Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Welcome Back Ulysses!

Ulysses is back with us right now, his adoptive family returned him. This was a wise move, and we are very glad to have him back.
No idea what happened to that book.

Uly's adoptive family had a baby just under a year old. While Uly didn't show any signs of uncertainty about the baby while we were there, we also didn't get to see how he felt about the baby crawling on the floor. I did let the adopters know that he had growled at my dogs and cats one day while he was resting, and that he might feel uncomfortable being approached in that situation. I recommended a crate in the living room or wherever the family spent the most time, so he could have a protected resting spot where he felt safe.

Within a few days in his new home, Ulysses bit the baby. There was no damage aside from a small bruise, but it was concerning. We are told that the baby was crawling near him while he was resting, and that he probably gave signals that he was uncomfortable beforehand. The family said they still planned to keep him, and even took him to be signed up for their pet health care plan.

A few days ago he bit the man of the house. We're told that the baby was crawling near him, and that the man went to pick up the baby and pushed Uly out of the way, and then Uly turned around and bit his arm, leaving a puncture. While I wouldn't normally continue working with a dog that had a bite history, I feel there is more to this story.

First, Uly has an incredibly soft temperament. He is an absolute moosh. I have a very hard time believing that there wasn't some sort of severe and extremely scary correction involved in the original baby incident. The adopters seemed to be fairly competent in their dog training abilities, but I'm not certain they knew how to deal with behavioral issues. The average human would probably respond to the baby incident by screaming and punishing the dog, and then attempt to prevent future incidents by warning the dog not to do anything bad when the baby was nearby. This would actually just teach the dog that the baby is bad news, and that he is not safe around it.

We shared Dogs and Babies with the family, and recommended total separation via baby gates along with helping Ulysses understand that the baby means good things for dogs. Obviously neither of these things happened. The adopter tells us he went to push Uly out of the way, but Uly can't tell us how he was feeling at the time. Not everyone speaks Dog, and he may have been giving every possible signal that he was afraid. I honestly think he was afraid he was going to be hurt or killed when he bit.

Now that Ulysses is safely back in foster care, we're taking the time to learn more about him. The friend that picked him up and brought him back tells me that he wouldn't approach her husband even for bacon. He has been extremely friendly and affectionate with me, much more relaxed and playful than he was when he left. However, he is just as reserved as ever with my husband and male friends. Uly will greet them and hope for petting, but he isn't as happy and silly as he is with women. We haven't gotten any sort of fear or aggression response out of him. When he's off his ten day quarantine, we will be meeting lots of men and watching him carefully to see how he feels.

Was Ulysses labeled aggressive in the shelter because he was cornered by a man? We're not sure, but it seems likely. He's still the soft, gentle, sweet boy we thought he was. Now we need to find an adopter who is willing to respond to undesirable behavior with a quiet "uh-uh" or "what's wrong?" rather than "NO! BAD DOG!"

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