Wrong Dog? Or Wrong Home?

I may be going onto a passion rant with this post, but not everything I write can be simply to inform you. The NY Times posted an article to their website today, I want you to take a peak at it here.

No worries, I’ll wait.

In the article, the author discusses how a young lab puppy was brought into a home with three cats, one dog and two children. That’s all fine and good, the puppy seemingly had been checked out by the new owners, had the go ahead by shelter workers and the foster parent. This is all fine and good.

Until it wasn’t.

The first red flag for me flies when the author says that the puppy freaked out when it first came home. The puppy is 5 months old, a crucial time in their socialization period when they are going through a “fear stage” (which happens around 16-20 weeks).  When a puppy starts flashing teeth and growling, obviously something is wrong and the dog needs to be comforted.

At this point, you’ve got two choices, dominate the dog and play alpha (and potentially drive the dog further into aggression) or console and gradually bring the dog to be comfortable with you. I personally would choose the latter, but that’s me. I agree with the author calling the shelter in the morning and I commend them for trying to let the puppy work itself out. I wouldn’t have let the puppy around my pets, let alone my children, until that was figured out with a trainer.

Luckily that was the author’s next step. What I don’t understand at this point is how the trainer didn’t sense that something deeper was wrong. Common sense to me screams that the dog is in the wrong situation. Some dogs, like it or not, simply don’t interact well with other pets. Some don’t like children. It’s a comfort thing, that’s why shelters should be on top of what the dog’s temperament is like.

If you read the article like I did, you got the sense that something bad was going to happen. Inevitably, that’s exactly what happened, with the pup first snapping at the family cat, then killing it. Something in the puppies wiring led it to believe that killing the cat was a good thing, and it left the family without one of their loving pets.

Background done. I need to figure out how to phrase what I say next without angering anyone (though inevitably I will). I am left with so many questions from this article, the least of which revolve around a shelter owner and trainer that couldn’t piece together that they placed a dog in a bad situation.

How did the author not realize, and push for, the dog needing to be re-homed? Not only were her pets in danger, but so were her children. The puppy tore things apart from day one, and was uncomfortable from the very beginning. Even despite the final act of killing the family cat, there was clearly too much going on to support the dog being there.

Hindsight is 20-20, I know. I have seen families make the gut wrenching decision to give up their loving dogs for the sake of having children, because they are tearing apart furniture or because they can’t keep up the pet’s care. And yes rescue dogs come with all the uncertainties, undocumented behavior and medical history. Rescue dogs are a crap shoot, I know.

But that is all the more reason to be educated about the dogs you are bringing into your home. Educate first, then your home will be able to save all kinds of dogs. Do your homework!