Yesterday, my husband and I decided it was time to give up our male dog, Ivan. He'll be going back to the shelter we got him from as a 6 week old puppy. It is a no-kill shelter, and full of loving employees and volunteers.
And I don't know if I can do this. My eyes are swollen from crying off and on for hours last night. My animals ARE my kids. I carried him around in a sling when he was a puppy. I hand fed him his kibble to socialize him. [He was weird even at 6 weeks].
The bottom line is that he is not a good dog for our family, and it is dangerous to keep him. We've done so much to work with him, and with a strange daily living situation we've managed to make things work, but his behavior is regressing and is reminding us that he's not in a good home. We can't give him what he needs and what the rest of the critters and baby need, at the same time.
Did I mention my heart is being ripped from my chest as I type?
Ivan is a 3 yr old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. He has dominance issues, and dog-aggression issues. He has been threatening to people. He hates all other animals kinds. I socialized him extensively when he was little - and he never stopped distrusting the cats/horses whatever he was exposed to. We have three cats, so this is a concern. He is afraid of strangers, and very protective of his house/yard. I never wanted a guard dog. I've got one.
He is also prone to extreme anxiety and "tantrums." The tantrums can be scary, and handled wrong they could be dangerous.
Last winter, he attacked my female twice in one week, requiring trips to the vet and stitches each time. In retrospect, I see that the fight had been brewing for a long time. She should have been alpha, but he would bully bully bully. And then one day he snapped, and hurt her. At that point we sought an evaluation and training with a respected behaviorist/trainer who works with aggressive dogs. He felt Ivan could be worked with, but that he was definately not normal. It was not normal for him to have attacked our female, based on standard dog dynamics. She is a lab-pit mix with the personality of a lab. She is smaller than he is, and no match in a fight. She was the person in the family he bonded to most when we brought him home. She was an older puppy when we got him, and he adored her. He still adores her, when he gets his way.
The dogs have been kept separate for the last year. Slowly, we have begun letting them have supervised play in the house, but they will never be safe together in the yard. I have a playden in my living room for Ivan, and an xpen upstairs. We work hard to keep him contained but with the family. In the yard, he runs for an hour or two everyday. He runs in response to the dogs next door. He is extremely fit and strong.
We've managed this last year. The correction training helped, and he loved to work. Keep in mind that prior to working with a specialist, both my dogs had taken three obediance courses each. My female passed CGC, and Ivan missed it by one test. This was when he was a year old, and while he had personality problems then, the scary stuff started at 18 months, which I now know is a prime time for male dogs to become aggressive. I guess what I'm trying to say is that he was never an untrained, unsocialized dog.
Typing this is helping me calm down. I need to pull it together because I really am beside myself.
To the present: I noticed within the last few weeks he has been showing some attitude with me. (We haven't done serious training in a while. Life is busy around here. We never had time in the first place, with a high needs baby, but we made time). I realized we needed to start training up again.
I was going to start taking him to class this weekend.
Yesterday, he pulled major attitude and I was in a position that I had to back down, for concern that he would escalate. I had my female and the baby underfoot. He was excited to go for a walk, and would not let me put him in his playden while I got everyone ready. He always waits in his playden durng this time. Even with the prong collar on, I could not get him into the den or into the yard. He refused, and I wasn't about to force it because it could have been ugly. Eventually I got him to go into the den with a liver treat, but I realized it is CRAZY to own a dog that scares you. STUPID to own a dog you can't control, not in a house with a toddler and another dog and three cats. I cried the whole walk.
I love this dog to pieces. He is family.
He is not right for our home.
He likes the baby, and has never been a problem with her. Of course, I am extra super duper careful about it all. But what happens when one day, at 3 or 5 or 7, she tries to make him do something he doesn't want to do? What happens when he decides the "puppy" is getting bossy with him and needs to know where she stands? She is not a threat to him right now (20 months), but one day she will be.
I can't let that happen.
And I don't know how I can let him go. The kennel environment will be bad for him. But maybe there is a chance he can find the right home. A better home for him. A home where his positive qualities can be nurtured. (He does have positive qualities).Please reassure me or give me a hug or something because I feel like I'm dying inside.