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Greta

Please advise me on a dog behavior problem

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We adopted a dog from our city shelter two days ago, and I'm trying to decide if this behavioral issue is something that can be worked through, or if she would be better off in another home.  ?

We already had two older female dogs, a purebred whippet who is 14 and a little chihuahua/dachshund/terrier mix who is 10.  Bringing a younger female dog into this pack was probably a mistake.  But my husband's dog passed away, and, well, we just love dogs so much that the home feels "wrong" unless it's full of as many dogs as we can handle, which is 3 (1:1 ratio of dogs to humans ?)  

The new dog is a 1.5 year old "German Shepherd Mix" - at least, that's what the shelter called her though she's quite small for a GS (shorter, though stockier, than the whippet) so apparently the "mix" part was something much smaller.  I would guess she has some terrier in her.  She was a stray, and the shelter knew nothing about her background.  But I don't think she had been a stray for very long, because she's actually a bit chunky.  And she is house trained and knows how to sit on command.  She's very sweet and affectionate toward my daughter and especially toward me.  She seems to have "chosen" me, and she follows me everywhere I go in the house, and wants to sleep as close to me as possible.  She's a little more shy and timid with my husband.

The problem is, she hates my poor, sweet, old whippet.  The whippet is a submissive dog by nature, and probably the sweetest, most gentle dog I've ever owned in my life.  I adore that dog so much, and at her age she doesn't have a lot of time left.  I want what's left to be happy and peaceful.  

The new dog disliked her from the first moment, growled at her as soon as they spotted one another.  I am no expert on dog behavior, so I may have handled it wrong.  I scolded the new dog each time this happened, and ignored her for a time afterward so she would hopefully get the message that I disapproved.  But it has only escalated.  She has now snapped at the whippet several times.  Once, she even got up from her bed and ran across the room to pick a fight, when the only "crime" the whippet had committed was walking hesitantly into the room.  Poor whippet cowered outside for a couple of hours afterward, wouldn't even come back in the house.  She didn't have any injuries that I could find, so I think the new dog was giving a warning bite and not a trying-to-harm bite, but that's still completely unacceptable!

I've never trained any dog beyond the basics like house-training, sit, and not pulling on the leash, so I'm really in over my head here.  Any advice for me?  Is this the kind of thing that can be dealt with, or is this a sign that this dog needs to be the only dog in the house?

Thanks for any help!

 

 

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I am very surprised that the shelter didn't set up a meet and greet for the dogs first as a condition of adoption.  I think the dogs can be socialized to each other but it would require positive reinforcement, not the negative reinforcement that you have been giving.  So treat the leashed dog for sitting calmly when the whippet comes into the room.  Do this in small frequent doses and gradually have them together for longer periods of time. 

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10 minutes ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

I am very surprised that the shelter didn't set up a meet and greet for the dogs first as a condition of adoption.  I think the dogs can be socialized to each other but it would require positive reinforcement, not the negative reinforcement that you have been giving.  So treat the leashed dog for sitting calmly when the whippet comes into the room.  Do this in small frequent doses and gradually have them together for longer periods of time. 

 

Since she had displayed no signs of aggression towards the dogs at the shelter, they didn’t think a meet and greet was necessary. But maybe we should do it next time whether they require it or not.

Thanks for recommending the positive reinforcement. I think it’s going to be tricky to catch her acting calm when the other dog is in the room, so that I can reward her for it, but I will try!  Maybe my husband can help me set up some scenarios where we can give lots of praise. 

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Are you able to keep her separated from the other dogs for now while you decide what to do? I wouldn’t want your dogs to get hurt, or you to get hurt while trying to break up a fight.?

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You could try some positive reinforcement plus perhaps things like anti-anxiety items or dog body wraps. Also could try something like putting things (T-shirts etc) with the older dogs’ smell on the young dog.  ETA: and vice versa

And supervising closely. Plus call the shelter for help and ideas. 

But

Ime, once a situation like that has started it is hard to turn around. If you don’t see a pretty clear change the young dog should IME go to a new home before she hurts one of the old dogs.

 

or perhaps it would be better if she just went to a new home. It sounds like she could do great as an only dog or maybe with a male other dog. 

Edited by Pen
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22 minutes ago, Pen said:

It sounds like she could do great as an only dog or maybe with a male other dog. 

 

She's really super sweet . . . with people.  I think she would be a wonderful dog for a family where she's the only dog (or perhaps like you said, the only female dog if that's her problem).  It breaks my heart to think about taking her back to the shelter, but it might be necessary for the safety of our dogs, and if the right family adopts her, she might end up happier that way too.  Doesn't mean I won't cry like a big ol' baby, but... my first obligation is to the dogs we already had.

Thank you ALL for the help!  I'll talk to my hubby about it more tonight, and we'll see how things go for awhile longer before we make a decision, I suspect.

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1 hour ago, Greta said:

 

She's really super sweet . . . with people.  I think she would be a wonderful dog for a family where she's the only dog (or perhaps like you said, the only female dog if that's her problem).  It breaks my heart to think about taking her back to the shelter, but it might be necessary for the safety of our dogs, and if the right family adopts her, she might end up happier that way too.  Doesn't mean I won't cry like a big ol' baby, but... my first obligation is to the dogs we already had.

Thank you ALL for the help!  I'll talk to my hubby about it more tonight, and we'll see how things go for awhile longer before we make a decision, I suspect.

 

I have had a younger dog try to kill an older one and that is really an unhappy situation. I wished I had rehomed younger dog when he had only displayed animosity. 

Trying to keep dogs separated can also be very hard, and not so happy for any of them. And if there are young children a dog can be dangerous to them if they get in between the rival dogs. 

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11 minutes ago, Pen said:

 

I have had a younger dog try to kill an older one and that is really an unhappy situation. I wished I had rehomed younger dog when he had only displayed animosity. 

Trying to keep dogs separated can also be very hard, and not so happy for any of them. And if there are young children a dog can be dangerous to them if they get in between the rival dogs. 

 

Oh, that's just awful.  I'm so sorry that happened, but I do appreciate you being honest with me.  

Since I last posted, I discovered that the little dog (chihuahua mix), who ironically is the more bold and fearless of our two old girls, was hanging out in the laundry room, looking longingly into the main part of the house like she was afraid to come in.  I've got the new dog confined to the dining room/kitchen right now, so that little dog could come back into the house, but you're right, that's just not do-able for very long.  It's looking increasingly like this situation is just not tenable, and she needs a different home.

No young children, but you're certainly right that it could be an unsafe situation for them too.  

Edited by Greta

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46 minutes ago, Greta said:

 

Oh, that's just awful.  I'm so sorry that happened, but I do appreciate you being honest with me.  

Since I last posted, I discovered that the little dog (chihuahua mix), who ironically is the more bold and fearless of our two old girls, was hanging out in the laundry room, looking longingly into the main part of the house like she was afraid to come in.  I've got the new dog confined to the dining room/kitchen right now, so that little dog could come back into the house, but you're right, that's just not do-able for very long.  It's looking increasingly like this situation is just not tenable, and she needs a different home.

No young children, but you're certainly right that it could be an unsafe situation for them too.  

I think you are making the right decision, given the aggressiveness she is displaying towards your dogs. That's just too dangerous of a situation for all of you. She sounds like she would make a very sweet only dog. 

Hugs to you - I am so sorry it isn't working out and I know how tough it will be to take her back. I hope she finds the perfect family, and I hope you find the perfect dog for your family, too.

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My suggestion before giving up on her would to not separate her from the other dogs.  But instead crate her in the main area where the other dogs tend to stay most.  Ignore her in there if she is aggressive towards them but if she is just relaxed in there praise her and give her treats.  This process can take weeks but I have always had success with it eventually. She needs to learn that they belong there too and if since she can't behave she is in the crate until she can.  Of course you can't crate her all the time. So, when she is outside the other dogs are inside. And when they are outside she is inside.  But I would mostly keep her in the crate when you aren't actively working with her outside of the crate and the other dogs are safe somewhere else.

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Can you walk them together? Two at a time if possible. You can Google how to walk new dogs together step by step. Sometimes letting them get to know each other outside the home and in a neutral area helps. It requires walking across the street from each other, and working up to walking behind.

I get it. Luna (3) is our epi rescue who wouldn’t hurt a fly. She’s so patient and sweet. We’ve had her since she was 4 months. We took in Max, also epi (7) in Dec, and although it was fine initially, he still isn’t fond of her. Just a month ago, fil went to hospice and we had to take in his dog Lucky (8). 

Thankfully, though Lucky is the little one, he lets it be known he can’t be pushed around. Both Luna and Max are fine with him, so he can be in the same area as either one. But we have to gate the rooms between Luna and Max if we can’t be in the same room as them. Max just doesn’t like her, and we don’t know if it’s fear of her size or what. He’s a Cocker and Luna is a Lab Mix. Lucky is a Chi mix, hence his size. Even though Luna is bigger, she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body and doesnt let Max know his behavior isn’t ok. 

For us, there’s no little kids, and any nieces or nephews just know to not take the gate down. It’s just become a regular daily routine here, and doesn’t bother us, but we have people 16 yrs - 58 that have the patience to deal with it. Not everyone would do it, but Max has been dealt such a raw deal in life that I won’t make him make yet another change. Good luck with your decision. ❤️

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I generally advocate for training/desensitizing/trying to work things out, but . . . in this case I"m much more inclined to say return the dog. It's simply not fair to, and perhaps very dangerous for, your elderly dogs.

Not always, but usually when you bring a newly adopted dog home you have a couple of weeks (give or take a few days) of a honeymoon period where the dog is on her best behavior. Because in theory the dog is a bit subdued and unsure in new surroundings, feeling her way around, trying to figure out her place. That this dog is apparently not doing that (or worse--that this IS her version of best/subdued behavior) concerns me.

I'd maybe (probably) recommend something different if your dogs, or at least the Whippet, were younger. But they're not and I just don't think it's fair to a very elderly dog to  be traumatized during the months it may take to acceptably acclimate the new dog. If that's even possible.

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3 hours ago, Pawz4me said:

I generally advocate for training/desensitizing/trying to work things out, but . . . in this case I"m much more inclined to say return the dog. It's simply not fair to, and perhaps very dangerous for, your elderly dogs.

Not always, but usually when you bring a newly adopted dog home you have a couple of weeks (give or take a few days) of a honeymoon period where the dog is on her best behavior. Because in theory the dog is a bit subdued and unsure in new surroundings, feeling her way around, trying to figure out her place. That this dog is apparently not doing that (or worse--that this IS her version of best/subdued behavior) concerns me.

I'd maybe (probably) recommend something different if your dogs, or at least the Whippet, were younger. But they're not and I just don't think it's fair to a very elderly dog to  be traumatized during the months it may take to acceptably acclimate the new dog. If that's even possible.

 

Thank you, Pawz4me.  I was hoping that you would reply because, though I don't remember the particulars of your background, I was thinking you had a lot of experience with dogs.  What you said about the "honeymoon period" was something that I had wondered about.  Our little chihuahua mix, for example, can be a bit feisty and ornery at times.  But the first couple of weeks she was here you never would have guessed it!  She was a perfect little angel.  So I was thinking that if this is the new dog's behavior when she's timid and unsure and still trying to learn how things work here, she may end up completely unmanageable when she's more comfortable and confident.  It really is too bad.  I've never had to take a dog to the shelter before for any reason.  It's going to be hard.  

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16 hours ago, Pawz4me said:

I generally advocate for training/desensitizing/trying to work things out, but . . . in this case I"m much more inclined to say return the dog. It's simply not fair to, and perhaps very dangerous for, your elderly dogs.

Not always, but usually when you bring a newly adopted dog home you have a couple of weeks (give or take a few days) of a honeymoon period where the dog is on her best behavior. Because in theory the dog is a bit subdued and unsure in new surroundings, feeling her way around, trying to figure out her place. That this dog is apparently not doing that (or worse--that this IS her version of best/subdued behavior) concerns me.

I'd maybe (probably) recommend something different if your dogs, or at least the Whippet, were younger. But they're not and I just don't think it's fair to a very elderly dog to  be traumatized during the months it may take to acceptably acclimate the new dog. If that's even possible.

I agree totally.

Not to mention, there is a big size differential here. If the new dog does attack, it could be deadly for the other dogs. And you'd never forgive yourself. 

This dog needs a different home, asap. 

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Thank you all so much for the replies.  I did the psychological work of accepting that we have to take this dog back (couldn't actually do it yet because of some medical issues of my own, but could potentially do it today), and now my husband is fighting me on this, saying that she's trainable and we can't take her back to that place.  ?

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If “that place “ is awful or a kill shelter or some such, it might help to let them know she probably needs a home without other dogs but that you will foster her for a while while waiting for suitable home and also to post her as being an available dog wherever you can think of.

When we have needed another dog I usually ask veterinarians if they know of a dog needing a home. Vets might also well know of people who have had an only old dog die and want a new dog who would then be an only dog. In our area there is a neighborhood computer group that posts things like lost, found, available, and wanted pets. 

And if working with her is important to your dh get him to help significantly. 

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Well, I will be the dissenting vote and say keep her.  I firmly believe most dogs can be trained but it will take constant vigilance on your part not to trust her for quite some time.

We had a husky/German shepherd mix who started to kill our chickens well after she was through with the puppy stage.  EVERYONE said she could that once she got the taste for it she could not be trained out of it.

EVERYONE was wrong.  We trained her out of it and she never bothered the chickens again.  She was a great dog. 

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6 minutes ago, nevergiveup said:

Well, I will be the dissenting vote and say keep her.  I firmly believe most dogs can be trained but it will take constant vigilance on your part not to trust her for quite some time.

We had a husky/German shepherd mix who started to kill our chickens well after she was through with the puppy stage.  EVERYONE said she could that once she got the taste for it she could not be trained out of it.

EVERYONE was wrong.  We trained her out of it and she never bothered the chickens again.  She was a great dog. 

Yes, but did the traumatized chickens have to live in the house with the dog, being freaked out all day, while you worked on it? Even IF this dog never does attack, (and if it does, there is a very very good chance her chihuahua wouldn't survive), these are elderly dogs who feel threatened and are being highly stressed by the introduction of the new dog, who is scaring them. Depending on the method used, it could take quite a while to "fix" this problem, and even then, would they feel 100 percent sure that the dog wasn't going to revert to bad habits? Because again, given the big size differential, we are talking a fatal attack. German shepherd mix vs chihuahua isn't going to end in just a small wound. 

Are there other rehoming options than the shelter? Is it a kill shelter? How much money and time do you have to put into this dog to hire a professional to work with you to fix the problem? What methods are you open to using? There are two schools of thought on how to fix this - either with counterconditioning and positive associations (and management) or by punishing the unwanted behavior and teaching the big dog to exist quietly or better yet, avoid, the smaller dogs. That method would involved, most likely, an  electric collar. It would in all likelyhood be much much faster a fix, if it works, but yes, would involve making the bad behavior hurt/suck. Not everyone is willing to do that, but of course being stuck in a shelter or euthanized sucks more than a shock collar I'd imagine. Going the positive route would be the other option, but it WILL take quite a while, in most cases, and many people can't commit to putting that much time into the issue, or they can't guarantee the safety of the other dogs while they are doing it, etc. 

Either way, you will be paying some decent money to a trainer to help you. 

I am usually of the "keep them and train them" mindset, most of the time. I have rehabbed dogs with aggression issues myself, including my current dog who had resource guarding issues directed at my older border collie. BUT - the size/age differential here is a HUGE factor. My 25 pound puppy wasn't going to kill my 65 pound border collie, no matter how obnoxious he was acting. That gave me time to work on it, before he got bigger than the border collie. You don't have that. If you slip up, and there is a fight, it will likely be deadly. 

Ask your husband if he is willing to risk the life of the other dogs on this. Because that is the question you need to be asking. Those are the stakes. 

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It isn’t just the potential stress or danger to old dogs that needs to be considered.  

Another thing to consider is that young dog is very rehomable right now and would probably be great as an only dog, which is what a lot of people want: Just one dog. Aand it could  be a very happy placement for the person/ people and young dog. While you could go on to find a dog who is more suitable to a multiple dog home. 

In your home there will at least be a very hard desensitization training time that may be hard on all involved.  

However if it fails, if young dog hurts / kills an old dog obviously that is bad for old dog and you will feel bad, but in addition, it may be very bad for young dog too. 

Wwhat happens to young dog?  Do you keep her after that taking a chance on the other old dog? Try to rehome her, but at that stage she might be deemed too dangerous for rehoming and could end up being euthanized. ?  If you do keep her would she then be loved as she could be in a single dog situation or will she carry a permanent negative association of harming an old dog?

Edited by Pen
Correction of autocorrect
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17 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

Yes, but did the traumatized chickens have to live in the house with the dog, being freaked out all day, while you worked on it? Even IF this dog never does attack, (and if it does, there is a very very good chance her chihuahua wouldn't survive), these are elderly dogs who feel threatened and are being highly stressed by the introduction of the new dog, who is scaring them. Depending on the method used, it could take quite a while to "fix" this problem, and even then, would they feel 100 percent sure that the dog wasn't going to revert to bad habits? Because again, given the big size differential, we are talking a fatal attack. German shepherd mix vs chihuahua isn't going to end in just a small wound. 

 

Exactly why I said, "constant vigilance."

In my opinion, anytime you have more than one dog you are taking a chance.  I have seen multi dog families have one dog turn on another after years of living together then the other dogs pack up and they all attack the dog that's down. Yes, there was a chihuahua in the mix attacking the larger dog.  Dogs are animals and there never is a 100% guarantee on anything involving them.

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I have had GSDs and I'm worried that it is breed-specific and going to be almost impossible to train out. They are so protective of those they identify as family. This dog has identify you as her person, and convincing her not to protect you from those come between may be impossible. My guess is it will only get worse. From personal experience, I will say you never really get over having one of your dogs trying to kill the other. Ours recovered, yours won't. And I guarantee, if it happens, instinct will not let you resist intervening, and you will be injured, too.

Your dh is committed to saving this dog and that's great! Decide how much you are willing to spend on training, put all of your efforts into finding a home and promise them $X amount of training. Consider your current situation an unpleasant foster situation that will have a end and try to make it as pleasant as you can for all the furkids involved. (Honestly, I don't know any rescues that would even put the three dogs in such a state. They want the foster to be comfortable and have a chance to relax and learn.) As much as he loves and cares for the new doggie, your home is not the best place for her.

Good Luck!

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1 hour ago, nevergiveup said:

Exactly why I said, "constant vigilance."

In my opinion, anytime you have more than one dog you are taking a chance.  I have seen multi dog families have one dog turn on another after years of living together then the other dogs pack up and they all attack the dog that's down. Yes, there was a chihuahua in the mix attacking the larger dog.  Dogs are animals and there never is a 100% guarantee on anything involving them.

Of course not, but there are greater and lesser risks. You could be hit by a car while standing in the front part of a  store, if one a car loses control and plows through a wall. Or you could get hit by a car while standing in the middle of a freeway. One has way higher risks than the other. Having a powerful german shepherd mix already growling at and intimidating an elderly chihuahua is a huge risk. Way more than just an average multi dog household. 

 

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It is the city shelter, and it is a kill shelter, but they said they only euthanize in the event of either untreatable medical problems or behavior problems so extreme that adoption is not possible.  Since she would be a *wonderful* dog in a situation where she's the only dog, I don't think she falls into that "adoption is not possible" category at all.  So I think they could find her a better home, and I would certainly be open to the possibility of fostering her in the meantime.  We've been keeping them separated except when supervised by at least two of us, and it seems to be working alright.  (Though it's not something I would want to do for YEARS to come, it would be fine temporarily.)

To be honest, my husband is such a big softy when it comes to dogs that I don't think he's up to the level of training required here.  He would disagree, but that's my opinion.  It's more like our dogs have him trained to give biscuits on command and do what they want!  And under normal circumstances I would be willing to try (and I'm the one who is home all day, so it could work), but I've developed a medical condition that is probably going to be more ongoing and serious than I originally thought, and it looks like the next few months are going to be full of doctor's appointments and unpleasant outpatient procedures and me being in a generally weakened/distracted/worried state.  Probably not the best time to have adopted any dog, but definitely not one with a behavioral problem.

And if this is a common breed trait, then that makes me think I'm not up to training it out of her anyway.  It's very hard to train against a dog's nature/instincts.  I'm sure that professionals can do that, but I'm not sure I have either the time or the money that would require right now.

The shelter said that we have 30 days to return her.  So I could take that time to try to find her a better home.  And I'm going to have to make it clear to my husband that it just isn't worth risking the safety, health, and lives of our other dogs.

 

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22 hours ago, nevergiveup said:

Well, I will be the dissenting vote and say keep her.  I firmly believe most dogs can be trained but it will take constant vigilance on your part not to trust her for quite some time.

We had a husky/German shepherd mix who started to kill our chickens well after she was through with the puppy stage.  EVERYONE said she could that once she got the taste for it she could not be trained out of it.

EVERYONE was wrong.  We trained her out of it and she never bothered the chickens again.  She was a great dog. 

 

I have successfully trained a dog to leave chickens alone after a chicken killing. And I know that it is sometimes possible to desensitize a dog who dislikes other family dogs into acceptance of the other dog(s).  Sometimes they even get to like each other. 

If this situation were reversed and it were an old small dog snapping and growling at a young dog who was trying to be friends, I think there would be a much greater likelihood of success or at least successful vigilance and control. 

Even with the young big dog being the aggressive one, I don’t think it is “impossible.” But I think it is extremely risky. 

I think the young dog would be far better off in a different home. 

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5 minutes ago, Greta said:

The shelter said that we have 30 days to return her.  So I could take that time to try to find her a better home.  And I'm going to have to make it clear to my husband that it just isn't worth risking the safety, health, and lives of our other dogs.

 

Good!

 I think energy spent looking for a new home for her makes more sense than trying to fix the problem she has  And if she goes on to a good home probably your dh will feel better than if she goes back to shelter   You too perhaps  

 I suggest also letting the shelter know the situation so if someone comes in to adopt, who would give a single dog (pet) home and wants a dog of the general type the one you are fostering is, they will know she is available. Can she be listed on Petfinder? 

She sounds like she could be excellent also as an only pet for a somewhat older person perhaps especially woman who walks or jogs and might want a bit of gsd type sense of protection but in a smaller easier to handle size. As well as perhaps an only pet to a family. 

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4 minutes ago, Pen said:

 

Good!

 I think energy spent looking for a new home for her makes more sense than trying to fix the problem she has  And if she goes on to a good home probably your dh will feel better than if she goes back to shelter   You too perhaps  

 I suggest also letting the shelter know the situation so if someone comes in to adopt, who would give a single dog (pet) home and wants a dog of the general type the one you are fostering is, they will know she is available. Can she be listed on Petfinder? 

She sounds like she could be excellent also as an only pet for a somewhat older person perhaps especially woman who walks or jogs and might want a bit of gsd type sense of protection but in a smaller easier to handle size. As well as perhaps an only pet to a family. 

 

Oh, I didn't even think about whether the shelter could still "list" her as available even while we still have her.  Great suggestion, I will find out today.  And I'll look into Petfinder too.  Thank you!

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Some shelters won’t allow you to rehome an animal; you have to return it to the shelter. You might want to check if there is language to that effect in your contract with them. 

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5 minutes ago, Selkie said:

Some shelters won’t allow you to rehome an animal; you have to return it to the shelter. You might want to check if there is language to that effect in your contract with them. 

 

Thanks, I'll check.

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