March 8, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I own several dogs. I hate one of them. Help.

Long story short, I have four rescue dogs. I love these guys with all my heart, but one of them, despite the amount of positive reinforcement training I have given him, grates on my nerves on a daily basis. First of all is his high-pitched, extremely shrill bark that affects me like nails across a chalkboard. The barking has diminished through constant training, but is not completely eliminated (will bark at noises I obviously can't hear myself). Secondly is the dog aggression towards strange dogs, that also will probably never disappear (though it can be managed.) Thirdly is the ungodly amount of energy, that despite HOURS of activity or mental training, never completely seems to burn off. Add this to several other minor issues that make me feel antagonistic to the poor little guy (like disrupting my sleep even though he's crate-trained). Clearly not his fault--this is my own issue I am struggling with day to day.

I like dogs. I LOVE my other dogs. I don't like THIS dog, despite having had him for a year and a half.

Is there a way I can grow to love this dog (he's four years old, btw, far past his puppy stage)? Does anyone care to share stories of "I hated my rescue dog at first, but grew to love him?" I need to change my perspective on him. Seriously, I'd love to give him away, but my spouse won't hear of it, and it's really not very nice now, is it? If there is a situation where he can be in a better home (like a place with 10 acres) I would gladly rehome him, but the probability of this happening is probably nil.

Help me live with this guy. Help me love him. Or at least not hate or resent him. Help.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to your vet about putting him on something? My sister's dog has a prescription for some sort of meds that calm him down (maybe anti-anxiety? not sure.)
posted by GastrocNemesis at 1:38 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you considered toys that are more active engagement/stimulation? One of those balls that you put food in, the dog rolls it around and the food dribbles out slowly?

Is he in some kind of "work"- is he a working breed? Many, many Aussie Shepherd and Terrier mixes I know have been greatly improved by agility work, or earthdog training.

Aside from that, is there specific time that is set aside for this dog to get one-on-one people time, without their doggie siblings inbetween you and him?
posted by Hwin at 1:39 PM on March 8, 2011

Since you already have multiple dogs, do you think you could find either another home for him or a rescue organization in your area that could take him? I know pet owners often feel that stability in an animal's life is really important, and thus they shouldn't "re-home" their pets unless they have to, but it sounds like it just isn't working out with this dog. There might be someone out there who has the incredible amount of patience this dog needs. Perhaps he would thrive in a home where he was an only-dog, and his human(s) could literally spend hour upon hour each day helping him expend his huge amount of energy. Finding a more suitable home for this dog doesn't make you a bad dog owner, it just means that you recognized your home wasn't a good fit for this particular dog.
posted by wansac at 1:44 PM on March 8, 2011 [7 favorites]

Is he personally happy in your home and living with the other dogs?

Some animals want to be in a single-pet household and THRIVE when they are the only one receiving attention.

If my question and explanation holds some relevance for you, please please please re-visit the possibility of re-homing this little guy with your spouse. I know of several happy outcomes from situations just like you describe here.

Like people, when animals don't have their needs met, they act out. From a certain perspective, it's kinda cruel to deny an animal what they really require in an environment if at all possible.

(Not saying you are doing that! Just giving you a talking point for your spouse if you suspect this might be contributing to the behavior issue:)
posted by jbenben at 1:48 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with wansac and jbenben -- this doesn't sound like a bad dog, and you don't sound like a bad dog owner; it just sounds like a bad fit in a sort of square peg/round hole sort of way. In particular, the dog might really benefit from being in an only-dog home -- which, obviously, it's impossible for you to provide, and would therefore necessitate that you re-home him. In this context, though your spouse obviously wants to do right by the dog (as do you, commendablly), refusing "to hear of it" in regards to any discussion of re-homing actually does the dog a disservice.
posted by scody at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seriously, I'd love to give him away, but my spouse won't hear of it, and it's really not very nice now, is it?

You're right - it's not very nice of your spouse to put the dog's happiness above yours. Pets should not make your life miserable for a decade - then they're not pets, they're a burden.
posted by Dasein at 1:55 PM on March 8, 2011 [25 favorites]

omg I have the same exact dog. The loud, shrill barking, the other dog issues, the nervous energy, the waking me up, everything. He is also a nervous marker and pees all over the house if he is alone and uncrated for five minutes. He is very sweet in other ways and I do love him, but I probably want to throw him across the room at least once a day (I would never actually do this, obviously).

Definitely talk to your vet about anti-anxiety meds if you haven't already. He is probably suffering at least as much as you are if he's this wound up, and medication might help. Our dog is on clomipramine and it helps (Prozac is another option). I took him to a class for dog aggression and learned a lot of nifty training training tips. He will never love new dogs but he's becoming more manageable on walks etc. He also loved the classes and they were great mental stimulation for him, and one-on-one bonding for us, important in a multi-dog household.

The barking is a big one - my dog could split eardrums. Have you tried a citronella collar? They spray a harmless mist when the dog barks, and work extremely well on my dog. An odd side effect is he seems to calm down in general when he's wearing it because he can't bark himself into a tizzy. He actually seems happier with the thing on.

I wouldn't rule out looking for a good home for him. If it helps your husband accept the possibility, maybe the dog would do better with someone who has more attention to give a problem dog. I have three rescues myself, so I sympathize with the difficulty of juggling multiple dogs.

A dog trainer recently told me that "dogs always do their best," and I think that's important to remember, hard as it can be sometimes. Other than that I can only offer you sympathy. You do seem to have a good dose of sympathy for him, which is important. It can be hard to remember that they are not trying to torture you on purpose :-)
posted by walla at 2:11 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is absolutely something that you can and should talk to your vet about. S/he might suggest some specific kind of training, the aforementioned medication, or might agree with the (good) advice here that the dog is not a good fit for your household and it would be better for you and him if you found him another home. Just be prepared to accept the advice (even if it's the "you probably shouldn't keep him" that you don't want to hear) because while the answers here are thoughtful, the vet will know the situation better than we do.

Veterinarians know about the realities of pet ownership. S/he won't think any less of you for hearing that the dog is a problem and will appreciate that you're being so considerate of his well-being instead of saying "can you maim his vocal cords" or "this dog sucks. Put it down, please." I promise you the vet's heard both of those before.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:18 PM on March 8, 2011

Er, husband = spouse. I think I'm imagining you as me because you appear to have the same dog :-)
posted by walla at 2:20 PM on March 8, 2011

You have 4 dogs. 1 of them is quite high-maintenance. Re-homing a dog is not like giving a child up for adoption (although I'd have gladly sent my teen to live with another family for a while, for a few years, there, and he'd have gone, gladly). Dog deserves to be loved, not just tolerated, and a new home might offer that.

If you absolutely won't re-home the dog, develop a list of Dog's good traits, and keep reminding yourself of this dog's really good traits. Spend some 1:1 time w/ Dog every day, giving treats and affection.
posted by theora55 at 2:34 PM on March 8, 2011

My mom had the most obnoxious, anxious, often- aggressive rescue dog. She improved in time and became fairly sweet and calm, but I think the main catalyst for that was that my parents divorced and my dad took their other dog (the one that was easy to love), which meant that my mom gave all of her attention to this dog. Being the only dog in a household might be a really good situation for your dog.
posted by geegollygosh at 2:37 PM on March 8, 2011

We had a problem dog--different problems from yours, but still mostly problems because he would have been better off in a single dog home. We loved him to bits and wouldn't think about rehoming him...until his problems became such that he absolutely could not live in a multiple dog home any more.

He went to live with a friend of ours who loves him. He is SO HAPPY. All that time he spent with us, being anxious and distressed a lot of it, we could maybe have spared him that by finding him a home where he could be an only dog a long time ago. Some of his issues meant we were hesitant to let him go to any home that didn't have rescue experience, and everybody who has rescue experience has multiple dogs! So we didn't even try...but when our friend was available to take him, he became such a happier dog.

Maybe we should have tried harder, earlier; we just didn't want him to go to a bad situation, we didn't want to feel like we were bad people for "giving up" on him, we thought he'd be better if we didn't uproot him. We were wrong. He was a bad fit for our home and is much happier now.
posted by galadriel at 4:47 PM on March 8, 2011

If you can find something fun and positive to do with the dog it might help you see him as something other than a pain in the neck. With all the chaos of 4 dogs I can see how the good things about the dog might get lost, and all that sticks out are the loud and annoying things. It might do you and the dog some good to spend some one on one time getting to know each other as individuals.

If the dog is high energy maybe get into a sport like Flyball or agility or even frisbee sports with him? Flyball is lots of fun and great for energetic dogs. I've never laughed and cheered so hard as I did watching my first flyball event and I didn't even have a dog competing.

Spend some time one on one with it and teach it some fun and silly tricks like turning on a light or scratching your back. There are lots of youtube videos of fun ideas. Or find a game it likes that you like to play that he likes likes and play it just the 2 of you.

Even just go to dog training classes just you and that dog, it will help him learn to focus a little more and would help him get less aggressive with other dogs and you'd have a trainer there to teach you techniques that can really help your dog with his aggression. Also again it can be fun out doing something like that with your dog.

If the barking is a problem I agree that citronella collars can really help, but in a multi dog household you have to watch that the other dogs barks don't set off the collar and the poor dog gets sprayed when its not barking. You can also get pheromone collars which we have used with some success to help calm down a dog with separation anxiety, they help the dog feel more secure. I don't know if that would help with the barking but it might help calm the dog down if its stressing too much.

I agree with some of the comments here though, if you find that nothing helps it might be worth trying to rehome the dog if you can talk your spouse around.
posted by wwax at 5:03 PM on March 8, 2011

My oldest dog is similar (we say our other dogs need to live forever, but this dog will be missed when he's gone). Medication definitely helped (he was on Xanax for a while, and is now on fluoxetine instead, which works much better and doesn't have the "on-off" effect that Xanax does). What also helps is a place to focus his mental energy like a dog sport - tracking works wonders with this dog (it is the only time he is out in the world and DOESN'T seem to have ADHD, he is calm and focused on the job, and even ignores his usual stressors pretty much completely when he is working), agility worked wonderfully too, but he was too reactive to other dogs for me to tolerate taking him to agility classes. He is 8 years old now and most people say "he's not that bad", but they didn't see him years ago, they didn't see him before the nearly 8 years of training, classes, remedial socialization, behaviorists and medication, not to mention the money, the tears and the stress.

I think your dog might benefit from medication and a dog sport like tracking (or anything, really), but honestly, some dogs just don't fit into some homes, there's no shame in that, and your dog's quality of life will suffer if you force yourself to live with a dog you can't stand. I won't rehome my dog because 80% of the time he is awesome, but he for sure makes our lives a lot more stressful than they need to be for that other 20% of the time (plus, he is 8). I would contact the rescue you got him from (most rescues do not want you to rehome a dog yourself).
posted by biscotti at 5:03 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

2nding or 3rding doggy Xanax or something similar. I have a friend who took that route with great success. His main concern was that his dog would become lethargic and no fun but that wasn't the case at all. It seemed to us that the dog just had a different perspective on things.
posted by snsranch at 6:33 PM on March 8, 2011

I feel for you - my in-laws always seem to have a dog like this, and they feel as if nobody will want (currently, Furby) but them. They seem to get them when their friends die, and their friends are often other old people with small dogs and a high tolerance for barking (deafness) and bad behaviour (they arecute) and no need to train them, because their social lives don't require it.

And that's not true - there are other people who want to be the saviour for dogs like that too. I'm a sucker myself. And I'm telling you: Don't be a hero. Finding that "forever" home can be a slow and gradual process - it doesn't have to happen overnight. It's not "giving him away", it's "wanting the best" for him. I adore dogs. I've only ever lived without one for one year of my life, and felt the loss keenly every day.

That said, the dog I have now, I've already signed her DNR. I chose, even after much research and long conversations between the former owner and much of the work you've described since getting her, the wrong breed for me. It's that her ingrained characteristics are simply not my bag, and her personality isn't great enough to make it a joyful experience overall. Thankfully, due to breed-specific issues, it's a short-term commitment. I do love her, in that she can be sweet and can't help that she's a goopy-eyed toenail-growing garbage eating cat chasing howling lazy slobberbeast who emanates the stench of warm Fritos and will only come when called about 80% of the time... but I view her as my cross to bear for other fallible qualities of my own and my husband leaves me to it. She didn't grieve her former owners one bit - I'm sure she'd throw me under a bus for a stray meatball and would happily embrace a new family as long as her new, larger, smelly comfy chair came with her. But, my own principles will last the three or so more years I have left to bear, and even our worst care is waaaaay better than her former life.

It could also be that four dogs is pushing the limits of your monkeysphere. We currently have the dog; a cat; a feral cat we feed daily; a gecko; two snakes; a tarantula and three mice. I had a toad for a few months, and when he died, I was genuinely sad - but somewhat relieved, even though he was little more trouble than a pet rock. While many of them are long-lived, and some of them short-lived, on a daily basis they require little investment and still have a great quality of life. All the pets, apart from the dog, are pretty low maintenance - but four dogs is a lot of vet bills, a lot of intensive time in training, a lot of emotional need, and a lot of food and grooming and dog hair in the house -- and the balance from being purely enjoyable to a constant low-level stress may have been tipped there.

I'd suggest outsourcing some of the care - do you have a doggie daycare/daycamp thing? Is it worth it to you to have someone else take the dog from time to time so you can have a break? When we go on vacation, one of the reasons it's relaxing is that we leave her with my folks, and budget $100 to pay their neighbour to take her for walks twice a day during that week. The neighbour actually thinks it's a treat, like the fun of having a dog without the awful parts. If your spouse gets to see how nice life is without the source of stress, your spouse might come around.
posted by peagood at 6:37 PM on March 8, 2011

I have a dog I got form the pound on sale. For what became obvious reasons: she is the Craziest dog in Crazy Town. She was at the pound because she ran away from every other place she lived, she even escaped from the pound. She steals, lies, is ridiculously needy and requires about 17 hours of exercise every day. I love her and she adores me and we coexist very happily (although if she eats another remote I'm going to strangle her).

Point being, there is someone out there who will think your dog is cute and laugh at his quirks and not mind the barking or carrying on (a farm is NOT the place for a dog like that though). And there is a place where he will be more comfortable and not need to be medicated or constantly corrected for his behavior. Re-homing is a perfectly legitimate option here. You can take your time and find a good situation but it's not a human child, it's a dog. It's OK to give it away to someone who wants it and will take good care of it. Dogs adapt pretty quickly and they don't think in terms of BFFs; they just like all the people. Maybe you could try having a friend who doesn't have a dog look after him for a month or so. If he's visibly saner in a one-dog household then you probably owe it to him to make that happen.
posted by fshgrl at 11:24 PM on March 8, 2011

btw, my dog has never, ever tried to run away from me. I couldn't lose her if I tried. For whatever reason her tiny little mind decided this was the place to be and the people she wants to be with.
posted by fshgrl at 11:26 PM on March 8, 2011

just a small datapoint: I don't think 4 years old is necessarily past 'puppy stage.' My dog was probably 6 before he calmed down (and he's not a small dog). I found, for him, 7 years old was the beginning of his great, calmer, more fun years.
posted by soplerfo at 9:45 AM on March 9, 2011

This relationship is not going to work. DTMFA. Give it up for adoption. Or...whatever.

It's a dog for christ's sake. They're no more sentient than pigs or cows. They make us think they're brilliant emotional beings, but it's just an adorable evolutionary trick. This guilt you're feeling is just it working thousands of years of coevolution against you. This is how they avoided getting eaten by our ancestors.

Somewhere another worthy dog is getting put down because it's languishing in a shelter. Go find her!
posted by pjaust at 6:18 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

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