I’m not talking about the popular adult toy with rave reviews on the internet (https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/tracys-dog-vibrator-review-amazon), but my ex’s dog. Looks cute doesn’t he? Spaniels are generally smart, intelligent, funny and caring right? Wrong… I’ll explain…
My (Now Ex having been together for two and half years) was looking for a Spaniel, having lost her amazing one due to old age. Having approached what appeared to be a reputable Spaniel based Charity, this rather cute fella came up for adoption. She was informed it had a troubled past and had bitten only once the previous owner but there were no indications he is a dangerous dog.
The charity complete a home inspection and questionnaire to determine suitability for adoption, looking at all aspects from local walks, accommodation, garden/latrine and living arrangements etc.
Having fought off the competition, she was allowed to adopt this adorable fella, he even has an Elvis style quiff, soooo cute! She met him to see if he would take to her and all seemed to be ok.
On the day of handover and an hour drive to the foster home, the first alarm bell should have rang… he wouldn’t allow the fosterers near him to put the harness or lead on, apparently he bit one of the foster people, and so it was agreed that they would drop him off the next day when he’d calmed down.
The next day Copper the dog arrived, to an excitable Tracey who’d prepared his new home and warm welcome. Of course a dog that’s been potentially mistreated and moved from home to home will be unsettled for a short time whilst acclimatising to his new home and surroundings.
Initially I was told to stay away for a few weeks (I guess that was another red flag – See my earlier post on Widowed and Dating)
as he would need to acclimatise, but within an hour I received a phone call from a very upset girlfriend who’s new rescue dog had escaped his harness and took off in the fields where they were walking. I drove over to try and help, though by the time I arrived, he’d been recovered.
I took the opportunity to meet him, which was met with a mixed reaction. He first tried to hump me (To assert dominance), growled and then went into play mode. I went home as she felt my presence would overwhelm the dog.
The next day I got phone call from her frightened and scared. Copper had triggered and hadn’t let her move from the sofa in 12 hours, growling, snapping, barking in full on attack/guard mode.
I let myself in, initially the dog went for me, I ignored him (as I’d been trained in my younger days) and made my way to the kitchen to put the kettle on and put some food down to give her a chance to get to the loo. This seemed to do the trick, except now he was guarding the kitchen ferociously. I was bitten multiple times on the legs.
I had some experience of this from the 70’s as my pathetic excuse for a human being father used to train dogs for shows and stuff, with a German Shepherd and Blue Merle border Collie. My earliest memory playing evade and capture from the age of 4 wearing a sheepskin on my arm for the dog to attack. His methods are far from acceptable in 2022 though, long gone are the thoughts of being the Alpha/Pack lead.
Thankfully a baby gate had been installed to separate the kitchen from the rest of the living space. It was a case of letting him de-escalate without any stimulation until he calmed TF down.
Tracey did some digging and discovered his history wasn’t as clean as suggested by the charity. It seems he’d had at least three previous owners, all undisclosed, having found paper work and medications with the stuff handed over.
Anyone who’s lived with Dogs will know normal dogs escalate if they’re unhappy or feel threatened, usually with a grumpy look, a low growl, moving up to full on aggression to protect themselves. They usually give you plenty of warning so you can back off.
This dog however, would bound up to you wagging his tail, jump, lick you and then flip and go full on attack mode. Unpredictable to say the least. We thought he may be confused and never learned to play as he’d wag his tail throughout the attack.
These attacks went on, with no obvious pattern as to the triggers that could cause this behaviour.
The charity supplied access to a behaviourist who as it turned out gave some very bad advice. They suggested leaving his lead and harness on, and when he misbehaved to give a light tug to pull him back. Well…
That triggered him lasting a few days, he wouldn’t let anyone near the lead to take it off or the harness, chewing it up as though it was confetti. Again not letting her anywhere around her home as he was in full on guard mode. It was getting ridiculous. Turned out he’d been dragged by the lead from the previous owner, no wonder he triggered.
Thankfully I have a friend who works for the RSPCA and with their help, managed to enlist the help of a very well respected Dog Behaviourist (Retired Policeman) that used to do all the dangerous dog assessments. Wherever you mentioned his name in dog circles, they knew of him, his reputation and his passion for understanding dogs, his techniques to try and rehabilitate dogs to turn them around wherever possible.
He was a godsend, and gave some very practical advice.
Over the course of the following weeks, a lot of money was spent on various tests to establish if there was a medical reason why the dog was behaving the way he was, from blood tests through to MRI, nothing obvious showed up. The more she dug into the dogs history the more info was found, that wasn’t immediately disclosed by the charity.
Turns out this dog had been severely abused by the previous owners, from being dragged around, to being locked in a car and you can probably guess from what was said, most likely beaten too. Not the way to handle dogs.
We were both annoyed that all this relevant info hadn’t been disclosed and that the dog had more of a bite history than disclosed. Our behaviourist opinion was that this dog hadn’t been properly assessed before being re-homed, and asked the charity to provide their behaviourist assessment, which unsurprisingly wasn’t available.
We were calm with Copper, and when he was lovely he was loveliest dog you could meet, but when triggered, it was as though a turbo switch had been flicked, no warning, attack and bite was his only option.
During walks his lead had a very fluorescent banner clearly stating unpredictable rescue dog, don’t approach him. And yet in the local park you get idiots wanting to come and stroke him “Because dogs love me”.🙄 In general with walks he was ok with us, but the moment a stranger approached… growl and snap. A little old dear was having none of it and kept insisting she be allowed to stroke him, despite him being very unhappy with that situation.
What’s the point of warning people who insist they know more than the owner? You could turn the conversation round and ask why walk an unpredictable dog in a local park. The answer to that is simple, we’ve carried out the risk assessment and have clear warnings. avoiding close contact with people because you have to socialise a dog. People insist on knowing better… We had the advice of probably the best dog behaviourist in the country.
One walk, he triggered when in the back of my car after a walk around the park, snapping and attacking. Quite frightening TBH. I pulled into the garage, but he refused to leave the car. We left the doors open, and the garage door to wait for him to deescalate… It was getting late at night, after to speaking to the behaviourist, because the dog was still clipped in to the short seatbelt and we were worried about him strangling himself, the behaviourist said he wouldn’t normally suggest it, but to take towels wrapped around hands and hold his head down with another towel while the other unclipped him.
Being a gentleman, I volunteered to do the dangerous bit, whilst she did the unclipping. I had the towel wrapped around my hand with the bath sheet open to try and get over his head. The dog was too quick and sunk his teeth into the towel sheering through to my fingers. Long story short, we managed to free him and leave him to calm down. I ended up in A&E due to the pain and swelling in my fingers, plus the obvious tooth mark.
He did however tear the rubber seals on my car door, that’s going to cost over £400 to replace.
Despite the advice of removing all stimulus to let the dog deescalate, the triggers and attacks became progressively worse. Tracey was blaming herself for not giving the dog enough love, but she’d been afraid to leave her own home in weeks, and more afraid when he triggered. Some of the video we have is frightening.
Eventually a decision was made by the behaviourist and charity to return the dog, then the charity decided that actually he was too dangerous to re-home. Not before he’d bitten my hand again, and destroyed her car, tearing the leather seats and doors to shreds.
The vet explained that it’s not the first time she’d encountered this issue with the breed and red colour. Apparently irresponsible breeders are part of the cause for reasons I don’t remember, but genetically there’s a screw loose. The red variety command more money. This problem is less with responsible breeders.
Longer story short, when people get mad or angry they generally don’t have filters and say exactly what’s on their mind and mean. Imagine my surprise when Tracey told me that I’m the only person her dogs have bitten, it must be me. Lesson learned, next time I’m in a position with someone with a dangerous dog, I’ll grab the popcorn and coffee and spectate from a safe distance. 🙄
And that folks is why I’m having more surgery this week to repair the nerve damage from that dangerous dog. 🤬
Having spoken to my friend in the RSPCA, I was shocked to learn that anyone could practically set up a dog charity, there’s very little regulation in this respect. This large charity was irresponsible, no proper assessments especially with the volume of dogs with bite history or other issues. They’re just concerned about getting their £400 processing fee (non-refundable) and off loading their stock. More must be done in this respect.
That’s a load of waffle init? The key points are :-
- If someone has a dog lead with unpredictable dog or other safety message, then respect that. You don’t know more than the owner, not all cute dogs want the attention.
- Regulation of Dog Charities needs to be introduced into law
- Some form of register for these types of issues and accountability to the dog charities needs implementing.
- Don’t be chivalrous and but yourself in danger for someone you love, because they don’t appreciate it and end up blaming you for being bitten anyway.