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Hi everyone! I know this is a very long post but I want to make sure to give enough detail to give a clear picture of the situation.
My SO and I have been together for 3 years and living together for 1. We each own a dog and have for our entire relationship. He adopted his dog weeks before we began dating when someone found him running loose in town. Instead of taking him to a reputable rescue he elected to take him on despite the fact that we were both still in college and he had never owned his own dog before. The dog is a 40 pound Staffy x Heeler X ? and is approximately 6 years old.
I work in veterinary medicine and have a personal passion for animal behavior/training etc. I am by no means a professional trainer but have been to countless classes with my personal dog and have done lots of reading/research/etc. in addition to my dog experience as it pertains to the veterinary field. I feel that I have a pretty good grasp on canine behavior, etc. and am very interested in research-based methods, R+, etc. My SO does not work in the animal industry in any capacity and while he loves dogs, that is the extent of his experience which certainly complicates things.
His dog has a number of issues that have caused problems for us. He has severe separation anxiety and has chewed his way out of every crate imaginable. When he first got him I implored him to seek professional help, which he did. The trainer came for one private session (and gave a lot of useful advice) and he paid her for 6 more sessions. He never called her to schedule another session and gave up on the exercises he was supposed to be practicing within a few weeks. This has been a major problem – a complete lack of consistency on his part which I have voiced is unfair to the dog and those of us who have to live with him. Eventually after time (and a high dose of Fluoxetine) he is manageable and can be left home alone in our bedroom as long as my dog is also there with him. If my dog needs to be gone for the day (I like to bring him to daycare once a week for some play time), the SO’s dog has to come with me to work where he shrieks like a monster all day because I have no choice but to kennel him. If left home alone he rips our moulding and drywall to pieces, etc. This issue alone is manageable enough in my mind but it keeps compounding.
Another problem is that he is very resource aggressive and selectively dog aggressive. He has attacked my GSD on multiple occasions such as my SO leaving the kennel door open when they are eating (I feed them separately in closed kennels), redirecting on him when fence-fighting with a neighbor dog, or generally when they are playing because he doesn’t self-regulate very well and occasionally wrestling turns into him aggressively grabbing my dog’s face to the point where I have to go remove him by the collar. This alone is not a huge deal because my dog is very happy-go-lucky and does not engage in fighting or become offended by the aggressive outburst. He is also double the aggressor’s size and so the confrontations have luckily been short and mild enough to never result in serious injury to my dog (a few small lacerations which are still troublesome, but nothing requiring a vet visit). The incidents are upsetting to me, though, and usually end in me crying while he defends his “precious baby”. His dog has also attacked multiple other dogs, such as a neighbor’s dog who my SO was supposed to let out while the neighbor was at work. He instead brought his dog over to the neighbor’s yard, let him off leash where he immediately cornered and aggressively attacked the neighbor’s timid young dog. My SO refuses to take these incidents seriously. He took his dog back home, let him “cool down” for 10 minutes and then brought him back off leash where unsurprisingly he immediately attacked the other dog again. He to this day insists his dog isn’t actually dog aggressive and lets him out in the yard with friends and family’s dogs when I am not there. I insist he be kept in the house when others bring dogs over when I am home and my SO thinks I am over-reacting. My family owns several ancient dogs under 10 pounds and while he has yet to have any issues with them, I am very concerned that a growl or squeal from any of them could quickly cause a potentially-fatal fight. I have repeatedly expressed to my SO that it is unfair to both parties to expose an unpredictable dog to other dogs and he thinks the fights in the past were isolated incidents that will never happen again.
The most recent issue came up over the weekend. The dog has an insanely high prey-drive, like will chase a rabbit into oncoming traffic, and has killed multiple squirrels in our yard. We recently added chickens to our home and I expressed concerns having them around the dog but eventually foolishly gave in due to my own excitement. They have a fully enclosed run/coop inside the garden in our yard which is fenced off from the rest of the yard. We let them out into the garden to forage around when we are home. While the garden is fenced, there are deck stairs that the chickens have recently learned they can fit through to get out to the main yard. We knew about this but weren’t worried as we never let the dogs out unless the chickens are fully secured in their personal run, just in case. On Sunday my family was over for a barbecue and we had gotten the chickens out to show them off. Once we went back inside, my SO told me that he had put them away. I didn’t clarify and assumed he meant in their run, but he had only put them in the garden. He left to run an errand and we all decided to go back out to the yard and I let the dogs out to be with us. I stupidly didn’t double check that the chickens were secured and was unaware that they were in the main yard behind a bush. Within seconds both dogs were in the yard and had detected them. I screamed for them and my dog returned immediately without harming any of them, but my SO’s dog had already found and killed a chicken. She was screaming and I had to literally pull him off of her by his ears. I am so distraught by the incident and have not been able to get over it. I know people assign different value to the lives of food animals, etc., but I feel very strongly that I was responsible for their lives and safety when I took them on and that I failed them miserably.
After the incident, I told my SO that I think it is time to consider rehoming his dog. He immediately told me I was insane and he would never give up the dog. I told him that it is unfair to have other animals around with a dog who we know will kill them if given the chance. Accidents happen, and no matter how careful we are, this is very likely to happen again. I explained that prey-drive is very instinctual and I have doubts that he would ever be safe even with professional help. He told me was sorry and that he “really didn’t think he would kill one” and that he “sees the good in him and I don’t”. I explained that assigning morality to a dog is unfair as they are not capable of choosing “right vs. wrong”. I told him that it isn’t fair to the dog either and that we are setting him up to fail repeatedly in this environment. I expressed to him that I would never trust the dog around babies or children and that if we ever plan to have children I would not do so if the dog is still in our home. I told him that he would be better suited to a home with only adults, no other animals, and an owner who has more free time and spends more time at home than we do. He is a pretty mellow dog and is content to just lay around with someone all day, he doesn’t really enjoy much exercise or want to play with other dogs. I think it would be fairly easy to place him. But my SO will not hear any of it and thinks I am a monster for suggesting it.
I am embarrassed to admit that I am completely resentful of the dog at this point and cannot stand having him around. As a very passionate animal lover it is hard for me to “give up” on this dog, but I feel like the rift it is causing in our relationship is out of control. My SO has always been an irresponsible owner and not the right fit for this dog, but he willingly ignores all of his bad behavior because he loves him so much. I don’t know what to do, I feel like a monster, but I have had it. Does anyone have any advice for me?
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