Dogs with Issues, Flannery Oconnor, fostering, Hula Hoop, puppies, returned dogs, training

Returning an Adopted Dog (Flannery, Flannery, Flannery…)

All four dogs like to lounge in my office after their early morning romp in the play yard. Having four that get along so nicely is refreshing. Between that fact and the three quiet, sweet, not-quite-so-messy puppies, fostering has never been so easy.


Flannery finished her week shut-down and emerged a different dog. When she arrived she was snappy and tense, having proven to all that she will not do well in a home with young children. That wasn’t something I expected when she was adopted a few months ago by a family with five children.

Flannery is such a busy, fun, happy pup, so I was surprised to learn that she was being returned. She’d done well here, but there are no preschoolers hanging around amping up the energy level, and not knowing Flannery’s history who’s to say she hasn’t had a few bad run-ins with the toddler set prior to arriving at our house?


One of the many good reasons to adopt from a foster home is that we can generally tell you what the dog is really like in a home setting. Most dogs in shelters are under tremendous stress and it isn’t always easy to assess their true personality or temperament.

We’ve successfully fostered about 130 dogs now and they are all still with the families who took them home from my house. I don’t think that says as much about us as fosters, as it does about the process of fostering. It just makes sense and gives dog and family the best possible chance of a good match. (Which is why we need MORE FOSTERS – how about YOU? Click here to learn more!)

It was inevitable that we’d finally get a true return. We have had one dog and one puppy returned during the one-week trial period, one dog returned but placed before she could come back here, and Gala who moved from here to a new foster home, was adopted, and then returned six months later (and is still looking for her family). But Flannery, is our first straight-ahead returned dog who was returned because it was truly a bad match.


A busy home with five small children apparently stressed her out. Because of that stress, she began nipping and then outright snapping. The family probably waited it out longer than most but made the right decision in returning her. Even with training, I’m pretty sure things wouldn’t have worked out. I know how impossible it was to predict/control/manage my three kids behavior when they were young (and cannot even imagine five), so it’s inevitable that training-the-dog would land low on the priority list. My dog Gracie, raised here while our kids were young is evidence of what happens when you carry on despite the overwhelming odds against you.

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In just a week, Flannery has returned to her former happy state. Back to making us laugh with her hilarious expressions and her busy need to be in the middle of things. She reminds me of a toddler herself, invading my personal space for a snuggle and following me around with questions – “Wanna play? Wanna play? I’m bored. Can we go out for another walk? How about a game of fetch? Here’s the ball/toy/stick! Where’s Frankie? Where’s Nick? Do they want to play?”

The click-click-click of her toes on the hardwood follow me around the kitchen and it’s rare to see her close her eyes; even when she’s relaxing on the couch, she’s got one eye on me. Any lonely people out there looking for a best, best, best friend? I’ve got one for you, right here in training.

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Flannery is super smart, so I decided to use the steps I learned in training Frankie at obedience class on her. The first thing I remember we did was to get the dog to focus on you. We played a game with a treat in hand. You hold your hand out to the side. When the dog looks at the hand, you give her the treat. Flannery figured that out in a second.

Next you move to where whenever the dog looks you in the eye you reward it. She got that in the next second. And then after that, treat or not, she began looking to me at every turn. Sit was easy for her, but down is a little tricky because she can only hold it for a second before leaping up as if to say, “Okay, got it! What’s next?!”

She knows how to nudge open a door, worm her way over/under/through obstacles to climb on your lap, and understood the dog door with no need for a demonstration. I can only imagine what this little sprite could do in more capable training hands than mine.


Because she has a ‘bite addendum’ she may be here for a while. It will take an understanding and knowledgeable adopter to take a chance on her. But we’re just fine with that since Flannery is zero extra work for us as she gets along with all the dogs, all the visitors, will leap in her crate at the first request, is housebroken, can’t reach the counters, and provides endless entertainment.

So what is a ‘bite addendum’ and why does Flannery, our sweet pup, have one? Whenever an adoptable dog has a ‘bite history’ OPH will explain that to any potential adopter and then require that they sign the addendum acknowledging that they’re aware of this history.

In Flannery’s case, she nipped at the small children, and actually bit one of the adults at her adopted house. It wasn’t just a nip, it was a bite that broke the skin, but having heard the story and knowing Flannery, I’m pretty sure the bite was a result of Flannery’s frustration/rebellion/fear – not an outright random attack.

This was hard for me to imagine until she arrived back here at our house. She was tense and even nipped at me the first time I reached for her. A firm ‘no!’ stopped her in her tracks and we’ve had no further issues. We gave her a week of quiet shut-down. She spent the larger part of that time resting in a crate in a quiet room and wasn’t introduced to other dogs/people. I took her for long walks during which she was manic and pulling and couldn’t focus on me for even a second. Each day, she got better, and after a week, she was more or less the old Flannery we had loved back in September and October.


Now she enjoys snuggling with Ian while he watches football, wrestling with Frankie and Hula (and occasionally persuades Gracie to play which is a mammoth feat in itself!), taking long, long walks with me, snoozing in my office while I work, and eating anything at any time – Flannery has a huge appetite for food and life.

Bottom line: Flannery is an awesome dog, but young children stress her out. She needs a structured environment, plenty of attention in the form of playtime and snuggle time. Decidedly, she is one of those small dogs who have a bit of a Napoleon complex, but she backs down immediately when challenged by a confident and loving handler. It’s easy to see how a dog as smart as Flannery, could quickly decide she is in charge if it’s not clear who is, but she respects a fair and knowledgeable human and simply wants to be loved.

The best part of Flannery? Her funny personality, her huge enthusiasm, and her overflowing adoration. Indeed, her happy energy is a sight to behold, and it is clear that she loves people and wants to please.


And what about Hula Hoop and the Playground Pups?


Hula is almost finished weaning, which means we can hopefully get some weight on her. She is enjoying the other grown-up dogs, loves to run and play, and is quickly embracing the single life. In another month, she’ll be spayed and then available for adoption. She is a gentle, agile soul who loves people, and is really a puppy herself – chewing and playing and stealing hearts. She will make an excellent family dog.


The Playground Pups are growing fast and when I compared their weights to previous litters, they are right on par with Edith Wharton’s pups who all grew to be 60 pounds or more, so Dad must have been a bigger dog than mom (who is currently 41 pounds but should probably be closer to 50). They’ll be here until the end of the month, so if you’re local and in need of a puppy fix, you better get over here soon – here’s what you’re missing:

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my blogs and books, visit or subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter (which is rarely monthly, but I’m working at it…everybody needs a goal).

If you’d like to know more about the book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, check, where you can find more pictures of the dogs from the book (and some of their happily-ever-after stories), information on fostering, the schedule of signings, and what you can do right now to help shelter animals! You can also purchase a signed copy or several other items whose profits benefit shelter dogs!

If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more pictures and videos of my foster dogs past and present, be sure to join the Another Good Dog Facebook group.

I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to comment here on the blog, email or connect with me on Facebooktwitter, or Instagram.



Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now

Another Good Dog cover


2 thoughts on “Returning an Adopted Dog (Flannery, Flannery, Flannery…)”

  1. So glad she had a good place to land. I am so sad at the dogs at shelters that have that “bite” on their resumes and it does not bode well for them. And you are so right in the cause, but many never get that second chance. Good luck Flannery! We have Dobes, Giant Schnauzers, and know owners must be vigilant. Enjoy your posts so much. Wonderful to see good things happening for dogs.


    1. Thanks Rose. The bite status is frustrating since any dog will bite if put in a bad situation. When it’s on the record though, that changes everything. It will take some time, but Flannery’s people will find her.


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