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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,
I’m new to this site but not a new dog owner. we have a situation and I’m feeling very sad and desperate.
We previously had two mini dachshunds and I’ve always been very committed to my babies. Our older guy, after years of being ill, passed away in my arms last summer. He died a week before turning 15. I don’t think I will ever be over it. Our younger girl (she’s nine) has been lonely and after a year, we decided to adopt another doxie. This summer, a breeder was looking to re-home a 3.5 year old girl. she had a sad backstory as she was obtained to be bred, and after her second litter (8 puppies) 3 of them died. She needed an emergency c-section after delivering 5 of the puppies. The breeder had her spay and re-homed her this past May to an elderly couple. The first week, the man told the breeder the dog was great. By week six he told her was giving her back because the dog didn’t like him and wouldn’t go near him and growled at him. The breeder took her back. I’m pretty sure he did Something to her for her to stop liking him. We agreed to adopt her and got her the beginning of August. From the minute we got her she was loving towards me but was petrified of my husband. She will not go anywhere near him, runs away, shakes, growls etc. if I’m not home, she won’t eat if he puts her bowl down, she won’t let him walk her (so she pees and poops in house). We cannot figure out why. She is okay with other men. She barks incessantly when he is home which is difficult Since it’s non stop. At night she paces the floor, and will then get on our bed and snuggle with me and our other dog. She follows me like a duck and will not let me out of her sight. It’s clear she has severe anxiety, and for some reason we cannot figure out, does not like my husband. We have tried training with a trainer, but it hasn’t helped. The dog won’t even take a treat from my husband even if he tosses it her way. We scheduled an appointment with a veterinary behaviorist but they have a waiting list until Jan. My husband has been heartbroken, however he is very patient and has been determined to win her over. In the meantime he gives her space. We had no trouble training our other dogs and they’ve been very well adored, loving and follow commands well.
Last week we had a repair person over and I put the dog away. The worker accidentally opened the wrong door with the dog in it, and the dog went crazy barking and bit him. She didn’t break the skin and he was understanding since he figured he scared her Due to his wearing a mask. I knew it was not the mask.
Last night we were in bed sleeping an my husband moved in his sleep. The dog who was laying next to me startled, and lunged at him and before he even awoke she bit him on his lip and face (3 consecutive bites). He was bleeding but did not need stitches. We cleaned the bites and put medication on them. He is freaked out and is insisting we give her back, and I completely understand how he feels, as I’m freaked too. I’ve never seen anything like it. I have knots in my stomach because I love the dog, however I don’t think she should be in a home with men. Has anyone seen this before? We’ve had her 4 months and it’s getting worse not better. I feel like such a failure and my heart is aching right now.
 

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I'm very sorry you're going through this. It sounds heartbreaking to deal with, and It really seems like you are doing everything right.

A veterinary behaviorist is probably the best option, you're correct, but of course the wait times make that difficult. It's also possible to find a behaviorist who isn't trained in veterinary medicine, but certified through a third party organization like the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (apdt.com), the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (ccpdt.org), or the International Association of Animal Behaviorists (iaabc.org). All require anyone they certify as a behaviorist to meet certain standards of modern, science-based education on dog behavior and learning, and require a minimum amount of hands-on experience, so it's less of a shot in the dark than finding a random person claiming to be a behaviorist, and each website has a search function to help find a certified professional near you. It's worth noting, however, that many people have expanded into remote consultation due to the pandemic, so you may be able to go with someone farther away if they offer video consultation (although of course it's usually easier if they can physically see and interact with the dog).

Another option could be starting anti-anxiety medications through your regular vet. They won't have as great a depth of knowledge on medical options or behavioral modification techniques as a vet specializing in behavior, but they can and absolutely should prescribe a basic dose of anxiety medications when the situation calls for it. These should be actual anxiety medications, not sedatives, but when a dog is too anxious and fearful to be comfortable in their own home, it's absolutely time to try pharmaceutical intervention, in my opinion. I really like this article if you have concerns about this step: Behavior Medication: First-Line Therapy Or Last Resort? - and I've also personally seen some really great results with anxiety medication turning a dog around.

In the meantime, she definitely can't sleep in bed with you anymore. It's just not safe for your husband or good for her recovery, when it causes situations like the one you describe. Because she's bitten, setting up a two-barrier system between her and any visitors or strangers is a must (two closed doors, a closed door and a crate, a closed door and a pen, etc.) and you may want to consider muzzle training - The Muzzle Up! Project has really great advice about how to teach a dog to happily wear a muzzle with gradual, low-stress introduction and keeping things positive. I'd actually set up a 'safe space' for her in the house where she can stay when your husband is the only one home - basically a puppy pen, with a bed, toys, chews, and a potty area. That way he doesn't have to interact with her when she's scared, and she has a space that she knows he won't go into. This may also be a good place for her to sleep at night.

But it's very understandable if you and your husband decide you cannot manage this dog. Severe anxiety that results in fear biting is hard - physically and emotionally - to live with. I do believe she can be helped, based on what you've described, but it will absolutely require professional and probably pharmaceutical intervention. There is no shame in deciding that this isn't something you can physically, emotionally, or financially handle, and at that point there will need to be a conversation with the breeder about whether it's safe to rehome her again or euthanasia should be considered. There can be legal issues with rehoming a known biter if they then bite and injure someone in their new home, and of course the stress and anxiety from another change of home can exacerbate her problems even more. It sounds terrible, but sometimes euthanasia is the kindest option for a truly fearful dog that isn't living a good quality of life and is a danger to others.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for your reply I really appreciate it. We’ve done training with a trainer, with limited success, that’s why we have the appointment with the veterinary behaviorist (she learned sit and look at me, go to your bed but doesnt listen to any of it if she’s aroused). Our vet started her a week ago and a small dose of fluoxetine which will take several weeks to have any effect ( but it’s not a magic pill and that I understand). He also prescribed a small dose until the meds kick in, of Alazapram which I’ve given as needed and it seemed to help a bit. This happened while she was on the meds! She’s even worse without them.
I would like to at least try to see if we can help her, because she’s had such a rough past and it’s obvious her behavior is the result of someone hurting/terrifying her and that just breaks my heart. My husband is pretty traumatized and his mouth is a swollen mess. He wants to call the woman to give her back, because we know she will take her back. You are right in that I worry she will try to rehome her again and the dog will bite. the poor dog has gone back and fourth and that’s one of the reasons we refused to do that until she bit. That was his firm line. He wants to make sure they will not try to put her down because although he has been unable to establish a relationship with her, he feels bad for her and doesn’t want to see anything happen to her. I honesty can’t blame him at this point. the dog could have bitten his hand or any other area, and while he was sleeping, she went for his face and kept at it 3 times. She obviously cannot sleep in the bed anymore.
We do have a crate for her but when I’m not home, he cannot get her to go outside, eat, walk on leash etc. she runs away from him. She will let others near her but only when I’m around. Our lives are quiet now what with covid, but at some point when things are better, what happens if I have to travel for a conference or business trip?
For 4 months the dog has barked, run away from him, growled, and nothing has worked. He typically ignores her when he walks in a room so she isn’t afraid, but carries treats to toss toward her In hopes she will associate him with something positive, but she runs away, won’t go near the treats, and our other dog swoops in to eat them. she will literally bark continuously if she hears him walking, talking, or moving in another part of the house. The barking lasts until I bring her outside. Moving her to another room doesn’t stop it, sitting with her doesn’t stop it, the thunder blankets don’t stop it, the crate doesn’t stop it. I’ve always been able to train our dogs working consistently with them, I’ve just never seen this before.
when no one else is around, she’s an angel with me.
 

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A professional behaviorist isn't a trainer - think of a trainer as a schoolteacher (can teach basic life skills), a behaviorist as a psychologist (can evaluate behavioral problems and work out non-medical solutions), and a veterinary behaviorist as a psychiatrist (can do everything a behaviorist can, but also has deep knowledge of behavioral medicine and can tailor pharmaceutical plans carefully to your dog's needs). Outside the veterinary field, 'behaviorist' isn't a protected term in the US (or most other places), so it can be tricky to be sure you're hiring someone who really practices the best, science-based behavioral modification methods, but the organizations I linked above make good efforts to ensure they're holding all the people they certify as behaviorists to a high standard.

For example, the CCPDT has both a Certified Professional Dog Trainer title and a Certified Behavior Consultant Canine title - the latter requires passing specific tests regarding dog behavior, learning, and development and also must have put in a minimum of 300 hours of behavior-specific work over the past three years to achieve and keep their certification. So at least you can be confident that someone with this certification has a good foundation in the knowledge and experience required, and hasn't just decided they can call themselves a behaviorist because they watched someone else train dogs on TV. So this is an option beyond a regular trainer if you can't have immediate access to a veterinary behaviorist. A good behaviorist can also help give you a realistic idea of how much work is ahead of you and whether it is going to be something your family is willing and able to do.

I'm glad she's already on pharmaceutical medication. She sounds like a very severe anxiety/fear case, and will likely need a lot of time and resources devoted to getting her in a state where she can have a good quality of life. While the bites to your husband does sound like she panicked (it's not uncommon for a fearful dog to bite much worse when startled out of sleep or rest), it does absolutely need to be taken seriously. Because she has bitten, it's hard for me to give advice beyond management online. I am just a dog nerd with an interest in animal behavior, not a professional, and I would be devastated if I tried to give you advice on how to actively work with her that resulted in someone else getting bitten or worsened her anxiety.

Sometimes in these cases, euthanasia is the kindest thing we can do. Dogs as fearful as you describe her to be do not have good quality of life, and are suffering as surely as a dog with unmanaged pain or illness. You know her and her options best, so that choice will have to be yours, but definitely don't discount that sending her back to be rehomed could be prolonging her suffering as well as putting her next family at risk of more severe bites (which, in some cases, puts the legal liability for those bites on the previous owner - you). Ideally, if you do decide rehoming is the best option, she'd go to a household with the time, experience, and motivation to work with a 'problem dog', but the reality is there aren't many of those homes out there. I'm not trying to say euthanasia is the only option, but I do want you to have a full and realistic picture of the difficulties of rehoming a fearful dog with a bite history.
 

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Thank you for the information! I placed a call this morning with someone who works with rescue organizations to help dogs with behavioral problems so they can be adoptable (not because we want to . He has good credentials, and I’m hoping he can help us. I really want to keep her but my husband is so fearful of her now (and I totally get it). This is the last option because the veterinary behaviorist (who is awesome, cannot see her until Jan. 18th. That’s almost 2 months and this cannot wait. I also reached out to the woman who re-homed her to us. She felt awful and said she wondered if the previous people abused her (its obvious something happened to her). She asked us to promise that if we couldn’t keep her, to please give her back to her so I at least feel better about that. I honestly don’t want to see the dog euthanized. It would destroy me. As it is, we’ve been trying everything. Part of the problem is it’s hard to change her behavior when she won’t even stay in the same room with him or go near him, or respond to any reinforcements etc. from him. We are giving it this one last effort before giving her back.
 

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Yeah, it's terrible when you have to even consider euthanasia. Nobody wants that to happen ever, but sometimes it winds up being the only realistic option. My sister-in-law had to put down a dachshund a few years back because she (the dachs, not SiL) had such severe separation anxiety that she could hardly function, and after years of work SiL just had to admit she wasn't living a happy life. Like I said, I really hope you find another option, but I wanted to clarify why I brought it up in a case like this.

Honestly, you might have better success just having your husband give her space for a while. She may be more tolerant of him when she realizes that she doesn't have to worry about him interacting with her - even in ways we view as positive, like feeding treats. Give her complete control over whether she approaches or interacts with him in any way by removing any pressure, including food or other rewards, and she might feel bolder and more empowered over time. Give both of them some time to rebuild trust, too.

I really hope consulting the rescue worker helps - it's so helpful to have someone with experience get their eyes on a behavior issue live. With luck he'll be able to spot some things you can do to ease her stress and work on building her back up.
 

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I totally understand your feelings in this. Clearly the dog has a fear issue with your husband and if she shakes, growls, won't eat that is a shut down dog.

Have you tried crate training her? You have to do this, not your husband and the object is to make the crate a very safe and happy place to be. I would try a plastic crate and cover the sides with a towel to make it more of a refuge/den. Feed her in there, put a clip on water container on the door and do crate games to make it very positive. Perhaps giving her a safe place to retreat she will be better. This is just an idea.

The simple fact is that this much fear is miserable for the dog. While no one has instigated the fear, it is there. She bit the service man.. she is afraid of men in a confined situation where she believes she must be defensive. Men have a different tone, different smell and different demeanor. Dogs that are easily scared are often afraid of men and the issue of frightened temperament is usually (not always) genetic based. This does not mean the dog cannot be helped, but it can mean a gargantuan effort to obtain a level of comfort that will allow the dog to have good quality of life.

Good luck.
 

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Yes there is no doubt she is in a constant state of fear and anxiety. She is not like this with all men. While she isn’t as friendly toward men, she has been okay with my brother and my daughter’s boyfriend. Her reaction to my husband is far worse than with anyone else. This is from the minute we got her four months ago. we have two crates in the house, and shes gone in it a few times. She still barks incessantly while in it, and she won’t touch her food or water while in it. She doesn’t mind being in it (she has toys and food and water, not that she uses them) but it does nothing to calm her down. She will cuddle up into me and glues herself to me, following me everywhere, even in the middle of the night to the bathroom. She does not seem to enjoy playing with our other dog or me, but she enjoys belly rubs and I try to give her lots of them when she is behaving well. I’ve tried to engage her in playing, but the most she will do is chew up her squeaky toy. I gave her a kong and she tore the rubber apart in 20 minutes. She enjoyed it but completely destroyed the toy. I had to remove the pieces because I was afraid she’s swallow them so no more Kong toys. This morning, the whole house was ready to pull their hair out because she barked non stop from 7:30 until 11:00. Nothing stopped it. Not the crate, not letting her out in the yard, not ignoring her, not holding her. I tried giving treats when there is a brief reprieve to reinforce the quiet behavior, but she just started back up. It‘s like having a colicky infant and having to wait until she wears herself out. I have literally never seen anything like it. I feel awful for her, and for my husband, who is now afraid of her. He agrees to see if professional help works for her before returning her, and we both don’t want to see her put down.
 
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