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When There's a Ferocious Fido in the Family

When There’s a Ferocious Fido in the Family

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

Hi! Remember me? I’m the one who had an epic meltdown over tacos? Happily, my cranky baby is now a not so cranky toddler. Turns out he had a milk allergy so I cut out dairy in my diet and went to a 50/50 combo of breastfeeding and soy formula. Now he’s even able to eat cheese and yogurt (straight milk is still a no-no).

Anyway, I write to you having exited the sleep-deprived, hormonal rollercoaster I’d been on. Now I find myself in a situation where I am questioning my instincts and sanity.

I now have a 1 year old toddler, a 10 year old and a 12 year old. My brother and his wife have a 6 month old plus a 120-pound Rottweiler who thinks he’s still a tiny puppy. Up until about a month ago, the dog just annoyed me because he galumphed around being his clumsy self. He’s knocked over my little one, and my not so little ones too. He was just a big, goofy dog. But then, he growled at my 10 year old son who had come up to scratch behind his ears. A couple hours later, it happened again. Having two elderly terriers at home, my son is very respectful and gentle around dogs so I know he wasn’t roughing Fido up. I told my children that I didn’t want them roughhousing with the dog anymore. I told my brother but didn’t make a big deal about it because I did worry I was over reacting.

Yeah. Then 2 weeks later at a picnic, a 6 year old who was visiting came up to hug the dog and Fido snarled and BIT him in the ear/neck. The boy needed a few stitches. IN. HIS. NECK. My brother swore up and down that they were getting rid of the dog as soon as they got home. That didn’t happen. To make matters worse, a few days ago at dinner when I asked about the situation, they were talking about how he’s such a good dog. As an example, my brother told us about watching this dog just lay there while his 6-month old baby grabbed the dog’s lips and pulled his ears just that morning.

I thought my mom was going to have a heart attack. We had no idea they were still letting Fido around the baby. Their little guy is one epiphany away from grabbing ahold of everything and anything to pull himself up (including a big giant dog who, apparently, is a bit bitey).

Anyway, probably out of fear for their grandson’s life, my mom and dad took the dog to their house. My brother and SIL now seem to think the problem is solved, but I am pissed concerned. I don’t want my children around that dog at all. EVER. I’m relieved that the dog won’t be around my nephew as much, but my kids will end up being around this dog twice as much now! Not to mention, the family whose child was bit typically come every year and visit for 2 weeks and stay with my parents.

My kids love to go to their grandparents’ to spend the night and now I’m really not sure I can let that happen if they keep the dog. I’m worried that my Dad won’t take this as seriously as I do and the dog will end up loose around my children. I frankly just don’t understand why everyone is so determined to keep this dog around. Am I being unreasonable here? Years ago when the same little brother was 19, he stepped between two of my dogs fighting (20 pound terriers). He got bit and my father was adamant that “That dog bit my son, she needs to go.” I kind of feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone right now because that was an unacceptable situation, but a 120 lb. dog vs a 6 year old boy is forgivable?

Do I stick to my guns and tell them if the dog is around, your grandkids won’t be? That seems harsh especially since I feel like my mom only agreed to take the dog to protect her grandbaby. Do I tell my brother to snap out of it, wake up, and deal with this problem the right way instead of pawning it off on our parents (the dog would probably be a good pet for a non-kid household)? Do I suck it up and accept that this dog isn’t going anywhere and I’ll just need to be hyper-vigilant any time we visit (which is often since they live only 10 minutes away)? Am I having another taco-sized overreaction?

You are not overreacting. Do not let your children near that dog. Put your foot down and keep it down. Good Lord. This is a tragedy just waiting to happen — another (!!!) seriously injured child and a dog with no place to go but the pound for destruction. And since BOTH of those outcomes can SO EASILY be avoided at this point, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills while reading about your brother’s and parents’ reaction and “solution” to the problem.

Okay, we’ll take the dog away from the first lousy owners who 1) didn’t train their dog properly in the first place, most likely, 2) ignored warning signs that the dog was aggressive around children, 3) took the dog to a picnic that was presumably full of children, 4) refused to do a damn thing after the dog BIT A CHILD’S NECK, and finally 5) remain astoundingly, perhaps purposely obtuse about the potential danger this dog poses to children in general, and IN PARTICULAR THEIR OWN INFANT.

But now the dog is with a second set of owners who…well…it doesn’t really sound like they’re any better. Have they hired a trainer? Talked to any canine behavior experts about the dog’s aggression? Put up “Beware of Dog” signs and taken proper steps to ensure that he can’t get out of the yard or pose any danger to neighborhood children or their own household visitors? What is going on in their minds here, if they are able to recognize that the dog doesn’t belong around the six month old, but don’t seem to grasp that also means your one year old can’t/shouldn’t visit either?

Yes, Rotties can be wonderful, loyal and loving dogs, and maybe Fido would never, ever attack a baby he perceives as “his.” But evidence suggests that YOUR children do not fall into that category, and that his reactions to children are growing less predictable by the day.

This dog needs help from people who know what they’re doing if he has any hope of rehoming. Go online and research Rottweiler rescue or foster organizations in your area.  (If he bites again, his chances go down, and could put him at risk for mandatory euthanasia, depending on if the first bite was reported and your local laws are.) Point out to your brother and parents that having the dog with the grandparents is NOT a viable, long-term solution for all the reasons you listed: Your kids want to visit Grandma and Grandpa and can’t now, because they’re scared of Fido and you don’t trust Fido, the child who was BIT IN THE NECK will be coming to visit and probably won’t want the dog that BIT HIM IN THE NECK galumphing around the house like a big furry land mine. Not to mention the behavior seems to be escalating fairly quickly, going by the timeline you’ve described. (Is the dog fixed? Please tell me somebody at least got the dog fixed.)

When I was 17, I was attacked by my then-boyfriend’s dog. I’d met and interacted with the dog dozens of times. I was a little nervous around him at first (he was a BIG German Shepherd), and had been repeatedly assured by the family that the dog was a big old teddy bear and was even made to feel silly over my initial nervousness/caution.

They never mentioned the two people the dog had bitten in misguided attempts to “protect” family members, and didn’t warn me about the dog’s “triggers.” Don’t run towards one of his people when he’s off-leash, and don’t just walk into the family home unaccompanied.

That last one was what happened. My boyfriend was inside getting something; I was waiting for him outside in the car and realized I needed to pee. I heard the dog barking, so I called his name and announced myself, but within seconds of opening the door his jaws locked on my thigh and he brought me down to the floor in one quick, horrible, painful motion.

After what felt like eternity but was probably more like 30 seconds of biting and growling, he recognized me and THANKFULLY, released me and backed off. The damage was done (my thigh looked like hamburger meat) but he didn’t attack my face or neck or inflict any serious damage beyond a lot of scarring.

I was lucky; other dogs and breeds attack and simply don’t stop mid-way through because they realize they’re attacking someone they know — or a defenseless child.

Now stand up and estimate the height of your thigh, and then look at the height of your toddler. It’s. Not. Worth. It.

My injuries could have been prevented if the family had just been honest with me about the dog’s behavior. (Then again, I was a young adult who knew how to follow directions. The same isn’t true for small babies and children.) Your family needs to be honest about this dog as well, and that he really, really needs to be relocated to a kid (and grandkid) free household.  And it sounds like you’re the only one willing to push the issue. Go ahead and push. This is definitely more important than tacos.

Published August 8, 2014. Last updated August 11, 2014.
Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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