New dog attacks my cats-long post

pamghattenApril 27, 2010

Sigh ... I'm so disappointed and frustrated.

You all might remember, I lost my 13 yr old dog Dakota in January. So my female dog, Lily, and I lasted about a month before we were looking for another male to adopt. I wanted a big goofy mutt.

So we found Brownie at one of the SPCA's in the area, not an SPCA I had ever been to before. They said he was great with cats and had no issues.

Well, they were wrong ... immediately found out he's food aggressive to other animals. He went after Lily over a rawhide and then attacked my 20 lb cat Bailey because he got too close to Brownie's dish. He's not food agressive towards me. So we're dealing with the food aggression by feeding everyone apart.

He attacked my feral barn cat a couple of weeks ago. We were in the barn, I was feeding my donkeys behind closed gates and heard a ruckus ... he had her on her back on the ground. She finally got away from him, while I was screaming at him and trying to get out from behind the locked gate to help her. She scratched the heck out of his nose and ears, which I felt he deserved.

Bailey likes to come down and sit on my lap at night while I watch TV. This cat loves dogs and used to curl up with Lily all day long, Dakota tolerated the cats but was never mean to them. Brownie sits in the chair next to me and when Bailey is on my lap he keeps creeping closer, even though I tell him no. Then he'll reach out and nip Bailey's butt ... not hard, but enough to make me nervous and make Bailey leave my lap.

This morning he was upstairs with my while I was getting dressed for work, and went after my 13 year old cat Ronni. I saw him go into his "hunting crouch" right before he went after her and told him no, but he was in the zone. He had her in his mouth and wouldn't let go. We all ended up on the floor and I finally got him to release her. I made him go downstairs after telling how bad he was. She's OK, but I'm not sure I am.

I have 5 cats int he house that all came from different rescue organizations ... the oldest are 13, the youngest is 4 ... none of them know anything about mean dogs, they all think dogs are like Lily and Dakota ... buddies or at the very least, dogs that ignore them.

I'm having physical issues these days, going through menopause and trying to learn how to deal with night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings. And not having an easy time of it.

He's been at my house for 6 weeks now ... he can be a very sweet dog, but I don't trust him. I'm not really sure I can deal with all of this right now and am seriously considering taking him back to the SPCA, which is what they want if I decide he won't work out. They are a no-kill shelter ... He's my 4th dog, and I feel like I've failed, him and me, if I take him back.

Any advice would be helpful ...

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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

I'm so sorry this is happening to you. It sounds like you have a lot to deal with right now. It also sounds like Brownie is not the dog for your household. If he didn't get it right away that going after the cats will not be tolerated, he probably won't get it and he should be returned. Please don't feel like you've failed in any way. You go by what the shelter tells you, but if it isn't the case, you shouldn't feel guilty about it. Your cats are definitely in danger and the next time he may kill one and then you really will feel guilty. There are so many dogs that need a home, there must be one that will fit with all your animals and not make your life so difficult. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:50AM
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Don't wait another minute. The dog is dangerous and cannot be trusted. You may not be there the next time he attacks one of the cats and he'll kill it. And there's also the chance that he'll turn on you when you're trying to pull him off the cat.

What if it's a child he sees that's holding a cat? Would the child be safe from an attack? Can you take that chance?

You haven't failed. The SPCA didn't do a very good job of screening this dog for bad behavior traits.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:50AM
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I'm so sorry, but my strong recommendation is that you get rid of that dog TODAY, NOW before he kills one or more of your cats. It's not uncommon for even cat-friendly dogs to go after unfamiliar cats outdoors, and it's not uncommon for cat-friendly dogs to demonstrate overly assertive interest in indoor cats until they realize that those cats are now part of their "family pack". BUT, six weeks is plenty of time for Brownie to have learned that your cats are now part of his "pack" and to have accepted them as such. Brownie hasn't done that. Instead, his aggression toward your cats is escalating. That makes him a clear and immediate and potentially deadly threat to your cats.

I know you don't want to give up on him, but he is a tragedy waiting to happen. Until you get him back to the SPCA (which will hopefully happen TODAY), put a cage muzzle on him and/or crate or leash him to you at all times. I don't want your next post to be titled, "Brownie killed my cats".


    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:53AM
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The dog can be trained to accept cats if you want to take the time and trouble. It will not be easy, but a couple months of work can result in a lifetime of relief.

There are a couple things you must be able to do.

First, you must believe it is possible. I don't mean you think it is possible, I mean you are absolutely positive you can do it.

Second, you must be able to block out all distractions(the change situation) when you are working with the animals. You have to be able to be fairly calm and assured.

Third, you need to find information about how to train the dog to accept cats. I favor Cesar Millan's methods, mainly because his techniques use the ways that dogs use to treat each other.

Instead of how a human would train another human. Obedience training and personality redirection are two entirely separate situations. You do not need to train in obedience, you need to redirect instinct to fix this problem.

Doing this type of redirection is a problem for many people because it requires them to be less of a buddy to their dog and more of a leader. It requires a lot of work initially, and fairly constant attention to how the dog acts from the training forward. You have to be able to see the 'before the hunting crouch' signals and stop the behavior then, not correct the 'hunting crouch' behavior after it happens. That is not easy, so many people do not do it.

That is just how it is, I make no judgement. It takes a lot of work to rehabilitate/redirect a dogs personality and many people want companionship, not more work.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:58AM
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Take him back before he kills or injures one of your cats -- then you will really feel like a failure!

Not implying that it is your fault -- it is not. But the cats are much smaller, were there first and deserve your protection.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 10:09AM
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Thanks all, you cemented my decision. I will be taking him back as soon as I can.

handymac, thank you for not being judgemental, at this time in my life I am having too many issues dealing with how my body is changing and affecting my life ... I don't have the ability or knowledge right now to take the time to try to change his behavior.

I've shed many tears this morning over this decision, but you all are correct ... I need to think of my poor cats.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 1:25PM
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IF ANYONE HAS FAILED HERE is the people who told you the dog was okay with other animals. I think you need to write the shelter a letter letting them know they are doing nobody a service if they are not being honest about their charges. This is my pet peeve with our no kill shelter, they will tell you your new to you dog is anything but a pitt bull mix, and even when it is sooooo obvious to those of us who are familar with the breed. I had to take one dog back after 6 months of rigorous training and having a dog with us where ever we went, her seperation anxiety was so bad that even leaving her for 3 minutes she was start to self destruct. I wrote the shelter she NEEDED to be in a group home or very large family setting so as never to be alone. Turns out the previous owners had left her in the backyard 24/7 since getting her at 3 months old....Dont feel bad - sometimes these things just dont work out. You might try a rescue organization - some of them work more intimately with the dogs then shelters do.....good luck

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 2:17PM
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I agree 100% with everyone. The dog needs to go before something terrible happens. You sound like me with 5 rescue cats in the house. Same ages too.I would not tolerate any negative attention a new dog would give my cats. My rescued dog almost two years ago immediately got along with the cats. He torments them, and they turn and swat him but never has he been aggressive to any of them. One of my cats, Nellie, will actually chase HIM if he annoys her too much. It's funny to watch. They're a little pack now and that's how it should be. Don't feel bad about it . It's not your fault. That's precisely why I questioned this new dog I want and was told he's okay with cats. Your animals must come first and foremost in any situation.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 4:18PM
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I can imagine how you feel and I know it would tear me up to have to return an animal, but it really sounds like your cats are in danger and need to be protected. I don't understand why the shelter claimed the dog was good with cats, they sure didn't do him nor you any favors.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 4:27PM
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What a sad situation for all involved.

It is not always possible to train a dog with a strong prey drive and established behavior to not attack cats. And to find out you can't is at the risk of the cats' lives. It takes one second of you turning your back at the wrong time.

Cesar Millan's show is edited entertainment, not training tips for people. Anyone unfamiliar with dogs stands a good chance of getting hurt with a difficult dog should they try to emulate him. You wouldn't emulate a racing car driver from what you watch on TV.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 5:49PM
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"Cesar Millan's show is edited entertainment, not training tips for people. Anyone unfamiliar with dogs stands a good chance of getting hurt with a difficult dog should they try to emulate him. You wouldn't emulate a racing car driver from what you watch on TV. "

VERY well said. I'm always disturbed when he lets a problem dog into his enclosure with 20 - 30 other dogs. The show makes it appear that this is done as soon as the dog arrives. Very dangerous and stupid.

Pamghatten, in your situation I would return the dog. I know you'll feel badly, but it's the best thing to do.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 6:06PM
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Thanks again all, I took him back this afternoon.

I am sad, but yet relieved at the same time.

I told them about his food agression and cat attacks. they really didn't know him at all, and should have said they didn't know how he was with cats instead of telling me he was OK.

He will be a good dog for a single pet house, that's what I told him.

My cats are already downstairs wandering around, which they couldn't do when he was here. Lily is looking for him. But eventually we'll find a dog from a rescue that actually has someone foster the dog, so they know how he really is.

Thanks again, this was a very difficult decision to make. My pets are my kids ... I wanted him to be one too.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 7:17PM
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like everybody else, i am relieved for you that he is no longer there. YOU did NOT fail, not for a single second. you went way beyond what i would have tolerated.

i had my first great dane rescue for about one year when i decided to get another. the one they *thought* would work had been in foster care for 2 years waiting for a home. the first 3 weeks were a walk in the park but one day, she suddenly turned on my first dane, bit her in the flank and left a nasty wound that required vet care. i tried for another few days to see if it would work but like you, i am NOT a dog trainer and i was not willing to put my other dog in harm's way so the second girl went back to her foster home. subsequently, i brought another dane into the pack and she and my first rescue girl are like 2 peas in a pod, inseparable.

there's a dog out there just waiting for you to find him or her.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 7:44PM
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You in no way failed this dog. The shelter did. I'm glad you shared with them about his tendencies and the fact he WOULD fit in with the right home situation, of which yours isn't. This way, when he gets matched again, he'll have a chance. Look at it this way..........the cats around were actually a stressor to him. That's why he acted in the way he did. He wasn't any more at ease with them, protecting your lap and his food, than they were with him. He deserves a home with undivided attention and a stress-free environment as much as your kitties and Lily deserve a safe and gentle environment.

No way does working with some dogs guarantee that these tendencies will eventually cease. I have taken in more than a few doggies from pounds and shelters, and kept them and worked with them, and although they fit in eventually with much diminished disruption, it was still there under certain circumstances, and I was trained more than they were. Also as far as some of the theories on television.......I am LOL after a rude awakening. I have a dear friend who has territorial ratties. I did just exactly what one of those trainers said to do when one of them was sizing me up. And I stood there as he took a piece of my calf right through my trousers and it took a good six weeks to heal.

I know this was a very difficult thing for you to do, but I think you made the only choice you could.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 8:04PM
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I too had to return a dog to a rescue. He was aggressive to people we passed when on walks, even lunging at a little kid on a bike. Constantly tried to push his dominance in the house (but responded to correction), but I just could not trust him around strangers. What if a kid walked up to pet the "pretty doggie"?

After feeling like a failure, I took him back. Now I have a wonderful new dog with a sweet personality - a little ocd and a little stubborn, (typical border collie) but wouldn't hurt a fly. Best buds with my other dog, too - they can even eat out of the same bowl if needed, sleep piled on each other, and play all the time.

You did the best thing for your cats and for Lily. By the way, my last dog Cody had been returned to the breeder because he went after cats. If the previous owners hadn't returned him, I would have missed out on spending 13 years with him!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 8:51PM
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You did not fail the dog. But I have to ask, what breed was this dog? I mean primarily if he was mix. Some dogs are animal-aggressive or prey-driven. What breed was this dog?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 2:27AM
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I'm sorry you had to make that difficult decision, but like the others, I think you made the right decision.

My mother has a dog who came to her with a strong prey drive (border collie/lab/chow). She's a wonderful dog otherwise, but just turns on a dime when she sees a cat. My mother has spent 8 years managing this; initially this dog had many issues that needed reprogramming, and while the prey drive isn't quite in full force like it use to be when she was younger, it is the one habit that remains and occasionally comes out at seemingly unpredictable times. I think that sort of thing is just too deep in the system to eliminate and even with training you would feel like you always had to be on guard.

As hard as it is, at least both you and Brownie will be able to find a more appropriate fit for your situations- places where everyone (including the kitties) can be happy.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 9:24AM
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Thanks again all ...

It was amazing to me how there is no tension in my house now. Last night was calm and peaceful. When I finally sat down to watch some tv, Lily was on the floor next to me, and the 2 male cats Bailey and Figaro were on the chair next to me cleaning each other. They weren't able to do that with Brownie around.

Cindyandmocha, no one could tell me what he was ... Heinz 57 mix they said. I have pictures posted, see link below .. on the last page of the album is Brownie.

He will make someone a nice single pet dog.

Here is a link that might be useful: My animals folder

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 10:52AM
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What elly said about Cesar's show is true. However, that show is done to illustrate most dogs can be rehabilitated, given ehough experience and time by the rehabilitator. What happens in a 15 nimute segment can take months to make permanent.

Pam, glad to hear you did the right thing. There is no shame in not being able to 'fix' a dog. I have 'fixed' several and have failed on three. I have the time, desire, and ability to get the info I need if I do not have it. You also provided real information about the dog. Hopefully the rescue folkls will pay attention and not let this kind of mismatch happen again.

My neighbors have the cutest little ball of fluff I have seen in a long time. When they asked me how to train him like mine, my answer was "Why" There is no need, he is cute, obedient, and wonderful to be around. No training or 'fixing' needed.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:36PM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

I'm glad that peace has returned to your kingdom. You certainly have a beautiful animal family. Good luck finding the next lucky member of your family. He's out there waiting for you.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 2:08PM
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Take him back and explain that he's definitely NOT cat safe ... he may have like a cat he grew up with, but he's attacking the cats you have.

You aren't 'failing him", the SPCA didn't test him well enough.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 2:52PM
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Sorry to hear Brownie didn't work out. I adopted a Min Pin three years ago that was just adorable but so possesive of me that my poor cats could hardly come near me. It was an incredibly hard decision but after two weeks I had to take him back to the shelter. I think I cried about that little dog for a year and I still feel badly. I hope he found a home. But it was the best decision for my whole family. So if you start feeling badly about the situation just remember it was the best decision you could make for your family.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 11:06PM
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So unfortunate to hear this happening to someone else. Our dogs did get a cat of ours that they had never been aggressive towards. They used to sleep in the same dog bed at times. The attacks on small prey soon became more frequent and only esclated. Finally, after the dogs escaped the yard for the last time, instead of bunnies, birds, or kitties, they went after the horses. I know it's hard, I know it is a member of your family, but you are making the right decision to return the dog. In our experience, it doesn't get better, just worse, and there was no stopping it. We did try many things. My only regret is that I didn't make this decision sooner myself, It fell on my fience and he is devistated. I'm so sorry that you had to go through this too.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 9:23AM
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Right. Let's not take any responsibility and train the dogs who have prey drive or resource guard. These are natural instincts which can be trained or managed. What? A human take responsibility to work with and train a dog instead of expecting it to act like a human? Dogs are set up for failure by people who don't expect to do any work with them. Sorry folks I find this thread depressing. I realize it's an old thread, but why not train and manage your dogs instead of condeming or blaming them for behaving like dogs who simply need some management and training.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 8:39PM
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cynthia, i have had dogs my entire adult life. i have raised puppies, taken in strays, adopted from rescue. however, i am not a trainer and in my case, i was not about to muddle through rehabbing a 9 year old, 120# giant breed dog at the expense of another senior dog who just wanted a peaceful life.

not everyone (me included) has the knowledge to work with a problem dog. i am convinced that people like me can make a matter WORSE rather than better by not having the kind of knowledge it takes to make these situations work. it is not fair to the animals (cats, dogs, horses or whatever) to hang onto an animal that has to be watched 24/7/365. the safety of animals already IN the pack is what is most important.

YOU may have the time and knowledge and you may choose to try to work it out but the average pet owner does not. add to that the other issues pam mentioned and that makes for a very unhappy household.

i do not, for one second, regret returning that dane to rescue. the negative energy in my house the last few days she was here was palpable. the day she left, we ALL breathed a sign of relief. i do not think she was happy either, having to be either crated or tethered to me instead of being allowed the freedom she would have been had she proven herself to be trustworthy.

i am just not willing to take that chance. end of story.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 5:47AM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

Here, here. We cannot save all animals at the cost of our current family of pets. I think you said this brilliantly, ninapearl.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 7:52AM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

Also, a consideration - the shelters are not always knowledgeable, truthful, etc. about the animals they are trying to adopt out. If pam had had the actual truth about this particular dog, I doubt that she would have chosen him to bring home. No one looking for a pet to adopt is looking for an animal they have to rehab. Like you said, most pet owners are not equipped to do this.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 7:55AM
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cynthia, if you have read through the entire thread, you would have seen that I admitted that I didn't have the time or knowledge to work/train a dog like this.

Glad you could do that, not me.

And murraysmom is correct, many of the shelters know if their dogs are cat friendly or not ... with 5 cats in the house, I walked right by ANY dog labeled as not cat friendly.

I have no regrets .. it was a No-Kill shelter, I'm assuming they found him a home with no cats since he wasn't there a month later when a friend was there.

And I ended up with a silly smooth-coated collie mix from a different rescue, who loves my cats and Lily my other dog.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 1:10PM
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