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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
First, the background to this long story.

Emily came to us a few months ago when someone found her running loose and took her home to keep her safe and try to find her owner. People in the area told him that she'd been loose in the area for several days at least. This dog was too exuberant for his little dog, so my husband and I took her in.

She's a Rottweiler mix and probably part pit bull. There might be other breeds in the mix too.

We took all the usual steps to try to find her family but never found them. We're pretty sure she was dumped. She was about 8 months old then.

She loved sleeping in a crate. She went into her crate on her own at night, and she took naps in it during the day. We locked her in the crate at night but not during her naps.

She was well socialized and affectionate, but she was also afraid of being hit. I learned to ask people meeting her not to hold out their arms but to just let her come to them.

She bonded strongly with me in particular, and it took her a few weeks to feel comfortable being in the yard or the house alone. We crated her when no one could be there because she got into everything as a puppy (she took things off the kichen counter, chewed on the edge of the rug, and things like that), but we didn't have to crate her often or for long. When she was crated, she rested comfortably. Except for her first night with us, she was fine in the crate. If we forgot to crate her when neither of us was on the main floor (we had gates up to keep her on that floor), we would find things on the floor that didn't belong there, but there was never any damage except to my husband's old slippers.

She wanted to be where I was, but if she couldn't, she settled down. If she was in the yard when I went out, she would watch me longingly as I drove off, but she would be fine. (I wouldn't leave her in the yard unless my husband was home.) When I got home, she would practically do backflips in excitement even if I'd been gone for only a short time. But a lot of dogs are like that.

After our 13-year-old dog crossed the rainbow bridge last year, my husband and I decided not to adopt again at this time but to help dogs temporarily when we could, such as by taking in found dogs. When we're ready to adopt, we want to adopt an older dog, one that's hard to get adopted. We don't have a lot of time or money these days, and there are a lot of people who want to adopt younger dogs and give them great homes. So, we worked with a local rescue group to get Emily adopted.

We found the perfect family. They're a young couple with plenty of experience with dogs and they have their own house and a fenced yard. One of them works from home. They're active, and they wanted a dog that could go everywhere with them. When Emily met them, she was excited right away. We all thought it was the ideal match.

Her new family took her for walks and runs every day and let her spend a lot of time in their fenced yard. They kept her routines as close to possible as what she had with us to help with the transition. However, while Emily loved being in her crate at our home, she destroyed 2 crates (the same size of crate that she had with us) and the floor under them at her new home. When she was left alone once, for 2 hours, she destroyed a wood door. They cannot leave her alone at all, and she's been with them for a few weeks now. She has cost them hundreds of dollars in damage to their home and to crates.

According to something they read, a growing problem these days is dogs that become too attached to their people because they get used to having them home all the time because of the pandemic. When these dogs are foster dogs, they're so attached to their foster families tha they can't bond with new families.

That may be the problem or part of it. I've worked from home for years, and my husband is mostly retired, so the pandemic didn't change our daily lives that much. We've had foster dogs before, and they adjusted to their new homes. But Emily was abused and probably dumped in her past, so her bond with me is more than just love. I was the only person who could wave my arms around and not have her move her head away in fear. Maybe she saw me as the person who saved her.

Her adopters are bringing her back tomorrow. We all feel terrible about this, but it's the only option at this point.

How can we help Emily? We want to get her adopted, but obviously we can't try again until we help her get through her emotional challenges that we now know about. If the problem is her bond with me, then we need to make that bond a healthier bond, one that she can transfer to someone else.

She's already very sociable and socialized, and we often stopped to meet people on our walks. She knew our neighbors too, one of whom sometimes took her for walks. She's always happy to meet new people. I'm thinking that I should try to find people who will take her for a few hours here and there so that she gets used to being with other poople more and less with me. We can't ask anyone else to take her overnight at this point knowing how destructive she might be, but we need to work up to that somehow.

Does anyone have similar experiences or insight into this problem? What can we do to help Emily?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Assuming you are using wire and plastic crates and crate training has been worked on, go to a Dog box and medication.

Thanks for your reply. That box may be useful for some dogs.

I should clarify that I'm looking for behavior solutions. Emily was comfortable in our home and didn't try to get out of the crate except the first night. She is stressed at her new home even though it's what we were looking for for her. A different crate/box wouldn't change how stressed she is even after being there for a few weeks. She could kill herself trying to get out of it.

How can we help her be as relaxed as she is in our home in another home where people also love her and provide everything she needs?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Are you absolutely unwilling to keep her yourselves?
It isn't about being unwilling. We aren't in a good financial situation, and I'm trying to start a new business that would get us out of this situation. I need time to work on that, and she needs and deserves more time. We took her in thinking that she would be with us for a few days at the most. Now we need another $60-$80+ a month we don't have to feed a growing dog. We certainly don't have enough to get her spayed.

She's barely a year old. If we can get her to truly bond with a new family, she could live with people who want to adopt a young dog to be part of their family for the rest of her life. We found such a family, and she reacted very positively to them. But when it came to living with them, she got very stressed, and the situation didn't get better even after a few weeks.
 

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Honestly, this may require a behaviorist. It's going to be very hard for you to work through the issue without being able to observe the behavior or replicate the situation that causes it. The only thing I can think of off-hand is doing a slow transition where she starts living with a new family a few hours at a time and building up, but that could also cause waaaay more stress.

A professional who can observe the dog and work with both you and potential adopters is going to be able to give better tailored advice, and evaluate whether she may need medical intervention like anxiety medication - temporarily or long-term - to get through the transition.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Honestly, this may require a behaviorist. It's going to be very hard for you to work through the issue without being able to observe the behavior or replicate the situation that causes it. The only thing I can think of off-hand is doing a slow transition where she starts living with a new family a few hours at a time and building up, but that could also cause waaaay more stress.

A professional who can observe the dog and work with both you and potential adopters is going to be able to give better tailored advice, and evaluate whether she may need medical intervention like anxiety medication - temporarily or long-term - to get through the transition.
Thanks. The adopters tried to get a dog behaviorist, but they wouldn't come to people's homes these days because of the pandemic.

I was thinking of finding people who could take her for even an hour at a time, working up to all day. Maybe different people who live in our area could help with this. You said that this could cause more stress, though. Could you explain?

Thanks for the anti-anxiety medication suggestion. It may be a good tool to help with the transition once we get her more used to being away from me.
 

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Some dogs it might work for because they'd experience it as easing into the new life, others would be totally freaked out because bouncing between houses would feel unstable and confusing and escalate the problems. It's really hard to tell which way she'd go as an outsider with just a bit of info on a forum.

I know some trainers and behaviorists are doing remote consults since the pandemic started. They're not as good as being physically present with the dog of course, but when you've got a problem that needs addressing asap they might be better than nothing. The ADPT, CCPDT, and IAABC are all organizations that certify behaviorists as an unbiased third party and ensure that anyone with a 'behaviorist' label from them has an acceptable level of up-to-date scientific understanding of dog behavior and learning, as well as a certain degree of practical experience working with multiple animals. Each has a website where you can find behaviorists in your area - the one silver lining of more dog professionals finding ways to do remote consults is that you may be able to work with someone who would normally be too far away to be practical. The dog professional world is also pretty small, so someone who can't take you on at the moment for whatever reason may also be able to refer you to other people they trust in your area.

You could also see if your vet can refer a veterinary behaviorist - these differ from someone who's 'just' a behaviorist in that they have a full veterinary degree and then further specialized in behavior - or check the listings on the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website. While any vet can prescribe anxiety medication, a veterinary behaviorist will have a greater depth of knowledge about the pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical strategies for addressing problem behaviors. Of course, they also tend to be pricier than a non-vet behaviorist in many cases. My understanding is that a vet behaviorist cannot legally consult with an owner remotely in the US - they must have an in-person vet-client-patient relationship - but your vet may be able to consult a veterinary behaviorist on your behalf. Never had to do it myself, so I don't know how easy that is to arrange or what the cost may be.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Some dogs it might work for because they'd experience it as easing into the new life, others would be totally freaked out because bouncing between houses would feel unstable and confusing and escalate the problems. It's really hard to tell which way she'd go as an outsider with just a bit of info on a forum.

I know some trainers and behaviorists are doing remote consults since the pandemic started. They're not as good as being physically present with the dog of course, but when you've got a problem that needs addressing asap they might be better than nothing. The ADPT, CCPDT, and IAABC are all organizations that certify behaviorists as an unbiased third party and ensure that anyone with a 'behaviorist' label from them has an acceptable level of up-to-date scientific understanding of dog behavior and learning, as well as a certain degree of practical experience working with multiple animals. Each has a website where you can find behaviorists in your area - the one silver lining of more dog professionals finding ways to do remote consults is that you may be able to work with someone who would normally be too far away to be practical. The dog professional world is also pretty small, so someone who can't take you on at the moment for whatever reason may also be able to refer you to other people they trust in your area.

You could also see if your vet can refer a veterinary behaviorist - these differ from someone who's 'just' a behaviorist in that they have a full veterinary degree and then further specialized in behavior - or check the listings on the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website. While any vet can prescribe anxiety medication, a veterinary behaviorist will have a greater depth of knowledge about the pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical strategies for addressing problem behaviors. Of course, they also tend to be pricier than a non-vet behaviorist in many cases. My understanding is that a vet behaviorist cannot legally consult with an owner remotely in the US - they must have an in-person vet-client-patient relationship - but your vet may be able to consult a veterinary behaviorist on your behalf. Never had to do it myself, so I don't know how easy that is to arrange or what the cost may be.
Thanks. I've passed that on to the adopters. We've already arranged for them to bring her back tomorrow, but maybe they'll try the above.

If not, she's coming back, and we have no money to pay anyone to help us. As I said, we took in this dog for what we thought would be a few days at the most, and she's already costing us a lot just to feed her and buy her allergy supplements. There is no wiggle room for us to pay anything more.

I'm hoping that someone has some behavioral suggestions we could try to help her.
 

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I have no personal suggestions to offer you, but Malena DeMartini is the current, reigning expert on the subject of SA. You might find some helpful information on her website:
I wish you all the very best of luck in overcoming this hurdle & finding Emily the best of forever homes.
 

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If you can't afford to keep her any more, start researching and contacting all-breed rescue groups and no-kill shelters in your area. From posts here and other places, I get the impression there's a high level of interest in adopting now in these Covid days, so her chances of adoption should be high. Be honest with them about how she was fine with you and not with the other people. Also you could explain about your financial situation. Some groups pay expenses for foster homes.
 

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Is it possible you could visit her occasionally at her new families place? Even if it's outdoors due to covid. Not sure how much that would help her transition, just throwing it out there.
 

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I understand, it's a rough spot for you to be in and thank you for doing so much for her regardless! I do hope you and/or the adopter figure out something that works for her. Wishing you all lots of luck!
 

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I would also suggest working with a vet and possibly getting her on anti-anxiety medication. I would hazard a guess that once she gets used to a new family (which might take more than a few weeks, even) that she may not need it anymore.

I would also suggest contacting a local rescue or shelter that could help you with expenses if her adopters end up bringing her back, even taking her into their program but with you guys remaining as fosters. They likely have a larger network of vets, trainers, and even behaviorists who can help you navigate this. Explain your situation, and hopefully they'll help out.
 
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