Dog adoption can go from perfect to very bad. The worst thing is not having the dog just returned, but also changed. Unfortunately some dogs come back to us unrecognizable, and since the temporary owners will never be frank about what really happened, we only have the dog’s behavior to guide us through what went wrong.
So, this is my Christie, returned after spending two months in what appeared to be her forever home. She was brought back with the excuse that she “became aggressive”, and that not much else.
Christie was (still is) a fearful but functional dog. For me, she was the easiest foster I ever had. Practically invisible in the house, she liked to lie in her bed for long hours, and every day took small steps towards trusting me. She would go on her daily walks, eat, sleep and started following me around the house, curious about what I was doing.
I took her to her forever home about two months ago, and with the valuable help of our AMAZING trainer, the owner’s were given simple advice on how to handle her. A fearful dog needs just a few things: a crate, that will make him feel safe, time, patience and most important of all: to be left alone.
A crate was never used (what does the trainer know anyway? They knew better). However, Christie appeared to be doing well, until last Friday, when she suddenly turned “aggressive” (I’m guessing she switched on the aggression button). Since the owners had no intention of dealing with a problem they we “not responsible for” (hahaha), Christie was brought back to me, along with her belongings (a blanket, a collar, and the remains of a ridiculously expensive dog food).
So, the Christie I am fostering again now, has little to do with the Christie I have known for the past two years (since her…birth on the streets!). In a way, she is the still the easy going dog, BUT, when you approach her while she is laying in her bed, she will show you her teeth, and if you get any closer, she will even try to bite.
Out on the street, or when she wanders in the rest of the house, she is still the dog I used to know, which helps me understand very well what happened. So here is Christie’s side of the story: She never felt safe in her bed (the one and only place a dog is supposed to feel safe in). Believe it or not, when a dog is resting calmly in his bed, he DOES NOT want to be bothered – and YES, petting and talking to a dog resting in his bed(especially a fearful one like her) can totally freak him out.
Imagine that you are living in the house of some people you never met before, who lean over you while you are sleeping or try to take you out of bed while you are resting. Wouldn’t you be freaked out every time you lie down? Well, Christie is freaked out when she is lying down in her bed, as if this is the place where bad things happen.
I used to think that a crate is mainly used to make the dog safe, to provide him with a warm nest he needs, like most animals. But I have come to the conclusion that a crate should also be used to prevent stupid people from considering the dog accessible at all times. For some reason, the dogs (which are animals) are not the only ones incapable to comprehend the invisible boundaries of a bed without a protecting crate around it – humans are just as incapable!
Christie is a kind hearted, loving dog, who loves to give wet kisses, will follow you around in the house, look at you like you are all she cares about and despite her fears, she is extremely manageable. All she needed a space of her own where she would feel safe, and she did not have that.
I am guessing that one day she looked uncomfortable while she was being petted by force, another day she probably growled, then she showed her teeth, again, and again. But none of these signs alerted the family. Maybe they even patted her on the head while she was growling, in order to “calm her down” (which Christie of course interpreted as praise – “I growled = I am a good girl”).
On top of it all, I was called irresponsible by the family, WHILE we were making the arrangements of how and when they would bring her back. ME! I was the irresponsible one for giving the dog for adoption WITH a dog trainer, for letting them know I am here for the dog any time, for insisting that they called the trained if they saw the SLIGHTERST thing that might trouble them about Christie’s behavior, and for taking her back as soon as possible (Friday they called mumbling something like “meh..you know, we are not sure” – Saturday the dog was home with me).
I am seriously upset – imagine having the dog returned, and on top of it all, listening to bullshit like “it is very difficult for us”, “we love her”(!!???!!!???), “training? we are not millionaires” (the trainer had offered to visit PRO BONO any time they called), “her food costs a fortune” (I thought they weren’t millionaires) etc.
Aggrr..this is getting longer that I expected, so here is some advice:
1 LET THE DOGS BE! Let them come to you, let them rest when they need to.
2 A dog trainer (one you really trust) is like a doctor. If your doctor prescribed some pills for you, would you take just a few, because you think you know better???? If the trainer suggest s5 things to be done, then you should do ALL 5, not just the ones that come easier or cheaper.
3 Don’t have money for training? Well, I am sorry, but if your dog got sick, would you take him to the vet or not? Training is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. As far as I’m concerned, I would be more than happy knowing that Christie was being fed leftovers for two months, so that the family could afford a F##$%^ crate.
4 Instead of trying to fix bad behaviors, learn about what you can do to prevent them. It’s the 21rst century, just GOOGLE it!
One last thing:
A dog learns something every day, and Christie learned to growl and bite in these past couple of months. When an adult dog presents a new problem, it is a learned (conditioned) behavior, and the ONLY ONES responsible are the owners. So whenever your dog does something you don’t like, instead of trying to understand “what’s gotten into him all of a sudden”, try wondering about what you did that made him act this way. Dogs don’t make mistakes, we do, even unwillingly.
And, dear lady… there must be about a zillion articles on line about what to do when your dog growls at you, AND the internet is for free! You don’t need to be a millionaire! I mean… couldn’t you even type the words “dog – growl-me” on google and read for a couple of hours? Only millionaires read nowadays?
(Thanks for reading my angriest post ever!)
*** I almost forgot! If you wish to adopt Christie, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook. She is up for adoption by SCARS, check her video here (can you see the killer in her? 😛 )