On Saturday, January 20th, we drove our beloved 12-week old labradoodle puppy, Ollie, back to the breeder.
Before you judge, please read our story.
For as long as I can remember, our kids have been begging for a dog. Knowing what a HUGE responsibility a dog was, we never gave in to their pleas. Even a Powerpoint presentation creating by our tech-savvy daughter couldn’t sway us.
That is until about six months ago.
Our kids are 14 and 9 and we finally decided that we were all up for the responsibility of dog ownership. We began researching breeds, knowing our daughter was severely allergic to many dogs, we started investigating Doodles, specifically Multigenerational Australian Labradoodles.
These pups were known for their lovability, trainability, intelligence, sweet disposition, and energy.
We found the perfect breeder. One that encouraged home visits, did not demand a deposit sight unseen, genetically health tested their dogs AND offered an 8-year health guarantee. They were kind and patient with our many questions and responsive to all of our phone calls and texts.
It was love at first sight with Ollie. Even though he was merely days old, he won our hearts. We visited again at four weeks and took him home when he turned 8 weeks on December 23rd.
Knowing this was going to be intense, hard, but rewarding work, we welcomed our new family member into our hearts and home.
Hours and hours of research went into educating us on what to expect. We were prepared for sleepless nights, potty accidents, chewing and puppy biting. There was no illusion that this was going to be easy, but it was going to be rewarding in many ways and fill our lives with laughter, love, and joy.
Once home with Ollie, we were smitten! He was the perfect puppy, playful, outgoing. Seemingly happy to play and snuggle with all of us.
Within 24 hours, something happened that changed everything.
While I was carrying Ollie out for a potty break, he growled, snarled, then flipped around in my arms and bared his teeth at me, thrashing and snarling even harder.
I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen.
I wanted this to be ‘normal’ puppy stuff…but I knew deep down in my gut that it wasn’t.
Feeling unsettled, I went back inside and told my husband what had happened. He said it was normal and that all puppies growled. I tried to explain that it was more than a growl…he said it was just fine.
Ollie was sharp, so smart, scary smart. We taught him to sit, stay, lay down, hop in his crate all within the first few days.
But he kept growling and snarling when we picked him up. Not every time, but consistently enough that it was becoming worrisome. My husband experienced it, our kids too.
Within 24 hours of having our new pup, I was contacting a friend that was a dog trainer. Within a few days of owning Ollie, we made a 5-hour round trip drive to another trainer that came highly recommended.
A week in and there was no improvement. Ollie continued to hate being picked up. Some people told us just to not pick him up…that wasn’t possible. He was potty training. We’d have to pick him up to whisk him outside. He had several vet visits, we had to carry him in so he wouldn’t catch any diseases from the vet’s floor. Not to mention you should be able to handle your 7-pound puppy without concern that you will be attacked.
You are probably thinking I’m crazy, as did many people until I captured his behavior on video:
This is not normal, healthy 9-week old puppy behavior. We had Ollie for four weeks. I read every puppy book out there. From Dr. Sophia Yin to Dr. Ian Dunbar. If you know a dog behaviorist, I’ve got their book, have watched their YouTube videos and listened to their podcasts. We spent over $1,000 and worked with four trainers. We tried to positively condition Ollie to love human touch by giving him treats when we petted him and picked him up. Not once, ever, did we hit him or hurt him. A ‘time-out’ in his crate was his most severe punishment.
Our incredible breeders made a four hour round trip drive to see this for themselves. They had never heard of such a thing and wanted to see it in person. He growled and snarled at them when picked up as well.
I spent hours upon hours reading up on dog behavior and aggression and tried to figure out why this was happening. I was at a loss.
Our amazing trainer (our fourth!) Molly, was over and we were working on positive handling exercises. My 14-year-old daughter was sitting with Ollie in her lap. He growled, snarled then whipped around and tried to bite her in the face. Molly immediately took him and tried to calmly settle him. He bit her hand really hard, drawing blood. This wasn’t puppy play. It was in that instant that I knew. We just couldn’t do anything more for him. We needed to return him.
My kids were shutting down. My daughter had nights where she cried and my son didn’t want anything to do with the dog, he was just scared.
The next morning I called our vet. Molly called the breeders, and the consensus was that Ollie should be re-homed to a family without children.
We could deal with furniture chewing, potty accidents, sharp puppy teeth, play biting, barking and jumping. What we couldn’t deal with was a puppy who snarled, growled and bit when gently handled or picked up. It wasn’t just a liability for our own kids, but for any child that might come over.
Returning him was a humiliating, shameful experience.
How can I have failed at something so simple? A puppy?!? A labradoodle puppy at that. EVERYONE has dogs. I’ve got friends who picked out puppies they had never met and ended up with a loving pet. Other friends chose their pup simply through a photo online. Friends with pups that have never done any formal training and others who never read a book on puppy raising, let alone watched dozens of hours of online videos on the subject of everything puppy.
Poor Ollie. We tried, we really did. We worked with that little guy 24/7 for four weeks. Every tip we were given, we tried. Nothing we did could help this issue.
Here’s what this experience has taught me. Listen to your GUT. Mine knew that something was wrong right off the bat. In fact, I knew so solidly in my gut that I didn’t want to say anything out loud because that would make it real. Like, if I didn’t talk about it, it wouldn’t be a reality. Thank God I reached out to the breeders immediately and I reached out to trainers and some of my dog loving friends.
Ollie is back with the breeders. They are keeping him for a bit then they will rehome him to someone without kids and they will include his history.
As for us, we are all shaken, saddened and heartbroken. We do still want a family dog and we will be trying again.
Everyone keeps telling me this was a fluke, a one in a million.
Re-homing a puppy is excruciating. It’s shameful and it’s guilt-inducing but it was also a decision that we made and one that I’ll have to live with.
I’m forever grateful for our incredible breeders, Molly our trainer, and friends and family that listened without judgment.
My gut knew and my brain tried to talk me out of it. My brain thought if I could just read more about puppies, learn more about dog aggression, devour more information, watch more videos, I could solve it.
My intuition knew there was nothing I could do.
I’m sharing this experience in hopes to help someone else. Whatever situation you are dealing with, whether it be a puppy or a relationship, listen to your gut. Don’t pretend that you aren’t seeing red flags when they are everywhere. There’s nothing wrong with giving something your all, but know that sometimes there are situations that just won’t work out.
If there’s a lesson in this to be learned from our experience, this quote embodies it: