Can they keep him?

Can they keep him?They had decided to take Merlin back to the rescue, but then decided to try for a bit longer. The gentleman called me.

They have had Rottie mix Merlin for about ten days. Before fetching him from the rescue the gentleman had visited him eight times. He wanted to get it right.

They had told him Merlin had shown aggression in the past and that they wouldn’t let him near other dogs. They said he was hand-sensitive around his head.

He had been in the kennels for six months, with just a week out with people who then sent him back.

Despite this, the family felt they would like to take him on and to work with him. Can they keep him?

When I arrived I asked them to bring Merlin in on lead to meet me, just to be on the safe side.

Confused dog

He seemed quiet and chilled initially, so they removed his lead. On and off, between lying unnaturally still on the sofa, he showed subtle signs of anxiety. Friendliness quickly turned to wariness.

Any sudden reaction could make him seem unpredictable. This would be due to lack of skill in reading his body language.

Merlin is suspicious of anything new, as we saw when I showed them a muzzle (he was several feet away). After a calm start, he also became suspicious of me. The same with my food.

He’s scared of the dark and he’s scared of traffic.

He obviously doesn’t fully trust people until he knows them well.

He is extremely obedient. I can only think he has been harshly treated by someone who has used force or punishment. It could well be hard for him to adjust to methods using motivation and rewards and thinking for himself. This could make him suspicious also.

The gentleman in particular is understandably anxious and worried that the dog might bite his wife or other visiting family members. They worry about what he may do to a person or a dog on a walk.

When very confused and excited a couple of days after he arrived, Marley snapped at the adult son when he touched his head and ears. Then he snapped at the man.

Can they keep him?

They obviously have to play very safe, but their extreme anxiety will pass over to Merlin. They can’t live life on eggshells. Putting a gate in the kitchen doorway and teaching him to love his bed in the kitchen could give them a break. At present he occupies one of the sofas.

They knew what they were taking on but hadn’t quite realised just what an impact it would make on their lives and the further implications on visiting family members. It’s a very difficult choice.

Can they keep him? I hope the next week or so, following my advice, gives them more confidence in Merlin – and he in them.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs it can do more harm than good. Click here for help