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NDR - When your family sucks

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  • NDR - When your family sucks

    Sorry, I know this is kind of long, but I’m frustrated and I’m not sure what to do. I’d appreciate any thoughts from anyone who has been through anything similar.

    For a little background:

    My sister has been married for nearly 20 years and recently decided to divorce her husband, a decision I applaud because he’s kind of a jackass. She has been living in Seattle but can’t afford to live there on her own (she’s been a stay at home mom for 12 years and is having a lot of trouble in the crappy job market). In order to be able to leave him, she and her two kids (ages 16 and 12) have come to live with me in Phoenix, probably for the next couple of years until she can complete a paralegal program that will allow her to get a decent job. She doesn’t pay rent or utilities at this point and I haven’t expected her to.

    The family had a yellow lab in Seattle that no one wanted but her husband and then only occasionally. The dog spent his entire life outside (even in snow) and was trained through fear and intimidation and was, as you might expect, a neurotic mess. I tried for years to explain how abusive they were to that poor dog, but no one cared. So I was VERY clear when the decision was made for her to move here that she was moving to a home with a 9 month old puppy that is very energetic, very social, and very much a part of the family. She lays on whatever furniture she wants, she’s physically affectionate and will seek out attention from everyone she loves, and while she has been well-socialized and has no desire to hurt anyone ever, she is an enthusiastic and brain-challenged teenager right now who sometimes forgets that she was taught not to jump on people when they walk in the door. My sister said she understood and agreed to all of that and moved in 3 weeks ago.

    There has not been a day since then that she hasn’t reminded me that “she’s not a dog person” and she’s passed that bias on to the kids. Yes, sometimes Molly is obnoxious and tries to jump up on someone walking in but she responds very well to a simple “off” and a hand on her back to keep her feet on the floor for a second. Once you’ve greeted her, she’s fine. (We’re working on the jumping and it gets better every day. Last night, I had a party with 20 people in the house and Molly roamed freely without tackling anyone, so it’s much better. )

    But every time she comes near my sister or the kids, they do everything in their power to get her the hell away. There’s a constant chorus of angry “Molly, NO…Molly OFF, Molly GET AWAY FROM ME” even when all she’s doing is approaching someone on the couch and nuzzling a hand for attention or bringing them a toy in hopes they might throw it or tug on it. She gets really confused and upset when they yell at her for stuff she’s always been allowed to do and proceeds to try to make amends by licking, whining, and nuzzling more which only pisses them off and makes them yell more. I intervene as soon as it starts, but at this point, I spend every waking minute trying to make sure my sweet, friendly puppy doesn’t in any way try to interact with the people who live in her house with her, and I’m afraid to go anywhere and leave them alone. I go back to school this Thursday and will have class three nights a week.

    I’ve tried having a family meeting about it, tried explaining that they’re pretty much verbally abusing her when she hasn’t broken any rules, and that it’s not reasonable to expect that they don’t ever have to touch or interact with her. Certainly they can do whatever they want within reason to minimize interaction if they don’t enjoy it, but it’s their responsibility to move away and they can’t get angry and constantly correct her just because they don’t like that she’s present. I ask them not to use her name if they’re correcting her, not to yell in anger when a calm voice works better, and I’ve tried to teach them subtle, non-abusive physical reactions to her that will keep her from getting too worked up (for example, putting an arm up calmly to block her if she’s trying to climb up onto the couch next to them). They agree to it all and then implement none of it.

    The 12 year old is (IMO) a big wuss who screams every time Molly touches him. God forbid a paw touches bare skin or his finger touches a tooth while she’s licking his hand because he is constantly telling anyone who will listen that she “bit him” or “scratched him” when there’s not a mark on him and I was there to see with my own eyes that she did no such thing. Poor Molly is stressed out, confused, and starting to get nervous around the youngest. She doesn’t understand why they don’t like her and tries all the harder to make friends which gets her rejected again. It breaks my heart to see how hard she tries.

    They’re absolutely right when they say they’re not dog people and they honestly shouldn’t be living with a dog, but the fact is they do. I can live with them being uninterested in her, but I can’t tolerate them being verbally abusive, physically abusive, or doing things that undermine her training, and they can’t expect to block all interaction with her or be angry when she’s in their general vicinity. She was in the house before they got here and she’ll be here long after they leave. That said, they’re family and they live here too and they have nowhere else to go. Obviously, I invited them (albeit with brutal honesty about what to expect from the dog that they chose to ignore). And this living situation isn’t likely to change for the next two years.

    So now what?
    He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.

  • #2
    So sorry you are dealing with this.

    I would have a friend take the dog for a walk & stop being reasonable & diplomatic and get loud and angry with them. If they cannot abide by your rules and treat the dog with the kindness and gentleness she deserves -then they are grounded & need to go straight to their bedroom and close the door unless they are eating meals at the table with adult supervision or using the bathroom. The dog lives there - they are GUESTS - so they should be overly careful NOT to cause inconveniences for you & your family. They need to get it that they need to learn to get along with her just as much as if she was your 3 year old human child who would interrupt them & ruin their stuff by accident, etc. Yes - their world is upside down and they are kids - but if your sister is not leading by a good example??? Not being "dog people" is just not good enough reson to treat a family member in such a destructive way. Get over it. Their world is not going to end if they get dog hair or saliva on them.

    Maybe this is not reasonable - but I just have a really hard time with this. Your dog is trapped. I am actually angry just thinking about it because I had a boyfriend who insisted on roughhousing with my first Dane. A fear-aggressive rescue. He eventually got bit - it didn't break the skin, but I believed him - and my respose was - Serves you right - STOP doing stuff with MY dog that I have told you COUNTLESS TIMES NOT TO DO!

    Since they are kids - I would be concerned that their shreiks and yelling WILL create behavior problems eventually. Excitement - aggression...I would not allow them to have friends over until they have PROVEN they can behave properly with the dog. I know they are your sister's kids - but it's your house - your dog - and your liability....HUMM - Isn't she giong to school to be a paralegal?

    <deep breath>

    And maybe you could try making it mandatory that they train with the dog every day - to create bonding - to give the kids something to be proud's amazing how having a dog SIT when asked can make a kid feel in control and soften their attitude.
    Last edited by my3bbdanes; 08-14-2011, 06:35 PM.
    sigpicNikol Marsh & Glory, Emma, Tycho & Bronte
    Dantrydane's GloryB Gallantree
    Am/Int CH Perlwin's MBN Original Emma V EIO, RN, TT, CGC, TDI
    Int CH Blue Moon's For Game and Glory, CGC, TDI
    Sasdania's Poetry In Motion, RN, CGC


    • #3
      Tough love time for your sister and kids....

      They either follow your rules and respect your family in your home or get out....I had to do this with a good friend two years ago...let him stay in my spare bedroom til he got back on his feet...after 1 week of him being rude to my Sweetie (RIP 10/10)...I moved him to my front porch..he was not allowed into Sweetie and my home unless I was present to protect her from him...I was surprised how quickly he got a job and found an apartment as the weather started to get chilly that fall.
      sigpic Shash
      Flynn always in my heart
      Artie, Piebald Tempo, Mantle
      Leo, Harlequin Ch Bella, queen


      • #4
        I agree with everyone else -- this is your home and your pup is your closest family member.
        It sounds like your family is unfortunately afraid of dogs, and don't understand your pup's position in your family. I have found with my own family that some of them don't 'get' dogs or other pets, and expect the pet to be relegated to the garage or put to sleep because they are scary/germy/inconvenient. This is YOUR house and they are your guests. You are not obligated to adjust your household to their needs and preferences.As others have suggested, I would have a 'come to Jesus' meeting in which you outline the rules you expect them to abide by. You must act as the advocate/hero of your poor defenseless pup.
        Last edited by kcornel4; 08-15-2011, 08:00 AM.


        • #5
          I would show them the curb, and tell them if they don't stop that is where they will be in no uncertain terms.
          Lori, Desi & Grimm
          RIP my beloved Murray 5/17/07-09/13/12
          Join Boise Danes ...!/
          Proud to be a Boise State Bronco!


          • #6
            I agree with Shash. They are guests not paying any rent or bills and they need to abide by your rules or get out. Like Nikol said, if Molly were a toddler, would it be okay to push her away and scream at her? Maybe I'm just hateful but no matter how much I loved a friend or family member, if they were abusing my dogs in any way I'd buy them a bus ticket to the next relative's house. I'd sit your sister down and have a come to Jesus talk with her. Usually the prospect of being homeless is a good attitude adjustment. Sorry you are having to deal with this.
            sigpicIs it dinnertime yet?


            • #7
              They were just enough "dog people" to use your home for their escape! Now that they have their foot in the door...

              Sorry, this does suck! It makes it harder just because they are family. I know you love them but it would be nice if their love included your dear furkid, or at least respect and understanding.
              June, Bumper (deaf & blind), Joey, Daisy, and Angel Ann (deaf)
              RIP Dakota Blue Moon
              Oct 27, 2006, Oct 01, 2012

              "I'd tell ya...but I'd have ta lick ya"


              • #8
                I know what you mean, my pup has a few fear issues and my younger brothers (like 16 and 17) always find joy in scaring the shit out of her, if she's afraid of something they think its funny and chase her with it.

                trying to tell them not to do it is like talking to a brick wall, which i feel is like your situation. Luckily I dont live with them, and only have to visit on my own schedule.


                • #9
                  Basically, they are turning Molly into the dog they had. You could very well end up with a mess of a dog if you don't get them out of there. Sister or not, no one abuses my son or animals. Molly is at a very important age where this behavior (both mental and physical) is going to affect her forever if it doesn't stop.

                  I have to wonder what they do to her when you are not home? If they are doing these things in front of you, imagine what they are doing when you are not around. This is very sad and it sounds like you have a very ungrateful sister. Maybe I am mean, but I'd kick her and her kids to the curb.

                  Michele, Roscoe, Ava, Romeo, (RIP Daphne)
                  Be part of the solution by not being part of the problem. NO BYB's!!


                  • #10
                    show them where the door is and tell them not to let it hit them in the ass as they walk out .


                    • #11
                      I am with all the others, sorry my dogs are my family, my immediate family, as having the same status as my kids. They are wholly dependent upon me, and if somebody wants to visit or stay at my and their home, they also visiting and staying with my dogs.

                      If they don't want hair on them, or be drooled on, they just cannot come, period. This has somewhat reduced the amount of company we are getting, but guess what my favorite people, family and friends stayed true and love my dogs just as much as me.

                      And the rest who didn't, I really do not miss.
                      With best regards,
                      Jeannette Luca & Leo and now Lilly & Sophie


                      • #12
                        WOW, this really stinks for you!!!!!...but if it were me I would send pup out on a playdate with a friend and BFF pup friend, and then give the "BIG SPEECH" tell them that their behavior is not welcome in your home and they really need to find alternatives. Tell them you are sorry that your home is not working out for them the way that they hoped, but for the sake of the family relationship this situation needs to end before too much damage is done to your pup and to your relationship with your sis and her kids. Good Luck!
                        There IS Nothin Like a Dane !


                        • #13
                          Wow. I'm sorry that you are going through this.

                          There is an old Irish adage: As important as it is to be a good host, it is more important to be a good guest.

                          I would have the serious discussion with your sister (it is up to her to re-iterate and enforce with her children) and allow no more of these behaviours. Full stop.

                          Kiizhik-LabXRotti (1999-2012) R.I.P. baby girl.
                          Gimaakwe-LabX (2004-
                          Deaglan-Dane (May 2008-Feb 26, 2016) RIP My Sweet Boy.
                          Jadzia-Dane (2010-
                          Gallagher-Irish Wolfhound (Dec 4, 2016-


                          • #14
                            Some of my family sucks too... the rule here is deal with my dogs like you deal with my kids.. or GTFO.


                            • #15
                              I have to agree with everyone here. It is your house, not theirs. My Mom & her boyfriend lived with me for 3 months while their home was being built. They were OK towards the dogs, but their constant fighting with each other made my dane very upset and constantly on edge and basically turned her into a nervous wreck. My mom moved out in the beginning of October and my dane was diagnosed with bone cancer and died mid-October. I will feel forever sad that her last few months were spent being so upset about what was happening in our normally peaceful house and that I should of done something about it sooner.