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Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Pets › devastation. please please, someone help me with this. AMAZING happy update!!!! #104
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devastation. please please, someone help me with this. AMAZING happy update!!!! #104 - Page 2

post #21 of 114
Alison,

Thank you for your kind words about Aengus, and for remembering him. The breeder hasn't found him a new home, but he's doing well there with her back pack of Irish and Gordon Setters. She has 5 acres for them to run around on, and he looked so happy to be with a big, friendly pack.
post #22 of 114
Thread Starter 
you know how kindness sometimes makes you cry? That is what's up with me right now. But thank you - for real. I feel a bit nutso, but have literally been cuddling with Thorn on his fluffy bed that I hand made him, crying with my arms around him. Begging him to please behave. I know, I'm totally crazy. I really do love him. You just can't imagine how sweet and smart he is. It's so hard, my mom is totally like, "get rid of him, he never has been sweet, you're kidding yourself." but you know, no one has really witnessed the dynamics of our family when it is just him and us. I pray we can get through this.

I'm going to take him to another training facility and get a different perspective. I'll take one of the PPs advice and make them aware of the situation and ask them how they want me to bring him in, and what they will do for training. He may just really need some attention focused on his interaction with dogs. But this may just be my wishful thinking.
post #23 of 114
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post
Another thought would be a muzzle - and least for the short term. (snip)
I know what you mean about camping....I had dreams (pre-dog) of being able to bring my dog places and it all being good. However, that is not how it is - he would get way too wound up at events, so I have to let that dream go..
The trainer advised me to get the good wire kind that they can pant and drink through. I found one on line and I'm going to measure him tomorrow for that. I agree, the biggest difference is that strangers etc. may avoid us. Good for now, but I agree with you that it would be best if it could be short term or in situation where we know we will need it. I'd like to cure the illness, not just treat the symptoms...

Oh, what do you do when you go places? Will boarding kennels or pet sitters even consider working with a dog like this? I think we could pay for an extra couple of days to get a pet sitter to come, in my presence, and play and get to know him. I wonder if it would help me not feel like we can't go anywhere or do anything as a family because of Thorn if I knew I had a pet sitter I could trust.

I really believe you can't expect things to be perfect when you get a pet. This is testing my resolve to make accommodations when you encounter challenges like this. I'm really trying to figure out a way my family can work with this.

post #24 of 114
Thorn reminds me a little of my Mom's dog. He's a great dog, gentle as can be with people, but pretty aggressive with other dogs. If he's off leash, he's much better, assuming the other dog doesn't want to fight. What's worked for him is lots of work so that his response to heel is bombproof. He knows if he's been told to heel, he is not to pay attention to other dogs. To train him they did use a prong collar as he needed a reminder not to be an @$$ without yanking Mom's arms off. The other thing that will probably help is neutering him - something planned for the near future. I assume Thorn is neutered though?

anyways, it sounds to me like Thorn is far from a lost cause and that you are taking the right approach. Good luck!
post #25 of 114
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlin View Post
Thorn reminds me a little of my Mom's dog. He's a great dog, gentle as can be with people, but pretty aggressive with other dogs. If he's off leash, he's much better, assuming the other dog doesn't want to fight. What's worked for him is lots of work so that his response to heel is bombproof. He knows if he's been told to heel, he is not to pay attention to other dogs. To train him they did use a prong collar as he needed a reminder not to be an @$$ without yanking Mom's arms off. The other thing that will probably help is neutering him - something planned for the near future. I assume Thorn is neutered though?

anyways, it sounds to me like Thorn is far from a lost cause and that you are taking the right approach. Good luck!

The prong collar really worked for Aengus, for pulling, when we had him. Instantly. We didn't use it for other behavior problems, but I think it could help if used correctly.
post #26 of 114
I just wanted to mention that a prong and a head halter both need to be used with a backup collar. We use a loose slip collar for this.

Also, I noticed my reactive girl would react more after a while on the prong (she lunges at squirrels and cats, mega prey drive) - I think it can have a stimulating effect. The head halter has the opposite effect on her, it makes her more subdued. I do still use both, depending on the situation. Just wanted to mention so you could observe Thorn and see how he does with it.

End of PSA.
post #27 of 114
Thread Starter 
I looked into the prong collar, will get one tomorrow for sure, and a back-up in case it pops open (I remember reading this in another thread I think? Good grief, we do get tons of great advice here don't we?)

Yes, he is neutered. As of about 4 weeks. I know that neutering doesn't help too much with learned behaviors but I'm hoping that since this behavior is relatively new (2 months I think, but could have been building up and unintentionally reinforced?) that when the testosterone levels drop (between 6 and 8 wks post-op I believe) that things may not be quite so... dramatic.
post #28 of 114
Alison, I'm sorry to hear you are dealing with this right now. It is surprising how upsetting something like this can be, but I understand it completely. You are grieving the loss of the dog you hoped and dreamed to have. Allow yourself to do that. It is a very real loss.

I was the owner of a female German Shepherd named Shiloh who had SEVERE dog aggression issues starting around age two. It got worse as she aged, and by the time she was about four she was simply unsafe around other dogs. She had an incident with a larger dog at the vet's office when she was a pup, and despite intense socialization to try to offset the effects, she never recovered.

Shiloh remained very dog-aggressive into her senior years. Around age 12 she wised up a little bit and realized that if she picked a fight she probably wouldn't win it, so while she still didn't like other dogs, she at least didn't try to attack them. But we basically had 10 years of accommodating her aggression. She was friendly to the point of goofiness with our family and the *small* circle of people she trusted outside of the family, but unpredictable with strangers.

You mentioned that Thorn tried to bite a person, and to me that is a huge red flag of increasing aggression. Shiloh did bite a neighbor girl who was riding her bike past our house. We worked with trainers and our vet to save Shiloh from being put down after that incident, but looking back I think I may have chosen differently.

You asked about how one goes about dealing with a dog-aggressive dog in regards to boarding, pet-sitting, etc. We never boarded her, and when we had to go somewhere over a period of days we would have one of her trusted people to come take care of her. Never had a problem with that system. Vet visits were a challenge, as sitting with her in the waiting room had the potential for disaster if another dog would come in. We chose a vet clinic in the next town over that had a side entrance and would allow us to go straight through that door and into an exam room, bypassing the lobby altogether.

Like you said about Thorn, Shiloh's level of aggression was shocking. She went insane when she saw another dog - she would lunge and spin and snap and snarl. She didn't bark, she roared. At her prime she was about 85 pounds and it was difficult to control her when she got like this. Mind you that her behavior in the absence of other dogs was impeccable. Obedient to a T - any task she was asked to perform she would do it beautifully. She was an absolutely different dog.

The worst was when we would have her out and someone walking a dog would just keep on approaching despite her display, and I would be trying to shout - it's not safe, please don't come over here (like, shouldn't that be obvious?) but they couldn't hear me over her roaring and continue advancing and I would be horrified at the thought of what could happen if I lost control of her. That never happened, thank goodness, but it easily could have.

Next step was the muzzle. She wore the muzzle every time we were out of the house. It was great peace of mind for me, but it didn't stop her threatening other dogs. Heaven forbid we ever met up with an unleashed dog who would respond to her aggression with matched aggression after realized that she was incapable of fighting. We narrowly avoided a couple such confrontations, and the thought of that was always on my mind when we were out.

Then the kicker. My son was born when she was nine years old. She did not accept him as part of the family. She snapped at his head when he was just a tiny infant and I was left with the decision to either put her down or make it work. I know for many people there wouldn't be any decision to make - the dog would die, but it was agony for me and I couldn't put her down. Again, looking back I may have made a different decision at that point.

Any time she and my son were together, she wore a muzzle which she quickly got used to. She could drink and breathe through it normally, and I promised myself that if I thought her quality of life declined that I would make the decision to put her to sleep, but she adapted and things went on. She spent maybe 10% of her day wearing a muzzle, as the rest of the time she was either on another level of the house or playing outside.

Like I said earlier, her aggression declined considerably in her senior years, and she ended up living a long, mostly happy life. We had her euthanized this fall at age 14 when her health declined severely. I cherish the memories I have of her and often wonder if I made the right choices for her life.

I share this story to hopefully give you another perspective. I don't want to sound doubtful, but I do know from the vets and trainers we worked with that dog-aggression is extremely difficult to correct, and sometimes it is truly impossible. My girl was one of the impossibles, and at that point the experts can simply offer their guidance on how to accommodate the aggression safely. My huge disclaimer is that we did not have children at the time. I fear that if we had, the expert's advice would have been a resounding call for euthanasia. Unpredictable dogs are a danger to children. There is no way around that.

I hope and pray that you are able to find a solution to this heartbreaking problem. Feel free to PM me if you want to. I've been there, and it sucks.
post #29 of 114
I haven't read any of the replies.

Do you have a yard to speak of? Are walks really necessary (not asking Cesar, asking you )

If so, can you walk him late at night? Become a little more nocturnal?

Agility might be out of the question. Can you make a section of your backyard into your own private agility course and give up the competitive aspect of it? Can you channel your desire for agility into something else, like lots and lots of trick teaching instead? Or something else that can be just between Thorn and your family?

If these are insurmountable, a call to the breeder might be necessary. But I know that you love this particular dog, so I offer the following:

I used to have a dog who I got at exactly 8 weeks of age. He came from a lovely, caring home. He was practically housetrained when I got him, he never even pooped in the house once, and only peed about three times total. His mother was a purebred Boxer from champion lines. His father was a purebred Golden Retriever from excellent lines, he jumped the fence the ONE time that the mother was accidentally left unattended with access to the yard for a few minutes. Both parents were shown with good results, so they were unaltered.

About 3 days after I got him, he barked at a passerby (!). So I redoubled my socializing of him, took him absolutely everywhere with me. Exposed him to many different types of people in many different types of situations. It worked great, I ended up with a dog that I could take anywhere and he was perfectly steady.

But.

In my car, or on my property, he was very territorial and protective. I had no doubt that this dog was willing to bite. It never crossed my mind to give him up, he was my heart. So I went to huge lengths to work within my parameters with him, and it was fine. Totally worth it to me.

But this is a heavy decision that you have to make for yourself. Are your feelings for Thorn deep enough that you won't resent giving up agility with him? That you will be okay with not walking him during normal hours?
post #30 of 114
Thread Starter 
Good morning, everyone.

Mandy, thank you very, very much for your perspective. Am I willing to live the life you've described? Yes. You've provided me with valuable information. I am concerned that he could hurt the kids - but not convinced he would, even by accident. He's very "mouthy" like all heelers and has been conditioned from birth not to bite. He will put his mouth or nose on them but knows he can't bite them. Though he has obviously worked out in his head that strangers aren't human. That said, Thorn will never, ever, be alone with my children. We started this a few weeks ago and it hasn't been a huge inconvenience. When I take a shower, he goes in the gated area. When I come inside to get a drink while the kids are outside with us, he comes too. Etc. Having a reliable muzzle will keep me from having to be so vigilant every second of the day. Do you think I'm overdoing it? I just feel that a dog that has shown aggression should not be trusted, even with those he's shown absolutely no aggression toward.

But even when he was freaking out about the other dog yesterday, a small part of him seemed aware of the need to keep from biting me: I put my hand on his back to calm him and his head jerked toward my hand as if to bite. Then he simply stopped everything for a second rather than bite me. So I think this is a two-fold sign; (1) he has the ability to be trained because he's not completely gone over the edge, and (2) if not trained he probably *will* someday lose it and bite a human during a dog-aggro freakout.

I've e-mailed his breeder - the first was a total "I'm completely devastated and freaking out" e-mail, the second was a "okay, I'm calming down, sorry I was freaking out" e-mail. Much of my decision will depend on her recommendations. She's a very conscientious breeder and has been breeding and showing ACDs - successfully - for over 20 years.

(sigh) day two of reality.
post #31 of 114
Quote:
Originally Posted by daekini View Post

Oh, what do you do when you go places? Will boarding kennels or pet sitters even consider working with a dog like this? I think we could pay for an extra couple of days to get a pet sitter to come, in my presence, and play and get to know him. I wonder if it would help me not feel like we can't go anywhere or do anything as a family because of Thorn if I knew I had a pet sitter I could trust.


My mother watches him. Now, my mother lives 2.5 hours away - so this is a PITA. We go get her (she has an elderly dog that she wants and must bring - her dog does not do so well without her). We do this about twice ayear. She cannot walk him - but she can put him on his chain so he can do his business in the back yard.

We finally know someone locally who knows the dog and is old enough to be left with the responsibility of coming to the house and caring for the dog while we are out. We might try that this summer. I think he is to the point where he could go to a kennel, but we are not so sure he would be happy there.

Kathy

Kathy
post #32 of 114
I may have missed it, but you say he'll "retire as a breeder" if he goes back?


Neutering is almost ALWAYS recommended to lessen a male dogs aggresssion.

Editing b/c I skimmed and see now you say he was neutered 4 weeks ago. Sorry!
post #33 of 114
Thread Starter 
yes - neutered. Not "retire as a breeder" but retire TO the breeder. No way would I suggest such an example pass on genes. Not to mention he was congenitally cryptorchid.
post #34 of 114
Thread Starter 
Thorn's breeder has offered to take him and work with him for a few months. Of course she has experience with the breed and there are other dogs. I'm afraid he would change from the baby he is now. What if he returns a totally different dog??? What would you do????
post #35 of 114
Quote:
Originally Posted by daekini View Post
Thorn's breeder has offered to take him and work with him for a few months. Of course she has experience with the breed and there are other dogs. I'm afraid he would change from the baby he is now. What if he returns a totally different dog??? What would you do????
Alison - TAKE THE OFFER! It is a golden opportunity that might make all the difference. I can't tell you how valuable an offer like that would have been for me and Shiloh, and especially right at the start of the aggression like Thorn is right now. Sadly Shiloh did not come from a breeder who is as responsible and dedicated as Thorn's is, so I did not have that opportunity. It is a testament to her level of dedication to her breed and her pups that she is willing to do this. TAKE HER UP ON IT!!!
post #36 of 114
See what his breeder says. ACD's are pretty well known for dog aggression. I would check and see what the breeder has done in this situation. Did you say he was or was not neutered? I missed that.

Every ACD I have known has had dog aggression problems. I had a few in training classes that I taught and this is the one thing I remember about them. I remember seeing several lunge at other dogs at dog shows, too. It's a breed that I can remember everyone kind of standing far away from ringside. I am sure there is something you can do... but then on the other hand, as a pet owner, it might not be something you would want to deal with. He might just not be the right dog for you. I'm so sorry. Maybe a bitch would be a better match for you? I don't know. All the ACD's I have seen aggression problems with have been males, that's all.

I really hope you find some solution that works for you. Sorry this is happenning.
I see now he was neutered a month or so ago. It takes a couple of months for the testosterone to go out of his system. You could see a hug improvement then.

I would take the breeder up on her offer. She has seen this more than you and would be able to really help him, I think. It's better than her taking him back for good.
post #37 of 114
That sounds like a very nice offer from the breeder but if it were me, I would want to be involved somehow. I'm not sure what the distances are like, but is it possible for you to go down every couple of weeks on a weekend to work with him and get guidance from her? I just don't think this is a situation where someone can "fix" the dog and send him back and all will be good. I also don't believe in sending your dog away to be trained, YMMV.
post #38 of 114
Wow, can I relate. I haven't read all the posts, except for the last few, including the bit about returning the dog to the trainer...

Our oldest dog Gracie had horrifying dog aggression. Walks were a nightmare of constantly looking for signs that other dogs might be around, crossing streets to avoid oncoming dogs, constant, constant anxiety. No one could bring a dog over to the house. There were maybe 2 or 3 dogs that she was "friends" with (would tolerate) but that was it. Otherwise, encounters became fights. She drew blood on three occasions (twice when people brought their dogs over unannounced to our house and once with one of her "friends"). It was horrible, horrible. The last straw was about 3 years ago, when she spotted a neighbour's dog way down the road, and charged it. They were understanding (their dog was loose too) but it was rattling.

So we did some research and found a trainer. One speciaized in working dogs and dogs with aggression. We bit the $ bullet and did private lessons for 4 months. We each worked with her twice a day. We walked the crap out of her. We worked with many dogs, with the trainer, in class. The first dog-dog encounter was probably exactly like what you saw during Thorn's assessment...awful. The thing was, by the end of the second class, our trainer had Gracie walking on-leash, BETWEEN the trainer and another dog (one who she'd tried to kill earlier) whose leash was being held in the same hand as hers. We knew we were on to something at that point. A prong collar became the tool we used to compliment all the work/training we put in, and it is a tool I highly recommend for "hard" dogs (not all dogs, but some).

The result...just to show you there CAN be light at the end of the tunnel:


- we were able to take Gracie to a dog park
- I can go jogging or walking with her, on leash, past homes with furiously barking dogs, and she trots by without so much as a glance
- the neighbour's dogs can come over without fear of getting hurt
- she is a calmer, happier, more relaxed dog
- we now are a three-dog home, and a harmonious one at that
...a note on this...while introducing Jaida to the pack was initially a delicate matter, it proved to be absolutely INVALUABLE to Gracie in terms of her learning polite dog behaviour and how to interact with her own kind...from Jaida she learned patience, how to walk away, and how to communicate without biting. It got even better with the addition of the third dog...Heidi taught Gracie how to play (how to initiate it and respond to invitations, and how to enjoy it). I strongly beleive that constant or extremely frequent time spent with a sound, well-socialized, polite dog is one of the best possible tools for working with dog aggression...

so on that note, if your breeder is willing to help with this, and can help your dog with controlled routine exposure to/interaction with other dogs...I'd be inclined to give it a try...
post #39 of 114
Thread Starter 
The breeder is a 7-hour drive from us, so we wouldn't be able to visit much.

I just spent nearly an hour on the phone with her. She has a very clear plan for dealing with these issues, and has done this before since ACDs frequently exhibit this behavior.

We're thinking about sending Thorn to her for 1 month. She would work with him every day on socialization with other dogs and he would be spending time with 3 other humans. She thinks that Thorn has gotten over-protective of me and my family, and is threatened somehow by other dogs. She wants to keep every"dog" and every"one" safe, so she feels like an intensive immersion is going to help. She advised me to have some bloodwork done first.

IF Thorn is not capable of being around dogs, she and I came up with some excellent solutions to lots of problems, including the dog-sitting issue. She has had a set up where dogs can go in and out of the house and a sitter can use a special system to feed the dog without interacting with it. I would hate for Thorn to go days without human interaction but that is the price we may have to pay if we ever want to go on vacation. Not that it's a priority right now but at least we have a solution.

I'm very tempted to take her up on her offer. She's really got the dog's best interest at heart and is a TRULY ethical breeder. I just wish every dog could be born from a situation like this. I really feel for people who don't have this life-line that she's thrown to me. I trust that she has the experience to know this can work - after all, she's been doing this for decades.

The thought of being without Thorn for even a month is breaking my heart. I can't imagine TOTALLY giving him up this early in the game, though I know it is a possibility. Connie (the breeder) has excellent success re-homing her dogs into appropriate situations depending on the issues the dog has, so at least I don't have to worry about him IF we ever get to that stage. If she can't re-home her dogs' progeny, she keeps them.

Beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. All of you have been a blessing to me, truly.
post #40 of 114


That's a pretty nice update!

One thing I have learned from reading this is: if (big if!) I get another dog at another point in my life I am going to get it from a well researched breeder!

My dog was a freebie from a neighbour - and truly, I would have no help/lifeline if it came down to it. Nor would the dog


kathy
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Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Pets › devastation. please please, someone help me with this. AMAZING happy update!!!! #104