Monday, December 14, 2015

Roxie Update: Tough Times and Tougher Decisions

Hey, guys!




This Roxie update isn't a very happy one. Don't worry - she's fine! She's doing great, actually. Her coat is really coming in, and she's holding steady in her weight. She's a sweet and happy girl.


Some may have seen this on Facebook already, so just skip down to the line if so. This is just a recap.

Ever since Roxie has started to get better and her personality has started to blossom (so, about week 3-4 of having her?), she's shown serious interest in certain small dogs. She fixates, she strains at the leash, and her focus is difficult to break once she's locked in on one. Two things strike me as odd about this though:
1. She does not do this at all with the other small dogs she's met. I don't think age, size or color plays a role, but personality might. The dogs she reacts to are all on the timid, "submissive" (calm down, I'm using the dictionary definition of it because that is exactly how they act) and flighty. The dogs she does not react this way to are confident, fearless and a bit bossy.
2. She does not act that way towards those dogs all the time. There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason as to when she reacts.

Since getting her, she's met a good few dogs in depth. My dogs, my parents', and each of my three sisters' dogs. These dogs are my dachshunds, Pike (tiny mini Aussie), my parents' dachshunds and Mastiff puppy, my sister's Black Mouth Cur mix, and my other two sisters' dachshunds. Of those dogs, she'd shown the major interest in Olivia and my youngest sister's dachshund. As such, she's not around the one dog, and Olivia is crated or Roxie leashed when they're around each other.


She'd never shown anything like that to Pike or Nola, so I wasn't really thinking the other day when this incident happened. 100% my fault for that lapse in judgement, but that factors in later in this post.
Anyway, it was evening time and time for Roxie's off leash yard time. Nola was loose in the house, Olivia was crated, and Pike was on the other side of the yard waiting for my neighbor to come home (the boy is so obsessed with his routine, and I knew he wouldn't move until they got back). I had Roxie playing, and then the neighbor came. Pike did his usual "omg person is near the yard, PERSON IS NEAR THE YARD!!!!" routine, and when the neighbor went inside, Pike was done and went running to the backdoor.
Roxie saw him and it was like a flipped switched. She completely honed in on him, and took off like a shot after him. The focus and intensity she had on him was terrifying, and she wouldn't respond to my voice. Pike was screaming as she chased after him; the dude is insanely fast, and she couldn't catch him until she got him to the house. She got him pinned up against the side of the house, and then I yelled harshly enough to get her away from him and then move her off him. This took maybe 10-15 seconds, and my yard is big. Pike is completely fine, and she didn't touch him before I got to them, but he was terrified.

She was not chasing him in play. She chased him in the same way a dog will before they kill a chicken, squirrel, or other small animal. That, combined with her behavior towards Olivia and her pit bull breed mix, has me beyond concerned.



-------------------------------------------------



I don't know what to do. She's an amazing house dog, and is fantastic with people of all ages. She's great with the two larger dogs she's been around, and plays well with them both. She does not display the typical signs of aggression, like snarling, snapping, ect. 

However....the thing with Pike, and how she is with those few smaller dogs.... it scares me shitless. To top it off, she has a large chunk of pit bull type dog in her mix, if she's not pure. Pit bulls are not bad dogs in any way, but you can't ignore their insanely high chance for dog aggression and prey drive. You also can't ignore the fact that my dogs are between 8 and 12lbs. Roxie is 40lbs of ridiculously strong muscle. 

Since the Pike incident happened, I've been talking extensively with the bull breed owners I know of Facebook, and reading as much as I can. There doesn't seem to be a cap on when you're in the clear with dog aggression, nothing that says "we'll, she's 18 months and has no problems. You're good!". If anything it seems to get worse with age. I'm leaning towards extremely high prey drive vs. actual dog aggression, but there's always the fear of DA in my head, now more than ever. 

There is always training and there's always management, but I do not believe you can totally override nature with nurture. There is always going to be that thread of doubt, the seed of worry that something will go wrong, and now there's a bit of history to back that fear up. I feel like I'm playing Russian Roulette now, always wondering if things will be fine or if something bad will happen instead. While I've been insanely careful since then, there's always the possibility of mistakes. I'm worried that if one would happen, things would be much worse than just Pike getting scared. Even if she did back off if she went further than she did in the hypothetical next time, it'd be so easy to seriously injure of kill my dogs.

To be perfectly honest, I never would have planned on keeping her if I knew she was a pit bull. I would have still helped her, without question, but I would never have even entertained the idea of her staying her. I have dogs, and it'd reckless and a bit idiotic of me to intentionally bring in a super high prey drive or dog aggressive breed. So many dog breeds are off my "want" list for those reasons alone. My dogs play some of the biggest role in any new dog's life, and their safety is paramount to me, and I need to be able to trust my dogs. I trust the small dogs implicitly with people and each other. I do not trust Roxie with other dogs.

I'm also having trouble stepping back enough to accurately access the situation. Right now I feel too tangled in "oh my god, my baby!" reactions to bluntly see what it is, or is not. 


I haven't made a decision on what to do yet. My head is still spinning with information, people's opinions, my own fears (both legitimate and the ones I've probably blown out of proportion), different outcomes and different options. I've cried more times these past few days than I can count. I'm confused, hurt, worried, and beyond upset. I can't express how painful it is to pour so much energy, emotion, time, and money into a dog and have something like this slap you in the face. 

These are the options I see right now. One and two are similar. Note: a professional is not an option. There aren't any here that use methods that won't make the issues worse. 


1. Train as much as possible to have her learn to ignore the other dogs, and manage accordingly. This would mean never allowing them loose in the yard together, never loose in the house without watching them like a hawk, doing a less extreme version of crating and rotating, ect. This option includes minimal risk towards the small dogs, but there's still a chance of something going wrong.


2. The above, with stricter management. Never in the yard together unless Roxie were muzzled, never loose in the house together, strict crating and rotating schedule (which would have Roxie crated more than the small dogs, as they're safe to be out together), ect. This eliminates the risk to the small dogs (barring a possible slip, which is sadly always a possibility), but keep Roxie isolated for most of the time. 


3. Rehome her to a home where she would be the only dog, or with one larger dog as a playmate. 



I'll go through thinking of all the bad things that could happen, and then I see her being fine with Nola in the house, and remember how she's been 100% fine with Nola in the yard. Fine with larger dogs, fine with other small dogs. I'm torn. I don't want to make a rash decision I'll regret, but at the same time, I don't want to let emotion cloud my judgement. My checklist of sorts for each of the options is:

  • Is this fair to and safe for the small dogs?
  • Is it fair for Roxie?
  • Is it possible?
  • Is this something I'm able to do?
  • Is this something I'm willing to do?
  • Is it fair to ask this of someone if and when I'm traveling and Roxie is being watched?





If anyone has any ideas, or can just offer an unbiased opinion on options, please share. If you have something nasty to say, please just keep it to yourself. Trust me, I've got enough guilt over this all on my own. I've given this dog my all, and I'm at a loss as to what to do. Some things to keep in mind:

  • She's 100% fine in the house and leashed in the yard with Nola, and was fine loose in the yard with her (supervised).
  • She's fine leashed around Pike.
  • She is great with all the other dogs she's met.
  • Does not show aggression, only prey/chase.




Thanks in advance!

- Dachshund Mommy

17 comments:

  1. I wish I had good advice for you, but I don't, having always owned 1 dog at a time. All I can say is I wish you the best and I don't think you need to feel guilt about this situation arising. You saved Roxie's life, and have taken lots of precautions in introducing her to other dogs. I hope others have more advice for you or experience to share.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would be absolutely terrified and you have a reason to be. My friends dog (rescue, Annie) was part pit bull. My only suggestion would be to ask the owner of the dog she is focusing on if you can walk with them while giving Roxy a good treat. You may have to surrender her out of the safety for Nola and siblings
    Snorts,
    Lily & Edward

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have no experience with bully breeds so I am afraid I can't help. I know dzdogsDOTcom is a blog that you may want to check out (if you haven't already) and ask for some advice.

    No one in their right mind would fault you if you ended up rehoming Roxie. You've really done an outstanding job with her - but as you know - you need to consider the needs of your smaller dogs. Are you willing to live like that - rotating them - always being on high alert? Some people are okay with that - I think some of us have had a dog with "special needs" and understand the restrictions it can impose. If you are okay with that for the next 15 years or so, then of course you can select options 1 or 2. Otherwise, you may want to start the process of rehoming her. Don't consider it a failure if you choose this option. It's more like you took the time and money and love to nurture her into the healthy young dog she is now and someone else can take it from here.

    No judgment here at all whatever you decide. You've gone above and beyond for Roxie. How many people drove by her that day that you stopped? You have done so so much for her - don't forget that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I wouldn't blame you one bit for rehoming Roxy and I know what my decision would be in your situation. You took her in and nursed her back to health and intended to keep her even though she is not a dog you would normally choose. I think the risk to your little dogs is too great with the behavior she's exhibiting and they absolutely should be your priority. I know people successfully manage the crate/rotate thing but that would be a deal-breaker for me...so much stress for the people and animals involved when a different home could be the solution. I know that it may not be easy to re-home her, but perhaps you could find a rescue to sponsor her and help get the word out. You've put so much into this girl and I know how hard this must be.

    ReplyDelete
  5. We have volunteered with two rescue groups and have occasionally taken in fosters, and we have two dachshunds at home. Both are older, with Greta being frail from arthritis and cushings and Hans being a bit of a butthead to male dogs and having a high prey drive himself. The general rule we've always played by is that we adopted Hans and Greta first, and with that, we made a commitment to give them the best care and home we could, for the rest of their lives. Any fosters we bring home, or dogs we add to the pack, can't endanger our two pre-existing dogs, either from physically hurting them, or from bringing highly contagious germs that Greta can catch and end up with a huge problem because of cushings. Also, because Hans has high prey drive, we can't safely keep most dogs smaller than his 18 lb dachshund self. So, if it were me, I would ask a rescue to step in and help you re-home Roxie. You have done so many good things for her, but the health and safety--physically, emotionally, etc.--of your existing must come first. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and I think it's part of the promise you made to them. Sometimes I feel guilty that we can't take more home to foster, especially when I hear urgent calls or meet them at the shelter and can only walk and return them, but I made a promise to my Hans and Greta.

    Lastly, while you can always keep guard and rotate, etc., I don't know that it's best for Roxie anyways. She has some special behavioral needs, but in a home with another big dog--and there are many--she sounds like she we fit in well and be a terrific dog. She will be far happier--and therefore healthier--if she's not living in a constant rotation with the worry. There is absolutely nothing wrong with helping find her a better fit. Everything you have done for her is going to make her an excellent candidate for an easy adoption.

    ReplyDelete
  6. you have done a great job getting her healthy. and if you decide to rehome her due to her behavior it would be understandable. but please don't blame this on her being, in your opinion, part pit bull. any dog can have a high prey drive - not just pit mixes. you are doing her and all dogs a disservice by making that part of the consideration.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Holy sh*t, that must have been scary!I have seen other big dogs home in on my chis like that and the owner has to practically lie on top of them to get them to snap out of it.
    Perhaps I am allowing my fear of what can happen to small dogs if a big dog gets hold of them cloud my judgement,(my first chi was almost killed by a greyhound many years ago) but if it was me I would find her a wonderful home with another big dog as a companion.
    You have saved her life and brought her back to health and given her a second chance at a good life, I know you would miss her terribly but I think rehoming would be best for everyone.
    Lynne x

    ReplyDelete
  8. Just a ditto to Random Felines--my comment above would be 100% the same if it were a lab, greyhound, or whatever--a significant size difference or very strong prey drive (which even our 18 lb dachshund Hans seems to have with teacup dogs) can be dangerous.

    ReplyDelete
  9. So, I was going to leave a comment here, but I had a lot I wanted to say, so I sent you a rather long winded message on Facebook. It might end up in your other box since we aren't facebook friends, so I wanted to let you know I'd sent it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh goodness, I am so sorry you have to make a decision like this. My advice would be you know yourself and your dogs like no one else. Maybe your role in Roxie's life was to save her and that is the most wonderful and beautiful thing and maybe it is time to let her go (I am crying as I am writing this because I know there is no easy answer). It is scary when you have other dogs in your care and there is that fear of her not listening and harming another but know that your will make the best decision for all of you. Trust yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  11. She's good with Nola until she isn't. Can you live with something happening to your heart dog? If you can find someone you truly feel good about adopting her, that may be the best. You did the hard part, you saved her...maybe someone else is supposed to be her forever home.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a tough situation for you! No easy answer. Is there a pit bull rescue group in your area? They might be able to give you guidance. When Bentley did CGC there was a pitty in our class - the owner had him on a tight leash even though he was very calm. Like you, she didn't want to take a chance. Keep us posted!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have no great advice. You're a smart woman, and I think that you'll come to the best decision. Any of them is okay, just so long as you keep the small dogs safe. I do wonder (again, sorry) about whether a behaviorist observing her would help you. Another very educated opinion might sway you one way or another.

    As I work through the scenarios in my mind (including rehoming), I do worry that something could go wrong for some random small dog in the future. Working with her to curb the behavior as much as you can would great - regardless of whether you decide to keep her or find her what you think is a safer home.

    You've already given her the gift of a lifetime. And, she's changed so much in such a short time. Perhaps she can change some more?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Crystal Barrera of the Reactive Champion blog worked with Dr. Margaret Duxbury, a behavioral veterinarian at U.Minn, and I have a vague recollection that Dr. Duxbury can do long-distance consults. One of her interest areas is dog aggression. Take a look at http://www.cvm.umn.edu/vmc/specialties/behavior/ and http://www.cvm.umn.edu/vcs/facultystaff/margaretduxbury/home.html.
    I hope that helps. Good luck, keep everyone safe, and keep us posted.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I adore you and your dogs and your blog and this comment comes from a place of love and respect: anyone in their right mind would understand and support your decision to re-home her. That said, please consider how your comments about pits can be widely communicated to your audience. All dogs can have dog aggression or a high prey drive. Not just pits. And pits have no higher prey drive than other breeds. PLEASE find Beyond the Myth and watch it. Please please.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm so very sorry for this. There's no easy answer. My first concern would be the smaller dog's safety. Keeping them separated would work but do you really want to spend the next 10+ years like that? I know it's ridiculously difficult to make a decision. I'm sure you will make the one that's best for your family. ❤️

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh my goodness! I am so very sorry to hear this! :( :(
    Is there some way you could slowly transition them together with the help of a behavior specialist or something?? I am so very sorry!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for commenting!