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What to do when your dog bites

Okay ya’ll, it’s time for a little heart to heart. I’m having a rough day. For those of you that don’t know, we adopted Bailey, our beagle-mix, from a high kill shelter roughly 4 years ago. Eric and I grew up with dogs but never had to deal with a dog as difficult as Miss Bailey. It was rough from the start with her aggressive behavior, but we stuck through it and worked with her as much as we could. I often joke that she was our “clearance puppy”, especially since the movie Marley and Me really helped inspire and motivate us to keep working with her.

Unfortunately, if you are reading this post looking for answers on what to do when your dog bites, I’m afraid you won’t find any. I am at a loss when it comes to answering that question, and it’s been something we’ve been asking ourselves for years now.

I can say that Bailey has come a looooooooooooong way since we first adopted her, and most people would think she is the most adorable, sweetest little thing ever. Unfortunately, she has random outbursts of cray cray. They tend to happen less frequently than they used to so I guess that’s the upside, but it’s still scary every time it happens.

The most difficult part is you never know when or why it’s going to happen, except it happens about every 6 months or so. The last time she bit me was when I was petting the top of her head, which I always do. It was the first time she bit me and it actually drew blood, but it wasn’t anything too bad. It was still really scary though. What scared me more was thinking that it could have happened to someone else, or could have been worse.

We have talked to numerous vets about her issues, training has helped, and she was even on doggy prozac for a while. She still had random outbursts on the medication, even after they upped her dosage, so I wound up taking her off of it because I felt weird keeping her on something that didn’t seem to change her behavior. Maybe that was a bad decision. I dunno.

bailey-its-hard-being-a-dog-upcycledtreasures

I will say that over the years we have really learned how to handle Bailey for the most part, and we love her so much! What scares me is the fact that we want to have kids here soon, but there is no way she can be around kids. We brought her with us to the cabins when we were married, but had to keep her in the crate and away from people, because we have been told she is a liability and can’t be around people, kids or even other dogs. Great. Steve, the owner of the cabins even has a domestic wolf that my niece enjoyed playing with. You know it’s bad when your niece prefers to play with a wolf rather than your dog.

Yeah, so we are not allowed to take her to the dog park {if anyone else is there}, and when we walk her we have to tell people they can’t pet her. It’s difficult I’m not gonna lie, and inside I’m thinking “Why can’t we just have a normal dog!?”. If one exists. Oh well, it is what it is and we try to make the best of it. Regardless, we love her just the same.

beagle-mix-bailey-upcycledtreasures

Anyway, today she had one of her outbursts. My mom was petting her and she rolled over to have her pet her belly. When she rolled over she was about to fall off the bed so my mom moved her arm to keep her from falling. Bailey apparently got scared and bit her. BAD. My mom and her are really close too, they have a great connection, and she has never hurt her. I know this only happens because she is scared, and she always feels bad immediately afterwards, but that’s not exactly reassuring.

You guys I really don’t know what to do.  We love her so much, and I can’t imagine not having her around, but at the same time I feel like we are putting off the inevitable. I know when we have kids there is no amount of training, or months of good behavior that will ever make me comfortable enough to have her around them.

I guess in my mind I keep thinking we will run into some older, single person who lives on a farm and can take care of her. Does that make me a bad person living in a dream world? Probably. I was kinda hoping “grandma” could take care of her…umm yeah that’s not gonna happen, especially now. 🙁

I feel so conflicted because maybe we don’t even need to discuss options since we don’t have kids yet, but then it’s only going to get more difficult when we do. I think that’s why we keep pushing it under the rug. It’s not something Eric and I like to think or talk about.

This whole situation just breaks my heart. We are going to talk to some adoption agencies this weekend to see if they have any advice or tips for us, because we know we have to disclose her background and obviously don’t want to put anyone’s safety at risk. I didn’t even realize she could be adopted to someone else because of her history, but after talking to the vet today it looks like it could be a possibility. We just know we refuse to drop her off somewhere only to wind up euthanized. We love her, she is our responsibility, and we just have to sort through this mess to figure out what’s best for all of us.

I’m sorta feeling like a wreck because I love her so much, and it feels like we may lose her. Sorry for rambling but I have felt so blocked all day because of this. It’s as though I’m mourning a pet I haven’t even lost. At this point, I don’t know what we are going to do or if we are going to do anything. I just know it’s something I had to write about so I could clear my head. I think at this point we will just look into options, see if there is anything else we can do on our end to make things better, and have hope that the right solution will come along.

Have you ever been in a situation like this, and if so what did you do?

You can read more about Bailey’s story here or by clicking on the photo below:

marley-and-me-farmhouse-and-a-clearance-puppy

 

 

Comments

  • Ahh I hate that you and your family are having to experience this! My parents had a dog that we considered to be bipolar – one minute you would be petting her, and she would be loving it; the next, she’d snap and try to take your hand off. We knew that we didn’t want to take her to the pound, or give her to anybody because she would eventually end up euthanized. We just knew that when people came over, she was put up. If it was just us, we had to really learn her behaviors and signs of aggressions, and just couldn’t love on her for long periods of time. I guess she just like her space lol! Hope this helps!

    June 25, 2014
  • This is such a hard situation. Although I have no personal experience with it, I am hoping someone that does can offer some good advice. A pet is definitely part of your family and as such I can understand how hard this must be for you and your family. Here’s hoping your story gets a happy ending

    June 25, 2014
  • This is such a tough problem. I had a friend who had a similar issue with her dog. Just once in a great while, he would freak out and bite her. There didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary that prompted, at least not in her human mind. She still has the dog and does have to keep a close eye on him, but she does not have children and does not plan to. I think the best thing you can do is keep looking for options for her for when you do start a family. It’s sad to think about, but bites can be so dangerous, not to mention the stress that it adds to your everyday life, wondering when/if it will happen again. Maybe the answer will come by way of this post. Some kind soul with that farm who can handle a difficult pet may read this! Best of luck.

    June 25, 2014
  • I know this may sound crazy, but have you watched The Dog Whisperer (Cesar Milan’s show)? I just got done watching a whole season and I’m now convinced not all hope is lost for every dog. Maybe it would give you some ideas? Sorry with your struggle! Good luck!

    June 25, 2014
  • Elise

    I’m so sorry you have to even think about this. Our little guy came from a shelter and was great for about a month, but now doesn’t like people unless he really knows them well. It’s difficult walking in public and preventing people from just coming up to him because he doesn’t like people in his space. We’ve found some behavioral dog trainers that have helped, but really we’ve just come to the conclusion that he will always have to be watched carefully around new people. I can’t imagine giving him up, but I have definitely had that thought about having a normal dog. Good luck and there are adoption agencies that will take and work with special case dogs 🙂

    June 25, 2014
  • kmc

    I recommend 1) management via a basket muzzle for situations she may bite (around kids, strangers, etc) until the condition improves
    2) behavior modification via a veterinary behaviorist which is a board certified specialty and a lot of training on your end; spend the money for the behaviorist- your vet should be able to recommend one near you and do the training regimen they prescribe
    3) adding medication again if the behaviorist recommends it.
    Good luck.

    June 26, 2014
  • Aww, I feel so bad for you and the situation! I hate when things like this come up because there usually is just no perfect answer. Hope your mom is doing ok!

    June 26, 2014
  • We had a very similar situation. In the end, no matter how much we loved our dog, we knew in our hearts that the people of our family were more important to us than the dog of our family. It was NOT an easy decision to make, but we did put her down. It’s been over 3 years, and we miss her terribly, but we know we made the right decision for everyone.

    June 26, 2014
  • Linda D.

    I am so sorry you are dealing with this problem. Behavior modification and training – both for the dog and her human family – can go a long way to improving things, as you and Eric have already learned. However, even that will not eliminate behavioral issues in a dog with neurological problems. If that’s been ruled out, it’s a good possibility that you adopted a feral dog. After reading Bailey’s history and seeing he puppy photos at the time of her adoption, it may seem that she was young enough to re-train, but what we don’t know is if she is first generation feral or part of a long line of animals that had been living wild before capture by the pound.

    I know both you and Bailey are trying hard to make this work. She is obviously well loved and cared for. Since you don’t plan to start your family yet, you have some time to discover what is best for all of you. If I’m not out of line, may I suggest that you and Eric are in a similar position to foster parents. These are folks who take in at risk animals, knowing that they will not be their forever family. We take them in to get them used to people and give us time to find the best human match for their forever home.

    It’s hard to part with them, I know, but the main focus is on placing the dog with the environment that works best for them. The best outcome is often one where the new owner encourages visits from the foster parents. Your vet may know best how to get the word out to the larger community. Of course, you have already got the ball rolling by putting this story out on the Internet. Since you love Bailey I know that you will use due diligence before placing her anywhere else. She will always be part of your heart. Doing what’s best for her – when the time comes – will ease your loving hearts.

    Thanks for being so generous with your time and your story. So often ‘difficult’ animals are just thrown away, so I am really grateful that you and your husband are putting so much effort into finding solutions. Best of luck and here’s wishing your mom a speedy recovery.

    June 26, 2014
  • Andrea

    I’m so sorry. We have a difficult dog ourselves, a mini daschund, though not in the same way. She is food aggressive and territorial to our house (and almost anywhere we take her. My husbands work allows dogs and he took in once, and I had to come get her within 20 mins because she wouldn’t stop growling/barking at people who tried to come into his office.). When the doorbell rings I immediately put her in the bathroom. Last week I opened the door after a package was left and she went after the fedex guy. She’s a non stop barker too, she’s been to puppy boot camp, and I spent a ton on another trainer a year later. We’ve tried the citronella bark collar, squirting her with a water bottle when she barks, nothing has worked. It’s tough because I feel like I can’t even invite people over to my house, or leave her outside even in the fenced yard for more than a few minutes. I love her to death, and it would be pretty devastating to not have her around. She follows me everywhere, even to the bathroom! and sits on my lap and licks my face.

    I do have these times where I think about how nice it would be not to always have to deal with the barking and territorial issues. Our neighbors have a gorgeous sweet Golden Retriever and I wish we could have a friendly dog like that. I hope you can come to some peace whatever decision you make, I know how hard it will be.

    June 26, 2014
  • I can empathize with your situation. Just over a year ago our older dog, a beagle x lab was attacked while on leash by another dog. As a result she has become extremely leash reactive and aggressive towards other dogs. Unfortunately our younger beagle was starting to pick up some of the bad habits. While both dogs were fine with each other, we didn’t want the young one to learn the bad habits. After months of debating what to do, we finally worked with a rescue group to find a new home for the younger dog. We thought it was easier for the younger one to find and adjust to a new home than to find somewhere new for an old dog with aggression issues. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do but I feel confident that it was the right decision for both our dogs. Since they’ve been separated both dogs are doing well, especially the little one. I hope that you’ll be able to come to a solution that will let you feel you’ve done the right thing.

    June 26, 2014
  • Carolyn

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. My husband and I are going through the exact same thing with our dog. She was a rescue, and after living with us for a few months, she started showing signs of aggression like Bailey. She is particularly bad with me, and it got bad enough at one point where we thought we were going to have to give her up, but we also faced the fact that we didn’t want to take her somewhere that she would be put down. We’ve brought in trainers, tried medications, and a lot of other methods, and it’s become manageable, but I’ll admit to the secret “why can’t we have a normal dog” feelings too. I don’t have any answers for you, but I wanted to say that I can sympathize and that it was nice to hear from someone else who is having these issues. It can feel like a solitary process since every other dog around seems to be happy and social (or at least that’s how it feels). Thank you for sharing.

    June 29, 2014
  • This breaks my heart. Not only for you, because it’s such a tough situation to be in, but for Bailey as well. I regret that I don’t have any first or secondhand advice/experiences to share with you, but you are in my thoughts and I hope you find clarity soon. Sending you lots of love <3.

    June 29, 2014
  • I’m so sorry to hear about this. We had a difficult dog once, too – he was extremely protective of me, and when any other person, dog, cat, or insect so much as looked at me, the dog went berserk. We were able to place him via a no-kill shelter, and we watched the website constantly until he was adopted. Thank goodness for that happy ending!

    I guess the reason I’m sharing this little story is to let you know that there are happy endings, and your story WILL have one. Best of luck!

    June 30, 2014
  • Katie, that is so awful! My heart goes out to your family and little Bailey. It must be such a stressful situation, especially now that you are thinking about adding kiddos to the mix. I don’t have any words of wisdom, but just wanted to send you a virtual hug. I hope you guys figure out a happy solution for everyone soon.

    July 1, 2014
  • Katie, so sorry to hear about your worries. We had a similar situation with our very first dog. He was a fluffy white rescue dog (Maltese/Poodle mix). We only had him for a few days when he bit a man for no apparent reason at my son’s baseball game. The man actually had to small holes in his leg. He was very upset and threatend us with doctor bills. He didn’t need any stitches, so we only had to pay for some antibiotics. We also noticed that the dog disliked men in general. He was very protective of my two daughters and myself, but growled at my then six-year-old son and husband. I guess at some point in his life, a man was not very kind to this dog and the dog remembered. We returned him to the shelter where he also bit a male worker. The dog (we named him Charlie) was later adopted by a single old lady where he was doing very well. Returning him, even though we only had him for a few days, was very hard for me and the kids, but it was the best for all of us, including Charlie. You should not be afraid of your own dog or worry about your children’s safety. A dog needs to love everyone in the family as long as they are good to the dog.

    I am not sure this rambling helps your situation, but after we returned Charlie, a week later we adopted Teddy. He is the most mellow little pooch, not a bad bone in his body. He was found wandering around Los Angeles and we are so glad he is ours now.

    Best of luck with Bailey. — Sabine

    July 2, 2014
  • Cindy Conner

    While I was living in the country on 50 acres, my cousin asked me to take his dog who was attacking the neighborhood. While in the country, she was awesome, never attacked anyone. When we moved and lived in a neighborhood with people, her aggression began again and we were forced to have to give her up. Luckily, we were able to ship her back home with my nephew, who was visiting us at the time and she ended up on a farm, where once again, she lived happily. So she must have been claustifobic. My prayer for you is that you find someone with wide open spaces for Bailey to run. Bailey will be at peace and so will you.

    July 5, 2014
  • Oh, Katie. I’m so sorry! What a difficult situation. I hope your mom heals up soon, and you can figure out a good solution for Bailey and your family.

    July 7, 2014

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