Have you ever rehomed a dog or returned him to the shelter he came from? Tell me your story.
My dog adores me, but I don't have the skills or temperament to give him the consistent training he needs. Just trying to list all the issues I've had with him, if somebody else posted them, I'd say the dog needs a better family than this. But what am I condemning him to if I send him back to the rescue after 16 months with me?
Okay, everybody wants to know the history. Here goes...
I grew up with a dog. My parents got her when I was six. Raising and training her was not anything I had to with or have any memory of. We lived in a suburb of 1.5 acre lots backing up onto woods. Patti would whine when she wanted to go out, and we'd open the door and let her out. She'd scratch at the door when she wanted to come in, and we'd open the door and let her in. Same deal with the cat, but different signals.
40+ years passed.
Finally I found myself living in a place that allows dogs, and my son and I wanted a dog. It's a
trailer park mobile home community. Big place. 300+ homes, nicely spaced, nicely landscaped and kept up. We have a yard but we're not allowed to fence it in, and dogs need to be kept on leash. Fair enough.
I went on Petfinder and spotted a dog that appealed to me at a rescue (not a city/county shelter but an independent non-profit.) We visited the dog, figuring this would just be the first of many dogs that we would meet during the search process, but we liked him right off the bat and he liked us. He's apparently a mix of basset hound and Labrador retriever, black with a white blaze on his chest, long and handsome great big floppy ears and legs that are shorter than you'd expect but not low-down short. He's about 65 pounds. They estimated age at 3 to 5 years.
Looking back, there were plenty of red flags, but the rescue head presented them casually as if they didn't really matter much, and I accepted them in that spirit. His previous family had kept him tied outside too much, and he might need some socialization, she said. He pulled strongly while walking on leash - we found that out by walking with him outdoors at the rescue. When let out into open (fenced) area, he sprinted back and forth eagerly and happily. Galloped is more like it. He'd just finished treatment for heartworm, she told us, and that had required him to stay in a small enclosed kennel because too much exercise could have loosened a worm fragment that was too big.
A week later, the rescue head came for a home visit and brought him with her. She approved of our home, we adopted him from her, and she left him with us. We did a new-pet vet visit with him right away, and signed him up for the first available adult-dog behavior class.
My son is 17 with various learning issues that make him seem several years longer. I wanted him to be the main handler at the training. It was a group class, 6 or 8 sessions. Nothing went horribly wrong, except that neither of us are capable of the kind of regularly repeated consistent daily home-training a dog deserves, and that this dog needs desperately. (Yes it is a personal failing and an aspect of disabilities that we each have. No, I didn't sufficiently take this into account when we adopted.) So he came out of training little improved from when he went in. He will SIT and DOWN for treats, if we have the treats in hand, and will not if we don't, and he is very good at telling the difference.
Sometime early on he snapped at my son's face. I didn't see it. Duke (the dog) was on the floor next to my son's bed, my son leaped on the bed suddenly, they were face to face, Duke snapped. No contact, but my son was upset and remains suspicious of Duke.
I've seen Duke when he snaps. Generally it happens when he meets another dog. He likes the idea of other dogs and wants to play with them, but when the other dog spends too much time (oh, about 20 seconds) sniffing face or crotch, Duke without warning leaps and snaps at the dog's face. No blood or fur flying. It's a very strong "go-away" signal, not an attack. But nothing you'd want to happen an inch from your eyeballs.
What else? My girlfriend loves dogs, and has 4 small dogs currently. We hoped they would get along. She has a fenced yard, too. I brought Duke there, he seemed to be okay with her dogs (10 pound Shih-tzus and the like), but then grabbed and threw down the two male dogs, leaving the females alone. What was he thinking? I don't know. He was neutered as an adult, by the rescue, a few months before we adopted him. (And then he was under heartworm treatment and enforced rest for a couple of months, thus ineligible for adoption). But I can't bring him to her house any more.
We tried to arrange for one-on-one training with the company that offered the group training, but went through months of trying to find dates/times that work. Did I mention that I don't know how to make a long story short?
Duke has plenty of places to sleep, but he prefers to sleep in the closet in my bedroom. My computer is in my bedroom, and I sit at the desk and type and browse and read. When my son tries to talk to me, Duke gets very protective. He won't let my son in the room, and gets upset and threatening when my son stands outside the door and tries to talk. When I'm not in the house, they get along fine, and my son can come into my bedroom, lay on the bed, do what he likes without issue.
Except that my son resents his treatment by the dog and they don't get along fine. And when my girlfriend visits Duke nips at her ankles, and interferes when we try to snuggle and sit and watch a movie. And she says she is afraid of him.
We had a second round of group training when I wasn't able to get one-on-one training and the next round of classes started. This was a different instructor, and we did no better. My girlfriend participated in some of the classes. We approached the trainer after class with questions.
I think Duke would do better in a home with a fenced yard where he could run hard and long. He doesn't play nicely at the dog parks, so has to make do with several miles of walking each day. It's exercise, but he doesn't get to gallop and really let loose.
And he destroyed two sofas, and now I'm afraid to replace them.
And he bit a kid. He usually gets along with people when we're out walking, and kids like to pet him, and he's fine. But not this time. The kid was probably in the 2 to 4 range and I think maybe he was up in Duke's eyes. There were a bunch of kids and I was talking to a different one. Duke leaped and snapped and barked and the kid ran away with his hands over his mouth and nose.
I asked one of the older kids to run off after the little one and see if he was okay. She came running back saying "blood! blood!". I brought Duke back to my house and put him inside, then came back to the kids and asked which house the little kid lived in. I knocked on the door, identified myself to the kid's dad, and accepted responsibility. He wanted to know if Duke was up to date on his shots, and he was. The Dad said that was good, and otherwise he wasn't concerned. I asked him if he wanted to report this to the police, and he said no. I told him where he could find me.
I didn't see the little boy after he ran off, so I don't know the extent of his injury. Maybe he was really lucky and just got a bump on the nose and got a bloody nose, instead of having his face ripped open. But I don't know.
I brought Duke to a long evaluation session with a vet specializing in behavioral issues. She recommended a specific trainer for one-on-one sessions. Scheduling and paying for the sessions has dragged this all out, but we've had four of them, with my girlfriend at one and my son at another. The trainer also recommended we give him L-Creatine 100 mg twice daily, and we do that. He seems slightly mellower. She recommended a Thundershirt. It helped some, but he has chewed at it and torn it.
So. I don't think things are getting better. He needs to live with someone who has experience with abused and untrained dogs. (Duke shows signs of having been abused. He reacts strongly to any kind of broom or mop with a long handle. When I lifted up my hand with the leash in it, he cringed back immediately as if he thought I was about to whip him.) He has a good relationship with me, ambivalent with my son (who resents him), and my girlfriend is physically scared of him. He's ruined two couches, plus countless shoes, gloves, and wallets.
My agreement with the rescue is that I can't transfer him to anybody else, but I can always return him to the rescue. If I find someone who wants to take Duke, I would have to ask the rescue to evaluate and approve the person, and then they would do the transfer from there.