Should he stay or should he go? Dog problems..
November 3, 2009 9:23 PM   Subscribe

When is it time to get rid of the dog? Fiance's poorly-trained dog has bitten me three times. I'm nervous about moving in with them and our future children. What do I do?

My fiance received a gift of an American Eskimo from his girlfriend-at-the-time about one year before we met. Both Fiance and his Ex worked in jobs with long hours so never really had time to train the dog. When Fiance and I started dating, Dog was really horrible: when it was time to leave the house, he would position himself in front of the door and put up a big fight (growling, barking, bared teeth, etc.). When bedtime arrived, Dog would get up on the pillows and throw the same kind of fit. He doesn't like to play; he barks at any outside noise or anything he sees. As he's gotten older--he's 3.5 now--he's mellowed out a bit but mostly I think this is the prozac we've put him on after the most recent incident.

I never had dogs growing up so I've been skeptical but open... at least to the concept of dog ownership, but perhaps not this dog. Because he is so fearful (and because he doesn't see me as being above him in the pack?), he is very aggressive with me. He and I have had three altercations, the last one this summer involved a bite that sent me to the hospital for two nights. Fiance had been dragging his feet on medicating Dog and hiring a trainer but this incident made him realize he needed to do something. So now he's on Prozac, and Fiance also became somewhat stricter in terms of establishing dominance and enforcing rules.

Fiance and I don't live together yet, but we will probably be joining households this summer. I am extremely nervous about living with Dog full time. I am not comfortable around him, and I really fear what will happen when we have children. That is a few years off, so we will have time to work on training him and we have an appointment with a trainer in the near future. However, after reading AskMeFi's similar Q&As, it seems like the general advice is that once a dog has bitten, you can't let the dog around kids. This is my gut feeling, but Fiance refuses to get rid of Dog because a) he loves him and b) he assumes he'll be put down if we have to give him away. I know there are rescue groups so I don't think euthanasia isn't a certainty. Plus I think that Dog would be happier if we could find him a home with people who have time to be with him--Fiance works 60-80 weeks and doesn't have the time or energy.

I am trying very hard to see this situation from his perspective and be compassionate about it, but I have gotten to the point where I dread visiting Fiance because I have to deal with the dog. Is this beyond reasonable or do I need to just get over it?
posted by emkelley to Pets & Animals (51 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm rarely one to advocate getting rid of a pet, especially one that has been in the family for some time, but... the sooner you can find the dog a good home with a dominant owner and who doesn't have another dog (or failing that, a rescue or a no-kill shelter that is willing to place him) - the better. If the dog has dominance issues, the last thing you want to do is subject him to a situation in which he might foresee additional competition for position. Beyond that, dogs are social animals that need time, attention, and affection - if nobody in his current household can supply that, it's time to give him to someone who can make him into a great pet. Best of luck!
posted by honeybee413 at 9:31 PM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Is he marrying you or the dog. He needs to get over it, not you. I would never marry someone who insisted on keeping a dog that was hostile to the point of biting me multiple times.
posted by alms at 9:32 PM on November 3, 2009 [8 favorites]

I don't think it's fair to you, or to the dog, to have the "pack leader" away 60-80 hours a week. And yes, if I had a dog and it bit me or a family member, and exhibited the behaviour you're describing, it would be either put down by a vet or shot.

You are being perfectly reasonable. Dogs, even apparently well-trained ones, kill children and horribly maim or kill adults all the time. This is not a well-trained dog. It is a walking funeral.

Ask your fiance whether he prefers you or the dog.
posted by nonspecialist at 9:32 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would take his failure to be proactive for something as simple as a dog as a major red flag. Seriously, he'd rather live with a snarling beast than *gasp* see a vet about the bad behavior or hire a trainer? For over 3 years?

What other kinds of decisions is he going to jump into and "love" without dedicating any of the time or energy necessary for him to succeed?
posted by shownomercy at 9:35 PM on November 3, 2009 [14 favorites]

I am not comfortable around him

The crux of the problem is this. It's quite possible the dog will adapt well and be fine. I suggest you and Fiance enter a training program together, with the dog, and establish a timeline for improved behavior. The dog is understandably anxious and has experienced a lot of change in his lifetime. You are new on the scene, low on the totem pole, and projecting nervousness and fear. The dog's trying to establish his dominance over you. Both you and the Fiance need to demonstrate to the dog that you, the humans, are in charge, and create security for the animal. He sounds tremendously anxious, but it also sounds like a lot of that could simply be that he's simply known no stability.

--Fiance works 60-80 weeks and doesn't have the time or energy.

That's definitely difficult for a dog. But what about you? Will you be home more often? Can you take on some of the walking/playing duties? This will be a great way to build a bond with the dog.

I have to say I am somewhat on the side of your fiance. Dogs aren't disposable, and your fiance took on a responsibility in adopting him. It won't be so easy to find him another home, especially not with this history, and he's not a puppy, so yes, there is a risk he'd be put down if you sent him to a shelter.

But that doesn't mean all the work is on you. Look for a private trainer who can work with all three of you, and develop a reasonable timeline together - improvement that needs to be seen in six months, a year, etc.

Delivering a "dog or me" ultimatum could backfire in innumerable ways.
posted by Miko at 9:36 PM on November 3, 2009 [9 favorites]

Forget all this pack bullshit - it's arrant nonsense spread by people who nothing about dog training and behaviour.

Get the dog to a training school immediately and explain the problem. This will take money, time, and consistency. If improvement is not forthcoming, put the dog down. A dog that bites is a danger to you and anyone else near them. They are not to be taken lightly: next time it could be someone's life, limbs, or face.

If your fiance was unwilling to put the work in to train a dog the first time around - regardless of excuse, there's always an excuse, (your fiance doesn't want a dog, he wants a cuddly tamagotchi) - it's unlikely his attitude will change for round 2. Consider future pets very carefully.
posted by smoke at 9:42 PM on November 3, 2009 [8 favorites]

I grew up with dogs and I would not live with this dog, in these circumstances.

If he can't commit to participating in training classes with the dog and the other things that go with dog ownership, he shouldn't keep a dog.

Dogs are not disposable, no. But if the fiance took on a responsibility when he adopted the dog, he has not been living up to it. The dog is not having a happy life now, and fiance seems unwilling/unable to make the changes necessary to provide the dog with that. He should give someone else a chance to do so. The poster was in the hospital for two nights, months ago, and the fiance is still not hiring a trainer or (best scenario) going to training classes himself with the dog? He has choices to make, and he's doing no one - especially the dog, who can't speak for himself (unless you count aggressive behavior as speaking, which I guess it is) - any favors by avoiding them.
posted by rtha at 9:47 PM on November 3, 2009 [8 favorites]

My roommates adopted a rescue dog about a year ago. Unfortunately, the organization downplayed his aggression issues and it turned out that after he bit over a half dozen people, they had to give him back. He was a small dog, and none of the bites were too bad (only one that might've needed stitches, but didn't) but he was constantly growling at me and I was always nervous walking around my own house. I was very relieved when my roommates decided to send him back. Luckily it was a no-kill organization so they didn't have that weighing on their conscience. But part of their concern was that they are planning to have children and they knew that even a small dog can be a big threat to a child.

He and I have had three altercations, the last one this summer involved a bite that sent me to the hospital for two nights

It sounds like you are definitely planning on having kids. Maybe I am overreacting, but I would refuse to raise children in the same house as a dog that was capable of wounding an adult enough to require two nights' hospitalization. That could translate to permanently scarring or even killing a small child.

Work with your fiance to find a situation that would be better for the dog. It doesn't sound like you're going to have kids soon, so you have plenty of time to look and be choosy. The dog we gave back is now thriving in a new environment. But the worse case scenario here is not the dog being put down (although that would be awful). The worse case scenario is the dog hurting your child.
posted by shaun uh at 9:52 PM on November 3, 2009

This dog put you IN HOSPITAL. And not just an ER visit, you were there for two days. It has bitten you three times now, at least one of them causing significant injury. This is unacceptable. If the dog had done this to someone else it would be dead already, there are laws against keeping animals like this. You're being perfectly reasonable in not wanting to be around this dog, now or ever.

And yeah, pets aren't disposable. But when they start hospitalising people they stop being a pet and become a dangerous animal. Being a responsible owner also includes not having a dog capable of hurting someone that badly and so far the fiancé hasn't done his part here at all.
posted by shelleycat at 9:57 PM on November 3, 2009 [20 favorites]

Okay, maybe I'm off base. It's true that an injury hospitalizing someone for two days is a pretty serious injury, and also true that a fiance who didn't see that as a significant call to action is not fully with the program. I think I might have assumed some hyperbole in "hospitalized for two days," because that's a long time. If that's really what happened, then yeah, the dog is probably pretty dangerous and should live with someone who can create the structure the dog needs. So I withdraw my first answer in light of the perspective lent by other commenters.
posted by Miko at 10:04 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

The dog sent you to hospital *for two days*?! That's a pretty serious bite. I would be more wary of marrying someone who hung on to a dog that did this to their supposed loved one than anything the dog might do. He's prioritising his (vicious, aggressive) pet above you. That is Not. Good.

In answer to your question, yes, you are being completely reasonable. And from an external perspective, it seems like your fiancee would be the one you should concentrate on getting over and leaving if this is how he treats you.

Addendum: if he can't be arsed taking care of and training the dog properly, despite serious negative consequences, how is he going to go with child rearing? Again, from an external perspective, that doesn't look too promising.
posted by t0astie at 10:14 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

An insane situation -- that dog has got to go. Bit you three times? Put you in the hospital for two days? And still this guy didn't deal with the situation? As others upthread have noted, this guy doesn't have his head on straight. At all.

I hate the idea of putting an animal down. Whether this animal would have needed that if it were trained by the people who took on the responsibility of dog ownership/partnership we'll never know. If HE -- your fiance -- can find a suitable situation for this animal, then HE -- your fiance -- has to deal with it.

And by suitable situation I mean given -- probably with a ton of money, for training this animal, if it can be trained -- given to someone who knows exactly what they are getting, and knows exactly what they are doing to remedy this, if it can be remedied. This would mean telephone time for your fiance, and lots of it, and also visiting the home of the prospective owner, to make sure it's a good situation for the animal. Him passing the buck onto a no-kill shelter is total bullshit -- he created this situation, he must deal with it.

If, after exhausting every possible solution, and calling every possible telephone number, if he cannot place this animal, the your fiance must take the animal to be put down. And he must stand in the room with it as it gets killed due mostly to his -- your fiances -- irresponsibilities. Maybe the animal would have been this aggressive had it not been trained -- no way to know. Some animals just are biters, and they have to go bye bye.

Last. As others upthread have noted, you need to look this scenario straight on. This man absolutely shirks his responibilties. He has no compassion for this animal -- leaving a dog home alone while he consistently works 60-80 hour weeks? Total bullshit. "He loves the dog" -- my ass he loves the dog. Love is a verb, an action, it's what you do. He's been completely unfair; that dog has been imprisoned, solitary confinement, for it's whole life.

Do you think he'd have more compassion for your children? He clearly has no sympathy for you and your situation; totally bizarre behavior. Huge red flags waving brightly. Get your eyes open and keep them open.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:23 PM on November 3, 2009 [7 favorites]

I really think this is a bad sign about your fiance. The dog put you in the hospital and he has done almost nothing about it and thinks that you and your future children can co-exist peacefully? That is seriously messed up. I feel very sorry for the dog, who is clearly not being taken care of and deserves to be in a better home. And you deserve to be safe in your (future) home. This just isn't right.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:25 PM on November 3, 2009

I'm a dog lover, but this isn't a pet dog--this is a dangerous, untrained animal. I'm not even the kind of person who feels that one bite means you'll never be able to trust the dog again, but I think that three bites, one of which required major medical intervention, is well past the point of no return.

Honestly, I don't even know that I'd advocate returning the dog to a rescue at this point. While they do the best they can (and we have eight cats and a dog, all from rescues--I love me some rescue), I think that this might be beyond their capabilities. It's hard not to downplay aggression and/or socialization issues when you're trying desperately to get an animal adopted, and this just sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

Also, as others have said, you might want to take a long, hard look at your fiance. His dog has bitten you, not once but repeatedly, and has put you in the hospital. Despite this, he's continuing to side--for lack of a better word--with the dog, and is prioritizing his "love" for the dog over your psychological well-being.

If you've expressed that you're uncomfortable around the dog and that you don't feel safe with the dog around and he's still saying "But honey, I love the dog," you might need to ask yourself if you're willing to play second fiddle to play second fiddle to a dog--and, if you are, if you're willing to let your children come after the dog. Because if he keeps the dog, that's exactly what you're agreeing to.
posted by MeghanC at 10:35 PM on November 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all for your perspective. I think what will end up happening is that I'll present a timeline of behavior, of specific things that need to happen before this summer--otherwise he's out. And then we'll work together with the trainer that we have an appointment for in the near future.

A few clarifying points:
Fiance does hire a dogwalker when he's going to be away from the house for especially long days, and he takes Dog on hour long walks in the evenings. He has provided Dog with things to do (chewy things) and has worked on training him in the past months. Fiance also took Dog to puppy school/dog parks and tried to socialize him in his puppy days, but I guess his (in-born?) fear was too big a factor. I don't know all the details because I wasn't around at that point.

Dog is also much better behaved when it's just him and Fiance. It's really my presence that exacerbates the bad behavior. And because I'm not around all the time, it's been difficult for me to draw a line about how our permanent situation will be.

So it's certainly not an ideal situation for us by any stretch of the imagination, but Fiance has tried. I think "absolutely [shirks] his responsibilities" is a mischaracterization.
posted by emkelley at 10:47 PM on November 3, 2009

Fiance refuses to get rid of Dog because a) he loves him and b) he assumes he'll be put down if we have to give him away. I know there are rescue groups so I don't think euthanasia isn't a certainty. Plus I think that Dog would be happier if we could find him a home with people who have time to be with him--Fiance works 60-80 weeks and doesn't have the time or energy.

Okay, so, this is easy to say (if difficult for you to face):

#1: You find a rescue group that will take the dog. You tell your fiance "look, I love you, but I cannot and will not live with that dog after what's happened. You need to make a decision." Then let him make the decision, and act accordingly; under the circumstances, I wouldn't want to live with (much less marry) someone who wouldn't take the route that makes life better for you AND for the dog.

#2: You try to find a rescue group that will take the dog, but fail, because they say he's too aggressive. You tell your fiance "look, I love you, but I cannot and will not live with a dog that's so aggressive he won't be taken by rescue groups, especially after what's happened. You don't want to put him down and neither do I, but that means we can't be together." Then walk away, not because he wouldn't put down the dog, but because there's simply no way for you to be and feel safe while that dog is in that house.

Anyway, the bottom line is: he has taken on the responsibility of feeding and housing the dog, but not taking care of it, and so he's created this mess he's in. Like any other "you made this bed, now you have to lay in it" scenario, you're not just marrying him, you're marrying his mess -- and this is a pretty substantial one. It's up to you to set boundaries that can make this relationship work for you, and if he can't or won't respect them, it's time to move on.
posted by davejay at 10:49 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm with otherworldlyglow. This is a bad sign about your fiance. The dog had you in hospital for two days? I love dogs. When my boxer died of diabetes I cried and cried like a baby. But if a dog hospitalised my wife I'd shoot the fucking thing myself.

And frankly - kids? Dogs are low maintenance compared to kids. If he's putting 80 hour weeks ahead of his responsibilities to his dog, to the point where the dog has become a danger to others, what sort of parent will he be?
posted by rodgerd at 10:53 PM on November 3, 2009 [9 favorites]

I'm reading into this a bit, but that dog is half-crazy. It takes more than chew toys and daily walks to keep a good dog. Dogs are pack animals, need to socialize, and act out in uncomfortable and unpredictable ways when they don't have this. At 3 1/2, it's going to take a fair bit of work to bring him back down to earth.
posted by rhizome at 10:59 PM on November 3, 2009

Just want to add this: if this dog ever runs off and mauls a neighborhood kid, or attacks one of his walkers, or seriously injures anyone, you are looking at serious liability issues. You can read a little bit about "dog-bite laws" here.

Since this dog has already put you in the hospital, it will be rightly assumed that you both clearly knew that the dog was "dangerous" and will be liable for the consequences. Frankly, if a dog escaped and bit me (or a family member) and I found out that it had already hospitalized someone -- I would sue the living daylights out of you. Your fiance would be working 100 hour weeks to pay off legal bills and settlements.

This dog needs to be destroyed.
posted by Ljubljana at 12:20 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Most breeds of dog are VERY trainable at all but the last stages of their life. 3.5 years is not a problem at all.

Moreover, American Eskimos were specifically bred to be companion dogs and have an EXCELLENT innate temperament -- they might be a little yappy but are not naturally aggressive.

So to fix the dog's behaviour you should:

1) Get the dog professionally trained.
2) Get educated on how to handle the dog and maintain its training.

But just as jamaro said, dog training is 90% about owner training. And it is phenomenally difficult to change adult human behaviour...far, far harder than it is to change a dog.

I think you should just convince your fiance that the dog must go. But don't put the dog down -- find it a good home. The dog can definitely be saved.
posted by randomstriker at 12:29 AM on November 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Honestly, I don't even know that I'd advocate returning the dog to a rescue at this point. While they do the best they can (and we have eight cats and a dog, all from rescues--I love me some rescue), I think that this might be beyond their capabilities. It's hard not to downplay aggression and/or socialization issues when you're trying desperately to get an animal adopted, and this just sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

I agree with this -- it sounds like the dog is going to be beyond what a lot of rescue groups can even handle. However, I completely disagree with the conclusion drawn by Ljubljana that this means the dog needs to be destroyed. What about seeing if he would be a candidate at Best Friends, who specializes as a "last resort" in working with exactly this sort of dog at their sanctuary? They're one of the leading groups that advocated for (and have been quite successful in) rehabilitating the Michael Vick dogs, which even PETA advocated to have put down en masse.
posted by scody at 12:32 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Despite biting you, the dog is not a lost cause ... until your fiancee has spent time and money training it, and it still isn't working.

This means that your fiancee must: spend time taking weekend courses with the dog (and you should be there too).

This also means the fiancee must hire a professional trainer who can work with positive reinforcement, daily, for the next year 3 - 12 months.

Fiancee must be willing to commit to this, otherwise there is almost zero chance the dog's behavior will change.

And if the fiancee can't commit to this, then it's you or the dog.
posted by zippy at 1:27 AM on November 4, 2009

It is possible that the fiancee, by their absence, hasn't established a good relationship with the dog. The dog, nervous about its place in the universe (the social hierarchy in the household) seeks to resolve this ambiguity by acting aggressively, possibly out of fear.

Training can give the dog great peace of mind and resolve this sort of situation.

Get a professional trainer who can work with the dog, your fiancee, and you on this.

Good luck.
posted by zippy at 1:33 AM on November 4, 2009

The dog should go.

He could most likely be trained out of his behaviors by someone who could/would be with him most of the time. By most of the time I mean a majority of the dog's waking hours.

Sounds like your fiancee won't be. So, are you gonna be the dog's trainer? Because to live with the dog you will have to be and there is no other way. Dog's are not half-way creatures. I had a difficult dog I loved dearly but man he was a handful. I had to train myself as almost as much as him and none of it was particularly easy or part-time (on the part of myself or the dog).

Through it all, I do have to say, there's no question but that had the dog bit my GF I would have... well I don't know exactly what I would have done, but it would have resulted in significant changes. A dog biting is a sign of imbalance in the dog's life (too much fear or too little respect for owners or both) and without swift rectification that behavior will only get worse.

Good luck.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:37 AM on November 4, 2009


Dogs need training, not Prozac. If your fiancé wants to keep the dog and you, he needs to pony up the money and time necessary to train the dog properly. It can be done, but it takes time and effort.
posted by idiomatika at 1:46 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

He is shirking his responsibilities. The things you mention in your follow-up are routine pet care what-not. This dog requires a lot more than routine care at this point (euthanasia, probably), and he is totally shirking his duty there.

You say "when" about children, but there's no "when" with this dog in the picture. Fiance's priorities and yours may not match up. Never mind the issue of kids getting bitten; having a baby in a house with a dog that had once put you in the hospital would be a 24/7 nightmare of fear for a new mother. You wouldn't sleep. Really not do-able by any stretch of the imagination.
posted by kmennie at 3:10 AM on November 4, 2009

Best answer: As I see it there a are a few different questions that need to be addressed:

1. Is this dog capable of being rehabilitated and trained not to exhibit violent, aggressive behavior?
2. Is it possible to do so in the dog's current environment with some changes?
3. Based on the answers to 1 and 2, what should you do with the dog?
4. What does this say about your fiance and if its' anything negative, is it something that can be improved upon?

1. This dog bit someone he knows three times, with one of those bites resulting in a two day hospitalization. Most people would probably put this dog down with a heavy heart. I would collect a couple of professional opinions from animal behaviorists/trainers and veterinarians to see what they think. It sounds like his aggression might be a territorial thing and stemming for his attachment to the ex-girlfriend. As this has played out, now there is actual tension between the two of you, and a negative dynamic has resulted. Since it's so specific, I would think there's a strong possibility that he could be trained to be a good, non-aggressive dog with other people. In terms of you being around him, don't know how cemented that negative dynamic is, but it may not be fixable at this point, even with tons of work.

2. Possible, yes, but likely, no. I love animals, and I absolutely adore dogs in particular, but I do not think I would be comfortable living with a dog that attacked me to the point of a two day hospitalization. Even if the dog had a miraculous turn around with training and there were significant positive changes on your fiance's part as a dog owner, I think that the understandable tension between you and the dog will remain in the air between you, and it will just feed off of itself and undermine any positive change in the dog's attitude about you. Because of this, I do not think you can live peacefully with this dog, and should not be expected to do so, either. This is not your fault, nor really is it the dog's, and your fiance needs to realize that the loving choice for both you and the dog is to remove him from this home.

3. I think I would try placing the dog with someone who has full knowledge and understanding of this dog's behavior, and invest in training before, during, and after the dog moves into his new home so the transition will be successful. My first thought was the ex-girlfriend. It sounds like the dog may not have had any issues with her, and if that is the case, that would be my first try. Failing finding someone on your own, maybe you could work with a rescue to find a placement while the dog remained in your fiance's home and received some training. That could take a while though, and I don't think you should have to put up with this situation any longer than you are willing. I do think it is reasonable to consider putting this dog down and would understand why someone would do so, but if you are the only person he has expressed aggression like this towards, then I think there is a strong possibility he can be saved.

4. I don't know if it's fair to say this indicates some serious flaws on your fiance's part. Mistakes yes, but red flag worthy character faults? I'm not so sure. It sounds like the first few years of dog ownership were not ideal in terms of shaping behavior, but first-time dog ownership can be full of pitfalls and is a learning experience. While his job is pretty demanding, it sounds he has made a real effort to spend time with his dog, break up the dog's day with a dog walker, and to socialize and train him, even if those attempts weren't that successful. It sounds like your fiance is concerned about your well-being and realizes that there is a problem, but is struggling with the idea of parting with his dog who he also loves. While his connection to you should (and, in all likelihood, probably does) outrank his attachment to the dog, it is still immensely hard to give up a pet, even when you know it's the right thing to do. I can't blame him for wanting him to find a way to keep you both in his life, but now he needs to face reality and fix this. If he refuses to do so, then yes, there is your bright red flag.

Best of luck to the three of you!
posted by katemcd at 3:12 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

This dog requires a lot more than routine care at this point (euthanasia, probably)

This dog does NOT need to be killed off. Re-training it is absolutely feasible, especially because it is of a breed that is particularly well-suited for human companionship.

The only question is whether or not the human owners are up to the task. It takes work, so I wouldn't blame them if the answer is no, but in that case a better home should be found for the dog.
posted by randomstriker at 3:19 AM on November 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

If it were me, that dog put me in hospital, and he didn't immediately get rid of the dog, I would have gotten rid of the fiance.

That is just totally totally unacceptable.

Do not move in till the dog is gone, and then do not get another dog unless and until someone has time to socialize it, play with it, and be an active dog owner.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:14 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

I may be in the minority here - what else is new - but I think that you can still train him with a good dog behavior expert. If the dog is cast away, or put down, the gf might hold a grudge against you for a long time. Such things have been known to become wedges between people and resentment from that place can only build because there'd always be the question of *What If*. So, try to get a hold of an excellent dog trainer in your neck of the woods, give it a shot and if then you still haven't succeeded in stopping the behavior - at least you tried - and the gf won't hold it against you.
posted by watercarrier at 4:22 AM on November 4, 2009

Of course, no - you don't want a biter in a house with children. Full stop. I hope you guys can find someone with the time, interest and temperament to care for and train a dog, because he's probably not a hopeless case at all.

But also, I'm having trouble understanding the actual history here. I don't think there's any way that a dog attack that put you in the hospital for two days wouldn't have the hospital notifying animal control or whatever authorities deal with dangerous dogs... and the question of whether to keep or train or whatever would have no longer been a simple issue of choice for your boyfriend. Serious attacks like that are not ignored by the authorities.

... unless you lied and said it was an unknown dog that bit you... in which case, I guess you had to go through a series of painful rabies shots that you could have avoided if you had been able to show the rabies vaccination history of the dog - which seems a strangely self-sacrificing gesture for a dog you don't even like.
posted by taz at 5:00 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was given my red Doberman -- Rusty, The Wonder Dog -- when she was about 18 or 20 months old. I was her third owner. The first two let her totally run the show, then had to let her go because "she wasn't a good dog" and was tearing things up and doing pretty much whatever she wanted. We were running buddies for maybe six months, we had a lot of fun, I loved her, seemed she loved me, we caroused and cut up and walked together, etc and etc. I couldn't really let her off the lead, because she was out of control, wouldn't come if/when I called her, not unless she wanted to. And when on the lead she was all the time jerking my arm this way and that, tangling me up in the lead, on and on. She was friendly and loving, thank god for that, but she was used to getting her way and was awfully strong-willed, stubborn as hell.

One day I was out walking her in an open area, a good friend of mine, Rusty, and myself. Not a busy area and I let her off the lead so she could run, which she sure loved. A mocking bird taunted her, then took off, flying low, keeping just barely in front of Rusty, and Rusty was in full-out chase mode, having a blast.

My friend and I watched it all unfold, like a horror movie, slo-mo -- that son-of-a-bitching mockingbird kept on leading her, and then it flew right in front of a car. I'm calling Rusty, I'm frantic, it's a nightmare in real life. The mocker flew in front of the car, Rusty, running full out, completely in the moment, ran right into the side of that car, knocked some of the trim off the car, was thrown for a pretty good loop. It scared her real bad, confused her, rocked her clock, she was lost -- she took off running, ran and ran, I'm running after her, FINALLY caught up to her maybe half hour later, took her home, put her to bed.

That night I called a dog trainer I'd met on an jet back to Houston from Phoenix, nice woman, told me what she did for a living, i got her number (maybe her card?) and kept it, and called her. She gave me two options -- for $350 she'd give me a 'finished' dog, 20 lessons; for $175 she'd give ten lessons, mostly showing me how to train Rusty. Quite frankly, I'd have paid $350 for the lessons, because now that I know how to do it I'll be able to do it for the rest of my life.

I had to commit huge amounts of time and energy, particularly since there was so much ground to backtrack -- you let a dog get used to running the show, it's not real interested in letting you run the show, and it will fight it in damn near any way it can, looking for even little victories so as to show you that you don't own it, it owns you, blah blah blah, etc and etc. I read -- a lot -- about training, we trained every day, we became partners, it took about a year of constant work to get to the point of her understanding that she was not the leader of the pack, and that I was the leader of the pack, and that if she wanted to fight that there were going to be consequences, and the more she fought the heavier the consequences became.

Long post -- Sum here: It's a huge job to train a dog. Period. If it's a dog that's not been trained, and has been allowed to be alpha, you've got to walk the dog backward, against its will, before the training can even really begin; this can take months, or more,maybe never. This animal of yours is almost certainly not going to respond to anything but the best training to be had, with the most experienced handlers to be found, and you're not that, and neither is your sweetie. It's a process, not an event, and it takes real dedication, and that is a fact.

Turned out that Rusty was the best animal I've ever known; all that work paid off, in spades People were amazed at her, how she'd walk right at my side without being on a lead, how she'd stop when I stopped, and she'd sit down, and watch my every move, so as to be ready to move when I moved. She'd work on voice commands or hand commands. It didn't matter if there were other dogs or cats or squirrels or anything else -- I was the one, I was the leader of the pack. Over time, she became tremendously proud, she absolutely knew that she was out of the ordinary, that people praised her, admired her -- she walked with pride, her eyes bright and happy.

Don't think you're going to throw a few bucks at someone and be given a finished animal. ESP one that's a biter already. If you keep this animal, there's going to be a huge investment of time and money, though mostly time, and effort; in short, love.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:36 AM on November 4, 2009 [21 favorites]

The fact that he doesn't want to do anything (train, medicate, kennel) a dog that put you in the hospital for TWO DAYS tells me- he should keep the dog. But you should dump him.
posted by headspace at 5:52 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have to agree with everyone calling into question your fiance's commitment level to you versus the dog.

I love my dog. I adore almost all dogs, and feel they are God's special gift to mankind. But if any dog of mine, no matter how dear or loyal, ever put my wife, girlfriend, or any human being at all in the hospital, that fucking thing would be in the God-damned ground by sundown.

This so-called man you're planning to marry is even discussing the idea of keeping that hound and compelling you to deal with its hostility? AFTER the dog attacked you?

And you're STILL planning to marry him?

emkelley, you need your head examined. I am not saying this in a flip way, or to be snarky. But it's crystal clear you need counselling to determine why you think so little of yourself that you think there is any reason to negotiate or compromise on the matter of this dog. You need professional help to figure out why you think this human you plan to marry is worth your time.

No one deserves to live with a hostile animal, and no one should plan to marry anyone who thinks the hostile animal is more important than themselves.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:41 AM on November 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

A couple suggestions:

Be sure you know the relevant laws in your area regarding dogs that bite. Also find out whether or not your home or renter's insurance gives you any coverage if the dog were to bite someone who went on to sue you (this has happened to an acquaintance--the insurance covered the first biting incident, but the rates shot up).

See if there's a breed rescue anywhere near you that might be able to point you to a good behaviorist and/or trainer. This might be a good starting point. A breed rescue would also likely be able to connect you with potential new owners who would be better equipped to rehabilitate and care for your dog.

Decide with your fiance which goes: the 80 hour work weeks or the dog. The two are not compatible.

(Personally, I wouldn't want anything to do with a dog that put me in the hospital, and moreover would be inclined to have him put down. Since you want to take a different route, the above suggestions seem to me to be prudent steps.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:26 AM on November 4, 2009

I urge you to consult a qualified animal behaviorist. If you are in the US or Canada, contact the Academy for Dog Trainers at the San Francisco SPCA and ask for a certified behaviorist working in your area. They have graduates working all over North America. A behaviorist will evaluate the dog and recommend what to do, either training, re-homing, or euthanasia.

If you decide to re-home, the dog should be evaluated by an expert and placed in an appropriate home. If he went to a family that is not prepared for his behavior issues, he would not get the environment he needs. Ultimately he would hurt someone and come to a bad end.

It sounds like you are in a difficult situation. Wishing you a quick path to the best solution.
posted by valannc at 8:08 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

But if a dog hospitalised my wife I'd shoot the fucking thing myself.

This. I cannot believe you'd consider marrying a man who refuses to get rid of a dog that put you in the hospital. I cannot believe you're questioning whether or not you're being reasonable. This just does. not. compute. My husband would kill his beloved dogs with his bare hands before he'd let them hurt me. There wouldn't be a second's hesitation in his mind. It's just absolutely unbelievable that your fiance would keep the dog. I'm speechless.
posted by desjardins at 8:20 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think the other issues that everyone is kind of talking about here is that --

1) this is a huge and difficult responsibility that your fiance does not want to face. Which is totally understandable! However, him ignoring the danger that this dog places you in in order to not have to face the guilt he has as a pet owner is not good. Period. As we go through life with a partner that involves facing up to some pretty daunting challenges, facing our fears, recognizing where we have not done right and trying to fix it. It's a very important life skill and it sounds to me like your fiance needs to work on this.

2) you are going to have to step up and really love and commit to this dog project if this is going to go forward. Do you want to? Really? I would not. I really don't like scary dogs and I can't imagine being strong enough to turn around after an attack and really give it my all. Don't commit to something just to try to make everything okay and let your SO off the hook. It's tempting, I know, but don't do it.

I don't know why you are reluctant to give an ultimatum here. It doesn't have to be a mean thing. You would like to move forward with your life together and this dog does not feature in it. Give him a timeline to make other arrangements. Give yourself a timeline that says if he's made no action on this, everything else is on hold. You may have to take a stand here but be gentle, as you are, so that he can come to terms with his irresponsibility and learn something from it. Leave "kids" out of it -- this is about you and he making a tough decision together and being better off for it.
posted by amanda at 8:38 AM on November 4, 2009

I wouldn't even be comfortable moving in next door to this dog, let alone in with him.

Worth remembering: if you marry this man, then you will be partly responsible, legally and financially, for any damage this dog does to other humans or their property.
posted by hermitosis at 9:23 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

emkelly: So it's certainly not an ideal situation for us by any stretch of the imagination, but Fiance has tried. I think "absolutely [shirks] his responsibilities" is a mischaracterization.

If one of your bites was bad enough to actually send you to the hospital for two days (I.e. you weren't in the emergency from from 11pm to 1am for two hours to wait for 4 stitches), the dog at the very least needs to go elsewhere. Our beagle bit me once (I didn't grow up a dog person) when she was a puppy and it just barely broke then skin and I stopped the bleeding in under 5 minutes. I'm still afraid of her when she gets tempermantal. Our kids are well trained with what not to do with the beagle, what the signs of different doggy emotions are, and to back away and get us if she shows any signs of aggression, fear or pain. I'm the only one she's ever bitten and it was just once, 6-7 years ago. She's afraid of the dark, arthritic knees, and generally neurotic (reject from an animal testing program), so it's not because of her doggy greatness that there haven't been other biting incidents.

It's completely unreasonable to expect you to ever feel safe around a dog that caused as much damage as you're implying with the two day hospital visit.

If you're not mischaractarizing the damage re: two days in hospital, then I don't think that it's mischaractarizing that your Fiance has shirked his responsibilities; whether it was training the animal while young, socializing the dog with you (including training you to be appropriate with the dog), or responding to three biting incidents, one of which was quite brutal.
posted by nobeagle at 9:45 AM on November 4, 2009

Refuse to enter your fiance's home until you are satisfied that this problem is resolved. Do not visit, do not sleep over, do not make any plans to move in, until this dog is no longer a threat to you and until you feel safe.

Do this for two reasons. The first, and most important, is that you need to protect your own safety. This dog, for whatever reason, attacks you, and the best way to protect yourself is to avoid giving it that opportunity.

The second reason to do this is that it forces your fiance to actually deal with the problem. He will need to either prioritize training and caring for this animal in a way that he has refused to do in the past, or he will need to choose between keeping the dog and keeping you. What he chooses to do in this situation will tell you whether he's able to step up and take responsibility for helpless living creatures. It will also tell you whether, when all is said and done, he's willing to protect you. These are critical issues to resolve before you marry.
posted by decathecting at 9:53 AM on November 4, 2009

"I think "absolutely [shirks] his responsibilities" is a mischaracterization."

emkelly - Your assessment of this situation is faulty and will put you and others in harm's way.

I knew a super bright woman w/ a very big dog (some kind of wolf hybrid.) I loved that dog, but it always widged me out a bit. One day, during play that the dog misunderstood - the dog bit the face of a neighbor. Stitches, plastic surgery, nerve damage & scarring.

My respect for this woman plummeted. There were warning signs the dog would eventually maim someone, and these warning signs were willfully ignored. Prior to the attack, I always suspected my friend was misleading me in regards to her big dog. When I heard the news, I realized one wrong gesture on my part, and it could easily have been me that was attacked.

You and your boyfriend are willfully ignoring serious warning signs.

I don't mean to sound horrible - but I hope hope hope the next time the dog seriously injures someone (it will) that it is either you or your boyfriend that are hurt.

Innocent friends, neighbors and delivery people will visit your home. They'll think you own a loving family pet - YOU DO NOT. Instead, you own a ticking time-bomb, a dog that has already put someone in the hospital.

What exactly are you waiting for here??

There is another problem - Yes. The problem is between you and your boyfriend.

#1: Finding the dog a proper living environment is a no-brainer and should have been sorted out before you left the hospital after the last attack.

Your boyfriend either has a skewed sense of safety/priorities, or he outright puts the dog above your health and safety. Don't marry this man.

#2: The fact that the dog was a gift from the ex-girlfriend is the MacGuffin in this situation.

It's irrelevant, although it's bright and shiny fact that deep down has your attention. Is your boyfriend - Sorry! FIANCE -- subconsciously holding on to the dog to "hold onto the ex' or piss you off? WHO CARES!

Someone will (again) get seriously hurt by the dog. Someone will end up with scars. You already have scars - right?

Again, what are you waiting for?

(ps - I'm usually not so vociferous and mean. but I've been that innocent visitor to your home. If I knew your pet had sent you to the hospital for 2 days I would not visit you. This situation is NOT ok. You and your boyfriend are making decisions for innocent parties (the dog is safe!) that is not based in fact, experience, or recent history. You don't have the right to put folks in danger like that. You don't. Please do the right thing here. kthxbye.)
posted by jbenben at 10:55 AM on November 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

"involved a bite that sent me to the hospital for two nights."

Is that an exaggeration or a true story? That would almost indicate a practical mauling.

Finding a new home for such a dog shouldn't be too difficult at all.
posted by drstein at 12:08 PM on November 4, 2009

this post makes me really sad...
OP, no one here is being unreasonable in stating that the blame here is on your fiance. dogs take a lot of effort, time, and love. so do relationships. your fiance hasn't put in enough of the three for either of these. you were hospitalized. i wouldn't say that nothing has been done on your fiance's part in the aftermath of this, but clearly not ENOUGH has been done. this is serious business. this poor dog- and let's face it, you as well- need someone willing to put in all the care and responsibility needed in a situation like this. i would never stay in a situation where i feared for my physical well being in what would soon be my own home. it doesn't matter how good the dog is alone with your fiance. if he exhibits this kind of aggression towards you surely the same could happen to others while the dog remains semi-neglected and untrained. even if you and your fiance take steps towards training, you will always be scared of the dog on some level, and unless your fiance changes his job he still won't have enough time for the dog. i agree with many others here that this dog deserves a chance at being with a family that will give it the patience, thoughtfulness, and good home it deserves.

having been attacked to the point of hospitalization i think you are completely reasonable in not wanting to live with this animal. please take care of yourself, and i hope this all works out for everyone (and every dog!) involved.
posted by raw sugar at 12:32 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


1) this dog indeed attacked you badly enough that you needed to be hospitalized for two days (by which I mean that the attack itself was that bad, not that you had a reaction to medication or whatever)


2) the fiance seems to have no inclination to address this issue


you need to stay away from the dog and I think you should seriously consider why you are marrying someone who is willing to put your life and health at risk to this extent.

It is no secret here that I love dogs (more than I love most people), but this dog is not a pet, it is a time bomb. No ethical rescue group will take a dog with this sort of bite history. Some dogs cannot live well with people, whether because of faulty wiring or poor management, a dog that causes enough damage to put someone in hospital for two days (again, with the above caveat) is not a dog that can live safely with people, especially if owned by someone ignorant or indifferent. You cannot "train out" aggression like this, you can only manage it, which can maybe, possibly reduce it somewhat, but that takes a serious commitment from the owner, which seems obviously lacking in this case. There are far worse fates for a dog than euthanasia, and they don't know they're on death row. No matter how this dog got this way, no matter whose fault it is, this dog is dangerous and should not be around people (its breed is irrelevant, I have met many Eskies who are overly quick to bite, and more than one who was dangerously so, in addition, a dog of this size doing that much damage is more concerning than a larger dog doing the same, because it indicates a pretty extreme level of commitment to harm - landing someone in the hospital for days is not a fearful "nip and run"). It is also worth mentioning that a dog who lives under the level of stress required to provoke this kind of extreme behaviour is not a dog living a happy and pleasant life.
posted by biscotti at 1:37 PM on November 4, 2009

While her response isn't up to Miss Manner's usually stellar wit, I thought this story of the cat from hell might amuse you, considering.
posted by space_cookie at 1:57 PM on November 4, 2009

I agree with you giving your fiance a timeline. I also believe that you need to be in on the training. I don't think the dog is going to listen to you if you aren't there to interact starting right away.

Eskimos are smart dogs, so don't underestimate the training.

That said, the biting really worries me. You have every right not to be terrorized in your own home. Your fiance needs to understand that. Speaking as a person who loves her dog like a member of the family, your fiance needs to understand that a dog is not actually family. It is a pet. You are family. If he doesn't have those right in his mind then maybe there is more wrong with your relationship than this dog.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:04 PM on November 4, 2009

I should say that above post was not meant to make light of or minimize the seriousness situation.
posted by space_cookie at 2:11 PM on November 4, 2009

Oops....Of your, there should be an 'of your' in there.
posted by space_cookie at 2:16 PM on November 4, 2009

From the experts on this breed:

*American Eskimo Dogs
What's good about 'em
What's bad about 'em

If you want a dog who...

* Looks like a pure white "husky"
* Comes in several sizes, from small to medium-large
* Plays hard and loves vigorous exercise
* Makes a keen watchdog
* Is bright and clever and excels at learning tricks

An American Eskimo Dog may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

* High energy level
* Exuberant jumping, especially when young
* "Separation anxiety" (destructiveness and barking) when left alone too much
* Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
* Suspiciousness toward strangers
* Heavy shedding
* Barking

An American Eskimo Dog may not be right for you.

The site cited.

That said - IF you and your fiancee should decide to part ways with this animal, it is highly suggested that you find an American Eskimo RESCUE group that will know how to deal with him, how to rehome him and to whom. It would seem that under these circumstances just dropping him off at a pound is needlessly cruel and in all likelihood they would not know how to address his special needs either, possibly resulting in more angst all around.
posted by watercarrier at 3:40 PM on November 4, 2009

Was this AskMe ever resolved? I have a very similar situation right now and would be interested to know what happened.
posted by tizzie at 7:39 AM on July 13, 2010

« Older troubleshooting a (mostly) broken laptop key   |   Its a birthday trip not a honeymoon! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.