Dog Dilemma

Blake and Coda. Taken in February.

I never thought I would be here.

Adding a puppy to our lives was going to be a good thing.

I sold my diamond ring to bring this puppy home.

I researched dog training, and dog breeds.  I thought I knew what I was getting into.  I was prepared to go to the ends of the world to make the new dog fit into our family.

I fell in love with Coda.  We all did; a week after bringing him home, my husband (who had never before owned a dog) left me a beautiful note saying how happy he was that we had a dog.  Coda is my baby.  We’ve bought him all sorts of neat toys.  I love to take him for long, brisk walks and Andrew likes taking him for bike-rides.  I love that having a dog has magically made my children more responsible;  they pitch-in with taking care of Coda and with so many other household chores now – without even being asked.   I love the way having a dog has been like therapy for my ten-year old – who finds pure joy in getting puppy kisses and playing tug with the dog.

And yet.  I wish I had known removing a dog too early from his litter makes it difficult for him to learn not to bite.  We received our puppy when he was seven weeks old.  Before that he was in the care of a foster home for a little over a week.  Before that he was in an animal shelter.  Doing the math, he was probably taken from his mom around five weeks old or earlier.

Now, at five months old, Coda struggles with anxiety, hyperactivity and biting. We’ve been through puppy class – where our dog was repeatedly called out for misbehaving and often removed from the class. All the other dog owners looked at me as if our dog was a bully and a maniac.  It was the most exhausting part of my week.  I’d leave every class frustrated, embarrassed and downright sweaty from trying to control him for an hour.

We’ve had a certified trainer to the celebrities come to our home for a personal training session.  She kept remarking that although he was very smart, he was also very strong-willed.   She was obviously annoyed when he totally ignored her repeated attempts to correct him for whimpering in his crate.  I was floored when she looked at me and said “Good luck with that one.”  Before she left she scared him into submission for a few minutes, and we spent the next week trying to lure him out from under the couch.

I’ve read countless articles and tried to be oh-so-consistent. For biting we ignore the dog, and if we can- give him a time-out.  We’ve tried water in the face – and when he was little,  yelping like a hurt puppy.   We’ve tried smacking his nose and telling him ‘no’ . . .  and yesterday when he bit my wrist I shoved my hand into his throat to gag him, but it didn’t phase him.

My dog’s bites are getting harder as he grows and even though I think I’ve done what I’m supposed to, he isn’t getting it.   He ‘nipped’ at my son’s friend who was over the other day.  If his nip was a little painless snap at the ankles maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but he really clamps down and leaves marks.

I am torn and dizzy thinking about which is worse: to give up a dog, or run the risk of it biting friends and children.   Perhaps it was irresponsible for me to get a dog in the first place since I am not experienced.  But every dog owner has to start somewhere, right?  And if so many people have dogs, why wouldn’t we be able to handle it?   But what it boils down to is that I truly think that he is an unusually difficult dog.  Heck even Ms celebrity trainer was challenged by him.

People ask me how it’s going with the new dog, and because I feel like I have to make this work, I give polite responses like “He’s a lot of fun.”  Which he is . . . sometimes.  But I have slinked back from telling the whole truth because the truth is, I feel like a huge miserable failure.

Ridiculous I know, but my biggest issue right now is what will everyone think of me if we can’t handle him? As we were preparing to get this dog, a friend looked me in the eye and asked if  I knew what I was getting into.  She reminded me that a dog is not something you can just give back when it gets hard.  It’s part of your family.  “I know it,” I said.  And I truly believed that with all my heart.  I still do.

My husband and I had a long talk about Coda last night, and my husband’s comment was that this dog needs constant attention – and we can devote all of our energy, time and money into training him.  That is a choice we could make.  Although, do we want our life to revolve completely around a dog? Is that even right?  Andrew said “He will either be a good investment or a very expensive mistake.”  Ouch.   Why do my mistakes always have to be so darn expensive?

We’re still researching, thinking, training and praying.  I have emailed some dog experts to ask for help.  I really would love Coda to be part of our family for a long time. If I have to give him up I will be heartbroken – and yes I will cry hard.  And I really don’t think I would ever get another dog.  I wouldn’t feel I deserved it.

Yesterday, after a slightly traumatic dog v. mommy episode, my seven-year-old daughter shrugged her shoulders and asked if we could please give him away.  She said it was a lot more fun before we had him.  Then she asked if we could adopt a baby instead, because babies don’t hurt you when they bite.




5 thoughts on “Dog Dilemma

  1. Oh Aimes 😦 You KNOW that I’ve been there – A lot….I might add! I know that whatever you and your family decide, it will have an outcome that came with much prayer, dilegence and hard work. You all our in our prayers and this DOES NOT make you failures at ALL when it comes to owning a dog. Take everything one day at a time and as you continue to put God first – He will direct your steps. I know exactly how you’re feeling and my heart goes out to you now. Hugs and Kisses to you, Andrew, Blake, Gracie and Coda! Love always, Mom

  2. Dear Amy…. My heart is breaking with you, knowing this was not what you hoped it would be. Every dog is different, and one strong-willed dog in your family doesn’t mean the next one would be. My friend Nancy has had numerous dogs and some with BIG issues too…One had to be taken back because it’s issue was too deep-seated. I think the one they have now is good, though. My friend Joyce is a dog groomer and she recommends watching Caeser Milan, the dog whisperer. You could probably google it online. Her comment was that with big dogs, they need a lot of exercise and biting cannot be tolerated. Whatever you and Andrew decide will be the best for your family, and we will be praying for your family as you take the next step.

    • Thank you. Yes, we make sure he gets lots of exercise. With him, it’s more the days when he is over-tired and over-excited that he gets nippy.

      Andrew and I think Coda must have read this blog post over my shoulder because he was a perfect angel today. So funny.

  3. Hmm I was reading up on puppy training in general.. (The terrible dog Sadie I am forced to live with is not leaving anytime soon so my new plan is to get her behaving better. lol)
    Things I’ve come across that I’m sure you have too:
    – avoid playing and interactions that encourages play biting.. like wrestling, pushing, tug of war, etc.
    -“the moment you see him starting this type of play, stop him. Make sure he goes all the way into a complete level of relaxation before allowing him to engage in any play again. On a level of zero to 10, get him back to zero with regard to his state of mind.”
    -yelping, then… “Only when the dog returns to a calm, relaxed state, should you give him something appropriate to bite and chew on. This is their reward, as well as a distraction. You want them to concentrate on that object, but only when there is no confusion about the behavior you’re rewarding. If you give it to them too soon, they may mistake the “treat” or toy, as a consequence for being over-excited and biting. Practice this every time they start to get too involved with chewing on or biting you…”

    -and/or have our terrible dogs play together! and see if they teach each other a thing or two since they both were taken from their litters early..


    • Those are good things to remember for sure! We do play tug with him… aybe we should stop that until he gets better.

      also a thought… I’m hoping this upswing in unwanted behavior is due to his being a doggie adolescent right now… and I’m wondering if some of this will calm down a little after he gets fixed…

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