my new rescue pup is making me super anxious - should i give her up?
October 19, 2019 4:58 PM   Subscribe

i've wanted a dog all my life, though long and hard about all the responsibilities of the decision; a week ago, my boyfriend and i adopted this three year old coonhound/blue heeler mix from a rescue/foster. the foster said she was a super sweet, well behaved dog with excellent house manners, the rescue said she was the right energy and level and temperament for two novice owners. now i'm discovering that she has serious behavior issues (off the charts prey drive, obsessive itching/licking when she's anxious, which is often, separation anxiety, and also, can get mouthy when she's overexcited/playful or getting lots of pets). she needs a lot of mental and physician stimulation. i work from home and i'm trying my best, doing a ton of training, but i'm falling behind on my actual work, super stressed, spending a ton of time on her, and feeling like this might have been a mistake. i don't know what to do -

some additional issues: i just moved into a new apartment this month (a dog friendly apartment specifically to get a dog). i think it would have been wiser to wait until we were settled to get a dog - but when i saw this dog on petfinder i just applied, she sounded like such a perfect dog. now that i've been with her for a week, i'm just discovering all these things that are far from perfect, and aren't at all novice dog owner compatible. i think she'd be happiest in the country, where she can run and hunt squirrels to her heart's content. in the city i have to be hyper vigilant about walking her - her prey drive is now into pigeons and cats, too. when she's in hunt mode nothing i do will get her attention and i pretty much just have to drag her away. when she has to be dragged away too often, sometimes she has a meltdown and tries to get out of her collar. it's making walks very, very stressful.

i've been researching so much about obedience training (she's super smart and has already learned so much in a week). we try to give her dinner in the form of nosework. my boyfriend and i have both been taking her out on three walks a day. at home, she's well behaved - except for chasing flies, or when she's bored and getting aggressive with her toys.

then there's the fact that when she IS actually happy/excited, she opens her mouth wide - she nipped at me the first day we got her when we were playing with a toy, and it made me really worry about it developing into something worse. so i can't even give her belly rubs without fearing that it will kick off her mouthy response. because i work from home, i'm with her most of the time. but i feel really trapped and hopeless. i feel like i've made a terrible mistake, now can't leave the apartment without worrying about her separation anxiety, and my work is suffering (i've been missing deadlines, barely keeping it together). i have a lot of work projects and ambitions that i ALREADY have been putting off with the stress of moving, and now the dog has set that off even more.

the other day i tried to meditate and then broke down crying - and when she noticed she went into her own obsessive licking/stress behavior mode, so instead of feeling comforted or able to just cry, i had to worry about managing her stressful behavior yet again.(she is very sensitive and easily goes into her stress licking/itching mode) it felt like instead of a good, easy beginner's dog we wound up with a dog with all these complicated problems that are expensive and time consuming to solve, and the prey drive, in particular, i really don't know how to deal with.

today, i went off to the city on my own while my partner took care of the dog and i dreaded, dreaded coming home. as soon as i came home and saw her, i felt like crying again. she feels like the wrong dog for us - i can't have a dog i can't take to the parks because she'll go off the rails, and can't take to a cafe because she'll be reactive to anything that moves. i can't have a dog that will prevent me from leaving my apartment. i knew a dog would be a lot of work, but it seems like she has all these serious problems that we didn't anticipate and is so much more than i signed on for.

we're seeing a behavioral consultant about her on tuesday which is stressful in its own way -- i was prepared to spend a lot of money on the dog, but not anticipating spending an extra $1000 right away when I already spent so much buying supplies and toys. i'm afraid that with the amount of training and attention she needs, i can't keep up with her mental/physical/social needs without completely sacrificing my own. i'm rarely happy around her and i just feel so trapped. if also feels like if she just had one problem, it'd be solvable, but she has so many, and such poor techniques for dealing with stress. and i have so many other things to worry about.

i can't tell how much of this is genuinely concerning and how much of it is my anxiety. if i can't interact healthily with the dog, doesn't that mean she's the wrong dog for me? (i also know that i have some attachment issues - with human relationships, certainly, and possibly that extends to dogs/anything else that's a big commitment/responsibility). right now, my relationship with the dog feels like a cycle of distress and attempts at appeasement. i'm not happy to see her. i don't want to be home or be around her.

does anyone have any tips to deal with the training aspects of this? and am i being crazy to consider rehoming her, or is this just the apparently common anxiety with getting a new dog? (i know that the anxiety is common, but she also has these very real behavioral issues that i have such a hard time believing we can resolve and keep her happy - it feels cruel to prevent her from doing what she does best, hunting and chasing moving things). i'm so distressed and keep thinking about this and not knowing what to do. please help.
posted by lightgray to Pets & Animals (53 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: edit to add that i've been having crying fits and panic attacks these past few days - when i got away from the dog and came back dreading it, i immediately started crying again. i know that my anxiety affects the dog, and knowing that makes it feel like i can't be anxious without making everything worse and this feels like the hardest thing i've ever had to do.
posted by lightgray at 5:06 PM on October 19, 2019

OK look, coonhounds are not easy dogs and they are not starter dogs and I wish I had come in to your last question to tell you this. I meant to. I’ve had dogs my entire life and I gave up on a coonhound once. The rescue dog I just got is part hound and I love him but he’s driving me crazy. They will do that. They will always have a crazy prey drive, they will always be hyper and you can never ever let them off leash on a hike.

I am also going to say I think you should return this dog to the rescue - and do it right away before she gets too comfortable - and seriously seriously consider looking for a puppy(not a hound puppy - the only chill hounds are greyhounds and bassets) It genuinely is easier to start with a puppy, seriously, it is. I am also going to recommend that if you are set on a rescue dog you read Do Over Dogs by Pat Miller. Rescue dogs are a lot of work unless you get very lucky.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:13 PM on October 19, 2019 [39 favorites]

It's only been a week, contact the dog rescue right now tonight and let them know the dog isn't a good fit and return the dog. You sound so so miserable.
Your anxiety is making me anxious just reading your post and I love dogs.
posted by ilovewinter at 5:23 PM on October 19, 2019 [45 favorites]

If your work is suffering you're not going to be able to provide for any dog or yourself anyway so you should do what you have to do and bring the dog back. It's the best thing for all of you. Just think of it as a life lesson and next time you'll know better how to evaluate a dog you want.
posted by bleep at 5:26 PM on October 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

This is a bad match. Return the dog, wait until you've settled into the new place, and try again with a calm breed known for doing well in city apartments.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:27 PM on October 19, 2019 [16 favorites]

You should immediately return this dog and not get a hunting dog or any other dog with a high prey drive unless that's specifically what you're looking for.

If you do get another dog, do not choose it based on its looks. That is absolutely the worst way to choose a dog.

In addition, I would recommend you not use Petfinder or any other service that expects you to commit to a dog you cannot first meet. I'm a very experienced dog person and would never do that. (In addition to my own dog, I've lived with over 100 dogs in the past 7 years as someone who pet sits around the world for a living).

Plenty of people would disagree, but that's my advice. You will find lots of anecdotal evidence telling you it's fine to get a dog you can't meet first, but trust me when I say that when it's wrong, it's really wrong and when it's not wrong it's not really right, either. A dog is a creature you will spend a large part of your life with. Would you choose a significant other or roommate based on a photograph?
posted by dobbs at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2019 [31 favorites]

I can't believe a rescue gave you a coonhound/blue heeler mix as a starter dog. They are NOTORIOUS for being very high energy working dogs that often have quite a lot of neuroses unless they have a "job" (like being on a farm.) If it's an option, I would absolutely not feel guilty surrendering this dog back to the rescue. She needs an experienced owner with a certain set of opportunities for her. There are many other dogs out there who are just waiting for you to love them and to settle in to a quiet, relaxed home, who won't need this kind of intensive care. (Maybe look at an older or more senior dog? They often can't get adopted as easily, if at all, and they're also often happy to have some nice warm feet to nap on all day while you work. This is of course assuming you're up for caring for them into their older years, but that should be true of any dog you get as it's just a matter of time.)
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:30 PM on October 19, 2019 [31 favorites]

One other piece of advice is that if you go through a rescue, they should ask you for references and then they should contact those references.

When a rescue tells you they have a dog for you, ask your references if they were contacted. If they weren't, then that rescue does not care about its dogs or its matches. Do not deal with them.

Lastly, there are lots of rescues that look for foster homes. Become a foster. When the right dog comes through, adopt it.
posted by dobbs at 5:32 PM on October 19, 2019 [12 favorites]

Return the dog. Go to a shelter. Meet a bunch of dogs. Bring one home for a week or so and see if it's a good match. Repeat as much as needed. Also, consider an older dog? They're a lot less work, and older dogs need homes and love too! Personally, I think it helps to meet the dog at the shelter first and wait until you feel a connection.
posted by xammerboy at 5:32 PM on October 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

now i'm discovering that she has serious behavior issues

Those are just normal behavior issues but this is not the dog for you. Most, like 90%, of dogs need an owner who runs, bikes or regularly takes them to an off leash dog park or access to a large yard or field to be calm and well behaved in the house. I wish rescues would tell people this up front.

This dog is a cross between two high energy working breeds, both known for being stubborn and not liking to be alone. They never should have told you she'd be a good fit. She needs far more exercise and an experienced owner who is fine with the prey drive and likely other dogs or a large busy environment for mental stimulation. You'd be happier with a really low energy dog- ask for a really low energy, apartment dog next time you apply and emphasis that the dog will only be walked on leash. An older dog or one from a breed that is NOT a working breed or cross of two high energy working breeds would be a lot more suited.

A dog shouldn't make you miserable. You guys are feeding off each other. Return her and get another dog. The behaviorist isn't going to help.
posted by fshgrl at 5:34 PM on October 19, 2019 [26 favorites]

Response by poster: thank you all for your feedback. one more update: my boyfriend and i did meet her before we adopted her - but we had to take her home that night, and according to the foster she was a well behaved dog. everyone seemed to suggest that she didn't need *THAT* much exercise and is fine for a first time dog. the rescue did check my references, but hasn't been supportive at all about the problems we've been having (their response is take some obedience training classes - but teaching obedience indoors really hasn't been the problem).

my boyfriend thinks we should stick with the dog, commit to her, work with her -- he helps, but again, i'm home with the dog much more than he is. she's a really sweet, affectionate, super smart dog who's good in so many ways. i think it's possible that we could make it work - let her run around on a longline and harness in the park? channel her prey drive into obedience/nosework? i would take her on much, much longer walks if she didn't have the prey drive issue. her separation anxiety is relatively mild since she doesn't destroy the apartment when we leave - but she's definitely distressed during it, and doesn't interact with her toys/food when we're away. i think i would feel relief giving her back - and i also have a feeling the rescue won't be understanding and that it *would* be possible to try really really hard and work on her. i'm not sure if this changes the equation at all.
posted by lightgray at 5:46 PM on October 19, 2019

Yes, geez, relinquish the dog. No one is happy, here.

I want to be clear, though, that the issues this dog has are typical and aren't like, TOP THREE WORST ISSUES, so be warned about that in the future. (My top five would be: human/dog aggression, not properly house broken, and severe separation anxiety, like tearing apart the crate/house and barking constantly.) And all dogs that live in an apartment with no outdoor space will need at least three good walks a day. Many will need more than three. Morning walk, afternoon walk, evening walk and before bed walk are pretty standard. It's reasonable if you don't have the bandwidth for a dog right now (or ever! they are high maintenance!), so don't feel bad about that.


Also also, there's really no such thing as an "apartment dog"; there are just different dogs for different people. When I had a husky, he would get like 10 miles of walks a day and some dog park time, and we lived in a 1000 sqft city house with no big yard. He also had toys that stimulated him mentally. He was happy and so were we! Our vacuum cleaner, on the other hand, was not. :D
posted by ancient star at 5:46 PM on October 19, 2019 [15 favorites]

i think it's possible that we could make it work - let her run around on a longline and harness in the park?

No- this is grossly unsafe. Your dog can knock people over or get tangled with another dog and cause a huge, bad dog fight. All hounds are sweet btw! They are known for being sweet, playful, non dog aggressive and chasing and killing things whether you want them to or not. Even shock collars often won't stop them.

Honestly, I've owned two hounds and fostered many more- give the dog back and get a lower energy dog with less prey drive. That is not a city dog. Panic attacks are not OK. There is a better home for that dog and a better dog for you.
posted by fshgrl at 5:50 PM on October 19, 2019 [10 favorites]

I was going to tell you about how we dealt with a dog who had significant issues with mouthiness, being too rough and wild, and separation anxiety, and how much his behavior improved in just a couple of months. But then I got to the part about how you live in the city and thought about how much long daily off-leash walks in the woods helped with our dog's behavior. He also loved other dogs and going to dog parks, so that could have been an alternate solution for him, and maybe it could help with your dog. If you can find a way to get this dog a significant amount of exercise, the behavior issues are probably not as serious and hard to deal with as you imagine. But as other people are saying, if you're this stressed out, this probably isn't the dog for you.
posted by Redstart at 5:50 PM on October 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

If your boyfriend wants to put in the time & effort to make it work, he could/should put in the time & effort to find her the right situation upstate or out east. You are the one who's suffering the most here, so you should do what's right for you.
posted by bleep at 5:54 PM on October 19, 2019 [14 favorites]

Best answer: OK ok, with this update, I have different advice. I had a husky (as mentioned above) and more recently had a Jack Russell Terrier. (RIP both dogs <3)

You are correct in seeing a dog behaviorist, not obedience classes. This will be a huge help. We went through *exactly* the same thing with our husky and with work and some changes, he was a delight on walks. Please feel free to message me, if you want!

First, experiment with different collars. Two I'd recommend are the Easy Walker Harness and the Gentle Leader. The Gentle Leader might be your best bet here. It's a face collar and allows you to gently but physically redirect your dog's attention from the trigger. This is a big thing in behavioral training: redirecting attention and then rewarding them for staying calm and by your side. The East Walker is a chest harness and while it worked for our Jack Russell, it may not be as good for larger dogs who have a higher prey drive.

You should also get a backpack for your dog and load it up for walks. Yes, a backpack that your dog wears. We literally put cans of beans in our husky's backpack and he also carried his poop bags and a toy for the dog park. It helped him get out some energy and he was also really cute in his pack, so win-win.

Lastly, buy all of the puzzle toys you can get your hands on. The balls that you can put dry food or treats into and your dog bats it around until the treats fall out are great. There are a lot of other kinds, too, like ones with different flaps where you can hide treats in. You do not need to be the sole entertainment for your dog, and these puzzle toys are really stimulating for smart, energetic dogs.

Best of luck either way!!
posted by ancient star at 6:00 PM on October 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

A young hound needs to run, a lot. We had a hound that the shelter assured me would be a great fit, and they were fibbing. If you can take the dog on a run 1st thing, it would help, but it's an every day commitment. Kongs and other toys help, but coon hounds can and do run for many hours, and they need a lot of exercise.

It's okay to take the dog back to the rescue, really. I have adopted an older dog, he was 6 or 7 and a fantastic dog, settled but able to learn. I'd recommend a middle-aged dog. They still need plenty of exercise and attention. I lucked out with my current Jack Russell Terrier from a shelter in Georgia, who was never manic, and now he's getting older is is quite chill unless there's a tennis ball.

Go see dogs in person, spend time, throw a ball. There's a better fit for you.
posted by theora55 at 6:06 PM on October 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Also, for what it's worth, please don't take this onto yourself emotionally. Your anxiety around this doesn't make you a bad person or an unfit dog owner. It sounds like you got very bad advice from the rescue/foster people. Don't be afraid to try again.
posted by mccxxiii at 6:07 PM on October 19, 2019 [14 favorites]

Best answer: My favorite dog in the world was a rescue coonhound, but he was also my third dog. His first three or so months with us were pretty rough and I also had panic attacks and cried a lot. The problems you report are all pretty typical for hounds (other than the mouthiness, though it's hard to tell what that signifies without seeing it in action). The prey drive can be worked on (you have to build up a history with the dog of being at least partially as interesting and rewarding as prey, which takes a lot of treats and time) but it's never going to go away. I walked my hound on a 1 foot traffic lead for a couple months at first so he never had the opportunity to build up a head of steam going after the local squirrels (and we lived in a neighborhood called Squirrel Hill if that's any indication of the gravity of the problem) and so I could be right there immediately shoving liver treats in his face every single time he's start to notice a small furry creature. A hound can never ever be let off leash (and I had to nix going to one of our local dog parks because it wasn't fully fenced and that damn dog went on walkabout). I had a long line for my hound but that only came out when we were legit in the woods away from other people and dogs and after I'd spent mooooonths training so the line was more insurance than tether. That is not okay for city parks or an untrained dog.

Your options are to return the dog or be okay with this being a long term project dog. If you're not in a good place for the long term project, it's okay to admit that and return.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:08 PM on October 19, 2019 [10 favorites]

A blue heeler mix is not a beginner dog, it’s a working dog that, as you’ve found out, needs constant stimulation and exercise. It’s all well and good for your boyfriend to say you should keep it and stick it out, when he’s not the one who has to do the bulk of the work. You should give it back, this dog is a bad fit. And I’m sure the rescue probably won’t be impressed by this but if they’d been straight with you about the dog, you wouldn’t have been matched with it in the first place.

Somewhere out there is a family or person who is perfect for this dog (it would probably suit a tradesperson or someone similar who can take it to work everyday). With the right fit and some training, chances are a lot of this dog’s issues will be sorted. You owe it to the dog to let it be placed with someone who can give it what it needs. The sooner this happens the better. Don’t feel bad, you tried and it didn’t work out.
posted by Jubey at 6:11 PM on October 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

This isn’t the right match for you and, as someone who has adopted from rescue, I’m side-eyeing the rescue that made claims that seem far fetched just based on the dog’s breeds and age. It’s fine to return the dog to get a better match for everyone. Your stress response to the dog will interfere with your ability to do the work you need to do with the dog. Better to let this dog have a chance at a better match and get that same chance yourself. I’m sorry this is hard, and I hope that the rescue straightens out with how they’re dealing with you. Their handling of all of this isn’t impressive.
posted by quince at 6:12 PM on October 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

I would return the dog. When we were looking for a dog when I was a kid and wanted an "easy one," the local MSPCA pointed us to a mutt who looked like an oversize Jack Russell terrier -- one who turned out to have an insane prey drive, hated other dogs, stole food off the counter and knocked over trash cans, ran away chasing deer, and had an indoor marking problem. We were able to get him to stop marking with least most of the time, but he would regularly come in from the yard bloody (from killing all the neighborhood wildlife he could catch), and he hated other animals the rest of his life. He also ran away frequently and nabbed the Thanksgiving turkey carcass one year. Again, this is after training.

We lived in a rural area, so he had a lot of space and a lot of animals to catch. We had him until he passed, but no one in my family ever got another dog after that experience.

Sometimes that's just the dog, and if it's not a good fit, there's no shame in starting over. The rescue should have done a better job; it's not your fault. A lot of rescue dogs come with baggage, and the poorly-run shelters can and do lie when they're trying to rehome hard-to-home dogs.

I volunteered as a dogwalker at a different MSPCA, and it was a great way to screen for the dogs without obvious problems. I almost took one home and I still think of that amazing dog a lot.
posted by marfa, texas at 6:19 PM on October 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nobody can be everything for everybody, even if that's stressful to realize. If you truly think that the dog can be a good fit for you and that you and your lifestyle can be a good fit for the dog, that's one thing. But it sounds like there are better matches out there for both of you, and that's not something to feel bad about.

(That rescue organization, on the other hand, does not sound like a good one - they should care much more about there being a good fit. You should be able to return the dog to them, but possibly there are other organizations that might do better by everyone involved.)
posted by trig at 6:21 PM on October 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not only is a Blue Heeler/Coonhound mix potentially not the right dog for a first time owner, it's not right FOR YOU because you're specifically not looking to take on such a high energy dog like this. I love Blue Heelers they are super smart but my goodness, you need to get out of the gate and be mentally ahead of the dog and prepared to work its ass off mentally and physically and if this isn't what you consciously signed up for ahead of time and are chomping at the bit to have a dog like this, it's not the dog you want.

I would return the dog because it's not the right match for you and I would back away from this foster/rescuer.
posted by vivzan at 6:27 PM on October 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Our guilt over this same situation led us to keep a dog for 8 months that was a horrible horrible match. High energy very strong dog, novice owner and two smaller kids. We were all miserable, on edge, afraid at times. Everyone, including the dog, was suffering. We took him back to rescue finally, paid the relinquish fee, and left very detailed notes about what the dog needed. Huge sigh of relief. We know the rescue worked with the dog based on our notes. We Hope doggie got a good home. We ended up with the sweetest most gentle little doggie who is perfect for us.

Don’t suffer. Let the dog go to a more well-suited home. You are doing it a favor. Good luck in your future doggie search.
posted by ChristineSings at 6:27 PM on October 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

I’m not a dog person so can’t advise there, but I had a similar situation a few years back with rescue cats. I had adopted a bonded pair of cats and was so so excited to have them! And it immediately wasn’t good. They were pooping and peeing everywhere, I ended up having to keep them in my tiny bathroom while I was at work, which they destroyed. I felt so horrible because they were sweet cats, but I absolutely could not deal at all. I had several crying fits and after a week knew I couldn’t cope and it wasn’t fair to any of us.

I cried the entire drive to and from the rescue when I returned them and just felt like the worst person in the world. But you know what, it turned out they weren’t healthy cats. One had a previously unknown rare disease (with no cure) who died a week after I brought them back, and the other had a milder form that wasn’t life-threatening.

And I am so grateful that I brought them back - I would not have been able to cope if he had died with me. I would have been beyond scarred and thought that it was my fault and never would have trusted myself with another living thing again.

As it was, it took me a year to try again because I was still feeling guilty. But I have a sweet middle aged kitty now (going on three years together). She is a good fit and I’m so happy she’s in my life! The other cats were not a good fit and I wouldn’t have been able to dedicate the time and money to keep them healthy (tho I didn’t know that was even a consideration at the time) and although I felt terrible, returning them to the shelter was the absolute 100% right decision and I would make it again in a heartbeat.

The amount of stress you are having isn’t right. The dog’s presence in your home should not trump your health and well-being. Please take care of yourself! If that means bringing the dog back, you might feel guilty for a little while, but it will be better for you and him when you both find a better fit. Hugs to you - I know it is tough!
posted by firei at 6:30 PM on October 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Good lord. I felt bad for you just reading your post—if I were you I’d feel very stressed too!

This dog is a cross of two high energy breeds, both meant to be working dogs. This is not a dog who should be given to novice dog owners! What was the rescue organization thinking??

It’s nice that your boyfriend wants to persist but you’re the one doing the bulk of the work and you are stressed out. I say give the dog back so he can go to a more suitable home, and try again with a dog that is actually chill and suitable for your home—from a different rescue, because I wouldn’t trust this one again.

Please don’t feel bad about this dog not being the right one for you. We are experienced dog owners who had a Jack Russell Terrier for many years until he died. When we felt ready for another dog, we rehomed a Jack Russell Terrier puppy. They are high energy working dogs with lots of quirks, and he was a lot of work for the first few months, EVEN THOUGH we knew exactly what we were getting into, and even though he’s actually pretty calm for his breed! I shudder to think how novice dog owners would have struggled with him.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:30 PM on October 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

You got totally hoodwinked by the rescue, probably because the foster family couldn't take it anymore. It will suck to make this call but this is a dog that needs a very specific set of criteria. You're not it, I'm an advanced dog carer and *I* wouldn't be it either, this is not your fault.

I would contact them ASAP but don't pour out the whole story up front, come at them with "this dog is unrecognizable from the dog you described to me, and this is not a suitable home for it, I need your intervention *immediately*." Just stick to that until you have their attention and then, in bullet points, summarize all the ways this dog is not the dog you were advertised.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:46 PM on October 19, 2019 [28 favorites]

The dog that you're meant to be with, the dog that's meant to find you, is still out there waiting.
posted by amtho at 6:49 PM on October 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

Wow. The rescue super lied to you about this dog’s temperament and needs, I’m so sorry. You are beyond reproach returning or relinquishing her— in fact it’s the right thing to do— because you cannot give this special-needs animal the kind of environment she needs to thrive or even just not be baseline miserable. Giving a high drive working mix like her to two novice dog owners in an apartment in a city was irresponsible bordering on negligent. You don’t need a behaviorist for her because her maladaptive behaviors are just a normal response to being in an unsuitable environment. I’m so sorry this has been traumatizing. Return her to the rescue (or if you can, to a breed specific rescue who will find an appropriate home for her), take some time to process, maybe talk to that behaviorist about the profile of the kind of dog you’re looking for, who can find a happy, loving home with you. You are not a bad person or a bad dog owner for realizing you can’t care for a dog with the kind of specific, intense needs the dog you’re caring for has. There will be people out there who can give her the life she deserves, and another dog for whom you are that good, happy life.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 7:36 PM on October 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

I am so sorry.

It’s not your fault.

You are not imagining these problems.

Lovingly return the dog. It was advertised inaccurately. Report the rescue to petfinder if possible.

NOT your fault.

There will be another one, I promise. Someone out there is a good match for that dog.

Some dog out there is the right match for you.

Dogs are fraught, I know. Deep breaths, next steps.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:06 PM on October 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: channel her prey drive into obedience/nosework? i would take her on much, much longer walks if she didn't have the prey drive issue.

This isn't a behavior "issue" you can solve, it's their nature. No amount of training will change the fact that coonhounds are hunting dogs. They can't be let off leash - ever - they only obey their noses when they're on the trail of something. My mostly blind 16 year old treeing walker will still chase leaves down the street just the same as he attempted to chase pigeons and squirrels when he was a puppy. The training advice that works on other breeds simply will not work on them (in this thread, the advice given from non-coonhound owners isn't going to help you much). You can go on every walk for the rest of your life with treats in hand, but they're still going to occasionally bolt after that squirrel.

It's not your fault! I love coonhounds, they are so sweet, but I live in an urban area where I have to leash walk mine as well and I would never recommend one (especially a puppy) to a first time dog owner. If you like hounds, maybe a middle aged beagle would be a better fit.
posted by bradbane at 8:10 PM on October 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: okay, one more update post my panic attack breakdown!

i think my anxiety has colored how i perceive a lot of this. i'm not happy with the rescue and i'm really thankful and reassured to hear that this does sound like an objectively bad fit.

strangely, though all your advice about giving her back has made me feel more optimistic and hopeful about keeping her? while i may be a novice dog owner and may not be able to give her a three mile run everyday, i am highly driven and can give her LOTS of mental stimulation and play time (she gets pretty tuckered out from that), and our three walks a day tend to be 30 minutes minimum, an hour on the long side, with some jogging mixed in. sniffing things does tire her out. (we can't go to dog parks because she's cautious and nervous with other dogs - she sniffs their faces but gets scared if they sniff her butt). i also feel like shorter leash walking could help!

in the week i've had her, i've taught her to sit (even sitting before we open the door to let her out, which is a tough one), make eye contact and hold it, leave it, come, stay, and shake with one paw, get off/stay off the bed when asked --she was used to sleeping on the bed with her foster-- and she's getting *semi* decent at loose leash walking on city streets when prey drive hasn't kicked in. i've made a bunch of games for her out of card board boxes and hiding treats - she loves to sniff around the apartment hunting for kibble in unlikely places (she can lift up a rug with her claw and get at the kibble we hide underneath).

when she's at home, she does sleep a lot (occasionally she does the i'm-bored nap but other times it's genuine, deep sleep), which suggest she *might* be okay with the amount of exercise she's getting? not ideal, but maybe okay with the mental stimulation mixed in. we should probably just try to kill the flies in our house before she does.

i also like the idea of giving her a backpack and things to carry. she does love her kong, and gnawing on a rawhide when she notices it's there. i think i could get her more toys/find ways to keep her engaged and interested on her own...and the mouthiness, i think, probably comes from the fact that she never learned proper bite inhibition and gets overexcited. aside from the nip on day one, she hasn't actually made contact with my skin at all - i just get nervous. my new thing is having a stuffed toy on hand so that when she starts opening her mouth i can stuff it in there. my boyfriend gave her a belly rub earlier and she picked up a chew and seemed happily occupied to have *something* to nibble while she enjoyed getting pet.

anyway -- she is a smart, eager to learn, curious, obsessive, anxious pup with some weird tendencies, which sounds a lot like me. i think my obsessiveness/anxiety probably contributed a lot to me not being able to get any work done (i certainly didn't *have* to teach her all the basic obedience tricks, not to mention teaching myself how to teach them in her first week as well as dealing with the intense responsibility of a dog plus the worry about whether getting her was a terrible mistake plus the fear that i was doing a terrible job of everything). i completely neglected my own self care / needs this week - i think a better balance (plus more sleep) could put me in a better state.

the most stressful thing about her is still the prey drive - and i really hope the behaviorist has some ideas. we already made the booking, so there's no point in quitting preemptively. maybe
it's possible to do enough obedience that she *occasionally* realizes that we also exist outside and curb the drive a little? idk - (if you're a coonhound owner with advice i'd of course love to hear it). i never anticipated getting a hound, also, nor a cattle dog! my dream breed is a german shepherd, which is apparently also not a good first time owner dog, but maybe this dog will get me better prepared for one in the future.

getting into a challenging project way over my head the first time i do it is kind of my thing, so unless the behaviorist thinks there aren't likely solutions, we'll probably keep trying. she is a big old sweetie when i'm feeling calmer. anyway, here's to hoping and counter intuitively not listening to all of you (sorry!)/ making any decisions yet. maybe we'll still have to give her up. maybe there's a way to keep going. in any case, here she is, not worrying about it:

(thank you all for your responses! it felt really good to be able to articulate all my anxieties no matter what happens)
posted by lightgray at 8:23 PM on October 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

That dog looks way more like a cattle dog than a coonhound. It's not obvious from that picture that she even has any hound in her. So I wouldn't assume the advice you're getting about hounds actually applies to her. Herding dogs have high prey drive, but they're more amenable to letting people control how and when they use it than hounds are.

Some quick tips about a couple of your issues:

Separation anxiety: We successfully used the technique in I'll be Home Soon by Patricia McConnell. But you may not even need to do anything like that. It sounds like your dog's problems are way less severe than ours, based on the fact that you can actually leave her alone.

Mouthing: I used treats and a clicker to teach our mouthy dog a "stop mouthing" command ("stop it.") It didn't take long at all. Once he understood it we could use it proactively to mean "don't start mouthing."
posted by Redstart at 8:53 PM on October 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

That photo looks like a pure bred cattle dog or maybe a kelpie or terrier mix. I don't see any hound at all in her and I've owned them and been around hundreds of them. I'm really wondering about that rescue you got her from!

She should be approx 100x more trainable than a coonhound so that's good.
posted by fshgrl at 9:42 PM on October 19, 2019 [11 favorites]

Just on the separation issue: a week is not much time at all for her to settle into a new environment and feel comfortable alone there. When I brought my puppy home for good at 3 months old she was quite distraught whenever I left, far too upset to even accept a treat from me. It’s three weeks later and she now gives me a Serious Reproachful Look, but she takes the treat and is resigned to me leaving.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:55 PM on October 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm a dog person, I've had dogs all my life. This is probably the only chance you're going to get to return this dog and get a better match for you. After another week or two you will be too attached even if the dog is making your life incredibly stressful. Ask yourself if you want to spend the next 15 plus years dealing with the types of stressors you're going through now. I have two dogs, both of whom I love SO MUCH. One suits my personality and lifestyle and one absolutely does not. Believe me, despite how much I love them, I still (11 years later on) wish we had not gotten the unsuitable one.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:43 PM on October 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

Just wanted to say that one week is an extremely short time for a dog to settle into a new situation and for you and she to bond. Even leaving aside all the things that are difficult about her behaviour (and I agree that the real question is here is whether you're committed to putting up with her breed characteristics for the rest of her life, because you most likely won't be able to "fix" them as much as you'd like), the first few weeks to months with a rescue dog, especially a young, active one, will be a bumpy ride. Give yourself a bit of a break on feeling like this needs to be working perfectly NOW. My dog peed whenever I came near him and chewed up half the back garden for the first few months of his life with me and I did vaguely hate him- now he is as good as gold and we have a great relationship.
It's great that you say you are committed to hard work and this that and the other to do something about this, but the ability to breathe and be patient and calm and let things be to some extent right now are also valuable skills to practice here.
posted by Balthamos at 12:15 AM on October 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

That pup is a cattle dog just waiting for her chance to prove herself in agility classes!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:24 AM on October 20, 2019 [6 favorites]

It's brilliant that you're getting lots of help here! Your posts have thrown up a few red flags about your mental health. Let me remind you:

You are meaningful and have the rights to exist and to be happy even if you fail at keeping this dog (and I would think that you have been failed by the rescue in this case!)

I worry about you being SO motivated to keep doing something that makes you miserable because your boyfriend wants to keep trying tho he does less of the work, and because you're afraid the rescue won't react well. Do you have a trauma history? It may be worth you doing some work in therapy to support an understanding that you have the right to do things that displease others.
posted by Mistress at 4:34 AM on October 20, 2019 [27 favorites]

I agree, not a hound, that’s a herding dog. I’ve had a few herding dogs and I love them dearly. I also had similar thoughts to you when I adopted my last dog, and seriously considered returning her to the shelter. She was sweet, but she would not relax - two hour long vigorous walks, lots of backyard fetch, training sessions daily, puzzle toys. I decided to give myself two months and train her up and get her polished for her next home since the shelter wouldn’t be able to do so. I had very similar anxiety as you do, thinking I made a huge mistake, having lots of guilt like how I really wanted a dog and then I can’t enjoy her, not wanting to go home, wanting my old life back. However, eventually she settled and we found a better routine, and eventually I settled, and it did work out. It took a lot of work, a lot of tears, but in the end it worked out.

All that said, you are not at all a bad person if you need to return her! Keep in touch with the rescue, work with the trainer, and best of luck!
posted by umwhat at 4:57 AM on October 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

Oh, wow, now that I see the pic? Unless they literally saw both parents doing the deed I don't know why anyone would say that's a hound mix. That's a cattle dog. I know nothing about herding breeds other than that they're smarter than me and I prefer dumb dogs lol
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:38 AM on October 20, 2019 [8 favorites]

Indeed, your rescue is run by idiots. That is not a coonhound or any kind of hound--though I suppose someone could mix it up with a Bluetick Coonhound if they ignored the ears and the coat length.

It is absolutely a Australian Cattle Dog and needs lots of mental stimulation and exercise. It is not a hunting animal but, as others have said, a herding animal. It's probably nipping at you to get you into line. ;)
posted by dobbs at 6:24 AM on October 20, 2019 [13 favorites]

I was going to chime in with some sage words of wisdom about my rescue TW coonhound who is my first dog and the absolute joy of my life, but also a huge challenge and never-ending work in progress, but your girl doesn't look like a hound at all! Regardless of breed, I found meeting with a vet behaviorist hugely helpful. She really helped sort through what's normal houndy behavior and what's unusual levels of anxiety from my massively nervous boy and came up with a combination training and medication plan that has helped him so, so much. I joke with her that's she's more of a people behaviorist than a dog behaviorist because I tend to call her when I'm feeling anxious about something.
posted by fancypants at 6:38 AM on October 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yup, that’s not a coonhound. Not even remotely and I don’t know a thing about cattle dogs, so I can’t help you there. This is a treeing walker coonhound by the way for people who may be wondering.

I am going to urge you again to read
Do Over Dogs
before you get one minute further into this. I am finding it super helpful with my current rescue, who has a lot of behaviors quite similar to yours. FWIW, we’re six weeks in and I’m only starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with regard to the mouthiness. That’s a sign of poor socialization when he was young according to my vet. I had never encountered it in a grown dog before; it’s a really common puppy thing. That right there is why I said puppies are easier: you know what they have been through, what socialization they have had and a host of other things. It doesn’t mean they won’t develop any issues - they’re individuals! They will! - but you can at least be sure about them not acquiring some of the problems that come with early neglect and trauma.

The longer you wait to return this dog the tougher it will be on the dog - and on you. If you do decide to keep her then you need to have a more realistic time frame in mind: one week is nothing and you probably haven’t even begun to get to know her yet. She doesn’t feel secure enough yet to show you her real self. These things take time and lots of it. Training is going to take months not weeks. You are not going to turn around and have a perfect dog in two months. Honestly you’re never going to have a perfect dog because dogs, like people, are just never perfect. The most wonderful dog in the world is going to have bad days when you hate them and can’t believe you did this to yourself. The best dog I ever had was a shepherd mix and he ate my books and killed squirrels in the park.

I’m concerned that you may have some unrealistic expectations here. Dog is gonna dog. Not everything can be fixed or changed. Some things, like shedding, like bad days, like chasing squirrels, just come with the territory.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:54 AM on October 20, 2019

Just read your update. So you like this kind of challenge? Well, you got the dog for it because like the others said, she appears to be a straight up Blue Heeler!

Like I said in my earlier comment, you need to be steps ahead of a dog like this. Deep dive into books and blogs about this breed, get the dog training books, and get thee to classes. Also, mentally square yourself up so that you're passing calm energy instead of anxious energy to your new friend. Basically, also start training yourself to be the kind of person your new dog can look to for guidance and leadership. One of you needs to know what they're doing and if it isn't you, the dog is going to assume, especially as a working dog, that she needs to run the show instead.

These dogs are so, so smart. I don't blame you for wanting to keep trying, especially since your dream dog breed is also a "not for novices" type of dog. Clean your slate, take a deep breath, and dive into the rabbit hole and learn as much as you can about this breed and be the owner you want to be and who she needs you to be.

P.S. I know an older couple who has a Blue Heeler that lives on a freaking sailboat. The dog does fine in that small space because 1) she gets a lot of mental and physical exercise on land and at sea and 2) they are knowledgeable pet owners. (Also, she's a wonderful guard dog with an impressive menacing bark that hides how sweet she actually is.)

Please keep us updated with whatever you decide to do? I'm wishing you the best of luck!
posted by vivzan at 9:13 AM on October 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

The rescue should have done a better job; it's not your fault. A lot of rescue dogs come with baggage, and the poorly-run shelters can and do lie when they're trying to rehome hard-to-home dogs.

I want to emphasize this. This rescue organization sounds shady af. Unfortunately, the poorly-run and/or poorly-funded ones often lie like rugs to get animals out the door and into homes - I have heard horror stories about rescues lying that a dog was cat-safe (and then the dog killed a resident cat!), about history of aggression, you name it. Sadly, the animal rescue world attracts some people who are neither ethical nor like people that much, and think "customer service" isn't something animal rescue has to care about.

Added to the fact that your boyfriend "loves this dog" but doesn't want to be the one responsible for training her - even eight-year-old Henry Huggins was more responsible with his Ribsy! You don't get a dog and then offload her to your wife or girlfriend. Boyfriend wants dog, boyfriend needs to be responsible for dog.

If you really can't deal with the dog, then it's okay to return her to the rescue - and if the rescue people give you a guilt trip or hard time, just tell them, "Fuck you, you lied to me, this is NOT a hound and NOT a beginner's dog!" I learned the hard way, through therapy and experience, that it's OK to push and make people mad and the world won't end. You don't have to take on this "hard project" if you really don't want to, just out of a sense of obligation.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:45 AM on October 20, 2019 [8 favorites]

In addition to the training and behavioral work, I would work on reframing your expectations of how a dog is supposed to be. The kind of separation anxiety you describe (mopey but not destructive) is more like normal dog behavior than any sort of major behavioral problem. Your dog will sometimes be nervous around other dogs trying to sniff its butt. Your dog will do weird things and behave in ways you don’t expect, especially as you’re both getting to know each other. Aggressively chewing on toys or thrashing them around the room is 100% normal for a dog. My dog doesn’t go to dog parks because she likes to bark when playing and it puts some dogs (and especially other owners) off. And that’s ok! It’s not something to get super anxious about even if it means we don’t do dog parks or go off leash. Some of the things you’re upset about are just the way it is to have a dog. You’ve made a choice that will bring a lot of love and affection into your life, but it also comes with mess, chaos, and a lot of “WTF?” moments. That is just normal!
posted by sallybrown at 9:50 AM on October 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Since you seem inclined to keep her, I just want to chime in and say I also experienced a ton of anxiety and depression in my first few weeks after getting my (extremely well-behaved!) rescue dog. There's a bit of, for lack of a better word, postpartum depression that comes from being home all day with a creature you are solely responsible for but whose needs you don't understand. The anxiety does NOT have to be an indication that you can't or shouldn't do this—it might just be an indication that being suddenly in charge of a nonverbal living being is A Lot. Everyone is right that blue heelers are fearsomely smart and need a lot of training and stimulation, but if hearing that is making you think "okay, there's a way forward" instead of "it would be such a relief to not have to think about this ever again," I don't think you necessarily have to trust the fear instinct over the desire to keep trying.

The Gentle Leader harness helped me a ton with prey drive, though my dog is also blessedly stupid and therefore easy to distract. Yelping like a puppy helped with his tendency to play by chewing on people's hands. And I've seen many a nightmare too-smart dog turn into a beautiful genius with devoted clicker training. A dog like a heeler just wants to know what her job is.

You are allowed to rehome her, but you are not obligated to. It's okay to know your limits but it's also okay to be anxious and push through.
posted by babelfish at 12:01 PM on October 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't assume you can't ever take her to a dog park just because she was nervous the first few times you tried it. Some dogs don't ever do well in that kind of situation, but she may just need to get used to it. You could pick a time of day when it's usually pretty empty and take her in if there are just one or two other dogs. If you and your boyfriend both go, one of you can go in and talk to the owners and see how their dogs are about greeting new dogs before you try taking her in. Take her in if there's a gentle, friendly dog she can meet, ideally one that's smaller than she is. Once she's had some dog park experiences that went all right she may get a lot more comfortable with it. If she hits it off with a particular dog maybe you can plan to visit at times when that dog is likely to be there. If you go to the same park at the same time every day, a lot of the dogs will become familiar and she'll be less nervous about them (as long as her experiences with them are okay.) If she loves chasing moving things, you may want to teach her to fetch a ball and the dog park is a place she can do that off leash.

Her behavior when she sees cats or pigeons sounds pretty normal, not necessarily like off the charts prey drive. She will learn that there's no point trying to hunt when she's on the leash, especially if you reward her for alternate behavior and give her a different outlet for her prey drive, like chasing a ball. It's normal for a dog that hasn't had a lot of training to completely tune you out when they're really excited but they can learn to listen in those situations.

The mouthiness also sounds really normal and not alarming. If you've had her a week and she's only put her teeth on you once, it sounds like she's already got herself pretty well under control. (Though she could temporarily get more excitable and rougher once she's more comfortable in her new home.) We adopted a young dog who, once he was settled in, would sometimes get really overexcited and wild, jumping up and grabbing at our clothes and any handy body part. He used what I'm sure felt to him like an inhibited play bite, but it was way too rough for humans and it hurt. And when he was really revved up you couldn't get him to stop except by turning your back, crossing your arms over your chest and ignoring him. I used the clicker to teach him he'd get a reward for getting his mouth off me, then taught him the command "stop it" to mean "stop mouthing" and then eventually we could use the command to stop him when he was still just thinking about it. The out-of-control mouthing got a lot better really fast.

He also had a huge problem with grabbing and mouthing the leash and refusing to let go of it. After he chewed through one leash we had to make a leash out of a metal tie-out and use that for a while. But it only took a couple of months to completely solve that problem.

His separation anxiety was so bad that when we started working on briefly leaving him with a Kong full of food we had to start with less than a minute. He would pee in his crate out of anxiety if he was left alone. It took a few months, but we worked through it.

Life with him could be pretty overwhelming at first, but by the time we'd had him a few months things were much, much easier and he eventually became very easy to live with.

We have another young dog now that we adopted in March. When we first brought her home, she was really nervous about going out to places where there were cars and people. And she was afraid of going through doors into any strange building (even though she was generally okay with being in the building once she got through the door.) By a few months later, she was completely at ease in downtown areas full of people and cars. She now goes into strange buildings with no problem. At first she would jump up and try to grab food off the counter any time she was in the kitchen. You couldn't leave her in there unwatched for 10 seconds. It seemed like that was going to be a behavior that would take a long time to train out of her, if we ever could. But she figured out we didn't want her to do it. (Which took longer than you might guess; she didn't seem to understand the word "no" or the tone of voice that means "no" when we first got her.) At first she would still jump up and put her paws on the counter any time we weren't watching, but then, surprisingly quickly, she just stopped. We never worry about her grabbing stuff off the counter anymore. I can leave meat out on the counter and go to another part of the house and never think about it.

My main point here is that new dogs often have some really annoying or frustrating behaviors and those behaviors can disappear really quickly. Even a few weeks after bringing the dog home, things can be really different and by six months later you can expect life with the dog to be much, much easier.
posted by Redstart at 4:55 PM on October 20, 2019

Other people with more experience have already weighed in, but speaking as someone who has spent the last two weeks trying to sort out what breed(s) my own dog is I would be very, very surprised to find out that the dog in the picture was in any way a hound.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:44 PM on October 20, 2019

Do what you need to do but in the meantime, this dog is not getting nearly enough exercise. You should be taking it out for hourly runs or walks at least four times daily. A tired dog is a better behaved dog.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:07 PM on October 20, 2019

I agree that exercise is really helpful. In retrospect I think a lot of our young dog's crazy leash chewing and mouthing was due to pent-up energy and frustration because in the first few weeks we had him we were still figuring out how much exercise he needed, how much he could be trusted off leash and where we could take him to be off leash, so he wasn't getting enough exercise. Once he started getting an hour or two of off leash time every day things got better. I get that a walk in the woods isn't an option for you, but it might be worth putting some effort into getting your dog used to the dog park. (And if she doesn't want to play with other dogs there, figuring out another way to get her running.)
posted by Redstart at 7:19 PM on October 20, 2019

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