"The Wrong Dog"-- this article freaked me out! - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-17-2014, 03:16 PM Thread Starter
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"The Wrong Dog"-- this article freaked me out!

Hey everyone! I read this article this morning...for the record, it's not about a GSD.

However as a first time puppy owner this article (and the comments) absolutely freaked me out!


The comments and the writer pretty much say and do everything the exact opposite of what I've learned from all the kind and patient folks on this forum. What can you gather about this dog /fear period that was normal, not normal? Should the owner have done something different? Did the adoption agency make a mistake?

My pup still isn't doing super well with my cats (she's 5 months old now and started with them at 7 weeks) so naturally this article scared the crap out of me. Then again, Pepper doesn't snap, she just tries to persistent to play and sometimes to rough... but at 5 months I'm anticipating the beginning of the fear periods/teenage bad behavior and holy moly! So on the other hand I know I'm being a silly worried parent.... but man I've never read anything like this article before.

Thoughts anyone?
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-17-2014, 03:19 PM
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Need an account to view the article. :/
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-17-2014, 03:24 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sabletable View Post
Need an account to view the article. :/
What the heck! I read it without an account...give me sec!
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-17-2014, 03:33 PM
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Archer never left our cat Binkley alone for a minute as a pup, he was CONSTANTLY following him and mouthing, non stop. But he's two now and they get along great. I wouldn't worry unduly, just make sure the pup knows that when you say 'enough' you mean it, and give the cat some space to go take a nap when needed.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-17-2014, 03:34 PM Thread Starter
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Here is the article, since some are seeing a must-have-account error:


"The woman walked up and down Main Street carrying a beautiful 5-month-old black Labrador mix in her arms. The dog was resting on the woman’s shoulder like a baby, gazing helplessly at the pedestrians, cars and shop windows. I was sitting at an outdoor table at the local coffee house with my husband, Alex, and we watched the comical, but endearing, scenario with curiosity.

On her third pass by our table the woman asked, “Can she say hello?” The woman, we soon found, was acting as a “foster mother” for a local rescue organization, and had the puppy out to desensitize her to street noise.

We cringed when we saw pet parents and human parents alike coddling their little monsters despite their bad behavior. Then again, who were we to argue with experts?

We were animal lovers — pet people with three cats and a dog at home along with our two children — so yes, of course, we obliged. The puppy — her name was Nina — immediately curled at my feet, under the protection of my long summer skirt. Alex and I asked, Is she good with other dogs? With cats? With children? She was, the woman said.

We lived in the country, our house butting up against a 30-acre preserve. Many of our neighbors and friends had similar homes brimming with kids and pets. Our pets were always adopted, and were loving and trustworthy companions. I grew up with several cats, and as a college student I worked at the Bennington County Humane Society, in Vermont. Our Rhodesian Ridgeback, Gemma, adored other dogs, and enjoyed a special relationship with our cat Addie, a docile tortoiseshell. They often slept next to each other, and Addie would stand on hind legs to kiss Gemma’s muzzle.

Before adopting Nina, we spoke at length to her foster mother, and also to the woman who ran the small-scale rescue operation.

Our children met Nina, walking her on a leash and playing with her, and she seemed sweet and smart, though shy. She was intensely fearful of loud noises, but with love and training she appeared poised to blossom into a lovely family dog.

But things became complicated when we brought Nina home. She panicked in her new environment, tearing up the stairs to our bedroom. Like an alpha-male guard dog, she leaped onto the middle of the bed and growled with bared teeth. Clearly, she was terrified.

As she growled at me from my bed, I thought, This is bad. I felt a rush of regret and a terrible intuition that this dog was something different than she first seemed. But by bedtime we had calmed her down and she snuggled in bed next to us. A call in the morning to the rescue group assured us that Nina just needed time to adjust to her new home.

Nina bonded quickly with Gemma, and was loving with our kids. She barked at everyone who came to the house, and chewed everything in sight. She gave kisses and was easy to train, listening attentively. She was our “googly, mixed-up puppy.” As fans of the dog trainer Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer,” we believed in giving her a loving but disciplined environment.

Then, one night while I was cooking with a friend and my daughter, Nina suddenly — with a flash of teeth and a high-pitched screech — jumped up and snapped at Addie as she leaped up, terrified. I quickly blocked Nina from attacking Addie, and Nina bit me, pinching the skin on my hand into a red streak, without drawing blood. My friend and I were shaken, my daughter in tears. I put Nina in a bedroom, and shut the door. I cradled Addie, relieved she was fine.

Next, I did something I never thought I would do. I called the woman who ran the rescue group and told her, “I don’t think Nina is the right dog for us. We have two children, and their friends visit. We love our cats.”

It didn’t make any sense, the rescue woman said. Nina had lived with cats with her last foster family here, and with another foster family down south. She loved cats and kids. The woman agreed to send a trainer, and pay for it, to get to the bottom of Nina’s strange behavior.

The trainer had seen “these dogs” before, she said — dogs trucked up the East Coast, traumatized by the journey and moved from shelter to shelter. We were told to throw Cesar Millan’s advice out the window: no “calm-assertive” discipline allowed. We had, she said, inadvertently brought out Nina’s aggressiveness. From now on, it would be gentle time-outs, and treats when anyone came to the door.

Even as we followed these instructions, we questioned them. We cringed when we saw pet parents and human parents alike coddling their little monsters despite their bad behavior. Then again, who were we to argue with experts? After decades of cats, we’d only ever had two dogs, both gentle and well behaved. Perhaps we’d just never had a “real” dog before, one who chewed everything in sight, right in front of you, as you said “No!” Maybe most dogs needed constant discipline, and couldn’t be left alone for two seconds.

Maybe if we were better dog parents, the trainer implied, Nina would be a wonderful and consistent family dog. As for her lunging at Addie, the trainer said there was probably a food issue between them that I was unaware of, and feeding Nina separately would solve it.

In the months that followed Nina made strides; she was affectionate and playful. But at times, out of nowhere it seemed, she would snap at me or Alex and, once, at our son. She would suddenly cower and growl. It was like a switch flipped, yet we couldn’t figure out what had done it.

One day, Addie ran away. We looked everywhere for her, and after three weeks, she appeared in the meadow behind our house. I put food out and called to her, and she’d call back to me in her sad, yodeling cry, then run back into the thicket. It was February, and she was cold and hungry, but she refused to come home. Finally, as if relenting reluctantly, she came inside. But why had she even left?

Three months later, I took the kids to New York City to visit friends. That night, I couldn’t reach Alex on the phone and felt something was wrong.

It was. Alex had come home from work to find Addie dangling from Nina’s mouth, dead.

Alex described the awful scene to me when he finally called back that night: Nina laid the cat down and looked at him as if to say, “Look what I did.” Gemma sat trembling, up on a chair, the other cats alive but hiding. The kitchen and living room were like a crime scene, the whole house imbued with violence and death.

A friend agreed to take Nina temporarily, and Alex arrived in the city, where we told the children that our beloved cat was dead, and that they would never see their puppy again. Grateful to be surrounded by friends, we tried to focus on the visit. But we knew we had to go home to an emptier house, having lost two once-loved family members, a scene of gruesome devastation.

The hole left by Addie’s death was palpable. On my phone’s home screen, her face peered out at me, her light green eyes wide and questioning. Photos of Nina, too — her soulful expression and floppy ears — were on every device we used.

As each blanket Nina had damaged was pulled from the shelf, my heart jolted with grief. The corner of my pillow had a jagged hole, feathers leaking from it as though it were a mangled bird. At dinner, a napkin unfolded held the very image of Nina’s jaws, a reminder of our missing dog and — in the same instant — of our sweet cat, Nina’s teeth around her throat.

I felt enraged at the rescue woman, foster mother and trainer. Two family members had been taken from us in one horrifying act, one that would never have happened had we not kept Nina. But we had kept her. We took pity on her, and let ourselves believe that beneath her quirky, strange behavior resided a good dog. A friend who fosters animals for a local shelter, who has dogs and cats of her own, said to me, “Some dogs are just too damaged, or not right to begin with, and they’re just not adoptable.”

What she said helps, and I believe she’s right. On the outside, I appear detached, not wanting to discuss Nina, or what will happen to her (she is with another foster family, with little chance for adoption). But I have to admit that I feel terrible guilt and sadness about her.

Many months later, Alex and I are relaxing, watching a detective show, our one dog curled next to us. In this episode a family discovers that their older son has murdered their youngest son. It is a crime mixed up with family dysfunction and childish jealousy and also the horrible detachment of a boy not quite realizing what he has done. At the end, a policewoman asks the mother if she would like to see social services — to give up her son — because how can she live with her other child’s murderer? “No,” the mother says. “Who else will love him now?”
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-17-2014, 03:35 PM Thread Starter
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Top comments:

PA2 days ago
Erica-Lynn - I am so sorry for your losses, but please know that there are worse things for animals than euthanasia. Sometimes animals, either from nature or nurture, that are not safe to have in your home with your children or your other animals. Euthanising an animal that has killed another animal prevents that from happening again in someone else's home and also keeps a dog like Nina from being abused in the future. I wish that every dog could find a home where they can be an only dog, but it is not feasible. I don't believe in the wholesale slaughter of unwanted animals, but until we, as a society, prevent unwanted animals, we need to care for them all the way to the appropriate end for each animal.


San Francisco2 days ago
This dog was seriously deranged and unpredictably violent. I think the adoption people were at fault for not listening to the owners' concerns and for implicitly blaming the owners. I've known dogs who have attacked. Once that happens, no second chances should be given.


Valerie DeBenedette
Putnam County, NY2 days ago
I wrote a long comment and lost it. I want to say that there are some dogs that have behavioral issues that cannot be fixed. At best, they can be managed. I had a dog that I raised from a puppy that would be fine for weeks and then snap. I socialized her, took her through three levels of obedience classes that she passed with flying colors, worked one on one with a trainer, and tried two different medications with my vet. She was unpredictably aggressive. She bit me twice and my husband once. The last straw was when she cornered me in the hall and would not let me pass her. It turned out that three of the 5 dogs in her litter at the shelter had serious behavioral issues. My trainer said that my dog was one of only three or four dogs that she advised be put down because of the sheer unpredictability of their aggression. Sadly, i agreed.

One last note- Cesar Milan has a large following, but is not respected by most professional dog trainers and behavioral specialists, and that is putting it nicely.


Oregon2 days ago
We have mistakenly come to believe the right care will cure any ill -- either of animals or humans. All we must do is become perfect in our treatment of them. (The comment regarding Cesar Milan is a polite understatement.)

Scott and Fuller, in their landmark study of canine behavior, have made it wonderfully clear that a great deal of behavior is inherited. Other behaviors are the complex product of both environment and genetics. There ARE bad dogs, some who are beyond even the most expert therapy. For those dogs, it often seems the kindest heart delays understanding of reality, and it matters not whether the problem is inherent or environmental.


David Narwich
Chicago2 days ago
Utter nonsense...I volunteer at a shelter where thousands of animals have been successfully placed in new "forever" homes and quickly become cherished members of the family. The majority of surrendered animals arrive at shelters due to various and sundry reasons. Very few are incorrigibly aggressive -- and those particular animals are recognized as such at qualified shelters. To suggest that breeders furnish "perfect" pets leads me to wonder if the above comment is furnished by an individual who has an economic interest in the animal-breeding industry, or worse yet, "puppy mils".

In Reply to D Shaw

Al Marchioni
Dataw Island, SC2 days ago
I had virtually the same experience years ago with a lab puppy. Always headstrong and willful, at nine months professional trainer recommended we put her down as "having absolutely no respect for authority or desire to please". We thought: no way, at nine months? A lab of all breeds? Nonsense.
We persevered and he bit the mailman, We neutered him to find out he was a hermaphrodite. Then he, unprovoked, tore up a child in out home. Thank God the child recovered completely both emotionally and physically, and the parents remained our close, non-litigious, friends. We put the (now) two year old down.
Folks, remember that some dogs, like people, are simply evil and incorrigible. Don't think that they all can be saved, changed, managed, whatever. There are too many wonderful dogs to accept the risks and travails of keeping a bad one.


D Shaw
Ohio2 days ago
As a lover of animals generally, I will not, however, support "rescues," whether canine, feline, or equine. In my observation, most rescuers are motivated by an anthropomorphic need to feel morally superior to the "heartless" people who do not try to fix the unfixable; and by their own inability to make the difficult but necessary decision to euthanize dangerous animals. The results are uncounted animals like the dog in this story, medical and veterinary bills, and untold frustration, disappointment, and sorrow on the part of the final owners.

Dogs, cats, and horses are domestic animals, shaped by millennia of selective breeding for temperament to overcome the aggression of their wild fore-bearers. Until the rise of the rescue movement, it was generally understood that the best way to acquire a pet was to take the time to go to a breeder whose first concern was temperament, and to acquire the pet at an age when it could be well-socialized top the family in which it would live out its life. Badly bred animals who were innately aggressive, or those which had been badly socialized were destroyed before they could hurt someone, and wisely so. People and other animals were safer and happier with one another, and aggressive animals did not reproduce, and did not live out what otherwise would have been their angry, fearful lives.

That approach took a kind a maturity, discipline, and emotional strength that appears to be missing from the current rescue movement.


Boston2 days ago
It angers and offends me to see the comments blaming the author when she was clearly the victim. As she says, none of the damage to her family and pets would have happened if she hadn't been guilt-tripped into keeping a dog that clearly didn't belong in a house with a family and pets. Most dogs can be trained to be good companions, but some simply cannot, either because they were traumatized when they were young or because they are mentally ill for some other reason. Guilt tripping people into keeping such dogs leads to danger and tragedy. Blaming them afterwards compounds the psychic damage.


The Poet McTeagle
California2 days ago
Four other pets and two children? Totally the wrong situation for a puppy with fear issues. A home with no other pets and adults only would have been the right placement. The rescue organization made a mistake and so did the trainer. They should have known better.


North Florida2 days ago
7 yrs ago, I adopted two female ridgeback mixes. For different reasons, they had no problems with my older, larger male ridgeback and a small spaniel. But an older spaniel mix was cranky with them. Six months after their introduction, with neither me nor my wife in the house, they attacked the older spaniel and killed her.

Prior to that, they had killed a cat of the woman who had taken them from the adoption shelter, which had been reluctant to place one of them. They had jumped my fence and attacked a neighbor's cat. But I was still shocked they had attacked a dog, esp one that lived with us. I knew that the preferred dog had displayed a marked disregard of humans and a more easily quickened prey drive.

I was inexperienced with dogs of this nature. I could not in good conscience pass them, or one of them, to someone else. I felt one of them could be rehabbed. I had my preferred dog euthanized.

That night, the survivor emitted a lone howl in the middle of the night. I've never forgotten her sister or, of course, the howl. But the survivor has flourished and has become my favorite among my group, which includes the small spaniel and more ridgebacks, and she is the most obedient, eager-to-please dog I've ever had.

The best we can do is provide a home to a small fraction of the massive numbers of unwanted dogs being euthanized daily. When one proves unfit, we must deal with it and overcome the heartache by helping with the vast numbers that remain.


New York2 days ago
I agree, and speaking as someone with a background in animal behavior, prey aggression (which is why Nina killed Addie) and fear aggression (likely the cause of her reactions towards the humans in the household) are the two most intractable forms of canine aggression. They cannot be medicated or trained out of existence, only managed. Sadly, Nina is a dog who in my professional opinion might be best euthanized...and I do not say this lightly.

In Reply to MLL
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-17-2014, 03:43 PM
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No judgement here, but if you know a dog has issues with cats, it's very important to crate your dog if you will be absent. Careful management will help keep your cats safe.

This article brings to mind an episode from last year. Our club had a demo booth at a charity event. A rescue organization had a booth with adoptable pets next to us. Throughout the day, one of their pit bulls would aggressively lunge and snap at dogs walking by. The adopter kept insisting he "just wants to say hi". Yeah, cuz guttural snarling and snapping mean "hi". Throughout the day, the adopter informed people just how friendly and "good with other dogs" this pit bull was. I was shocked.

I work with several people who do rescue. They are awesome and truly do their best to place dogs in appropriate loving homes. But, some rescues aren't as conscientious . . Not sure if that's the issue here. Sometimes dogs just have a genetically bad temperament and there isn't a fix, just management.

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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-30-2014, 04:36 PM
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I do wonder why Nina wasn't crated; it sounds like that could have saved Addie's life.

But the trainer and the rescue let this poor woman down in a terrible way as well. I know this is only one story, but this is precisely why I refuse to rescue. It's only confirming all of my reasons for deciding any dog I ever have will be from a reputable breeder.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-30-2014, 08:54 PM
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Animals can be born with mental issues, I have seen it. Just like with people.

That is a really sad story, hope for the best for the woman and her family as well as the dog.

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-30-2014, 09:37 PM
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This is a truly sad story. The rescue and trainer really let them down. I wonder if the dog could have been trained if Nina had been put in the right home...
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