great dog, want to keep her, not sure :( - Mothering Forums
Pets > great dog, want to keep her, not sure :(
daisymama12's Avatar daisymama12 09:00 AM 11-19-2008
I don't know what to do. Or, I think I know what I have to do, but don't know if I can do it.
We got a beautiful, 70 lb dog on a 14 day trial (with the intention to keep her) from a rescue. She was described as lab-boxer. At first I was freaked out by her size and strength, but I have come to totally love her. She is amazing in the house. We are on day 8. I wrote to the rescue woman (who I feel is pressuring me a bit which adds to my guilt) and said we aren't keeping her, but I don't know if I can return her She is SO lovely.

She needs a good bit of exercise (about 1 hr). She has settled into walking quite well, but LUNGES like crazy after squirrels. I know this is a training issue, but the 1st time my dh took her out, he hurt is back. He had a horrible 2 month episode this summer with his back - 2 herniated discs - and is on the slow path to healing. The jerk to his back with the dog hasn't done serious damage, but had us both concerned. He adores her, but I don't think I can be the only one who can walk her. Even if we train her out of lunging, my understanding is that she can still do it one day, just because she is a dog, not a machine, and her prey drive can get the better of her.
My dh can't work when his back is out, gets depressed, etc.

The other issue is that she tries to jump out of the dog run, and I'm worried she may succeed (again, to get the squirrels) so I'm not bringing her there for now. But I think that, and her occasional scuffles with other dogs, are training issues.

I can't sleep because of this... I feel like she is a part of our family, & can't imagine dropping her off at the kennel. Then again, I would feel terrible if anything happened to dh's back.

Any advice??

ps I have no idea why we didn't think of dh's back when this dog arrived. seriously, we had lists of qualities we wanted, but didn't take this into account, so yes, this is our fault. we had a similar dog before, who didn't lunge, and dh's back was stronger then... so we just didn't make the connection.

Ola_'s Avatar Ola_ 01:34 PM 11-19-2008
Have you tried walking her on a prong collar or a head halter? I would pick up one of those today and see how it works for you. They are sometimes described as "power steering" and can be a lifesaver when you have a big/strong dog and a small/weak human (or in your case one with back problems). BTW, both should have a back-up collar just in case.

What is the dog run you are referring to? Is it like a fenced-in little area in your yard? If so, I would definitely avoid it - it gives her a chance to practice going nuts at the squirrels without you there to redirect her.

You're sounding like you would really like to keep her if it wasn't for these issues, so that's why I'm offering suggestions. If I'm reading it wrong, feel free to ignore me.
daisymama12's Avatar daisymama12 02:26 PM 11-19-2008
Hi Ola,

Thanks for your reply. I did try the prong collar, and it improved her walking, but her lunges were still strong. The rescue woman disapproves of prong collars, so I returned it

The dog run is a fairly large area in a municipal park, with a surrounding fence. The fence is just a bit over 5 feet - I think it was taller than me (I'm 5'2). Not far from there is a busy street, so if she got out, it could be disastrous.

This morning I let her greet a golden retriever, and she started another scuffle. I walked her once with the kids& it was stressful. My boys are 5 and 7.

Her profile said, "excellent with other dogs, and loves to play with them."
When we met her, the rescue woman said she didn't get along with some dogs at the kennel. This was a red flag for me, but we thought she was so great, I guess we went into denial. Also, the woman drove from a distance, and I think she wanted to leave the dog with us instead of what we had agreed, which was we would take a day or two to think about it.

If I ever go down this road again, I am going to make sure the dog really is good with other dogs, I'll have to get a much smaller dog that doesn't pose a risk to my dh's back, and I will not make a decision on the spot, regardless of driving distances.

She is a total lovebug in the house. I am going to return her, mostly I'm just really really sad about it.
Ola_'s Avatar Ola_ 02:57 PM 11-19-2008
To be fair, many people don't let dogs meet on-leash because it can be much more problematic due to them being restrained and not able to do their usual body language communication. Also, we usually telegraph our tension to them down the leash.

I'm disappointed with the rescue person - it sounds like she is putting a lot of pressure on you guys to keep the dog no matter what. I'm also bothered by inaccurate rescue descriptions, but sadly, that's pretty common.

Post when you are looking for your next dog and I'm sure we can help. One that springs to mind right away is a retired greyhound - they tend to be fabulous on leash. The smaller dog thing doesn't always hold, at least not for my two. The 35 lb dog is a puller and wants to catch all squirrels, also is high energy. The 75 lb dog (greyhound) is a mellow guy that stays right by my side on walks (despite what you might expect from a dog that chased a fuzzy thing around a track for 5 years). Bottom line - they're all individuals.
daisymama12's Avatar daisymama12 03:31 PM 11-19-2008
My previous dog wasn't good at greeting other dogs on leash, so we didn't do it. But since I have kids, I really wanted a dog that I can walk without constantly crossing the street to avoid other dogs. That was one of the screening criteria we had when doing our search.

And yes, I'm sure on some level she can feel my "will she or won't she lunge" energy, even though I was trying to be positive & relaxed. She also had a scuffle in a smaller dog run, and in a friends' backyard, both off leash. No problems with the other dogs when we went to the bigger dog run.

Thanks for the information about smaller dogs being pullers too. I've only had 2 dogs, both big, so that is news to me. If I can manage to get through this & still want a dog (can't imagine) then I will definitely come back & get suggestions.
EFmom's Avatar EFmom 04:28 PM 11-19-2008
I wouldn't spend too long worrying about what the rescue person thinks about prong collars. I would spend some time training the dog with one or with a gentle leader type aid. I think you can get beyond this issue.

We got a dog from a rescue about two months ago. She's a little thing (about 35 lbs) but she could pull your arm off, much worse than our previous, very much larger dogs. With training, she's much better.
daisymama12's Avatar daisymama12 05:11 PM 11-19-2008
I know that lunging is a training issue, and I have no doubt that we could diminish or eradicate it.

However, there is no room for error, unless I am the sole dog walker. If she lunges the wrong way while my dh is walking her, it could put out his back. He was in bed for 4 weeks this summer - I don't want to ever go back there.

So unless she is 100% guaranteed not going to lunge, I have to walk her 100% of the time.

I feel like I've made such a mess of this... and I may be oversensitive, but I don't feel the rescue woman is supportive. She just sent me an email that was very abrupt, when I told her I was returning the dog.
k9rider's Avatar k9rider 05:40 PM 11-19-2008
I just have to say that it could be quite difficult to find a rescue dog that meets the criteria of no pulling. In my experience, most dogs come into rescue without much training background. Unfortunately, the foster home doesn't always do a ton either. Add to that the fact that pulling on the leash is what feels normal to most dogs because that's how they've been trained to get takes two to pull on the leash--dog's don't pull off-lead. If a dog is allowed to pull to get anywhere they learn that it's acceptable and as it's repeated time and time again, the dog accepts it as normal. So anytime there is slack in the leash the dog feels weird and quickly tightens the slack to make it feel right to them. That is one reason I despise flexis as they provide constant tension on the dogs neck and quickly erradicates any work you may have done.

So, unless you commit to serious and CONSISTENT training it will be difficult to undo the leash pulling. Using training aids like prongs or no pull harnesses can help a great deal in the process. I start out with just a plain collar and lead and if the dog pulls I stop all movement. Period. As soon as there is some slack then we go again, and so on. The problem is that if they are ever allowed to get somewhere on a tight leash, all that work is undone.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but just saying that maybe that criteria is a bit steep. Maybe look for a smaller dog that won't do as much damage if they pull and then commit to training it proper loose leash walking.
Rhiannon Feimorgan's Avatar Rhiannon Feimorgan 09:39 PM 11-19-2008
It sounds like this is why a 14 day trial is a good idea. You haven't committed to this dog yet and as much as I can understand why the woman from the rescue is motivated to find this dog a home, it would be best for this dog to be in the right home. If you don't feel that you can be the right home, it's probably best to move on.

A smaller dog might be a better fit. I would also look at a gentle leader type head halter. There are draw backs to this just like any training tool. There is a danger of the dog damaging their neck if they try too hard to pull or run and come up suddenly short at the end of the leash, wiping their head back.

However for just walking, I've found it very useful with my puppy who was pulling like crazy and hurting my shoulder in the process. With a prong caller (which is not as painful to a dog as it looks, put in on your arm and pull to see what it feels like) the dog is corrected imediatly when it pulls but it still can pull if it chooses to ignore that correction. With the head halter the dog just doesn't have the leverage to pull as hard with it's head as it does with it's neck.

It's a short term solution though. I agree completely with the suggestion of stopping every time the dog pulls even a little and not moving until there is slack in the leash. I also had success with going for a walk with a lot or treats in my pocket. Basically my dogs whole supper. When she pulled, I stopped. If she came back to me I would give her a treat. As long as she was walking nicely beside me I would keep giving her treats every few steps. If she started pulling, I'd stop again.

It didn't take very long for her to catch on. Now I only give treats occasionally but she walks really nicely most of the time.
EFmom's Avatar EFmom 10:35 PM 11-19-2008
Originally Posted by daisymama12 View Post
However, there is no room for error, unless I am the sole dog walker. If she lunges the wrong way while my dh is walking her, it could put out his back. He was in bed for 4 weeks this summer - I don't want to ever go back there.

So unless she is 100% guaranteed not going to lunge, I have to walk her 100% of the time.
I'm thinking maybe a different type of pet would be better. No matter how well trained the dog, there is always the possiblity something is going to startle them and they could pull.
phatchristy's Avatar phatchristy 12:13 PM 11-20-2008
Originally Posted by daisymama12 View Post
I feel like I've made such a mess of this... and I may be oversensitive, but I don't feel the rescue woman is supportive. She just sent me an email that was very abrupt, when I told her I was returning the dog.
Do NOT feel bad. Even with the best of circumstances sometimes things don't work out. This was just something that you did not anticipate. Any good rescue group is going to realize things like this happen sometimes. And, when it has to do with medical issues and the fact that your DH has issues working when he has his back out I would think she would be more understanding.

What kind of things do you want to get out of a pet. Is it love and companionship? I wonder if your family may be better suited to something that is less work, like a cat. Cats *can* be leash trained as well. I've had several cats here with outstanding personalities which some would describe as 'dog like'. They love and crave human companionship, are very snuggly, even fetch (yeah...I know that's weird LOL)...but they're so much easier to take care of than dogs. No letting out, no having to walk! I grew up with dogs and you can find an outgoing, social personality in a cat that can be a wonderful personality to share! And no worries about the back issues. Cats have been ideal for us as well as we have a large family, 3 kiddos and another on the way next month.

And, if you don't go that route I would definitely get something small. I doubt a 9-12 pound dog would do that much damage if they lunged. However certain small dog breeds can have other issues. I'd start another post about that.
oneKnight's Avatar oneKnight 02:59 AM 11-21-2008
You can never be 100% sure the dog won't lunge.
If I can see my dog target on something, a "no" and slight tug of the leash and just keep on walking will keep her from taking off. However she's a little bit skiddish, she'd rather run away first then turn to see what scared her. She's not normally scared of cars, trucks, trains, etc. but say you're walking down the sidewalk and a car backfires unexpectedly a few feet away - Dusti will try to run away from the sudden noise. When she hits the end of the lesh she calms back down pretty quickly, but still. That kind of thing you can't say will NEVER happen to a dog while your DH is walking it. No matter how calm and well trained the dog normally is. Some little dogs can yank your arm off too, so a smaller dog wouldn't necessarily solve the problem.

I am the official dog walker and pack leader in this family. DH plays with the dog in the yard, he doesn't mind letting her in/out the door, or even a small potty walk before we get in the car, but I do all the exercise walking. I like to walk and I enjoy the time with the dog, so I don't mind (except when it's COLD I do mind that), but if you do mind doing all the walking then it's probably not a good idea for you to get a dog.
daisymama12's Avatar daisymama12 10:55 AM 11-22-2008
Hi everyone,

Thanks for all your responses.

For the reasons I mentioned, I returned the dog to the rescue. I miss her a lot, trying to channel my sadness into a full-on effort to find her a great home. I am using email & facebook to help her find a permanent home. I'm also putting up posters at our vets, the dog park, the pet supply store, etc. I have a former colleague that lives in the suburbs with her dh, and they have expressed interest. Please keep your fingers crossed, they are dog-people, I really hope it works out.

If anyone can think of other ways I can spread the word, I'm open to suggestions.
gumby74's Avatar gumby74 01:43 PM 11-22-2008
I just needed to mention..there was a dog at the local shelter that I wanted badly. I fell in love with him instantly. I knew it would never work because of the two dogs I already had, but it didn't change how conneted I felt I was with this dog. I did the same thing you are doing....I channeled all of those emotions into finding him a new home and in the end he was placed with a great family!
daisymama12's Avatar daisymama12 04:07 PM 11-30-2008
I wanted to update, because I finally got the news I've been hoping for.

The dog in the OP has been adopted, and the rescue woman says it's a really nice family, with one 10 yr old son, and the mama works at home.

I am so happy for her.

Thanks again for all the posts.
Rhiannon Feimorgan's Avatar Rhiannon Feimorgan 05:43 PM 11-30-2008
I'm so glad the dog is in a good home! I really hope it works out well for everyone!