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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This is a part rant, part advice seeking post. Sorry for the length.

So last time you all read about me I had decided to get a Golden Retriever puppy from my in-laws. They promised to spay their female (and we are going to help finance this) and they seemed to have been raising the puppies very well, not to mention the parents were healthy and seemed friendly enough (we've visited a couple of times and they loved being pet and getting attention, not to mention they are well trained).

So what's the problem? We went to visit them, I decided to go play with the puppies and the new mum. That's when it happened: I was about to pet the mum, when my mother in-law's boyfriend said "don't touch her, because she'll bite you". I looked at the dog, she seemed alright to me, but I suppose owners know best. I've never been bitten by a dog, I am not an expert in dog body language, but I usually know which dogs not to pet. I should add that my mother in-law's boyfriend and me do not get along at all, and we both know it. He said that the mum had been given away by her original owner because she bit a child. She has apparently not bitten anyone at my in-law's, but they say that if she did, she would bite without growling first. This is a problem for me.

I've already bought everything I would need for the puppy, puppy proofed the house, and set aside enough for medical bills. If this was anyone else, I would have looked for a better breeder. I feel like I failed at doing my homework and investigating enough about these dogs. I hate the fact that it's so awkward asking questions to these people because we don't get along and everything sounds as an accusation. Not to mention I don't have the dutch vocabulary to ask these things, so I have to rely on my incredibly shy husband who just hates asking things.

My husband really wants this dog. I really want a dog. I'm not afraid of working hard if it means that my dog will be well-socialized. Then again, I am new to dog training, so the easiest dog I get from the start, the better. Do I stand a chance against genetics? I don't get along with my in-laws, but I would like to. If I say "no" I will not only piss off my in-laws, but my husband as well.

I don't really know if the behavior of the mum is something she learned at her previous family (maybe she was teased too much) or if it means there is aggressiveness in her line of the family. Could this be corrected by intensive and early socialization?

Thank you all in advance for your advise.
 

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I'm not a breeder or a trainer but here are a few thoughts....

I would be cautious about playing with the puppies of any momma dog if I didn't know her well, so that alone wouldn't be a red flag to me.

Without knowing the exact circumstances of the bite at the previous household, it would be very very hard to say if it was poor socialization, teasing, mistreatment, the dog finally getting frustrated and "nipping" (as in, maybe scratching the skin rather than biting down) or true human aggression. Any dog CAN bite and any dog has a threshold. Just like a human getting more and more upset before yelling or lashing out, everyone has a breaking point.

For example, did a kid try to take away a high value treat like a raw bone from the dog? Was the dog sleeping and the kid ran up and leapt on her? Obviously you can't ask these questions, but those are scenarios that could mitigate concerns about her simply being naturally aggressive.

She has apparently not bitten anyone at my in-law's, but they say that if she did, she would bite without growling first.
If she hasn't bitten anyone in their presence, then how would they know how she would bite? If a dog has been punished for growling, it can lead to them skipping the growling (the communication portion of things) and going straight to biting (the action/enforcement part). This is training rather than genetics.

Many many people get puppies from shelters and backyard breeders of unknown background and successfully socialize and train them. Genetics can play a part in temperament of course, but I think that training, management and treatment of the dog plays a larger part generally speaking.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for your opinion, Shell! It makes me feel better to be reminded that, as long as I do a good job with socialization, I can still have a dog that is good to live with where I live. I think my main concern is that I live down town and I just can't stand people who choose to live down town and have nervous/aggressive dogs.

I am glad that the no-growling is just trained. I admit that was the part that scared me the most.

I would be cautious about playing with the puppies of any momma dog if I didn't know her well, so that alone wouldn't be a red flag to me.
That's the thing, I wasn't even near the puppies. I had just arrived to their home, so Pepper (mama dog) came to sniff us out, so I kneeled and petted her chest. That's when I was told to be careful. I admit I wasn't looking at her straight to her face, as I usually don't like holding eye contact with dogs other than my own. I just have a peripheral look at it, but I swear I did not see anything, which scared me even more. I tend to think I'm good at detecting this sort of thing.


Without knowing the exact circumstances of the bite at the previous household, it would be very very hard to say if it was poor socialization, teasing, mistreatment, the dog finally getting frustrated and "nipping" (as in, maybe scratching the skin rather than biting down) or true human aggression. Any dog CAN bite and any dog has a threshold. Just like a human getting more and more upset before yelling or lashing out, everyone has a breaking point.
Exactly! It is really frustrating that I don't know any details concerning this. I tried getting this information the sneaky way: I tried asking my 9yo sister-in-law about it (kids are amazingly perceptive and they always tell stuff adults sometimes wish to hide), but I guess my Tarzan-like Dutch can't deal with that sort of complex type of question... and I don't think she knew much about it either. That or she's become even more perceptive after her parent's divorce.

If she hasn't bitten anyone in their presence, then how would they know how she would bite?
I would like to know this too. I was astonished when he said she was going to bite me. I moved my hand back and said "I didn't notice she was uncomfortable", he said her lip was moving. I said I didn't see that nor did I hear her growl. He said "she doesn't growl, but she bites". And then he told me about her biting a kid. I am really annoyed they didn't say that earlier and really annoyed they even chose to breed her (at first I thought it was an accident, but this weekend I learned they had actually done it on purpose).
 

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Thank you for your opinion, Shell! It makes me feel better to be reminded that, as long as I do a good job with socialization, I can still have a dog that is good to live with where I live. I think my main concern is that I live down town and I just can't stand people who choose to live down town and have nervous/aggressive dogs.

I am glad that the no-growling is just trained. I admit that was the part that scared me the most.
Obviously I can't say for sure it was trained- but that is not an uncommon mistake people make when they punish growls. They say "he's being aggressive so I stopped him from growling" rather than getting to the root of the problem and preventing the dog from feeling the need to growl. They growl to tell you or other dogs something; maybe its "I hurt there so quit petting me" or "get away from my food" but then instead of punishing a growl, the owner should be taking the dog to a vet or working on training for resource guarding. It is possible she is a naturally silent dog and never growled and jumped right to biting, but even then there likely would be signs and body language


That's the thing, I wasn't even near the puppies. I had just arrived to their home, so Pepper (mama dog) came to sniff us out, so I kneeled and petted her chest. That's when I was told to be careful. I admit I wasn't looking at her straight to her face, as I usually don't like holding eye contact with dogs other than my own. I just have a peripheral look at it, but I swear I did not see anything, which scared me even more. I tend to think I'm good at detecting this sort of thing.

Since you don't get along with the owner, could he have been trying to scare you or tease you? Like, "ha ha she's such a wimp, scared of my dog"?


Exactly! It is really frustrating that I don't know any details concerning this. I tried getting this information the sneaky way: I tried asking my 9yo sister-in-law about it (kids are amazingly perceptive and they always tell stuff adults sometimes wish to hide), but I guess my Tarzan-like Dutch can't deal with that sort of complex type of question... and I don't think she knew much about it either. That or she's become even more perceptive after her parent's divorce.

Is the 9 year old scared of the dog? How does she interact with the mama dog? Does the mama dog seem comfortable and tolerant of the child?

I would like to know this too. I was astonished when he said she was going to bite me. I moved my hand back and said "I didn't notice she was uncomfortable", he said her lip was moving. I said I didn't see that nor did I hear her growl. He said "she doesn't growl, but she bites". And then he told me about her biting a kid. I am really annoyed they didn't say that earlier and really annoyed they even chose to breed her (at first I thought it was an accident, but this weekend I learned they had actually done it on purpose).
Unfortunately, there really isn't any way to know the background of this dog unless your husband can talk to them. Can your husband talk to his mother and try to get more details? Maybe he can imply that it doesn't matter the circumstances, he just wants it for information so you guys can work with the puppy better.

Here's the thing I see- I wouldn't necesarily be concerned about taking a dog from an unknown background like a shelter puppy because I would expect that training and socializing could take care of most temperament issues. And there are issuse that might bother other dog owners that wouldn't be a problem in my home or another home. For example, one of my friend's has a dog that is a resource guarder and has bitten; but the guarding is managed, training helped and my friend has no children in the house to worry about and the dog is never around children. I like the dog just fine and don't worry around her with proper precautions.
But you have the problem of the puppy coming from family and if something later required rehoming the dog, it could cause problems that went beyond finding a suitable home.
 

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How hard is it for you to get around there and do things? Would you be able to go do a lot of socializing and take classes with a pup?

You would need to work extra hard to overcome issues. Most goldens are sweethearts, at least the ones I've met and worked with. There is the odd one with a dog issue, but out of hundreds I can think of one or two that snapped when working with them on grooming etc... that's including byb dogs, rescued dogs as well as dogs from responsible breeders. The lines overseas are known for being even more sweet tempered than in North America too. My golden's breeder's dogs are wonderful sweet boogers who are quite happy to host a party in the whelping box with anybody who comes in. Strangers coming to the house get barked at, but then it's grab a toy and run to the gate to see if the new person will play.

So odds are if the mom has aggression issues she's either horribly bred, or horribly trained/mishandled.

If you are going to be able to do a lot of socialization and training, take classes and such, then you should have a pretty good chance of being on top of things. But then again, would you be interested in doing something with a dog, like shows and obedience? Not sure what the rules are there, but here you are better off with a dog with papers - so that might be a loophole, tell them you're wanting a show dog and need one with papers who was bred for conformation - good way for you to get out and meet people and learn more without stepping on their toes completely. They'll be upset either way but if you get a pup from these relatives and it ends up with major issues, and you can't keep it, there'll be an upset anyhow. Plus it's harder to get a pup when you have a dog with problems, not sure what the issues are with mom and what the pups will be like but....

I can ask around for references for breeders in your area if you like.
 

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Also, is the little white dog in your avatar pic your current dog?
It looks little anyway, and I wouldn't want to get a puppy that's going to grow into a big dog that 'might' be aggressive. If you decide you don't want to take a risk on this puppy you could use protecting your little one as an excuse.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I will try and force my husband to ask these questions. I actually have asked him in the past, but he doesn't ask for fear of hurting her feelings. I guess I'll have to be the mean, bossy wife again and force him to.

I don't think re-homing the dog would be an insult to them. They gave their Jack Russel terrier (an extremely well-mannered adult dog, if not very people-oriented) to my husband's younger brother, but a couple of months after that, he gave it to someone else. I didn't hear any complains. I would have been livid if I were them. That said, I have a policy of not giving pets away and not having more pets than I can handle. It would take something extreme for me to consider that option for real.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
@ Bordermom:
The pups are at 4 weeks now, so socialization classes would have to wait until it's with me. I'm supposed to bring the pup home at 8 weeks. I was thinking of rallying my neighbors and family. Maybe even carrying the dog around the city and asking people to feed the puppy treats. I've already set aside some money for the socialization courses and subsequent training once parvo is not a threat. I don't see me being part of the dog show world, but it's a nice excuse.

@Fuzzy Pants:
Well, the dog on my avatar is Reina, my mum's dog. We had her as a puppy, and when I moved out my parents offered me to take her with me, since I take better care of her than the rest of my family. My brothers are opposed to this, since she is happier with my mum, who is her true owner. Me and my husband still take care of her when my parents are travelling, but she doesn't live with me. That's another nice excuse, though.
 

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Another idea is to find a friend there that speaks english and dutch (?) and send them there to see the puppies as a secret shopper. If it's a dog savy person they'd be able to find out enough to know what you're getting into and ask questions (or they could pretend they only speak english and listen in... lol
 

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Another idea is to find a friend there that speaks english and dutch (?) and send them there to see the puppies as a secret shopper. If it's a dog savy person they'd be able to find out enough to know what you're getting into and ask questions (or they could pretend they only speak english and listen in... lol
Ohh, I like this idea. Assuming they are planning on selling the other pups and have made some kind of public advertisement (as in, the "stranger" would know about the pups but not via you), this could be a great tactic.
 

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Without knowing the genetics and lines of the dog you really on't know if you will be dealing with poor nerves or just an issue the mother had of poor socialization.
You can test the pups, now, and when they are 7-8 weeks. Have the mother removed, all the pups in a group. Drop something loud, watch the reactions. Running up to investigate is ideal, running away in fear is not.

Take a few pups to an area they aren't familiar with. Watch reactions. If they stay outdoors bring them inside on a slick floor. See how quickly they adapt and begin playing.

There are many ways to assess the pups to see early temperament, and socialization builds from there.
 

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If the mother is a Golden and you were able to pet her without getting eaten, then it isn't that very rare genetic problem that occurred decades ago from inbreeding. Goldens are friendly, and you could look at the defective dogs and see that something was wrong.... So, based on what you related, I strongly agree with Shell that it is a simple behavioral, socialization problem with the mother, that won't affect the pups.

If you can test the pups, like juliemule wrote, take the entire group into a room and then clap your hands, calling the pups. Eliminate the ones that don't come running, select the ones that come to you to interact... the others are undecided. Pick up the selected ones, one at a time, look at it, blow gently in its face, hug it gently, and let it sit/stand in your lap. Pay attention to how it interacts with you, or pays attention to distractions.... you want a pup that is friendly and will focus on you. Do the same with the undecided pups. Go with your intuition of the calmest puppy that interacts most strongly with you. You don't want a highly excitable puppy that is needy or can't calm down .... middle of the road for some things.... And, you can train out some problems... when you notice them early...


Two free downloads to read now: http://www.dogstardaily.com/free-downloads includes suggestions for socialization....
 

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Discussion Starter #13
@Bordermom: That sounds like an interesting idea. I'll see if I can find any friend willing to do this!

@juliemule & hanksimon: That's a good suggestion! I spoke to them, they don't have time for me this weekend but next weekend we are planning to come over for a visit. I will be doing the tests then.

Thank you all for your nice advice!
 
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