I made a stupid decision: new dog owner
February 12, 2014 2:29 AM   Subscribe

I've adopted a dog from a local shelter, and I may have made a terrible mistake. I'm seriously thinking of returning her, but I've had her less than half a day. See details inside.

Okay: TL:DR I adopted a 4 month mix breed pup from a local shelter this afternoon; she's a handful, is teething and refuses to poop outside, and she breaks out of every enclosure I've put her in. I cannot go to sleep, because she has to be watched 24/7.

I haven't owned a dog since university, although I've lived with several (partners, roomies, shared houses) and have dog-sat or dog-cared for week-to-month long stretches several times as well. Pup is unusually energetic, very very mouthy, rambunctious and, because she's teething, chewy. Chewy as in furniture. She has chew toys, three of them, but she's partial to the teak.

She is good about asking to go out, but will only pee outside, NOT POOP OUTSIDE. I have had her for 12 hours. She has pooped three times, once in the car (my fault) and twice in the house, both times AFTER WALKS OF MORE THAN TWO HOURS LENGTH. I have a fenced yard but she will not go there either.

She's exhausted, because I've walked her for 6 of the last 12 hours (this is not an exaggeration), so she's sleeping, but I can't sleep, because she cannot be left alone at all, under any circumstances. She breaks out of her crate, jumps the baby gates, and has figured out how to open the bathroom door. She's also incredibly anxious. I have to leave her alone for three hours tomorrow.

I also have cats, two of them. They're shut away in the bedrooms upstairs.

I cannot sleep. I have not eaten. I have not fed or watered the cats. I cannot leave her. I cannot pay any attention to anything other than her: hence cannot eat or go upstairs to feed the kitties. Turning my back means either poop or she's on the stove.

Tomorrow morning I teach. Before I was aware of what I had let myself in for, I'd intended to give her a nice long walk (45 minutes or so) in the morning, crate her in the kitchen and rush back to walk her after my classes (from 10:30 to 1:30 -- so I'd have been gone from 9:30 to 2). Now I know that's impossible (she breaks out of the crate, the baby gates, the bathroom). Doggie daycare can't be attended until she's 6 months and has her rabies shots. I cannot get a sitter at short notice. It is -35 and I cannot keep her outside.

I feel like a tool for thinking of taking her back to the shelter first thing in the morning but I cannot sleep tonight at all (as she will demolish everything if I'm not conscious to stop her) and I cannot imagine what will happen if she gets into the bedrooms where the cats are imprisoned (she can open the doors, which have lever handles, and they do not lock well).

The first thing she did was get up on the dining table. The second thing was to rip open the sofa cushion. She has ripped open her Kong bed.

She's a shepherd cross, maybe with a rottie or maybe a lab -- not especially strong or aggressive, just enthusiastic.

I'm a stupid loser to even have thought of getting a dog, obviously, but it seems better to return her before she's convinced she's got a loving home.

I can manage shit on the carpet/hardwood three times a day, but I have many pieces of wood furniture, as well as lamps and rugs. I didn't think that 'puppyproofing' meant I could not have furniture: this is why I can't take her into my bedroom, as I have a mattress. I could buy padlocks for all the doors, I suppose but really: the fuck I will.

Do I return her? And if so, should I just assume that this is what dog ownership is like and that any pup I adopt or buy (even older ones) will be as bad as this, or can I try with an older, calmer dog?

Everyone has told me that she'll calm down in a couple of months, but I cannot even manage tomorrow, let alone a week of this. I can only stay awake so long.

Please don't talk about love, as I feel none at all at the moment: I have a long and tiring day tomorrow and it's only 4 AM.
posted by jrochest to Pets & Animals (60 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking from experience with both, puppies are more exhausting than a newborn. The pooping thing will sort itself out after a few days. The dog will settle down after six months.

What you are experiencing is normal.

If you're looking for permission to take the dog back, well, it's not the most ideal situation for the dog or the shelter, but it is certainly more convenient for you.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:34 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

You are not a stupid loser. You are tired and overwhelmed by a dog that seems to be a huge handful.

You don't mention returning her until the last few lines of your question, which makes me think that you do really want a dog — just maybe not this dog.

Bring her to the shelter in the morning. Tell them the truth: that you love dogs, that you want to give a dog a good home, but that this is not a good adoption. Then later, when you've recovered from what sounds like a pretty traumatic experience, go back and adopt an older dog in need of love.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:36 AM on February 12, 2014 [19 favorites]

Also, you need a kennel (also known colloquially as a "crate").

We find it useful to limit where our dog can go in our house, with strict limits about beds (no), the couch and chairs (no), and anywhere close to the coffee table.

So consider investing in something that will allow you to block off areas which are (for the time being) no-go zones for the dog.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:37 AM on February 12, 2014

Response by poster: I HAVE A KENNEL (crate). I also have baby gates up.


She jumps the baby gates.

She broke out of the BATHROOM - she can open the doorknobs.
posted by jrochest at 2:39 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm sorry to yell, and to threadsit, but I really have done this 'right': 600 bucks of stuff from Petsmart, puppyproofing everything, a crate for the car and one for the house (the collapsing wire kind with two doors) and two puppy-gates.

Apparently I just never expected the whirlwind.
posted by jrochest at 2:42 AM on February 12, 2014

Could you clarify how she breaks out of the crate? It's key to answering the question, because it seems that this situation really calls for crating to help you keep this dog, and having had very rambunctious puppies before I still can't picture how a dog can escape from a metal crate. I mean, the ones I've had, it would literally be impossible for a creature without opposable thumbs to open them.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:51 AM on February 12, 2014

Response by poster: The gate latches by dropping into curved hooks: there's a clamp on the top to 'lock' it. If it's shaken hard enough, the clamp falls off; she then rattles it until it pops off the hooks.
posted by jrochest at 2:54 AM on February 12, 2014

A couple of thoughts:

1. She breaks out of her crate, jumps the baby gates, and has figured out how to open the bathroom door. If you're invested in keeping her, you might consider putting something heavy (a box of books or maybe a small piece of furniture) on your side of the bathroom door to keep her inside.

2. And if so, should I just assume that this is what dog ownership is like and that any pup I adopt or buy (even older ones) will be as bad as this, or can I try with an older, calmer dog? Puppies are almost always difficult - they have a lot of energy and don't come pre-trained like most older dogs do. So your experience with this puppy isn't unique, but not all dog ownership is like this. An adult or even senior dog will likely be much more laid back.

3. She's a shepherd cross... In my experience shepherds are very energetic and somewhat high maintenance as a result. So double everything I said in item #2.

4. Finally, I know you don't want to hear about love, but: this puppy deserves to be loved in spite of her annoying behavior. If you can't do that (and yes, I know it's hard when you're sleep deprived!) then she deserves to be taken back to the shelter for another shot. There is no shame in admitting you made a mistake in adopting her.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 2:57 AM on February 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

The gate latches by dropping into curved hooks: there's a clamp on the top to 'lock' it. If it's shaken hard enough, the clamp falls off; she then rattles it until it pops off the hooks.

What about getting new crates and gates that lock with a different mechanism? Is that an option? If so, the folks at the pet shop should be able to help.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 2:58 AM on February 12, 2014

Would trading in the crate you have for one of the more standard ones, which have the spring-loaded metal bar that you drop into a metal loop to latch them, be an option?

Also, as it's only been 12 hours, I don't think that she is refusing to poop outside - this is a stressful event in her life (changing living situations). Animals often react to stress by mixing up their potty training for a while, both cats and dogs. "Refusing" makes it sound like she's being willful, when I think it's more likely she's just confused and stressed. I can understand why you are frustrated.

I guess the question is, even if you could keep her in the crate while you are sleeping or not around, and even if you know that the pooping issue might resolve in a few days to weeks, would you still be overwhelmed/not want to keep this pup? If the answer is yes, then you know you have to just return her. You should definitely assume that any puppy would be likely to chew on things and poop in the house until house-trained, so an adult dog would be a better choice if you are still interested in adopting in the future.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:59 AM on February 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

You do not sound like a stupid loser to me. You sound like a great loving owner for an adult dog, who is not likely to chew up your furniture or make life hell for your cats.
For a high-energy pup: not so much.

In your place, I'd take her back and let the shelter help you pick an older dog for you. Bringing a puppy into your situation doesn't sound like a good idea. But an older dog could very well be a perfect match.

There is no shame in bringing her back and getting a more mellow dog instead. Don't keep doing something just because you have started it. Admitting that this doesn't work is the smart and loving thing to do. Take her back before you bond with her.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:06 AM on February 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm thinking (now that I've vented and the pink fingers of dawn are tinting the east) that I'll put the crate and the pup in the bathroom and yes, thank you schroedingersgirl, I'll block the door with something heavy. And I'll talk to the people at the SPCA, and see what they say.

I feel an obligation to the pup: I've wanted to get a dog since I bought my house in November; I found this pup running loose on the street outside my house two weeks ago and took her to the SPCA. I've since learned that she'd escaped twice in the previous couple of days -- a friend is the neighbor of the family -- and since they didn't go get her from the SPCA, I assume they don't want her.

I'm assuming the worst on the selective housetraining: every google version of "my dog pees outside but waits until they get home to poop, even if the walk is half-a-day long" referred to dogs who had been doing this for over a year.
posted by jrochest at 3:08 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

You sound like a wonderful pet owner who is doing all the right things and you've been mismatched with a dog who will absolutely find another home. Please don't be hard on yourself!!

Here's the thing: with time and a LOT of training, this dog will most likely become calmer and easier to live with. You may want to get a different, stronger crate and start obedience training asap.

But this may not be what you want and THAT'S FINE.

I would absolutely contact the SPCA and explain everything to them. In fact, I would call and ask to make an appointment and to also bring the dog back.

After speaking with them AND returning the dog (hey, it's not a good fit for you and again, that's fine), they may have another dog who can fit more into your lifestyle.

Please don't beat yourself up. You're doing all the right things. If you can't deal with this puppy, you gave it a shot.
posted by kinetic at 3:13 AM on February 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Puppy is pooping inside because she's scared and the house smells like cats. Someone told me once that dogs express their anal glands when they're nervous; maybe she's too young to keep from really expressing.

The advice upthread covers everything you should do. I say this to reassure you that you're not a stupid loser; stupid losers throw puppies they can't handle into snow banks and you are a good person for adopting an animal!
posted by mibo at 3:45 AM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's totally fine to return her. Breaking out of crates and opening shut doors is well outside the normal range of dogginess. There are some families who would be able to deal with that extreme behavior, but you should not think less of yourself because you can't.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:47 AM on February 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

This dog is justifiably freaked out. She was born, went to a family, ran away twice, spent 2 weeks at a shelter (most likely in a crate/cage), and now is in a brand new place with two new and strange animals lurking somewhere - and a new crate! At only 4 months old. No wonder she's acting like a goofball. So the first twelve hours isn't a good indication of the dog she will become.

If it were me, and this were my pup, I'd have put in for at least a week of vacation time and stayed home with her to bond a bit and give her some stability. But I'm also the person who slept in the kitchen with a puppy (and a gate) every night for a week because she was sad. Then I gradually moved further away until the dog knew that kitchen-time didn't mean being left completely alone forever.

But I understand that you can't do this right now. And that's okay. There are puppies out there with less traumatic starts, and families out there willing to take on the challenge of high-energy and stressed-out puppies. But there aren't as many families who want a high-energy and stressed out puppy in the body of a full-grown dog, which is why getting her back to the SPCA while she's still of puppy age/size is probably the best decision you could make for her right now.

Please take her back. Not before you become more attached to her, but also before she becomes more attached to you.
posted by kimberussell at 3:54 AM on February 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

Our dog was returned to the shelter twice before we adopted her. She is a handful and a half and I don't think badly of people who couldn't handle her. It happens.
posted by griphus at 3:57 AM on February 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

Puppies are hard work and are not for every lifestyle, maybe you should try adopting an adult dog instead.
posted by crankylex at 4:04 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Puppy plus new stuff plus cats equals puppy freak out.

Maybe this isn't the right time for you to have a puppy. Maybe it is. But try to be patient, whatever you decide; puppy doesn't know any better.
posted by heyjude at 4:07 AM on February 12, 2014

When our dog was that age (and even now) he got crazy when he was overtired. 6 hours of walking in 12 is maybe too much, and could be contributing to the behaviour
posted by torisaur at 4:43 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

It gets better. We rescued our corgi-shepherd mix when he was about a year old and he was a MONSTER. Two super-smart breeds, super energetic, and a wont for chewing. He had not had a great home life, was rescued from a kill shelter, and then we got him. It was a solid two weeks of hell at the start, but now, more than a year later, we love him massively and he is a GREAT dog.

Again, the first weeks were hell. We pretty much spent ALL of our time with him: watching, playing, training. The things that made the biggest difference were:

1. Establishing dominance. Making sure he know that we, not him, were the pack leaders, and that retribution (mostly in the form of physically dominating over him when he was bad) is swift and immediate.

2. Training. He's SO food driven; your shepherd probably is too. Get sacks of training treats and a clicker and just work until she can do everything in her sleep. Start easy: sit, look (in your eyes), etc. Then work on keeping her still while you move the treat around. It sounds like magic--we thought our guy would never be trained--but it works. Shepherds are smart, she will learn, and that training and mental stimulation will drastically improve her behavior more than you'd ever think.

3. Crate training. Our guy came crate trained, but you can't expect to just lock her in there and she be cool with it. Of course she's going to try to escape. Make the crate a safe space for her with the door open, so she thinks of it as HER home, HER respite, and after a while then you can start thinking about locking the door. Yeah, it's going to be a long next few weeks.

4. Positive reinforcement. Don't yell: just be calm. Pack leaders don't get flustered. Reward for good behavior, and when she poops in the house just take her outside for a bit, immediately. Though you at this point pretty much need to be watching her constantly so she's never in a situation where she can get into trouble.

We lost a lot to our guy when he was young: coasters, tissues, belts, and much more, but thankfully no furniture, and now he's a wonderful angel. More than a year in, though, and he's still changing behavior in noticeable ways, for the better. So one day? That's just the start. Keep at it. It gets better.
posted by The Michael The at 4:56 AM on February 12, 2014

When my young, extremely excitable puppy is overtired, she is extra rambunctious. It is important for her too have exercise, but not getting enough rest causes behavior that is at least as difficult. You may have walked her too much, and some sleeping time in her crate will do her good.

You may have a defective crate. Look for one with a different construction. She should not be able to escape. This is important.

I think this is going to be fine, although yeah, while she's uncrated you will have to watch her or she will chew furniture.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:03 AM on February 12, 2014

I agree with folks who say that things are likely to improve.

On the other hand: there's nothing wrong with taking a puppy that is a bad fit back to the shelter. I follow my local shelter on Facebook, and they just had a dog returned after one day because the family realized it was too big for them. You and the puppy may well both be happier if she finds the right home and you find the right dog.
posted by not that girl at 5:05 AM on February 12, 2014

I'll put the crate and the pup in the bathroom

If you do this, shut off the valve that connects from the wall to the toilet. Bored puppies have been known to chew the toilet supply line and flood the house.
posted by procrastination at 5:07 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

I feel an obligation to the pup: I've wanted to get a dog since I bought my house in November; I found this pup running loose on the street outside my house two weeks ago and took her to the SPCA. I've since learned that she'd escaped twice in the previous couple of days -- a friend is the neighbor of the family -- and since they didn't go get her from the SPCA, I assume they don't want her.

WOAH. Hold up.

You found this dog running loose on the street? You took her to the SPCA from which you adopted her? You know this dog escaped twice from the SPCA? You've actually identified the original owners who didn't make an effort to find the dog? You've been around dogs your whole life, but this is your first dog from pup->up that you've taken on solo?

Okay, let me be clear. The dog isn't going to be a good fit for a lot of people. More importantly, it seems this dog isn't a good fit for you. That does not mean that there is no one for this dog, nor that the dog can't find someone who is right for the dog, but... well, the signs are there - this dog requires an expert to rehabilitate this dog. You've done so much right - in terms of doggy proofing, preparation, and walking that you need to recognize that this dog is on the upper end of the bell curve. This dog is exceptional, and will require someone who has done this rodeo before. Even with the best intentions on your part, and the enormous effort you've made to accommodate the needs of this pet - this dog likely needs a skilled behaviorist and additional support. It is okay if you aren't one.

Call the SPCA, take the dog back, tell them what you know, do not ask any questions about the dog afterward. Go to a different shelter and find a different dog. You will be an awesome dog owner, just not this dog.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:42 AM on February 12, 2014 [19 favorites]

I have not fed or watered the cats.
Whatever else you decide, I think priority #1 is to make sure you provide your cats with food and water.
posted by Flunkie at 5:45 AM on February 12, 2014 [10 favorites]

I returned a cat once and lived to tell the tale.

She was a holy hell, and was bullying the other cat. (I got two at once.)

I returned her and kept the other cat... he is now the love of my life.

When I returned her the center agreed that they ought not to have adopted her out with another cat. They were very compassionate to her and to me. They knew her personality strengths & weaknesses.

It is a shame that the SPCA return policy is so short; I had 2 days to decide if I was going to keep the cats and it was the most stressful 2 days, I felt awful the whole time. Can you call them up and explain that you're having a hard time adjusting and will they extend the return policy?

What I'm saying is that returns happen; she sounds cute and not the type to be stuck at a shelter for long. BUT animals take time and investment and it just depends on how much energy and attention you can reasonably put into this. If you do return her, try getting a more mature dog instead.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:46 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you've made up your mind then act on it. Delaying the foregone is worse for you and the dog.
posted by PMdixon at 6:03 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow - 6 hours of walking in the last 12 hours, for a 4 month old puppy, when it's -35 degrees out? That's too much and could be increasing her stress.

Things will absolutely settle down over the next few weeks. But maybe not enough for your current needs. Puppies are insane, some moreso than others, and slightly older dog might be a better match for you.
posted by barnone at 6:04 AM on February 12, 2014

Return the dog to the SPCA (it sounds like they won't be terribly surprised), take a breather, find a different dog to adopt.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:17 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Adding to the chorus of those who say return her (she is a puppy, she will find a home).

Go for an older dog, even a very old dog, for your first adoption. They are so much more relaxed and sweet and don't need the constant attention puppies do. Very good advice in this thread about adopting an old dog. Because they are AMAZING. I grew up with dogs and had wanted one for years, so when it was time, I adopted an older dog for my first and I will love my old girl forever.

My next dog was 10 months old at adoption and a spitfire bundle of energy. It was love at first sight, but I can honestly say that it has only worked out as well as it has because my first adoption of an older dog taught me the way.
posted by mochapickle at 6:35 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

A lot of good advice above. Your crate sounds like a not-good one, though. Rather than spring for a new one, you could just buy something to keep the crate closed, like a few of these reusable tie wraps (HD/Lowes), or buy actual zip ties, cutting and replacing them as needed. Or even a bit of romex wire would work.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:44 AM on February 12, 2014

There is absolutely no shame in admitting a dog doesn't fit your life after less than a week.

Also, when you go back, bear in mind that shelter employees are like real estate agents or online dating ads - they want you to want what they're offering. Take what they say about the dog's personality and activity level with a shaker of salt, especially if it doesn't match your observation of the dog.
posted by winna at 6:49 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is a lot to training a dog. The first days in a home are intense and require a lot of energy. You really can't keep your eyes off the dog. You need to look for bathroom cues. Start to squat should be "uh-uh" or "no" and a trip to outside. Any accident spot must be cleaned with enzymatic cleaner.
This dog also may have separation anxiety. Closing him in a bathroom may not be the best idea.
This dog sounds VERY bright but may need a more experienced owner. I read a few training books before I got my first dog and it really prepared me for what was to come.
posted by beccaj at 6:53 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

The rescue dog I had a couple of years ago was a total escape artist, from a crate that sounds like exactly the same one you have. I zip-tied shut the doors to her crate and she couldn't get enough leverage to chew the plastic ties off. Small padlocks on the crate would likely work better, but I happened to have a bunch of zip ties and I did not happen to have a couple of extra padlocks.

This is mainly to say that defeating the "locks" on those crates is not unusual or hard and most dogs can do it if they want to, so it's not a sign that this dog is particularly problematic. If you'd like to keep the dog, just reinforce the locking mechanism and move on.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:09 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Puppies are hard work and honestly this sounds like typical scared puppy in a new house with scary cats behavior. What it sounds like to me is your are not a puppy person, puppies are a mountain of work. I am not a puppy person either I know that and do only adopt older dogs, there is nothing wrong with that. Return the puppy and look at getting an older dog that is already house trained, is calmer (because it appears high energy dogs stress you out) and you can know if they are good with cats or not before you take it home.

Things to be aware of no matter what dog you get, is no matter how well house trained a new dog will have accidents in the house the first few weeks, it's a very rare dog that doesn't, it's a combination of nerves and getting used to a new routine. The dog will do things wrong as it is learning new rules in a new place with a new person with new ways of doing things, so you will not get perfection from the get go no matter what dog you get.

You sound like you'd really do best with an older calmer dog to start with, it doesn't have to be a senior dog, though they rock, but something over the age of three to say five, older is better.

Return the puppy now while it's still a puppy and can find a home, and go adopt that nice quiet older dog sitting calmly in its cage, that every one is walking by to get to the cute puppies. Oh and see if they'll let you take the dog for an overnight stay before you fully adopt it, that way you make sure it is a personality match.
posted by wwax at 7:12 AM on February 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

Taking her back to the shelter would not make you a stupid loser.

If you decide to keep her or go with an older dog, you might do well to find a reputable dog trainer in your area. Many will even come to your house to help you identify specific behavior problems--like chewing on your furniture.

IF you decide to keep this pup, and you are not a bad person if you don't, IF you decide to keep her and her extremely anxious behavior does not improve, you could consider taking her to a vet behaviorist. My family got our dog from a rescue that got him from a neglectful situation, and he has some serious anxiety and behavior issues. The vet behaviorist said that some rescue dogs can be helped with medication during the first few months while they are adjusting to their new homes. Since you say you found this dog on the side of the road and her former family made no attempts to find her or take her back, it sounds likely her first few months were not too great.

And there are people who will adopt a crazy puppy or dog (like my family, seriously we have adopted some insanely behaved dogs). There is a reason that shelters, rescues and decent breeders make efforts to match up the right dog to the right owner.
posted by inertia at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2014

I'm guessing you are feeling a little bit better by now, and I'm wondering if you are giving it another day or so? I would like to amplify that the pup will be taking cues from you -- if you are frantic and nervous, so goes baby dog. I know you were at your wit's end, who wouldn't be, but if you can do your own deep breathing, mindfulness and only handle/communicate/hands-on with puppy when your heart rate is normal and your BP is low and you are not rushing and your voice is modulated, doggy will at least feel a bit better. And you too.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:59 AM on February 12, 2014

Absolutely don't feel bad about returning the pup; this happens all the time. SPCA will applaud you for doing what's best for the dog. Sounds like this dog would do better with a houseful of kids for stimulation, rather than a single person. Don't give up on dog ownership; there are a lot of older, calm dogs out there who need a good home and often get passed up for the cuter puppies.

I used to volunteer at SPCA and believe me they know that some dogs have behavioral problems and won't be a good match for many people. There's no shame in taking her back.
posted by phoenix_rising at 8:02 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have little to no experience with puppies myself, but I know someone who's raised well over twenty puppies, and can confirm that zip tying the metal crate together and sleeping on the floor next to the crate in the early days are both things she does. And these puppies aren't behaviorally troubled puppies at all (they're going to be dog guides if they make it through the training), they're just puppies. Which are a ton of work. She usually arranges to have new puppies show up when she's got time off from her job, since having a puppy is a lot like having a baby human, except more destructive and cuter.
posted by asperity at 8:11 AM on February 12, 2014

There is absolutely no shame in admitting a dog doesn't fit your life after less than a week.

A hundred times this. You're not a failure and you're not a bad person. Dogs aren't for everyone, and some dogs are just not suited to some situations.

No guilt in bringing the dog back.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:21 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

1.) Many people adopt dogs for novelty, then give them away 2 years later when they have to move for work (etc). Taking your dog back after a day due to a fundamental misunderstanding is RESPONSIBLE. We cannot predict the consequences of all our choices and actions in life, but we can take responsibility for them, own up to our mistakes, and do the right thing. Before you get too heartbroken over this dogs future without you, just remember you could also have donated that $600 to a school in Eastern China for girls who can't afford studying. That probably sounds crass and cruel to mention, but my point is actually that it's not your job to save the world, and frankly, you can't. No matter what you do there will always be tragedy and suffering that seems more important than what you have done.

That brings me to...

2.) Care for yourself. You mentioned you haven't eaten. I suspect that's a HUGE reason you are here posting and so wraught with stress. We tend to underestimate the personal impact lack of food/water/love has on our psyche. You need to care for yourself before you care for a dog (6 hours of walking and no food? I'd be sobbing in the corner as well).


3.) Puppies pooping inside is par for the course, even if you're Ceasar fuckin' Milan. You need to train him, but also be fair that it will take him time to learn. Also a 6 hour walk can be exhausting for a puppy. Think of it from his perspective: New home, new environment, new smells and senses, exhausting physical activity, strange environment, AND he is expected to learn to poop outside rather than inside (an arbitrary distinction for a puppy in a new environment).
posted by jjmoney at 8:59 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Feel free to take the dog back. Or to call and ask if they have advice for you.

If you don't want to return the dog, snaps like 16 down will really reinforce a crate, cannot be eaten, and are easy to unsnap.

Have you tried a treat stuffed kong? Other safe chewables?

That would make the crate seem like a safe and fun place.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:32 AM on February 12, 2014

Just chiming in to say that if you want to take the dog back, take the dog back. I was in this situation 6 months ago--adopted a dog who was just not right for me. I literally wound up crying every night for a week with him because I just couldn't figure out how to handle him (and like you, I had had dogs in the past, love dogs, and had been planning to adopt a dog for a long time--it was not an impulse adoption). Before the two week "trial period" the shelter gives, I decided to return the dog. I felt like a terrible person, but I did it. The dog was adopted shortly after (less than 1 week; I checked the website every day).

One month ago I got a different dog, and I love him. I was not smitten with First Dog--it was hell almost from the start. I am completely smitten with Second Dog, who in some ways was objectively more trouble (was not house trained and had worms, fleas, and ear mites when I got him). Cleaning up Second Dog's wormy poop was gross, but it didn't make me want to return him. Returning First Dog really sent me into a crisis of sorts--was I quitter? Do I not love animals like I thought I did? Adopting Second Dog made me understand what finding a dog who "fits your lifestyle" means, and it made me feel less guilty about First Dog. First Dog wasn't a bad dog--we just weren't right for each other.

So, if you do decide to return yours, don't make it mean too much. It only means that you and the dog weren't a good fit. It does NOT mean you're a bad person. My shelter gives the option of not requesting a refund on the adoption fee when you return the dog and just making it a donation--that may help you feel a little better.
posted by kochenta at 10:48 AM on February 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

12 hours is simply not enough time to know anything about a dog's personality. You're seeing fight or flight in action right now. Give it another 24 hours, then make a decision. In order to do that, you need to get some sleep so you can think clearly.

It sounds like the #1 problem is that the crate is poorly designed and the pup is able to escape easily. Secure the crate so the dog cannot escape and go do that. Best way to do that is to connect the door with the side of the crate with padlocks/luggage locks/carabiner clips/etc, they cannot be chewed through (at least not in a few hours).
posted by zug at 11:44 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are not stupid or a loser, you have gone to great lengths to care for an abondoned dog. It is not a moral failing to return a dog to a shelter because the dog is not adapting.
Pooping - I had a shelter/ stray who would not poop publically. Baby suppositories made it possible to train him to poop outdoors on a line, eventually on the leash. Good dog, good poop, treat.
Plenty of good advice on the crate
Pooch may be truly freaked out, vet might supply valium - for the dog, you have to see you own doc if you want some(joke).

Call the shelter, explain, ask for help. Maybe there's a better home for Pooch, a better pooch for you or another solution. Thank you for choosing a shelter dog to love, and good luck.
posted by theora55 at 1:55 PM on February 12, 2014

Puppies are pretty much a full-time job, and if you can't invest a lot of time now to train her right she may be a problem for the rest of her life.

Take her back and get a mellow older dog instead. The puppy is more likely to get adopted by someone else than the older dog is so don't worry about it.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:37 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to add that if it's a good SPCA, they want you to be happy post-adoption. It doesn't look good for them if you tell your friends that you adopted a maniac who makes you miserable from them. So I totally support returning the dog if that's what you need to do.
posted by kat518 at 6:36 PM on February 12, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your kindness! Pupster was returned to the SPCA this afternoon (they were disappointed but understood) and didn't even look back when she ran happily into the kennels. So that's good, and as it should be.

What really convinced me was that she got out of the crate again, this time after I'd tied it together with picture wire & zipties. She actually broke the seam on the side and squoze her way out that way, bending it like a paper clip and losing her Elizabethan collar in the process. I woke up this morning (after a restful 1.5 hours sleep) to an *interesting* scene.

I had to shut her in the bathroom for the morning -- after removing all the meds and cleaning products and giving her a couple of toys. Miraculously she did nothing other than shred all the TP on the remaining roll, poop and piddle, and gnaw most of the paint off of the door. And leave pawprints up to the ceiling by the door.

Bless her, she even pooped outside when I took her for a last run. She's a smart sweet cutie and I hope she's going to get a wonderful, wonderful family to look after -- but I am massively relieved it's not going to be me.
posted by jrochest at 7:04 PM on February 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

Good for you.

Not every dog is for every person. I certainly wouldn't want a dog like that, and I've had busy, busy breeds--heelers, Border Collies, and Kelpies.

Much better to take her back now, while it was easy for her to separate from you. And better to return her rather than keep her and wind up resenting her.

Now you can pick up the pieces and look for a dog that you can bond with. Seconding a mature dog rather than a puppy. Even at 10 months, things are so much easier.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:07 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think a puppy is right for you right now, mainly because every puppy in the universe will chew on your furniture and have accidents in the house, be a handful of chaotic energy and never let you get any sleep. A pup has to be taught to go to his crate and be happy there (yowling will not get him freedom), has to be housetrained, has to be taught not to chew on things (which he will chew on anyway), and puppies are needy, needy, needy.

They're wonderful for a family with kids who can play non-stop with the puppy, a Mom who's used to crayon marks on walls and spilled milk, icky diapers and noise, and a Dad who looks forward to taking the dog for a walk in the evening and wrestling with him to tire him out before bed.

What you need is a dog - a 4- to 6-year-old dog who's already been taught all these things and who's no longer interested in chewing your couch cushions to shreds, a dog who wants someone to please and protect and snuggle with - that's the dog you need.

Please take the puppy back right away, before either of you become attached to the other. There's nothing to be ashamed of here at all - puppies need a certain kind of home environment and you're just not there right now. But you can give a wonderful home to a sweet dog who's waiting for just your kind of love - that dog's out there someplace.
posted by aryma at 9:33 PM on February 12, 2014

Now go get a dog that is more than two years old!
posted by J. Wilson at 6:54 AM on February 13, 2014

*big hug*

I am glad you took her back. There is a dog out there that is perfect for you, you just have to find it.

I wanted to come back to add to my earlier comment that maybe you might do a bit of reading up on dog breeds before you go looking for new older companion, if you haven't already. While a dogs nature isn't set in stone by it's breed it can really help you get a dog more prone to being the sort of dog that will fit in with your lifestyle more.
posted by wwax at 8:54 AM on February 13, 2014

Response by poster: I've actually self-limited by choosing to adopt from a shelter: there are lots of wonderful dogs out there, but the shelter population is often based on whatever unfixed dogs there are out there.

This is Saskatoon, so lots of labs, border collies, shepherds and other herders, plus huskies galore. Not many medium and little dogs. In major cities there are loads of pitties, rotties and other fighting dogs, for sad and tragic versions.

To get the 'perfect dog' (medium sized, 25-35 pounds, happy personality, enough energy to walk and play, not so big it kills the furniture -- corgi, small beagle, westie, wheaton) I'll need to buy from a breeder. I've been looking for a good corgi breeder who is planning on having pups in the next two years for, well, two years now...I'm on any number of waiting lists.

I'm off to the SPCA to meet a 5 year old Peke. I was hoping for something in-between, I must say.
posted by jrochest at 10:20 AM on February 13, 2014

I mentioned this in a previous thread about adopting but:

There's a informal network of people who rehome dogs before they get to the shelter. If you're focused on rehoming rather than strictly on adopting from a shelter, let your social network know what you're interested in and see if you can tap into those dogs who are being rehomed before they get to the shelter stage. Often they are beloved pets who are being rehomed due to people circumstances rather than broken dogs that are being rehomed due to pet circumstances. The desirable dogs that you're hoping to find are likely finding homes that way and never making it to the shelter.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:35 AM on February 13, 2014

Don't go to a breeder! Corgi rescue is awesome!
posted by kinetic at 11:00 AM on February 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all your help, mefi hiveminders!

UPDATE: I took the peke :)

Her name is Leia, she is about 5 (according to the teeth) and she is AWESOME: heels when she walks, poops on the leash like a champion, cheery, playful and super friendly, doesn't bark at ALL, sleeps under my desk when I'm working (and when I'm at work), but has a surprising amount of energy for good longish walks (we've done mile, mile-and-a-half lengths at this point).

And of course she's a creature of pure and stunning beauty (she looks like an Ewok)
posted by jrochest at 12:03 PM on February 17, 2014 [13 favorites]

Yay! I'm so glad you found a pup that works for you. Leia is one lucky girl (and a beauty to boot).
posted by kathrynm at 6:05 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

She sounds like an awesome doge.

Sometimes you have to date a while before you find the right girl. ;)
posted by BlueHorse at 8:54 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was going to suggest you try fostering for awhile to see which dog suits your lifestyle.
posted by jbean at 9:17 PM on May 4, 2014

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