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My wife and I are not true first-time dog owners. We both had dogs growing up, but our recent arrival is the first dog either of us adopted as adults.

We took in a rescue dog from a local dog rescue. He's an adult, about 3-4 years old. He is low to the ground like a corgi, but weighs 50 lbs and looks like a German Shepherd in the face. He also has a little bit of wiry fur near his mouth, which makes him look like he may be part terrier. He was advertised as a "basset hound mix," and we were informed that, like a basset, he has a calm temperament and is good with cats, children, and strangers. We were also told that he was crate trained, house broken, leash trained, and had no dog aggression nor prey drive. While he is legitimately great with other dogs, every other aspect of our new dog's behavior profile is the extreme opposite of what was advertised.

We noticed that he was not house broken almost immediately. No problem, we can handle that.

We noticed that he was 100% unfamiliar with walking on a leash almost immediately. And he chewed through his first (thick nylon) leash in under 5 minutes when I wasn't looking. No problem, we got him a harness and a chew-proof coated steel leash. We walk him 2-3 times a day and are teaching him how a leash works.

We noticed he wasn't fully crate-trained the first night we had him. He will not obey a command to enter his crate, but he mostly handles it fine when a treat gets him to go inside, or when he is placed inside by one of us. But he 100% will not EVER accept a command to enter his crate.

After a few days, we noticed him chasing and lunging at the cats (one of whom is 15). This made me nervous, but my wife was sure he was "just playing." Then we got an extra tall baby gate with a "cat door" to allow the cats to stay upstairs to avoid him. However, the cats (both of whom have lived with dogs in the past) don't fear him. They walk near him and chase light or jump on the furniture - all of this causes him to lunge at them. After he jumped and bit my elderly cat and pulled her out of my hand while I was holding her (thankfully, I acted quickly and she wasn't injured), we realized we would have to transition him to being an "outside dog" and bought a lot of equipment to convert our 1-car garage and smallish backyard and patio into a secure and pleasant dog area. We also realized we can't allow him free reign of the house without human supervision because he lunges quickly and without warning when he wants to "get" the cats. This led to moving him directly into his crate after his morning walk, before I take a shower and get ready for work.

We also noticed that he bites while he plays. When my wife has tried to sit on the floor with him to cuddle or pet him, he gets playfully aggressive. He bit her hard enough to leave a mark through a heavy sweatshirt once. It didn't seem aggressive to her (I didn't see it), so she just ignored him for a few minutes.

Then this morning, as I tried to place him in his crate after our morning walk (something part of his daily routine for two weeks now), he bit me without warning, to avoid being placed in his crate. And this wasn't a playful little bite, either. He bit me right on the wrist and drew blood. Of the many dogs I have lived with over the years, none have ever bitten me this hard. In fact, none have ever bitten me, except when they were playing as puppies. This dog basically looks like a big corgi, but he bites like a small German Shepherd.

We don't have children, but are planning to try soon (I'm 34, she's 31). We also have a 7 year-old niece who will be around this dog somewhat frequently. I am wondering if a dog with a prey drive who bites his owners is just too much of a risk to take to public places or to leave unattended with children, or if this is something that can readily be trained out of him. I also want to know if more-experienced dog owners have similar experiences with animal rescues/shelters providing really inaccurate information about their animals.

We really had just one rule about the dog we wanted - that he or she was gentle with cats and people. It's more than a disappointment that our dog isn't the right dog for us, as it will be utterly heartbreaking if we have to give him back to the shelter, especially since they will probably have to advertise him as "no cats, no small children," which will make him very hard to adopt.
 

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I would take him back (and disclose the biting incidents), and I wouldn't feel bad about it. You knew what you wanted in a dog, and you didn't get it -- in fact, you got the opposite. Either the rescue lied to you or they just didn't know the dog as well as they thought they did, but either way, he's not suitable for you.

Can this dog be managed? Sure, and you're already doing that with the crate and the baby gates (and you will have to add "keep separated from the seven-year-old at all times" to that). Can he be trained to be trustworthy around kids and other pets? Probably not. You're likely looking at a lifetime of crating and careful management of the dog, your cats, your niece, and your own eventual kid(s).
 

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Totally agree with Crantastic. Some rescues will misrepresent a dog or take a previous owner's word just to save the dog. Not all dogs can be saved nor should they be.

The shelter or rescue needs to be honest about this dog as well and if he is difficult to place because of no small children or cats, so be it. A dog is the sum of its genes behavior wise. You have given this dog a chance and it is not the dog you need and it has a lot of problems that that make him a liability and even a night mare for the rest of his life. This dog bites that 7 year old and there will be no more chances.

IMO there should be no more chances now. In fact, after the bite he gave you, I would be taking him straight away to the vet on a one way trip.

In the end, it sounds like you really want a well bred Golden Retriever or a Labrador.. not something that might be a great dog or might not be a great dog from a place that may or may not provide an honest assessment of that dog. If I were you I would be looking at those breeds.. I say this especially with you planning a family soon (or maybe put off getting a dog altogether if that is a better fit).
 

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There are many homes out there without cats or kids. It sounds like it'd be best to return the dog to the rescue, being honest about his issues, so they can find such a home for him. There are lots of family-friendly adoptable dogs out there that need a good home like the one you can provide.
 

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Hold on, was it a rescue or a shelter? Most shelters don't have the resources to properly evaluate a dog. Either way, I'd definitely contact the rescue and tell them what happened - and definitely not keep the dog. You can't take a risk like that when you want to have kids.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Ok, there's more to this story now. I talked with my wife (who has been enamored with this dog since we first met him) about his being potentially too dangerous. She didn't see him attack me, so she believed that it must have been how I put him in his crate. Frankly, he would never accept a command to enter his crate - her method (at night or in the afternoon) has been to offer him treats, then wait and hope he went inside. It worked about 25% of the time, and the remaining 75% she would have to force him in or ask me to do it. Since I crate him in the morning when time is a luxury I can't afford, I have simply removed his harness next to the crate, commanded him to enter, then nudged him in when he refused.

Today I decided to try it her way and offer his favorite treat (raw turkey dog) as a reward for entering the crate. As soon as his harness was off, he nipped at me. Then, when I offered the treat in the crate (tossing it in after he saw what it was), he ran the other way. When I approached him and went toward his collar, he bit me (this time I was prepared, with a sweatshirt around my wrist and arm). I scolded him and tried again - attack. All of a sudden, this sweet dog was growling, biting at me, and trying to threaten and intimidate me. I scolded him and didn't relent, so he bit me repeatedly (meanwhile the cat was just soooo interested in what was happening), and he was clearly willing to tear my arm off rather than let me pull him over to the crate (now on the other side of the house). I felt like the only way to diffuse the situation - and keep him from attacking me or the cat was to frighten him, so I stood tall and pushed him to the ground, against the wall, with my foot. At this point he cowered and I chased him into the corner of the house by the crate. I demanded he enter the crate and threw another (whole) hot dog into the crate. He went 85% in and I slammed him the rest of the way in.

This dog is going back to the rescue as soon as possible. We are telling them about the violence with cats, the difficulty with the crate, and his repeated violent biting of the person who feeds and walks him every day. I hope he is gone when I get home from work, but I feel really bad for my wife, who let herself fall for this dog before she got to know what he was really like. Also, I have never had to fight a dog before - this was nuts. My 4 previous dogs and the other dogs I lived with were intrinsically interested in pleasing their people. I have never even known a dog who would literally bite the hand that feeds him for trying to maintain his daily routine.
 

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Ok, there's more to this story now. I talked with my wife (who has been enamored with this dog since we first met him) about his being potentially too dangerous. She didn't see him attack me, so she believed that it must have been how I put him in his crate. Frankly, he would never accept a command to enter his crate - her method (at night or in the afternoon) has been to offer him treats, then wait and hope he went inside. It worked about 25% of the time, and the remaining 75% she would have to force him in or ask me to do it. Since I crate him in the morning when time is a luxury I can't afford, I have simply removed his harness next to the crate, commanded him to enter, then nudged him in when he refused.
My first answer to this is the dog has never been shown anything about the crate being a game. I do certainly know about the time thing... and so when it is NOT a time thing, Crate Games are something you should learn about (for any dog you might own).

Today I decided to try it her way and offer his favorite treat (raw turkey dog) as a reward for entering the crate. As soon as his harness was off, he nipped at me. Then, when I offered the treat in the crate (tossing it in after he saw what it was), he ran the other way. When I approached him and went toward his collar, he bit me (this time I was prepared, with a sweatshirt around my wrist and arm).
Right here is the issue. That dog is terrified and is now in fight or flight.

I scolded him and tried again - attack. All of a sudden, this sweet dog was growling, biting at me, and trying to threaten and intimidate me. I scolded him and didn't relent, so he bit me repeatedly (meanwhile the cat was just soooo interested in what was happening), and he was clearly willing to tear my arm off rather than let me pull him over to the crate (now on the other side of the house). I felt like the only way to diffuse the situation - and keep him from attacking me or the cat was to frighten him,
He is already frightened. THAT is why he was running and why he was biting and why he was willing to tear your arm off. He has NO understanding of what is wanted and is in full fight for my life mode...

so I stood tall and pushed him to the ground, against the wall, with my foot. At this point he cowered and I chased him into the corner of the house by the crate. I demanded he enter the crate and threw another (whole) hot dog into the crate. He went 85% in and I slammed him the rest of the way in.
So, if nothing else, he learned one thing. I am safe from YOU in this crate. Dogs are simple. He is not thinking about your walks or you feeding him or anything else. He is just thinking "This guy is going to kill me.."

This dog is going back to the rescue as soon as possible. We are telling them about the violence with cats, the difficulty with the crate, and his repeated violent biting of the person who feeds and walks him every day. I hope he is gone when I get home from work, but I feel really bad for my wife, who let herself fall for this dog before she got to know what he was really like. Also, I have never had to fight a dog before - this was nuts. My 4 previous dogs and the other dogs I lived with were intrinsically interested in pleasing their people. I have never even known a dog who would literally bite the hand that feeds him for trying to maintain his daily routine.
The dog came from golly knows what genetics and breeding and golly knows what background. I agree. Take him back. I also stand by my previous statement. If you get another dog, pay for it from a breeder who will help you through the whole ownership and training of that dog and provide you with stable genetics.

Your actions and the dog's actions in this speak volumes and none of it is good.
 

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It sounds like the dog has fear issues, especially relating to his crate. And now to you as well. Take him back to the shelter, for his own sake. He needs an owner who has experience with a fearful dog.
 

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Definitely take him back, and if I were you, I’d reconsider getting a dog at all at this point, especially if you want to add a kid to your family soon — properly training a dog is a lot of work. If you still want a dog after this, let us know and we can suggest some good books about behaviour and body language and/or help you find some good positive training classes so that you can learn how to “read” the dog and work with it. We can help you find reputable breeders in your area if you want to go that route, too.
 

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I agree with returning him. I want to comment on something you said in your first post about leaving kids unattended with dogs: don’t. It’s smart to start dogs & kids together by monitoring them together.
 

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Based on this very limited information, I am very disappointed in the rescue. It sounds like they did either were not honest, or they didn't know. Either way, it does not sound like they prepared you for this dog.

However, there is never an excuse to 'fight' a dog. Even if the dog is the polar opposite of what his profile was, you always need to consider the safety and comfort of both parties, and work with the dog in front of you, not the idea of the dog in your mind. And to be honest, you were lucky and the dog is likely extremely tolerant if he didn't break skin in your most recent altercations. All his actions were to try to make YOU stop your scary behavior. I know many dogs who would have sent you to the hospital over your actions. I am not exaggerating in the slightest. I did see that he grazed your wrist when you tried to make him enter his crate. Any bite that draws blood should, in theory, be reported and the dog placed under quarantine. But you should check your local laws to confirm this.

Honestly, I have no idea what your situation is but sending a dog back with this traumatizing experience does not bode well for the dog. Every rescue and shelter is different. But when a dog comes back with a bite history, that is serious business. And it SHOULD be taken seriously by shelter staff and taken into consideration for the dog's placement needs.

My biggest recommendation for you, after you return this dog, is to read up on dog training theory. I'm sorry that you had such a negative experience. But based on your responses to this dog's behavior, I sense that there is some misinformation about why dogs behave the way they do. "Bite the hand that feeds" for example, is a very unscientific and romanticized notion. The dog bit because he was scared, simple as that. Resources I recommend:

Don't Shoot the Dog, Karen Pryor
The Other End of the Leash, Patricia McConnell
The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson
 
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