Should I rehome my dog?
November 20, 2017 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Family members have suggested that I rehome my dog. I am beyond pissed at them for suggesting this but understand their concerns. Help me figure out the best thing to do in this situation.

I adopted a dog, let's call her P, from the shelter about a month ago. She is a golden retriever/border collie mix, a little over one year old. They told me that she had an incident where the owner's sister brought her dog over, and when the owner went to pet the sister's dog, P attacked and bit the sister's dog. Thus she was surrendered. I have P in training classes, and she is somewhat fearful and reactive around other dogs and strangers, but is remarkably better now than when I adopted her. She has been in doggie daycare and behaved wonderfully. We have gone to the dog park successfully. However, we had our first incident of a full on dog fight yesterday, and now my family wants me to get rid of P.

I was staying at my friend's house, who also has a dog. The two dogs had been getting along wonderfully for several days, playing and having a good time, showing no aggression. Then yesterday I was sitting on the couch, petting P, when friend's dog came up to me. I leaned over to pet friend's dog, and P attacked her. My friend jumped in between to try to separate them and came out with a small bite and some scratches from P. P also managed to get in a small bite on friend's dog.

I got a long email from my family this morning: "It bothers me that P bit someone. I know that sometimes these things happen but really want you to consider the possible consequences of things like this happening in the future. What would happen if you were out somewhere and a little kid came up to you and P bites or attacks them or does the same to a dog? She could actually kill a little dog. The financial ramifications of someone suing you over this would be really bad. What happens if she does this at your Dad's house with someone at Thanksgiving? I know you really love her, however, you should give some serious thought to re-homing her before something worse happens with her. I don't believe P is the right dog for you."

I am beyond angry at this email, but part of me wonders if they are right. However, I have a history with my family guilt tripping me into decisions, still trying to treat me like a child, and overstepping their boundaries, so I want to figure out what the actual best decision here is. I recently left an abusive relationship and my entire life turned upside down. Adopting P has brought love and stability and a sense of purpose and companionship to my life while I try to rebuild everything and I am absolutely heartbroken at the idea of giving her up. But I'm also a little worried that I will sink thousands of dollars into this and she will still be having incidents.
What should I be doing in this situation? Please help me untangle this mess and figure out what is best for everybody.
posted by Malleable to Pets & Animals (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have been in a very similar situation with my own dog, and I totally feel for you. Setting aside the family history, I actually do think that it can be extremely hard to see the risks your own dog poses. In my case, it was a stranger, not a family member, who prompted my "come to Jesus" moment about the risks I was facing with my dog, and the problem behaviors I was ignoring, and I'm extremely grateful that she did so.

That said, there is a huge gap between "this is a problem you need to take more seriously than you currently are" and "you need to rehome your dog." Intermediate steps include: not allowing your dog to interact with other dogs until you have a better grasp on the situation (I would take this step immediately), hiring a trainer to do a one-on-one assessment of your dog, enrolling your dog in classes designed specifically for reactive dogs, and putting your dog on medication.

One thing I see in your description is that your dog is interacting with other dogs a ton for a dog that was rehomed for an act of aggression against another dog. Dog park, doggy day care, training classes with other dogs, and hanging out with another dog one-on-one...that's a lot for a dog who's also adjusting to a new home! Even if she mostly seems to enjoy herself, there's a lot of potential there for small, stressful incidents that might eventually put her over her threshold and lead to a bite.

My suggestion is to write to your family member, thank them for their input, and say that you're not currently prepared to surrender the dog, but that you're taking the bite seriously and will keep them posted. Also, if your family member would be more comfortable not having the dog at home for Thanksgiving, see if you can find a workaround - it's totally reasonable not to want a new dog with a history of biting in your home, especially if there will be kids running around. It's not that your dog is a bad dog, just that there are certain risks involved with any new dog, especially a rescue, and it's totally legit to try and manage them.

Good luck! I think you and your puppy are going to have a long and happy time together.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:18 AM on November 20, 2017 [31 favorites]

I can't say whether or not you should rehome this dog, but what is definitely true is that it sounds like your dog should not be around other dogs or small kids, period. Maybe that is something that future training can correct, but it might not be, and you should decide if you are okay with that.

There are now two known incidents of your dog attacking another dog or person, and your family is right that this sort of thing carries a huge liability -- and not just a financial one. If a small dog were killed or seriously injured, or if a little kid got between your dog and another dog and triggered this response and was seriously injured, I'm guessing you would never be able to forgive yourself -- you sound like a kind and thoughtful person, so I think being responsible for that kind of incident would really weigh on you (as it should!).

Now, that doesn't mean you can't own this dog! But, not all dogs are appropriate to bring to all places. At a minimum, I'd say no group gatherings where other dogs will be present off leash or where little kids will be running around, and definitely no off-leash dog parks. Be vigilant on walks and be certain that you can control your dog if she were to pull on a leash. Watch carefully for other dogs and cross the street so you're not going right next to them. Etc. I'm sure your trainer can give you more tips too. Your trainer might be able to give a better idea of whether this is temporary and something that could possibly be corrected over time/with a lot of work, or not.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:21 AM on November 20, 2017 [13 favorites]

I have a dog that cannot interact with strange dogs safely. It's a bit heartbreaking to know that I can't let her off leash with other dogs to have a good time, but that's how it has to be as training hasn't made her much less reactive to other dogs. I think as long as you know that you cannot let your dog out of your control around other dogs you don't have to rehome it. If you can't handle that responsibility then maybe you should think about giving your dog up.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:24 AM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Having had an aggressive dog before and gone through so much pain and work and heartache and so on for YEARS, I would honestly tell you to get out now. There are lots of dogs who need homes who aren't as volatile and possibly dangerous as P. It will hurt now, surely, but not as much as it will hurt if you go through years of interventions and end up with having to surrender her or put her down or deal with the aftermath of her killing or maiming another being.

It sounds like you want a dog you can do things outside with and have people over to the house with, and P does not sound like that dog.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:24 AM on November 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

The financial ramifications of someone suing you over this would be really bad.

For what it's worth, I have the highest possible liability coverage on my rental insurance because I have a dog. My dog is small and is one of the gentlest, most harmless sweetheart dogs you could ever hope to meet, but there's always a chance something could go sideways (including completely benign incidents like my dog bolting out an open door and getting underfoot and tripping someone).

I'm not going to make any suggestions about re-homing the dog or your family history, but I will say if you're going to keep P, make sure you read your home/renter's insurance policy very carefully and pump your liability coverage up to the max.
posted by phunniemee at 9:25 AM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

My friend jumped in between to try to separate them and came out with a small bite

Your friend turned what began as dissension between two dogs into a human safety issue. I wasn't there, but it is standard dog-safety practice never to get in between two fighting dogs: it's a sure way to get bitten. When dogs are fighting, grab one or both by the tail to separate them. I do not think you can use that as evidence that your dog is generally a threat to human beings.

That said, your dog has some fear/aggression and resource-guarding behaviors. I think it's possible, with work and good training, to learn to manage these, but you should commit to that. Sign the dog up for the intro class at a respectable training facility (not Petco) with experienced trainers, and get advice on how to manage this.

Don't take the dog to the dog-park or other places with uncontrolled dog interactions. She's still new to you and you may not be reading her signals as well as you think.

This situation is not good, but it's manageable. And if you choose to surrender the dog, you're contributing to the instability of the dog's life which encourages her fear and reactivity. In other worse, giving her up now will probably make her worse.
posted by suelac at 9:26 AM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

A couple of other things I wanted to mention that I forgot in the original post:

P does not show aggression towards other dogs in general. Day to day, she's pretty well behaved. She shows no resource guarding behaviors re: toys, food, etc. Just her owner, apparently. She can play with others just fine. She loves kids, no issues there. It's just when this sort of "jealousy" incident pops up where I am trying to pet another dog that she steps in and reacts.

Also, my roommate wants to bring her dog up from her family's house to live with us after Thanksgiving. I feel like this will introduce a weird dynamic and am fearful that P will feel she needs to protect me and/or roommate from roommate's (small) dog.
posted by Malleable at 9:27 AM on November 20, 2017

Are you okay with and able to give P a life where she doesn't interact with other dogs? My own dog is dog-selective and has been aggressive toward other dogs in the past and that is what we do. He doesn't go to daycare, doesn't go to friends' houses with dogs, and on walks we give any other dogs a wide berth (and/or have him sit quietly as they pass - which has taken a LOT of work). We do not go to places where dogs are known to be off-leash and on the rare occasion that we see an off-leash dog, we leave the situation as quickly as possible. Boarding is tough, but solo in-home dogsitting seems to be the best option for us.

We also have a private trainer which has been incredibly powerful as far as education about how to interpret his body language, identify his triggers, and work on/structure around them. It's not easy, but I feel that we are safe and it is sustainable. Training classes, especially those focused on basic obedience, simply do not give the same level of feedback.

Your dog has expressed that they have issues with other dogs. Please stop forcing them to interact with other dogs so often - imagine that they're an introverted human and you keep taking them to the club. It's stressful and those stress hormones build up so the issues compound if that interaction happens often or for a long time.

Also, I would be careful around small children because I would ALWAYS be careful with a dog around small children, but resource-guarding/aggression toward humans can be entirely separate from resource-guarding/aggression toward dogs.
posted by mosst at 9:32 AM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's just when this sort of "jealousy" incident pops up where I am trying to pet another dog that she steps in and reacts.

She's resource guarding you, if you're looking for the dog training phrasing. She's not protecting you so much as she see you as her own property and she's warning other dogs she is not willing to share.

I do not think you need to listen to your family trying to brow-beat you into re-homing your dog. However, I do think you need to acknowledge that you have a dog with problem behaviors and that you will need to control her environment (expose her to fewer dogs/children) until you have done much more training with her and are convinced that her resource guarding has been eliminated.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:35 AM on November 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

I would be very worried about the roommate's small dog in this situation.
posted by ilovewinter at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2017 [19 favorites]

It's just when this sort of "jealousy" incident pops up where I am trying to pet another dog that she steps in and reacts.

This is a form of resource guarding. It may be specific to you and to other dogs - that's normal - but the training and attention required is the same as any other resource guarding.

Also, aggression is not one thing. I think that's a common misconception from people who have never dealt with aggressive dogs - that they're always (or even frequently) mean and snarly like guard dogs in the movies. In fact, aggression is just a response, like any other expression of an emotion - and it can happen often or rarely. It is unfortunately a natural reaction for dogs and many/most dogs could be aggressive in the "right" situation - but it's up to us to train them to handle situations well and to keep them out of situations that they can't handle well.
posted by mosst at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Both of the incidents that you describe are very similar, your dog reacts badly when other dogs interact with you/owner. He's resource guarding his owner. You should not interact with other dogs when your dog is nearby since you know that is a trigger.

It doesn't sound like he's dog aggressive in other circumstances. (However, how is he regarding food, treats and toys around other dogs?)

I would definitely work one-on-one with a trainer on this specific issue as well as overall good canine training. He doesn't sound like a threat to the community but I would be cautious and limit interactions with other dogs.

Doggie daycare and dog parks often have too many dogs. I think dogs should have doggie friends but you should pick his friends and the time and place. You're responsible for keeping your dog out of situations that he cannot handle.
posted by shoesietart at 9:42 AM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Talk to the trainer about the roommate's dog; this has the potential to be a problem.
Thanksgiving - if she travels with you, she should stay in the car during dinner, and you should stay in a hotel; a person's dog fears take priority.
No children is an excellent recommendation.
I'd think of P as being on probation and in need of strong management. The trainer may have a dog who can be used to help train P to accept you giving affection to other dogs, but I'd work up to this over time.
Consider a muzzle as a safety device to have available. I had a dog I had to muzzle because he ate the back seat of the car, and sometimes car rides still had to happen.

The one rule that applies universally is that a tired dog is a good dog. Lots of walking and/or running. I wish you and P the best.
posted by theora55 at 9:42 AM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I totally understand this dilemma. My dog is very protective of me and is reactive to new people and dogs, but mainly when she is leashed. She does better off leash. Your post reminds me that I could be doing more to curb her barking and jumping tendencies. I would recommend to keep trying with her and not worry about your family's opinion.

I would try to have your and your roommates dog meet first on neutral territory if possible, like at the dog park or even in a fenced backyard, before bringing the new dog into the house. Your dog will likely feel territorial.

I do not think you need to rehome your dog at all. However, if you do need to in the future, I would reach out to the rescue you adopted from. They'd likely want her back to rehome her than have you rehome her, even if it's months from now. My shelter actually has that clause in their adoption agreement we signed when getting our dog.
posted by Katie8709 at 9:45 AM on November 20, 2017

so the incident that happened with you was identical to the incident that got her taken to the shelter originally. this is a very specific trigger that you are well aware of and can control completely -- don't pet other dogs in front of her. there is no way you can have another dog living in your apartment and not pet it. therefore, you cannot let your roommate bring her own dog in! this should just be off the table.

it may be that you don't have enough leverage with your roommate to veto a second dog, even if she understands the reason why. so while I don't think that you "should" re-home the dog, particularly if there's a good chance that means killing her but not having to be directly responsible, if you keep her you have to prioritize her. that means if you can't stop the roommate from having another dog, you have to move or get a new roommate.

but it doesn't matter at all what your family thinks about it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:47 AM on November 20, 2017 [24 favorites]

Yeah, a muzzle is probably a good thing to have at hand. It takes pretty much all potential danger out of difficult situations. I would simply go and get one.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:21 AM on November 20, 2017

Do you know why your family member wrote that letter? Because you are not taking this situation seriously.

She loves kids, no issues there.


Stop putting the dog in situations where she can bite people. Stop allowing her to be in situations with vulnerable animals (human children, other dogs, adults without knowledge of how she reacts).

Some other dog without these problems is going to be put down somewhere. If you don't want to live with these restrictions, give this dog back and get one that doesn't bite. I'm sorry you've tied all feelings of your happiness into this particular dog, but you are never going to have the life you want if you keep this dog. Ask me how I know.
posted by flimflam at 10:37 AM on November 20, 2017 [17 favorites]

Seriously strange dogs forced together is asking for scuffles. A lot of dogs are dog reactive & live happy lives in single dog households. You say you were staying at a friends house, I'm assuming this means you are not there now? Are there other dogs where you normally live?

If your dog can do basic things like go for a walk without trying to attack every dog it sees, is reasonably calm at the vets or in new situations there is no reason you can't keep the dog with a few very easy allowances. Never have your dog around another dog unless they are both on leads. Get to a dog trainers now & work work work on basic dog training with your dog to build up both your & the dogs confidence, you've only had your dog a month she is still learning to trust you & learn how to act.

Work continually to make sure it does not become a resource guarding dog, there is lots of advice online on how to do this. Just make it positive with lots of happy treats & rewards, learning stuff can be taken away but it comes back is a big mental leap for some dogs and can help with them resource guarding you. It's easy & can be a fun game for you & your dog.

My MIL's dog almost attacked my dog, a dog it has played with weekly for the past 3 years, because my dog tried to boss him around and ignored the please leave me alone signals my MIL's dog was giving. It happened entirely in body language & to anyone that didn't know dogs watching it looked like an unprovoked attack between 2 dogs that had never fought before and were simply playing. Unfortunately I was watching through a window & couldn't get outside in time to stop it. I tell you this because dog attacks are rarely unprovoked what often happens is people miss the signals & go hey they were getting on great for the past few days the attack came out of nowhere. Read everything you can find on dogs & their body language & signalling. This might be a good place to start. This will help you head off potential problems before they occur.

Make sure your dog can be crated & get it used to wearing a muzzle before you need it so if for some reason a strange dog or a child comes to visit you pop your dog in the crate or lock it in another room, or just slip the muzzle on problem solved.

The fact your friend got bitten is their own fault for intervening, P attacked another dog not a person.

Also all the exercise, a tired dog is an unreactive dog, a bored border collie can get all sorts of problems, exercise & lots of dog training, tricks agility classes the works, keep brain & body tired.

Now if all this sounds too much, then you might want to look at rehoming, just remember if you adopted from a shelter/rescue you should contact them, in many cases you may have signed a contract saying you have to return the dog to them not just find it another home.

Honestly I'd be cautious going forward, a continued or increasing number of incidents then their advice might be something you want to consider, but one event in isolation in strange circumstances does not lead to rehoming in my mind.
posted by wwax at 10:38 AM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your follow up is a bit concerning here because it sounds like you’re not taking it seriously.

I’ve had an unsafe dog, for 10 years, and it meant we turned ourselves inside out training every day, walking at 5 am,and paid for boarding when family stayed with us. And he had never actually bitten another dog (he did kill a raccoon.) to me the lack of warning from your dog before biting is pretty worrisome.

The only way to honour your dog is to make every situation extra safe. Suppose there’s a child crying and you go to hug the child and your dog responds this way? It’s that kind of scenario you need to think through; please don’t depend on your dogs behaviour in general. That’s proven untrustworthy.

My recommendation is that you either go full-bore in keeping your dog out of situations that could become volatile, or you rehome the dog. You know yourself best and whether you can be 100% aware an attentive, but that’s what it takes when your dog is not 100% reliable.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:46 AM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

it's totally reasonable not to want a new dog with a history of biting in your home

I'd amend this to "it's totally reasonable not to want a new dog with a history of biting in your home."
posted by jpe at 10:50 AM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

A family member with dog from a similar type of situation, and who tried to control the situation by keeping the dog on a leash. The dog bit a child while on the leash. I wish I'd written an email like that, honestly. Please reconsider the amount of people and dog time your dog gets; they are showing you that they can't handle that level of interaction.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:03 AM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

She's one year old and had two attacks, one harming a human. Yeah that's a bad set of data.

You can't have that roommate's dog live with you. I've owned an aggressive dog and he was also great day to day and lovely and friendly and squishy and great, until he wasn't. The triggers were always the same (cats/squirrels in particular situations) and living a life avoiding those trigger's was exhausting.

As a kid I was mauled by a friend's dog, who was six and had only ever nipped at other dog's "once or twice." I didn't poke the dog or kick the dog, I walked into my friend's front door with my friend; But crucially before my friend. That was it. Had I not been big for my age (11) I would have been in serious trouble, as it is I still have scars on my face arms and thigh.

I don't think your feelings are wrong, I don't think your family's instincts are wrong. I can't say if you NEED to get rid of this dog but you need to take this seriously.
posted by French Fry at 11:39 AM on November 20, 2017 [11 favorites]

... it is standard dog-safety practice never to get in between two fighting dogs: it's a sure way to get bitten. When dogs are fighting, grab one or both by the tail to separate them.

Please do not do this. You could seriously injure a dog by pulling on its tail, and this is not going to prevent the dog from continuing to fight or from wheeling around to bite you or anyone else who is nearby.

It sounds like suelac may be thinking of the "wheelbarrow method" for breaking up a dog fight, which involves grabbing the dog's hind legs and slowly walking it backwards, which forces it to disengage its front paws. That is a last resort, and it requires one person to handle each of the dogs involved, as the dog that you are handling could still sustain serious injuries if it is unable to protect itself with its front paws while you are removing it from the fight.
posted by Anita Bath at 11:41 AM on November 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

When I was a kid, our family dog got startled and bit a visiting child.

The dog was put to sleep the next day. It was rough, losing a beloved pet who had been with us for a decade over an incident with a kid who had been in the house for 10 seconds, but there is no wiggle room for that.

I'm not saying that your dog needs to be put down for biting another dog, but you do need to take the family's concerns very seriously; at minimum I think that means keeping the dog separate from them for the forseeable future. (and on preview, oh hell no to the roommate's dog, until you have this under control)

Sorry you're having to go through this. Good luck socializing the dog. It can and does get better, but it requires careful involvement of the owner (aka training of the owner), and then you also have to convince everyone else that the dog is OK now. But do the training first, and be honest about whether it's really safe to have your dog around others.
posted by intermod at 12:03 PM on November 20, 2017

She loves kids, no issues there.


Yes, what flimflam said.
posted by LoveHam at 12:21 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think other comments have covered a lot of aspects of the dog training angle in more informed ways than I can. But I want to address the family part. Why on earth does your family even know about an event that happened when only you and your friend were present? This is a really difficult emotional situation for you, and you're sharing details with family you describe as "guilt tripping me into decisions, still trying to treat me like a child, and overstepping their boundaries". I tend to think the only appropriate boundary with family who act like this is not giving them any information about your emotional life at all. If they ask you how your day was, it was "fine; didn't get up to much".
posted by capricorn at 12:30 PM on November 20, 2017 [11 favorites]

Whatever happens, please do not have this dog in the same home as your roommate's small dog.

It takes very little force to seriously injure or kill a smaller dog, and this can happen whether your dog P is being aggressive or not. P can think she's being playful and nice, and still kill a small dog. It's not worth the risk.
posted by witchen at 12:37 PM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I started to type out the story of the dog we had who nipped two people and eventually bit a child on the face, requiring plastic surgery and resulting in a lawsuit and a quarter-million dollar settlement, but instead I want to say this:

If you decide to rehome the dog, that doesn't mean you've failed. Please don't keep yourself and the dog in a stressful situation just to keep from hearing someone say "I told you so," or to prove yourself right and them wrong.

Your earlier question about a dog (this one, I presume) mentioned that you are looking for support for anxiety and PTSD. I don't think this particular animal, in this situation, is going to provide that for you. You can spend all your time and money on additional training, but his unpredictability will be a constant source of stress.

No one is at fault here; sometimes these things just don't work out. Forgive the dog and forgive yourself. You will both be better off.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:39 PM on November 20, 2017 [12 favorites]

Dogs can be support animals, but it sounds like this dog is not. My husband's dog, who recently deceased, exacerbated all of his anxiety and social isolation tendencies because he was aggressive and unpredictable. Now that he is dead, my husband is substantially more relaxed. To me, it sounds like if you keep this dog it will *increase* your anxiety and PTSD in the long-run. (I had panic attacks caused by confrontations with the dog.)
posted by emkelley at 12:59 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

First and foremost, there is a world of difference between your dog attacked a person and a person who jumped into a dog fight got bitten.

If you ever try to physically intervene in a dog fight, you should expect to get bitten.

Is your dog a danger to other dogs or humans ? I can't say for sure one way or another. A bite is just a tool a dog has to communicate. There are lots of different types of bites, each meaning different things. Was the other dog yelping while your dog was shaking it around ? If so, your dog likely was attempting to kill or maim the other dog. If both dogs were snarling and biting, it could have been just a power struggle over a perceived resource. If you dog snapped at the other dog and the other dog ran or yelped, it could just be your dog enforcing rules it perceives exist.

From what you have said, I have no reason to think your dog is a danger to humans.

It looks like what you have is a dog that has some form of resource guarding issues. I suggest you get a muzzle (basket type is the best by far) and use it when you are in similar situations to try to get a better idea of what your dog is keying on.

I am sure your family means well in their own way, but you should take their advice for what it is. An outside opinion on an issue that is your business.

As a side note, the best way to break up a dog fight is either pour water on them or bang a pot with a spoon near them. Both should reliably break it up without getting bitten. This is what I was told in training as a dog groomer, and from talking with vets and animal control officers.
posted by Oceanic Trench at 1:04 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had a dog that was a little bit dangerous like that. I inherited him from a relative who died when he was four years old. I had never owned a dog before and was pretty clueless about the potential downsides.

I am a homebody who lives in a rural area as did his previous owner. The dog had not been trained or socialized by his previous owner. I wasn't very social either, so nothing changed there.

My dog loved adults and got along with other dogs, but disliked children, which I didn't realize at first because I didn't know many children. We were at a family party with some out of state relatives when he started growling and getting aggressive with one of the kids. Luckily I was right there to grab him. There were a couple of other incidents like this during his life (not with kids) that could have gone bad but didn't. His aggressiveness got slightly worse in the last few years of his life.

Since then I've read many horror stories about dogs attacking people and pets. I wouldn't get another poorly trained/socialized dog again and I think it only worked out for me because I was a hermit-like single person living in a rural area.

I don't have a lot of knowledge about how easily bad behavior can be trained out of dogs, but I wouldn't feel safe about having the dog you are describing around children or other dogs and pets.

Also consider that if you keep your dog and its behavior does not change you will be handicapping your life a little bit or setting yourself up for hurt if you do need to make a difficult decision about the dog later.

She might live another 12+/- years. Do you think you might have children within this time? Are you in a serious relationship? If so, is that person ok with a problem dog? If not, what are you going to do if you get involved with someone who has kids or their own pets and your dog is not compatible?

Obviously I'm in favor of cutting your losses and returning the dog. Since she is still young she might be trainable, but I don't have the experience with dogs to know that. I would pass and get a puppy that you can train yourself or a dog with no known behavior problems.
posted by Blue Genie at 1:31 PM on November 20, 2017

There is an in-between between rehoming her and just keeping on with what youre doing.

Your dog is dog aggressive. You knew this getti ng her and you are putting her in positions where she can attack other dogs. Even if she's only aggressive 10% of the time, she is still dog aggressive and should be kept as the only pet. You need to follow this, full stop, no exceptions. Stop taking her to dog parks or to homes where people have animals. Even if she's okay 90% of the time, thats not enough. She needs to be 100% okay. Do not endanger other peoples animals here. I have been on the other side of this. Its not okay.

I would also very strongly suggest that you become VERY well-versed in dog body language. Animals have a bite threshold. They dont go from happy to biting instantaneously. You need to be able to recognize when she's escalating and intervene. It may only take a few moments for her to get upset, and of course you cant stop everything, but you still need to try and be diligent.

I dont think you necessarily need to rehome her. If she goes to the shelter her likelihood of being adopted again will plummet. Youre taking her to training. You sound like you love her dearly. Keep her. But, please, please be responsible about this. My dog is missing a chunk of his tongue because another dog attacked him. There are so many resources out there to help dogs with this problem. Use them. But first and foremost is to practice the utmost caution, and right now that means keeping her away from other animals.
posted by Amy93 at 2:29 PM on November 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have had a lot of dogs, all from shelters or found. A lot of them had issues.
I have had a house full of dogs where most of them didn't like each other, and I kept some of them separated. That sucked, and I don't want to repeat it. But around strange dogs and children? Just don't do it.

I have never let any of my dogs be around strange dogs or children, period. I think that's just a bad idea, and not some sort of necessity of a happy life. I don't leave my dogs unattended around visitors to my house.

You have to take this seriously. I really hate it when people tell me their dogs are safe when I can tell they are not. Do not put other people, or your dog, in bad situations. When people ask me if my dogs are safe I tell them I don't know, probably best to leave them alone.

Going to dog parks and visiting friends houses is not something dogs need to be happy. Dogs are family to me, and sometimes family is difficult. Doesn't mean I'm going to have them killed or homeless.
posted by bongo_x at 3:32 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think your dog needs an assessment from a professional who can give advice on steps going forward. Depending on what they say, you need to have a think about how this dog will fit in with your current lifestyle and the concessions you may have to make to do so. It might just take some intense training on your behalf. Then again, it might be that you have to move house where your dog won't be around other dogs. It might involve not taking him to other people's homes, children, dogs or dog parks.

You won't know until you go down that path and find out how deeply entrenched the animal's issues are, but I advise you to take this seriously and I think your family member is doing you a favour by highlighting the potential problems you could face. I wish you all the best, this is tough.
posted by Jubey at 5:37 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

You are favouriting what you want to hear, while ignoring a tonne of people, many with first-hand experience.

You know way less about dogs than I do, and I have never ever been a dog owner. FFS, do not let this dog near children, full stop, no excuses. For that or anything else. I get that you like the dog. A kid with a big chomp on the face is no joke, and it will be expensive and painful for you -- if there is ever another bite it will be all the worse because you will have been quite extensively warned, did nothing, and...yeah. It does not sound like you have the ability to deal with this dog.

The mail from your family sounds totally reasonable, gently phrased, etc. If there is a history there, that's one thing, but if it is a history of notes like that and your being livid over notes like that, it might be time to re-examine where the problem in the dynamic lies. I am 42 and can picture getting a note of concern like that from my parents. I would stew for a bit, admittedly, and then realise they were not writing that to be jerks or because they still think I'm a little kid. What they wrote is phrased as one would phrase the same note of concern to a peer.

Either way, don't bring P to your Dad's house. They are nervous and it doesn't matter whether or not you think that's legit. It isn't your house and they have made politely clear that P's presence would leave them ill at ease, and bringing P would be a very rude way to respond to the invite for US Thanksgiving.
posted by kmennie at 7:09 PM on November 20, 2017 [8 favorites]

If I were in your shoes, I would want to talk with a certified dog trainer about what kind of care P might need. And then I would want to quiet way down and take a hot bath and be alone and centered so I could look at the situation in an honest and clear-eyed way, taking out guilt (what would happen if you gave her up?), need (what will become of you if you have to give her back?) and codependent resentment (don't you have to do what your relative says?? don't you have to NOT do what your relative says??). I would want to just sit quietly and consider what kind of care the dog trainer suggested (hours of training/exercise/isolation from other animals/etc) and whether I thought that would fit with my abilities/needs and whether I would be able to provide it with a happy heart.
posted by hungrytiger at 9:16 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

None of us are dog trainers who have experience with aggressive animals, and none of us can assess your dog-- so you should do that (AS SOON AS POSSIBLE) and not listen to us about whether you should keep this dog or not.

However, what I can say from your post is I'm not sure you're taking the situation seriously enough.

*Please* take this seriously, for the dog's sake. Resource guarding can get worse over time and if he's done this after one month you must get a trainer and get the dog assessed. If you aren't going to put the time and effort into taking the dog's issues 100% seriously, you should not have that dog.

I adopted a six year old rescue close to two years ago-- I've had a string of questions about her here in AskMe which have been very light hearted. But I knew when I took her she had been badly abused and often half starved (she had been used as a warehouse guard dog). It was months with a trainer assessing her before I took her to a dog park, and months after that where she worked with a regular dog walker who took her in to dog day care and boarding at her home. To introduce her to the boarding, the same woman walked her every day for an hour, five days a week (even if I was home) and then she started to bring her dog and then we tried an overnight. It took more time before we were confident for her to stay in boarding. And this was for a dog with no known dog aggression issues. Why all the caution? She is big, and strong. She was abused. Her history was largely unknown. I agreed a plan with the rescue where I got her and the first trainer I got because we didn't want her needing to be put down because we accidentally hit a trigger and she hurt someone or hurt another dog.

Now, you don't need to do it just this way. But you had a dog who you knew had an issue with resource guarding and put her in a situation where she was exposed to the same trigger which got her rehomed in the first place! This is not okay. Not for the dog, and not for other people. And even in your follow up you're seriously discussing a roommate with another dog! What my trainers told me (and I trust them) is that more you expose a dog to their possible triggers, the more you can ingrain the behavior you do not want and create a dog who cannot be rehomed anywhere.

I made mistakes too-- I took another foster but had to speedily pack her off because she was triggering my dog by being aggressive to me. And now we're very clear-- no more fosters for the foreseeable future. It's okay to make mistakes, but I think you could be much more conscious of the consequences if you don't do this in a careful way.

If you can't make the commitment to really help her, then please treat her as an extended foster and try to help her find a home where she can get the support she needs.

(I would also agree that if a human puts themselves into a dog fight and gets bitten, that doesn't count in the same way as an unprovoked bite to a human. If your dog had a history of (for instance) resource guarding you with other people, you would get a completely different answer from me than the one I wrote.)
posted by frumiousb at 11:46 PM on November 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Shame on those of you who say I am not taking this seriously enough. I love this girl to death and want what is best for her and everybody involved. I am willing to take her to whatever training is necessary. Of course I do not think this behavior is appropriate. I called several trainers last night and spoke with my own trainer. She has observed P over multiple weeks in class and told me she does not believe P is an aggressive or dangerous dog and that she can be rehabilitated. It is a specific trigger that sets her off - otherwise, she behaves nicely around other dogs.

We have developed a plan to work with P going forward. She is going to stay at the trainer's house for a board and train session over a long weekend for evaluation. I have decided not to bring P to Thanksgiving. That is a reasonable request (although the family member who sent this email is states away and will not be in attendance at my dad's.) To answer some questions that came up, I am not in a relationship and do not ever plan on having children.

And for what it's worth, I have read and mulled over all of your comments. Thanks everybody.
posted by Malleable at 8:33 AM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

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