Heartsick and Torn

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    Hi All,

    Going through a difficult situation and would like some perspective and support from you wonderful folks. 🙂 Will try to keep it brief, but there are a lot of contributing details – my gratitude in advance for taking the time to read and hopefully respond.

    I’ve been seeing a guy for about 7 months. While we have kept it pretty unofficial, it is probably one of the most committed and comfortable relationships I’ve been in for some time (even including “official” ones). He is very attentive, and we are open and honest with each other. We have a lot of differences that make me concerned about our future together, but we try to just enjoy our time together and not worry so much about that and where we are heading.

    I also have a dog who I adopted 4 years ago. He was already 2.5 years old when I got him and I knew he had a history of biting (I was told by the rescue of one provoked and isolated incident), but I naively thought my love and some security would make him all better. Unfortunately I was lazy with training and despite my providing him a good home (minus the consistent discipline) he has had a few other biting incidents (always me, never anyone else). This has resulted in me being somewhat scared of him in certain situations and not really trusting him, which has resulted in less and less authority and more and more isolation to try to “manage” the problem.

    Boyfriend had met dog several times, always at my house, and is aware of his issues. He’s a supporter of whoopings and the whole “you have to show him you’re the boss” stuff. Other than some harsh taps on the nose, I don’t really think physical punishment is productive but Nugget’s increasing behavior issues made me wonder if maybe boyfriend was right. Because I was unsure how I felt about boyfriend disciplining my dog, I never brought Nugget over to boyfriend’s house. Until this past weekend….

    Nugget and I spent the night with boyfriend and his dog on Saturday. Other than some tense moments, everything went better than we both expected and we were feeling hopeful that we could blend our little families eventually. And then it all blew up. I thought Nugget was doing so well he could go out to meet boyfriend’s chicken (she was in her coop). Doing so well I didn’t even think I would need to put his leash on. Dumb. Being a dog (and a herder/terrier mix at that) of course he was WAY interested in the chicken and just kept running around the coop, freaking her the heck out. I tried to call him away, but he kept at it and chicken was getting more and more agitated. Boyfriend ran outside, I told him I was going to go in to get the leash because I KNEW this was the kind of situation that would prompt a bite and I did not want to have an escalating bite-hit-bite-hit situation. Boyfriend didn’t listen, went over to try to nudge Nugget out of the way, and when that didn’t get Nugget’s attention, boyfriend smacked him on the side. Nugget immediately bit and a 30 second scramble of biting and hitting and trying to control the dog ensued. Afterwards, Nugget retreated and left chicken alone and went and huddled by my car where he stayed for an hour.

    The bite(s) were not bad enough to need any medical attention, but skin was broken and there’s definitely a good amount of bruising and pain. I feel HORRIBLE because I KNOW it was my carelessness that caused all of it. As can be expected, boyfriend is not sure he ever wants anything to do with my dog and he’s really pushing for me to rehome him (I know it’s unlikely he would ever be adopted and I will not put him in a situation to sit in a shelter or be abused). As soon as I got home, I made an appointment with a very successful local behaviorist for this Friday. I’d been “meaning to” make an appointment for some time, but kept putting it off so this incident has definitely forced me to see something needs to change. I’m feeling hopeful about the training. I love my dog and want to be able to give him a full, safe life for as long as he has here. Unfortunately I am not feeling support from my boyfriend. I can understand, to a degree. Boyfriend says things like “nothing will ever change his biting”, “it’s ingrained, there’s nothing you can do”…that kind of stuff. I want boyfriend to be there for the session on Friday, but honestly am worried he will try to get into it with the behaviorist. Also having read a lot of articles in the last couple days, I am even more firm in my conviction that physical reprimands are NOT the way to go with Nugget and could potentially make him worse. I have no idea what happened to him in the first 2.5 years of his life, but am certain there were some bad things. He is a fear based biter.

    That’s the story. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, I guess just some support from this great community. I know I need to focus on rehabbing my dog, and if the relationship can survive then that’s awesome. I’m just very bummed and extremely ashamed of it all but every time it comes up I am getting so much negativity from my boyfriend it kind of shatters my hope and determination to make it better. Am I wrong to want to keep my dog? He has so many great qualities. So does my boyfriend. 🙁

    Looking forward to your insights. Thank you so much for taking the time to read.


    Dear Katie:

    As you know you were responsible for your bf getting beaten by your dog. I am sure you apologized to him and you did take the action of setting an apt with a behaviorist.

    This is my input: for as long as you choose to keep your dog and until you have reasonable assurance that he no longer is inclined to bite, keep him separate and inaccessible to any person so he cannot physically bite anyone, including your bf and be careful yourself.

    Then be very understanding about your bf reaction to your dog, his lack of trust in your dog and his pessimism that the problem can be resolved by a behaviorist and by any kind of training. Do not now or in the future accuse your bf of his sentiments about your dog. He was bitten and his negative feeling is understandable and reasonable. If your bf changes his feeling for your dog in the future, it would be a nice surprise but do not expect or demand it from him.

    Take care:


    Your dog thinks he is the Master so your behaviourist will show you how to change that!! Its a pity that you didn’t organise this before, but since its done now, the dog can only improve, once you keep it up. When your boyfriend sees whats happening, he will change his mind, but he wont do that until he feels that something is being doing to help the dog.

    Good luck with the training and be consistent with it. The rewards are wonderful!!


    Katie, do not beat yourself up over the incident with your dog and boyfriend. Perhaps you were careless but what’s done is done. You make mistakes, not because you are flawed but because you react in a way you understand, and our understanding is always limited. We are creatures of habit and how we treat and assess others, be it carelessly or not, we learned at some point in our life where that response worked. Once a response or habit is ingrained it’s hard to break and we all face different hurtles in the path to breaking it. I’m telling you this because I got the impression that you beat yourself up a lot but you shouldn’t, it wastes your energy on a pattern of thinking that doesn’t even make sense. Be compassionate to yourself.

    It sounds like you’re between a rock and a hard place, your boyfriend and your dog. If you look at yourself objectively and ask yourself can I really put in the time and energy to heal my dog and feel you can’t, it’s time for a change. Find your dog a home that will heal him. If you are sure you can, than do your very best to heal him. Go all the way. Use the knowledge of the trainers and all you’ve learned. If you think your boyfriend is wrong in his handling of him, which it sounds like he might be if force is his main response, tell him respectfully. Ultimately this dog is your responsibility, not his, and you have to do what you think is best. Yes he was bitten by the dog and that can make him resentful, but what’s done is done, all that can be done now is be kind and understanding towards each other. Don’t bring your dog around your boyfriend if all it does is incite negativity, but work on that dog if you’re going to keep him! A violent dog is a very serious matter, know what you’re getting into.

    As far as your boyfriend goes don’t let him berate you over past mistakes anytime your dog is discussed, because in truth that does neither of you any good. Resentment never made any couple closer! At the same time make amends to him for your dog’s behavior by being compassionate and maybe doing kind gestures. The biggest advice I think I can give you is know when a situation has become too much for you. All you can do is your best. If your limit is met with that dog give him up, if your best apologies is not enough for your boyfriend than walk away or change the situation if he’s willing. Know when it’s not your fight anymore because you did your part.


    I’d say make the dog the priority for the time being. We had a similar problem with our dog but saw a behaviourist and the dog is now almost problem free re biting anyway.
    You will feel better and more comfortable, once that issue is addressed. I’d say you need to be the boss and don’t let other people tell you how to manage your dog. you need to have that level of confidence. We use a lot of treats and positive reinforcement. I tried the tough guy thing and it never worked for me anyway. Honestly, the more time and work you put into your dog, the better its behaviour gets. Firm boundaries work well. But I guess you already know that.
    The boyfriend issue will work itself out in my opinion. If he starts harassing you about the dog, you know he’s not the right person to be with anyway. Sounds like the bite was minimal .

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 1 month ago by jock.
    • This reply was modified 8 years, 1 month ago by jock.

    Previous post was from classic dog lover 🙂

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