Re-homing a Dog

I haven't posted a new blog article in quite some time. Partly because having two children (2 year old and 5 month old), keeps me very busy! I also feel that I have covered most dog training related topics via blog articles. However, my situation with my own dogs has inspired me to create a new post. How do you know when to re-home a dog and how do you make sure it all turns out for all the parties involved?

Some of you may know the saga of Lex and Lucy and how drastically their lives changed when I had kids. A year ago when my daughter started crawling, Lucy made herself physically sick due to the stress. Border Collies are known for having space issues; they don't like their space invaded by dogs or people. Having the constraints of being a good dog and not being able to "correct" the baby, Lucy internalized it all. I temporarily relocated her to my dad's house. I visited her there (as he lives only 15 minutes away) and "dog-napped" her from time to time. After I had my son, I brought Lucy home for a while and she never left! I can only guess why she is alright now with the kids. Perhaps since my daughter is now two and gives her the space she needs, Lucy no longer feels stressed. Perhaps Lucy decided she would rather be home with me and kids all day than be alone at my dad's while he worked all day. Either way, she is a changed dog. She eats her food, she plays, and loves on both kids.

While Lucy was gone on her "vacation," Lex remained normal until my daughter went from crawling to walking to running. Suddenly she was quick and unpredictable in her movement. We worked very hard to teach Lex to go to a quiet place when he was stressed and tried to give him more exercise and attention as well as teach our daughter to leave him be. While we were successful, things changed after my son was born. I could no longer exercise him daily as my hands were full with two little ones. We didn't have any "alone" time without kids and Lex began to spend most of his time in his quiet place. As my daughter became fascinated with role playing and taking care of baby dolls etc, she began to dote on Lex by insisting she feed him his dog food, bringing him treats, attempting to share her tippy cup with him. He was NOT comfortable with this and began to show very clear warning signals to her (showing his teeth). No matter how many times I talked to her about dog's having sharp teeth and showing her pictures of snarling dogs and even giving her time-outs when she disobeyed me and tried once again to get Lex to lick her or play with her doll, she just didn't understand the magnitude of the situation. How could she? She was 23 months old!

My husband and I began talking about our fear that we didn't know how long Lex's "fuse" was before he would go from warning to biting. Lex has corrected many puppies in his life and doesn't have the most inhibited bite (as he made some of them bleed). This lack of bite inhibition scared me and even though I was managing the situation I knew something had to change. I kept thinking how sad it was that he slept away most of his days, rarely seemed happy anymore and the fear I had that he would lash out at my daughter. It is a horrible feeling to love two creatures that can't co-exist together under your current circumstances.

Luckily for me I had/have a dear friend, although 500 miles away in Oregon, that had offered time and time again to take Lex for a vacation or for good. This friend however, was about to purchase a puppy, meaning my window for her taking Lex would close forever. 

My husband and I talked about it for a while and finally decided that even though we love our dog, we love our children more and that everyone would be happier if we re-homed Lex to my friend.

A week later my friend and her husband made the long trek to come get Lex. He was a little stressed at first, but took the long ride in stride. My friend tells me that he slept on their bed the first night, and still does 3 weeks later! He plays with their Border Collie, goes to their horse barn daily to take care of the horses, goes to work with my friend (as she is a groomer) and he started playing flyball again! She can leave him un-crated in their house and he chills on the couch till she gets home. He chows his food down and barks for more. She sends me pictures and texts of what he is up to and I see more pictures on facebook each week. My heart is so happy for him!

Our home is much happier as well. I didn't realize how much responsibility it was each day to make sure nothing bad happened to my toddler in reference to Lex. Lucy doesn't seemed phased that he left and is enjoying going everywhere with us. Now that she is a senior dog and slowed down, it is not a burden to take her to the park with the kids or have her with us at a family member's house. I could never take Lex to a kid's park and taking him to a family member's house was never too much fun either as some of the dogs in my family never got along well with him.

Sometimes everything lines up and re-homing a dog is the wisest choice for a family. I know there are some people that hold onto dogs till the end of the dog's life (no matter what the conditions or circumstances) because they feel that they made a commitment to the dog for life. I am a believer that if someone can give your dog a better life than you can, you are not a failure for making the difficult choice to re-home the dog. 

Lex's Improvements

Since I last wrote, Lex has finally found his stride in his "new life." I finally realized that today. Having spent the last few months creating a routine for him and agonizing and stressing over his stress, I came to a point that I wasn't going to put anymore energy into having all my thoughts revolving around how guilty I felt about his life having changed. I think when I stopped doing that, I stopped being so stressed and agitated around him and he stopped feeling pressure from me.

Lex is a super sensitive dog and I strongly believe that he takes on a lot of stress due to my own behavior/feelings. While some things certainly have to do with the toddler, most of his stress was probably due to my own and the pressure I put on him.

I never had to try a prescription drug (in fact, my vet couldn't get what I wanted), but I do have him on an amino acid known for calming stressed dogs called L-Theanine.

We are finally in a happy zone where he knows what to expect most days and I am seeing my happy boy again. In the morning my husband takes him out and feeds him in his crate, then he hangs out in there for a little while and will usually come out and see my daughter and I in the living room after my husband has left for work. Then he usually takes a nap when he sees we aren't doing anything all that exciting and will go back to his crate or lay down behind her rocking chair in her room. We don't have the baby gate up anymore nor do we have to shut any doors. Once my daughter goes down for her noon nap that lasts two hours, he gets super excited and runs to the door because he knows we are going out in the yard to play. We play chuck-it or kick a soccer ball around till he is tired (usually 15 minutes of non-stop play), then go back inside. He drinks water and catches his breath while I do some chores. Then I give him a bone or stuffed kong to eat while I catch up on stuff or take a nap myself, since being 35 weeks pregnant entitles me to a nap! When my daughter wakes up and has a snack and some Elmo time, he usually sits with us then quietly disappears again to come out later when my husband gets home for the night unless we take a walk, pending how cold it is. He waits by the door as soon as he hears the garage and then greets/plays with my husband, goes potty and gets fed again. Once our daughter is asleep, he comes out for playing fetch down the hall or nose work games or just long cuddle and brushing sessions. He now sleeps in the living room cuddled up in a blanket on his bed due to my allergies of him scratching and creating dander all night in our room. He has adjusted quite well to sleeping alone and our relationship is better without me shushing him and telling him to stop scratching all night.

The darkness in our happy light is that life always changes and in about a month we will have a newborn as well. My husband will be home for a few weeks from work helping and Lex may go stay with a friend, but I will have to find a whole new schedule for taking care of his needs and those of two children!

And Baby Makes three (or more)

For many people out there, their dog is their first "baby." For some, this may be their only "baby" if the owner is not having children in their dog's lifetime or has children that have grown up. My own dogs were my first "children" and I can tell you that it is very very difficult to add a human baby to the mix without some upset on the previous family dynamics. Thankfully, I did quite a bit of work to get our family ready for our first baby and while I did encounter some serious problems with my dogs and children, those problems did not occur till my baby was no longer a baby (past her first birthday).

Bringing home a new baby is going to affect the parents, the pets and the baby. Therefore, you have three different parties to prepare for this new life. While no one can foresee exactly how daily life will play out with a new baby, there are things that are going to be set in stone that can be practiced and prepared for.


I got all my baby equipment as soon as possible so my dogs could get used to it. They needed to not be fearful of the stroller, swing, crib, bouncy seat etc. I also wanted them to know those things were not toys. A little dog will need to learn that the bouncy seat or plush floor tummy mat is not hers to lay on! I even went as far as getting a baby doll and placing it in the equipment, teaching my dogs to heel next to the stroller with the baby in it and cooed and fawned over this plastic doll in the rocking chair, on the couch and carried it around. To desensitize them to crying, I played youtube videos of infants crying and gave them treats (open bar) while the crying occurred so they would not be stressed over crying. For fun, I even taught them to fetch a diaper on command! When my daughter was born, we had a good friend take our dogs for a few days while we were in the hospital and while we got settled at home for a day. I didn't want to be worried about the dogs on my first day home with my new baby. When the dogs did come home, I made sure to greet them away from the baby and give them lots of attention. Then we let them sniff our daughter in her carseat while she slept. I still remember feeling incredibly tense as my female dog Lucy pretended the baby didn't exist, and my male dog Lex, was tight as a bow string and I thought he might perceive her as prey. Turns out he was just ecstatic over her and became quickly obsessed about her whereabouts and wanted to not be out of her sight.


As hard as it is to imagine, try to imagine what your daily life will be like after baby. Will your spouse take over dog walking and feeding? Will you only give the dog fetch time in the evening after dinner? Will the dog no longer be allowed in the bedrooms and be sequestered to one end of your home? Give yourself a month or more before the birth of your child to start enacting the new routine so the arrival of the baby will not be to blame (in the dog's mind). It is better to ease into the transition of a new routine before you are flustered with a newborn as well! Newborns are a lot of work, yet not in a weird way. They require quite a few feedings in a 24 hour period, but they sleep a lot. I found myself with free time (but a baby on my chest) in which I would toss toys down the hall for the dogs. I pre-stocked my freezer with stuffed Kongs, bought a few new maze toys and bones that I could offer them during lazy days. Once I felt better, I learned how to use my baby carrier (like Ergo or Becco) and realized how transportable my baby was, thus enabling me to walk the dogs or get chores done.


How on earth can you prepare a fetus for dogs you ask? Well, I like to think that because of my daughter's exposure to flyball tournaments and practices as well as dog training sessions, that she got used to barking in the womb! To this day she will not wake if dog's are barking, yet my son (who was not exposed to random barking in the womb), wakes up at any barking. Once the baby is born, you can start his/her life with your dogs by simply not forcing a relationship with them. It is very tempting and unfortunately encouraged, to get the baby around the dogs. I can't tell you how many pictures I have of my sleeping daughter with a dog on a blanket with her, her feeding dogs snacks, her playing with their toys, crawling in their crates, petting them. I wanted her to be gentle with dogs, love dogs from an early start and while I did succeed in teaching her to be gentle, I also taught her to be drawn to dogs and teaching a toddler to play with dogs is NOT a good thing. As she got older, the dogs became uncomfortable with her advances (that is another story, and is on the blog under Lex etc.). However, knowing all this with my second child, I never pushed any interactions with dogs. I don't have a single picture of him sitting with a dog, touching a dog, feeding a dog and I can tell you that my dog Lucy, is very very happy that she can be in the same room with us without my son bothering her one bit.

For more information on dogs and kids and "demagnetizing" children toward dogs, see this website;

Lex's Week

We have been making lots of positive changes to reduce Lex's stress levels and be a happy dog again.

Sunday I got up with my daughter while Lex slept in with my husband. Then he got taken outside, fed breakfast and I took him with me to a private training where he relaxed in his crate in the car for about 40 minutes, then he assisted with the training for about 15 minutes. This consisted of doing tricks, barking, running for thrown treats as he was acting as a distraction for the dog I was working with. After that I drove him to the dog park but had to park a few blocks away due to a 5K race going on. We walked down to the dog park and played chuck-it for about 20 minutes then walked back to the car. Then I put him in the bedroom where he slept in his crate for a bit until my husband decided to take a nap and allow Lex to cuddle with him on the bed for an hour. When they woke up, my husband got ready to go out and we took our daughter, Lex and Lucy (picked her up) to Heather Farms, a nice park with a large pond, garden, trails, play structures etc. We walked with the dogs on leash for an hour on the trails around the ponds, then let our daughter play for a bit. Lex relaxed some more in the bedroom when we got home and I put his thundershirt on. Later in the evening I had to go to another private training and needed to borrow my sister's dog, so Lex stayed home. While home, my husband got out the RC car that Lex loves to chase (we haven't gotten it out in over a year), and he held our daughter and let her watch while he chased it. Then I brought dinner home, baby went to bed, Lex hung out with us in the living room while we ate and watched a movie, then we went to bed! Good day for all!

Let Lex sleep in, took him and a pet sitting dog on a short potty walk, then fed them both and put Lex back in the bedroom for about 1.5 hours until we got dressed and ready for a trail walk. Had him heel to the trail, then let him off. He ran and ran and ran after squirrels and what-not and did auto-check-ins to me while I pushed the baby in the stroller on the trail. Walk lasted about 20 minutes. On the way back he jumped into a creek and I threw a stick for him about 10 times for him to retrieve. Since he stunk, I then had to hose him down (which he loves), when we got back. Put him on the back patio where there is an extra crate and beds and blankets, to dry off. He then came back in and hung out with us for a bit then my daughter wanted to chase him so I put up the bedroom gate and gave him a bone to chew on. After that he jumped over by himself and we played laser with him a little bit, then I put baby down for a nap. During her nap he choose to go back behind the gate and finish his bone, then come hang out with me for an hour or so. Then we went to my mom's for an earlier dinner and he played outside with her dog and enjoyed the backyard. Back home he followed us around while I cleaned up, gave the baby a bath and put her to bed. Then he hung out with us and went to bed when we did.

Same morning routine. Loaded him and baby up to go to my mom's while I went to work. While there he got a 20 minute leash walk while my daughter rode her tricycle on the paved trails, he played with my mom's dog, played fetch for 15 minutes, got a bully stick and had a good time. Came home and he took a nap with my husband who stayed home sick. Took an evening walk off-leash on the trail and ran into a few other dogs he ran with and another owner threw a ball for him quite a few times. Normal evening and bedtime routine.

Normal morning routine. Hung out with Elsie and I a bit. Picked up Lucy and took both dogs and baby to a park in Clayton where they can play fetch in a large grassy field without other dogs and after, Elsie can play at a nearby playground. Lots of walking and running! Brought Lucy back with us and gave them both bully sticks after much needed water. Gave them both hose baths when Tyler got home and had an awkward moment with a neighbor that watched me bathe them with her screaming 2 year old in tow. Both dogs were stressed about the crying, but I technically was in a community area with off-leash dogs, so I didn't feel like I could say anything. Took both clean dogs to work at Petco where they helped with a few demonstrations and got to play a little after closing. Got home late, fed him a late meal and went straight to bed.

Normal morning stuff. Met with a friend and her BC male for a walk. They formerly hated each other, so we set out to fix that. After riding together (crated), and a little mouthing off, hot dogs and walking, they finally accepted each other. They ended up walking comfortably close to one and other, but I still would be hesitant to let them run loose with each other. Walked for at least an hour, then picked up lunch for us to-go and headed back to my place. Crated Lex and shut the bedroom door while her dog was loose. After she left, he did a lot of sniffing of our place and had renewed interest in toys that the other dog had touched! Husband got home early from a dentist appointment and Lex went to hang out with him while baby and I left for a while. Lex threw up while I was gone (maybe the hot dogs?), so we didn't do any further activity for the night.

Busy day for me and my daughter and we were gone till the afternoon. By then it was too hot to do much with Lex. He seemed happy and I didn't end up needing the baby gate till later in the evening. He chased a fly for a while, got a little obsessed with it and I had to re-direct him with a bone behind the gate. When he came out he had forgotten about the fly, that is, until my husband that had gotten home told him to "get the bug!" Picked up Lucy and took him and her to another group class I teach. He was a little stressed since it is as a vet office where he got a dental done and he still is never sure if I am leaving him there for medical treatment. I played some games with him and Lucy (treat tossing, puppy push-ups, side-by-side stays) and did some tricks then I put them in an adjacent unused room while I did a thorough cleaning of the room and then we went back to my dad's and I put his dog away so L&L could play together in his living room.

I went to work and Tyler attempted to do good by Lex and take him on the off-leash trail we like to walk on with the stroller. However, Lex did not come back when he called him (first time ever in his life!) and continued to run up the hill looking for squirrels. It was only after my husband reached the end of the trail to turn around that Lex did a check-in and he leashed him up. He assured me he didn't yell or say anything to him since he did actually come back on his own, but he didn't want to let him off again for a repeat performance. Apparently, the rest of their day was "normal." I had another class at the vet clinic after I returned home from work and took him and Lucy. Even though I provided him with a doggie bed in the adjacent room and he seemed more relaxed upon entry, he was not himself when I brought him out for a demo. He barked at one of the students (I am assuming since it was a tall african american man with a hat and Lex has zero history with other ethnic groups), he showed his teeth at a bumbling puppy and he did his "demo" with whale eye! Lucy was a gem and totally relaxed and did everything I needed her to do happily. Took her home and then had a quiet evening with Lex and went to bed early.

Normal morning stuff, except Lex was interested in the tug-a-jug, so I put his breakfast in there. He didn't eat it in his crate, so when the baby went down for an early nap I brought it out to the living room where he did eat it. Then we went to the zoo and Lex was home for the rest of the day alone. Bedtime routine was normal. 


It seems that the problems that crop up in relation to having a toddler and dog(s) never end! You may have read the saga of Lucy and my baby that led to Lucy being relocated to my dad's house. She is very happy there and we have worked out a good system so that she is still "my dog." What ultimately led me to relocating her was that her stress levels were so high, she became physically ill. I didn't think I had to worry about Lex since he has been in love with my daughter from the day we brought her home. Apparently, things change........

Now that my daughter is a full-fledged toddler, she does things that may seem odd to a dog. Her movement is unsteady, her mood is ever changing, she wants up, she wants down. She can climb and she can throw! She also enjoys chase games and "sharing" her food. Lex has taken most things in stride. He never stressed over crying or crawling or even toy throwing. What really gets him though is when Elsie starts to follow him around. It is quite harmless really. She wants to see him, she walks up to him and he licks her and she laughs and then he gets up because he is a gentleman and moves aside to let her pass. Except she doesn't want to pass him. She wants to hang out with him. So when he walks away, she follows him. Then he gets that stressed look on his face like "what is happening?" and she thinks they are playing a a great game and is just laughing, following him around. She isn't grabbing him or actually touching him at all. My dilemma starts in how to actually deal with this.

I can't let it just go, I can see that Lex needs me to intervene since this freaks him out. When I stop her physically or verbally, she throws a mini tantrum and then my sensitive dog high-tails it to his crate as if it were all his fault! If I try to re-direct him to our newly made safe-zone, he seems confused and thinks he is being banished/punished. If I get treats out to reiterate to him that he is not being punished, he doesn't seem to make the connection and simply takes the treats and either continues to look stressed OR goes into training mode and becomes an intense obsessive border collie that had no recollection that a toddler was chasing him!

I will say, we have made a little bit of progress. My goal is that when he feels insecure, that he seeks out the "safe-zone" on his own without prompting, and comes back when he wants to. The "safe-zone" is a baby gate in our bedroom doorway. In the bedroom is his open crate. The progress I have made in the last 48 hours is that he is now coming out of the room without prompting, but I still have to tell him to go over the gate when I see he is getting stressed. He seems to have chosen the spot behind the rocking chair in Elsie's room as his second "crate" which isn't what I want, since I am not going to gate my daughter out of her room. At least he is choosing to leave completely rather than just walking in circles and then I can intervene and redirect the baby.

It makes me a bit sad. Here I was naively thinking my toddler and dog were the best of friends, but in reality I don't think it is possible for a dog and toddler to be friends! To co-exist, yes, but to actually have a relationship in which both parties benefit, no. I have successfully taught her to be gentle, to not share her food, to not throw things, to be sweet to him and now I have to teach her to basically ignore him. This will not be an easy task! I will not re-home Lex. With Lucy, the cards just fell into place and her issue was much more severe. It is times like these that I think if I were not a dog trainer, I wouldn't even notice that he was displaying stress signals. How wonderful it must be to be ignorant of such things! Thankfully I am aware though, because I can prevent a potential bite to my child and keep my dog happy.