Should we keep our dog?

Last Sept we had to put our German shepherd, Duke, to sleep because of prostate cancer. After grieving for a few months, I went to the humane society and lucked out on a 3 year old purebred female Norwegian Elkhound, papers included. We named her Storm.

She’s a pretty dog, looks like a little wolf. She’s good with the kiddos, and a nice dog.

Problem is, Ivylad can’t “bond” with her. He’s grown up with dogs, he’s the one who wanted another dog (I didn’t) and now he says he doesn’t like her all that much.

She does whine quite a bit, and I think because she’s an older dog she’s picked up some bad habits that we can’t break her of. Duke never stole food off the counters, Storm does. She barked so much when we let her outside that we had to buy a bark collar for her. She also has a habit of sitting on the furniture, something I will NOT tolerate with a dog. I push her off each time, but when I get up in the morning there is the living room chair, covered in dog hair.

I don’t mind the dog, but Ivylad complains enough so that I am thinking about giving her to the No-Kill Shelter we have in town. I know I shouldn’t anthropomophize (sp?) dogs, but I feel bad, thinking we would be abandoning her and that her feelings would be hurt.

We called a trainer, and they said Norwegian Elkhounds are very hard to train. I suppose we should have done more research, but she was so cute at the animal shelter and I was not about to spend umpteen dollars on a German Shepherd or chow pup from a breeder.

Ivylad does not want to get rid of her, but wants a second dog, something I do not want to deal with. We do not abuse the dog in any way, and she may not be able to sense we don’t love her as much as Duke, but I’m not sure we’re the right family for her.

Should we keep her, knowing we will care for her even though she’s not a perfect fit, or run the risk that her habits will be so intolerable to another owner that she is abused?

A couple thoughts before you give up (seeing as it seems like a good-hearted, but ill-behaved dog, it seems a shame to lose it):

  • Try, when going out, or to bed, to either put some junky sheets on your furniture, or if you can, lift the cushions upright, so the dog has no place to lay. It is a small inconvenience, but in time, one can hope it will learn to stay off?

  • Keep food temptations away from the counter. Just a good habit anyway, and again, only a minor inconvenience on your part (I’m guessing).

  • Get a water spray bottle, and fill it with water. When the dog barks, squirt it (using the mist, NOT a sharp stream) and say no. I would imagine the water bottle not necessary if a firm enough ‘No’ is used (my mother with her 3 dogs uses a bottle, Mrs. Llama and I do not with our 3).

The decision is of course up to you, but it seems like if you take a few steps, not unlike you would with an infant, much of the stress can be minimized. Of course, I am far from a professional dog handler, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I am very much a dog-lover.

I have some dog-training experience. (5 of my own over the years, plus working for pro trainer for two) First of all, you need to know that Norwegian Elkhounds bark. As a breed, these dogs love to bark and bark and bark- they were used to trail big game, and were bred to bark while trailing to alert hunters. Plus, they’re also natural guard dogs. They’re not “hard to train”- no breed is hard to train, and most individuals aren’t, either- it just takes the right method for both the dog and handler, and patience and consistency.
A bark collar is okay, but you’re not really fixing the problem, just slapping a Band-Aid on it, plus, some dogs develop infected ulcers on their necks from the electrodes on the collars. You can teach “Quiet” to your dog- when she starts barking, gently clasp your hand around her muzzle and say quiet. Then reward her with whatever she likes best- food treats, praise, petting, or play. Eventually, you won’t need to hold her muzzle, and you require longer periods of silence until you reward her. Just practice this for a few minutes a day. You can teach “Off” when she gets on the furniture by physically removing her and saying “Off”. Then reward her. Correct her when she won’t comply- keeping a leash on her when you can supervise her is a good idea. Squirt bottles are a good idea, and so are shake cans- just take an aluminum can, fill it with a few pennies or pebbles, and tape the opening shut. Shake this when she’s up to no good- most dogs don’t like the sound, and will stop what they’re doing. Keeping counters free of stuff is a good idea. Using a sheet over the furniture when you can’t watch her is also a good idea.

You can train your dog- you just have to give it a little patience and consistency. And she will feel hurt if you give her up- dogs need to be in social situations and will suffer greatly when deprived of interaction. Try to only give her oppurtunities to do the right thing- if she barks a lot when she’s alone outside, don’t leave her alone outside. If you can’t watch her, then put her in a crate- but for no more than four hours at a time, and never as punishment- just throw a blanket and a safe chew toy in there. It sounds like she’s really a good dog- she just doesn’t know exactly what you expect from her yet. Don’t give up- you can do it. And make sure your husband gets involved with this, too- there’s no better way to bond with a dog than through positive training.

Thanks…these are very helpful suggestions. We don’t leave the bark collar on her all the time…only when she goes outside. We don’t leave her outside when we’re not home.