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Old 16.10.2019, 06:04
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Location: Narnia, ZH
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At the end of my rope.. husband, two dogs..

So, I have been in Switzerland for almost 3 years. I have two dogs. A rescue from the states and a Great Dane from a breeder in Germany. I have taken dog training classes in the USA, I have completed the Junghundkurse and my dog trainer is confident in my abilities. I follow all laws, have my dogs leashed, walk them separately to train out different issues, but if together under close control.

This is a bit about my Great Dane. Going in, I think I made a mistake in choosing a dog with her temperament. I met her when she was potato size and could curl up in my arms. Both my husband and I went to the breeder and met her whole litter when she was small. I noticed that she would yelp if my husband tried to reach for her, but I thought ok it is a puppy and a small pup experiencing unknown grabbing hands probably has reason to help. Anyway, I was of course smitten with the pup and even moreso after she fell asleep on me. We agreed after exchanging questions with the breeder about this pup and at 13 weeks she came back with us.

Now, when she was a younger dog, she would sniff other dogs, play with other dogs, gets along fine with my 4 and a half year old mutt. She goes to dog daycare and has a Great Dane friend and some Livestock Guardian friends.. as the people there only allow her with the big dogs. She does great. They said they can see the progress she makes in training and that she has good dog manners.

She is around 15 months old. She has surpassed the standards for her race as a bitch. The minimum race requirement is around 45kg at 18 months. She is 60 kgs and 33 inches at the shoulder.. the vet says she is still growing. This is of course, ok to me, but for my husband unexpected as she was the last and smallest puppy in the litter. Stupid logic, because any dog person knows size in a litter is not determinant of adult size, the genetics of the lines ARE. Her mother was about 70kg and the father in the 95kg range so no shocker here. The mother was also on sight and we saw her size and the breeder indicated to expect her to match her relative's size, but he couldn't really say how big she would get. All ok. I even asked for the inbreeding co-efficients because I didn't want a dog with high inbreeding.. she has less than 1% at 0.83.. so a few common ancestors, but nothing alarming..

My problem is that around sexual maturity, before her first heat and thereafter, she has become an absolute nightmare. Her temperament beforehand was shy and reserved. I did as the breeder instructed and took her to places, showed her dogs, let her interact, minimized her excerise as indicated when owning a giant breed. I have worked with my trainer who is lovely, really a nice person and 100% on my side as far as responsible ownership goes but says maybe I flooded her with too many experiences, that this exposure stuff is old school dog management and we now know that less is more. The trainer is right, at least in my dogs case.

I KNOW I am 100000% responsible for my dogs and their behavior, BUT I do remember mentioning to the breeder that she was shy, very shy, and was told to give it time. I have owned several large dogs and a few giant breed dogs growing up and I have never had one with such a skiddish temperament. She used to react to plastic bags blowing in the street, leaves, little robot lawn mowers, and so on. She is always stopping, looking behind her, just on guard all the time until she gets in the groove of the walk..

I have come to know that my dog has the potential for aggression, as all dogs do, but most of her reactivity is barrier frustration. But with over 60kg of lunging "puppy" you cannot communicate that to passers by on the road, and I have stopped trying to do so. It is more important that I control my dog.

She was on a harness, and with education on head collars, safety, and dog neck anatomy, we went to a harness and Halti combo, whereby she has the chance to choose a correct choice and when she does not, or goes over threshold I will force her out of the situation by guiding her with the Halti on a double clipping leash. Then then trainer and I decided the Halti was peanuts due to her size and so I switched recently to a leather Dogmatic. It has given me much more control, but she has a funny head or snout and so I have modified the clip underneath with the Halti attachment to keep it back so she cannot chew. Per the instructions it says the collar is too big if she can get the loop in her mouth, but it is not too big and the size down would be too small.. so far I am happy with it I guess.

So now it has been advised that perhaps I flooded my pup when she was young with too many experiences. Before I met my trainer we tried out different groups until I got the recommendation for the trainer we use now. Her serious education began around 8 or 9 months and she had a few lessons at 5 months before this. So I feel like I failed my dog in some way, by not taking her when she was younger which I am really sad about.

So anyway, she is a monster on leash. She cannot handle seeing any dogs. She got a bit better, but her behavior is scary. She is baying, barking, screaming, making noises I have never heard before. We have moved towns, so we live out in the middle of nowhere, but we are in an apartment and today my husband had both dogs and my Dane started to react because they were in tight quarters with the neighbors' dog, as they were entering and he was trying to get into the garage.. we have to pass through a series of doors.

We don't know which dog truly made contact with their dog, but that dog had to get 4 stitches, and will have a vet bill, which we will of course take care of. My dogs or dog have been reported to the vet office, also fine, the vet must do this. My trainer basically told me to relax as I have proof of having trained my dogs, am not a first time dog owner, have complied with the laws, have never had any incidents whilst the dogs have been under my care.

I am frustrated because I feel like I've done EVERYTHING I could and yet, I still have a reactive dog. Sometimes it is a joykill to even be out with her, and people look at you like you're crazy to have such a big and "dangerous" dog. I am certainly not an owner that would choose a breed of dog based on its "street cred" or any nonsense like that. I have enjoyed the Danes I have been around, and my dog, in house, is one of the most empathetic and loving dogs i have ever owned. She has separation anxiety and is a velcro pup, but I knew going in this could be the case given the clinginess of the breed.

I am just upset at the situation, myself, all. I know in the dog world it is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS the owner and so on and so fourth. I have never blamed anyone for my dog's behavior, but there have always been things about her temperament that were a bit off, to me, since she was a pup. My other dog was a wild street rescue, serial wild animal killer, reactive, and so on when I rescued him at 9 months, but I made a reformed dog out of him.

My dane has had some problems, hormonally, after her first heat the reactivity worsened and she is now in the stages of a pseudopregnancy which I have treated with Galastop. We wait to see what her next heat cycle is like, and if this happens again we will spay her to prevent Pyro and the like. Her hormonal imbalance is perhaps also reason for her behavior, but I never wanted to take her sex organs from her as a giant breed she needs these to regulate growth so the goal was if they needed to go to take them out well after 2 years.

Some more information is that we had her thyroid tested, ALL panels, not just the typical 3 and they all came back normal. She has no pain, she is healthy, except for the pseudopregnancy she eats like a huge family at a buffet. She has a completely raw diet, with a BARF vitamin, veg on the side, bones from the butcher, suppenhuhne, liver, and extra virgin olive oil. The dog eats better and more than anyone in the house. My other dog, he is eating a limited ingredient whole food diet from a health company in Germany, as he cannot tolerate raw due to living a hard life of malnutrition. Literally this has been the only food to give him proper stools, not to TMI.

Anyway, I love my dogs, but I am sad for my neighbors. There is a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Giant Schnauzer that all live in our complex, but my dog is of course the scariest, or was because of her size... now that she has been in an altercation, makes a shit show when seeing another dog, she is living up to this shit stereotype. I am sad for my neighbors, because I don't ever want to be the cause of a child or an adult acquiring a fear of dogs. Insurance aside, taking responsibility aside, I consider myself an ambassador for large dogs. I have nothing against the small ones, but I myself would never own a little one. Given how I've grown up, it is just my preference.. I guess the exceptions being Shar Peis, Corgis (Pembroke), and a Cattle dog... but I specifically picked a mastiff type dog like my girl because they are large, but low to moderate energy.

She is pretty lazy and will roll around in the grass or sit when she has had enough. Meanwhile, my mixed breed dog is a hunting dog and he will hike with you all day. He is not allowed off because he is a little bit of a murderer of small animals. As a hound, I really cant fault him if he follows his nose, so we just do that on the long leash because he likes to pick up scents. He is around 38-40kgs, smaller but has different energy requirements. With him I can walk the whole village and he is going up until we get home where he can curl up and nap. I knew I wasn't cut out for a high energy dog, so chose accordingly.

Our apartment is large, 130 square meters. We have an elevator and we are at the grass in less than 2 minutes. Still, we have been looking for a house, but at this point I pretty much have nothing to say to my husband, because he has been disrespectful to me, to the dogs, to my concerns, and has really had his foot in my ass because he is supporting us while I look for work. As you know Switzerland it is not easy, I am 31 now and have had a small job, but nothing to shake at. I am at B2 level German and it is my desire to teach, as there are a shortage of teachers here but this requires C2 German and it will take me another year to reach this goal.. which I am absolutely broken up about... because I feel like a geriatric entering training for the workforce at 32.. I must take this route or I will be stuck in the service industry at McDonalds and Burger King. Both of which I apply to and patiently await at least a 30% job. I am not arrogant and have no illusions about my lack of marketability here and I would clean toilets, but even those jobs are not easy to get.. I am also learning to drive so am dependent on the SBB.

So this is why the dogs were important to me. Switzerland is a beautiful and lovely country, full of lovely people I am sure of it. However, as a foreigner, with a less than stellar marriage and having moved away from my original Dorf to one with less than 2,000 inhabitants.. my dogs are all that I have. I have taken great pride in training them, in giving them the nutrition they need, the socialization they need, the training they need. No expense is spared. I would say on my Dane pup alone we have spent upward of 10,000 CHF and I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't care that I can't go on spontaneous vacations, that I cannot spend nights out without prior arrangement, that I cannot leave her alone for any period of time, that I cannot even leave her outside of a Coop or Volg.

In hindsight would I have agreed to live my life like this? Probably not. Do I feel at times like a prisoner to my dog? Of course. Has this caused me stress and anxiety, of course? I am not the Mother Theresa of emotions. I am a staunch believer in the whole Lilo and Stitch mantra "Ohana means family.. nobody gets left behind." So the suggestion of rehoming my dogs is just met with defensiveness and dismissal on my part. Baring any health or financial tragedies, I cannot just throw my dogs back to the wild. I also want to add that my breeder is responsible and of course would take my Dane back no questions asked.. but to me it is still throwing her to the wild.

So now I am awake, I have to walk my dog. Somehow I feel like a criminal for owning her, like we are an imposition upon our environment, like I am an irresponsible dog owner. Having a reactive dog is not for the faint of heart, and if I could go back in time I would have taken a professional with me to help choose the best puppy out of what would have been available. I just now feel like I have raised a little (well very big puppy) into an unruly (giant) teenage monster and I feel like a shit owner despite the reassurances from my trainer. My husband doesn't take any of this seriously.. but that is par for the course as he has refused to hop aboard the theory or SKN courses offered here. Talking to him is like talking to a rock anyway, so I now work exclusively with my trainer and confide my feelings into my therapist.

Anyway, I am at my wit's end.. with Switzerland, with my neighbors, with my dogs, just with all of it. Later today we will give them to the Hundehort because I just need a break. I'm going to hit up Volg, get some wine, flowers, dog treats, and go try to talk to my neighbors to see exactly what happened. I have begun muzzle training with my dog, but the largest Baskerville muzzle size 6 doesn't even fit anymore with her head harness. and when she is under my control the head harness is more important than any muzzle because with the control it offers I can prevent her accessing any dog.. I fear even with a muzzle she can do a lot of harm just if she jumps on someone or some dog.... and I am still not certain which of my dogs actually bit. Not only this, but I do not feel my dog is made safer by use of a muzzle that cannot fit whilst she is in her Dogmatic. The Halti, she can slip out of it--we have sized up and the one that actually fits she can just back out and you cannot see it through the basket muzzle before it happens.

The last option, and I mean the very last, is to put her on medication. My trainer has good contact with a vet behaviorist so I trust my dog would be in good hands. My trainer and I have talked about this, but we have, so far, thought she does not need it because she has made SOME progress.. it is just slow moving like in millimeters and of course it is NOT linear.

I know at this point I am rambling. The saddest thing is that my dog is uncomfortable and maybe she doesn't even know or understand why.. I know my dog is not being difficult just because, something inside of her is not right and at least I as a human can KNOW why I feel bad, but maybe she cannot... and it is like watching your best friend have a complete panic attack or meltdown and you can't do anything but redirect them..

I just need some solid advice on what to do, how to process my feelings around this, how to protect my dogs, navigate the stand off with my husband and so on. My trainer is not worried about my ability to pass the Wessentest and is 100% on my side. Has offered to talk to anyone who needs extra reassurance and knows I have gone above and beyond to do the best I can for my pups..

If you made it this far, thank you for reading.
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