Monday, March 28, 2016

I Don't Want a Problem Dog - Real Life Confession

Hey, everyone!

This is part one in a two part series; part two ties into this post and will be up tomorrow!

Something I've finally come to full terms with lately is what I want in a dog, and almost more importantly, what I don't want, or am not willing to handle. This has been a hard realization for me, and my current pups play a big role in it. Another big factor has been my experience with Roxie (side of the road rescue, emaciated young Pit Bull) and Rule (local shelter rescue). Those two really gave me a reality check, and helped me to be more confident in my criteria going forward.

What I want in a dog is fairly straightforward: active to highly active, small to medium-large, handler oriented, dog friendly, good drive, intelligent, not too much grooming or shedding, affectionate, intense but stable.

What I don't want was fairly easy to pin down, too. I don't want: giant, drooling, excessive grooming or shedding, lazy, independent (Nola is the least independent dachshund ever created), dog aggressive, low drive, nervy, distant, or yappy.

What I wasn't willing to...well, deal with, to be perfectly blunt, was harder to see. Until I had Roxie and Rule, I wasn't certain I had a limit beyond human aggression. Turns out, I have a limit. And I'm not willing to bend on it. Where is my limit?

Well. This is going to be a brutally honest post, and it may not paint me in the best light. But it's true, and I promised you all I would never sugarcoat things, or make it out to be like things are perfect all the time.
My limit it....

I don't want a problem dog

I follow so many blogs and Facebook pages that revolve around a dog (or dogs) with issues of some kind. I'm in awe of these owners and the dedication they have to their dogs. I'm thrilled when their dogs make progress, and I mourn with them when their dog has a setback. I'm fascinated to see how positive reinforcement helps to heal and manage these dogs, and I applaud their owners in every single way. The same thing happens when I see an owner of a dog with issues in real life. 

But I don't envy them. I read the blog, I follow the Facebook, I see them out in public. And then I admit to looking at my own dogs, and saying a heartfelt thank you to whatever may be out there that that the dog I'm reading about is not mine. I am grateful beyond expression that my dogs don't have the issues plaguing so many of the dog population. Maybe that makes me cold, but it's the god's honest truth.

I love that I can take Nola anywhere and she will take in in stride. I love that walking by other dogs doesn't send me into a panic over wondering what she may do. I relish in the certainty that she'll ignore the other dogs, the kids, the people. It elates me to know that whatever we come across (festival, mall, hotel, elevator, escalator, wheelchair, you name it) won't phase her more than a second or two. I'm high on the fact that the only thing that matters to her is me, and the adventure. 

I love that Pike is not fearful of other dogs, despite being attacked on more than one occasion. I adore how he will bounce back from things within a short amount of time, despite his sensitive nature. 

It makes me smile to see gentle and kind Olivia is with my three and a half year old baby sister. 

I love that I can handle my dogs all over without a fuss. It makes me happy that I can kiss, carry, or hug them without a care in the world. It makes me smile that I can go right up to them, grab their faces, and kiss them on the nose and receive nothing but an enthusiastic reciprocation in return. It makes me feel safe to know that I can leave them in the yard together without supervision, and I won't come back out to any disputes. I love that my dogs adore children, and are gentle and kind with them.It gives me the greatest sense of relief that if, god forbid, some idiot were to grab my dogs without warning in public, they wouldn't be bitten. 

The biggest issues my dogs have is mild separation anxiety (Nola), and mild to moderate general anxiety and serious car sickness for Pike. That's it. 
I don't have to deal with aggression, serious anxiety, reactivity, resource guarding, shyness, ect. And I fully admit to liking that fact. 

Don't get me wrong: if one of mine were to develop an issue, I wouldn't hesitate to help them handle and manage it. I won't search it out or invite it in, though. I will do my damnedest to prevent any problems before they occur.

I enjoy having safe, stable, sane dogs. I want to be able to grab the dogs for an adventure and think "this will be fun", and not worry that "this could end in a crisis". I want to have dogs that can
You're often crucified in dog groups if you dare to say how much you enjoy your baggage free dogs, and don't even mention not wanting to seek out any problems.... I don't think that's a healthy mentality to have. It usually ties heavily into breeder shaming. That idea only pushes people into something they're not ready or willing to handle, and they either have to really buckle down and rearrange their whole life for that dog, or it turns into a dangerous situation. You have to know yourself and your honest limits when you bring a dog into your life. Only you can be certain of what exactly those limits are. 

What about you? Do you have limits when it comes to dogs, and if so, what are they? 

- Dachshund Mommy


  1. Great post! No one should ever speak against your honest feelings.

  2. I admire your honesty here, not everyone would be willing to share so candidly. I too am blessed with great dogs, not perfect dogs but great dogs. Some people are willing & able to rescue the really difficult ones, making that huge commitment. Bless them for it!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  3. There seems to be this view that dog trainers and savvy dog owners with skills in dog training are obligated to take in the problem dogs that no one else would be able to deal with. And when they don't, people will throw a guilt trip at them, because of course then every single problem dog that dies in a shelter is their fault because they chose to get a dog without issues (or that people view as not having enough issues).

    But you need to enjoy your home life. Dog trainers often spend all day dealing with people's problem dogs, especially if they specialize in helping with things like dog aggression and reactivity. It is absolutely reasonable that they would want to come home and be able to do fun things with their own dogs. Train tricks instead of LAT. That they want a dog who they can use in their training practice as a distraction dog because they are solid beyond belief with other dogs, or who they simply can travel and do things with because it is fun.

    People need to get over this view that just because you have the skillset to deal with a "problem dog" does not mean you are obligated to only ever adopt dogs with problems.

  4. I hear ya. It is wonderful not to have a problem dog. I wouldn't say Lily is a problem (she is to me what Nola is to you) that I can't handle, but she is becoming a little more grumpy with age and after a few surgeries. She is very picky on which dogs she likes. If she doesnt like them she will let you know. It could be a bit stressful since I avoid most dogs. Edward on the other hand ignores everyone and doesn't care if there was a grizzly bear walking down the street
    Lily & Edward

  5. I do have limits. When Daisy died and we were looking at shelters to adopt we originally thought we would take home a pitbull. We really had no clue and this one shelter had so many of them and we thought we could do it. I went the next day to pick up the dog and saw it attacking the door trying to get at a kid that was looking through the glass. I started crying and called my husband and was like there is no way I can do this. I felt so bad because I wanted to be able to save her but there was no way I was prepared for something like that. We have to know our own limits because I don't think it is good for anyone if we adopt one we can not or do not want to love forever.

  6. My dogs had relatively few issues - for which I'm thankful for - until they didn't. Yes, Gretel came with great anxiety, and I knew that, but it calmed down rather quickly automagically with love, my attitude, and who knows what. I'm no dog trainer. I didn't put countless hours onto her. Now, with her IVDD, an easy life with her became a not so easy one. You seem to be talking more about behavioral issues but this has suddenly become a lot of work. Work I will gladly do mind you but it's sure a reality check about how easy things were before.

  7. As an owner of a fairly problem free dog and a not so problem free dog, I tell you, if I get more dogs in the future, I will be looking for more problem free. Phod's biggest problem is serious carsickness, which we can treat with drugs. Hailey is anxious, prey driven, obedient when it suits her. She is a lot of work. She will be my work until the day when we are forced to say goodbye. I don't think I would take a "crazy" dog again. There are so many dogs who need homes, I am sure I could find a calmer one!

  8. I agree completely. My dog has some issues, and although I'll always be committed to working with her to make them easier to manage if I could wave a magic wand & make her reactivity disappear I would. No one likes to see their dog anxious, and that's something I see everyday.

    And I think on the other end a lot of people assume that well behaved dogs are just naturally "easy," which from my experience is far from true. All of the well behaved dogs I've met have had awesome owners that are dedicated to training & engaging with their dogs.

  9. My dog Brut was an aggressive dog with other dogs, it took everything in me 24/7 to work and manage him around our other dogs. In the beginning, I thought I wanted to work with aggressive dogs, but as time went on I just wanted further and further from it.

    Brut died last summer from cancer and it was a blessing in diguise as the rest the are all good dogs. Our biggest issue is that there are divided into two packs right now, but separated they are problem free for the most part. Obviously we have some social issues and such, but we are working on them.

    I agree a issue dog disrupts the whole house and you have to also take in consideration your other dogs and whether they deserve to go through that. You too, of course.

    It's why when the time comes to get another dog I want a puppy.

    It is so ridiculous why others think they should have a say in your choices. Do what you need to do for you and your dogs and screw them!

    Hope you find what you are looking for. :)

  10. Problem dogs are not easy and I take my hat off to people who choose to take on these poor dogs. Let's face it though, the majority of us would rather not.
    I think I have about reached the limits of human endurance when it comes to Dip's senility, lol. I remind myself she has no idea she is getting up at 4am or seems to be on another planet most of the time. I am willing to stick it out as long as need be though as she has given me years of unconditional love and the least I can do is make sure the rest of her life is happy.
    Lynne x

  11. I don't blame you for not wanting a problem dog. They can be frustrating, they can be heartbreaking and they can be really tough. You already know this but for any readers who may not know it, it's really important that if you don't want a problem dog that people research their breeder thoroughly, meet their dogs ask lots of questions and make sure their isn't some sort of genetic fear or aggression in their lines. Talk to other owners who have purchased dogs from that breeder to find out how things are going. Also socializing the pups really well and training is so important. Shelter dogs can be amazing too and not all of them come with issues but it's really important to spend a lot of time with the dog you are thinking about adopting (realizing that some will not show their true personality down the line in the home), again asking questions of the shelter staff and finding out their "return policy". All of those things are helpful and really important for avoiding a dog with serious issues. Even doing all those things correctly, ANY dog can still potentially become a problem dog if some sort of trauma occurs. So it's important to be prepared to get a trainer or whatever if something bad ever happens.

    That being said, problem dogs are not always a problem. There's been a lot of joy, too. Like the first time Phoenix trusted me enough to give me kisses. The first time she decided that I would make an excellent cuddle buddy. That time both of my dogs protected me from a near assault when some guy jumped out of the woods at me, in that case being a little protective wasn't a bad thing. Both of my dogs have taught me so much. They've taught me how to be a good trainer, to think outside the box, to be patient and compassionate. I love them both so much and even though we have stuff to work on, they are both excellent house dogs. They've never been any trouble around the house. Someone who just wants a great house dog would have no trouble with these two.

  12. This is very important, I wish more people would research before they go out and "just get a dog".
    Knowing your limits, what you want in personality, what you don't want to deal with/what you are willing to work with, is what makes for successful matches. :-)

    But sometimes life throws you a curve ball, when we adopted Ziva she was a bit shy (we were willing to work with that). She was dog/cat/kid friendly with mild anxiety. All was GOOD with us!

    Then she became dog reactive after being she became a dog with issues even though she didn't start that way. SO keep in mind that even with the best planning sometimes shit just happens. :-) I hope you pardon my language.

  13. Our pugs are SO good. Honestly, they are the two sweetest creatures. They have moments when they get sick and the house can get messy, but I couldn't ask for nicer, calmer dogs! And I love it that way. xxxoo

  14. Great post! Everyone has limits...Nola is a very well behaved little doxie girl! My Dachshund Christmas is a lot like her...the least independent Dachshund out there, and has perfect manners, unlike some Dachshunds I know...they bark SO SO much and are very's all about the positive training!

  15. I know the feeling! The other day the Mr. got a text from his sister about another shy dog at the shelter who reminded them of our 2 dogs. Um, NO!
    Our dogs are great with the cats and mostly well behaved, but it's taken years for them to warm up to the Mr. - and he lives here! He gets to pick the next dog, since I tend to pick project dogs. A friend who has 4 dogs said "yeah, you need a normal dog next" - so glad she understands.
    We also know that we're currently full with 2 dogs, 4 cats & a lizard so another anything is out of the question for now.

  16. Great post! You've found your ideal dog and going forward will be able to make the right choice when you select a dog. I'm really tired of seeing social media posts that put down pure bred dogs and demand that people choose a shelter dog. People have a choice as to what kind of dog they want and you make the point for that! You have to pick the dog that's right for you! And, you've trained your dogs so well that they can go in public or be kissed on the nose and reciprocate the affection. You're a good dog owner and that makes the difference.

  17. Super post! When I got my Labrador puppy two years ago it had been over twenty years since I'd kept a dog due to working long hours. I did research and decided on a puppy rather than an older rescue due to my lack of experience. Sable and I went to classes, I read books and web articles, joined Lab groups on FB. We matured together, she is an on the go dog who enjoys helping round the house and cuddling. She developed epilepsy last year and we are managing that now. If I had another dog I would be in a better place to help a dog who had problems.

  18. I think honesty is important in having a successful placement. One of the reasons we continue to work with the Sheltie Rescue we do is they bluntly ask you if you are willing to work with a dog with issues. They don't punish you and remove you from the list if you answer no. They have a number of questions they ask you about what you do and don't want to have to make sure you do end up with a placement that works.

    We've had two successful rescues and are hoping for a 3rd. As we've waited there have been some BEAUTIFUL dogs on the list they've never contacted us about because they don't fit our profile and I'm so grateful because other places would have called and we likely would have been tempted to say yes. Instead they have waited to help us find a dog that will fit into our family. Not easy to do for larger shelters that have tons of dogs to place.

    However, I'm only looking for one more dog to add to my home right now. So, I'd rather work with a group that has the ability to be honest about the dogs they are placing and how those dogs will fit into my home.

  19. I totally agree with everything that K-Koira said above. Just because you have the skillset to handle a project dog doesn't mean that you should be forced to do so. Everyone should know their limits and look for the dog whom they will love to live with. I'm an anxious person, and major behavior rehab--especially of issues like separation anxiety, or anything that makes a dog difficult to be in the house with--makes me so stressed out that I can barely eat and sleep. Nala, on the other hand, is my personal therapy dog--she makes me take time to chill out and cuddle her every single day. :)

    I think there are awesome dogs, dogs who can meet many, many needs, in rescue--but I think that our current rescue system, and the ideology and rhetoric surrounding rescue, don't necessarily provide people with enough support for finding a dog who will fit well into their lives. I think that everyone admitting what you've admitted here--that some of us just aren't looking for a project, and that's okay--would be a great first step.

  20. OK, real life confessions - I almost sent Shyla back after I met her. I thought that I couldn't handle her fears. I thought that there was someone out there better than me to do it. There probably was a better person for Shyla somewhere -- but I sure didn't know where.

    For me, it turns out that the toughest journeys in life have also shaped me (in good ways) more than anything else. I can say that about K's cancer journey. I can also say that about Shyla. After I'd spent a week with her, I knew that her issues were my issues. There was a heart of gold inside her that I wanted to help shine through.

    Prior to Shyla, my dogs were very carefully chosen. They needed to be athletic, have a moderate temperament, and be very loving. I'd get them as 8 wk old pups, and I'd socialize them to the point that nothing phased them. I'll probably do that again in the future... but I doubt that any one of them will teach me as much as Shyla has.

    However, I think that knowing what you want in a dog is key to giving them a happy and stimulating forever home. If you know what you want, you'll save yourself a lot of grief. So I think that it's great that you've figured that out. The only caveat that I'd add is to keep your heart open in case someone unexpectedly sends you a Shyla someday. Your criteria might have changed by then.


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