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longgone's avatar

Will you help me sort my thoughts?

Asked by longgone (7202 points ) May 19th, 2014

My sister owns a three-year-old maltese mix called Amy. In the last months, this dog has been getting more and more wary of strangers. We’ve been working on it, and are in the process of drafting a “treatment plan”. She learns fast – and hasn’t gotten aggressive yet – so we’re confident that turning her around is still possible.

I’m worried about a different issue: In two weeks, my family and I plan to visit my grandfather for the weekend. At least four other people will be there, none of which Amy knows. To make matters worse, my granddad is one of the most stubborn people I know. He’s had dogs for a million years, and he does know a lot about them…but it’s very likely that he will consider our careful training plan a waste of time.

I have three options:

1. Do Amy a favour, and stay home with her. That would make me sad, though. I don’t see this part of my family much.

2. Leave Amy, and possibly my own dog to keep Amy company, at a local kennel. Problem is, I haven’t found a kennel I like. There is one that sounds good, but there, she would be housed in a group of up to 30 dogs. They are outside all day long, supervised by experienced staff and free to run in an enormous “play space”. It would be bliss for many canines, but Amy, predictably, is very timid when harassed by other dogs. This option would also be moderately expensive, but we would just have to deal with that.

3. Take Amy. With this option, it is possible that someone manages to corner Amy, pressuring her into more unwanted behaviour. It is also very possible that, trying to prevent the aforementioned, I get into an argument with my granddad. It is no fun to argue with him, and I would like to avoid it.

Thoughts? My family tells me not to worry, which is good advice in general (I worry way too much). In this instance, though, I’d rather worry beforehand than deal with a dog who’s learned that – if all else fails – a bite will get rid of those pesky hands…

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16 Answers

GloPro's avatar

What about finding someone to house/dog sit? You have 2 weeks for Amy to get acquainted with them, and she would be more comfortable with your dog and this person in her comfortable, safe environment.
My fear is that a kennel will further exacerbate her growing anxiety.

I commend you for coming up with a plan to bring her back around. Do you remember a catalyst to her new fear?

Coloma's avatar

Don’t let your obnoxious grandfather intimidate you. If you want to take the dog just don’t engage with him if he gets argumentative. Just get up and walk away, take Amy for a walk, to play. Crate her if there is too much stimulation going on, or, take @GloPro excellent advice instead.
It is never too late to set boundaries with difficult people, and grandpa can’t argue all by himself.

Just smile and say ” I’m confident I am doing a good job with my dog” then move on, physically or emotionally. :-)

janbb's avatar

I’ll come over and get my doggie fix!

Seriously, I do like @GloPro‘s suggestion the best or failing that, maybe staying home. Or could your sister go for part of the time and you for the other?

I know when we were trying to work with Frodo’s fears, my trainer did not want him exposed to any situation that might trigger his aggression.

Coloma's avatar

I agree, but then again, I LOVE nothing more than setting boundaries with jerks. I’m good at it too. lol

janbb's avatar

@Coloma Sure but the question is really about how comfortable the dog will be and for that matter, @longgone.

Coloma's avatar

@janbb True, however, everyone will be a lot more comfortable when they chop grumpy grandpa down a milk bone or two. haha
I just hate to see people being controlled by fear of others reactions.

jca's avatar

Take the dog, keep her by your side and spend some “quiet alone time” with her so she gets special attention (and that will help you clear your head and calm down if your grandpa pisses you off).

As long as the people you’re visiting don’t mind a doggy guest, why not have that time together with the dog? Caution the family to give the dog some space so they don’t corner her or crowd her. Tell them she is in training and they can pet her or play with her, but limited and supervised.

janbb's avatar

Does Amy like being in a crate? Maybe you can crate her away from the guests for a good portion of the time and take her on quiet walks the rest of the time.

LostInParadise's avatar

Why not call your grandfather on the phone and explain the situation? That way there will be no surprises. My gut feeling is that he will be understanding, no matter how stubborn he may be. If he is like 99.9% of other grandparents, he is very much looking forward to seeing you and is willing to make some allowances.

longgone's avatar

Oh, wow…this is why I love Fluther. Thank you, guys!!

@GloPro Perfect. I have no idea why I didn’t think of a house-sitter. I’m a little baffled, to be honest. It’s not done much in my area…but still. So simple. We’ve even found two friends who’d be willing to spend the weekend at the house with both dogs. Amy has known them her entire life, and they can be trusted not to crowd her. They haven’t definitively said yes yet, but it’s looking good. You’re my hero!
No catalyst as far as we know. I have read, though, that general wariness often turns into intense fear – and aggression – at age three. Amy’s right on time…
And: Thanks. I hope everything works out as I’m hoping. Next time this year, I’d like to be asking how to stop Amy from slobbering all over strangers!

@Coloma Oh, you are entirely right. I’m not one to shy away from an argument, normally. I don’t find three days of trouble too appealing, though. And there’s my sister to reckon with…she’s fourteen, and the dog is – technically – hers. I would have had to be on alert the entire visit, telling my sister what to do, whom to avoid, when to just take the dog and run. She’s very reliable, but she’s also…fourteen. Between protecting Amy, coaching my sister and arguing with my granddad, there would just not have been much time to enjoy myself. If it puts your mind at ease – we’ll have to explain why we didn’t bring the dogs, so there’s room for a discussion, there. I’m okay with that, as long as Amy isn’t in the middle of it.

@janbb Exactly. The dog trainer in me was thinking the same. She does like crates – but I could have been dealing with a lot of whining. “Let the dog out…just for a minute, see how it goes…” – you know?

@jca The thing is – I would not like any stranger petting Amy at this point. You haven’t seen her, of course. She is very clearly telling people to leave her alone – she’s even growled, by now. I don’t want her to decide that, if pleading won’t work, she’ll have to take action.

@LostInParadise Oh, he is definitely looking forward to seeing us. He loves us, I’m convinced of that. I don’t think he realises that not everyone thrives on conflict. He’s not trying to be difficult, he simply wants to help – and have a little fun, while he’s at it. I may have portrayed him worse than he is…we get along very well. That’s exactly why I don’t want to spoil what little time we spend together.

janbb's avatar

@longgone Great solution! I hope you can work it out.

longgone's avatar

Update, if anyone is interested:

We left both dogs with the friends I mentioned. They did a great job, keeping them safe and happy.

Several times, I was immensely relieved not to have Amy with me… When we were driven to a fair straight after getting picked up at the train station, for example. For us, that was fine. With Amy, it would have been hell.

We did discuss Amy’s training plan, but apart from a comment by my grandad’s wife (”Our dogs are free to bark at whomever they please.”), that went well. My grandad simply joked about Amy terrorizing the neighborhood…let’s hope this stays a joke. ;)

Thank you, again, for your help!!

GloPro's avatar

“Our dogs are free to bark at whomever they please.”

That would be tough to bite my lip over. I’m sure their neighbors love them.

longgone's avatar

@GloPro I just smiled inwardly. These dogs live outside, and in a tiny village. When they’re walked, there is nothing but fields around. Both are gentle giants (Great Pyrenees and St. Bernard), but they don’t listen. At all. In the city, they would be horrible dogs to own.

If I needed any incentive to stick to my plan – instead of adopting this carefree way of living with dogs – the St. Bernard provided me with that on our second day there…with her buddy, she disappeared into the night, found unsuspecting campers, and bit their dog. Well, yeah. Can’t wait to take advice from the people who trained her

GloPro's avatar

My neighbor decided to take her chihuahua to dinner with us last week since it was a deck restaurant. The dog got loose, ran just inside the open doors of the restaurant and took a dump on the rug. If that weren’t bad enough, the dog scooted it’s ass along the rug to wipe its scent glands.

I was sitting there, mouth hanging, with my well behaved and training intensive puppy laying at my feet like an angel. He is becoming the restaurant mascot he’s there so much. BIG difference.

My neighbor just laughed and shrugged and chased after her dog. That’s the last time my girlfriends and I will go eat with her if she insists the dog comes along, and she has no idea why.

longgone's avatar

@GloPro Wow. I would have been mortified. Kudos to Oda for being good!

When my grandad’s dogs accompanied us to a nearby deck restaurant, he let them wander around freely…while commenting that Franz (the Great Pyrenees) has peed on other patrons’ tables before. Amazing.

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