We almost got rid of one of our dogs. I was almost a huge jerk.
I’m not one of those people that thinks of their pets the same way they think of their children. They just aren’t the same to me. I got as far as contacting no-kill shelters in town to find out if they could take him. They couldn’t, but they were happy to help spread the word about him to try to get him adopted. The entire time I was going through this, chatting with these people, and contemplating this huge change, I kept having the same thought: “It would be so much easier without him here”. That was always followed immediately by another thought: “That’s an irresponsible way to handle this problem. It’s not fair to the dog”. I didn’t know what to do.
Things had been out of control with the dog pretty much ever since we took him in. My mom got him while she was in a relationship. The relationship turned out to be not great, and it ended with threats and police and lots of really bad feelings and memories. Unfortunately, and unfairly, the dog was tied up in those memories, both for my mom and for me. She was going to give him up shortly after the relationship ended, but upon discussions with my husband, we decided to take him in ourselves. We’d always talked about getting another dog.
Of course, at the time, I was pregnant with our fourth child. I’m notorious for nonchalantly making huge decisions while pregnant. The result of taking him in while pregnant (and homeschooling and working from home and all the other things) was that I didn’t have the necessary time or energy to train the dog. He was potty trained when he came and knew some basic commands. But without further training from us, and lacking consistency, he just got more and more out of control as he got bigger, and oh so very stubborn. I found myself hating him. It was so unfair and miserable for everyone involved.
When things started to get real with the potential adopters, I brought it up to the kids, and was shocked by their responses. When I said we were trying to find a better home for Auggie, they both responded the same way: “WHY?”
I should mention that these kids haven’t particularly enjoyed Auggie, either. The adults have had bad attitudes toward him from the beginning, and the kids definitely picked up on those attitudes and acted accordingly. Even so, it seems he is still family to them. I thought overnight about their reactions, and the next day asked them if they wanted to keep him. Without hesitation, they said they did. So, I resolved to fix the mess I had made.
Some of the intolerable behavior includes:
- obsessively chasing the cat (though he would never hurt her)
- barking, loud and ferocious, scary even, and nearly constant. He would bark at everyone that walked by, and we live in town, with sidewalks, and people are always walking, running, riding bikes, etc. We live near a school, and kids were always out and about. He would bark and snarl and be ridiculous while outside at the fence, scaring people to death, and while inside, thus disrupting the entire household multiple times every day. I’m one of those people that cannot stand loud, sudden noises beyond a certain point, and I reached that point months ago.
- running over the little kids
- running through the screen door (the screen is just flapping in the breeze at this point – he completely ripped it, and we are loathe to replace it until this problem is under control)
These things had all built up to the point where the task of training him felt insurmountable, and the only thing I felt I could do was give him up. Now I had to rethink the whole thing, and figure out how to help him be a good dog.
I started by giving him a bath. This made it much more pleasant to pet him, and since a huge part of the problem was that he was craving some attention and love, this was a concrete and relatively easy step to take. I talked to the kids about how things were going to have to change, and that Brian and I would be leading the change. We needed to officially make him a part of the family. We needed to love on him and play with him and teach him how to be part of the household. They were on board. The bath certainly helped
Next, I put him on a leash and kept him beside me constantly. I didn’t let him pull on me. I made him obey constantly. He had to sit and lay down and watch out for other people. I took him walking in our yard and helped him learn that people walking by aren’t a threat. I played with him and threw the ball and the stick for him. I scratched his back and took him for walks. The walks were tough – a definite challenge and a huge test of my patience. But he picked up on the rules pretty quickly, and this gave us lots more chances to get him used to strangers and to train the incessant barking out of him. I worked on teaching him that the doorbell doesn’t mean armageddon and a knock on the door is no reason to bark his fool head off. He proved his intelligence over and over, by learning quickly and behaving better than the good old dog.
On the lookout!
Guarding the children <3
We took over the playground…
The house has been so much more peaceful than I ever thought possible. He lays down and relaxes much of the time. He doesn’t bark at every single noise. He comes up for love and attention and we give it freely. Instead of trying to launch himself into our laps for fear that he will never get another pat, he happily goes and lays back down.
I feel horrible for waiting so long to do this, but man. Things are sure looking up.