22 February 2015

Goodbye Oakley

We are saying goodbye to Oakley today.  It has been two weeks since we adopted him.  We realize it takes some time for a dog to adjust to a new home and family.  So when Oakley started barking at our kids not long after we adopted him, we thought it might take him some time to get used to lots of active kids in the home.  I got the idea a few days later to give the boys dog treats to put in their pockets, and each time they came into the room and Oakley did not bark at them, they gave him a treat.  Oakley seems like a very quick learner, because the barking decreased a lot within only a few hours.  But after a few days he was doing it more than ever, even when the boys were being calm and quiet.  Other than that, he seemed like a sweet dog.  He cuddled up to me, and wagged his tail happily whenever he saw Michael.  And when the boys would come up to him, he seemed good with them.  So we thought we would give it some time, and hopefully the barking would decrease as he got settled in.  

But on Friday we were cleaning up the family room, and Oakley barked at the kids as they walked past him like he usually does, and Camden gently pet him on the back as he walked by, and Oakley jumped up and bit Camden in the face.  Fortunately, it didn't break the skin, and Camden was hurt a little, but he was fine once he calmed down and stopped crying.  (And I do realize that a dog that size could easily have injured a child if it had wanted to, so I don’t believe that Oakley was trying to attack or seriously hurt Camden).  I don’t know if he was playing too roughly,  or maybe he was trying to give him a warning to stay away, or maybe he was just trying to show that he was the dominant one. –I saw the whole thing happen, and I couldn't tell that there was anything unusual in the dog’s behavior that showed that he was acting differently than normal, or that something like that was about to happen.  And Camden did not startle him, or touch him roughly or inappropriately.  Actually, out of all our boys, Camden is probably the best with being calm, but firm around dogs, and walking and training them with my help.  Fortunately, Camden was not scared after that happened.  That kind of thing could make a child nervous around dogs in the future, so I’m glad it didn’t have that effect.  

So, Michael and I discussed it, and we decided that Oakley needed to go back to the rescue group where we got him.  We encountered basically the only reason we could think of for not keeping a dog: if we were concerned for the safety of our kids or other people in our home (or for our other dog).  And we feel that if he were to stay in our home, we would always be nervous about how he would act with the kids, and we could never really trust that they would be safe around him again.  Fortunately Camden was ok, but we couldn't risk it happening again in the future, and possibly being more serious the next time.  Oakley really is a sweet dog, and yesterday after we made that decision, he was being especially sweet with Michael and me.  He's such a love bug -- just snuggling right up to me.  (I do wonder if him barking at the kids was just his nervousness around them, or if maybe he felt like he was being protective of me?)  

Anyway, I think he would still make a really good pet for someone, he just shouldn't be in a home with lots of active young children.  I do hope that the rescue group will still be able to find him a good home.  They are coming this afternoon to pick him up.

As we start over on the process of finding a new dog to adopt, I will be even more careful in choosing a good dog for our family. I thought we had found a great fit when the rescue group told us Oakley was great with kids and other dogs. But I'm realizing now that I need to ask more detailed questions -- like not only if the dog is good with kids, but if the dog has lived with children in the house before and how old they were, etc.  And not asking if the dog is good with other dogs, but specifically asking how much the dog has been exposed to other dogs or all different sizes and temperaments, and how they interacted together. And now, instead of just searching for a dog that is playful with our other dog and seems ok around the kids when they meet, I will specifically be looking for signs that the dog is submissive to people (including the kids), and that it gets along with lots of other dogs (like in a dog park setting). Oh well, I guess you learn as you go along. And I guess we just happened to be really lucky with our previous two shelter dogs -- with Harley I just found him and brought him home, without even meeting our kids, Michael, or our other dog first. He definitely had some things he needed some training work on, but overall he has been well behaved and friendly. And his behavior has improved so much in the year we have had him. Well, we'll keep searching for the right second dog, but we may not be so quick to rush into things the next time. At least we'll be a lot more particular about the questions we ask and carefully having the kids interact with any new dog and observing the way the dog behaves around them. I'm sure we'll find the right one for us eventually. 

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