Our Dachshund mix, “Foxie,” is 1. We got Foxie last October, and she has never been friendly with strangers. My neighbor has tried to get her to warm up to him, but Foxie always growls at the poor guy. We have a good fence in the backyard, so she can’t get out, but she barks menacingly at passersby.
However, if I take her to the local dog park and let her loose, she’s terrific: calm, mellow, playful, never aggressive with other dogs or humans. But back at the homestead, or even out at the park on a leash, I am wary of anyone trying to pet her, especially children.
Sometimes when Foxie is napping, my 7-year-old daughter snuggles up to her, and Foxie starts to growl, warning my daughter to back off and let her sleep. To Foxie’s credit, I can imagine this being very annoying. But I was brought up to believe that a dog should never growl at a family member.
I don’t like that she growls at my daughter in those moments, and I don’t like that she barks at everyone who walks through the front door. Last Friday night, we had friends over, a family with an 8-year-old boy who knows Foxie and 4-year-old twin girls who were meeting her for the first time. Foxie barked at them all when they arrived, but the boy pet her and Foxie recognized him and ran off to play with him and my 9-year-old son. A few minutes later, Foxie was back in the house, and one of the twins reached out to her and said “doggie.” Foxie let loose a vicious little growl, and the girl started to cry.
Honestly, I fear Foxie might have bitten her hand if given more of a chance, and I worry that my daughter might get bit, as well. Foxie has never once growled at me or my son, but he is a very calming fellow.
I feel like it would be hard to get Foxie to stop growling at strangers; she’s always done it. My quandary is that my kids are crazy attached to her. Since my wonderful German shepherd died a couple of years ago, Foxie is the third dog we’ve tried to bring into the family. I admit I’ve chosen poorly. We had to give the other two (good) dogs to dear friends for whom they were better suited. I really wanted Foxie to be our keeper. I never imagined she’d be a growler.
What would you do if you were me? And yes, money is an issue.
I see four issues here, and you can see how one leads to the next:
1. Too little planning and prep.
2. Not knowing how to select an appropriate family dog.
3. Lack of training.
4. Child endangerment.
Chances are good that proper attention to issues 1, 2 and 3 would mean issue 4 never manifests.
Planning and preparation means researching breeds and training protocols, interviewing trainers, teaching your kids how to handle a dog, creating a safe and comfortable space within the home for the dog, and setting aside some money to invest in the dog’s education and care.
How to select the right dog for your family is a full column in itself. But there are methods to identify certain personality traits that you may want — or want to avoid. There are also behaviorists and trainers who can help you make this very important decision.
In this case, there was insufficient attention paid to issues 1, 2 and 3, and now issue 4 is top priority. This Foxie’s in the wrong henhouse. They need to find a new home for Foxie — without small children — and get her some professional training to set her on the right path.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.
Copyright 2012 Creators Syndicate Inc.