Biting, serious behavior problems - Havanese Forum : Havanese Forums
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post #1 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-01-2015, 08:32 PM Thread Starter
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Biting, serious behavior problems

This was a really hard post for me to write. Please keep that in mind as you read.

I think Kepler must have been abused sometime in his past. Or something else horrible. He is such a sweet, obedient dog most of the time at home, but when he sees strangers he becomes this crazy dog that will not listen, he's a totally different dog. He becomes so frightened that he lashes out. He has bitten three people in the two months we've had him. That shocks me. We are careful pet owners, we haven't put him in situations where you would expect that to happen. We walk him with a caution harness, we keep him on a tight leash, we don't have people over to the house if we can help it, and when we do we keep him confined.

The first bite was my mom, and that one could have been avoided if we had known about his stranger anxiety. She was the first stranger he met after coming to our house, and he lashed out at her in a way we did not in any way expect. Okay, we thought, we can work on that, it won't happen again.

But it did. He escaped one time and bit my sister-in-law. And another time he was trying to escape from my grip to get to a stranger and got me.

There are other problems that we've discovered: separation anxiety (vomiting, pooping and peeing, trying to escape from the crate or the room he's in), and he's also started trying to run away from home when either my husband or I has left the house - that is, he tries to follow us. He's gotten out of the fenced yard once (6-foot privacy fence, newly installed, we're not sure how he managed it), and he has bolted through the front door on several occasions when the kids opened it to go out to play.

If we had known he had this stranger aggression, we would not have brought him into our house, because we have three young children, and a dog with aggression issues would be a better fit for another family. But the lady we "rescued" him from (that's how she framed it, she said she was a dog trainer and rescued dogs from the shelter and rehomed them... but I have my doubts now) did not disclose any of his issues to us. We asked about behavior problems, we were trying to be responsible. And when we discovered the problems, we started trying to work on it rather than give up on the poor dog.

But at some point we have to realize that as much as we love this sweet, adorable, overly anxious dog, our family is a really, really bad fit for him. There's no way we would have adopted him if we had known about these issues. Our children like to have friends over to the house. That is impossible with Kepler, but that's hard for a six-year-old to understand. We also used to have relatives over at our house, and we used to host church events here. We cannot do that with a dog who cannot be confined easily and who will act aggressively towards our guests. With three children, we are a very busy family. That means that while we do devote time every day to dog training, we just don't have the time it is going to take to help him overcome this stranger anxiety. Short of sending him to one of those boarding dog training boot camp things, I cannot see how we can make this work long-term.

This is really painful for me to write. I feel like a failure, like I'm giving up on him. Does that make me a really horrible pet owner? It certainly feels like it. But I want what is best not just for our family, but also for him. And I feel like we are not the right home for him. Does that make sense? Kind of like we were the foster home who took him from the shelter and dewormed him, neutered him, groomed him, and loved him and now it's time to find the forever home that's right for him.

We're not going to dump him at a shelter. We're not going to foist him on some unexpecting family like the "rescue" lady we got him from. If we cannot make this work, we're going to rehome him in the most responsible way we can. And we're going to take good care of him and love him and rearrange our normal family life for his sake until that happens.

But it doesn't make me feel any better about it.

Kepler, we miss you . . . Luna, who is not a Havanese
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post #2 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-01-2015, 08:36 PM
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You're not a horrible pet owner. This is a really sad situation and I feel for you. Poor Kepler.

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post #3 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-01-2015, 08:48 PM
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I feel really bad for you. I feel bad for Kepler too, but I think you are right, that yours may not be the best home for him. It sounds like he needs WAY more work than you can put into him right now, and a biting dog, even a small one, is a huge liability around small children.

A "training boot camp" would be a really BAD idea right now… this isn't just a training issue… Kepler has some deep-seated emotional and behavioral issues that need serious help.

I strongly urge you to reach out to Havanese Rescue. They have foster homes with people who are very experienced with dogs that come with some "baggage. They might have someone who would be a good fit to rehabilitate and assess him and get him into just the right "forever" home.

Don't feel like a failure. Adopting an adult dog is always a bit of a gamble, and Poor Kepler just has more issues than you can deal with.

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post #4 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-01-2015, 09:07 PM Thread Starter
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I just submitted an assistance request to Havanese Rescue. I figured that was probably the way to go, even though we aren't certain he's havanese. I'm very confident there is someone out there who is a good fit for him. He is a complete joy to have around most of the time. His training - at home, when it was just our family around - was going so well. He's a sweet dog, eager to please, and very cuddly. If we could live our lives with him staying inside our home without ever seeing a stranger, we wouldn't even consider this.

Kepler, we miss you . . . Luna, who is not a Havanese
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post #5 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-02-2015, 02:17 AM
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So sorry to hear it! It sounded like things were going along well with Kepler but it does seem like it's not workable for the long-term. What a rotten situation for all involved. I'm so glad you've given it such a good try though and will help Kepler adjust to somewhere new.

Our first family dog, when I was a teenager, was acquired in a somewhat similar manner. My mom got him from a newspaper ad, a woman was giving him away from her family. We just didn't know much back then, and at the time he seemed ok. He was a black toy poodle, Charlie. While he bonded very strongly with my mom, and to some extent me and my brother, it turned out that he had serious issues with men and that made it really hard for him to tolerate my dad at all. It turned into a pretty heart-breaking situation, and back then none of us knew about some of the modern, positive training techniques we now talk about on this forum. I wish we did, but it may not have been enough when you're dealing with these kind of major deep-seated issues.

I saw a post make the rounds on social media recently, about a dog named Coconut.

I completely respect your decision around Kepler, but just to show you what some rescues do to turn dogs around! So with the right set-up Kepler may well have a chance to learn some new behaviour. Just gotta find that perfect home now that you have the information to be able to be perfectly honest about what his issues are.

Last edited by Naturelover; 04-02-2015 at 01:49 PM.
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post #6 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-02-2015, 04:03 AM
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Just a thought but has he had his thyroid checked? You might do that before you give him up because hypothyroidism can lead to unexplained aggression and mood swings in some dogs. Here's an article from Whole Dog Journal that I think explains it pretty well and, of course, you can talk to your vet about it too.
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post #7 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-02-2015, 10:39 AM
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Kepler Momi, where do you and Kepler live?

I think you are being a responsible pet owner by realizing that you have to do the right thing for your family and for mi amigo Kepler. Work with us here, and the nice peoples will get help for both of you.

besos, Ricky Ricardo

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post #8 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-02-2015, 10:49 AM Thread Starter
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Y'all are making me feel so much better about this. Thank you, thank you.

I definitely believe he will be fine in the right home. I don't for a second believe he deserves to be put down for this. He needs someone who can deal with his issues, and probably a home without children and with dogs - dogs seem to have a calming effect on him.

We have had a full blood panel done on him, and I *think* it included thyroid. I will check on that.

Ricky, we live in Georgia.

Kepler, we miss you . . . Luna, who is not a Havanese
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post #9 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-02-2015, 02:31 PM
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This definitely does not sound good. He needs to be assessed by an experienced professional. If you are going to give him to HRI , they would need to do this and go from there. Sometimes this does not end well for the dog. If you go this route, I would be willing to try and find a behaviorist for HRI should they want my help. He definitely cannot be rehomed without significant behavior modification. Email me privately if you are interested in this approach.

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post #10 of 63 (permalink) Old 04-03-2015, 10:15 AM
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There are definitely people who can take on these kinds of dogs. You are making the right decision to contact HRI. The rescue organizations have a lot of people who will try to work with the dog. My friend works with pug rescue and took on aggressive biting pug. It took a lot of work with a professional but they were able to help him. He is not perfect, but living the best life he can live with them, so it can have a happy ending. They still keep him away from children however.
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