Home > Animal Rescue, Dog Behavior, Health Care - Dogs, Pet Adoption > The burden of euthanizing an aggressive dog

The burden of euthanizing an aggressive dog

August 12, 2013

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingYesterday I read a painfully poignant post by Phyllis DeGioia about her dog, Dodger and her decision to put him down due to his aggression (“Euthanizing Aggressive Dogs: Sometimes It’s the Best Choice“). Her words were not only  powerful because they came from her own experience, but also because they so clearly articulated the conflicting emotions and guilt one feels when faced with euthanizing a dog due to aggression.

Societally, it is so much more acceptable to euthanize a dog for old age or illness than it is for a dog with behavioral issues.  And yet, many a pet owner has had to face making this type of decision.  I admire Phyllis for her courage in writing about her decision to euthanize Dodger.

In 2011, I wrote about a dog park friend who had to make this difficult decision after her cream-colored Golden Retriever showed serious signs of aggression at just 11 months old. After trying to resolve the issues herself, then seeking out a trainer, and finally taking Sally to a veterinarian animal behaviorist at the University of Minnesota, she was faced with two options, constantly supervise and manage Sally around her two young children or put her to sleep. The veterinarian made it very clear that Sally’s aggression was not something that would ever get better. It was not her or her husband’s fault. There was simply something wrong with her wiring. And so, she made the difficult decision to put her to sleep. I cried with her as she walked with Sally one last time around the dog park. It was a heartbreaking a decision, but I supported her.

Sometimes something just goes wrong with a dog. He is born with genetically bad wiring or is mentally ill or has suffered so much from abuse, that euthanizing him is almost a kindness rather than a cruelty.

I feel for the pet parent who has ever had to make this type of decision. It’s never an easy one. There is so much guilt, shame and fear. Guilt because you feel like there was something more you could have done or that you somehow failed your dog. Shame that others will think you a bad pet owner. Fear at what might have happened if you hadn’t made such a difficult decision.

I used to be one of those people who thought every dog could be saved, but my experience as a shelter volunteer has taught me otherwise. Probably one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make was to recommend a dog I loved, one I had worked with for weeks, be put to sleep. His  aggression had reached such a level that even I, the one who loved him most, became afraid of him.

Phyllis’ own words from her experience with Dodger summed up exactly my last experience with him – “Being attacked by someone you love is a visceral slam to your gut. For a short while, rational thought is gone. It happens so quickly. Your body shakes, and your heart pounds as the instinctive fight-or-flight response is set off.”  My recommendation to euthanize him was not an easy one, but I don’t doubt my decision to do so. Sometimes, the most difficult decision is the right one.

Reading Phyllis’ piece made me think of one I had recently read on Patricia McConnell’s blog titled, “Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down.” Although Patricia’s post was addressing the guilt we all feel as pet owners when we have to say goodbye to beloved pets, I think these words were particularly applicable to those who must make the difficult decision to put an aggressive or damaged dog down.

“It is easier to believe that we are always responsible (‘if only I had done/not done this one thing….’) than it is to accept this painful truth: We are not in control of the world. Stuff happens. Bad stuff. As brilliant and responsible and hard-working and control-freaky that we are, sometimes, bad stuff just happens. Good people die when they shouldn’t. Gorgeous dogs brimming with health, except for that tumor or those crappy kidneys, die long before their time. Dogs who are otherwise healthy but are a severe health risk to others end up being put down. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it hurts like hell. But please please, if you’ve moved heaven and earth to save a dog and haven’t been able to… just remember:  Stuff happens. We can’t control everything. (Difficult words to dog trainers I know. . . Aren’t we all control freaks to some extent?) You didn’t fail. You tried as hard as you could. It’s okay.” (“Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down“, by Patricia McConnell, The Other End of the Leash)

If you have ever had to euthanize a pet for reasons other than illness or old age, I feel for you. You carry a burden that is more difficult to bear than most. It’s hard enough to euthanize a pet when they are ill and you know that you are easing their pain, but harder still to do so when it involves dog aggression or mental illness. Shame and guilt might be feelings you have, but they have no place here.

Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes doing everything you can to save a dog is just not enough. You did your best.  You did not fail.

If you are facing a difficult decision about your dog, consider looking at this list of resources first. There are some great people doing great things with dogs these days. All is not lost. My thanks to SlimDoggy for putting this list together.

  1. August 12, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    I’ve never been in a situation where I had to make this choice for a pet of my own but, as a veterinarian, I’ve had to help dog owners through this choice a few times. It’s never an easy decision and I’ve never seen a pet owner that wasn’t devastated for having to make the decision. But you’re absolutely right, Mel. Sometimes it’s the right decision. I loved the quote from Patricia McConnell. It’s right on target and I’m glad you included it here. As much as we would like to think that all dogs can be “trained” into “good behavior”, it’s just not possible with some dogs. I know there will be people that believe that this dog could have been saved; people that will criticize the dog’s owner for making this heart-breaking decision and people that will criticize you (and me) for supporting this woman’s decision. Those people have never walked in your shoes, or those of this dog owner. My heart goes out to both of you. Just remember, at the end of the day, you both did the best you could for your dogs. Though I can’t prove it to be true, I honestly believe many of these situations probably are caused by some type of pathology in the dog’s brain that simply isn’t curable. Perhaps someday we’ll understand better and be able to help these dogs more. For now, it is what it is. Neither of you did anything wrong or made an inhumane decision. Rest easy and sleep well knowing that. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different.

    • Mel
      August 13, 2013 at 11:16 PM

      I can only imagine being in your position Lorie. That would be tough. You’re right, it is never an easy decision. I so appreciate you providing some additional context and your own thoughts. I also appreciate your kind words. Thank you.

  2. Jen
    August 13, 2013 at 2:24 AM

    Good posting (both yours and on Phyllis’ blog). I haven’t, thank God, had to deal with an aggressive dog myself, but the prospect is just heartbreaking. I’ve read the stories of others, and read about how people are able to manage it, or not, depending on the dog.

    I think it’s part of the responsibility we owe them; if a dog is too ill to live, physically or mentally, it’s the decision we made.

    • Mel
      August 13, 2013 at 11:15 PM

      Thanks Jen. I have only had to make the decision with a shelter dog I adored, but that was painful enough. I agree. I think it is a responsibility both to the dog and those who could be hurt by him if her were to aggress on someone else. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response.

  3. August 13, 2013 at 3:13 AM

    I start volunteering at a shelter this week after my orientation last week. They euthanize dogs who come in and whose health is beyond repair and aggressive dogs. It’s meaningful for me to read this post at this time since I’ll at some point meet dogs who will be euthanized. Thank you for this post – I imagine it was very difficult for you to write and for Phyllis as well.

    • Mel
      August 13, 2013 at 11:13 PM

      I wish you well as you begin to help dogs who need someone to love them. I hope you love it as much as I did.
      My shelter was the same way. We did not euthanize for space, but only for health and behavioral issues too serious to resolve. I loved that we were so committed to helping as many dogs as we could. I went in wide-eyed and innocent about issues like these, but after 8 1/2 years I came to see that sometimes the difficult decision has to be made. I hope you won’t have to see it or face it very often.

  4. August 13, 2013 at 6:14 AM

    I’m living in this situation right now, and I ask these questions all the time. I live hoping that the medicine and time will help, but it’s so very hard on the heart.

    • Mel
      August 13, 2013 at 11:10 PM

      I am so sorry Houndstooth. I can only imagine the second-guessing and the what-ifs running through your mind. I hope the medicine and time does help, but if you come face to face with having to make this difficult decision, know that it is not because you didn’t so enough. I am praying you won’t have to face that choice.

    • Aimee
      August 26, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      I am with you, houndstooth. We too, are living this exact situation. I feel for you, I ask these questions every day, and keep thinking that with enough time and hope and effort things will get better.

    • Sue Newell
      August 26, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      Dear houndstooth , if there is anyway I can help you thru I will. I walked This walk 12 months ago, I have had some friends support me and some not. I am extending myself to listen and help if I can. Hugs

  5. martie13
    August 13, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    We can’t avoid the grief we feel when we reach the point where a dog can’t be saved and we have to put him down. With an aggressive dog we always hope that he can be cured and become a reasonably good citizen. When everything we do the help a dog fails it becomes our failure when in fact it is most likely nature that failed the dog. It is easy to say, but during this very difficult time when our emotions are so conflicted it’s important to remind ourselves that, 1) the dog is suffering too, as his brain sends him confusing and conflicting feelings, and 2) the potential harm this dog is capable of inflicting in the blink of an eye is the most important factor to bringing the reality of his condition to the forefront. No one deserves to feel guilty for preventing an injury or death to another animal or human.

    • Mel
      August 13, 2013 at 11:08 PM

      Such wise words. Martie, thank you so much for weighing in. I really loved what you wrote.

  6. Kelly
    August 13, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Thank you for posting this, and I am going to read Phyllis’s blog. This was me two years ago. I can’t even begin to describe the guilt. Mine was a rescue, and I will always struggle with the I-could-have-done-a-better-job syndrome. I made peace with him biting my own kid (even with the in-home IV treatment we had to do), but I couldn’t ignore how dangerous the situation was when he bit someone else’s child. I had jumped through so many hoops to keep that from happening, but at the end of the day you’re right, I just couldn’t control it. Believe me, it is very hard to re-home a dog who has bitten, and the rescue couldn’t take him back. Both bites required medical intervention, so of course the town was notified. This is a story I hate to tell, not only because of the grief I feel (yes, two years later), but also because I fear other dog owners will judge me and not find me worthy of having a dog.

    My dog now is his daughter, and she doesn’t have an aggressive bone in her body. She’s extremely fearful of other dogs, in part I’m sure because of living with him for four years. She’s a love, and has been very instrumental in helping me heal.

    The most peace I’ve felt about the situation is observing a friend go through a similar experience. It’s helped me see that I did do the responsible thing. But without a doubt it is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.

    Again, thanks for this. I needed it.

    • Mel
      August 13, 2013 at 11:07 PM

      Oh Kelly. I am so sorry. I read your comment at work and immediately teared up. I only hope that Phyllis’ post and Patricia’s help you to know that you did everything you could; more than most I believe. Please know that you did the right thing, not only for him, but for your family and anyone else who could have been harmed. I hope you find some peace now in making the right decision.

    • Betty
      August 26, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      Kelly I’m going through that now, foxy was abused by her owner’s before me and she has done so good for 4yrs and now that she is almost 7 she and her 8yr old sister have a beef with each other to the point I don’t trust them together for a min, but foxy gets along pretty good with her other sister. But I’m constantly on edge and watch for any sign she is going to try and take her. 😦 I have bad dreams that one of the other girls attack her and end up killing her in a fight, since she is so little but very fast and they are both American staffies, they out weigh her by 30lbs or more. I still want to try and keep her till she passes on her own but I worry everyday still the same.

    • Lisa
      October 14, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      “but also because I fear other dog owners will judge me and not find me worthy of having a dog.”

      You lost me at “My dog now is his daughter….”

      You let that thing breed? You COULD have done a better job.

      • October 14, 2013 at 5:54 PM

        When I read this, I was thinking the same thing — why was this unstable dog allowed to be bred? Then I considered that maybe she adopted both dogs — a male and his daughter. At least I’m hoping that was the case.

  7. FleaByte
    August 13, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    What a difficult choice. I’ve had to put two dogs down in my adult life. One suffering with bone cancer in the shoulder. The other a Dane we’d adopted who turned on my husband twice in 24 hours. Unprovoked. We don’t know the dog’s history, but we assume there was a reason he was at the pound. Many stitches and tears later, we turned him over to animal control with the promise that he wouldn’t be adopted back out. It was the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced with a dog.

    • Mel
      August 13, 2013 at 11:05 PM

      I can only imagine. Surreal and scary and sad. I am so sorry this happened to you.

  8. August 13, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    We’ve never had to euthanize due to aggression, but we did return a foster because of it and I think that was his eventual fate. The guilt is terrible, I still feel it…”if I only did this, I should have given him more time, I shouldn’t have been so worried about our other dogs” etc. going to go read Patricia’s blog. Thanks for this post.

    • Mel
      August 13, 2013 at 11:04 PM

      I am so sorry SlimDoggy. I think a decision like this is so difficult. I feel guilty euthanizing my dogs when I knew deep down inside it’s time. It’s harder still when it involves a dog that you have tried to help and can’t.

  9. August 13, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    It’s very rare that someone moves heaven and earth to help an aggressive dog, really. If a person really HAS done that, then I agree that there is no need for guilt. Otherwise, there is. I won’t waste time expressing my feelings to someone who has already decided to kill his/her dog, but don’t ask me to help those people wipe their consciences clean. It would be very helpful if people who aren’t geneticists would stop breeding dogs. I hope the drooling-for-dollars dog breeders accept some of the guilt for dogs who appear to be wired for aggression.

    • Donna M
      August 26, 2013 at 5:32 PM

      seriously????? Have you been bitten by a dog you’ve tried to rescue? Have you been cornered in your own home by a dog so unstable that you aren’t sure what she ISNT capable of?? I have worked with several foster groups rescuing and attempting to reprogram/rehab dogs with “histories.” I have…yes ME, I HAVE, been bitten by dogs with aggressive temperments. I have tried to fix these dogs for months on end. My own dog has been bitten… and we are talking a large pit mix (my dog)-.. who has been bitten and chose (thank god) to tolerate. HOW DARE YOU pass judgement in an offhanded “obscure” way. How many dogs have you attempted to rehab? How many trips to the ER have you made as a result of those attempts?? What’s your holy than thou timeline for an adequate attempt at aggressive dog rehab???? Do you wait till another dog or god-forbid child is mauled or killed?? I am beyond offended at your stance… I am beyond disgusted with your opinion. If you really had the answer.. or even really had tried to save any of these poor animals… you would not cast your stones. For shame on you. FOR SHAME!

      • Phil
        November 12, 2013 at 1:33 PM

        Well said Donna.

    • smeegal
      October 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      Ingrid you have NO IDEA the lengths some rescues will go to to help a dog! I agree with Donna M below that your offhanded remark is unfounded and ignorant in the REAL WORLD of rescue and shelter life of volunteers and dog owners…go back into your bubble world and stop making remarks about stuff you know NOTHING about!

    • October 14, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      Your joking right Ingrid. My husband is a certified dog trainer and I can tell you right now people sometimes have to make hard choices. You must be one of those nice AR people. Here you sit queen of the thrown I am sure you can do no wrong and I am sure you are just perfect and can fix anything because just by reading your post god forbid if your dog bit your face off or some young kid you would never have to make the hard choice of putting your dog down you would try to blame the kid or yourself or anyone but except the fact there is something wrong in your dogs head that just can not be fixed. I am one of the lucky ones and never had to make that choice for this reason but I can tell you the old saying unless you walk in their shoes then shut up.

  10. Bob
    August 24, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Thanks for the great post! I truly agree with the fact that it is painful to put animals to sleep even if you see them suffering through pain. Euthanizing is a great technique but when performing at home you need to sensible enough to decide when to euthanize your pet. I found some really good information on a pet euthanasia related website(Lastlovingdecision.com) which can be helpful to you people as well which talks about how to euthanize your pet at home by Dr. Carr Kelsey.

    • Mel
      August 25, 2013 at 5:24 PM

      Thanks Bob. I think saying goodbye to a pet at home would be ideal. More and more vets are doing it and I welcome it with open arms.

  11. August 26, 2013 at 4:40 AM

    I had to euthanise my rescue Kifli after he bit my husband, one of the hardest things I ever had to do, I will always feel guilty even though I know it was not my fault. I absolutely adored him.

  12. August 26, 2013 at 5:45 AM

    Dogs that are “badly wired” are rare. It’s the latest excuse for lazy owners and inept trainers/behaviorists to save effort and money by killing the family pet. Also, lots of positive trainers hate balanced trainers and would rather see a dead dog than recommend the latter (and there are some excellent babyproofers among them.)

    • Mel
      August 26, 2013 at 6:57 AM

      I don’t disagree it is rare Alison. I think we humans cause much of what we see as aggressive dogs in shelters today. I don’t believe any positive dog trainer makes a recommendation to euthanize easily, but I am sure many have made that recommendation anyways. I don’t judge them. I don’t know what they are seeing in that circumstance. I’m also not one of those people who believes every dog can be saved once damaged by a human, whether that be an owner or a bad trainer.

    • August 26, 2013 at 3:22 PM

      rare? certainly.
      but the 1 in a 100 seems less rare when it happens to you.

      i have seen a service dog that became suddenly aggressive, the post mortem pathology report indicated massive brain lesions that apparently had gone un noticed in his regular 6 month vet checks.. until ..boom.

      i have seen a spaniel , a weimariner, and a mixed breed who went crazy… suddenly… in the spaniels case it was human aggression.. they tried EVERYTHING including drugs. the dog had to be put down. the weimariner was attacking his own body and cage when kept from going after another target, and then would “snap out of it”. the attacks became more frequent. no one could figure it out, even on post mortem.

      i have seen dogs that were so scarred from abuse mentally that they never did recover, i have also seen dogs that were human aggressive that could be saved… IF and only IF they lived in a rock steady, environment with experienced dog handlers… they were a threat under any other circumstances.

      they are out there.
      i have also seen dogs that were saved by training and medication and etc . they are also out there.

      • August 27, 2013 at 3:28 AM

        I would venture to say that “1 in 100” is overreaching to make a point! Medically caused aggression is far rarer than that (except in certain breeds), even putting thyroid, neuro, and genetic problems all together.

        Anecdotal evidence and a plethora of internet comments notwithstanding.

      • Mel
        August 27, 2013 at 10:09 PM

        Alison. I know you’re angry. As a trainer you see a lot. I’ve been there. But your anger does not help you make your point and it hurts those who are hurting. If you want to offer ideas and helpful ideas I welcome them, but if not I would ask that you refrain from commenting at all. I always value a trainer’s perspective. Lord knows i have worked with some amazing ones, but I prefer messages are conveyed with civility.

      • August 28, 2013 at 2:47 AM

        Mel — Angry at all those poor people who have had to euthanize dogs for medical reasons or incorrigible predatory aggression?? Perhaps you should read my posts again… and I’m sorry you perceive my posts as uncivil. Directness is not incivility where I live. Scusami tanto!

        I’m only, and justifiably, angry at people who set dogs up for failure and then euthanize. MOST dogs get killed because of this. Since the article was about the pain of having one’s dog put down (and I don’t know why you think I attacked anyone here) then prevention, proper diagnosis and/or proper retraining could save many people a lot of tears.

        If this is only a place for sad stories, then may I mention the hundreds of owner-surrender dogs I personally had to kill when I worked at the city pound?

        It goes without saying not all dogs can be “fixed” and the painful decision must be made. And I’m no “fur mommy” — I’d not hesitate to euthanize a truly aggressive dog.
        But I have already mentioned two trainers who specialize (successfully) in aggression, with dogs who were deemed incorrigible. My own vet is (positive training) rehabbing an aggressive pit bull as I type.

    • Jayme
      August 26, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      I agree… There are certainly dogs that have the rare “bad wiring”… But what seems less rare are those who try to force the dog into a situation or role that it really doesn’t belong in in the first place. As one of those “balanced trainers”… I have been so frustrated by people who think that because the dog didn’t do well in their particular situation that the dog needs to be PTS. I personally own and compete with Malinois… a pretty complicated, quirky breed…Some of which would be *horrible* living with children but would be perfectly successful in an active adult home and never bother a soul! Genetics determine much of who the dog is… And at times there are certainly “bad seeds”… dealing with those situations can be heart breaking. But how many mastiffs are being euthanized because a first time dog owning family didnt do their research and Surprise! Their now 2 year old 160 lb (untrained) mastiff just broke thru the screen door to bite the neighbor’s kid who ran over to play peek-a-boo on the porch! Now I get a call that their “last resort” will be dog training and if it can’t be “fixed” the dog will be euthanized… it was “unprovoked” and it “can’t be tolerated”. Well… was this dog ever appropriate for this situation?? Is he behaving exactly as a teenage mastiff does? So. They locked him in the basement for a year until he becomes a total anti social monster (now even bigger with even less training) until he’s even scared of himself!! Sure. I can fix that. Sigh. When we stop thinking about ourselves these situations become clearer. Of course not all dogs can be saved… I’ve seen many that are kind of terrifying… Who genetically just missed the mark… but even more so I see breeders who are letting uninformed people go home with puppies, shelters who will adopt out any dog with any warm body who walks in with a backyard, and people who think they are the be all end all home for any breed they like! Very scary.

      • August 27, 2013 at 3:17 AM

        Exactly my point! When an uninformed but well-meaning family expects a Disney dog but has say, multiple dogs, small children (= chaos in the home), crappy Petsmart trainers if any (you don’t even need a trainer to train your dog yourself in the basics) and incompetent behaviorists… it often ends badly. The dog is killed,dumped at the pound to die, or is almost unfixable. Oh yeah, bad wiring….

        (If you are a balanced trainer and raise Malinois you must be familiar with Tyler Muto, IMHO he’s a hero, maybe he and other balanced trainers can change the face of dog training and save even more lives.)

      • Mel
        August 27, 2013 at 6:40 AM

        Completely agree Jayme. Unfortunately, when I wrote this piece I used the word “unpredictable.” I was using it in a different context (at least in my mind), but many have come to interpret it in a way I never meant. I have since removed it from this post. It is rare to find a dog that is unpredictable. They always give us cues to what is going on inside. That was my fault.

        Dogs that are damaged by bad trainers, bad owners and bad life situations exist. They can be a danger to people and other dogs. Our desire and belief that we can fix them sometimes blocks our vision to what is best for all involved. It breaks my heart when it happens.

  13. Nicki Penaluna
    August 26, 2013 at 6:15 AM

    I have had to euthanise one young dog dog for issues other than old age. She crashed into a tree and unknown to us cracked a bone in her neck. As it healed it pinched her spine leaving her totally paralysed over 48 hours. She was beautiful, vibrant, healthy and young one day. An aggressive quadriplegic in total agony the next. Even my vet was in tears as he put her to sleep. I shall never forget that day. My heart goes out to anyone who has to make that decision.

  14. Pam
    August 26, 2013 at 7:30 AM

    I love a reactive, agressive dog and have now been told that his is a possessive dog. When I’m not around he is loving and non-agressive; when I’m with him he is over protective. His trainers and behaviorist are never concerned with his behavior; they say it is my lack of leadership that leads to his behavior when I’m present. My mind is swirling with how do deal with this. I don’t know how to think about it anymore.

    • Mel
      August 27, 2013 at 6:48 AM

      Any time I hear lack of leadership my hackles go up. Are these trainers positive reinforcement trainers Pam? Or do they insist you be the “alpha?” not that we shouldn’t be leaders with our dogs, but there is a difference. Is your dog completely fine when not in your presence?

  15. August 26, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    Sadly 20 yr in rescue has put me in the position of having to do this.. it’s not easy and after you spend time/money/emotions to have to put down a young healthy dog and say I’m sorry the whole time… it’s heartbreaking and while I may have placed thousands of dogs in great homes.. it’s those couple I remember forever!!!

  16. August 26, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    I haven’t read through the other comments to see if anyone else had the same thought I did, but I’m curious when I read the story about Sally.

    I completely understand your friend’s fear of leaving her children alone with an aggressive dog. As a parent, it is her responsibility to protect her kids, and I can’t imagine how exhausting it would be to try to constantly monitor them with a potentially dangerous dog.

    What I don’t understand is why she felt her only option was to euthanize an otherwise healthy dog. Of course, I don’t know all the details, but it seems to me that rather than kill the dog because she was afraid for her children’s safety, why not re-home Sally? I completely believe it’s possible that in a different environment, the dog’s behavior may have changed. At the very least, I have to believe (based on the limited information I have) that it would’ve been worth a try to put Sally in a home without children with an owner who had time to train her and try to work on her behavioral issues.

    Again, obviously I don’t know all the details here. But I hope your friend knew that putting the dog down wasn’t the only option.

    • dontjudgeothers
      August 26, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      When a veterinary behaviorist concludes that the dog is “wired wrong,” that generally means that there is a neurological or other medical condition contributing to the behavior, not just that the dog is in the wrong home environment.

      Are YOU willing to take in a dog that requires the level of management that this dog would for the next 12-15 years? Have you ever knowingly taken in a dog that presents a danger to humans and other dogs?

      How long should the mother keep the dog in her home, around her children, until she could find someone to take her? What should have to happen before you would feel euthanasia is the only option?

      It’s really nice to imagine that there’s a home for every dog, but that’s not always the case. While it’s rare, it’s important to understand that there aren’t always other options.

      • August 26, 2013 at 2:35 PM

        There are behaviorists and behaviorists, not all of them are competent! Some of them are duds. Few have actually trained dogs professionally, and there is not always even an attempt made to make a precise diagnosis. (Which isn’t always possible.)
        Well, where I live it is ILLEGAL to put down a healthy dog — even a biter must be evaluated by two behaviorists and an attempt be made to rehabilitate it. Then if unsuccessful the health dept. must issue a euthanasia order. (Of course, the Italians find ways around the law…)
        There are very good US trainers whose clients mostly consist of dogs condemned to death by behaviorists and other trainers — a few will always have to be managed, nearly all the rest are completely rehabilitated.
        As for this mother keeping the dog in the home — breed rescues take emergencies.
        Some dogs have actual genetic or medical problems, most are simply set up to fail in the family and then killed.

      • dontjudgeothers
        August 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM

        Maybe you live in a wonderful place with an abundance of rescues that will take a dog that is actively attacking other dogs and is a potential danger to humans, but I sure don’t. Many rescues lack the resources to work with a dog with simple, manageable and modifiable leash reactivity, let alone serious, idiopathic aggression.

        And who will adopt these dogs? Are you seeking out dogs that have threatened other dogs or people and bringing them into your home? Dogs with severe bite histories? Dogs with no discernible triggers for their aggression? Would you want the dog described in this article living next door to you and your pets?

        No one wants to euthanize dogs. Everyone wants there to be a solution or a wonderful place for every dog to live out its life. But that’s not reality. At least not now. Until there is, I put the blame on the people breeding these dogs, not on the owners.

      • August 26, 2013 at 6:26 PM

        Agreed. Been there and done it – we run a three state Jack Russell terrier rescue – and we always feel like crap. Those ARE the dogs that stay in your mind, saying: Why didn’t you try a little harder ?
        There are so many dogs needing foster slots, and only so many fosters – is it fair for a rescue to spend 18 months rehabilitating a dog who can only be placed in a very limited environment while that dog takes up the space that 6 happy outgoing dogs could have used ? When we started doing rescue, we focused on the one dog must be saved at all costs ethos – now we realize that that is impossible. We will no longer take dogs with a history of ACTIVE aggression into rescue, whether the aggression is directed towards other dogs or people. That does not mean that we will decline all dogs with a bite history: it means we want to know exactly the level of the bite(s) and what the triggers were. Most dogs can be “fixed”, but some cannot.

      • Mel
        August 27, 2013 at 6:31 AM

        I am so sorry Kyra. Unfortunately, some dogs are so damaged when they get to a rescue that sometimes euthanizing them is the best option for the dog and the public. I hate it when it happens.

    • Mel
      August 27, 2013 at 6:52 AM

      Sally was seen by a veterinary behaviorist at the University of Minnesota. Sally’s mom had to fill out an extensive questionnaire, had to make an appointment for the vet to observe her dog and her interactions with the family and with other people. They were there several days. I think I trust the vet’s recommendation. Her own breeder would not take the dog back (which is a huge issue for me) and most rescues would not take a dog like this, The only other option would have been to dump her at a shelter so another unsuspecting owner could take her in and have to make the same decision. I’m not in support of passing the buck when it comes to dangerous dogs.

  17. August 26, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    I had a beautiful standard poodle who from the day I bought her and brought her home I knew she was a bit strange….showed her once she got a major. Next time in the ring she began barring her teeth ……got her to stop this behavior……. One morning my son at that time was 2 playing still in his heavy blanket sleeper. Thank God. She took him own right in front of me again thanks. Ripped his sleeper off him trying to bite his back. at that point I was able to get ahold on her. Checked my sonno teeth marks… Put her down 29 minutes later…. I loved her so much but I knew something was not right with her …..breeder said she needed more time…….and
    breeder never replaced her either…..

  18. Kim B.
    August 26, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Reading this brought back sad memories for me and my dog Kirby. Moving from a small town to a big city was a big step for us. The number 1 rule in finding a house for me was that the yard was fenced in. Kirby lived with me and my pug Pearl, 2 cats and a ferret. He was never aggressive to any of them.A couple of months after I moved into my new house with 6′ stockade fence around the back yard, Kirby got out through a loose gate and attacked a neighbor’s small dog. They neglected to take it to the vet and it died overnight. I was devastated. I told them I would replace their dog. Not 2 months later, Kirby got out again, and I will never know how he did, and attacked and killed another small dog that was being walked down the street. I quickly made the decision to call animal control to come and pick up my dog. Ten days later, I had to go to the shelter and sign a release to have him euthanized. I did not, could not, even go in to say goodbye to him. Seven years later, I still miss my Kirby and I am so sorry that his life turned out like it did. I now work for that same animal shelter and have to euthanize animals almost everyday. I have to suck it up and push my feelings aside, it’s the only way to deal with it. R.I.P my friends.

  19. August 26, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Reblogged this on FlowHound.

    • Mel
      August 27, 2013 at 6:52 AM

      Thanks FlowHound.

  20. paula shaw
    August 26, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    unfortunately many years ago we had to do the same thing, we rescued a St Bernard bitch she had been put in a small kennel and was eating the breeze block from the wall , I had a Great Dane and a Boxer and was willing to give this lovely specimen a new life, the first sign of aggression was when she tried to rip my Great Dane’s nose of , we gave her another chance, went to the vet and ask there advice, so we got her a St Puppy so she could mother him , she was fine with him to start with , I went to feed her one day she growled at the puppy and attacked me really badly , then she tried to attack the puppy , unfortunately that was the last straw, and she had to go to the rainbow bridge , it was a really upsetting day as we tried , but she was not to be helped, so I understand Sally for putting her dog down ,

  21. August 26, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    Wow, this really hits the mark. I have been there, had to make that awful decision and still question whether I could have done more. I take some comfort knowing that this dog (who had been a stray) at least got the chance to be loved before she had to go.

  22. Kim
    August 26, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Tears in my eyes writing this. Christmas last year. Anubis. We had him as a 5 week pup. He went to sleep at 2 years old. It was as you describe. 8 months later and I still feel guilt and shame. But mixed as I know it was the right thing to do. It was even harder what with all the media attention on his specific breed. You see Anubis was a red nose pittie. His love for his humans seemed to know no bounds. He was raised with an old American pittie who wanted to nurse him and love on him. But suddenly there were issues. Years of dog handling and I was at a loss when he turned on my old girl and beat the poop out of her. Tore he up and put her in the vets with $$$$’s of bills.When he turned on my daughter and narrowly missed taking her hand off. The day before we had him put to sleep he turned on me. At the vets office he went for the handler and my daughter. I was gutted. I know I did the right thing. I had flu and was as weak as a kitten. But I picked my boys 60lb body up and took him home. I cried as my daughter wanted to dig his grave herself. We sobbed when we lowered him down and covered him with his favourite blankie and looked on his beautiful face one last time. And when we laid flowers on the fresh dirt the mid day chimes rang at the church and we felt like crap. I know I made the right decision. That doesn’t make it any easier. R.I.P Anubis. We love you. Always.

  23. Rachel Grantham
    August 26, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    Back in July, I saw my favorite dog be taken back to be euthanized because of extreme dog and human aggression. I worked with the ASPCA on their dog fighting raid with over 100 Pit Bulls and it was a life changing experience. I named the dog Honeybun, since she didn’t have a name, and she looked like honey. She was my absolute favorite. I worked with her almost everyday. I taught her how to sit, shake and lie down. She’d always come up to me and give me kisses, but one day I learned she had her eye on a dog that she wanted to kill the whole time she was there at the shelter. She had also snapped at the volunteers who were male, especially the ones who were African American (I’m only saying this because I’m sure she thought they were the ones who made her bait). I thought of everything I possibly could. Couldn’t she live somewhere away from other dogs? Just never go to the dog park? I had so much compassion fatigue it made me ill. I’ll never forget the last day I spent with her. I took her outside for the first time in four months and I’ve never seen her, or a dog, ever be so happy. She sniffed and pranced around the gated area and I just watched her. I realized that wherever she’d be after she goes, it’d be filled with green grass to let her run free. Free from the abuse and the trauma she had to endure for over a year and a half. After I took her to her kennel, she licked my face all over, licking my tears away, sort of as a “thank you for giving me these four months.” I left her cage and cried for hours after I had left. I felt I had done something wrong, still, but after reading this article I know I am not alone. Thank you for posting this.

  24. CS
    August 26, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    Thanks for writing this. I have a dog who must be muzzled when she’s off leash. I get so many looks of judgment and outright criticism. Dogs are animals. They do things we can’t control. Being a good owner is *dealing* with those things. Please remember, owners, that it’s important to deal with bad behavior even when it’s not dangerous in and of itself. When little dogs pull on their leashes and come over the my dog and bark in her face, often their owners act like I have a problem for asking them to keep their dogs away from mine. What they don’t understand is I’m trying to keep their dogs safe. I can control my dog (with lots of help from trainers and behavioralists) but I can’t control theirs too.

  25. Sarah
    August 26, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    alchimaera :
    Dogs that are “badly wired” are rare. It’s the latest excuse for lazy owners and inept trainers/behaviorists to save effort and money by killing the family pet. Also, lots of positive trainers hate balanced trainers and would rather see a dead dog than recommend the latter (and there are some excellent babyproofers among them.)

    Totally agree with this.

  26. Joni
    August 26, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    I’ve been there. I adopted a dog thru a shelter. He was fine the first few months, aside for voracious fence fighting. I worked with him for over a year with training, redirecting on anyone who tried to intervene, vet visits, etc. When he redirected on me after attacking my other dog, biting me pretty severely, I made the difficult decision to have him put down. You feel, useless and hopeless with a dog like this. You feel you can save them, but sometimes you can’t. I’m still haunted today.:(

  27. August 26, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    I have lived this situation, I had a very aggressive/protective female dog and while there were times I knew it would have been easier to put her down and not have to deal with it, I also knew it was difficult to even think about making such a decision. I chose not to euthanize and had to make many adjustments and compromises but in the end I was glad I didn’t have her euthanized. No, it wasn’t easy and yes there were some days I just wanted to throw in the towel but in the end, she lived to be 16 and in the last few years of her life, she seemed to do a complete turn around, becoming very sweet natured with everyone and everything, even my other dog whom she seemingly despised from the very beginning, became her best buddy. No, it wasn’t easy but I can look back and say…it was worth it.

  28. Melissa Barthold
    August 26, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    I wonder…..this is very thoughtful. We have a chocolate lab puppy (we’ve had her since she’s 8 weeks old – she came from a responsible breeder) – anyway…she is more aggressive than any dog I’ve ever owned. Then…my daughter moves in with her dog — a 30 lb dog who gives new meaning to aggression….and who takes on any dog, regardless of size. She took on our lab, who gave back better than she got –and the other dog had to visit the vet for drains, stitches, etc. Now we keep them apart.
    We have an expensive trainer, but that doesn’t seem to be helping my daughter’s dog – who is actually growling and snapping at any and all of our dogs (we have 4) The others are trying to ignore her, but this isn’t easy. I love my daughter — I don’t like her dog at all….but I can’t throw her out.

    • August 27, 2013 at 3:48 AM

      Change trainers.

      • August 27, 2013 at 11:39 AM

        Do you suggest changing trainers before or after a dog kills another dog?

      • August 27, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        My, my Terry Ward– aren’t we melodramatic! A good trainer will help implement household management strategies — 5 dogs?? Two of them aggressive? One of them new? Did we think there would be no problems?
        You might not like Jeff Gellman and other trainers like him but he seems to have considerable success in these multiple-dog situations. and I doubt he would recommend killing any of the dogs. (If that’s what you are indeed advising as an alternative.)

      • August 27, 2013 at 1:42 PM

        Dogs are not to blame for what they do.
        But unless one has personal knowledge of every such difficult and heartbreaking situation perhaps one should leave off pontificating.
        Or maybe you have never witnessed your pet’s throat ripped out.
        I sincerely hope you have not.

      • Melissa Barthold
        August 28, 2013 at 7:42 AM

        I actually have changed trainers. My first trainer agreed this was a serious issue…and then just didn’t come back/return our calls. The trainer I have now specializes in aggressive dogs. My lab is doing great –haven’t seen any more issues with her being aggressive at all.
        My daughter’s dog, Melody, — another story. After my lab goes to bed, Melody comes out. she will honestly be sitting on my daughter’s lab – and will snap at my biggest (senior) Lab – who is honestly the most loving dog in the world.
        I really, really think there is something wrong with Melody There was thought that she was in pain from a knee joint (she’s been limping and was REALLY overweight, which didn’t help her leg pain), but she’s on treatment for the pain, and has lost quite a bit of weight….but no improvement. It seems like if there is a chance for her to go after another dog, she will.

      • August 28, 2013 at 8:41 AM

        Melissa — So glad the lab is doing well! The pain and obesity probably aggravated Melody’s behavior no end, but it takes a long time to unlearn that sort of reactivity. If it’s fear-based aggression (whether the other dogs are nice or not) she has a “gotta get him before he gets me” mentality, and she’s surrounded by big dogs in a new house.
        My neighbor’s bratty aggressive jack russell mix escapes, comes into my house, and follows us on our walks. (He once latched on to a newfie’s neck fur and wouldn’t let go, while the newf just stood there bemused.) I introduced/desensitized him to my own dog the day I got him, and they’re fine together.
        I have seen good results with BAT, structured socialization and rock-solid obedience training, hope things work out for you soon.

      • Melissa Barthold
        August 28, 2013 at 10:45 PM

        Thank you for your thoughtful comments!
        I think our biggest concern is that our dogs are ‘being taught’ that fighting is a way to solve problems –and that is NOT what we want them to learn! Cini, my little love puppy, has always been the leader at doggy day camp — taking the newer/smaller dogs under her ..paw and showing them how day camp works. The staff was getting ready to pay me for bringing her – she’s that much help. Our big old Lab, Cody – is just the calmest puppy —he just gets along and nothing really bothers him. Our alpha dog, Daisy, is NOT happy with all this—she hasn’t gotten involved yet, but we keep Melody at least out of contact range whenever she’s around the other dogs. Nestle, the lab puppy —she’s the one we’re really worried about. She’s had the two really bad fights with Melody (which were horrible for Melody and Nestle didn’t get hurt at all). Two weeks later, Cini had a toy –and Nestle went after her. That was a first – that Nestle initiated the fight. We really don’t want Nestle to learn that. She heard that we were NOT happy with her…no problems since.
        But….we had such a calm, nice pack —until Melody came along.

        So, we’re hoping that Nestle will learn that we don’t allow fighting.. she is a smart dog and is doing really well with her training, so we are hoping!

      • Melissa Barthold
        September 4, 2013 at 7:21 PM

        Obviously, I’m not really replying to this message, but it was the only way I could find to start this discussion with you again.
        Today, Melody was outside with my daughter and Nestle – chocolate lab – was upstairs with my husband. He saw my car and decided he’d come down and say hello, not realizing that Melody was out. so…here comes Nestle – and she went over immediately to Melody….not attacking just her usual, excited self cause her mom was home. And that was all Melody needed – she went at Nestle with teeth bared – all 25 lbs of her (against 65 lb Lab). Melody instantly started yelping and crying – I got my hand in between and got someone’s collar, and by then my husband was there and he got Nestle’s collar —-and the fight was over.
        Nestle went to her crate, Melody ran and hid in the bathroom, where she continued to yelp. She actually refused to let my daughter touch her – just kept yelping. If my daughter tried to even extend her hand – Melody was snapping at her.
        She really hasn’t let us check yet, but as far as we can see, she’s not injured. I have a bite into my thumb (darn thing is still bleeding) and skinned a couple of places (I think Nestle knocked me over)…..but I don’t think the dogs are hurt.
        From the way she’s acting…..I am really thinking that Melody has some type of neurological/brain problem. I’m thinking that there is nothing that we can do for her —and I am really afraid she’ll hurt one of our other dogs – even more than all the disturbance in our pack.

        I don’t know how to help this poor dog –but we do know that our pack of 4 dogs was just fine – nobody fought, no one bit anyone – they just got along wonderfully well.
        Now that all this is going on — we have a new dog park, but I’m afraid to take Nestle…..I’m not sure she’ll behave. My littler dog I can take — she’s just wonderful around other dogs. But, I feel badly that we can’t trust Nestle to behave at the dog park.
        Any ideas?

      • September 5, 2013 at 7:15 AM

        Poor Melody!! Why do you think she has a neurological problem?! As several people in these comments have observed, she is obviously fearful and fear-reactive. Like a LOT of dogs, she just doesn’t do well living with a group of larger dogs. (IS she undergoing socialization training?) Certainly not with an “enemy” suddenly bounding toward her as she plays, whatever its intentions– that is how fights start in dog parks.
        Dogs often snap when approached in a panic state! Normal. I have a “formerly-fearful” dog who still panics when I put in ear drops; he doesn’t snap but trembles for hours afterward, I simply have to remember not to take it personally.
        Some dogs just don’t like each other! Mine gets along with all dogs 100% but hated a chow at the shelter (and vice versa) — I brought him home limping because some idiot let them near each other the day before.
        Your trainer should be able to calm everybody down.
        Keep the dogs separate. Accidents happen, but management is part of having a bunch of dogs in the house.
        Chad Mackin, Sean O’Shea, Tyler Muto and Jeff Gellman are all doing successful small-group socialization classes, If you Google them, one of these trainers should be able to recommend someone in your area.

      • Melissa Barthold
        September 8, 2013 at 5:49 PM

        I do think Melody needs socialization, but it’s not happening right now. She is my daughter’s dog (my daughter is over 40 years of age, so plenty old enough to figure out and listen to the experts.) If Nestle is in her crate, then Melody is out – otherwise, she stays in my daughter’s room. I think this dog has a horrible quality of life…..but my duagher is still looking for a job and until she finds one, she can’t move out. And, I do think that there is a neurological problem – she has changed so completely in a fairly short time. she used to be a nice dog. So far, there is nothing that the vet can find – and while we have the University Vet School clinic close to our house, it is not cheap.

        My husband and I are taking two of our dogs to the trainer’s house next weekend. They can play with some normal dogs (Melody isn’t normal!) and swim and make sure that we don’t have agression issues with our lab. My other puppy is wonderful — she’s working on the prolonged stay and once we have that, she can take her CGC test! So..we want to be sure that our Lab hasn’t learned bad coping skills – like fighting. so, crossing fingers for next weekend!
        and I will look up those folks and see if they can suggest someone.
        Thanks — !

      • Mel
        September 8, 2013 at 7:53 PM

        I don’t know what to add here except that I feel sorry for Melody. The changes and living in a house with other dogs may be part of her issue, but it is hard to tell from your observations. I think taking the others to the trainer’s house is a good idea. I hope your daughter finds a job very soon so Melody can live in a home that she feels comfortable in soon.

      • September 10, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        Believe me, I do too. Certainly, staying in that room all the time is not contributing to improving her issues. I wonder tho — even in her own apartment, that is going to be just a bigger ‘room’ — she still can’t be taken out to be with other dogs – and given the way that she’s snapped at my husband (tho not at me) and has bitten my daughter, I’m not sure that she can even be out with other people that she doesn’t know. I’m afraid her agressive behavior will mandate that she stays in her ‘room’ – always. What a horrible quality of life she has/will have.

      • September 10, 2013 at 4:35 PM

        If there is no properly diagnosed organic reason for her distress there is probably no reason why she can’t return to being a happy serene dog. If you looked up the trainers I mentioned, and hundreds of others (positive or balanced) they deal with mostly dogs far far worse than Melody, most are rehabbed quite easily. I hope someone makes the effort here.
        This article was about euthanasia so it is a little disconcerting that you seem to be determined that she will always have to be shut in a room, and avoid other dogs and most people — just the recipe for exacerbating problems in a dog. I hope I’m wrong.

      • Melissa Barthold
        September 10, 2013 at 5:14 PM

        I’m sorry — I’m not making myself clear, I think. I don’t want Melody to stay in a room -but it seems like that is what is happening. And I know that isn’t making things any better. I can’t risk a fight between Melody and our lab – Melody will lose, again.

        I’ve looked up all the trainers you provided – and all are up north, while we’re in the deep South. Also, please keep in mind that the trainer that we have now is very well respected in our area as one that can help dogs with aggression problems. She is very concerned about the lack of progress (my daughter is not doing what the trainer is suggesting…..and she’s well over 40, so I can’t ‘make’ her.)
        I’m hoping that things will improve, but I am concerned that if they don’t, poor Melody will spend her life in isolation or continue to become more aggressive, leading to euthanasia.

      • Mel
        September 10, 2013 at 10:30 PM

        I agree. A bigger room is not better. I think your daughter is part of the problem. I feel sad for you because you are indeed “stuck” in a situation not of your own making. I wish your daughter would step up and be a dog owner, but I suspect she is dealing with her own stuff if she lost her job. I wish I had more to offer you, but it appears there isn’t much we can do to make your situation better.

      • September 11, 2013 at 5:56 AM

        Ah, now we begin to understand… so you DO have a good trainer, but the dog’s owner just couldn’t care less about following the trainer’s instructions! And poor little Melody is doomed, through no fault of her own.
        As a US trainer told me, happens all the time. The owner sets up the dog to fail, has it killed, then the excuses (i.e., “bad wiring”) and crocodile tears… how depressing. Since you obviously love dogs, Melissa, I’m sorry you have to live with this. Good luck.

        I think I’ll bow out at this point; Mel, would you please take me off the email notification list? I can’t seem to do it, and there are too many other sad things in my inbox at the moment.

      • Mel
        September 11, 2013 at 6:40 AM

        You echo my thoughts Alison. Yes. Owners often sabotage the dog by not doing what they should do to train their dog. It frustrates me to no end. I don’t understand why people get a dog if they don’t want one and don’t want to make the commitment to it. It’s laziness and carelessness and bad for society since it often leads to badly behaved dogs who are a danger to people and dogs or leads to the dog being dumped at a shelter so someone else can deal with their problem. (sigh).

        Alison – You have to comment and uncheck the “Notify me of follow up comments.” box below the comment box. WordPress.com does not give me access to the list of subscribers or the ability to shut off notifications. Sorry.

      • September 11, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        OK, thanks, Mel; strangely, the “notify” box is already unchecked but I’ll fool around with it.

      • Mel
        September 11, 2013 at 8:59 PM

        Shoot. I am so sorry Alison. I have been asked to remove them before, but I have not been able to find a way to do it despite looking on all the forums.

      • Mel
        September 10, 2013 at 10:33 PM

        I agree on keeping her in a room. We had a dog come into our shelter that was so damaged mentally after being kept in a room all his life that we actually had to have all the shelter volunteers take the dogs they were walking to the far end of the shelter property so he could be brought inside safely without harming other dogs. It was sad and scary and so preventable.

  29. August 26, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    I had an extremely aggressive dog who I sustained serious bites from a couple of times. I had expert trainers in consultation, many times. I ended up at the hospital once due to severe bite infections. But I learned that my approach , which had always been with support of my highly paid trainers that I always had to be Alpha of the pack was wrong and impossible. When I realized my guy never would surrender that status, we lived together for 9 more years. At the end of his life, I have never felt worse from the loss of his companionship. Yes , I had to be extremely careful in his care. He NEVER was unleashed, and I had a superb veterinarian who did not fear my noble friend. I was constantly urged by friends that he had to be euthanized, but THAT was the easy way. The heroic choice was to work with this beautiful dog, and keep him and everyone safe, by honoring his temperament. I have never regretted my choice.

    • Mel
      August 27, 2013 at 10:13 PM

      I am so glad you discovered the “alpha’ talk was not helping you or your dog and that you were able to work through it. I respect your decision totally. I wish there were more like you out there.

    • Marcia
      August 28, 2013 at 5:49 PM

      You are a wise, kind, and compassionate person. Too often people opt for the easy way out. Even after seeing a trainer, a dog may still have some problems. It takes time for change. But once a person adopts a dog, they make a committment for life. Sadly, too many people don’t want the inconvenience and euthanize their pet.

    • September 10, 2013 at 5:26 PM

      Would that the people who continue to question your experience volunteer their time and money as opposed to their opinions of an animal they have never met.
      After a gazillion years in rescue, I wish everyone were as patient and compassionate as you are Melissa,
      I hope you find a way through this distress.

      • Mel
        September 10, 2013 at 10:28 PM

        Thanks Terry. I think people who have not seen what a shelter can do to a dog should. It opens your eyes in ways you cannot even imagine.

  30. happytailspetsitting
    August 26, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    This is a very hard thing to go through and deal with later. I went through it 5 years ago this past February. She was a Great Dane, very gentle kind soul. She had her CGC and was a therapy dog through TDI. She was a few months shy of 9 years old when I had to let her go. One day she just snapped. She went after my pit in the morning, then again later that night when I called all 3 dogs to go out potty (2 danes and 1 pit). She grabbed my pit by the throat while he was mid air jumping off the bed. My daughter who was 14 began to jump in the middle to break it up. I shoved her out of the way and my dane got ahold of my hand. I’ll never forget the searing pain and sound of my own bones being crushed by her jaws. My vet/friend came to the house to repair everyone (as this happened at 9:30 pm), took my dane to the clinic knowing that she was going to have to be quarantined. I ended up being transported from the local hospital to SF (2 hrs away) by ambulance to begin a string of surgeries on my hand by a micro-hand surgeon. They had to reattach one finger that night and repair two others. I’ve had 8 surgeries on my hand and years of PT. They’ve repaired tendons, nerves, pulleys, broken bones, replaced a joint with an artificial one. I still don’t have anywhere near full use of my dominant hand, and probably never will.
    She was monitored and checked over the entire time I was in the hospital (8 days). What it was deemed was she had a neurological issue, possible brain tumor. There were times she was there and most of the time you could look into her eyes, and there was nothing…. nothing but emptiness. This was possibly the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my 44 years on earth. It took years before I could look at a picture of her, speak her name, think of her without loosing it. Not only because she was gone, but of the did I do the right things haunting me.

    • Mel
      August 27, 2013 at 10:11 PM

      I am so very sorry Happy Tails. How absolutely heartbreaking for you. I hope you can now think of her without guilt or shame but with love for the good years you had.

  31. Chaplin
    August 26, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    I had to euthanize a pup I bottle raised. He was truly mental and dangerous. This was years ago when I worked for animal control..I have a mentally unstable dog now…took me 7 months to break her of her aggression. She is still unpredictable but totally devoted to me.Family members can play with her or cuddle her but anything else must be done by me.

    • JoJo
      August 27, 2013 at 4:01 AM

      Im having issues with my Amstaff, he too was bottle raised as he was born with a severe cleft lip and palate. He has human aggression and is very unpredictable. I’ve been advised to put him to sleep by his vet, trainer and behaviourist. Im really struggling never thought I would ever be a person that could put down a healthy dog. After being attacked once again last night I am now frightened of him. For what reasons did you believe it best to continue with your current dog and euthanize the other?

  32. Jayla
    August 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    In 1997 I had to put down my 2 yr old mix breed after he attacked my 2 yr old son. I had loved and cherished that dog and he was never mistreated. He just turned in about 6 months. I couldn’t find another home for him because he didn’t respond well to anyone but me. I still feel awful about having to put him down. I carry his ashes with me since. There is such a guilt you carry around with you.😞

  33. steven fraser
    August 27, 2013 at 6:31 AM

    Very hard decision to make and one I hope I never have to make. But it is reality, just as some humans r born with genetic problems which impact their behaviour….so can it b for Dogs. If it is proven to be a medical or genetic reason then it is the most responsible thing a dog owner can do. An aggressive dog…is not a happy dog 😦

  34. August 27, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    I’d rather euthanize my dog with severe behavior challenges than have him put into the rescue system or suffer at the hands of a wannabe “dog whisperer.” There are fates worse than death IMO.

  35. August 27, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    I had to put down my dog Gizmo just about a month ago.It was a very hard decision to make. He couldn’t be trusted around children at all. When our granddaughter came over I put him in the bedroom. Everyday I think I could have done this or that to save him but, I know I’m only fooling myself. He was beyond saving but, I did try! I had him 1year and 3 months and I told myself I could change him. he belonged to an older couple up the road and when Dean passed away I promised I would take care of him, even though they were afraid of him too. I know in my head I made the right decision but, my heart hurts for him..Cause he loved me and I him..I knew I couldn’t let anyone else have him cause I was afraid what they would do to him..I didn’t want him hurt just safe…

  36. Heather
    August 27, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    If a dog’s genuinely dangerous, not just hard to handle, you have to take it seriously. I’d always put any animal down only as a last resort, but if the only other option is a 24 hour lockdown, what quality of life is that for a dog or owner? Thinking positively, other needy dogs are always looking for good homes and could benefit more from what’s on offer.

    I don’t know if it’s selfish or sensible, but I’m fussy about any dog I take on aggression wise. I want to be sure my dog will interact with dogs/people safely. If it’s a puppy I check out both the parents. With an adult rescue dog, I’ll see if they try for a bite. If they don’t mind me looking at them and touching them, I’m happy to have them, no matter what other training I have to do or what else I might have to sort out down at the vets.

  37. Rachel
    August 27, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    Thank you so very much for posting this, and I am going to read Phyllis’s blog too! This was me at the start of the year. I still live with the guilt, and run over and over in my head…. if only I had done more for her! But I know how matter how hard the decision was, it was the right one for my Dogs….

    Abbie was a rescue (a Royal Bahamian Potcake) my family and I adopted her when she was 4 months of age. She was surrendered with her 10 other siblings. She came into our home, and was a very scatty girl, we worked with her… but she had major dominance issues with our older female dog (which was much smaller than her)

    Abbie attacked our female dog on Christmas day last year, which resulted in both dogs spending Christmas day at the vets being stitched up. We put it down to over excitement, and sort training…. Abbie was doing great, but was completely obsessed with Hollie (our female Westie) We tried our very best to get her out of this state of mind, and when ever we saw her obsessing over her, we snapped her out of that state of mind.

    It all came to blows in February this year, when all three dogs were out in the yard playing… Out of nowhere Abbie flew across the garden. Threw Hollie into the air, she had her by the neck and had torn her right open… she wouldn’t let her go!
    I managed eventually to tear them apart. Hollie our westie was rushed off to the vets for emergency surgery… I went into the theatre with her, and actually said “goodbye” to her as I honestly thought we were going to loose her. Abbie had ripped her open from ear to the other, torn her muscles and ripped out one of her thyroid glands. She was a mess, and the vets said it was a 50/50 situation (because of her age, they were unsure that she would make it through the surgery)

    I went home and put Abbie in the car, and drove back to the vets…. In my mind, I had no other choice… but to put her to sleep. I have four children, and I couldn’t help but run the events over and over in my mind. I also couldn’t help but think… what if that had been one of my children??

    My Husband took her in, and stayed with her through the whole process. That day my heart broke…… I had one dog in emergency surgery, and another being put to sleep by my choice.

    We were later told by our vet, that she had the start of brain disorder (possibly the start of dementia)…Our vet told us that we had no other choice, her brain would have got worse… and who knows what she would have done next!

    Hollie spent a whole week in recovery at the vets, on drips and antibiotics and drains handing out of her neck, chest and throat….Thankfully she made a full recovery. She is now terrified of black and white dogs and has a lot of muscle damage. she can’t walk to far, but she is still as loving as ever!.

    In my mind I had to be a responsible owner and do the best for both dogs, as much as I loved Abbie with my whole heart….I had to let her go! without a doubt it is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.

    Thanks for sharing, I really needed to read this!

    • Mel
      August 27, 2013 at 10:06 PM

      Oh Rachel. I am so sorry. I hope this post did comfort you. Your story brought tears to my eyes. I feel your pain and know you did all you could. Know you do not have to carry that guilt with you.

    • Carol
      August 27, 2013 at 11:25 PM

      You did the right thing for both dogs. It never is easy and it was reassuring knowing what the vet found. As you said, what would have happened next might be worse. Thanks for sharing.

    • Melissa Barthold
      August 28, 2013 at 7:36 AM

      Oh, how awful. I feel for you. I’m just sitting here, wishing I could say something to make you feel better—but I can’t. Please know that my heart goes out to you.

  38. Kim
    August 27, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Even Barbara Woodhouse had a chapter on the crazy ones….

  39. Carol
    August 27, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    I sympathize and my heart goes out to all who had to put a dog down due to the aggression. My sweet Aussie was frightened during a fear period @ 10 months, which turned our world upside down. People and other dogs are too much for her. I finally put her on medication, saw a holistic vet and have worked with 4 different trainers, just to try and reduce her reactivity and keep her from redirecting when she goes over threshold.

    When in our home or with those she knows, she’s the best dog anyone could have asked for. Luckily, she has been manageable to a point, but not cured. The world is still too scary of a place for her. I have had to work on my second Aussie, to rid her of all the bad reactivity tricks she had learned.

    Shame on those who have judged those who made the decision to euthanize. I worry what would happen to my sweet girl if I wasn’t around. No one really could manage her like I/we do and where would she be placed? Re-homing a dog is not always possible and many of those dogs can’t be fixed. The most humane thing to do for the dog’s quality of life is to euthanize. It never is an easy decision and always is heart breaking. Imagine your child dying. That’s what the pain is like. We feel like we failed our dogs.

    • Mel
      August 27, 2013 at 10:05 PM

      Thanks Carol. I think your words were heartfelt and accurately highlight how difficult it is to find homes for dogs with issues like your Aussie girl.

  40. ponygirl
    August 27, 2013 at 10:14 PM

    Vets are not behaviorists, although, because they have the DVM tag, people gravitate to them for advice concerning anything. I have heard some of the WORST training advice come from vets. The case re: the 11 mo Golden makes me sick. So many animals die because well intended, but ignorant people bring home puppies, and don’t follow through with (positive) training. As a current pet care professional (and a former APDT trainer), I have worked with some very difficult dogs. I knew more about these dogs in :20 than the owners. Not all dogs are “good”. There are a sad few that have been born miswired. However, the most difficult dogs I have worked with had been improperly reinforced for incorrect or wrongful behavior by thier unknowing, uneducated “guardians”. Sickening.

    • Mel
      August 27, 2013 at 10:18 PM

      Actually, some vets ARE behaviorists. Have you heard of Dr. Sophia Yin?

  41. August 27, 2013 at 11:37 PM

    you know whats really bad is if you had not made this choice and something bad happened you would have those same close minded people bad mouthing you. in your heart you know what you did had to be done. i for one applaud you for being real enough to see things for what they were.

  42. August 28, 2013 at 3:05 AM

    Most vets aren’t behaviorists. Some vets who breed and train as a hobby can be really good, but a busy vet doesn’t have much time for that.
    Here in Tuscany, although anybody can get a diploma as a behaviorist, the only certified behaviorists are vets. No quality control though…

  43. Gail
    August 28, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    A friend just sent me this post and I have cried reading the story and the experience of others. My beautiful 20 month saluki was put down in December after he bit a stranger very badly, He had bitten a delivery man when he was 7 months, a week after we took him from the rescue, I rang the rescue and they told me it was nervous aggression as he had been very badly abused. I have other dogs who he adored but he would randomly growl and lunge at people, children in the house and outside the house. Never at me, my husband or my younger children. I worked very hard with a behaviourist but to no avail. I could not stop the attack and what I saw on the woman’s arm, I visualised across a child’s face and knew I had no choice. I was also told that the police could seize him under UK law and destroy him, plus fine me and confiscate my other dogs. I have felt so guilty and traumatised by what has happened. I still cry every day. I am sure people do judge me but I am so grateful to hear all your stories and know I am not alone in my grief

  44. August 28, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    60 % of unexplained aggression is caused by LOW THYROID. Please get full thyroid panel done by Dr. Jean Dodds, Hemopet.org. 8 of our 9 rescued dogs were undiagnosed low thyroid and most were abandoned for behavioral issues. All dog owners need to read The Canine Thyroid Epidemic, by Jean Dodds.

    • August 28, 2013 at 8:35 PM

      Great information Catherine.
      Low thyroid can also be easily missed with just a regular blood test.
      The Soloxine is quite inexpensive,
      It is a kind of miracle cure but must be given religiously for the life of the dog.

    • Melissa Barthold
      August 28, 2013 at 10:50 PM

      Catherine – Our vet says that the most common cause of overweight in labs is low thyroid. We didn’t know that –and shortly after we rescued him, our big (senior) lab really gained a LOT of weight. Turns out his thyroid was REALLY low. He’s on synthroid now –and he’s almost a different dog! Much more alert, not sleeping all the time and has lost almost 20 lbs (we are really watching what he eats.)
      We did have our lab puppy checked (the one that responded to the aggression –and really hurt Melody) and she’s not low, but is the low side of normal. We’ll check her again, as it’s common to be almost too low, then almost too high then …just bottom out and stay there. (Happens that way in people too!)
      Thanks — really good information.

  45. Anne
    August 28, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    I have had to make the decision twice in thirty years and I still cry about both. The first was a beautiful border collie who had been ill-treated by his original humans. He was a wonderful dog to me partly because I was the first person to show him love and care; however, because of what his previous “owners” had put him through, he could not be trusted around children. We had a couple of close shaves, and despite working with qualified people to attempt to retrain him it became obvious he was always going to be a major risk. Rather than muzzling every day, and never allowing him the freedom to run, I chose to let him go to the rainbow bridge where he would be free. The second one was a rescue who was released to me without its rabies shots and when it bite me badly while going for another dog, I was left with no choice but to have it put to sleep. I hold on to the knowledge that both animals had a time where they knew only love and I know that I will see them both, along with all the ones that made it to old age again in the future. My grateful thanks to all who have had the bravery to share their stories especially as I know how much it hurts.

  46. cd gibson
    August 28, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    I had to euthanize 1 dog due to old age & 2 to illness. I can never forgive myself. I loved them like they were my own children. I will miss them forever.

  47. Crysta Davis
    August 28, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    We recently rescued a dog off of an EU list from a shelter in Arlington Texas. We adopted him on Ausgust 16th, 2013. Not being told that he had pneumonia, we put over $2000 into vet bills, hospitalization, etc, only to have to make the heart killing decision to put him down yesterday. I contacted the adoption agency only to be told it was my problem.. Needless to say, our family is heatbroken, and those that claim to care so much for these animals show no love for them.

    • Melissa Barthold
      August 28, 2013 at 7:07 PM

      How incredibly painful. I adopted a dog 3 years ago –and after 2 weeks, noticed that she was scratching a lot…and off to the vet we go. She had mange, so we started the treatments. I called the rescue group, just to let them know – and they said they’d take her back. I was stunned –I didn’t want to give her back! So, I said nope, she’s my dog now. Fortunately, the treatments were very successful and she’s a beautiful, loving, funny smart dog. But, Crysta – it would have broken my heart if it hadn’t been successful. And it’s not a matter of whose problem it is – -it’s doing the right thing. And obviously, they didn’t really evaluate her health before they put her up for adoption. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I hope you can find another dog – one that is healthy – to love. And know that you did all you could for your dog. It’s kind when you reach the point where nothing is working –and all you are doing is prolonging death, not letting them live life. Best wishes …Melissa

  48. sandgrubber
    August 30, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    People ask about how breeders can sell / produce pups who turn out to be such dogs. No doubt there are breeders who don’t really care and breed either for show quality looks or for profit, ignoring temperament…as well as a very few who deliberately breed for aggression. For breeders who try to do the right thing, a puppy whose behavior is off is a difficult issue to deal with. Sometimes it’s hard to know if the behavior is hard wired, or the result of some passing circumstance — such as bullying by siblings. No one wants to kill a puppy, and you are likely to be condemned for putting a baby to sleep. Some breeders do actively cull pups whose temperament isn’t right.

    See ongoing discussion at:

  49. hannah
    August 31, 2013 at 1:41 AM

    I had to make this decision with a beautiful sprocker I was fostering. She was fab but would then just go into a complete daze and started to attack my dogs. My problem was each attack was worse and more frequent. In the end the rescue and I came to the decision that it was not fair and next time it could have been a human. This dog was over bred and under stimulated. This is what humans done to her for extra cash. I will always remember taking her to the vets and they agreed it was the right thing. They took her through the back to insert a canular into her. They started the cocktail. It was awful she was a strong healthy dog and it took forever. Even after her passing her nose carried on twitching. My heart broke but I knew we had let that beautiful girl go with love and difnity. Love you jihnney. Xx

  50. August 31, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    Your blog post happens to come at a turning point in my life with my adopted jack russell I got about 5 months ago from a humane society. She looked like the perfect friend for my beagle, and it turns out they DO get along great. The problem is she has been abused in her past, what little I know of, and she pees all over my house, all over my oriental rug my grandma passed down to me, and does this when she’s scared (i.e. thunderstorms and when she’s done something bad and is about to get in trouble). I tried crating her but she rebelled and pooped all over the crate and kicked it around. This happened several times. Here’s the other bad part. Other dogs in the neighborhood want to play with her but she attacks them and tries to bite anyone (people included) that try to come near her. So I had to buy a muzzle. I don’t know why she does this, she doesn’t do this with me. I am heartbroken because she is so sweet and has a good heart but she’s rebellious and her anxiety is causing my house to smell. I’ve tried giving her doggie xanax but it storms all the time and I don’t want to give her a pill all the time, I think that’s awful. I take her on plenty of walks and play with her, so I don’t think it’s lack of exercise. So I guess my question is, when is enough enough, when do you turn to this option? Or do I take her back to the humane society?

    • Mel
      August 31, 2013 at 10:45 PM

      I am so sorry Emily. I imagine you are really frustrated.

      To be honest, based on your description, I don’t think she’s being rebellious. I think she is scared out of her mind. The fact that she pooped in her crate could mean a lot of things, but often we see it with former puppy mill dogs who have only ever lived in the same crate they also pooped and peed in. It’s sad, but true.

      As I read your words, all I can see is dog who needs someone to help her. She might need an anti-anxiety drug daily to help her cope with life – at least for a little while. (Cupcake was on Clomapramine for several years before she came to live with me. It helped her cope.) It also sounds like she is probably overwhelmed by other dogs and people approaching her and is telling them (and you) WAY before she bites or attacks that she is scared and doesn’t want them to approach. You need to be her protector and safety spot. She is not ready (and may never be) to play with other dogs. They scare her. People too from the sounds of it. (Daisy was terrified of women for several years. SHe came from a puppy mill as a breeding dog.)

      I can recommend a lot of resources for you if you are interested. If you still want to try again from a perspective that she is afraid and not a mean or aggressive dog.

      Debbie Jacobs over at Fearfuldogs.com is a great resource and one worth checking out. I would also recommend getting a book on dog body language (e.g., Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog by Brenda Aloff) or look up some of the resources online like this one http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/how-read-your-dogs-body-language/415. I would also suggest speaking with an animal behaviorist who understands dog behavior about options.

      If you do decide you are not the person to help her, please consider contacting a rescue (one that specializes in her breed would be great). They often see dogs who are fearful, abused or come from mills and understand the behaviors you describe. Shelters don’t have the capacity, time or staff to take the time to better understand the dog.

      Let me know if I can help in any other way.

    • August 31, 2013 at 10:53 PM

      Get you vet to prescribe Valium…it is approved for dogs.
      Give it to him every day for two weeks.
      After that see how he feels.
      I do this with my exceedingly abused mill-dog.
      And have been off and on for 5 years.
      He has a life worth living now.
      And maybe rethink returning the dog as opposed to giving him meds that are approved.
      Good luck
      And by the way, Citri-Solv removes ALL pet odors.

      • Mel
        August 31, 2013 at 10:59 PM

        Thanks Terry! I so appreciate your input.

  51. Debbie fee
    September 2, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    I too am in this situation. I adopted my dog when he was 8 weeks old, he had a very aggressive mom, but we loved him. He is now 5 and completely fine at times and then for no apparent reason he turns and bites. It’s scary because we have no idea why….he stares up like he’s hearing voices. He’s currently on Valium for thunderstorms and Prozac daily, which helps but doesn’t eliminate our fears of him. We also have two other dogs and when he bites one of us the other dogs run in and they end up fighting. I often wonder if removing his teeth would be best because he’s very lovable and wants affection but because he’s unpredictable we are afraid to allow him on our laps. HELP!!!!

    • September 2, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      I suspect but cannot prove (very little research here) that dogs suffer more brain damage than we understand.
      Considering the unbelievable number of irresponsible breeders and the Tsunami of animal abuse cases, it seems more than logical.
      An aggressive and possibly dangerous dog after 5 years in a loving environment is NOT a happy dog and very likely not a healthy one.
      Medicine is still in the 1950s for many many disorders…human and animal.
      It is possible that you will never find the cause of this animal’s suffering.
      And my suggestion is the same as it was for Mel above.
      Instead of removing his teeth or worse, try keeping him on Valium daily, EVERY day, and consider upping the dose..
      Maybe it will work. Maybe it will not.
      But it is worth a try.
      Humans take meds for emotional and physical pain.
      Why would we refuse this relief to our animals?
      This is not your fault.
      If you must euthanize him it is not your fault.
      Anyone who says it is has an agenda.

      And maybe read this just in case there is something you had not considered..
      Good luck, and your patience is that of the angels.

    • Melissa Barthold
      September 2, 2013 at 7:45 PM

      It does sound like a seizure – at least, what you describe can be a seizure in people. I would think an evaluation for that would be helpful…but will echo what Terry said.]
      I feel for you — the two times our lab has gotten into fights (she didn’t start either of them), has been scary….I can’t imagine living with that fear 24/7 the way you are.

      • September 2, 2013 at 8:44 PM

        A brief description of traumatic brain injury in humans..
        “Some survivors of traumatic brain injury fully recover, but many others experience a multitude of cognitive, emotional and behavioral disabilities. . Personality changes are common. Those who were calm and controlled may become quick-tempered and impulsive. In some , anger erupts unexpectedly into aggressive attacks on others. Many with severe brain injuries lack the ability to control their thoughts, emotions, impulses and their conduct. They may become , anxious, paranoid or violent.”

      • Melissa Barthold
        September 2, 2013 at 10:34 PM

        Exactly. And, as a nurse, I’ve seen this type of injury. It is so sad – the patient can’t help themselves,and I imagine the same holds true for our dogs with this condition. Enough to break a heart.

  52. judith kim
    September 2, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    I am having to face this decision right now. We adopted 2 dogs from the pound in April. We had gone for one, and with 5 kids in tow, could not decide between 2 different dogs. The volunteers there encouraged us to take both “you’ll be saving 4 lives because it will open up 2 cages to bring up dogs that are on death row to be adopted”. One dog had been turned in 2 days ago by it’s owners for not getting along with a Chihuahua, but hey, we didn’t have a Chihuahua, so it was ok, right? Wrong! From the start, the boxer (we later found out she is a boxer-pit mix), attacked the other dog (a gentle lab mix), and went after the cat (we had to put him in the garage for his own safety). We called the pound back and hey encouraged us to work with her and give her time. We have, and she still is unpredictable and will attack him for no apparent reason. The fights are getting more severe. The pound will take her back, but told us since it’s her 2nd turn it, they will likely put her down. I would love to find her a home w/o other pets, and have been looking since April (but harder since the last fight on Weds.) She is a sweet, smart, loving, beautiful dog except for her dislike of other animals.If a loving home doesn’t happen soon, I will have to take her back or have her put down at our vets. This is so hard to do!

  53. Taylor
    September 10, 2013 at 6:11 AM

    these type of articles should give clear indication to all readers how important the early education of our companion animals is – its hard to change a dogs mind once its made up – owners seldom commit to the level of reliability in their dogs education that is required – attending a Class, is not the same as being a successful graduate (achieving an 80% reliability) – Test 1 and Test 2 Canine Good Citizen surely would be a good place to start in the education of our dogs – how many readers or commentators have even heard of, let alone understand a concept such as “extinction bursts” in behavior mod – certainly Rescues should go to experienced homes; having often proven that they are prone to receiving mix messages, under our natural manner of handling, in their previous homes – BF Skinner stated that “who I am” is the blending of genetics, social factors and reinforcement – social factors and reinforcement serve to shape the largest % of behavioral problems in our dogs – there are dogs “who aren’t wired right” and there are “medical conditions” that can contribute to undesirable behavior in our dogs, but these are a very small percentage of behavioral issues – make no mistake about it, in the vast majority, it is in relationship with us humans, that has most often forced these behavioral choices onto our k9 companions – a fact that non of us should be proud of or take comfort in

    • Mel
      September 10, 2013 at 10:37 PM

      Really great points and good advice. I agree. That wasn’t the purpose of this post, but your message definitely resonates.

  54. bamosher
    October 10, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    thank you so much for posting this. i have been struggling with this decision myself. my 4 year old st. bernard showed signs of aggression really early on (found out later that his father and other litters from the breeder have the same problem). at only 8 weeks he was resource guarding his food. we got him over that, but after he hit 18 months, he started not doing well with certain strangers. lunging, getting in their faces, aggressive barking, and once snapped at a woman’s hand. knowing he is a large breed and we need to control him, i spent the last 4 years working with him. i have seen 5 different trainers but made no progression with his aggression. it has gotten to the point where we cannot take him out in public or have people over to our house. when we take him to the vet, he is muzzled and they knock him out for his exam. he is very protective of us as his family, and also does not do well when he senses fear. and since he is giant 180lbs, it is hard for people not to fear him. he has always been great with us, a little headstrong but never aggressive. a snuggly teddybear. he was also well trained and listened to our commands. but lately i am seeing that more of his aggressive side coming out with us and he does not listen. barking at us and recently snapped at me when i grabbed his collar. we have a 10 month old baby that he has done ok with up until now (doesn’t think much of her either way), but i fear he will hurt her someday. and with him being so large and more aggressive as he ages, there is no way we could contain or stop him. we also recently found out that he has hip dysplasia and a torn ACL, making him a little extra defensive because he isn’t 100% physically. i think that this combined with his worsening aggression and fear for my baby’s safety that we will have to make this tough decision. it is just so hard when he hasn’t been aggressive towards us yet, per say. i just don’t want to wait until it is too late and something bad does happen. it is obviously genetic and engrained in who he is, and i know now that no amount of training can change that.

  55. Anne
    October 13, 2013 at 10:06 PM

    This is a great post. Having dogs all my life, I have not dealt with aggression. Only because I have been lucky. I can feel the pain in your words and it hurts me. I had to let one go when he was ill but to put one down that is healthy and young, no matter what, must be tormenting. The only thing I would want to do is make sure there was nothing medically wrong. As long as the dog had a full medical done, full blood panel and examination to make sure it was not pain. To see a post about a dog suddenly turn and then run to put him down bothers me. Again, medical has to be ruled out. But as far as some can’t be saved, I agree. There are humans the same way. Something is just not right and at least for now, we do not have any miracle treatments to fix it. At the end of the day, you do what it right for you and your family. Do not worry what other people think. You know your own heart and how much it hurts. I know it does, I can feel it.

  56. Vivian Kenudson
    October 14, 2013 at 5:57 AM

    Unless one of these “aggressive” dogs has seen a professional trainer who specializes in aggression, I can’t give an honest opinion. I have watched both Cesar Million and Victoria Stilwell rake dogs that were from extremely abusive situations and rehabilitate them into good family pets. It takes a lot of work, but it has been done. After Michael Vick was arrested, many of his dogs were sent to rehabilitation centers and a few of them were able to be rehabilitated, some even became therapy dogs. More than once in a while, all it takes is time and more importantly, love.

    • bamosher
      October 14, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      that is good feedback. but it is important to remember that life isn’t “reality” tv. although they are good dog trainers, it is still a tv show there for entertainment and to make money. that shouldn’t be the basis for knowledge on working with aggressive dogs. aggression can be triggered by so many different things – some of which can be rehabilitated with hard work. but that is not always the case. sometimes there is nothing that can be done. it really just depends on the dog, genetics, the situation, etc.

  57. karen adams
    October 14, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    I really don’t agree w/this topic….I have taken care of two Certified Vicious Dogs in my life so far and have several in my care currently who are “nipsters.” I’ve got a helluva a bruise on my thigh at this moment from shoving my leg into a exhibition of aggression between two dogs. When we are talking rescued animals, I give the animals the benefit of doubt and let them have time. Time, love and exercise + good nutrition (sometimes meds) are what rescue dogs NEED. I am willing to take the precautions necessary to maintain the lives of animals w/aggression issues…I am willing to put in the time. I really believe that is the difference here. From a liability standpoint, we cannot rehome dogs w/these issues…We are “stuck” w/them. I believe in LIFE. All animals covet life. And let’s face it…If you make this choice, you ARE killing an animal NOT euthanizing it. Word choice.

    • October 19, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      And when you have all your foster homes filled up with aggressive dogs? What then? When there is nobody willing to take on a dog that will attack a child, another dog, anyone? WHERE do they go?

  58. Anne
    October 14, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    I know a lady in rescue that fosters shelter dogs, specifically smaller dogs. One she had in foster care for a short time got into a fight with one of her personally owned dogs. She could not get that dog back to the shelter fast enough and of course told the shelter he was aggressive and should be put down. Of course the shelter did. Poor dog was a “victim” of a “rescue”? I could not believe it. No further analysis was done, just kill the dog.

  59. Staci
    October 14, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    I loved and agreed with this article right up until the very end where it talks about euthing a dog for dog aggression. DA is easily managed, not a threat to humans, and totally natural for some dogs. Absolutely not a reason to euth.

    • Phil
      November 12, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      Staci you obviously haven’t had an aggressive dog. Dog on dog aggression isn’t what concerns people, it’s a dog behaving aggressively to people for unknown reasons. Being responsible for your dog causing harm to another person and the potential legal issues following are the biggest fear for a dog owner. I won’t put my family on the street because of a dog, period.

  60. Sarah
    October 14, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    I had to make this decision in April of 2013, after the aggression issues were getting worse. First it was animals and then she would even try to bite me. She was my baby, we rescued her when she was just 4 months old. She was 6 when we made that decision. I struggle over that decision every single day of my life. What could I have done different? Did I cause the aggression? Would she go after our child next? After she almost killed our other dog and tried to bite me, I just couldn’t deny the aggression anymore. Some people made me feel like the worse person on the face of the planet, for the decision that I made. I know she’s in a better place now, but the guilt overwhelms me a lot still. Thank you for writing this, I can read this when I feel like I somehow betrayed her.

  61. Nicole
    October 14, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Thank you for writing this article. I lived this life for 4.5 years with a dog that I’ve had since he was 5 weeks old. He was a feisty puppy but the aggression started around 9 months old. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on trainers, devices and medications to help him but nothing worked. He was so unpredictable and dangerous that I had to make the decision to put him down. It was agony and I still cry today from the guilt. He loved me but would lunge and attack the elderly, small children, people in wheelchairs and other dogs. I couldn’t continue to be so lucky each day when he didn’t hurt someone – god forbid a child. However, there were a select few people and dogs that he adored. Where he would be a loving animal and even pee from excitement. I was so torn for so many years it was so difficult living my life with a dog who could never go anywhere with me or share with others. I think of him often and love and miss him, my sweet boy and I am so sorry it had to be this way. I know now that living that way was horrible for him too and make no mistake, it IS an awful life for a dog to be in such terror to want to attack everything and everyone. I really hope he is at peace. And I hope that anyone else who has a similar situation has the strength to do what is right for you and your dog. xo

  62. October 14, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    It’s a fine line. I have a client who had a JRT that did not get along well at the vet. He was fine at home. he was even fine in the parking lot of the vet’s office. But he vet recommended euthanasia. I did not agree. She consulted me, and I told her that he could be worked with, and that he wasn’t wired wrong. He is now a happy boy who does just fine at the vet, and his owner is thrilled that she listened to me instead of her DVM.

    So I think one has to know all the facts when making this decision. Of course, as a dog owner, you know your dog. But some owners don’t understand their dogs very well, and I worry that some see this as a first resort, and not a last.

    That said, it sounds as if this woman did try everything, and finally had to make a decision. I am very lucky that I do not have to worry my dogs will bite children. I do not have children. I do have several dogs that were deemed too aggressive to live, and they are now sweet and wonderful companions, and even like their vet (and he likes them). It’s a terrible decision to have to make. I feel for anyone who is faced with it.

    • Margaret
      October 15, 2013 at 12:03 PM

      Did the client change vets?

  63. Jill
    October 14, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    Thank you. Unless you’ve been through it, you don’t completely understand. How could a dog, that you have had since it was 8 weeks old, attack you with the intent to do real harm. And 10 minutes later, be the sweet dog that you love, and that loves you? Your friends try hard to sympathize. God bless them for being there. People that haven’t been there are very judgmental. They are not friends.
    My biggest learning is that the emotional devastation has nothing to do with the decision to euthanize. I know it was the right thing to do. I know that there where no other options. But knowing it was the only option doesn’t prevent you from crying every day, or wondering if there was anything you could have done differently to prevent it.
    You feel so alone. Reading other people’s stories is really therapeutic. Thank you again.

  64. Andrea Mykrantz
    October 15, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    Thank you. This unfortunately a decision I had to make just a week ago for my Dog I rescued just over a year ago. I am a veterinary technician with a special interest in behavior and I couldn’t help him. My struggle has been feeling that I failed him even though logically I know there is nothing I did do and nothing I could have done differently to change what wires were crossed in his little Double Dapple brain. Watching him attack my husband who was the moon and the stars to this little dog I knew what decision had to be made for the safety of us our other two dogs and future guests to our home. I appreciate the references in this blog, especially the one by Patricia McConnell. It’s good to know that in my decision to euthanize I stand shoulder to shoulder with other behavior people that I have learned from. This is only the third time in my adult life that I have dealt with losing a pet but it has hurt my heart the greatest.

  65. april
    October 15, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    Having been a euthanasia technician for a shelter I have had to euthanize for every possible reason and euthanizing for aggression was the one I felt the least amount of guilt over. When that type of animal is euthanized you are not only relieving the emotional pain and turmoil the animal is feeling due to being mentally unstable, but also protecting the people, namely children from a potentially vicious attack. Euthanasia is a sad but necessary procedure in some cases because not all can be saved.

  66. Sue
    October 15, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    I have a rescue dog (she was tied up and dumped) who has profoundly affected my life in the 18 months I have had her. I fostered her and then kept her because it was clear that she was not rehomable. I think it was probably the worst decision I have made, as while she is now mostly ok with me, and it is obvious that she doesn’t WANT to bite, she is not a dog I can trust with others as she uses aggression to help her cope with difficult (to her) situations. Not only that, she has many other behavioural issues (probably of the same origin as the aggression) which have not improved much over the time I have had her. I know she stresses my other dogs at times, although they cope with her behaviour very well, and she certainly stresses me. The really sad thing is that it is only as her aggression with me has reduced that I can see that this wild child is in fact an incredibly fearful dog who can only deal with life by screaming and charging forward with all teeth bared.
    I spent every day of my first year with her thinking I would have to make a final decision about her, and even now I know my life would be a whole lot easier without her. The only thing that stops me is that under all the angst, I can more and more see a sweet, loving and playful dog just waiting to come out. However, I am only able to cope with her by telling myself that I cannot give her everything my other dogs have and that I am allowed to leave her at home, and go out and relax with them sometimes. I have never felt that it is wrong to euthanise a dog because of aggression, but now I also think it is not wrong to euthanise a dog which is so damaged it has a detrimental effect on its owner………

    • Mel
      October 15, 2013 at 5:11 PM

      I am so sorry Sue. I imagine it must be a very difficult situation for you. I am encouraged that you do see moments of light in your rescue girl. Have you checked out Debbie Jacob’s book and Website? Here is a link: http://fearfuldogs.com

      Debbie can probably relate more than most, but she has found a way to help dogs like yours make progress. It might be worth checking out. Maybe there is reason to hope.

  67. Sue
    October 16, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    Thank you Mel. I do love her dearly and she will stay with me and be safe, I know what stresses her now and what she can cope with and do live in hope that she will slowly continue to improve. However, I can understand why people do need to end a difficult, stressful and dangerous situation with a dog. Mabel is exhausting and complex and when I despair I have to remind myself what she was like eighteen months ago, when she snarled as soon as she caught sight of me, and I had to keep a lead on her at all times as I was unable to touch her without risk, when she screamed at cars, litter bins and pretty much anything she saw. Now I trust her not to bite me; she plays with me and the other dogs and if she is very odd in many ways, and still has quite major problems, particularly out of the home environment, she can be the sweetest of souls. She is now able to meet strangers indoors, where she feels most confident, and be reasonably comfortable around them as long as they ignore her totally and in particular do not touch her. It’s just that sometimes it is a lonely journey with a dog that everyone thinks is just “nasty” particularly when some behaviourists and trainers want to put her into situations which I know will have a detrimental effect. I will look at the link and I thank you for your help

    • Melissa Barthold
      October 18, 2013 at 4:13 PM

      Sue – you are a wonderful person. Doing what you’ve done – and being so kind, loving and patient is not easy –and I give you a lot of credit!! I’m sure there is a special place in heaven for folks like you – you make the rest of us humans look good!

  68. October 17, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    it has almost been 2 years since we made the very painful decision to have our dog euthanized. We found him as a 4-5 month old puppy and we adored him. It was obvious from the get go that he wasn’t “right” but we felt with loads of exercise, positive reinforcement training and a management based household, we could help him lead a somewhat normal life.. trips to OSU behaviorists, medication, and so on loads of time, trips to dog parks at sunrise(no one else was there) miles and miles of walking, and he worsened,, he was unpredictable and seemed to always me stressed.. rarely relaxed and paced for hours even after walking, running, Frisbee,, puzzle toys and so on. One day I asked him to get off the bed and he turned on me,, I was home alone, he backed in to a corner and just as quick as it started, he “snapped out of it” and walked away. This was after multiple other close call incidents… Even then, I felt I could save him,, finally we became so tired of our strange routine and he was only 2 yrs old.. we couldn’t leave with anyone or anywhere.. I cannot put in to words how very difficult it was to actually sign papers and have it done. It still makes me feel like a cold blooded killer. We had him cremated and have a lovely hand carved box with his remains. And yes, people can be cruel.. and say some very awful and hurtful things. Please, do not judge unless you have walked in the shoes of a person who has an aggressive dog.. we were even willing to drive him all the way to Utah to Best Friends Society, but because he was dog to dog aggressive and dog to human aggressive they wouldn’t take him…

  69. Kim
    October 17, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    I have had to do this twice, painfully. In 2001 I adopted an adorable border collie mix from a no kill shelter. The minute I saw Molly I fell in love with her. We took obedience and had fun. However I noticed as she was getting more comfortable with me the more aggressive she would get towards men. She was particularly afraid of gardening tools and rolled paper. I later found out she came from a farm. I worked with my trainer, exercised, vet, and family who worked at the humane center. Then my cousin came to the door and she became vicious, a man could not walk into my house without her acting weird, then she got out the front door and chased someone down the street. It was then I knew I didn’t have a choice. I called my cousin at the humane who met me at the gate as I cried walking in. My cousin sent me to a seating area in a garden setting and her coworker came out and I told her I had to put Molly down. I handed over the lease as Molly gripped my leg with her front 2 legs. As I walked away I had managed to pull myself together in time to hear some lady waiting say a snide comment to me about putting a dog down needlessly. My heart was broken for months if not for a year.

    12 years later I attempt to adopt another dog at the humane center in a different State. My friend says there is a perfect dog for me. As I am looking at all of them I am petting a goofy looking dog when suddenly a white paw reaches out and grabs my arm. No barking just like…hey look at me. So Scout comes home with me. He was 8 months old, both ears tattooed from the hunter he belonged to. After I found him to have lyme type disease and the antibiotics kicked in he was a totally different dog. He went from passive to anxious, nervous and fearful. He was highly destructive, I couldn’t leave him alone, broke through my window, screen, my couch, curtains, decorations and when I came home I didn’t get mad at him because it wasn’t right. I have been obedience training Scout and working really hard with him. Positive reinforcement, etc. When I opened my slider he came in the house with bis tail between his legs and ran into my bedroom. When I walked in he coward so bad he urinated on himself. I knew at that point a dog of 8 months with so much health & abuse issues (not all listed) he was not going to be able to function properly. I felt terrible, but I knew in my heart I gave this dog a good home for once in his life.

    So if you have to make that decision please know, you are not alone. I understand. ♥

    • Melissa Barthold
      October 18, 2013 at 4:21 PM

      Kim – oh, I hate that someone said those cruel things to you. I can not imagine how painful that decision to euthanize Molly must have been for you. I’ve only had to do it when my dogs were sick and very old — that still broke my heart, so I can’t even think of how you felt. I do think that it may be easier when there is an obvious issue –very sick, old etc….that is clearly seen and then we are simply not prolonging their dying…and I do think we have that responsibility. But…quality of life matters too. From your description, Molly’s quality of life wasn’t good – neither was Scout’s. That mental quality is so important. The last dog I had to euthanize was my 16 year old bassett hound…I had her since she was 8 weeks old. I think she had dementia….she simply didn’t know me – or where she was – anymore. She’ll look at me with blank eyes…..My Meggy was gone. She may have been able to live longer –I’m not sure she was in pain — but she just ….wasn’t. She would walk into her bed — and stare into the corner of the wall for hours. She wasn’t eating much – but her bed became her bathroom….I really don’t know she knew at all.
      She wasn’t Meggy – and wasn’t happy….and I couldn’t do that to her, just because I didn’t want her to go.That was hard….
      My best to you — I think you’re incredible.

  70. Tara
    October 17, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    People often say ‘it’s not the dog, it’s the owner.’ In some cases, sure that may be true and I even might have said it before I got a puppy and she came home at 8 weeks, growling and snarling at me on the drive home.. I didn’t give up on her and have dedicated all my energy to her but I have certainly contemplated the idea of euthanizing her. In hindsight some of the trouble she’s gotten into and the pain she has gone through, it could be fair to say I would have been doing the kindest thing for her. She’s known for provoking fights and then getting really beat up. She’s 11 now and still going strong, I’ve done my best to keep her out of potentially problematic situations but I can’t completely control the world around her.. Another thought… you’ve heard of dogs that have gotten defensive/aggressive because of a past experience getting beat up by another dog.. Keeping an aggressive dog could potentially turn other dogs aggressive.

    • Melissa Barthold
      October 18, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      Tara –
      That is what concerns me. My daughter’s agressive dog is horrible. She’s gotten into 2 fights with our choc. lab puppy (the lab won) – got really hurt, to the tune of drains in her back. We keep them separated now.
      But…my Cini, the ‘dog of my heart’…the sweetest, most loving dog in the world……last week, we took her to our local dog park…and Cini would growl/show some teeth at some dogs that came up to her. Cini’s been the start of our local doggy day camp — they cheer when she comes to play because she takes all the new dogs in tow and gets them comfy with day camp. I never thought she’d every growl….but now I’m afraid that she’s ‘learned’ from the rotten aggressive ‘guest’ we have.
      I’m hoping that it’s just there were a LOT of people and dogs there–and that she was scared…..I sure hope she hasn’t learned to be aggressive.

  71. Susan Starrett
    October 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    I have been in this position more then once. Three times in fact. The results of taking and fostering dogs others wouldn’t. I loved them all. I worked w/ them, championed them, fought for them but in the end w/ each I had to think of the bigger safety picture. I blamed myself w/ each and still do to some degree and of course there are always others who are glad to blame you too. I have also been fortunate to have the support of some wonderful people who knew the effort I put in and the dangers of continuing. Life and death decisions are never easy, nor should they be, however they are sometimes necessary. I still love my babies who’ve gone ahead. I still cry for them. I will continue to do what I can for others.

  72. VJR
    October 18, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    I have been through this. I got my girl at 12 weeks old. I didn’t breed her till she was 4 years old. My daughter kept one of her pups. My Haley started showing aggression at the age of 5. She did kill one of my tiny girls. This was an all of a sudden thing for they lived together for 2 years. At the time I had 3 dogs so now there was only Haley and Gabi which were 4 weeks different in age. They had grown up together and loved each other. I visited my daughter with a new baby and stayed 2 weeks. Had to go to the store and came home to blood everywhere. Haley killed my heart dog Gabi. From that day on I watched her like a hawk. always separated her when not at home. By now she is 7 years old and one of her puppies came back to me Roxie. Roxie was 2 1/2 when I got her back and quit a bit smaller than Haley. They were fine as long as I was home but didn’t trust her so I always separated them if I left the house. By now Haley is about 8 years old and I lost 2 dogs but managed to keep her. I tried to find her a good home without other dogs but no one wanted an aggressive dog. One day Haley attacked Roxie for no reason. I got them separated before she hurt Roxie and decided it was time to do something. I told my daughter and she wanted to take her. We really did love her and thought we had to do what ever we could for her. We were so wrong. The pup I mentioned earlier my daughter kept is Shyanne. Shyanne and Haley got along great at first. Haley actually helped Shyanne out of some of her fear issues. Haley’s aggression didn’t show back up till she was about 9 and she was trying to be the alpha dog. Roxie and I moved in with my daughter. Before Haley never showed any aggression when I was home but now she was. I kept them separated and was looking for her a home. I had to make a weekend trip and my daughter rushed out of the house with kids in hand and forgot to separate the dogs. We both got back to the house to find my sweet Roxie badly mauled. I rushed her to the vet. It didn’t look good and I had to leave her there. My heart was breaking for I didn’t think she would make it through the night. The next morning I was at the vet waiting for them to open the doors. My Roxie waited for me. They brought her to me and put her in my arms. She looked at me took 4 deep breaths and was gone. Everything was explained to our vet and an appointment was made for Haley.. We got a call from our vet that someone wanted to take her if we would agree to it. He assured us Haley’s situation was explained to this person and she had no other pets. We agreed to let Haley live with her. I do regret I didn’t not decide to euthanize her at the first sign of aggression. Hers was never in front of us so I don’t know how a trainer could help. Hers would go years and not see any sign. Yes I tried to find her a home. I am so glad she is still alive but at the expense of 3 sweet beautiful girls. She was 10 years old when she went to her new home so 5 years we dealt with her. I wish no one would have to go through what we did and for all those with negative comments shame on you

    • Mel
      October 20, 2013 at 6:31 AM

      I am sorry for the pain, but I wonder at keeping one dog alive while sacrificing three.

  73. October 19, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Thank you for this very timely article. This is a decision I have had to make a number of times in the eight years I have been running a rescue. You are right…the guilt eats you alive. You have taken a dog under your wing, built a level of trust, and on the ride to the vet, your mind goes on and on and on…”what if…maybe I could…”. Then comes the worst part…holding the dog in your arms and watching the light leave their eyes.
    Then my very compassionate vet will try to ease the sorrow with kind words, then leave me with the dog to grieve. I cover him/her in my snot and tears, raging at the scum bag who abused this poor creature so badly that there was no possibility of return…and making me the one who had to do this terrible thing. I rock back and forth saying over and over and over “I am SORRY. I am SO SO SORRY. Please forgive me”
    Then you have those who stand in judgement, pointing fingers and telling you how horrid you are. They do not open their doors to the dog, because they do not want to put their families or dogs at risk. “I would but…”
    We cannot warehouse aggressive dogs. There is no perfect place for a dog that might attack a child, or another dog. A rescue cannot take the risk that this dog will never ever come across another dog or a child for the rest of its life. For those of us who have to bear the burden of making this decision, there is never any escape from the guilt, even when we KNOW there was no other option. I carry the weight of each dog that we have lost in this way. I also know in every case, I made the right decision…and I can stand before God when I pass on, and I will not be ashamed.

  74. kellie
    October 23, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    I just wanted to say thank you for your comforting words. Tomorrow I am euthanizing my fur baby. This is a decision I have been struggling to make for years. Now that I have two very young and very active boys, it’s time to face the facts and.say goodbye to a friend who has been loyal to me for almost ten years. Thank you again, I can’t get rid of the doubt and the guilt. Your words made me feel a bit better.

  75. dawn
    October 28, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    The guilt of putting our lab down due to aggression with children is overwhelming. I get choked up on a daily basis. I feel as though we failed him as his owners. I miss him terribly every day.

    • Mel
      October 28, 2013 at 8:27 PM

      I am so sorry Dawn. That makes me so sad for you. I think many owners feel as you do. I know it doesn’t ease your pain, but know you are not alone.

  76. October 31, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    Unfortunately, sometimes the medical profession has failed these dogs with pediatric s/n @ nine weeks old, over-vaccination, and not tapping into lab resources like Dr. Dodds. How many small terriers have been put down for rage who really had undiagnosed thyroid issues that were treatable? The same vets who then say sorry, they’re not wired right, put him down.

  77. November 1, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    Read this article and then some of the comments. Rabies vaccine can cause a whole host of issues, including aggression. I have been doing research on vaccines for over a year now, as well as diet and nutrition. My dogs eat raw and I titer over vaccination “boosters.” There is no such thing as annual boosters for viral vaccines, and bacterial vaccines are useless and dangerous in many areas where they are administered – like Lepto and Lyme.

    Sometimes there is a dog with a medical issue such as a brain tumor, or so abused its mental fabric has frayed, or one is born not right, but it is much more rare than this happening from abuse of vaccines and pediatric spay/neuters by the vets we put our trust into and our dogs’ well-being. We in rescue and training are seeing many cases of “miasms” by dogs pulled from shelters that are loaded with vaccines, and patterns of pups spayed and neutered much too young. Many animal control facilities perform surgery the same or next day that vaccines were administered. There are alternative sterilization techniques. The more we know…the less times we’ll have to make this heart-wrenching decision.


  78. Kerri Klopfenstein
    November 1, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    EvastI am going thru this right now! My almost 7 yr old Shih Tzu has been bery aggressive for nearly 6 mths now. We have had him since 8 weeks of age. He has bit our 14 mth old daughter at least 4 times, and tries too just about any chance he can get. I am devastated over this. We have tried training and it hasn’t worked. He is healthy per our vet and adoptable per her too, as I have basically begged her to put him down. I know first hand how some rescue organizations are and I don’t want to see.him go thru that. I too am ashamed, have guilt and hurt tremendously over this. Sometimes it is best to euthanize them, but when your vet won’t, what.do you do?

    • Mel
      November 1, 2013 at 8:04 PM

      If you choose to let the dog around your child and you don’t allow for both to be safe then why do you assume the dog is aggressive? I would much rather a rescue who is knowledgeable and experienced with dogs take the dog then to put him down. Your vet is right to refuse. I wish your vet would agree to take the dog and re-home it in a home without kids. That might be a better option than just giving up and euthanizing him. I side with your vet.

    • November 1, 2013 at 8:51 PM

      Please have your vet send blood samples to Dr. Jean Dodds for Life Scan tests especially for thyroid. You can review for yourself @ hemopet.org

  79. k9pack
    November 6, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Behavior issues are a result of a lack of leadership and not due to some “Act of God” which is out of the human’s control. Of course this is how it must go down.

    • Mel
      November 7, 2013 at 1:06 AM

      Most often behavior issues are a lack of training and consistency. It’s also a lack of knowledge about dog behavior and dog body language. If people understood this many dogs could be saved.

      • Kerri Klopfenstein
        November 7, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        I’d like to thank everyone who has responded to me about this. As hard as it was for me to write that it was just as hard to read the responses. We have hired a new trainer and have found a new vet, since ours never mentioned about a possible thyroid issue…we are seeking ways to learn to be better and more knowledgeable dog owners since it seems it’s more us and possibly an underlying medical condition. I am thankful that my vet wouldn’t euthanize, but disappointed she never sought to do blood work. Thank you again for setting ME straight here folks!!!!!

      • Mel
        November 8, 2013 at 6:15 AM

        Kerri – I hope the new vet and trainer help. I am disappointed in your vet too, but perhaps they were thinking one issue when it was the other. Sometimes we get stuck in one train of thought and exclude others. I am glad you decided to post here and to explore a new vet and trainer. I would hate for you to make a decision that is irreversible when there may be a solution. Good luck! I wish you both the very best!

  80. Phil
    November 12, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    I had to put our foster Great Dane down this morning due to unknown aggressive behavior. We picked him up from the Dog Warden in May and have been completing Heart Worm treatment for him. He had a troubled past and we know he was not treated well before he came to us. He was great with my other 2 Danes and my wife and I. but when it came to others, he was completely unpredictable. Last week he bit my brother above the eye during a visit and he was just petting him and talking to him. This was the last chance we could take with him. After incidents with my 1 year old son, my grandfather, my cousin, and the vet herself, my brother was the only one caused real harm. We grew very attached to him and it’s been one of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make but we decided to euthanize him. No matter what he did, we could not figure out what his “trigger” was. I’m going to miss him but at the same time realize that it was the best thing for everyone, including him. Bocephus was his name and I’ll never forget him.

    • Hrlqngdlvr
      November 16, 2013 at 2:32 PM

      I’m sorry for this very hard decision and for your loss. Unfortunately, breeding plays a very large roll in an animals temperament, early life experiences, health. Those of us that rescue do not always know what’s in the package and do our best. The same goes for our puppies we purchase, even with finding a very respected, certified breeder, there are still chances of something going wrong. Again I’m sorry for loss.

  81. Hrlqngdlvr
    November 16, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    I adopted a Great Dane last year, August. From what the rescue could figure out he had passed around at least homes the first 14 months of his life. The last home he was at, he was attacked by amale and female intact pit bulls, and Zeus was intact also. The rescue had him for 9 months before we adopted him. I knew he had issues but my family and I felt he deserved to know true love and have a forever home. A few weeks after adopting him, I was out walking 2 of my Jack Russel Terriors and Zeus. I also had another JRT who was special needs after suffering major brain damage due to anesthesia when trying to be neutered. (That was a $10,000+ Education in dog rehab so he could walk, eat, etc.) anyway, one day while out walking the 3. I met a couple and we were talking and socializing. The next door neighbor came out who I had met at my vets. The next think I knew she ran inside, I thought for a phone call or something, then a dog comes charging out and attacks Zeus. After this event Zeus was not right, no matter how much I tried. A week later after this event, Zeus attacked my special needs JRT where he needed staples in multiple places. A week after that my husband I went out to walk the 3 dogs. A man was walking down the street with his dog and Zeus fixated on this dog. I walked towards our house, but husband didn’t get a chance, Zeus pulled and then flipped my husband and attacked that dog. Luckily the dog wasn’t hurt badly, one puncture wound. I paid all of the dog’s vet care. The man was going to report Zeus to animal services. I told him I understood but that Zeus was a rescue that didn’t have a good start life and that I felt he deserved a chance. A couple months later, he attacked my special needs dog again and this time it was fatal. We all decided it had to have been Zeus freaking out when my special needs dog had a seizure. During this time every time I tried walking him, it was pure hell because he reacted to any dog in an underground fence or out walking. I’ve had dogs for 22 years and kept working with training, patience, and lots of love, etc. four months later, I dropped food in the kitchen, Zeus not being one to pick up food off the floor, one of JRTs ran in to grab the food. Zeus attacked her and we almost lost her. We decided again that Zeus needed help and I got a trainer. She taught me new positive training and I was able for the most part do everything in the plan that was setup. However, things have not gotten better walking him or being out in the front yard. I found he was starting to react to small children he saw and especially if they were running. It’s been very painful and stressful always having this fear of he somehow got of out of the house or backyard that a dog would get hurt. He’s only shown aggression to African American, especially females, which I assume is something from his past, otherwise no aggression to people. Yesterday, he attacked my JRT which is the one dog who was his best friend. This scared me of this change. I decided then and there that I couldn’t keep trying and something really bad happened. I took them both the vet, one to get injuries repaired, and my Zeus to be PTS though I feel I killed him. The vet tech kept saying he just needs a one dog home. The vet got mad at the tech and told her to stop, that Zeus had obviously become a very big liability. I stayed with him and like others have said on here, I feel that I killed my baby boy. I feel guilt that I didn’t wait for my kids to come home from college/high school to say goodbye. He was loving and fun to play with as long as he was in the house or backyard, did well if I went early to dog parks like others said so he run around there without other dogs. His JRT best friend taught him many things about being a JRT especially jumping to catch a ball. It was neat to see my GD jump that high and play fetch together. Of course he could never figure out why the 2 JRTs would always get so excited about a squirrel in the yard. He would just stand there watching. He was a great guy but who had too many bad experiences that he couldn’t let go that were escalating and my fear of loosing my 2 JRT, someone else dog, or a child one day being killed was too real for me. I pray Zeus is happy and free of all of his fears and issues he had here on earth and that he’ll forgive me one day.

  82. Hrlqngdlvr
    November 16, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    First my JRT, Jack, was 6-mth sold when I took him to get neutered. He died on the table and the vet was able to revive him by 5 min. He was so severely brain damaged that had had severe seizures, but we decided if he could make it through being at the ICU in the veterinary hospital, we would do anything for him. Our vet paid for the 2 weeks that he was in ICU as it was believed the vet tech gave Jack too much anthestia. We took him to CARE in GA and he had intense rehab. We had to teach him how to swallow, how to eat food and drink water, how to pee and poop, and how to be able stand and maybe walk. We learned a lot of therapies to do at home. CARE was a 3 hour drive away, which my daughter and I made twice a week while JACK was at rehab. When he came home, we still had to teach him things and do his physical therapy that they taught us. We also continued to tak Jack once a week for 4 hour therapy which included water treadmill, acupuncture, heat laser treatments, physical therapy, swim therapy, etc. Every time that a dog should to the bathroom, I had to hold him up and do spine stimulation so he did walk movements until he found the place to go to the bathroom. I then had to teach him how to squat to pee and poop. I still had to feed him and made sure he drank but syringe feeding him. Little by little over the 3.5 years he learned to do more basic dog things. He was almost completely blind, we think he could see light some. He walked in circles. I took him in and out and stayed with him all the time, because if he fell which was often, I had to help teach him how to get himself back up or he’d be stuck. He had seizures that were difficult to control. I could go on and on. We spent over $10,000 just in rehab at the facility, not including all of the special things we bought to help us help him. So you do not know what it was like to have a beautiful dog that my daughter trusted me with when I took him to get neutered, which by the was a vet I had a long time relationship with. So don’t you say anything mean about my Jack. He was unable to
    Protect himself. So we had to deal with losing Jack twice, the dog we knew before he died the first time from anesthesia and then a second time when Zeus killed him.

    Secondly, Zeus and all of my dogs and my family made many meet/greet episodes with Zeus where he was at rescue 3 hours away before the rescue and us knew it was a good match. We were told he had no problems except food issue and needed to be fed separately. Which he always was. So it had nothing to do with Zeus needing a one dog family. I only find out after Zeus attacked and severely hurt Jack that Zeus was passed around the first 14 or so months of his life to at least 6 homes that the rescue could figure out on Craig’s list. We also found out that Zeus was attacked before the rescue took him in. I do know positive training and have had 2 previous Danes, so I am Dane savvy. We did get a trainer who also did positive training and helped me set up safety plans, plans and how to manage many scenarios that i might run into. Zeus was attacked her thanks do a dumb as lady who thinks like many others that an underground fence is 100% fool proof which it is not. She only later admitted that she knew the collar was not working correctly and had told me that she could only handle him with a prong collar. I do not believe in Amy of that. My trainer and I worked with him for a good 5 mths, I spent over $500 for that. Things were decent at times. Because of his fear, I noticed that he started reacting to small children outside in the same fear aggressive manner that he did with dogs. He attacked a dog that lived in our neighborhood. He attacked Jack twice and killed him. He attacked my shorty JRT, Yuki, severely, we weren’t sure she was going to make it. Finally, he attacked my JRT, Lucy, his best friend. I can’t show you all of the scars I have from breaking up fights. Zeus was a loving, wonderful dog that I loved very much, he didn’t go without. He had many environmental allergies as well as food allergeries. I got his environmental under control with many supplements and Claritin, and sometimes Benadryl. I also changed diet to a completely grain free diet and was in the process of going half and half very expensive grain food. My dogs have always gotten the top of the line organic food, $500 Big Barker bed, wire kennel with bed, etc I could on. So he was very loved. My trainer said when a dog attacks with the death bite at the neck and shakes, he is going for the kill. Should said there was no way to every control that and that’s what training was all about to help change many thought processes and reactions. So don’t you say I didn’t try. I found this site and was looking for help in dealing with the hardest decision I’ve ever made. The on,y time I’ve ever had to do this before was 20 years ago, when my husband in the Navy was transferred to Japan. We didn’t flinch an eyeball when just the cost of his flight cost $3,000. The flight messed him up and so do quarantine. He got a heart murmur and also colitis. We fought to keep heal him, but 20 years ago they didn’t know ways to help dogs with colitis. Have you ever cleaned diarrhea covered in mucus and blood off a tatami mat? I did everyday for almost 3 years. The last 6 months, I couldn’t even get him to come out of his cage to go walking or play. One day out walking on a day I could get to come out, I was walking with my kids. My daighter’s Sunday school teacher saw us and ran over right up close just as I was saying not to do that as my daighter was raised him and he can be protective of her. He ended up jumping up and biting he breast severely, that it was torn. I was ordered by the military police that I had to put him down. We decided we would ever get another dog until my husband retired as it wasn’t fair to do that to a GD who is very sensitive to such huge changes.

    So in closing stop throwing out these so called do trainers. I don’t know where they live but I did have a top trainer who trains only with the positive method and was certified for rehab of aggressive dogs. You are rude and have not walked in my shoes. I will one day get another Dane but not until the 2 JRT have passed. One is 8 and one is 5, we’ve got a good 10+ years and then I will think about it! cause having to go through all of the experiences I have had with the 7 dogs I’ve had in the last 24 years has no right to be mean and judgemental has you are being. I hope Mel does delete your post, as I believe this site is not meant for berating and judging a person for having to make a very difficult decision to put down an aggressive dog.

    • Mel
      November 16, 2013 at 7:51 PM

      I am so very sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, many dogs in rescue suffer at the hands of their rescuers and sometimes, because of what they have suffered through before, they never quite become the dog they could have been. I have seen many a mill dog not able to function normally and who suffer in great fear because of what they went through. Not all can be saved. To be honest, you did more than most. I am just so sorry that you had to go through all of that. It must have been so awful. I know it doesn’t make you feel better, but I don’t think you “killed” him. I think you gave him peace.

      I am sorry for Alison’s comments. I have already expressed to her and another person that I do not promote or support trainers who use aversive training methods on my blog. There are plenty of other blogs they can comment on that do and that is their choice. She has been banned and all comments disabled on this post. My apologies that I did not catch her comments sooner.

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