Are we crazy to adopt this rescue puppy?
June 6, 2006 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Are we crazy to adopt a puppy? She seems quite sweet, but her mom was put down when she was but 5-6 weeks old, and was some sort of Wirehair Terrier.

We're largely homebodies these days, and ready for the commitment involved in a puppy. But we really want to do a good job, and not bite off more than we can chew. We're worried that some of the Terrier breeds tend to be high maintenance, barky, and aggressive, and that we don't have the dedication or knowledge to do right by her.

So I guess my concern is bipartite:

1) For any breed, are we going to be bad parents if we leave her in a secure space for 4 hour stretches several times a week while at work (we'll be doing some doggie daycare and lunchtime visits)? We've both had family dogs, but it's been years. We've been sitting other dogs as a test, and think we're pretty decent at it, but haave no pretensions of being Dog Whisperers.

2) How can we get a better guess as to the eventual demeanor of the puppy? She was rescued at 6weeks, and while she seems quite nice and well adjusted, can we really tell at that age? Noone know who her daddy was, though we've guessed labrador. All we know about her mom is that she was some sort of wire hair terrier looking dog, possibly a Black Russian. If the dog isn't barky now, how likely is that to change? I guess I'm really asking about Nature vs. Nurture here aren't I...
posted by freebird to Pets & Animals (20 answers total)
IMO, 4 hour stretches are nothing to be worried about. Long enough for the puppy explore on her own and get used to the feeling of independence, but also short enough so you can spend time with her and love her up.

Like humans, no one can really predict how someone will act in the future. I'd say if the dog is really quiet now, she will stay on the quiet side.
posted by lain at 11:20 AM on June 6, 2006

All we know about her mom is that she was some sort of wire hair terrier looking dog, possibly a Black Russian.

Run away. BRTs were bred by the USSR to eat dissidents.

Being separated from the mother so early does not bode well for good socialization.

(1) Four hours alone will not make you worse than Hitler or anything.

(2) You can't. You could get her formally temperment-tested, but that will only be a rough guide.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:25 AM on June 6, 2006

What I read about BRTs was actually pretty encouraging - it sounded like with decent love they were much less aggressive than many "guard" dog breeds, very good with kids and most other animals, and pretty pleasant to be around. Is that untrue?

The Black Russian thing is a bit of a guess (it sounds like the mom was a bit small for one thing). But I will admit adopting the result of a breeding program by Soviet Special Forces in the 1940s has a certain wierd appeal to me. And they sound way more like what we want in a dog than Wirehair Fox Terriers. After all, we live in SF and there's a lot of dissidents around that need to be et.
posted by freebird at 11:31 AM on June 6, 2006

Why was the mother put down and did the mother care for this litter? The first 6-8 weeks of a dog's life are spent learning their place in the litter, and what behavior the mother will tolerate and what she won't.

If the mother was with the litter, then got hurt and had to be put down, the puppy is probably ok. If the mother was not able to properly care for the puppies or was put down for aggression, I'd be cautious, although it breaks my heart to say so.
posted by rainbaby at 11:33 AM on June 6, 2006

I'm by no means a dog person, but a couple of things from the wikipedia entry would give me pause:

* BRTs are dominant by nature and need confident owners who have experience handling similar dogs.

* The BRT needs lots of exercise, and may become hyperactive and destructive if it doen't have a chance to burn off its energy.
posted by agropyron at 11:37 AM on June 6, 2006

Yes, we've been trying to get more info on the mom. The story we've got so far is that the dog rescue group wanted to get the mom and her pups because the pound was going to put them all down. The mom was apparently really freaked out in this horrible prison of snarling angry dogs, and just backed up in her cell not wanting anyone to get near her. Not actively aggressive, throwing herself at the gate and barking, just growling at anyone that came near the pups.

When the rescue people came back to get them, the pound had decided to put the mom down. According to the rescue people she wasn't super aggressive just protective of her babies, and probably too long on the streets. It's hard, since they're our only source of information.

The puppies seem fairly well adjusted - there's a clear alpha, they've been taken under the wing of a sweet, sweet bloodhound at the Rescue, and ours is very into being picked up and pet, but also very into being left alone to run around and play. She seems to play well with other dogs, and be good with people.

So here's the question: if she *does* have trauma from early seperation, how would that manifest? What would I see to indicate it?

Also - the BRT thing is only a theory. She's not purebred anything anyhow. The site makes the Black Russians sound pretty well tempered actually, if they're given love and decent training, so I don't know who to believe even if she is a BRT. The things that stuck out from that desciption were that they don't bark unless they really think they need to, they're good with other dogs and animals, and enjoy the training and do well at it and with family contact. They do say they need to be reasonably firmly trained, and can be protective. The exercise part I'm not too worried about, I really want a dog I can take running and we have a yard.
posted by freebird at 11:57 AM on June 6, 2006

I think you already know what you want to do, and nothing you hear seems likely to put you off. So just go for it, and good luck.
posted by reklaw at 12:15 PM on June 6, 2006

Fair but not quite true Reklaw. Let me narrow it down:

1) how can I tell if the puppies have weaning issues?

2) how much does training and love balance breed issues?

3) are Terriers all really high maintenence?

It is in fact possible we'll decide we can't give this girl what she needs, though it would be a hard choice.
posted by freebird at 12:19 PM on June 6, 2006

What I read about BRTs was actually pretty encouraging ... Is that untrue?

The few I've seen at dog shows seemed pretty unpleasant.

I will admit adopting the result of a breeding program by Soviet Special Forces in the 1940s has a certain wierd appeal to me

It should not. You do not want a working breed unless you're going to work it. Especially not one bred for human-aggressiveness and that hasn't been "misbred" into a more tractable pet strain.

For that matter, you don't want a terrierist of any sort unless you want digging, and barking, and interminable energy, and stubbornness.

So here's the question: if she *does* have trauma from early seperation, how would that manifest? What would I see to indicate it?

I don't know that it would be easily distinguishable from normal variations in puppy behavior. Fear and uncertainty might look like it was just going into a fear period early, or staying in one a bit longer. Lack of socialization and aggression might be tempered by a fear period, or might look like normal BRT-ish behavior.

Unless you've already fallen in love with this puppy, or had decided you really really want a terrier, I would pass on this one and keep doing research.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:27 PM on June 6, 2006

1) how can I tell if the puppies have weaning issues?

Wean them and see how they respond. Or, more relevantly, you can't.

2) how much does training and love balance breed issues?

Love balances positively fuck-all. Shouting at dogs is often counterproductive, and beating is basically always counterproductive. But that has not a goddam thing to do with love and everything to do with methods of training.

Training, and hard work at it, can counter tendencies and traits that have been bred into a breed. How successful you will be at it depends on how good you are at training, how diligent you are at training, and how strong the drives are in that particular dog.

But taking a dog bred to want to do X and training it not to is a pretty silly way to get a dog that doesn't do X. Better to just get a dog that doesn't have the in-bred enhanced drives in the first place.

3) are Terriers all really high maintenence?

No. No dog breeds are all anything. I'm sure there is even at least one Jack Russell out in the world that is a mellow little ball of niceness.

But, terriers in general were bred to have certain characteristics that made them good at their jobs back in the day. They're bred to want to dig. They're bred for fiestiness. They're bred for stubbornness. They're bred to eat small mammals, for varying values of small.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:35 PM on June 6, 2006

Everything Rou-Xenophope said. Exactly. Terriers are super smart, intense dogs. They need to be worked or they get frustrated. IF you have any genetic flaws (ie aggression, socialization) problems due to an early separation, they will become apparent if the dog gets frustrated. On the other hand, mixed-breed dogs usually make great pets. Also, I don't know your situation, like if you are going to have children around her (your own, or neighborhood kids or your grandchildren) but terriers aren't really known for tolerating kids very well.

I think it's awesome that you are looking toward rescue for a dog. Kudos to you Freebird. And good luck.
posted by FeistyFerret at 12:38 PM on June 6, 2006

I own a wire haired terrier and she is wonderful. She is a very smart dog and not too barky. She will bark when the doorbell rings, but other than that she is pretty quiet. She is also an entertaining dog. I have had her for 4 years and she was a rescue dog.

She is left for 5 hours at a time (I go home everyday at lunch to let her out) and she is fine. She is usually sleeping in the clothes hamper.

If I were you, I would not have any reservations about adopting a dog like this.
posted by alexmikayla at 1:13 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Good points on all sides, thanks. We do realize love != training, I just meant some breeds are described as needing a lot of family contact to not become Bad News. We're certainly not looking to make a dog be something it's not - but we don't know what this dog is! It seems to be part wirehair *something*, and part random coupling in the street, that's all we really have to go on. She's pretty nice and well-behaved at 6-7 weeks, I'm just curious how likely that is to change at 1, 1.5 years as more genetics asserts itself.

If she was going to end up aggressive and loud, would we see that already?
posted by freebird at 1:30 PM on June 6, 2006

I have a rescued Welsh Terrier, although I got him when he was older. Alexmikayla's description sounds very much like Barney. I leave him all day when I go to work - he does have a bit of separation anxiety, but I think part of that is because he was bounced around a bit before I got him. (I was his fourth home within a month, but I've had him since August 2002) He is, bar none, the best dog I've had. : ) The terrier temperament is not for everyone (they are quite energetic and definitely have their own minds!) but I happen to like that. : )

Good luck - and I want to see pictures! : )
posted by SisterHavana at 1:30 PM on June 6, 2006

If she was going to end up aggressive and loud, would we see that already?

No. Or at least not necessarily.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:36 PM on June 6, 2006

Get the dog. You never really know what you're going to get, even when you know the parents. Especially in mixed breeds. I have a tiny rescued rat terrier, he's energetic to be sure and without exercise he bounces off the walls, but he's also very loving and sweet. He barks when it's appropriate (people at the door, etc.) and sometimes as part of play with the cat (who he adores) but not excessively. I knew absolutely nothing about him except he came with a Harley Davidson leash and his former owner decided he wanted a pit bull instead. Adopting him was one of the best decisions I ever made, but I really had no way to know that.
posted by redheadeb at 3:15 PM on June 6, 2006

Puppies learn about the world through their mothers. This particular puppy has learned that people are scary and that displays of aggression are an effective way to deal with the world.

Ask yourself *why* you're thinking about adopting this particular pup. If you really like her, and she seems friendly, curious and well adjusted, then go for it. If you're impulse is to "save" her or rehabilitate her, or she seems at all shy or nervous, my recommendation is to pass on her.

You might want to call an experienced trainer and ask them if they'd be willing to assess the puppy.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 3:31 PM on June 6, 2006

You both sound like patient, loving people when it comes to animals... which is a lot more than what many pets have going for them these days, sadly. I say go for it.
posted by miltoncat at 9:28 PM on June 6, 2006

Followup - thanks for all the info! It helped check into a lot of things, and reassure us about others. I just wanted to pop back in because we picked her up this morning, and based on one day's fun I would guess there has never been a sweeter, smarter, cuter puppy in the history of puppies.

I may post a link to some images here, but I don't think anyone's checking this thread anymore. Thank though, it was helpful input on all sides.
posted by freebird at 12:20 AM on June 11, 2006

I checked back. Congratulations!
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 3:30 PM on June 11, 2006

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