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My dog/puppy (under a year old) is reactive towards strangers and children. This includes barking, growling, lunging, or sometimes barking and 'crying'. He has had the chance to bite but never has.

We've tried a behaviorist and trainers.. and we just don't know what we are doing. We hear that he is going to be fine with proper training and help, that he's a good dog and he's just insecure.. But he also will probably never trust children and that's very difficult on our day to day lives.. But we just don't have a clue and don't know what to do. He's our first dog and we got him as a puppy.. He was fine until small incidents started happening and then it was staring us in the face. He is still great with us. He is cuddly and playful.. He's goofy and energetic, and very, very smart. He's a great dog if we could just keep him from the things he finds scary.. but it's so unfair to him and limits his freedom.

We were told we had a naturally nervous dog from the time he was a small puppy and now we've also learned he has a high drive.. We just didn't know /this/ could happen. We just thought if we socialized him, which we did, and loved him, he would be at the worst not very well trained.. (I loved training him, though, and used a clicker + positive reinforcement.)

It's hard for us.. because if we can't help him, who is going to love him as much as us and want to help him? Are there rescues out there that would help him overcome his insecurities? I've been told he would be best in an active home with people who are experienced with dogs and don't have children.. meaning not with us and that was so hard to hear.. And now I'm just feeling so depleted and thinking that might be best.. But I just feel so much guilt about giving him up. I always thought I'd save a dog, not contribute to the problem.. But at the same time I feel like I will never be what he needs and I don't want his problems to get even worse..

Is giving up a dog ever the 'right' thing to do? I just feel so lost. As a first time dog owner, I have no idea what I am doing anymore.. I just thought I had to love him and train him and he'd be fine.
 

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Yes, IMO sometimes rehoming is in the best interests of the dog and the owners but it is a serious decision that needs to be done carefully.

Your description of him really doesn't sound all that hopeless, which kind of makes me wonder either what isn't coming across in print or at the evaluations of the trainers.

He's a great dog if we could just keep him from the things he finds scary.. but it's so unfair to him and limits his freedom.
Have the trainers worked with you on counter conditioning? Keeping a puppy away from what he finds scary is basically the opposite of socializing and conditioning.

now we've also learned he has a high drive..
What type of dog is he? What are you considering "high drive"?

This includes barking, growling, lunging, or sometimes barking and 'crying'. He has had the chance to bite but never has.
What have the trainers told you to do with the barking etc? Do they consider it reactive or aggressive behavior? If he's had the chance to bite but hasn't, to me that's a really good sign that it isn't a straight up human aggression issue.

I always thought I'd save a dog, not contribute to the problem.. But at the same time I feel like I will never be what he needs and I don't want his problems to get even worse..
If you truly don't feel like you can be the right owner, then you need to contact a reputable rescue NOW while the dog is still young and hasn't had any major incidents (such as biting a human which makes rehoming nearly impossible). Work with a rescue to find a new home- using the rescue's contacts and advertising of the dog, their experience in evaluating potential new owners, and their adoption contract to help insure a proper home. Be honest about what you have dealt with, what you have tried, what methods you have used for training etc.

Most likely a rescue will ask you to keep him until they can find a home or possibly until a foster home because available. Unfortunately, foster homes for owner surrenders are tough because while he might need a different home, in the meantime he is safe and sound and being treated well which isn't the case for so many dogs in shelters or being removed from abusing/neglectful homes. But if they evaluate and really see potential for him responding to a more experienced owner, you might work something out.

My personal opinion is that if a rescue takes your dog into foster care, you should provide the rescue with the funds for min 3, preferably 6 months of expenses for the dog; including neuter if not already done, flea, HW and tick prevention, food, and a crate. That keeps your dog from taking away resources of dogs that are in more dire straits. A more difficult to place dog maybe easily take 6 months + to train and rehome.
 

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Before you rehome him, get a copy of Leslie McDevitt's "Control Unleashed" It has some very valuable and do-able things to help a reactive dog. You might also look at Emma Parsons' "Click to Calm" If you can find a good instructor in your area doing a "Control Unleashed" class, that would be very helpful.
 

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Sometime re-homing is the right thing to do, yes. Having said that, if you want to work with this dog and just feel like you don't know what to do, tell your trainer and/or behaviorist that you feel lost and ask them for written, specific instructions for what to do in the situations that give you the most trouble. Sometimes professionals don't realize that what is second nature to them takes a LOT of practice for someone who is experiencing a situation like this for the first time, and they work with you and then sort of turn you loose when you might not be ready.

And I agree that the books Pawzk9 suggested are excellent.
 

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We've tried a behaviorist and trainers.. and we just don't know what we are doing. [...].. But we just don't have a clue and don't know what to do.
The job of the trainer is to train YOU moreso than train the dog. I'm wondering about these people you've hired if they aren't giving you specific, constructive suggestions on how to work with your dog. Can you find someone who will come and work WITH you to teach you what you should be doing with your dog and help you specifically work on the behaviors you're having problems with?
 
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