I’m really hoping for some sound advice regarding my new rescue BC. I’ll try to be as concise as possible as there’s quite a lot going on.
Brief history of us: family of 5, 3 girls aged 3, 5 and 6. No experience of dog ownership. We got Ned aged 7 months. We’ve had him 10 weeks.
Brief history of Ned: aged 10 months. Dumped at the dog pound aged 5 months, history unknown. Nails were torn as if digging to get out of somewhere. Probably no socialization whatsoever. Extremely fearful. Wouldn’t leave foster home crate for 9 days. First time in a garden: dug a hole and stuck his head in it for 4 hours straight. Fostered in a home with young children, fearful but no signs of aggression.
Fast forward to now. Ned has come on a lot from where he started, he is relaxed at home with us and has gained in confidence. However, he is still very anxious out of the house, for example when he hears our neighbour talking next door. My mother in law unfortunately took him by surprise shortly after we got him, and he got such a fright that since then he has been extremely reactive to anyone outside of us five. I can’t let him off leash in our secure front garden as he tears after passers by barking and growling and sounding very aggressive (we live in a quiet rural area so he is not under constant pressure). I do not know if this is fear, territorial behavior or anything else, but I understand that it will require a lot of time and patience. We also have never taken him out for a walk as he is too reactive on leash. He would jump 5 foot in the air if he saw our neighbour in the distance and I was afraid he’d do himself a neck injury. Being confined to our garden (an acre) is not ideal stimulation-wise.
To get back to my title...we had an incident this week where my daughters were playing on the swings. They are petite and fairly quiet as kids go. Ned sometimes barks and growls at them when they’re on the trampoline so I have been monitoring it and bringing him inside if he shows signs of arousal. Unfortunately my husband was out with them that day and he is just not on the ball, so he missed the signs. Ned started the circling, barking and growling and then went for our youngest who was on the swing. Barked, growled, and kept trying to dart past John to nip at her legs from behind her. John was yelling at him and physically trying to prevent him from nipping at her. I heard the barking from upstairs and put a stop to it when I got downstairs.
Today we were in the garden, me keeping a very close eye. When she got on the swing, he went straight into that same reaction much quicker.
I personally think he may just have been overexcited, but he was so quick to repeat the behavior that I’m worried it could escalate. Almost everyone says that there is too much risk to keep him and too many unknowns around such young children. Including his foster minder, who has a young child. I called the rescue founder and she is saying “it’s fairly normal for a young dog to get aroused by the movement. Keep him indoors when kids are in the garden. In fact he may have been warning the little one that the swing is scary, and she should come away from it”. I’ve been told off record that the rescue people are very unwilling to take dogs back and that unless you are really firm, they will avoid taking your concerns seriously. I also got guilt tripped about how much it would set Ned back to change homes.
I’m not expecting too many of you to have read this whole saga! However I’d be really grateful for any opinions, if you’re able to judge at all from the information I’ve given. Having little experience with dogs, I’m aware that my reactions are not always quick enough and it seems to me to be too fine a line to risk a 3 year old’s leg, or worse...
Thanks so much for any feedback.