their friends are hulking teenagers who want to visit? They may cry over wanting the dog now, but that doesn't mean much. Will you trust your children to exercise the dog without you? Was that something you and they (naturally) expected?

How much effort is your husband putting in? How much will he commit to?

Whoever is putting in the most effort gets to make the decision. Six weeks is long enough to know if this dog is a good fit for your family. The longer you keep him, the harder it'll be to rehome him. Perhaps you could set a timescale e.g. if I can find a suitable behaviourist locally within x days, we'll try their methods for x weeks. Ultimately though the dog will always have triggers which need to be managed. If you don't want to do this then that's fine, just be honest with yourself. Must dogs usually end up the responsibility of one parent. If you think that's going to be you then it's you who will be most affected.

PracticallyFamous Thu 16-Jan-20 09:41:39

This isnt an issue specific to overseas dogs.

Absolutely - our fear reactive dog was UK born and bred. It's down to a failure in socialisation during the receptive window as a puppy or a reaction to a bad experience, regardless of location.

Beamur Thu 16-Jan-20 09:49:36

I know several people with dogs from Spanish rescues and the dogs are fine. Some took a little while to settle but no real problems.
I don't know much about them but I think the dogs coming from Eastern Europe have often had a difficult start. Personally I wouldn't take a dog that had been from the streets.
I've had two dogs in succession from rescues, one with poor recall and my current dog who is a sweet old girl but afraid of everything. I would be very reluctant to take on another rescue of pretty much any kind in a hurry. Both of my dogs have been loved and part of our family but I am very tired of how restricting it has been.
In your shoes I would think very hard about keeping this dog. I know how guilty you must be feeling at the prospect of giving it up though.

TheVanguardSix Thu 16-Jan-20 09:51:17

You have to watch your own mental health here, OP.
A dog is hard work.
An aggressive rescue dog from Bosnia is harder work. It will be ALL on you. This won't be a pet but a 'patient' in a way, whose mental health has been damaged by long-term trauma. You will not just be training the dog but trying to unravel its damage and who knows how that damage will manifest itself. This could really give YOU anxiety and depression. Do you need this?
Your trainer kind of said it all, really.
Our rescue dog growing up attacked and killed our neighbour's cats. My parents went to court and our dog had to be put down. It was awful, mostly for our neighbours though who lost innocent pets to our aggressive one. The attack was violent and bloody. I saw the photos. We lost respect in our community and we never got a dog after that (having come from a household of dogs, this was a deep cut for my family).

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