Thinking about returning an adopted dog--guilt! shame! I suck!
October 9, 2008 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Returning an adopted rescue dog when the adoption just doesn't "take." Happened to anyone? How to handle? (Lengthy angsting and soul-searching within...)

So, a week ago I brought into my home a retired racing greyhound who is, truly, a wonderful dog in most respects, sweet and lovely and loving. However -- although I had done a lot of reading and research, and had thought about what was involved in this step, I guess I hadn't been, I dunno, honest enough with myself, or thought deeply enough, or something. See, I've never had a dog before, and even though I knew intellectually the intensity and constancy of the commitment required, I didn't realize that after a week of it I'd be feeling as overwhelmed and trapped as I am now.

An exacerbating feature is that the dog in question suffers from moderately severe separation anxiety. I live alone, I work full-time, and when I go to work she howls, loudly, all day long (according to my long-suffering neighbor). I'm a renter, and this can only go on so long before the landlords are going to step in with ultimatums. She's also destroyed stuff around the house (some mine, some apartment fixtures that I'll need to replace). I've done the things recommended in such cases--alone training, Kongs, radio, crate, DAP diffuser, homeopathic remedies, etc. etc. etc.-- without any improvement thus far.

And really, I wouldn't be fazed by the separation anxiety so much, knowing that in almost all cases it abates with time, if it weren't for the fact that ... well, I can feel myself loving her less, rather than more, with every passing day. Feeling more and more ground down by the constant worry, when I'm at work, about how soon I'm going to get the ultimatum from my landlord, or about whether today's the day she freaks out completely and decides to shred the sofa. Feeling like ALL my free time, such as it is, is now committed to this dog, for the next ten years or so.

And I know, I should have understood this going in, I made a commitment and now I should honor it. There's a reason this is posted anonymously, and that's because the moral judgment made of someone who decides to return an adopted dog for rehoming--who isn't willing to go all the way to the bitter end to do everything within human power to make it work--is often harsh, in dog-adoption circles. I've found myself fantasizing the most elaborate and insane scenarios to present to the adoption rep of the group from which I got the dog, about my sudden-onset terminal illness, or my sudden need to relocate under the witness protection program, or *something* that would provide a rationale of some sort for backing out of a situation that's starting to feel like -- just like a really wrong, wrong choice.

So...anyone else been in this situation? Help?
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (44 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried taking her to doggie day-care? It doesn't seem like a week is enough time for her (or you) to get adjusted. I'd try the doggie day-care avenue during the day for a while and see if that doesn't alleviate some of the tension before taking her back.

That said, if you are set on taking her back, just be honest with the rescue people. Trust me, they've heard it before.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:50 PM on October 9, 2008

I can't recommend crating your dog enough. Once she is used to it, it will be her safe place to hang out while you're not there, and she'll feel safe in it and not be out among your stuff chewing it up. Feed her in it, keep her in it at night, make it her place. Also, you can try things like stuffing a Kong with peanut butter or getting one of the puzzle cubes that they have to work at to get a piece of kibble from to keep her occupied and less likely to howl and shred.

That being said, I did have to give up a dog once because there was something in my house that she was highly allergic to. Thousands of dollars and many middle of the night emergency vet trips later, we realized that staying with us was not in the dog's best interests. I still feel guilty, and it was 12 years ago.
posted by Addlepated at 7:55 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

You know, it sucks and I hate to say this, but starting out with a higher needs dog was maybe a poor choice. I would try to stick it out just a wee bit longer, try a few more things (like doggie daycare and possibly a trainer), and then talk to the rescue people. They have heard it before, as youcancallmeal says, but ultimately, I know that they'd rather re-home the dog than have you give it to someone who can't handle it or take it to the pound.
posted by alpha_betty at 7:57 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

This doesn't answer the "how do I give her up" question but may help for the time until a decision is made. She needs a crate which will make her feel more secure. The reason she has separation anxiety is that being a racing dog she was never alone, always with other dogs. A crate will make you both feel better. She will feel more secure, and you will know she is safe and not tearing up your apt. Take her to a dog park, she shouldn't be dog aggressive in fact she will probably be happy to run off some energy and hang out with other dogs. I know you said you have tried the crate thing, sometimes it takes time for them to adjust. Your vet may suggest benadryl, 1mg per pound is safe for dogs. Your vet may also try a mild sedative until she settles into a routine. Her world has changed as much as yours.

If you do take her back, be honest with them, they need to know about her anxiety so they can place her in an appropriate home. There is no shame in admitting you may have bitten off more than you can chew. Being a dog lover you can always volunteer to help with a rescue group socializing the future adoptees.
posted by meeshell at 7:58 PM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

A retired greyhound seems kind of like an advanced level for a first-time dog owner. You should call the rescue people. As they probably have dealt with this before, they might be able to give you some excellent guidance, you don't even have to mention giving the dog back. But if you do feel like you can't handle it, just chalk it up to experience and move on. That is what's in your dog's best interest as well as your own.
posted by amethysts at 7:58 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Go there and you can read up on the needs, and the tricks for dealing with, sighthounds like yours. The seperation anxiety can be dealt with, with some tricks as simple as putting a sweater on her. It's a common thing among many types of sighthounds.

I would recommend, you take a deep breath, and rethink everything. You might be just second guessing a good thing... or, yes, you might have taken on more than you initially wanted.

And if you need to help find a suitable home for the dog, that site may help you in that regard as well.

My personal opinion though is that standard greyhounds are some of the sweetest and best dogs out there, once you get the initial kinks worked out of your relationship with them :) Me and my wife though, did end up with the smaller Italian versions... which have alot of similar qualities, but amp up the energy +10!
posted by mr.anthony337 at 8:10 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you've tried crating, and are still worried about her eating your sofa, you're doing it wrong.

You've got a big list of things you've "tried," but in only a week, you can't have given any one of them enough of a chance. Really try crating and lots of exercise. Give it (and her a real chance), but if you truly can't work it out, take her back to rescue and be honest. If it's really a bad match, that's their responsibility too.
posted by sageleaf at 8:10 PM on October 9, 2008

Please don't give up on her so quickly. Try all of the suggestions above. Man, even try getting another dog for her to hang out with!
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:12 PM on October 9, 2008

'... some apartment fixtures that I'll need to replace.'

Errr... without being harsh and judgemental, you bought a greyhound to keep in your apartment?! As I'm sue you can see in hindsight, that was pretty dumb, wasn't it?

Now, that aside: you've got a dog that wants to run around, but can't. It would have been used to being in close contact with other dogs, now you keep it alone all day. And you say you've tried 'alone training, Kongs, radio, crate, DAP diffuser, homeopathic remedies, etc. etc. etc.', but you also say you've only had it for a week.

You've really underestimated the effort, time, and commitment it takes to keep a dog, haven't you? Time to take it back and stop worrying what they'll think of you. Suck up your feelings of embarassment, if only for the sake of the dog's sanity and happiness.
posted by Pinback at 8:12 PM on October 9, 2008

Oh right, apartment. Scratch previous answer.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:15 PM on October 9, 2008

Also, I'm curious to know where you adopted an american greyhound from as a first time dog owner. Usually they're quite a bit pickier about who they home them out to. No offense to you, it's just not a situation most rescues and shelters allow to happen too often. Can I ask which specific rescue you dealt with?

If you'd like some direct advice on specific issues, check out the forum in my above comment, or feel free to shoot me an email directly. I won't hold your situation and thoughts about how to deal with it against you :) I'm a long time cat person, turned dog person (reluctantly), and now wouldn't have it any other way. But I went through PLENTY of frustrations that you probably have along the way, being my boys are a similar type. To list a few ... very difficult potty training, seperation anxiety issues, and one of our boys is deaf as well!
posted by mr.anthony337 at 8:15 PM on October 9, 2008

On the apartment issue, before anyone tweaks out on you too bad ... Greyhounds and other runners don't *NEED* to constantly be running around large areas. It's great excercise and there's probably a park or two that will give you an off-leash area to let them get up to speed in, but an apartment is NOT necessarily a bad place for them. We have runners as well like I said, and are in a downtown apartment in southern california, and we have NO problem with it, and letting our boys get PLENTY of excercise and socializing outside at local dog parks.
posted by mr.anthony337 at 8:19 PM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

Is this greyhound getting sufficient exercise? Like, oh, an hour before work every day? A greyhound without exercise is an actual recipe for "Couch: Eaten." I'm pretty sure you can find it on the back of a Betty Crocker box and everything. If you can't swing that: dog walker, daily, mid-day to break up the dog's boredom and provide exercise.

There's an oft-repeated phrase, A tired dog is a good dog. It is oft repeated for a reason.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:20 PM on October 9, 2008

Yes, get in touch with the rescue. They should try to help you. If they seem at all judgemental or weird, then reach out to a larger group. mr.anthony337's link would be a good starting point.

There are plenty of people who want greyhounds to have good homes.

If you do want to work with her, you need to joing a club or get involved with dog people or find a trainer. A first-time dog owner cannot deal with a solo howler alone.

What does that paperwork say? The rescues and shelters I've worked with don't even grant owernship until a long period - six months to a year - has passed. This is both to ease the guilt in situations like yours and to protect the dogs.

All I ask for the dog's sake is that, if the rescue asks if you can foster until they find a new home, you see if you can try.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:21 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Hey! My first and second dogs were greyhounds (and still are), and I do a lot of volunteer work with our rescue organization.

They can be high maintenance. I have a friend who doesn't really leave hers alone for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time, max. One of hers has pretty bad separation anxiety and will pee everywhere. I, however, can be gone 10 hours a day and mine are OK. (That's pretty much their potty limit, though, and for the record, I HATE leaving them alone for that long, and when I do, I usually have someone come over to let them out once or twice during the day, but not always.)

1) If, problems aside, you do in your heart want to keep the dog, DO try using a crate. Really, try this tomorrow. Some owners swear by crate training. My organization pretty much requires you crate train their greyhounds when you adopt them. Mine HATED the crate. It got so bad with my first dog that she wouldn't even go into the room that the crate was in. I had to physically carry her and place her into the crate. And in the end, for both dogs (the second dog hated the crate too, but not as much), when I crated them they were guaranteed to potty in there while I was gone, and they also tore up whatever blankets or towels I left with them in the crate. Whereas when I leave them out in the house, they're little angels. So all I'm saying is, crate results vary. Also, when I tried to leave them locked in one room, they did tear the room up. My dogs really only work if I treat them like regular dogs, and give them the run of the house. (Except for a designated cat-room.) But that's just my dogs.

2) Doggie daycare can rock (if you find a good place), but unless you have a lot of discretionary income to play with, it's cost prohibitive. My first dog loved our local doggie daycare. But I couldn't really afford it then, and certainly can't afford it for two dogs. And my second dog is a greyhound snob and doesn't get along well with other breeds, so they might not let her in anyway. Also, greyhounds are much more fragile than a lot of other breeds. Their skin is more delicate, etc. That's just something to keep in mind with doggie daycare.

3) This dog might not be for you. You might want to try another greyhound with more confidence, or obviously, a different breed.

4) That said, if you're really not feeling it and you're just getting more miserable, by all means, give the dog back. Believe me, the people who work for these organizations would much rather have the dog back with your sincere regrets than imagine the suffering that you're both going through. The rescue organizations WANT TO PLACE THE RIGHT DOG WITH THE RIGHT PERSON. It's not personal failing if you can't swing it. Really, just call up your contact and tell them what's going on.

5) (If you're in Chicagoland, feel free to get in touch with me. I'd love to meet the dog. I always have room for a foster ... eek!)
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:23 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this will help you Anonymous, but did the dog adoption place disclose information about the problematic behaviors of this dog?

When I was a grad student, my apartment mate decided to adopt a labrador from the local shelter. She made many queries about the dog's behavior, and we both read the posted description about the dog's prior homelife (great dog, does tricks, would do well in a home with adults). Once she the dog to the apartment, the dog did things like urinate in the house every few hours. The dog also tried to bite both my apartment mate and I on separate occasions. Not only was my apartment mate overwhelmed by the dog, but she was afraid to keep the dog because the landlord had small children as did one of her friends. I think she made the right decision to bring the dog back to the shelter. When she returned the dog, she described the behavior, and one of the shelter volunteers opened another set of records, and these records described the exact same behaviors that we saw, including information that the dog had been aggressive in the past (and it was recommended that this dog should not be placed in a home with children for that reason).

I doubt my apartment mate would have adopted this dog if she knew this info in advance -- the shelter certainly did. I am telling you this story because were you told this information about the dog? (Separation anxiety?)

I second the suggestions above (try crating the dog, dog daycare, animal behaviorist), but if you don't have the training to deal with the dog and it is wreaking havor with your life, it is probably best to return it. Make sure the shelter knows about the problem behaviors, perhaps they can continue to work with the dog in hopes of making it more adoptable. If you really feel guilty, perhaps you can volunteer there? That may be the solution to learning more about dogs first. Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 8:24 PM on October 9, 2008

A dog doesn't get crate trained in a week. Try longer, try harder, be patient, and make the crate a really awesome place to be. Walk your dog for a long time in the morning and again in the evening. Be honest as to whether or not you'll be able to do so for the long haul.

Some rescues can be judgemental, but honesty is key. They have heard it all before, and they'll know if your excuse is transparent. If you contact them and tell them about the difficulty that you're having, they may be able to provide you with some suggestions relevant to the breed. And if it doesn't work out, the rescue would likely rather the dog be in a suitable home, so be perfectly honest about the dog's behavior.

Good luck!
posted by Seppaku at 8:24 PM on October 9, 2008

Errr... without being harsh and judgemental, you bought a greyhound to keep in your apartment?! As I'm sue you can see in hindsight, that was pretty dumb, wasn't it?

Now, that aside: you've got a dog that wants to run around, but can't.

I need to call this out. This is really, really not true. They call greyhounds 45mph couch potatoes for a reason. They're used to pretty much laying around all day for a few days, and then running once around a track. Plus being turned out to eat and get some exercise, of course, but they are not high-energy dogs most of the time. They are SO much like (many) cats in that regard. I know a lot of greyhounds and greyhound owners and the dogs sleep all day. There are a whole mess of greyhounds living in apartments and condos in Chicago, including, I believe, in the apartment of the president of our rescue organization. (Not that a title guarantees one's credibility, but I know the woman and she's good people.)

Greyhounds DO DO DO need to get out for some exercise about once a day, though. Go on a long walk in the morning. Exercise, of course, benefits all animals, and the more the better, but this breed just isn't hyperactive in any way and doesn't need a big house to run around in. (A big backyard is useful, though, for those of us who don't like going on a lot of walks.)

You could call the organization first thing in the morning and discuss things. You could also try crate training again tomorrow, and through the weekend (if you leave the house), and get a lot of exercise with her over the weekend. If you still have her Monday, leave her in the crate EVERY DAY when you leave. Above posters are right, that you can't have tried and failed with crate training if it's only been a week or so.
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:32 PM on October 9, 2008 [10 favorites]

During the first couple weeks after I adopted my dog, (who definitely has some bad habits of his own) I felt a lot like you did. His presence stressed me out. He followed me everywhere! He was so dependent on me! I didn't even know this furry thing, but I'd made a commitment to it -- for the rest of its life! How could I have been so rash? I thought seriously about giving him away.

Thank God I didn't. Because then.... I fell in love. It might sound silly, but it's true. Nothing new had happened. He didn't become any less dependent, or a better dog. I changed. Without even trying to. Over the course of those two weeks, I went from New dog! Exciting! To I can't handle this! To He is the love of my life.

And I'd say maybe it's just me being my odd self, if the same thing didn't happen to my mother-in-law two years ago. She adopted a mutt as a companion for her old labrador. The new dog turned out to be needy, bizarre, and hard to train, though very sweet. Its spunkiness was such a contrast to the old, ailing dog, it broke her heart. At one point, she called my husband, crying. The dog followed her everywhere. She didn't even know it. She thought about giving her back.

A few days later, she fell in love. And now her dog, and my dog, are so integrated into our families, we can't imagine life without them.

So what's my advice? Time. Just give it more time. Training time, in particular: when it comes to training away bad dog habits, you just have to be patient. A week is no time at all to change a behavior. But even more, you just need a little more time to build your relationship with this new person in your life, your dog. You need to get to know each other. It takes a time to build a bond. I've heard new mothers say the same thing. Heck, it was like that early in my relationship with my now-husband, seven years ago. He follows me everywhere! I don't know if I can handle this! :)

Give it a few more weeks. But if it doesn't work out, as long as you find the dog a good home, or return her to the rescue, you shouldn't feel guilty. You meant well in adopting this dog. And if the match just isn't right, returning her is the responsible thing to do. Best of luck.
posted by changeling at 8:33 PM on October 9, 2008 [7 favorites]

Seconding iguanapolitico. We've got a retired racer, and this is the laziest dog I have ever seen. Gordy is like a small deer that acts like a cat. He lays in the upstairs hall and barely even blinks as you step over him. Give him a short walk a day and he's happy.

Even when we take him to the dog park and let him off-leash, he will not run unless there are other dogs there with which to compete.
posted by chazlarson at 8:42 PM on October 9, 2008

iguanapolitico is totally right- a greyhound would be happy to live in a tiny apartment as long as it had a soft surface to nap on. my family adopted a greyhound as first time dog owners, and i recall that it was hard at first. the dogs have a big lifestyle change to go through, larger even then most dogs from shelters. our dog definitely destroyed stuff (mostly library books) and was anxious and weird about some things for a while, but we ended up keeping her and she slept in my bed every night for ten years. once she settled in she was the best dog ever.

i would definitely give it more then a week- is there any chance you could take some time off work to spend with the dog or do more dog-proofing of the house? maybe come home at lunch for a while to check on her? and definitely you must find a fenced area to let her run and take her there frequently. then she'll spend all day passed out on your couch instead of getting into trouble. is there a dog park around where both of you could socialize with other dogs and people?

but if after another week or two things still aren't working out there is absolutely no shame in giving her back! if she's not happy and you're not, then you're not doing the dog any favors in keeping her. the rescue organization will find another person for her, and you can find a dog or other pet that fits you better.
if you want any information or advice about adopted greyhounds, or just need some encouragement, please please mefi-mail me.
good luck
posted by genmonster at 8:44 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just started fostering, so I'm sure others will come by soon with more official advice. But as a newbie just getting the hang of being with dogs that need attention, here's my two cents. Of course there is the possibility that this dog, or any dog, isn't right for you. If you decide that, contact the rescue and just be honest. Most rescues have a fostering trial period for a week, no hard feelings. As a foster parent, I agree to take back any dog that the adopter needs to give up, for any reason, at any time in the future (if I'm still in town, physically able to, etc.) But the rescue agency makes a commitment to taking back the dog if it just doesn't work out. It's in everyone's best interest to be honest about the situation. They will know a good greyhound-friendly trainer in the area. They'll likely send out a few volunteers to work with you on setting up a crate system. They'll be a resource if they're a real rescue group, and if not, find one for greyhounds in your area. They LOVE dogs, they love your dog, they want to help you and help him.

I know it's really overwhelming at times. Being a new dog owner is under any circumstances, and getting frustrated just makes it worse. And there is always a period at the beginning of having a new dog at home, after the initial euphoria wears off, where it's like, "oh my god, what have I done? He needs me for everything? All the time? Holy crap what are you doing?" But 99.9% of the time, that mellows out into a routine, into a bond, into being in tune with each other. You're in the frustrated stage, and I can almost certainly guarantee you it can change, sometimes very quickly, back into a stage of peaceful bliss. A greyhound is perfectly find in an apartment, actually. Small dogs are waaaaay more hyperactive and needy.

Here are my thoughts on keeping the dog, and how to proceed from here:
- you've had him for a week. This isn't long enough to have done much of anything together. If you've tried *all* of those things you list, you're doing things much too quickly, and not giving either of you time to settle into a routine. "You don't like that toy? OK, here's another! No? here go in this crate? Whining? OK come out, what do you WANT?" This is just riling you both up. Try adding one new thing at a time, no more than one new thing every few days.
- He just got there a week ago! Honestly, crate training can take much longer than a week. How are you crate training? There are several good books and sites on it, maybe some others can recommend them. Take some hours this weekend to really really really learn what it means, and then practice. There are stages - keeping the door open, feeding him in there with treats, feeding his meals in there, closing the door briefly, for longer, etc. NEVER take him out while whining/barking because that reinforces the behaviour.
- Why crate train? If he's in there, he's not destroying your couch while you're gone. And then you're not worrying, he's not anxious, and you're not coming home only to find this creature (who you want to love) destroying your belongings, cranking up tension and only increasing the chances of the dog being "uncooperative" (more on this later).
- what kind of training are you doing? Are you enrolled in a class? Or have you started clicker training or working together? Dogs love that kind of mental work and it fosters a connection with you as a team. What books do you have on raising a dog?
- is he getting exercise before you leave for work in the morning?
- what kind of food are you feeding him? There is high quality food and low quality food. It does make a difference, especially with dogs that have had physical stressors in their lives.
- how long is the dog at home alone?
- do you have a friend that can come by, mid-day to let the dog out? Or have you considered having a dog-walker come by for the first month to see how it works out?

Honestly, contact the rescue tomorrow and voice some of your concerns. THEY HAVE HEARD IT ALL. And they want you to love this guy. They'll either help you get there, or figure out plan B together, and you'll realize you're not in this alone. Good on ya for finding a pup that needed a second chance. Now give yourself one too - fresh start, fresh week, fresh approach. Be calm and take a walk by yourself if you need to :-)
posted by barnone at 9:09 PM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

I have to say, some people do not fall in love with their dogs - ever. Some people don't have the temperament or time for dogs, and I now know I'm one of those people. Unlike you, however, I grew up with dogs and so it was that much sadder.

I found the best dog in the world. He was already potty trained and well-behaved. The first couple of weeks that I had him, I was off work on vacation. Easy! Later on, if I had a late night at work (occasionally going home as late as 12:30 am), I was still getting up for a half hour walk at 5:00 am and 7:30 am, then he needed another half-hour at noon, 5:00 pm and 9:30 pm. His bladder was on a timer, but that didn't help any because he would not mess in his huge, outdoor dog run or run around for exercise, oddly. Obviously, my own schedule is sometimes very nonsensical, and it wasn't fair to him or me to pretend like it was.

Point being, stick it out for another week or two by picking a method and sticking with it. I chose fencing in a portion of my yard and practically buying stock in interactive dog toys, but maybe your dog just needs to wear an old sweatshirt. But, don't be afraid to assist in helping rehome the Greyhound, either. It may just not be for you, and it's no benefit to you or the dog to pretend like it is. You're already afraid of losing your home and worrying about it at work, for Gods' sake.
posted by fujiko at 10:59 PM on October 9, 2008

I don't have a whole lot of practical advice to offer, but I just wanted to offer up my sort of similar experience. When I first got my cat he was only 8 weeks old and had been neglected by his mother, so I kind of assumed the role - cleaning his eyes with wet wash cloths so he could open them, getting him to eat, training him to pee in the litterbox, etc. The next morning after bringing him home I woke up and saw him curled up next to me and said out loud, "What the hell did I just get myself into?" I thought wildly of the list of people who might take him or if I could take him back to the barn I got him from.

That said, a few weeks later I couldn't get enough of him and can't believe how much he's improved my quality of life. Once your dog gets used to his/her new surroundings, it will be a whole new ballgame. You'll be happy to get home and the dog will be happy to see you and soon your lives will blend together and you won't be able to imagine life without the dog.

Take the advice above, crating is definitely a good idea (my dog growing up benefited immensely from it, as did my family) and pretty soon you'll be over your buyers' remorse. Don't feel guilty; I imagine it's pretty common to feel the ways you do!

Also, talk to your landlord about the situation. If they have a heads-up, you'd be amazed at what a difference it can make in their patience!
posted by slyboots421 at 11:35 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Much of the advice here is good, like crating...but sometimes you have to know when to throw in the towel. If the dog is a poor fit in your life, that's nothing to be ashamed of. My family adopted a dog that was aggressive with our cats. The rescue organization wasn't happy that we returned him, but they weren't nasty either. We felt guilty, but last year I was walking down the street and I saw a man walking the same dog. I didn't admit that my family had owned the dog, but chatting with him (he had no pets, no children, plenty of time) it was clear that we had never been a good fit and we had done the right thing to give him the chance to find a more suitable home.
posted by melissam at 11:44 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was going to say something similar to what melissam said. My husband and I adopted a hunting dog (beagle) that we tried every type of crating, training, running, walking, on and on. Nothing helped.

The dog was just unhappy, barked the whole time we were gone, that is when he wasn't destroying the house. And, I mean literally the house, as he ate a wall in the bathroom, molding all over the house, the carpet. Plus, everything else he could get his teeth or claws into.

We tried the crate for several weeks, even, and he was insane in the crate to the point I was afraid he was going to injure himself severely. We ended up hooking up with an animal rescue who owned a large area of land and that's where he spent the rest of his days, outside, as he was never meant to be an indoor animal.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:14 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Typically this sort of behaviour- adopting a pet and then realizing it won't work- frustrates me. However in this case I'm once again impressed with the majority of MeFites. For one, the problem/question was well articulated, and I think you reasoned your side very well, OP. Secondly, iguanapolitico pretty much stole the show (in the best way) with not only wise advice, an experienced voice, and kindness; but they also offered a helping hand. I'm new here, and once again blown away by you all.

That said, now to address the OP. I have an Australian Shepherd, and they can be high maintenance dogs as well. Crate training was a boon, I can't recommend it enough. You've mentioned that you've tried that, but it sounds as though she has run of the house. Crate training takes weeks, but it becomes worth it for you and the dog.

Have you also tried contacting your landlord and neighbour and explaining the situation? This, at minimum would ease the stress and trapped feeling you're experiencing now. Dog owners who let their pets bark for hours on end are annoying for sure, but I am far far more understanding when an explanation or apology is given. "I have a new rescue dog, and she's adjusting" is a very good reason behind this sort of behaviour.

Either way, best of luck for you and the greyhound girl!
posted by thatbrunette at 12:20 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

This seems like a perfect question to address to The Dog Whisperer. His National Geographic (and Emmy award winning daily TV show) deals with this kind of issue on a regular basis.

There's an Ask Cesar link on the home page of this site.
posted by Neiltupper at 1:14 AM on October 10, 2008

The seperation anxiety is not a Dog whisperer worthy issue IMHO. It's common along a lot of the sighthound breeds. My Italian Greyhounds have it, and most every single sighthound owner we've been around has experienced the same thing. And again, I'm telling you, many times, I've seen it controlled by simply putting a sweater on the dogs. Seriously. In your case too, the dog is new to the environment and really hasn't had time to develop the trust in you, that you will be back and she will be okay until then. It will get alot better with time most likely, simply as your relationship fills out.

I'd also say crate training is the way to go. Do some looking into how to do it correctly, and give it some time to work. We've done this and our boys now know the word "crate" (and the sign for it in the deaf ones case) and jump right in for nights we need some sound sleep, or if we have to leave the house for a while without them.

"40mph couch potatoes" <>
Again, if you (OP) want to email me directly and go over more details, and experiences that we've had that you might benefit from knowing, feel free. Your not alone in what you're going through or will get from having her around... and we, other sighthound owners/lovers, would be more than happy to help you out.

russ at imnotawhippet dot com
posted by mr.anthony337 at 1:50 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

My comment above got cut somehow. About the 40 mph couch potato thing... I was saying it's so very very true. You will find as her comfort level rises and you both relax a bit more, you'll find Greyhounds to be some of the best pals to sit and watch movies and TV with while you relax. They don't NEED to be out running. Take her out to an off-leash (enclosed) dog park once a week or so... and maybe a 20 minute walk around the block you live on in the evenings afterwork, or before bed, and thats all you really have to do. No need to buy a treadmill for her, or build a track in the apartment building hallways (although this is what we do for our boys if the weather doesn't make the dog park a safe idea!)

Most sighthounds we know of end up sleeping more than cats :) the only endless energy you have to deal with is the stuff the anxiety is brining on, and that can be fixed with a little patience and some comfort on both parts.
posted by mr.anthony337 at 2:15 AM on October 10, 2008

I have two hounds (Blackmouth Cur and Ridgeback, if that matters) and they're both rescue hounds. My boy, who was neglected in his crate for up to 72 hours at a time, has very bad separation anxiety and I'm working up to being able to leave him alone in his crate for upwards of an hour. My girl is food-aggressive and is easily bored, and she chews when she gets bored... when crated, she'll sleep all day, when left out, she'll search the entire house for things that she can chew on that she doesn't think I'd miss too much. (Believe it or not, she's pretty selective. She once reduced a plastic box of tax paperwork to quarter sized chunks. Didn't touch the tax papers or their plastic dividers.)

To help them during the day, I've started walking them (and running with him; the girl can't run due to bad hip dysplasia) in the morning as opposed to at night, and I've also started coming home at noon for another walk with both of them. Separation anxiety CAN be trained out, but it takes some dedication and self-control on your part and you're going to have to alter your schedule and work some concessions out with your boss in the process. I'd recommend working with a behaviorist that has dealt with the issues before. I'd definitely recommend crate training using a plastic vari-kennel type of crate-- buy the high quality one, not the 'bargain' one.

As far as the commitment goes ... frankly, before I got my 'kids', I wasn't ready to deal with a human love relationship. I didn't understand the level of commitment and unconditional love that's required between two people because my parents had a decidedly odd relationship that either didn't display either of those things or they were so buried and deeply reserved that I didn't get to witness them. When I got the girl, who was the product of a bad relationship between an on-again-off-again with a bat-sheet-crazy veterinary student, I resented the things I had to do to make her a part of my life. My gasoline consumption skyrocketed from running home constantly. I dropped thousands of dollars at the vet and pet stores. I had to break up my day in ways that made it difficult for me to be as efficient of an employee. I had to deal with and coerce another living being who had her own ideas of what she wanted to be doing (mostly, eating and chasing things) into doing what I needed her to be doing (mostly laying in one place and not pestering me) WITHOUT being able to discuss and reason things with her, and then keep my end of any bargains we made, or she wouldn't do what I needed the next time. I'm a computer nerd! I don't do non-verbal communication that well!!!

On the other hand, I learned sacrifice, self control, faith, and experienced unconditional love for the first time. Those three things have finally gotten me out of a string of bad relationships and bad life decisions. After seeking help from a behaviorist for her issues, I finally sought help from a psychologist (a human behaviorist!) for MY issues. With my female dog's help, I'm finally on a track to a much happier life than I otherwise would have led. I do volunteer work to help rescue dogs or place rescued dogs into foster and forever homes every single day of the week to thank her for the sacrifices SHE made to come into my life.
posted by SpecialK at 6:20 AM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

I didn't realize that after a week of it I'd be feeling as overwhelmed and trapped

Feeling like ALL my free time, such as it is, is now committed to this dog, for the next ten years or so

These are normal feelings for someone taking on a new responsibility, so don't beat yourself up about them.

Part of the reason you might be feeling this way is you just don't know your dog's ways yet. Once her routine is a little more in place, you probably won't feel so overwhelmed.

Remember the first few weeks you lived in your apartment? You were probably disturbed by the new traffic patterns outside your window, the noises your neighbors made at weird hours, or the garbage truck backing up in the alley. Now you don't even notice those things. Eventually, it will be the same with your dog. Instead of noticing and being bothered every time she comes to you for attention, you will "know" what she needs (a walk? water? play time? just a quick ear scratch or reassuring pat on the head?). Eventually, responding to her needs will be second nature, and won't seem like an overwhelming responsibility. I've had friends come over and watch the interaction between me and my dogs, and they'll ask, "How did you know he needed to go outside?" or "How did you know he wanted you to get his toy out from under the couch?" I usually don't even know how I know these things, I just recognize my dog's signals without even thinking about it too much. You will too, eventually, and that's when it will feel less like a burden, and more like comfortable familiarity.

And like the others who've mentioned it, feel free to memail me. I felt the same way as you when I got my first dog (after only having cats who pretty much took care of themselves with minimal input from me).
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:24 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Within a few days of adopting our greyhound (also our first dog), I was lying awake at night staring at the ceiling saying OMG I RUINED OUR LIVES. And our greyhound never even had separation anxiety.

The first week is the worst. Understand that dogs aren't very bright (especially greyhounds), and that no kind of training will possibly work in a few days. This is a process that is measured in weeks, if not months. Strangely, though, it will get easier for you before it does for her, because it will quickly become routine.

Forget DAP and Rescue Remedy. This is a matter of time, consistency, and tremendous patience. All of the above suggestions about training, day-care or even just a dog walker to start are excellent. The things you are already doing, from crate-training to Kongs, are right.

That said, this dog isn't going to be euthanized if you return her. Just tell the rescue group exactly what happened. They might be personally annoyed, because it's a hassle for them, and they might think less of you because they know these symptoms will abate with time, but so what? Dogs get returned all the time.

But -- don't return her. I love my greyhound, and so will you.
posted by nev at 7:14 AM on October 10, 2008

I agree so much with SpecialK and SuperSquirrel above about how the love for the dog takes time to develop. This may very well not be the dog for you. But when I read your story I couldn't help but think about my experience with my dogs. My oldest was rescued as a puppy, along with her sister, by a friend. The friend wanted to keep her sister and asked me to continue to foster her until my friend could find a home for her. I was a cat person but I agreed. I took her in and could NOT BELIEVE how annoying this cute puppy was! It felt like every single thing she did was out of spite. She ate the cat's food and the cat's poop and she didn't listen and she chewed on my shoes and it was a pain in the ass to come home from work to let her out and oh my god this puppy is a horrible pain in the ass, etc. Plus the walks! So annoying!

I didn't get attached to her until about 2 weeks into her stay. I used to take her hiking every day in a heavily wooded off leash area. We had played hide and seek before--she would get distracted and I would hide behind a tree 10 feet away and call her name and she would come find me. But this time I didn't call her name. I just crouched behind the tree and waited to see if she would notice I was gone. It took a minute or two but she came running down the trail, as fast as her little legs could go. She didn't see me but stopped next to the tree I was behind. Before she saw me, I saw the look of sheer panic and fear on her face. Her tiny whimper was like a glass arrow in my heart. I suddenly realized that while I was busy focusing on the annoying aspects of this puppy, she was doing the opposite: she was growing attached to me. The profundity of that moment is hard to explain. Since that day she has been my rock. She has given me more than I could ever repay. I remember those first few weeks where I kept my heart from her and feel so stupid.

I now have two other rescues in addition to her--the first of which was found injured on the side of the road and was the single most challenging dog to civilize. Ever. I always win the prize when people exchange bad dog stories because of her antics. Oh the stories.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:23 AM on October 10, 2008 [4 favorites]

Start by talking to the rescue organization about the problems you're having. Ask them what you can do. Express your problems in terms of concern for the dog -- a dog that's howling all day and chewing furniture is not a happy dog. Ask them to help you find a solution. And if, after you've tried some of their suggested solution, you and the dog are both still climbing the walls, then talk about rehoming the dog with someone more prepared to deal with his issues.

The more you frame this as 'for the benefit of the dog', the more the rescue people will respect and want to work with you.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:40 AM on October 10, 2008

Just chiming in about the need for patience. I could have written this post almost 6 years ago. I was single, living in a one bedroom apartment with a full time job in Chicago and had just adopted a retired racing greyhound. I thought I knew what that meant, but quickly was overwhelmed by the responsibility. My dog was peeing and pooping *in her crate* every single time I left the house, even if it was only for an hour. I bought a new crate, hoping a different style would help. I called my adoption group for help. I bought Kongs and froze peanut butter in them. I got the DAP diffuser. I did everything right, and still would have to bathe a dog every day when I got home from work. It was awful, and I cried many nights.

For me, I eventually stopped crating her and used a baby gate to keep her in one small room. The hardwood floors were easy to clean and it meant I didn't have to bathe the dog too. I slowly gave in to the idea that I would just be cleaning up a mess every time I came home but that I could handle it. She wasn't super destructive other than the accidents so that was an option for me. May not be for you.

Then, one day, she just stopped. I got home from work and there was no puddle. And while I don't have the most reliably house-trained dog in the world even today, for the most part she is very good. She'll go several months without an accident, and then something will upset her routine and she'll pee in the house. We still, 6 years later, have to keep her baby-gated in rooms where she can't do much damage if there's an accident.

Some thoughts:

That first day that she didn't pee? It was about 6 weeks after I got her. It takes time. It may take even longer than that.

Talk to your adoption group, they may have ideas and it will be good to let them know you are trying if eventually you do have to return the pup. Trust me, they have seen it before and probably will know when/if it is time to give up.

I didn't love her right away. She was beautiful but such a source of stress.

I found reserves of patience deep within me that I didn't know existed. Having a dog has made me a better person, seriously.

Greyhounds have to adjust more than most rescue dogs, as they've never lived in a home and never been completely alone. It's a lot to take in and it sure as hell isn't going to happen in 1 week.

Nth-ing everyone that is pointing out that greyhounds are perfectly good city apartment dogs. As my dog approaches age 10, I'm starting to wonder what I'll do when she's gone (luckily she's super healthy and I should not have to worry about it for many years). I've realized I will never be without a greyhound. They are amazing.

Finally, seconding iguanapolitico's offer for assistance if you're in Chicago. I'm happy to meet for a playdate or anything.
posted by misskaz at 8:29 AM on October 10, 2008

Man, I could have written this question myself. We recently found ourselves in the exact same position.

We adopted a dog from the local SPCA who was calm, loving and sweet when we saw her at the SPCA. After getting her home, we discovered within 24 hours that she was VERY ill. After many hours and $$ spent at the vet, she got better. And then she became a different dog. Hyperactive, destructive, and showing signs of separation anxiety.

After a full month of trying everything, giving it our all, spending literally ALL of our free time and lots of $$ on the dog, we finally decided that it wasn't working. We agonized over the decision, but ultimately things weren't improving, and we were all miserable, including the dog. We took her back to the SPCA with the hopes that she would find a better home and braced ourselves for the backlash. After all, we're both dog lovers and we've both had dogs before. We didn't go into the adoption blind, and we never intended to return her. Surprisingly, there was not much backlash. Almost everyone who knew the situation understood and was extremely supportive. Those who didn't agree with our decision made their position known and then let it go. My feeling is that if they weren't the one living with the dog, they have no right to judge our decision.

As rough as that month with the dog was, we do still miss her and we have a lot of residual guilt. I can't bring myself to contact the SPCA to find out if she's been re-homed.

I guess that's not much in the way of advice. Just saying that yes, we've been there and we made the tough decision to take the dog back, so if you go that route you're not alone.
posted by geeky at 10:13 AM on October 10, 2008

I'll join the "patience" chorus. We adopted Trailways ("Trai") when he was just 2 1/2. It probably should've clued me in that maybe something was wrong since he was retired at such a young age, but I didn't really think about it, I was just excited to have a greyhound, which had been my favorite breed of dog since I was a child.

Trai was what they call a "spook" - he was afraid of everything. If he needed to go outside for his toilette, he would freeze in place and not move an inch if there was a Hefty bag of trash on the landing that wasn't usually there. We crated him during the day while we were at work, and at night (as per our written instructions), but by the third night, he kept crying and whining. I'd get up out of bed and take him outside, where he'd just stand and look at me. This happened about five times before I growled, "Oh, screw this, I don't know what the heck you want!" I didn't bother putting him back in his crate, I just stomped back to bed. Trai followed me and curled up on the floor next to my side of the bed. Aha! It clicked. He wanted to be near me. I brought the cushion from his crate and put it next to my bedside, and he didn't stir until I got up the next morning.

Mr. Adams was pretty frustrated with our "special needs" dog. He grew up on a farm, where dogs were, well, dogs - they romped and played and ate when you fed them and wagged their tails when you gave them attention. Trai didn't understand "petting" - when I'd stroke his head or back, he'd stand stock still, head lowered, tail between legs. But we perservered...well, I did, mainly. I cooed baby talk to him in a high voice, which he responded to. (Mr. Adams: "I wish you wouldn't do that; he's getting used to it and I'm not going to talk goofy like that to him!") Trai did bond with me first as a result; Mr. Adams got home from work before I, and even though he put food out, Trai wouldn't eat until I got home (and that was only after he'd run several "happy laps" around the coffee table). It was a very emotional day when Trai finally approached me as I was typing at my computer and slipped his head under my head for petting. Eventually he also started badgering Mr. Adams for petting and attention. He gave us "greyhound smiles" and wagged his tail. It took him a long while, but he did develop a personality (since he was pretty much a "blank slate" when we first got him) and became a loving, devoted pet.

Yes, in the beginning it seemed a one-sided and thankless task...we lavished attention and love on this dog, and he never acknowledged or reciprocated it. At first. But months (yes, months, not weeks) of patience rewarded us with the "blossoming" of a dog who we later found out had been bound for the "kill truck" because of his skittishness. I remember one day when Trai was playing with Mr. Adams and a squeaky toy (he didn't understand toys or know what to do with them for a long time) and my husband commenting, "I guess he finally turned into a real dog." We had Trai for 11 wonderful years, and I wouldn't trade those early trying times for anything.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:26 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

My mom recently became a first time dog owner, and her experience has echoed those here who say it takes time. I was surprised that the dog was actually causing her to become kinda depressed, but it sounds like that's more common than I would have imagined. It helped her to have a shoulder to cry on (me) who could encourage her and talk to her about the struggles. I kept telling her--patience, patience. Do you have anyone in your life who can be the anchor to your panic? Now my mom's puppy has learned so much and continues to learn more every day, and I think she's definitely over the hump (well, I hope).

Also, I've worked some with rescue groups, and I wholeheartedly agree with those who said to contact yours. They LOVE dogs. They aren't just trying to get them out the door--they want them to be in the right home. If they aren't complete assholes, they should be able to offer advice and maybe even help you decide if the dog is right for you. They SHOULD help you b/c they are partially responsible if they gave a high-needs dog to someone who just wasn't ready.

Good luck!
posted by Mavri at 3:03 PM on October 10, 2008

Oriole Adams, I love the end of your story. We joke all the time whenever our greyhound does a normal dog thing (playing tug-of-war, barking, etc.) saying "It's almost like she's a real dog!"
posted by misskaz at 6:14 PM on October 10, 2008

misskaz: Our dog has barked five times in three years, almost always a single bark at a time.

Tonight she was wagging her tail while watching us in the kitchen and we remarked on how long it took her just to do that. And I can play tug-of-war with her now, but I always let her win; I'm always a little worried she doesn't understand the game.
posted by nev at 7:00 PM on October 10, 2008

"It's almost like she's a real dog!"

I had actually forgotten about that, but it took some time for my greyhounds to turn into "real dogs", too. :) Mine were relatively easy from the start (compared to some others), but there was definitely some time at the beginning when they weren't quite normal. ;) And I can't remember exactly why. They certainly started out exceptionally clingy (following me to the bathroom *every time*, even when the bathroom is within view of the room we were sitting in), and not wildly confident. Now they're just more happy-go-lucky, like you imagine dogs to be.

I hope anonymous will follow up with us and let us know how it turns out. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:09 PM on October 10, 2008

Add me to the list of people advocating patience (and the list of retired racing greyhound adopters). RRGs, as people have pointed out upthread, are often different from other rescue dogs in that they have never lived in a house before, so they effectively need to be taught how to live in a house - I think the key to this is to have a routine for her to get used to - you have to tell (show) her what the routine is. We use a baby gate to confine our dog to the non-cat side of the house when we're out, and he pretty much just sleeps on the sofa till we get back. If you can get up early and go for a longish walk before work, this seems to really help.

Also, if the place from which you adopted her is a general dog shelter, as opposed to a shelter that deals specifically with ex-racing greyhounds, it might be worth finding one of the latter to ask for advice as they will know more about the breed. (Also, you can meet up and go on sighthound walks at the weekend - there's something really cool about a big pack of greyhounds, all different colours!)

That said, if you do decide to return the dog, I agree with what others have said - you should be honest, there shouldn't be any judging, and it's in no-ones interest to force you to stick with an incompatible dog.
posted by primer_dimer at 6:08 AM on October 11, 2008

I'm sorry I didn't see this earlier... though I don't have any specific solutions. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry you feel bad, and offer a couple of notes that may be useful for others who read this thread. As others have said here, a week is a really, really short time to understand how things will work out with a new dog. I was also a new owner of a rescue dog, and had no experience of being a dog owner. I thought that our dog was pretty much settled in after two or three weeks, but she kept changing. After two or three months, I thought she was completely adjusted, but there have even been changes since then. We've had her for five months now... and dare I say - she seems to be altogether herself, and I don't expect much more to change.

She was very timid and submissive when we first got her - overly so. She was afraid of every loud noise (big problem with traffic noises on walks), and she moved and acted like an old dog. Although we were told she was house-trained, she was confused about the new situation and she peed in the house... and would never pee on a walk! She didn't seem enthusiastic about any kind of play. She was affectionate, but seemed excessively passive and didn't seem to have much enthusiasm about anything.

Little by little all these behaviors changed - some quite quickly, others over a period of months. Now she's a very secure, confident, peppy, eager pup who adores walking everywhere, is completely dependable about toilet issues, loves to play, loves to snuggle, and is pretty damn assertive. (Though we do have separation anxiety issues, too.)

After we got her, I read that rescue dogs don't really adjust until after six months, and I thought that was excessive, but now I really see that. Six months, of course, seems like forever when you first get a dog, and you want them to be happy, adjusted, and secure right away. But my experience is that the time passes quickly because you see changes for the better every day, and it's fun to see the dog's real personality and confidence emerge. At the risk of overstating it, I would compare it to a child learning to walk and talk in the sense that you don't have a desire to fast-forward to a point where they are already completely proficient... It's fun to see the change happening.

Of course we did work with her to get her over her fears, train her, and make her feel secure, so I'm not saying that everything happens automagically... but like the rest, that's part of the fun. It does seem daunting at first, I know... but one gains confidence along with the animal, and soon it's hard to imagine there was a time when you weren't companions.

But, sometimes the dog's needs and temperament just don't suit the new owner's situation. Rescue and re-homing groups try to make the best matches possible, but they don't know everything about each animal, or each new owner. If I had seen this when you posted it, I would have urged you to give it another week or two to see if that initial anxiety ebbed somewhat. I did wonder if I knew what the hell I had gotten myself into the first week; sometimes it seemed that I had committed us to an animal that was mostly lethargic and fearful, which wasn't at all what I imagined our pet would be like. She was everything I said I wanted - not a barker, not a cat chaser, not aggressive, able to live happily in a smallish place with medium exercise, but I wondered if in return for those traits I had adopted a sort of passive, fearful, unstimulated character. No! Not at all. She just needed to get over the various traumas she had endured, and needed to be sure of us.

I hope your situation worked out for the best, either way. It is a sort of scary (for us newbies) and emotional thing to deal with no matter how things work out.
posted by taz at 8:24 AM on November 2, 2008

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