On Wednesday, we lost our dog Landy.  Well, we didn't lose him.  We know where he is.  He is just no longer with us as a constant presence by our sides.  He's still very much a part of this family, and I know that we'll both continue to think about him daily.  Despite his tenderness and loving nature, he was developing fear aggression problems, which go beyond my knowledge of training and dog behavior.  There is a local training facility in the area that deals with behavioral issues, but their services command prices into the thousands after it is all said and done.  Balanced with the knowledge of tight finances and the possibility of training not working or Landy unexpectedly years later attacking someone without provocation led us to make a very, very difficult and heartbreaking decision.  We were obligated by law to turn him back over to the shelter, so along with his paperwork, this is the letter we gave them in explaining our difficult decision.

January 7, 2009

To:  ___________ County Humane Society and/or
                Future Adopters:

Landy is approximately a 3 year old male neutered chocolate Lab that we adopted from the ______ County Humane Society in late October, 2008. At adoption his name was Hersey;  however ,we changed his name to Landy, to which he now responds.  We own a 1.5 yr old female spayed black Lab and wanted a companion animal for her as well as for us.  We are knowledgeable about dogs, Labradors, and basic training techniques.  We believe in positive reinforcement and correction when necessary during training.

Regarding any medical issues, we adopted Landy with no known health problems except a chronic itchiness.  Our vet (________) tested for skin infections and found none.  She suspected a food allergy.  We purchased  Science Diet Z/D Allergen Freefor the cost of approximately $90 per 45 lbs.  At the same time, he was prescribed Ketoconazole, Atarax, Cephalexin, Animax ointment, Interceptor, and Frontline.  After finishing his steroid, he continued to take medication that soothed his allergy reaction.  Unbeknownst to us, it also contained an antihistamine that reduced his energy and calmed his mood.  We saw a reduction in his itching and scratching behavior gradually. 

Behaviorally, Landy adjusted to being an exclusively indoor dog within a month.   Once he became used to the schedule, he had no more accidents in the house and could clearly understand what was outside versus inside.  He walked and heeled well on a pinch collar.  We kept him crated when we were not able to be home.  He was well adjusted to being crated if we immediately left, and removed him promptly when we returned. If we crated him when we were home, however, he became distraught.  He foamed and slobbered and scratched and barked if he knew we were in the house.  This behavior, which we suspect is separation anxiety, may be able to be reduced or extinguished by a qualified professional.  Within a few days of our adoption of Landy, and prior to his being placed on medication there was one instance of aggression towards one of our male friends.  Our friend is experienced around dogs and approached Landy to greet him. Landy lunged, and snapped at him. Landy immediately went sheepish afterwards and showed our friend no further aggression.  We watched for such behavior afterwards but saw no further sign and attributed it to Landy getting used to his new life.

He also was showing to be good around children; we have a four-year old around the house that understands how to play and touch dogs and Landy reacted and played well with him.  Landy also played well with our other Lab.  Landy and our other Lab stayed for a week at a veterinarian kennel and had no problems other than, “He did bark loudly and persistently at our male kennel caregiver but no one else.”

After his medication was finished, and thereby the antihistamine that was making him more lethargic, he became increasingly aggressive.  The beginning signs of food aggression developed, he started playing harder and more violently with our other Lab, and he began barking at us if we weren’t paying attention to him.  Though he never bit, he displayed toy aggression towards the 4-year old and growled when his toy was reached for.   Then, I was walking Landy and our other Lab around the neighborhood on January 6th, 2009, and we walked by several men that were doing electrical work for the city.  I stepped into a driveway with the dogs to let the men pass, and one man paused to pet the dogs.  I acknowledge that the man did not ask permission, but he did approach with open hands in a non-aggressive position.  Landy wagged his tail, and lunged at the man, snapping at his fingers.  I immediately gave a correction and walked away.  Only a few minutes later, I arrived home.  I walked through our glass storm door and took leashes off, and walked into the living room to put something away.  I saw our mail carrier pass by the front of the house, and Landy ran towards the door.  The storm door had not closed all the way, and Landy jumped up and pushed it open as the mail carrier approached the house.  According to the (male) mail carrier, Landy lunged at him and “tried to get at me.”  When I came out of the house, Landy was circling the mail carrier and barking.  I clapped my hands and got his attention, his eyes softened, and he immediately looked sheepish.  I grabbed his collar and brought him inside the house.

The purpose of this letter is to inform any potential adopters of Landy’s behavioral issues.  Although we suspect his behavior may be corrected with a professional trainer, it is not to be taken lightly.  We are both active adults, firm, and consistent with our dogs, and feel that this behavior was too much for us to handle without assistance.  As full time Ph.D. students, we cannot commit the time and monetary resources to working one-on-one with a trainer or dog behavioral specialist.  A local, well-rated training facility that specializes in “problem dogs” is ___________.

Landy is a loving, loyal dog with a big heart and our decision to return him was not an easy one.  He loves to curl up at your feet when relaxing, play catch, and is a wonderful water retriever.  With consistent training and a focus on diminishing fear aggression, we believe Landy would be best placed in a home with active adults, no children, with a large fenced backyard with plenty of activities.  With this attention, Landy will make a great lifetime companion to a family that can give him the training and attention he needs.

Leave a Reply.