Thursday, June 23, 2011
About the dog
In the camping post, I made reference to some relationship struggles. With a dog. Time to elaborate and beg guidance.
Edie has been with us for four months now. In so many ways she's a wonderful dog—she loves the kids. Absolutely adores them, follows them around, is gentle with them, and puts up with their antics with a smile on her face and a wag in her tail. She's quite mellow for a 1.5-year-old dog, doesn't chew things, is trustworthy left alone, has never had an accident. She gets check marks on much of the Perfect Dog Checklist.
Unfortunately, she also has some issues. Serious issues. She has a crazily intense prey drive that causes her to chase anything that moves—squirrels, birds, bicycles, motorcycles, helicopters, other dogs … making leash training really, really difficult. We've been working hard on it, and she's slowly improving.
However, there's an issue that is not, so far, resolving with training: territorial aggression. When anyone comes to the house, which is about 10 times a day (we have a very busy household), she turns into Cujo. At first it was just barking and retreating, but now she'll actively pursue people while barking maniacally. On Saturday, she lunged and snapped at Greg's uncle during Nora's birthday party. Luckily she didn't make contact, but it was scary.
I've been in touch with a couple more behaviorists and the rescue we got her from. The general consensus is that, with lots of intense training, we might be able to manage her aggression but not erase it. Which freaks me out. Essentially, they're telling me it's going to be months/years of lots and lots of work just to minimize the risk, but she'll never be a bombproof dog.
We need a bombproof dog.
As someone who volunteered for years for a dog rescue, I get what a ridiculous thing that is to say. I get that dogs (especially rescue dogs) have issues. We worked through our 140-pound Great Dane's dog aggression. It was a ton of work and it took years, and we had no kids at the time. The stakes were lower, our hands were freer, and our time was plentiful.
And the truth is, we can deal with issues. Certain issues. But aggression is sort of a non-starter for me. I just can't have a dog who might bite when I have three kids whose friends are in and out all day long. So here's another thing I feel awful typing: I think we might need to return Edie to the rescue. And it's hard on so many levels. Edie has been through so much transition already and clearly has come to love our family. What's more, our family has come to really love her. The kids adore her. They (especially Nora) light up when they see her. She's their favorite playmate. It will be heartbreaking for them if we give her back.
But on the other hand, it would be far more devastating if she were to hurt someone and had to be euthanized.
Ugh. After typing it all out, I guess the answer seems pretty clear. I'd still love some weigh-in, though. Maybe there are some angles I haven't thought of, or just some words of comfort about a crappy situation. Please?