Friday, October 29, 2010

Can These Dogs Be Saved?

Recently, we received an amazing email from someone out in cyberspace.  It might be a joke, but unfortunately, it probably is not.  Since there was no phone number to call the person back, and since it was not specifically addressed to anyone, I am not sure if it was sent out to multiple dog trainers.  It is extreme, but so classic.  It is as if someone stitched together a patchwork quilt of so many of the phone calls and emails we get from people who have severe problems with their dogs' behaviors.

Before any dog trainer can even begin to help someone like this, they will have to get some sort of commitment from this person that she will quit making excuses for herself.  I have only put the text of the emails here so as not to share the name.


I am at my wit's end. I have had several dogs in my life and for the most part have not had a lot of problems other than several of the dogs seem to get very protective of me. Currently I have a 4 year old Great Dane and a 5 year old Chihuahua. The Chihuahua came to us at about 6 months of age. He had been to a couple of different households and was somewhat skittish when he came to us. But he also would growl at any person he didn't know coming into our home. When we got the Great Dane she was a very sweet puppy. But the Chihuahua (Chico El Diablo and believe me he is aptly named) started attacking her from the moment she (Daphne)came in the house. She is basically a sweet natured dog but Chico has slowly made her more and more aggressive. We have done some training but it has obviously not been enough. Originally Chico used to go back and forth with my daughter to her Dad's house and back to mine. But since he has an issue with peeing and pooping everywhere he can sneak off to, he now is full time at my house. There are times that Daphne and Chico get along great, they snuggle up together and sleep with each other sometimes. But Chico is always trying to rule the roost. Daphne has gotten fed up and sent him to the emergency vet twice with puncture wounds. Daphne is a different dog when Chico is around, she seems somewhat protective of him and she is definitely protective of me. When I walk her on a leash ( which I admit is not very often) she is very skittish and seems nervous. When my twelve year old daughter walks her she seems still a bit skittish but much more relaxed.

When my daughter's friends come over she jumps up and barks in their faces and Chico goes for their ankles. But Daphne eventually calms down and wants to be petted by the visitor. Chico, on the other hand has gotten more and more aggressive and if we let him down when there is someone in the house he doesn't know, he immediately goes for their ankles.

I have a live in nanny for my daughter and she has never really gotten along well with the dogs. I don't think she dislikes them, she just doesn't want anything to do with them. Sometimes when she gets home when I am not there Daphne jumps up and barks at her and sometime she ignores the fact that she is even there. When I am home and they jump up and run at the door, I make them go lie down and don't let them run at her. And usually when I am not around there doesn't seem to be that much of a problem. But every once in a while Daphne seems more aggressive. Sometimes it is when Julie is carrying packages, but tonight she was just getting out of her car and Daphne was actually nipping at her pants. That is the first time she has done that.

This can't go on. I am so stressed every time someone wants to come to the house I don't want anyone to come over. Never mind the fact that Chico has destroyed every carpet in the house. I am at the point that, as much as I love them, I want to find them another home. However, they are my responsibility and I don't want to foist that off on someone else. The other problem is that I work full time, go to law school part time and am a single mom so I don't have a lot of time. I realize that the household is chaotic and I am sure that I am really half or maybe more of the problem. But I have to do something before something bad happens.

So, if you have any suggestions or can let me know about training I would appreciate it.


 And here is my reply:

(Name Deleted)

If you are serious about fixing the problems you are having with your dogs, you need to pick up the phone and call me at 253.569.0411. 

The situation you describe sounds like Hell on earth and it is a VERY dangerous situation.  You are in law school?  You must know that you are out on very thin ice!

Without seeing your interaction with the dogs, I can't diagnose the problems for sure, but from what you have said in this email, I would be willing to bet money that you are almost 100 percent of the problem.  Dogs' behavior problems are a reflection of what is going on in the families that they live with.  None of the problems the dogs are currently experiencing (as you describe here) is their "fault." 

You can take them and drop them off at a shelter or take them to be put down at your veterinarian, but know that the reason the dogs are behaving the way they are (as you describe in your email) is a direct result of living in your household.  Almost all aggression that develops over time (the way you have described it) is a result of the humans not doing what they need to do to fill the role of leader in the household.

If your dog is not house trained and is soiling all over your house, that too is a direct result of a complete lack of leadership and consistency on your part. 

To fix your problems with the dogs, you will have to stop doing what you have been doing, completely change your behavior, devote time to the relationship you have with them, maintain consistency with a new set of reactions and behaviors on your part, set aside your stress and CALM DOWN.  If you want your dogs to change, you will have to change.  Unfortunately, this is very difficult for some people. 

I may be willing to help coach you, but only if I think you are completely willing and able to set aside your old habits with the dogs, step out of your comfort zone and change your behavior.  Otherwise it will be a complete exercise in futility for both of us.

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