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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

206

Two Questions About Dogs: One Nice, One Less So

We recently got two questions over the advice line about dog ownership and human behavior. One is bright, one is dark, and I'm hoping dog-owning and -knowing readers can help us figure them out.

My gentleman caller and I are adopting a dog in the next six months. Here are two questions:

I love German Shepherds and there are a lot of those mixes at the shelters (we're only looking at shelters, so we know that these dogs are probably not purebreds). However, when I did dog research, most purebred German Shep rescue organizations require that their dogs go to people that have previously owned the breed. What? Is there some secret that I don't know about? WHAT ARE THE DOG STEREOTYPES, TELL ME THEM. If we adopt a pup that Petfinder labels a "Great Pyr somethingsomething" or a "German Shep black lab" or a "collie whatever" am I dooming some lovely dog to suffering because I haven't owned one before?

I am really drawn to the older dogs because everyone likes puppies and I am a sucker for the grownups. The dudefriend is concerned that if we adopt a five-year-old, it'll die in another five years or so, and "not be worth it" because "we'll be too sad" and therefore we should maximize our happiness and a dog's happiness by getting a younger pup. He's not always this utilitarian, but on this issue, I'm afraid that I will fall in love with an older dog and then he'll actually be right. Smack some sense into one or both of us?

Advice from the Pintariat would make my (Sarah-Maclachlan-ASPCA-commercial-crying) heart sing.

My two cents is that with older dogs, you won't have to deal with the time commitment that baby animals require (a part-time job, essentially), but then again you won't be able to train them the way you would if you started "from scratch." But then again — again — maybe other people are better at training dogs than you are, and there's no shame in that, especially if you don't have the time to dedicate to a puppy or puppy-training. But I'm not a dog expert. Readers? (Also, five years is plenty of time to love something. Love is love! Or am I naive?) (Also German Shepherds are gorgeous.)

And then this:

Something really bad happened. We were at my fiance's parent's house, and their male dog was acting really aggressive toward their new puppy. My fiance got angry and he kicked the dog. Hard. I was shocked and angry. After I composed myself I told him that that was an unacceptable way to treat ANY living thing, that it was a deal breaker for me and that if I ever saw him do something like that again we're done. He apologized profusely and seemed genuinely sorry. I'm at a loss as to what to do now. I love this man — I genuinely believe he has a good heart, although clearly some anger issues. I would like to marry him and eventually have children but egads. What now?

That is not great. Although a lot depends on exactly how aggressive the older dog was acting toward the puppy — was the puppy's health in danger, and did your fiance act instinctively, believing that his action was the only way to protect it? In that case, I think it could be excused as the lesser of two unfortunate scenarios. (If I had a baby, and an older person menaced it to a point where I thought it might suffer physical harm, I wouldn't hesitate to strike out. But it's a slippery slope.)

Still, though, I know what you mean, and it must have been really jarring. But the silver lining could be that he has a strong, potentially healthy protective instinct. Or it could be an extremely red flag. Readers? Dogs?



206 Comments / Post A Comment

HereKitty

Our German shepherd mix -- who, to be fair, was adopted as a puppy -- lived to be 14 and was extremely smart, very devoted to our family, and in general the best dog ever in the history of the entire world (YES HE WAS I WILL FIGHT YOU). Shepherds, yay!

And sorry, LW2, but DTMFA. That is unforgivable.

The Attic Wife

@HereKitty My grandparents had two German Shepards when I was but a wee Attic Wife and they were incredibly obedient and well-trained. I used to play with them quite happily before I developed an irrational fear of dogs around age 6. Not the Shepards' fault at all, they're great if you take the time to train them, but I think that's true of most dogs.

kinglet749@twitter

@HereKitty NO NO NO no. If you believe that kicking a dog is always wrong, you have never seen a dog latch onto a child's leg and not let go till it was literally kicked across the room. You have never seen a dog bite a child's face or attach itself to another dog's throat. I have seen all of this. I'm sorry, but if you believe that kicking a dog is wrong, you have never met a bad dog.

iceberg

My ex-boss' horrible aggressive dog inevitably had a shot at biting his toddler son; my boss about threw the dog across the room. this is a dog he loved pretty much more than anything and alowed to terrorize us until he bit the mailman and got banned from coming into the office. So. My vote is for not *necessarily* red flag? But something (for him) to think about in terms of reacting too swiftly.

Ophelia

@iceberg Yeah, I'd really want to know more about this situation. Was he kicking this dog to IMMEDIATELY stop it from hurting the puppy? Or did he retaliate by kicking the dog as "punishment"? If the dog is big/scary, then it can actually be really hard to either break up a dog fight safely OR get them away from "prey." Kicking it isn't the right way to do that, but I can see it being a fast reaction to a bad situation. If the kicking was a more deliberate thing, then I think that's a problem.

Also, someone needs to address the issue of the male dog and the puppy, it sounds like.

nonvolleyball

@Ophelia yeah, context is everything, & sometimes physical discipline is appropriate with a dog, but I feel like a kick is worse than a hard swat on the nose/rump. (if nothing else, you'll have a better, & more reciprocal, sense of the impact if you're using your hand vs. a foot--especially if you're wearing shoes.) was the dog wearing a collar he could've pulled on instead? had he tried verbal commands &/or less-drastic physical intervention already, to no avail? I'm thinking the answer to these questions is "no," since I doubt you'd write in asking for advice on a situation that amounted to "my fiance once did a kind of fucked-up thing in a totally crazy dogfight situation."

MoonBat

@Ophelia I agree, there are times when the immediate reaction + the older dog's size and aggression level might warrant an otherwise too-violent reaction. My own male dog will actually hurt smaller dogs if left to his own free will, and has to be forcefully restrained, which sometimes includes my grabbing him by the throat in addition to holding his special harness, because I fear that my strength on the leash alone is not sufficient. He's a rescue that showed signs of abuse when I adopted him, and to me it is worth the additional trouble in order to give him a happy home, because he has never once growled or nipped at my children or me, and there is no food aggression.

Ophelia

@nonvolleyball Totally agree - just was trying to look at the two extremes this could be, you know? That said, good point re: the fact that there was a letter in the first place...I wonder if LW is around??

themegnapkin

@iceberg "my fiance got **angry** and he kicked the dog" says to me that it wasn't an emergency, where he needed to kick the dog in order to protect the puppy. My little dog was attacked by a larger dog once, my reaction was to grab my dog and push the larger dog away, I might have kicked had I not been wearing flip-flops. But there was no anger involved - there was terror, fear, and panic, but no anger. You should never strike a dog out of anger.

TheDragon

@iceberg I agree that context is everything. I work part time at a pet store, and (SOMETIMES) the best way to get two dogs separated some time is to "sweep" em apart with a (booted!) foot/leg. But I wouldn't ever dream of kicking a dog unless it was killing my dog or hurting a child

The best way is obviously the leash, but if the dog isn't on leash, it's safer than reaching in and trying to restrain that way.

nonvolleyball

@Ophelia yeah, that's what I wonder too. because on the other hand, there's definitely a camp of "you don't hit a dog EVAR," & my husband's been the person getting nasty looks from neighbors who are too far away for us to explain "just trying to keep him from choking to death on this month-old bird carcass! not rapping him on the snout for fun or because we're horrible people!" (we dogsat for a wonderful, but also very stupid & horribly trained Vizsla.)

it's a lot like with kids--a slap on the hand because they're about to grab your curling iron & not listening to reason is very different from a slap in the face because you said "no candy" & they called you stupid. (I imagine that even people who are completely against corporal punishment will agree that there are degrees of appropriateness.)

my instinct is that the LW saw something that crossed a line, but it could've been a misunderstanding, & that would be a sad thing to break up over.

Ophelia

@themegnapkin Totally agree - I just am not sure whether "anger" and "fear" read all that differently in the heat of the moment. Again - I most certainly do NOT think he should have kicked the dog (and there are better ways of dealing with an aggressive dog), but the letter just isn't telling me enough to say "get out now" or not.

Judith Slutler

@MoonBat @MoonBat Yeah, a friend of mine has a large male dog who's an absolute sweetheart to people, but occasionally gets aggressive toward smaller dogs. I've witnessed how quickly he can go for another dog's throat (note: after this incident she got him neutered and went to a training program with him to get that shit under control) and it is pretty scary. Kicking is definitely not the way to go, but I can see where if things were like that, the fiance might have felt it was necessary to protect the puppy in the moment.

One other thing, though I feel like the LW probably would've mentioned this if it were the case - not everybody has the same attitudes toward animals, or toward dogs in particular. The farming part of my family would shoot a strange dog on their property without blinking an eye, and basically consider their barn cats disposable pest control. I'm not saying that is an acceptable way to act toward animals at all, but not everyone grew up to value dogs as irreplacable individuals toward which violence is 100% unacceptable. Maybe there are some differences at play here, especially since it is his family's dog?

fabel

@themegnapkin Yeah, I picked up on the wording as well. It seems like she's saying his anger was a preface to the kicking, which indicates that it wasn't a swift, instinctual move to protect the puppy from harm. She also says the kick was "hard" so I'm guessing the force was unnecessary. If this is how it went down-- then yeah, red flag. I wouldn't stay with a guy who did that.

KeLynn

@iceberg "not everybody has the same attitudes toward animals" - I understand the *fact* that some people think unprovoked violence against animals is OK, but that doesn't mean you have to be cool with the idea of actually being in a relationship with that kind of person.

TheLetterL

@themegnapkin Ditto the wording making it sound like unrestrained anger. Also the fact that he "apologized profusely and seemed genuinely sorry" sounds like a red flag.

As others have said, it's important to know if the little dog was in immediate danger and what other interventions had been attempted first. Also, it's worth examining how the rest of the family -- including the older dog himself -- reacted to the kick. For example, if everyone else was blase about it, LW knows that this is an accepted practice.

Pim Robert@facebook

@iceberg Agreed. Context is supes important. You want to intervene before an incident (dog or babies or peoples getting bit)happens. Tensions might have been running high since everyone sensed the aggression from the other dog and maybe the husband thought they were coming to a boil. Separating dogs when they are straight-up fighting is so dangerous and the damage that can be wrought in seconds can be real bad. I'm thinking husband was a bit high-strung in his response, but unless there have been other inappropriate anger bursts it's probably a stand alone incident. The other dog is also probably not to distraught, since dogs are pack animals and hopefully read the cue as an alpha telling him he's out of line? DUNNO, not a dog trainer.

Ophelia

re: the first question - yes, some breeds do have specific characteristics (although any given dog may or may not have them, so play with your "candidate" pooches for a while to see). For example, I have a great little guy who we think is a black lab/border collie. We're not sure about the black lab part, but Holy Border Collie, Batman! This means, for example:
- unending energy and a need to "work"
- During puppyhood (and still, when excited) a tendency to nip at ankles/feet
- protectiveness over the household/family - which means we've had to have a structured way that he's allowed to "greet" people that come in the door.

Re: shepherds specifically, some of these same traits do apply, and there are also a few other considerations:
- You need to have the ability to train and discipline (not punish, but set behavioral guidelines) for a dog that big, because if you are out in public, and unable to control him/her when s/he invariably freaks out about something random, like a street sweeper, or a bunch of guys on skateboards, someone can get hurt. Let's face it, that's less likely with a chihuahua.
- purebred German Shepherds (and a lot of other purebred dogs) can and often do have health problems (with shepherds, it's often their hips), which can lead to lots of vet bills later in life - people who aren't prepared for that will have to deal with some unexpected and unpleasant choices.

I would discuss this topic all day long, so happy to continue :)

catwithglasses

@Ophelia Agree agree. My husband and I adopted a very big dog in December and it's been a whole process figuring out how to train her. & it's absolutely imperative that we get her very well trained, because I can't pick up a 90lb dog and move her across the street if I need to.

And breeds do matter a little bit, just so you know what you're getting into. For example, our dog is a combo of a boxer and a mastiff, both of which are known to be headstrong and smart. She's just not a dog who is looking to obey every command and do every job. It's a lot of convincing her that we're in charge.

But I think German Shepherds have a tendency to follow rules and boundaries, so I think that may be an easier route for a first dog. Boxer/mastiff? Ehhh not so much. But I did get to submit her photo to dogshaming.tumblr.com today, so that was fun!

HereKitty

@Ophelia Heehee, "Holy Border Collie, Batman!"

Heather@twitter

@Ophelia Alternatively, the Humane Society told me that my pup was a Border Collie Mix and has none of said characteristics. Gets excited at silly things occasionally, but mostly likes to just chill out and watch the outside of windows. That and total strangers will ask me what kind of dog he is and then tell me that I'm wrong. He's definitely Australian Shepherd something something...

So there's that. Try to find out basic character traits and ignore the suggested breed...sometimes it doesn't quite work!

Megasus

@Ophelia German Shepherds can also have pretty strong guarding instincts, which is why most places are wary of adopting them out because of all the things that can come out of that.

Ophelia

@Heather@twitter Totally! We were told ours was black lab and pointer, but when he turned out fluffier, smaller, and started herding everyone around the dog park, we got other ideas :)

wee_ramekin

@Ophelia I worked at a doggy daycare & boarding kennel for three years, and in my experience, there are definitely breed characteristics that are typical of German Shepherds.

First of all, they are incredibly smart. This can be a great thing, but for a first-time dog owner, this might actually be considered a negative. Usually, having a smart dog translates to a LOT more work for a human owner, because the dog gets bored easily, and needs more physical and mental stimulation than you might think. There is a reason that GSDs (German Shepherd Dogs) are the preferred breeds for police dog work. Until they get older, there often isn't anything "laid-back" about them.

Secondly, GSDs have a tendency to "go from 0 to 60 mph" faster than some other breeds of dog. They were originally bred as a herding and guard dog, which means they are high-energy, independent, and can tend toward aggression if not properly trained. They can also tend toward aggression toward other dogs if they aren't properly socialized.

They also like to push your boundaries. You need to be *firm* with a German Shepherd. Not violent, not abusive, not yelling, but you definitely need to have a resolute, take-charge attitude that you are willing to back up with patience and routine.

Also, they are hairy motherfuckers, what with their double coats and all.

On the positive side, GSDs tend to bond very closely to their people. They are very loyal, quick to respond to training, and demmed good-looking to boot.

Ophelia

@wee_ramekin I'll second that for herding dogs, too. I don't think, even after growing up with large dogs, I was prepared for the level of discipline that I needed to have to deal with my pup.

Elsajeni

@kmc Is your dog the one who ate the TV remotes? If so, she does look deeply ashamed.

shadow_monkey

@Ophelia My grandparents had a rather large German Shepherd when I was a toddler. She was as gentle as a kitten with me and I played with her constantly. However, she was VERY protective of me. She nipped at my elderly great uncle, and on another occasion actually bit my great grandmother. In both cases it was when I was playing outside and they had scooped me up to hug me hello. Some dogs do get very protective over their people, and with a larger dog that can sometimes be a little scary.

Oh, and the relatives were both fine and she didn't break the skin or anything. Scared the bejeesus out of my great grandma though.

selenalynn

@Ophelia Good advice!
Not about breeds but:
I work for a rescue, and while there are a lot of conditions (because, let's face it, A LOT of people get in over their heads and do givebacks/take the dog to the pound/pass it on to a friend, and rescues are working hard to avoid this), I think doing a bunch of research, showing the rescue that you've done research/are invested/are prepared to handle the work/have a care plan beyond "love the cuuuuute puppy" goes a long way toward showing that you're a good candidate. Plus you get to learn lots of stuff about how to care for your friend. Everybody wins. And don't be afraid to ask the rescue for recommendations of books/sites to read, look up, training classes, etc. They probably have a ton of information resources.

celeec4@twitter

@Ophelia Hehehehe, holy border collie! Yeah, growing up my best friend's family had an Aussie Cattle dog, that dog ran us ragged. I think my friend's mom saw us as all babysitting one another so she could drag out tired butts in later to a quiet/sane dinner.

PatatasBravas

@celeec4@twitter OF COURSE THIS RUNS WHILST I AM ON VACATION. Thanks for the advice everyone! Lots to think about.

There was also a good conversation about this a week or so ago, located here, for the curious.

catwithglasses

@Elsajeni She's not on the site yet! If they post it, she'll be the one who chewed through her leash.

itiresias

@Selena Hoy@facebook yeah, I used to foster dogs, and nearly all of the dogs that end up at the shelter are bigger ones that people adopted and then realized they couldn't handle. shepherds, pits, mastiff mixes - i grew up with dogs and have always been very comfortable with them, and was surprised to find myself intimidated by my own dog when I couldn't even control it on a walk. even ones with no aggression, you have to remember, are strong and smart and if they don't feel like listening to you, they're just not going to.

unfortunately for shelter dogs, many have been through bad experiences that have taught them they might be better off not listening to people. so, just know what you're getting yourself into.

catsoncatsoncats

@wee_ramekin I would also add that GSDs can have a high prey drive, so they can tend to have a strong instinct to chase small animals. I have a shepherd mix, and she is like this. It's definitely something that can be managed, but my dog needs to be carefully introduced to small animals that she is expected to live/play with. We have cats at home, and my shepherd girl needs to be supervised when she is around them. She doesn't want to kill them per se, it's more of a chasing/playing kind of thing, but she can get carried away and play too rough if we don't intervene.

George Templeton Strong

@PatatasBravas Yes! This German Spepherd-having topic was touched on recently and now I'm learning all sorts of stuff that I wish I had known when we adopted little Cujo (not her real name.) But I'll repeat myself: GS's are the best, very loyal, get a mix so that they live longer, hope to avoid the dysplasia, train the best you can, discipline discipline discipline! I discipline my faithful sidekick in German, just because I think it's funny. So when we're in the apartment I say "And who is my little sidekick? Are you hungry? I think I have something..." and when we're out wandering around and she tries to wolf down some garbage on the street I say "Sitz dich! Bist du verruckt? Lass es alllein! Komm doch mal!"

George Templeton Strong

@George Templeton Strong And sort of a side note: I'm a native speaker of English but I studied German and attended a German university for a while. One of my best friends was a vet tech and early on in my GS-having experience I took her and my Hundchen out for a stroll and demonstrated this technique. She said "it's not that you're speaking German; it's that when you speak in German you speak in a lower, more forceful register. You could be speaking Klingon for all the dog cares." It's not true though. I've spoken to the dog in Italian and French but nothing gets the job done like speaking in German!

Megasus

@George Templeton Strong Well you speak in that register BECAUSE you're speaking German, and you don't when you speak French or Italian. Like, my sister speaks Japanese, and her voice goes up an octave or two when she speaks it.

MoonBat

I adopted both of my doggie buddies from shelters, both are mixes, and both were 5-6 years old when I adopted them. My golden retriever/sheltie mix is still the same sweet-but-stubborn dork she has always been, and she's 13 now! My male dog is a Newfoundland/shepherd mix, and a total sweetheart towards me and my kids, but really aggressively protective. So, no little dogs or cats allowed around him, and he has to be restrained and gently introduced when new adults come into my home. That may be the reason that the rescue organizations limit adoptions to previous shepherd owners. There are pros and cons to dogs with strong guarding and hunting instincts.

VDRE

My family has a German Shepherd mix and she's around 11 or 12 now. We had never had a dog before, let alone a German Shepherd, and we've never had any issues with her. It probably helps though that she's obviously mixed with a smaller breed of dog (we're not sure what) so she's around 50 lbs and is therefore presumably easier to handle than like an 80 lb dog.

Ophelia

@VDRE Yeah - we had a german shepherd/golden retriever mix when I was younger, and she was just a lovely, lovely dog. She was big, but more chill than a straight-up working dog would've been.

Roaring Girl

@VDRE My dog growing up was German Shepherd from his dad and black lab/collie from his mom, and easily the most awesome dog in the entire world. He was protective of us, but so was his mom, so I never attributed that to the breed.

nerds

@Roaring Girl I just had to say that I had a German Shepherd/lab/collie mix as well, and she was the best dog ever. Had a lot of energy, and definitely some protective instincts, but also laid back and very devoted to her family. I don't know if it was the mix of shepherd and lab that made her so great, but I have always wanted a shepherd after her!

JessAndNo21

YES TO OLDER DOGS. My siblings and I joke that my parents are a Corgi Old Folks Home because in the past 10 years they have adopted 6 different adult corgis (aged 5-10 when they got them). Trust me, any time spent with a good dog is maximizing your love. I know my parents wouldn't have traded any of their corgi herd for a pup just to have more years with them. My dad actually built a little cart out of PVC pipe for one of them when his back legs went out in old age. He put flames on the side of it like a racing car. Also: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HOUSEBREAK THEM.

alabee

@JessAndNo omg dying of the cuteness

Clare

@JessAndNo My reaction to the idea of a corgi in a cart with flames on the sides:

stonefruit

@JessAndNo I want to like this so many times. Wheelchair-type-accommodations for pups with non-working hind legs! Melts my heart every time.

bocadelperro

@JessAndNo I have a rescue corgi. He was 3-5 when I got him (he was found on the side of a country road, so we don't know). He is the best dog I've ever had. Also, I love corgis, but corgi puppies are fuzzy little terrors, so I go for the older dogs.
here's a picture, for the cuteness: http://instagr.am/p/OfTXvsAY4Z/

meatcute

@bocadelperro Such a cutie! I adore corgis.

Is this an acceptable time to suggest that we all post pictures of our puppies/dogs? Hmm? Okay, go:

My girl Sal.

OhShesArtsy

@Everyone: Go to youtube, look up CorgiCam.

IT IS A LIVE FEED OF A CORGI MAMA AND HER PUPS.

I HAVE WASTED HOURS.

Megasus

@bocadelperro Corgi puppies are seriously insane. I used to have a picture of my sister's tiny 3 month old corgi JUMPING OFF MY LAP to attack her half brother, who I think was like 6-7 months older than her at the time.
And yes, corgi cam all day every day. And if you like hearing stories about people saving corgis and seeing pics of them in their little carts: The Daily Corgi

Ophelia

@meatcute Yes, ma'am!

Indiana

laurel

@OhShesArtsy: Cutest puddle of pee ever.

wee_ramekin

@JessAndNo Yeah, I definitely want to speak to the misconception that many folks have about older dogs.

People seem to be loathe to adopt older dogs, but I have found that, in general, there is almost no downside to adopting an older dog with no known behavioral problems.

Older dogs are calmer, they are already housebroken, and they don't require as much exercise. I just started fostering a one-year-old Pit Bull pup that I found on the side of the road, and you guys...OH MY GOD. Bless her heart, compared to my five-year-old dog, this dog is a MONSTER. She's untrained, she chews EVERYTHING, and she needs exercise at least twice a day. My five-year-old fella, on the other hand, would like nothing better than to sleep and snuggle all day, though he can still be rousted from slumber to go for a jog or play with other dogs. I swear to the Good Lord, I adore this foster dog, but I am never going to adopt a puppy!

My sister voiced the fear that if she got an old dog, it wouldn't love her as much as a puppy would. I can sort of see where she's coming from, but frankly, this is completely incorrect. The beautiful thing about dogs of any age is their boundless capacity for love and affection. A dog will love you whether you come into its life at 10 months or 10 years.

The argument that you'll have less time with an animal and thus it will hurt sooner when you adopt an older dog is also somewhat illogical. Let me tell you a universal truth: it is going to hurt like hell when your dog dies, no matter how long you've had it. It's going to rip your soul out, wring you dry of tears, and stomp on your happiness. Thinking that you can stave this off by getting a puppy so that that time is farther in the future is silly, because your dog's eventual death is going to hurt no matter what. You might as well assuage the hurt with the knowledge that you rescued a dog that others passed over, a dog that might have been bound for an early death if you hadn't opened up a place for it in your family. Additionally, unless you're talking a the very very large breed dogs (Great Danes and the like), 5 is not at all old for any breed of dog. It's not like you're adopting a dog who has 6 short months to live.

TheDragon

@meatcute O'Ryan and his pal Roxie

http://www.flickr.com/photos/55386259@N03/7840639456/in/photostream

mooseketeer

@wee_ramekin yes exactly on old-ish dogs! I want to adopt all the old dogs, but have settled for one about 5 year old fluff ball who is so calm and awesome and loving. I would never get a puppy.

bocadelperro

@Megano! ahaha. my last corgi puppy actually found out how to break through the kiddie-gate that we put up to keep him out of the carpeted areas of the house. for the first 6 months of his life, i didn't have a piece of clothing that lacked dog stains

piggie

@wee_ramekin Older dogs, especially ones who have had a bit of a rough go of it, can be So Appreciative. We had a Golden we raised from a pup and a mutt we rescued as an adult. The Golden was like, "where are my kibbles? I guess you guys are cool though." Our mutt knew what it was like out there, and he continues to thank us daily for saving him from it all with annoying amounts of kisses ten years later.

Punk-assBookJockey

@wee_ramekin Awwww, this post just warmed my heart so much! I have a friend and she only adopts dogs that are senior. We're talking like 12 and older, maybe as young as 10 if they need special care. And she still loves them so much and the two she's had since I've known her love her very much too, so I think you are right about everything about old dogs. They're the best.
My dog is 7 (we adopted him at around 2, and I am so glad we never had a puppy) and I still think of him as so young! I try not to think about when he will die though because he is the best dog I've ever met and your paragraph up there sounds right on about how I will feel when he has to leave me.

Bittersweet

@JessAndNo Late to the corgi party, but here I am! And here's Winnie, ready to play. Corgis are the best! Winnie was a handful as a puppy but now she's 2 and she's turning into the most awesome dog ever.

The idea of an elderly corgi in a little cart with flames on the sides is so adorable it makes my heart melt.

Biketastrophy

LW#1 I would tend to agree (though I think 5 years would be the cutoff point for me) as you're going to fall in love no matter what and unless you're made of money, vet bills when dogs get older suck so hard. I'd search in the 1-5 year range, I got a 2 year old pup who is amazing and I didn't have to go through puppy issues (though she had her own abuse issues) and I had a 5 year old who died from complications a year after we got him and after we dropped like 3k trying to save him. Also the previous owner thing is crap, you just have to know how to be the lead dog and not have the dog take over the house with a breed like that.

LW#2 I adopted a dog who was previously abused (animal rescue found her tied up to a guard rail on the side of a highway) She has some issues where she will lash out in weird situations, and I have definitely hurt her while protecting my wife. I love that dog, but if she is in one of her weird PTSD episodes I have no problem stopping her. Slightly different situation it seems, but I agree with Edith that if its defending someone we're talking about, he could be entirely justified.

If he was using his foot to say no instead of using words and presence, then yeah you could have someone with anger issues and your fear of his abusive side might be correct.

Biketastrophy

@Biketastrophy Also read everything Ophelia wrote, she said exactly what I was thinking but with less run-on sentences.

Ophelia

@Biketastrophy Also, if the LW has had other dogs before (particularly either shepherd mixes or other working-dog types), she should talk to the people at the GS rescue, and see what that rule REALLY means. It may be a way to deter people who just want to get a big scary-looking dog and leave it in the yard, as opposed to a hard-and-fast rule that they refuse to address on a case-by-case basis.

(also, thanks! I'm procrastinating on some actual writing I should be doing, so at least I'm procrastinating in clear prose...)

Misselthwaite

@Ophelia Yes, I was thinking exactly this. It's probably meant to be a deterrent to people they suspect want a German Shepherd for the wrong reasons. GSDs have definite breed characteristics, but they are usually eager to fulfill what is expected of them and they wouldn't be terrible first dogs at all.

PatatasBravas

@Ophelia You all and your advice are the best. Thanks everyone!

He's had a couple of border collies, and I've had pittie mixes. None of the GDS though. Once we get fencing up and have done a bit more prep work, I'll start calling the rescues and talking to shelter workers for more specific breed/individual advice!

@Biketastrophy re: older dogs - we've both lost family members and close friends in the last two years, so his desire to avoid more death in our immediate future is a reasonable one, I think. He's not being an evil discriminatory meanie!

christonacracker

I love animals like a crazy lady but I once punched a dog in the face because it was killing a cat. While a lot depends on how dude interpreted the danger towards the puppy, I don't think there's any enormous red flag if he genuinely thought the dog was about to take a bite of of puppyfriend and didn't know what else to do in the moment. It's quite another thing if the dog was just being growly jerk.

causedbycomma

I adopted my dog when he was 8, and had him for 4 years before he passed away. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I loved that little guy so much.

The correct term is babes, sir

@causedbycomma Just want to say I know exactly how you feel and I'm really sorry you lost him. I adopted my dog when she was 5, and had her for 5 years. Just lost her a couple of months ago. When I first walked into that shelter, I looked at puppies and hadn't really considered getting an older dog for fear of previous abuse and high vet bills. But I eventually wandered into the older dog room, and oh, I'm so glad I did. Like you, I'd do it again in a second if I had the chance.

MilesofMountains

When someone's off-leash dog ran into our family's yard and grabbed our pet rabbit from where my sister was playing with it, my dad kicked it quite hard to get it to drop her. He's not normally abusive or mean in any way, and it DID get the dog to drop the rabbit. She died anyway and I think traumatized everyone involved, including the lady who watched her dog kill some little girls' pet rabbit. So he might not be a terrible person, just one that really didn't think before he acted.

catsuperhero

LW1: From the perspective of an animal shelter volunteer: Please, PLEASE, if you have the inclination, adopt an older dog. I can go on and on about how puppies are like toddlers, and tons of energy, and fun, and a lot of people are unprepared for them...but really, all I'm going to say is that those puppies FLY off the shelves. Just like the kittens. Older dogs stick around. Relatively few people will choose an older dog if faced with a cute puppy...please, be one of the people that will.

LW2: My gut says "get the fuck out." That kicking isn't an acceptable (or particularly safe) method of warding off a potential attack. BUT. Logic says...talk to him about it. Was kicking a last resort? Was he scared to put himself in between the dogs? Would he have thrown a cushion had one been handy? What was his impression of the situation? Was he angry (seriously, a really unacceptable way to handle anger) or just scared? These are all things to ask him, I think.

MoonBat

@catsuperhero SO WELL PUT!!!

Anita Ham Sandwich

@catsuperhero Yay for older dogs! I adopted my 10(ish)-year-old Brittany rescue a few months ago, and it was fantastic not to need to housetrain him or wonder what his temperament would be like.

Craving Brownies

@catsuperhero I adopted a 3.5 year old border collie mix 3 weeks ago!! She's been almost too easy, although we take her on 2 long walks or runs every day, and her choosen "job" is staring at the hamasters compulsively. (I grew up with terriers and thought she would try to maul them. My husband, who grew up with border collies, just laughed and predicted the intense staring.). As an adiult dog, she is okay being left loose in the house while we are at work, yet she's very tightly bonded to us. However, Abbie was not the first dog we considered at the shelter, and she had notes from her previous owner indicating no real problems. Her family couldnt afford her anymore, and I believe it because she seems really well loved.

PatatasBravas

@catsuperhero THE OLD DOGS HAVE MY HEARTSSSSS. Also thanks for being a shelter volunteer!!!!

catsuperhero

@everyone I love my animal shelter. I'm actually on the cat side of things--I am NOT a dog person much--and my kitty was older when I got her, about 4 years. I know that's not really old, but to give some perspective on how long adult animals sit at shelters, that's old. Every time I am faced with potential adopters who want kittens, my first question is "Why?". If all they can supply me with are "cuteness" and "want my kid to grow up with the kitten," I gently steer them toward older cats. Because those are not good reasons to want kittens. And puppies! Jesus. So few people are prepared for the puppies they take home. We get a lot of complaining phone calls, and that's after we screen, interview, and home-visit potential adopters.

Also, my cat is the prettiest, softest, smartest, sweetest snugglebug baby girl ever, so I am truly biased toward older cats.

HeyMatilda

When I was in high school, my parents decided to adopt a golden retriever from a shelter after the death of our first dog. We ended up with this loveable but totally massive dog Rusty who was really just too big for us to manage. He had some previous issues being taunted by what the shelter believed were construction workers and got super aggressive around pillows, toys, etc. The first night we had him, he ended up biting my mom's hand (not enough to break the skin but enough for her to be shaken up about it) and we had to take him back the next day. He was put in a training program and became a lovely dog to a girl who has MS and was in a wheelchair. BUT...no one hit him the night he bit my mom. There is no way anyone in my family would find it acceptable to purposely hit an animal-even in that circumstance where he got a little aggressive. Unless it was a life threatening situation for anyone involved, no way.

LW2-dude has got to go.

punkahontas

LW1: You are going to fall in love with your dog no matter what age it is when you get it, and no matter when it dies, it is going to suck equally bad.

Aside from the benefit of not having to train an older dog, you might actually be giving it a life it wouldn't have had if you didn't adopt it. (It is my understanding older dogs are generally euthanized sooner than puppies.) So even if the dog dies in 5 years, you can take comfort in the fact that you were able to give it 5 years of an awesome life.

Elizabeth F. Orever

@punkahontas this this this this this this AND this. What she said.

cosmia

@punkahontas Yes! This is the same with cats. My cat was basically a stray kitten we took in but if I could get a second cat I wouldn't hesitate to get an older cat. Older dogs and cats and dogs in shelters are much less wanted than kittens and puppies.

Lily Rowan

@cosmia Yeah, I found my grown cat online like five days before getting him at the shelter, and my friend warned me he might not be there anymore by the time we got there to adopt...luckily he was! (Luckily for both of us.)

RosemaryF

@punkahontas I adopted an adult dog and she ended up getting out and getting hit by a car 10 days after I got her. This was almost two years ago and I still get teary eyed thinking about it and will full on cry when I'm PMSing. 10 days, five years, it doesn't matter. If you love something, it sucks when it dies.

KeLynn

@punkahontas "You are going to fall in love with your dog no matter what age it is when you get it, and no matter when it dies, it is going to suck equally bad." - YES.

My dog died a couple months ago and while I'm not ready to get another dog just yet, I definitely know that I AM going to get another one, and my partner and I have pretty much agreed on getting one a few years old - I brought it up I think, but he said he had been thinking the same thing. Frankly, puppies and younger dogs are hard work and often just pieces of shit. While my dog was definitely worth that, I'm not excited at the idea of going through that again with a new dog. I'm all about getting somebody who is a little more mellowed out already. Win-win!

While I'm not opposed to adopting a much older dog, like 10 years old or something, I would go into that relationship with the mindframe that I would just be serving as "hospice" (depending on the breed and when how long they usually live, etc.). I'm sure I'd still fall in love, but (and it sounds depressing, but it's not) after a certain point you're pretty much just trying to keep your baby happy and comfortable for as long as you can, expecting the worst every time you wake up or come home from work and look for her. I loved my girl as she got older, but she got grouchy and slow and I think that maybe isn't the best way to start your dog ownership journey, in the sort of relationship you'd be more "reserved" in just because you knew the end was coming soon.

soul toast

LW 1: Regarding puppy vs grown dog, there are a lot of trade-offs. I grew up mostly with full grown dogs, and then as an adult my partner and I got a puppy. We weren't really setting out to do that, it just worked out that way. I'm sure a lot of other 'pinners will talk about the pros and cons of training from puppy-hood, etc, so I won't go into much detail. I'll specifically address the whole cost-benefit 5 years of love vs 10 years of love thing. The thing is, puppies are a pain in the ass. For YEARS. My dog is now two years old, and things have finally started to settle down to the point where we can have nice things and can take him in public without embarrassment. I love him more than I can say, and I don't for a minute regret getting him as a puppy, but this is something you might want to consider. A grown up dog might be more of a known quantity than a puppy who might spend years peeing on your carpet and eating your shoes.
Again, love my pup, and for me felt that this challenge was worth it. And I'm really glad we got to raise him. But consider whether you might want to skip over the destructive years when pup is a little harder to love.

Ophelia

@soul toast Seriously, ditto. And if you get a male puppy, get ready for an Adolescence of Terrorism*.

Mine just hit 20 months or so, and it's like I have a different dog. It's amazing.

*which is all the more difficult because you still LOVE them, and they are ADORABLE, but they just will. not. stop. freaking out about things. Sigh. Puppies, man.

meatcute

@soul toast Also, since you brought up "cost benefit" analysis — puppies are expensive. I love my little one, but it adds up fast: early (frequent) trips to the vet for routine shots, puppy training classes, spay or neuter costs, occasional puppy day care (they can't be left alone for more than a few hours when they're really little) — it just goes on and on and on.

On the other hand, their adorable-ness and the hilarity of watching puppies do puppy things is pretty much priceless.

catwithglasses

@soul toast @Ophelia Sometimes it's so nice to hear/read these things from other dog owners. Last night I really doubted that our adolescent dog would ever grow out of her so much energy/so much destruction phase, but it will end...sometime...in like another year probably. Right?

TheBelleWitch

@kmc No kidding, right? I need stories of hope, too. My dog is 14 months old. At least I'm forced to go running a lot if I want my house in one piece?

Ophelia

@kmc Mine is JUST coming out of it (and still, frankly has a ways to go, but now I can see progress?) - he started being aggressive on the leash at 10 months due to being fearful (suddenly) of everything, and would bark at anyone who came in the house, etc. After the past 10 months of making every. single. interaction into a lesson, he's doing SIGNIFICANTLY better. As my mom put it, "Wow, if you ever have kids, it'll be relaxing."

catwithglasses

@Ophelia Ha, yes. As long as I can crate train my kids....

soul toast

@kmc It gets better! I'd recommend looking into training classes if you can swing it. Not just for the training itself, but it was so helpful to our sanity to get to complain about our dog's annoying behaviors to someone who knew dogs.

soul toast

@Ophelia Ugh, did he do the thing where they attack the leash? That was the WORST.

catwithglasses

@soul toast Yeah, a sympathetic/experienced ear helps. We did training around February and then we graduated up to a behaviorist. Doggie even went away for two weeks to a board & train program and now we have personal visits with the behaviorist/trainer. And she is definitely getting better, she's just (like I wrote way above in the comments) incredibly willful and headstrong. And 90 lbs. And a year and half old. And really didn't get much bite inhibition as a puppy.

So yeah, it was good to hear from the behaviorist/trainer that while, yes, she's a difficult dog, she's an inherently good dog and she's a trainable dog. If I didn't have that reinforcement, I might have given up around May.

Ophelia

@soul toast Yup! I wound up soaking the lower half of it in a combination of old-school listerine (the smelly yellow kind) and vinegar. That seemed to do the trick.

TheclaAndTheSeals

@TheBelleWitch When my dog was an adolescent, I used to cry while walking him because his behavior was so erratic. (I'm sure I looked insane.) Your dog will grow up and calm down, promise.

montivagant

This thread is so. incredibly. therapeutic.
(Mine is a rescued border collie mix, who is possibly just over two.)

cinnamonskin

@Ophelia Oh, now that's smart. My puppy seems to like that bitter apple, even hot sauce didnt work, but I bet listerine would do the trick. Puppies. Good thing they're cute.

Ophelia

@cinnamonskin Yeah, if you spray bitter apple on something, mine will just sidle up to it, and surreptitiously lick it all off.

catsoncatsoncats

@kmc oh yeah, my dog was a terror up until he was close to 2 years old. Now he is 5 and so much better. He LOVES people and gets really excited when people he likes come around, which I don't think will ever change. BUT. He is 100 times better on a leash. Occasionally still pulls when there is an especially appealing piece of garbage he wants to sniff/eat, but usually he is great. He also used to be very destructive, especially with chewing up and sometimes eating fabric and paper items. He even had to get surgery when a sock got stuck in his intestine (not sure how - he had pooped out numerous socks in the past). He has all but stopped doing that, never chews up shoes or anything anymore. Occasionally will steal steal a dish towel and parade around with it proudly in his mouth, hoping he can play keep-away with someone, but so much better!

olivebee

There was just a story in the news in Chicago about an elementary school teacher who was arrested and is on trial because he punched his 1 year old dog to death. He turned himself in because he felt so horrible afterward and the police report says he was just bawling when he called them. But....he killed his dog because he lost his temper with it. So, while I get that people make mistakes, I am happy he will be punished for what is, at it's very essence, animal cruelty. I can't offer my opinion on the LW's situation because I don't know the whole story (and as an animal rescue volunteer, I am biased). But behavior like that could have legal consequences (besides the consequence of seriously injuring or killing the animal).

whereismyrobot

@olivebee The only weird thing to me is, she knows this man enough to get married to him, but has not seen any of this behavior before? In that case, I really think that it may be an instance of him protecting the puppy and not knowing what to do.

D.@twitter

@olivebee Yeah, I mean, they're always "sorry" about their mistakes...afterwards.

sony_b

One neighbor's pitbull mauled another neighbor's little toy-something dog in the street a couple of weeks ago. The little one didn't make it. If a hard kick could have prevented that, I'd be all for it. I didn't see it, I heard it, and I can't get the sound of that poor dog out of my head. It's a really fine line. My other question for LW2 would be what were his parent's reaction to the situation? Any clues to family dynamics there?

shawbaby

LW1: I spent a horrendous 8 months working at a dog daycare (NOT THAT FUN, TURNS OUT) so I know all the doggy stereotypes! (or, at least, formed my own)

I think the biggest thing with German Shepherds is they are super energetic and super smart and need really good, consistent training.

I personally think people who adopt older dogs (and cats) from shelters are the Greatest of American Heroes but I understand the puppy draw. If you DO get a puppy TAKE IT TO PUPPY KINDERGARTEN. Seriously, it's super cheap/free depending on where you live, and will help so so much down the line, and my biggest takeaway from the doggy daycare was that the most important thing you can do for a dog is have it be well-socialized and comfortable with all types of dogs/people from a young age.

Ok I wrote that really fast because I get excited when I talk about dogs. I hope it is helpful/makes sense/so excited for you and your future dog!

TheBelleWitch

@shawbaby Tell me all your doggie daycare stories.

soul toast

@shawbaby Yes times a billion to puppy class and socialization. Our dog is pretty chill about new things now, loves meeting new people, is gentle with kids, because we put a lot of work into introducing him to a lot in those first months, and we asked a lot of him in learning manners. A friend got a puppy around the same time as we did, and her dog just cannot handle change.

Although we forgot to introduce him to drive-thru windows. I had him in the car when a friend wanted to stop by starbucks, and pup lost his mind barking because it was just to weird for him to comprehend. I can't imagine if he reacted that way to EVERYTHING.

Ophelia

@soul toast Seconded. Puppy kindergarten, dog parks, and doggy day care are the Absolute Best.

soul toast

@Ophelia Agree that the dog park is a great tool, but I also want to highlight for any new puppy owners that caution should be used. Most vets don't advise taking a puppy to the dog park until they've gotten their vaccinations, and I tend to agree, depending on what parasites/diseases are common in your area. Also, small pups/dogs can be vulnerable around bigger dogs when they're so little. But yeah, almost the minute our vet gave the go ahead, we took our pup straight to the park to run out his crazies and make friends.

Ophelia

@soul toast and, per the second point, it can be a good idea to go to the dog park yourself and get the vibe first. Our dog park is chill, and full of friendly dogs from about 5-8pm, but the mornings can be overly aggressive/enthusiastic for a small dog or puppy.

Princess Slayer

@shawbaby I work at a doggy daycare now! It's a hell of a job. I love dogs but oh my god dogs all the time in your face. I love all of my babies though and my phone is full of pictures of happy puppies.

shawbaby

@Princess Slayer YES. And all the POOP. We had a golden lab that was a regular and just looooved the taste of other dogs' poop, she would just follow a pooping dog around and eat whatever came out as fast as she can and then have her own horrible case of diarrhea later (which she would then try to eat).

SO FUN GUYS.

But the days when a reasonable amount of dogs came and they all got along were pretty great.

soul toast

LW 2: I know there's some missing context here, so I'm hesitant to jump to any conclusions... but fiance reminds me of my slightly abusive dad. Anger issues, the (potential) lack of empathy for animals...
Again, don't have enough info, but my history is making me jump towards calling it a warning sign. I think at the very least, get this guy into anger management therapy.

Anita Ham Sandwich

I adopted a ten-year-old dog a few months ago, and am absolutely in love with him. You get to know the temperament ahead of time (unlike with a puppy), and maybe I'm biased, but he almost seems...grateful? to have such a loving home (his prior owner died and he was being boarded by a rescue group). Damn, allergies acting up...

Anita Ham Sandwich

@Anita Ham Sandwich
He's also deaf, but is sweet and friendly. He doesn't bark at much (since he can't hear other dogs or strange noises) and watches my face a lot when we're walking or I'm talking to him to try to follow what I'm saying.

City_Dater

@Anita Ham Sandwich

I am grinning from ear to ear right now, like an idiot, thinking about your sweet old boy. You are so excellent for taking in a senior dog.

puncturedbicycle

@Anita Ham Sandwich We fostered then adopted a 10yo Lakeland four years ago (same situation as yours - death of owner) and he has been a nervous wreck for the whole four (almost five) years we've had him despite working with a behaviourist and really trying everything to reassure him. He's on phenobarbital now due to seizures so is a little more laid back than usual.

My first beloved Lakie (who we lost last year) was almost a year old when I adopted her and she wasn't a spot of trouble ever, so I still stand by my commitment to adult dogs in need, but it has been a hard road with the old boy.

TheBelleWitch

For what it's worth, when adopting shelter dogs I'm not sure how useful breed info is. I got a rescue "lab" without a drop of lab blood in him, I'm almost positive - he's Rhodesian ridgeback and Great Dane, most likely. I think he got thrown in the 'lab' pile because hey, people like labs!

I mean, research research research whatever breed it seems likely the dog is, but with a rescue mix, figuring out that particular dog is going to be key. My best friend has two absolutely identical chow mixes - one is the chillest dog you ever met, and one is a neurotic weirdo. Different genetics, different backgrounds, who knows. Do shelters let you spend a decent amount of time with the dog before making a decision?

soul toast

@TheBelleWitch I've got a chow mix too. Looks so much like a chow that strangers will ask me about it, but he has almost none of the personality and temperament that people tell me go with chows.

RosemaryF

@TheBelleWitch Word. I adopted a "pit mix" puppy who ended up being 90% lab and 10% border collie. The other one was "lab/corgi mix" who is actually a dachshund/corgi. Pound puppies are mystery dogs.

Most shelters will allow you a little while with the pet you're wanting to adopt. I never needed more than five minutes, but I know that some people take longer.

Aunt Ada Doom

@TheBelleWitch This is so not official, but I think that some breeds (Rhodisian Ridgeback being one, Pitbull being another) are big red flags at shelters, so they like to use the more friendly "lab" for short hair. My family adopted a lovely "lab/sheltie" mix from a local shelter who as clearly neither lab nor sheltie (plus, I mean, was there a stepstool involved in that relationship?). She was middle-sized, brindle, with a big flat forehead, little eyes, enormous beefy neck and a runner's build--i.e. pitbull. But there are vets and kennels that won't take one, so it was better to let the lie continue.

TheBelleWitch

@Aunt Ada Doom That's really interesting (and I laughed out loud at the lab/sheltie stepstool comment). I can see that happening - luckily I had a good description of my pup's personality pre-adoption, so no big surprises, but having grown up with labs, he is definitely not so lab-like.

@RosemaryF, There are so many dog owners in my neighborhood who got COLLIE SURPRISE in their pound puppies. Mostly revealed by intense herding instincts.

City_Dater

@Aunt Ada Doom

Or a cane corso, or dogo argentino, or mastiff, or really any bully breed mix. I love that your local shelter went with "lab/sheltie," of all things, to help her squeak past the insane pitbull stigma. (My dog is a pittie who is probably 17 different kinds of terrier.)
They are the best.

MilesofMountains

@Aunt Ada Doom I definitely think some shelters don't like to say when dogs are a mix with a "scary" breed. My parents got a rotti/"lab" cross from the pound, and he's most definitely a rotti/pitbull cross. He's the sweetest, chillest dog ever and everyone in the pound loved him (they originally came in to see another rotti and were told "Her? Oh no, come see this guy he's WAY better") but he'd been there for almost a year because no one would take a big male rotti cross from a pack of strays on the reservation. I guess they figured the pitbull was too much on top of that.

Ophelia

@TheBelleWitch LOLOLOL. From now on, I am referring to my "lab mix" as a "collie surprise"

Also, for some reason, my dog LOVES pitties. His two favorite dogs in the neighborhood are both big, older, un-neutered male pitbulls. He sees them and basically dies of happiness. I don't get their mutual levels of bliss, but they all seem perfectly content, so.

every tomorrow@twitter

@TheBelleWitch Shelters seem to fib about what dogs are in order to make them look more adoptable. I can't tell you how many VERY OBVIOUS PIT MIXES I've seen labeled "lab mix" (and I have nothing against pitbulls other than I live in an apartment and you cannot find an apartment that will allow one).

My family adopted a dog from a shelter who was labeled a 4-5 month old lab mix, and ended up being a 7-9 month old cattle dog mix with big feet. Let me tell you internet, we would not have gotten a cattle dog mix on purpose. Sweet dog, but neurotic hell on wheels.

Ham Snadwich

@every tomorrow@twitter - Add to that the fact that almost no one, even shelter operators, has much of any clue what a dog's breed is just from its appearance.

Cat named Virtute

I know most 'Pinners know this already, but LW1, if you're going to get a large dog like a shepherd, PLEASE make sure you have the time and energy to devote to training it really really well. I had a friend in grad school who had a shepherd with her girlfriend, as did their friends who lived downstairs. Her girlfriend had a kid and two cats, and as far as I know there was never any problem there, but whenever I came over both dogs would constantly bark and my friend's dog would try to jump all over me. I'm not particularly afraid of dogs, but I'm a smallish person and also not super used to dogs, and having a six month shepherd jump on you is really scary.

Amber Pye@facebook

I love love love dogs. Very much. But there is a point where you have to realise you are dealing with an animal whose mouth is filled with weapons, and whose body is more adept at using them, and who has less moral compunction about using them than you. Dogs will regularly bite, tackle, "punch" and kick each other while doing things from as innocent as play, to as dangerous as violently attacking each other with the intent to kill.

So yes, there is a time and place where it is acceptable to be violent with a dog. If one was trying to rip my throat out I'd be all over it. If (Another) one attacked my dog, damn tootin' I'd give it a good kick. To me, her life is worth more than a potential injury to a larger, aggressing animal. I don't see "Defending the Innocent and Helpless from Harm" as a red flag.

HOWEVER, if this dog is often aggressive towards the puppy and this is how the family reacts, that is WHY he is aggressive towards the puppy, and it needs to stop. An instant reaction should never be a training tool. Kicking the older dog only showed him that this time, someone stepped in to stop him from hurting the puppy, not that he should not hurt the puppy. There's also the chance that the situation was read incorrectly: was the dog actually being aggressive? Dogs can sound like they're killing each other when they play, there are many very subtle signals most people can't see that turn a play-fight into a brawl.

It's something that requires more time and events to occur than just one. Maybe he really will never kick a dog again. Or maybe he has real anger issues that will escalate into human abuse. You won't know unless he's exposed to those situations. There's the hard part, right there.

*trix@twitter

Adopting an older dog is awesome. All my dogs from the time I was a teenager and up were five years old or older (oldest we got was 8 years old). The one we got at 8 years old lived about 6 years from the time we got her, and honestly, when she passed away last November, it felt no different than it did when our dogs we'd had 10+ years. Like someone above said, it sucks equally hard to lose a pet. But in my mind, the benefits of having an older dog far outweigh the perceived "lost years" of not getting a puppy.

I just adopted a dog from the Humane Society (my awesomely wonderfully adorable pug Knightley) this summer. He's five and is the best doggy in the world. He's very active but so much easier than ANY puppy.

Long story short, don't worry too much about how much time you'll have with them-- it's quality, not quantity!

City_Dater

ADULT DOG ADOPTION RULES! My dog was a "young adult" (about a year old) when I met her at the local kill shelter where I was volunteering at the time. Housebroken but otherwise clueless, and throughly delightful. Breed rescue agencies are sometimes kind of nutty, though well-intentioned, in their intensity to secure the "perfect home" for dogs who have possibly been throughly misunderstood by their previous owners. But there's good sense behind it: terrier breeds tend to be high-energy, herding breeds need exercise and mental stimulation, etc. and it helps to place a dog if the potential owners have a realistic idea of what to expect.
My two cents: the LW and her boyfriend should just keep checking the local shelter until they fall in love with some big friendly dog, and not worry about puppies and years and breeds. The right dog tends to just show up, if that's not too zen. And get a copy of THE POWER OF POSITIVE DOG TRAINING. And THE OTHER END OF THE LEASH.

On the other letter, the kicking thing could have been a panicked attempt to protect the puppy. Or the guy could be a total ass who thinks dogs learn from physical punishment. Impossible to know without witnessing the situation.

Ophelia

@City_Dater Oh, another good dog training philosophy book is "Through a Dog's Eyes" - I found it super-helpful (although some parts do assume that you have about 8 hours a day to spend on dog training...)

City_Dater

@Ophelia

Yes! It seems like all the positive trainers have books out now, thankfully. (Would that everyone who had dogs would read up a little and actually train them...)

Ophelia

@City_Dater I had a random stranger compliment me the other day for the fact that my dog was behaving so well on a leash...it was like the heavens opened and a ray of light shone down after months of dark clouds. Spending the time to do it right, and not just yank at him every time he wasn't where I wanted him to be has FINALLY paid off. I can now drop the leash, and he walks next to me, and it's amazing (we don't yet try this in areas with too many distractions!). I totally credit that book for pretty much all of what I've done right.

City_Dater

@Ophelia

Whenever a stranger compliments me on my little nutbar's good public behavior I feel like I should send thank you notes to Jean Donaldson, Pat Miller, and Patricia McConnell. I wouldn't have known where to begin without their books.

Ophelia

@City_Dater I would like to like your comment 1,000 times.

City_Dater

@Ophelia

Dog obsessed women unite: You have nothing to lose but your fashion sense!

Pre-dog, I did not own "cargo" anything, and I only wore running shoes at the gym. Now I have pockets EVERYWHERE (full of treats and crap bags) and replace my damn sneakers as often as a marathon runner. And it is The Best.

Ophelia

@City_Dater Hahahahahahaha. Yes. This 1000x.

Clarisse McClellan

@City_Dater And also, fur covering every single piece of clothing I own.

insouciantlover

Germy Shepherds! My mom's favorite breed of dog, so I grew up with them. I love them. My bits of advice:

Definitely get GS mixed with another breed. See all the above comments from people whose GS mix lived to a long and happy life? I really wish I could say the same for my mom's legions of purebreds, but they all had issues with their hips, knees and backs. Like, look away real quick if you're a huge animal lover - there's something profoundly sad about a dog whose mind is still sharp but their body just won't support them anymore without causing and undue amount of pain. Sorry, I hate to write this but it's true.

German Shepherds can be extremely loyal - they're family dogs, and they can be rather protective of their families if they deem them to be in any sort of danger. This is part of the reason why the breed was so vilified in the past imo - they can seem aggressive when they think they're just doing their job.

They are SMART. Like, the purebreds can be total dingbats (as purebreds are wont to be) but damn those dogs can be extremely intelligent. And so intuitive... they're very down for a snuggle or a good sit when you're having a bad day.

They can be high energy! That doggy will probably need a decent amount of space available (a yard, ideally) and exercise every day.

They can be really sensitive. Generally, yelling is mostly unnecessary with these doggies. A firm disapproving tone is usually enough to get them slinking back to you for approval.

Anyway, I love you, LW1, for wanting to adopt an older dog. I think that it's been said above enough, but they have a much harder time being adopted out and my god, they'll give you so much love back.

cinnamonskin

@insouciantlover This, a million times. My parents have always had purebred shepherds. (Like, get GSD calendars and mugs and bumper stickers for each other. Crazies.) Only one of their girls made it to old age, and broke everyone's heart with the carrying her downstairs.

Also, they are so pretty! But BIG. Their new puppy just topped out at 105#. So, yeah, not apartment dogs.

But so goofy and sweet, and +1 to the not needing to yell at them. I always think if you yell at them, they're just kinda laughing at you like "what's with the volume, weirdo? I'm standing right here, eating your shoes."

mwittier

My stepfather punched my Old English Sheepdog in the head so often, he developed a seizure disorder and had to be euthanized eventually. The dog, I mean: the stepfather should have been euthanized.

Thing is, I only saw him do it once. X-rays showed otherwise. Stepfather was "very sorry", too. He was sorry about a lot. : (

RIP Moses.

laurel

@mwittier: Yeah, fuck that guy.

Dancercise

I really should not be reading these comments only a few days after we had to put down my cat of 15 years.

It's never, ever easy.

TheDragon

@Dancercise Hugs. All the hugs

Ophelia

@Dancercise Ohhh, honey. Hugs from me, sloppy dog kisses from Indiana.

soul toast

@Dancercise Hugs. I'm so sorry. Cats are such amazing and lovely companions, and I'm sorry you had to say goodbye to yours. Do you want to tell us what your kitty was like?

gidgetjones

@Dancercise Belated hugs. I have never not had cats, and it's never not hard to say goodbye.

HeyLookAChicken

@Dancercise Oh no! So sad! Big hugs to you.

Dancercise

Thanks for the internet hugs, all.

TheDragon

Well... This is my shepherd cross cuddling with my parent's barn cat. :) http://www.flickr.com/photos/55386259@N03/7840639456/in/photostream

I adopted him as a year old pup and he has been embarrassingly easy to train. He is VERY high energy though!

TheDragon

@Dragon He is also, duh, very good with cats. He really wants to make friends but will back off if they hiss.
He does have a tendency to be protective, but this ends as soon as I let him know it's alright.

Ophelia

@Dragon Yes! This! Mine has finally learned, "don't worry about it," and now he's much more chill around other animals.

TheDragon

@Ophelia The only time when it doesn't work is if I'm afraid of the person that I'm trying to tell him "it's ok" about. But he knows to back off if I tell him "it's ok," so his only difference is that he will stay right beside me/slightly in front of me and gravely shake hands when asked, instead of prancing over and making friends.

NeverOddOrEven

RE: Dog training - Check out Don't Shoot the Dog!
It's a quick read, very helpful and pretty interesting too. This woman has successfully trained a hermit crab, people!
But then again I have never had a dog. Just trying to be prepared for one.

Also, fuck my bat-shit insane aunt for ruining corgis for me.

OxfordComma

@NeverOddOrEven : Please give them a chance? Corgis are so, so wonderful. ...I mean, any dog can be a total shit, but I love my corgi with my whole heart. She is the Best.

NeverOddOrEven

@OxfordComma
Oh, don't worry. My husband is making a big push for a corgi. Wants one terribly.
They are pretty damn adorable. My aunt's was a horribly trained asshole but I don't hold that against them. More than anything I don't want us to have anything in common and have to discuss "parenthood" and "the kids" with her.

martinipie

I'm not making myself verklempt looking at adult dogs on Petfinder, what are you talking about? It's just raining on my face...

camanda

A dog definitely has its own personality regardless of what breed it is. I'm on my second Akita, and she explains a lot about the first one (a male). True to the breed, they were/are both very stubborn, and they both did/do a lot of weird things not seen in our other dogs, like sleeping on their paws, and they're also the only two dogs we've had who will wake us up when we sleep in too late, oddly. (And the same way: go to one side of the bed and stand there and stare until you sense a four-legged presence and wake up, at which point they start wagging their tales. So odd.) They're also both very affectionate.

But it's also a perfect example of how no matter what breed a dog is, each individual dog in that breed will have their own personality. The male was very quiet, laid back, hated to be dirty, was completely nonagressive, and had the expected Akita dignity about him. (This is the hardest thing about Akitas getting old: it saps them of that dignity.) The female is noisy, high-energy, is a digger who doesn't care about being muddy but doesn't like clean warm water, has killed small animals, and has no dignity whatsoever. We've got video of her playing with her squeaky football in the backyard, lying on her back and chewing on it with her feet sticking up in the air. Our male would never be caught dead doing that.

We had a GSD when I was little, and raising an Akita is much the same: they are WORK. The female is a year and five months and she's just now starting to be somewhat manageable. Of course, now we have to physically fence our yard because she keeps breaking through the invisible fence going after dogs, so, uhm, YMMV on what is "manageable." Also, GSDs and Akitas are prone to major health problems: hip problems, chiefly, which our male Akita had; he also went blind due to VKH (warning: Wikipedia, but the dog section matches our experiences with him) when he was about six. For us and him, this was more expensive and inconvenient than sad; he lived to be twelve even though he was only given six months after the diagnosis, and he adapted extremely well to not being able to see. The female Akita has no problems to speak of, knock on wood. The GSD developed epilepsy when she was four and was prone to violence when she came out of the seizures, which is why we put her down; my sister and I were too little and my mom was terrified we'd try to approach her after she was coming out of a seizure if we got out of bed late at night.

These dogs were and are worth every horrible second and every penny.

As for the guy kicking the dog: Having owned "aggressive" breeds, I do believe there are genuinely scenarios where you have to unfortunately be violent to the dog when their behavior is that out of line and someone else's life is in danger as a result. But if the puppy in that case wasn't actually in danger, that's a massive overreaction and a very bad sign. The female Akita is a brute and she takes it out on our small mutt when they play, and for a long time she would accidentally really hurt the mutt, like leaving scabs on her skin and pulling out fur. That's unacceptable behavior, but they were playing, so other than physically separating them, we wouldn't put a hand on her. Shame works very well as a punishment with an Akita, even one as undignified as this one. Basically, if the dog didn't have the puppy in his mouth, that's an unacceptable reaction: he can be dissuaded without physically interacting with him. Keep an eye on this one, and seeing someone about those anger issues wouldn't hurt.

camanda

TAILS, not TALES. Augh.

stinapag

@camanda My Relampago (a puli) used to sit next to my bed, stare at me, and breathe hard. And when I stirred, he'd be all, "oh, did I wake you? By the way, since you're awake anyways I want to go out/get water/want you to get up."

Laura Rog@twitter

I am a dog lover and I own a very loyal very loveable 1 yr old lakeland terrier from working stock, and I've also had 2 kc registered labradors. If you've never owned a dog before PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE think about it before you get a rescue dog!
The reason I say this is because a friend of mine adopted a dog that had been through 3 families before her- all of whom couldn't cope with him and returned him. They basically couldn't cope because as a puppy he looked like he would end up sort of beagle sized, but it turns out he is the size of a great dane as he's a mixture of two rare german hunting breeds. Thankfully she is a very experienced and compassionate dog owner, but even she needed to use an electric collar to control him (he can jump 5ft fences, and the collar is set to a level that is like getting a static shock from a balloon- it really isn't cruel). I've also lived in Cyprus where dogs are routinely abandoned and shelters rely on British ex pats to feel sorry for them and take them in. I've seen it happen so often that people "adopt" (I hate that- I own my dog) a rescue dog thinking they are being kinder to take in an unwanted dog and they don't know its background and they get a nasty shock when it's aggressive, or difficult to control, or just damaged. Because they haven't had a dog before they don't know what to do with it if it has been abused or neglected.
Given that you want an older dog, that will be slightly easier than a puppy, as its fully grown, but you should find out as much as you can about its background, and if possible its breeding.
If it's a responsible shelter, they should let you take a dog that you are considering home for a few days at a time, and tell you whether it has any special treatment or anything you should be aware of. If they give you "Ohhh everything's fine, he's LOVELY, he just needs a new home" without any solid reasoning (e.g. the previous owner died and their kids live in a walk up apartment with a no pets rule), then run a mile. All dogs have quirks, and there's no right to a refund for dogs! Ask about the condition of the dog when they came in, why they are in there in the first place, if they have had all of their recent vaccinations, if they are ever known to have been a working dog (especially important in german shepherds and similar breeds- beware of former guard dogs), if they have any ongoing or past medical conditions- a good shelter should know about these things. Ask if you can take it to an independent vet for a check up (get a recommendation from a friend with a dog). If you think this will be too expensive, I'm sorry but you can't afford a dog.
Obey the golden rules- never take a dog you're not confident you can deal with, and never just take a dog because you feel sorry for them.
Good luck- I hope you find a furry friend who is perfect for you :)

Oh, squiggles

#1 Shelter dogs! Yes! Adult dogs! Yes! If you are really interested in a german shepard, even a mix breed, then please do some research on their traits. If they require previous german shepard owners, it is most likely because they are high maintenance. Which is fine, if you feel that you have the time and discipline to give that to your dog. I'm sure you can find a dog trainer, who can train you and your dog to overcome and breed specific issues.

Just to clarify: an older dog at a shelter can also be a dog that is 1-3 yo. They still have plenty of life and love left to give, but are less likely to be adopted because of not being puppy cute/small. Of course the older dogs, 5+, still need good homes, but you can compromise and still be doing a good thing! Another thing to keep in mind is that much like people, you have no idea what is waiting around the corner for your dog health wise. You could adopt a puppy and have it for a couple of years before discovering that it had a fatal illness. You can't predict lifespan, so I wouldn't worry too much about it, just enjoy the time you have.

#2 I still feel guilty every time I trip over one of the dogs and it up kicking it when I try not to fall. I definitely agree, that if this was a protection reaction, to get the dog not to hurt the puppy, then yeah it is scary, but understandable. Probably needs to work on anger responses, and impulse control, but not necessarily a deal breaker. If the dog was just laying there when he lashed out however...that just seems too cruel. I don't think I could deal with that personally, unless it was followed by immediate remorse. Again that would be a symptom of having impulse control issues, which can be worked on. Purposefully hurting an animal and showing no remorse is a deal breaker, however.

In the end, it is your relationship. If you can't reconcile this action then you know it isn't working for you anymore.

Katy

For some reason my dad got really into German Shepherds so we raised them for pretty much my entire life until I moved out for college. They are wonderful, beautiful, intelligent dogs and I would love to have one again someday. However: they need a job. They are smart as hell and can be really highly driven, especially the females. All of ours were search and rescue dogs. Our best one found a boy that had drowned and went with my dad to NY fire depts after 9/11, basically to accept hugs from giant firemen and go through rubble. Our worst killed another dog. If you get one read all you can on them and spend time training it. They need it and you will have an amazing animal on your hands if you put in the effort. I'd suggest a male. Females can be more aggressive and have a higher drive. And I think you're better off getting an older dog. My current recuse was an adult when we got her. Everyone wants a puppy! Also, getting an adult shepherd will give you an idea of what they are like. If you start with a puppy you have to train it right or wind up with a dog you can't handle (as my dad got older he stopped working with them. One turned out to be the dog killer and her puppy is so aggressive I can't bring my daughter near him). I hope you get one though, they are amazing animals. Truly the best dog you can ever get if you have the time to devote. Also, be aware they are prone to hip problems so if you do get an older one know this is in your future.

Princess Slaya

LW1 - Yes! Get an older dog. I think one of the reasons that rescue organizations want people "experienced with the breed," is because A) they want serious doggyparent adopters who will not mistreat or abandon the dog again, and B) Some breeds have special needs (i.e. Huskies like to RUN, German Sheps often need a JOB or they can have behavioral problems.) That being said, while you can make generalities about breeds, all dogs are different (There are german sheps who are total couch potatos) By being specific and picky about their clients/adopters, these organizations don't have to worry (as much) about placing dogs with someone who is inexperienced and could create a behavioral problem with a dog, especially one that is big enough and strong enough to seriously injur someone. (Let's face it, an aggressive toy poodle can't do as much damage as a German Shep).

LW2-Everyone else said what I would say. Kicking a dog out of anger is an absolute no-no, and a deal breaker for me. I have once, kicked a dog, because he had locked his jaws on my cat's leg and was going to eat my precious baby. I "mama-beared" and jumped on the dog, trying to hold my cat down so he wouldn't hurt himself and doing everything I could with my feet to get the dog to let the cat go, including kicking him. My dad had to cut air circulation for the dog off of his throat in order to get him to let the cat go. (that dog was effing nuts). My cat lived, by the way, and is excellent, though jumpy around dogs.

TheclaAndTheSeals

LW #2-

Your fiance fucked up, obviously. But assuming this is the first and last time you've seen him behave like this, I don't think this it's a screaming red flag. Pets- even ones you love- are uniquely good at pushing your buttons, and it's not unheard of to have a impulsively physical reaction. The proper response to this is to be horrified by your own behavior, and never do it again.

I don't want to sound like an animal abuse apologist, because I'm not. I have two rescue dogs I adore. But I wouldn't dump my fiance over a shitty, impulsive, one-time act.

lil.orphan.shannie

The organization I foster through is like this with their adoptive parents. They would never outright turn someone down for having never owned a Mastiff before, especially if they were a good fit. But they definitely want potential parents to understand what they're getting themselves into; i.e. SO MUCH SLOBBER. Also, as @kmc mentioned above, Mastiffs can be crazy stubborn. You really have to work hard to assert yourself as the alpha in the household.

RNL
RNL

Big dogs are big. If they have aggression issues (which I understand are, unfortunately, more common in shelter dogs for obvious reasons), they are hard to control. It can be scary.

My family has rottweilers, and I love them. Giant lap dogs, no joke. But several of them have had crazy prey drive issues - lovely with people and dogs, but murderous to any sheep or deer they come across. When I'm walking them and I think they smell sheep, I flip them and pin them and growl and generally act alpha in order to keep control. An ex told me that I was terrifying in that mode. However, watching your dog maul a feral sheep is more terrifying.

But I do not kick. Do not kick a dog. Just don't.

aac
aac

hm, I feel like while it in no way is a good sign that he kicked a dog, the silver lining to focus on is his reaction post-kick. It would have been one thing if he had totally dismissed you, said "it's a dog, babe" and carried on, but he seemed to be receptive to your shock, confusion, and repulsion. That does not mean that he should get a free pass, or even an expensive pass, every time he does something in a fit of rage because he acts sorry after the fact, but if this is the first time you've seen his anger flare up and result in something physical, perhaps it's something he can work on and be really aware of in the future?

HermioneDanger

I had a German Shepherd/Yellow Lab mix growing up and she was hands down the best dog I've ever known. She lived 17 years, but she was small-ish (around 60-70lbs I think). She was so incredibly smart and easy to train, she didn't even need to be on a leash because she was so loyal and just stayed by our side when we would go out. She did have a "job" though, which was chewing. It was something that my parents say they should have dealt with when we first got her, channeled it into running or something less destructive. But, they never took care of it and she seriously would chew bones, softballs, anything really, until her gums started bleeding.

Breakfast

@HermioneDanger I grew up with a German Shepherd/Lab also! The best dog. He was my mom's buddy when my sister and I moved out. He had this loud, loud, bark and my mom, who likes to be nervous about things, never felt worried about living alone because he sounded so intimidating even though he was so sweet. He was best friends with her cat because they were both orange, but woe to any other cat who came in the yard.

Faintly Macabre

Wait, wasn't the 1st question answered quite thoroughly in Friday Open Thread about a week and a half ago?

PatatasBravas

@Faintly Macabre Indeed I was too excited to wait very long after submitting, because I figured there was a several week-month lag time between questioning and answering.

NOW I HAVE EVEN MORE DATA THOUGH. This fills me with glee.

Faintly Macabre

@PatatasBravas Ah, okay. I had a feeling that was how it went down. It didn't seem like posting a previously-hairpin-posted question was the greatest way of creating content, but I guess maybe the editors didn't see it in Open Thread. (They don't spend their Friday evenings refreshing the page like I do? What??)

stalkingcat

@LW1

I'm so sorry to have to say this, but... PUPPIES DIE! I got a puppy from the shelter (corgi/basset/doxie mix) and I had 6 months of cuddles as well as 6 months of carpet cleaning and shoe replacing and potty training. But Cooper developed a really bad seizure disorder which quickly killed him. I fully thought I was going to have him for well over 10 years (since I'm 30something, I was kinda freaking out that I would have him still at 50) but it was not meant to be.

My next dog I got from a breed rescue. Breed rescues are awesome! They know all the stereotypes about their dogs, but since most of them foster, they know which ones actually fit your lifestyle. I went to a beagle breed rescue after Cooper died (because I couldn't face another dog without knowing medical history, honestly). I live in an apartment, but I figured there would have to be a beagle out there who was chill and lazy, and I found one! She was 5 (which meant she was cheaper hehehe) and she's currently sleeping on my poang chair. Most beagles are insanely scent driven and howl like crazy, but she's very chill and is in heaven lazing around my place. And I've had her over a year and she's still alive! Big plus in my book.

So yeah, puppies are no guarantee of a long life. And breed rescues are awesome, if you are honest and sincere about what you are looking for.

lue
lue

@stalkingcat
Yahoo to lazy beagles! I have a wonderful lazy beagle, and he is the best. He's only 3, but he'll spend the whole morning under the covers if we let him.

chevyvan

I will add my German Shepherd experience even though it is admittedly short. My boyfriend boards dogs and took care of two German Shepherds who were police academy dropouts and belonged to a very wealthy couple who probably only spent half the year with them. They were sweet dogs, but they were very anxious and always on alert. They loved to pace around, and being giant with swinging tales it was nerve-wracking to be around. We would get them to settle down for a bit, but then they would bark loudly at any noise they could not see. In the middle of an apartment building in Chicago, this was not cool. My boyfriend decided he wouldn't be able to take care of them after that first time...even though he's a big guy with a loud booming voice with TONS of dog experience. They just required more space and supervision than he could give. I walked the shepherds a couple times, and they were great on the leash, but I knew that if they saw someone they didn't like, they would go after them and there wouldn't be a darn thing I could do about it. Just not the dogs for me...but they might be for you!

Koko Goldstein

I resisted adopting a dog for about 3 years. I just kept thinking about all the work. But just a few weeks ago I broke down and now we have the sweetest, cuddliest, silliest little dog ever and I LOVE him. Sure, there is always heartbreak involved, but any time with a loving dog is good time!

I will also echo everyone saying training a puppy is a drag. Our dog came to us housetrained, knowing how to sit, and happy and social in the dog park. He's been learning new tricks almost instantly. Yay for pre-owned dogs!

Princess Slayer

Do not get a puppy. Do not get a puppy. Do not get a puppy. Do not get a puppy. Do not get a puppy. I work at doggy daycare and I cannot stress this enough. Unless you want to smell poop all the time and find your fingers used as chew toys and woken up in the middle of the night and you like stepping in unexpected pee puddles.

Princess Slayer

@Princess Slayer Also, one of my coworkers found an 11 year old intact male chocolate lab running the streets and he's the sweetest, best-tempered lovebug you'll ever meet. He's also still incredibly active and alert. Older dogs can be really really amazing.

GSDs do require a firm hand. One of my favorite dogs at work is a 90 lb GSD whose parents were police dogs. He's gentle, smart, calm - but he will walk all over you if you don't make sure he knows you're the boss. He's not aggressive but if you want him to go somewhere and he's not convinced you mean it? That dog will NEVER move.

Sometimes people gel really well with certain breeds, though, and the natural way you behave with dogs will work perfectly on one breed and not another.

I would check a local no-kill rescue, like the people who come to Petsmart. They usually foster dogs at home and can match you up with a dog that will really fit your personality. Dogs are awesome.

weezy

Another doggie daycare worker chiming in! Best job I've ever had. LW1, I say get the older dog. Five is when they usually start to mellow out and turn into super awesome dogs that just want to sleep when they're not interacting with you or eating. Think about how they've likely had a family already that had to give them up, and now they're confused, and they need someone to guide and shelter them through their golden and twilight years, and what a tremendous gift that will be for them. Rescue dogs tend to be incredibly loving and loyal - much more so than dogs acquired as puppies. Volunteering at the shelter is a good way to scratch the puppy itch without sacrificing your carpet, shoes, socks, baseboards,windowsills, sanity...
I agree with the other commenters on GSDs. We have one regular customer who is a total terror - but she's about 2 years old and gets basically zero stimulation or discipline at home (we provide what we can!). The rest of the ones who come in are smart, focused, and super-sweet - but there is a definite tendency towards dog aggression.

LW2 - what a horrible experience! I have to say, there are some people, some families who just don't see dogs the way we all clearly do and think it is just fine to kick a dog who is behaving aggressively. If your boyfriend respects your feelings about what he did and is open to accepting and trying a new way of looking at and interacting with dogs, maybe he deserves another chance. If he was just giving you lip service with his remorse and apologies, give him a nice swift kick onto the curb.

So when will The Hairpin debut "Ask A Dog Person?" How does one apply for the position of "Dog Person?" :)

TheclaAndTheSeals

@weezy I would read the hell out of Ask A Dog Person.

Princess Slayer

@weezy Yesss, Ask A Dog Person!

beanie

Puppy vs. adult dog-you can't guarantee how long you will have with either, so go with what you want. To bring a downer onto this thread, I adopted a puppy a year and a half ago. Last weekend he got hit by a car and died. I thought I would have this dog for another 10+ years since he was a chihuahua mix, but only got 1.5 (amazing) years with him. And yes, it hurts like hell.

wee_ramekin

@beanie I'm so, so sorry. :(

Briony Fields

LW2: Keep an eye out for future strange behaviours. Or, think back at other things that might have seemed shady in the past. If he kicked the dog purely out of anger and not in an attempt to rescue the other dog, I would find it hard to believe that he has never, ever exhibited other red flag behaviours in the past. Of course everyone is different, but if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck...etc.
My ex kicked our roommate's cat shortly before I dumped him. I told a friend and she said she thought the way people treat children and animals says more about them than just about anything. I agreed. That was actually the incident that made me suddenly re-analyze other behaviours from the past, and shortly after I came to truly realize that he was abusive and would never change. I got out of there, fast. If you think your marriage with this man might involve more such incidents, you need to rethink the relationship. It is NOT ok for him to occasionally lash out like that and then apologize. Occasionally is not ok. Everyone has their moments and makes mistakes, but if something happens repeatedly - even if it's only once in a blue moon - that person is perhaps not the person you thought they were.

McQuakkie

Q1: Adopting an older dog is a rich and rewarding experience and makes you an angel in my eyes. Most breed specific adoption groups are overly intense in their screening process. I grew up with spaniels, but wanted a daschund for my first dog and the rescue group made me feel like an unfit mother! Ignore them and follow your heart. The right dog will almost pick you rather than the other way around.
Q2: I’m so very sorry you have been put in this position. If someone kicked my Lola, I could never forgive them. It is definitely time to take a long hard look at this one. Unless the older dog was physically attacking the puppy there was no reason for your boyfriend to strike it and even then there are more appropriate was of breaking apart the animals. At the very least I think some anger management therapy is in order and obedience training for both the pups and the boyfriend.

sarah girl

LW2, this might sound kind of dippy, but: When your fiance kicked the dog, did he have fear or anger in his eyes? If the latter, watch out.

cinnamonskin

Dogs are the best. My dog, especially best. I basically Internet dated her on Petfinder for three weeks and finally was able to adopt her. All the rules of preference and ideals go out the window when you fall in love, amirite? That said, get a dog that suits your lifestyle and temperament. I work from home, so I had time for the puppy behaviors, like "eating my reading glasses" and "peeing when happy", but she's happy curled up on my feets whilst I Internet.

Dalmatians are a good example: I think they're gorgeous, but that they should belong to marathon coaches. Adopting makes it tough to know exactly what you get, so listen to the shelter folks when they say things like "she's a little mouthy" = will chew on you, on your house, on the couch, on strangers. It's like house listings, where "cozy" = small. The shelter manager and workers will know the dog better, (and they are actually angels on earth) so listen to what they say about any dog you want to make a part of your family.

And if you're not married (or even if you are) think about who is the dog's main person should you split up, move, etc. Bummer, right? But that's a reason dogs end up in shelters to start with.

Remember that you will almost certainly have to skip happy hour after work because your dog needs to go out, or needs to learn how to take a cab, already. Unless you have a dog-friendly bar (Mimi's in the Marigny FTW!) or your friends like to come over to socialize, dog ownership switches up your social life. Dog park people will become your strange friends whose names you don't know, but you know everything about their dog.

Dogs, dogs, dogs! I am on a business trip away from mine, so this is great Hairpin therapy.

Blushingflwr

LW2: There is so much we don't know in answering this question. Did he kick the dog mid-attack, or after? Was it intervention or punishment?
How does your fiance normally respond to anger? Does he get angry easily? How does he normally treat dogs/other animals/people? Do you ever avoid telling him things because you're afraid of his reaction? Do you avoid doing things you want to do because you're afraid of his reaction?

When he apologized, was it "OMG, I can't believe that happened, I was just so terrified and the adrenaline kicked in, you're right, that's not okay and I'm going to talk to my parents about better training for their dog" or was it "Babe, you know I'm not normally like that, but I just got so pissed"? Sometimes people with anger issues will justify them, sometimes they will say "I have this problem but I am willing to work on it". (Like, I had an ex who when I said "if you're getting this upset about things, maybe you should talk to someone" and he basically said "you're the only person who makes me this upset" which, hello, Not Okay)

EastCoastGirl

RE: Dog kicking, I agree that unless the puppy's life was in danger, this is a HUGE red flag that you simply cannot ignore. I once dated a man who seemed wonderful - intelligent, accomplished, compassionate - but he once revealed to me that he dealt with an aggressive cat by taking it into the basement alone and abusing it physically. I was horrified and had a very hard time reconciling this information with the person I thought I knew and loved. Fortunately, I told some friends of mine, who were able to help me see that this was a huge and important piece of information. Not long after, I saw him become unreasonably angry and verbally abusive with a valet parking attendant. He refused to apologize to this man, even though I expressed to him how uncomfortable and unfair I thought his behavior had been. We broke up not long after, once I realized that these were gifts that told me what my future would probably be like if I married him.

Please, listen to your gut on this, and think back on other times when you might have seen him behave unreasonably in anger. You might be glossing over small issues to keep your illusions alive. But if he would kick a dog that hard, hard enough to concern you this much - what happens when he kicks you - or your baby - and then justifies it?

angelene

@EastCoastGirl Yeah it really depends how he reacts to anger *in general* and whether it was a protective or purely angry action on his part – I would definitely be shocked if a guy did that, but taken out of context it's hard to know if he's got an abusive streak or if it was absolutely out of character.

maevemealone

Not that it's the deciding factor in which way to go with adopting an older dog, but I know shelters often make older dog adoptions free as an added incentive to rehome them. Something to think about as you debate vet bills, costs, etc.

Joey

Re: kicking Too much "be the leader and show the dog who is alpha" misinformation out there. Instead: clicker training. Karen Pryor.

two dresses

i have to say that i really think this is a bad, bad sign (to LW2). i know there's some context missing (how violent was the aggressive dog being? were there alternative ways of intervening?), but my mom told me recently that she did notice some behaviors *like what you're describing* in my dad before they even got married, and now wishes desperately that she had heeded them and gotten out then.

why, you ask? because my dad beat the SHIT out of both of us the whole time we were kids. he slammed my mom's head in the freezer door, pushed me down the stairs, held my brother down and kicked and punched him. and all because of totally normal things kids do--and sometimes for no reason at all except that he was angry?

my brother killed himself two years ago, and my parents are barely in my life anymore. i wished every birthday as a kid that i'd never been born or that my parents would divorce (they never did). have the strength for yourself and any children you might end up having with this person to WALK AWAY NOW while it's just the two of you.

people who do not have the capacity to abuse others DO NOT do things like kick a dog. trust me, i found and married one. they exist, you'll be fine. just leave now now now.

moose

I have nothing to add as I am way too late to this party and everyone has said all the wonderful truthful things. But wanted to say I am a dog walker and I have the best job in the world. Adopt an older dog and save it from a long life of loneliness! (I feel so so so guilty that I will be getting a puppy soon and not an older dog but my partner wants a puppy more than anything. Our next dog will be an older rescue!)

moose

@moose Also I love the idea of Ask a Dog Person and would LOVE to be part of it if possible!!!

Lis
Lis

I adopted an "older" dog (2.5 years), and it worked great. Older dogs are less likely to be adopted, take much less work than puppies, AND the rescue will likely know their personality. I worked with one of the volunteers, told them a bit about my lifestyle and what I was looking for in a dog, and they matched me with Annie, a spirited but loving Rat Terrier who is basically the highlight of my life. And despite what they say... older dogs CAN learn new tricks.

angelene

Have so far owned a Weimaraner, who was very gentle and sweet, very friendly, excitable when a puppy and needed a lot of exercise. She took some effort to train and was always a bit lax about coming when called, but I'd recommend Weimaraners to anyone with lots of space. Now we have a collie cross, also lovely, more protective/territorial, will get antsy & competitive with new people in the house sometimes, but much more obedient on walks. So there are breed characteristics, I think, but it depends so much on the individual dog and your training of them.

TheFang

I've been a dogwalker for almost 5 years and to just chime in a little late.

LW1:

German Shepherds are wonderful dogs (so are Belgian Shepherds too! Very similar dogs in attitude and appearance), but as others have said, they are first off, large and strong dogs, which means that you more then knowing how to handle a Shepherd, you need to know how to control a large dog that could easily out power you if it felt like it. They were also breed to protect, so they can be possessive, which combined with their size and strength can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

Look for breed specific rescues, I'm sure you can easily find a German Shepherd rescue that'll help find you the perfect shep. You might also want to see if you can foster for them, that way you'll get to live with some Shepherds and you can always adopt one of your fosters if you fall in love.
As for an older dog, they're great, you are sure as to what their personalities are and most of the time, they're already house broken! Yay! But, if you want to find a happy medium, 2-3 year old dogs are great, because they still have a lot of energy (especially in Shepherds) but they're not full of the awfulness that comes with a puppy.

Good luck! Also, when I adopted my last dog from the ASPCA in NYC they gave me a very extensive questionnaire to fill out and after listening to me describe the kind of dog I wanted, they matched me with my Olive who is a lab/Viszla mix, probably, and is the *exact* dog I wanted, but not the breed I was originally thinking of when I was looking, so look for a shelter that is really going to spend the time pairing you with the right dog. Also, one that will take the dog back, no questions asked, if it's not the right match.

LW2: Also, as others have said. It really depends on the situation. I love my charges and my own dog and have to protect them. And unfortunately, have seen my share of dogs attacking other dogs, and have had to pull plenty of dogs off of smaller ones and throw them across the park to keep someone from getting killed. But, if a dog was just being a pain or even just playing rough with another dog I would never insert myself that way. So, you have to use your own judgement on whether or not the situation warranted it, (think about how much worse everything would be if the bigger dog severely injured the puppy) or if this is a part of his personality.

Brennan

A brief overview of German Shepherd stereotypes:

-"Shepherd" is in the name for a reason; like border collies, they were bred as herding dogs. This means they tend to be smart and high-energy. If you don't give them work, they might find "projects" to work on like digging a hole to China in your backyard.

-They're frequently used as service dogs because they are very trainable and loyal.

-They are also trained as attack dogs. Loyalty can sometimes manifest as aggression if they're not carefully socialized. As a corrollary, they're big and powerful. Respect for those jaws might be behind the rescue organizations' policies.

-They went through a period in the '80s when they were viewed pretty much like pit bulls are today--as the go-to dog if you wanted it to fight, guard your chop-shop, or terrorize the guy down the street. As a result, GSD's ended up in the hands of irresponsible, abusive owners and they became a "scary" breed. The stigma isn't nearly as bad now as it is for pitties, but potential owners should be aware.

-At the end of the day, how the dog behaves depends a lot on the owner. If you train your GSD like a service dog, you'll get a service dog. If you treat him like a junkyard dog, you'll get a junkyard dog. If you treat him like a couch potato, he might chew through your entire shoe collection in retribution. Put some time into training your dog and he'll be fine.

P.S. Shelters are notoriously bad at identifying the heritage of mixed breed dogs (it's hard to do!). A "shepherd mix" might actually have very little shepherd. The upside of that is that he probably won't have the hip dysplasia or other genetic disorders commonly associated with GSDs. But, he might and you should still be prepared to pay vet bills for any number of problems that might arise.

vickcole

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thomas morrison

A gigantic moonlike of recommendation, keep moving on.
How to train a puppy

thomas morrison

A gigantic moonlike of recommendation, keep moving on.
How to train a puppy

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