A while ago I went for a consultation for a dog referred to me by a previous client and owner of a secure dog field. The dog is a beautiful 7month old Doberman named Apollo – he has been cropped and docked when apparently imported from Eastern Europe. He has been with his owner for little more than a week. He was rehomed via a pet selling site which is not a site held in any form of esteem by canine professionals. It is renowned for being an easy site for backyard breeders, dodgy sales and is not somewhere I would ever recommend buying a dog from. This case is a great example of why.
My client has years of Doberman experience and has grown up with the breed so was not under any illusions of what they breed may require, however this dog was not like any Doberman that she has ever encountered.
As I entered the property I was greeted by a very low growl and a dog standing and shaking in its bed. Apollo stood nervously in his little safe space and was clearly telling me he was uncomfortable with my arrival. The set up of the home meant there was nowhere for him to go as the front door opened straight into the living room which was his space. The only other downstairs rooms were the kitchen which does not have a door and he is petrified of being in there, and the downstairs toilet. Apollo is frightened of stairs and so this was also not an option. After throwing a couple of treats his way I left out of the front door and went round the side through a gate to the garden.
Apollo did not growl at me when I went into the garden which connects to the living room through bi-folding doors which were open. He stood away from the threshold and observed me as I sat on a step at the back of the garden and chatted to his owner.
His owner was at her wits end. She had got Apollo as she had moved and settled into her own property and envisaged a life with her doggy shadow she could take everywhere with her - to friend's houses, to her parents, to the beach and out for lovely long walks. Apollo is not that dog and is not likely to be that dog for the foreseeable as he is incredibly anxious. He is worried by noises - from aeroplanes to a sneeze from a next-door neighbour. He is worried by people. He is petrified of the lead, of boxes, of plastic bags - you name it, he's frightened by it! She had tried to walk him, but he was so worried by the lead he would freeze and shake, and it was pleasurable for no-one. He had met a couple of dogs and although gentle with them, he is conflicted and worried.
As time went on Apollo got brave and stepped into the garden so I would throw a couple of treats (tasty sausage) behind him – giving him the reward and the release of social pressure and he was happy enough to eat them, so I scattered some towards him and he snuffled around as we carried on talking. He became comfortable enough to come towards me and have a few sniffs and then warmed up quite quickly and enjoyed some gentle contact. I kept my tone light, and movements slow and he was happy enough in my company.
Apollo was described by his previous owner as calm and playful. He is calm in the fact that he is gentle and he does settle, and he is playful and enjoys a game of tug or fetch, but they failed to disclose any of Apollo's other traits and nervous nature. It could be assumed that he has had little to no socialisation since being bought over from Poland after having been cropped, docked and had his dew claws removed. Suffice to say his potentially intimidating physique is at a complete juxtaposition to his sensitive and fearful nature.
He is what I would term a 'project dog' - he is not a readymade pet that will fit seamlessly into just anyone's life or busy schedule. He is going to need work in terms of training (even housetraining), consistency, patience and most of all - time. His new owner was not expecting such a dog and would never have entered herself into that position if she was aware of the significance of Apollo's issues. She works long hours so would need to use a walker or preferably day care. Apollo does not like to be left. She lives alone so wants to be able to go out and socialise with her friends and family. Apollo is worried by people and being outside. She would like to be able to go to the beach and take her dog for adventures. Apollo is worried and overwhelmed by the outside. His issues are by no stretch insurmountable, but there are layers and layers of behaviour modification and confidence building that needs to be done.
Now, there is clearly a moral dilemma and one at which no tears were spared during the consultation. Does his new owner put herself and her mental health to the side and commit to doing whatever it takes to work through his issues as this is the dog that she has, and he is now her responsibility? Or does she admit that although incredibly sad, she is not the right home for Apollo, and he is not the right dog for her? The battle between these two situations feels like a loose-loose. However, I do not feel there should be any shame in concluding that rehoming can be the most responsible decision.
The environment is not right for Apollo - everything from the layout of the home to renovations due to be starting over the coming months. People would not necessarily think that they cannot get new wardrobes fitted because they have a new dog. It may be assumed that you could go out for a few hours with your dog or there would be a way round it - but for Apollo this could be simply catastrophic and ruin the little bit of safety he feels in the house as there would be banging and workmen. He is also petrified of leaving the house and terrified of the car. I do not feel it would be fair on Apollo to stay in an environment which cannot change to meet his needs, including long working hours and his disposition is not one which I feel would be improved or be suitable for doggy day-care.
Being a single person living alone can be isolating, and this isolation would be perpetuated by the lack of ability to leave the house or have people over without upsetting Apollo or having to be carefully managed and implemented. The work Apollo needs is ongoing and is a commitment. I believe that he could find the perfect home where all his needs are known prior to rehoming and can be met. He is a sensitive and gentle soul and needs calm coaxing out of his shell in order to flourish. This situation is not conducive to a happy life for dog and person and without the environment or time necessary to establish such a change. Should both owner and dog suffer? I don't think so. I try my best not to go into any consultation with judgement or to make people feel guilty. There are sometimes valid reasons for rehoming a dog and I feel this situation is one of them. Apollo deserves the best home who can invest in him, and my client deserves to find happiness from a dog who would love the lifestyle she has to offer.
I offered to help rehome Apollo and will assess him, home check, find the perfect applicants and have rescue back up for him as well as offering ongoing behavioural support and aftercare. His story does not end here. I feel that my client has taken him out of a bad situation as he has not had the care he needs. He could easily have fallen into the wrong hands being an un-neutered, handsome beast of a boy but she has instead facilitated his journey to recovery and towards his best life and that is something to be grateful for and to be viewed as a positive. This will be in no means easy for Apollo or my client, but I truly believe it is the best decision and I can't wait to see his progression in the right home for him.
Apollo went on to find a home through a Doberman rescue. He lives with other dogs and has grown in confidence and happiness in his new rural home. Time, space, patience and the right environment were what this boy needed!