There’s no debating it: Euthanasia is the most difficult decision we may face as dog owners.
Behavioral euthanasia? Even more difficult and traumatic.
No one wants to have to consider behavioral euthanasia, and it’s natural to feel guilty or depressed when confronted with such a situation, no matter how dangerous or aggressive a dog may be.
After all, even an extremely aggressive and dangerous dog is still your precious pet. And of course, we know even the most aggressive dogs aren’t horror shows 24/7 – they can be absolute angels in certain settings.
Euthanizing an aggressive dog isn’t an easy subject to discuss, but we’ll tackle it with you below. We’ll discuss why it is sometimes necessary and share ways you can cope with this agonizing decision.
Euthanizing a Dog and Dealing with the Guilt: Key Takeaways
- In some cases, euthanasia is the best decision for owners dealing with aggressive dogs. Making the decision about whether or not to euthanize an aggressive dog depends on many factors, including safety risks as well as the dog’s quality of life.
- If you have to euthanize an aggressive dog, allow yourself to grieve and try to make peace with your decision. Remind yourself that you’ve done everything you could and that you’ve made the best decision you can on behalf of you and your pet. Owners who haven’t dealt with aggressive behaviors won’t understand the agony of your decision. Do not let others shame you for your choice.
Is Behavioral Euthanasia Warranted for Aggressive Dogs?
Behavioral euthanasia (BE) refers specifically to euthanizing an animal due to behavior reasons (rather than medical issues or as a hospice option).
Behavioral euthanasia is a very contentious topic, as some parties may argue that behavior-based euthanasia should never be an option.
But make no mistake, behavioral euthanasia is – in some cases – truly the best option for everyone.
It’s important to remember that every case of dog aggression is unique and should be treated as such, since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment for it.
Aggression can be caused by any number of factors, including:
- Traumatic experiences
- Poor socialization
- Extreme fear
- Other factors that aren’t always under your control.
Ultimately, some cases can be treated, while others cannot.
Behavioral euthanasia is generally reserved for the most extreme cases of aggression in dogs, meaning that the dog is a severe risk to you, other people, other animals, or even themselves.
Behavioral euthanasia shouldn’t be considered until every alternative avenue has been explored, and only after a thorough vet check and a consultation with a certified dog behavior consultant (NOT just a standard dog trainer).
Make sure to read our full guide on how to decide when an aggressive dog should be euthanized to ensure you’ve explored all alternatives and have done what’s required to help your dog as best you can.
All owners of aggressive dogs have to come to the best decision possible for their specific situation.
You Had to Euthanize Your Aggressive Dog: Coping with the Decision
Euthanasia is never an easy decision, and it may weigh heavily on you long after the event passes.
Just remember that no outside party really knows your situation with your dog.
Ignore Any Critics – They’ll Never Know the Pain You’ve Gone Through
Ultimately, unless someone has owned a dog with serious behavior issues before, outside parties simply can’t understand the physical and emotional toll living with an aggressive dog can take.
It’s very easy for owners of “normal” dogs to point fingers. Unfortunately, you may hear from critics who will claim you should have tried harder, been more patient, and done more.
Let me be clear here, no one is in a place to judge you.
No one else has seen the tears, the sleepless hours, and the money spent on behaviorists. No one else knows the pain and agony you’ve gone through. No one else knows the tremendous work and effort you’ve put into trying to help your dog, and the emotional torture you’ve navigated coming to this decision.
Whether or not other have witnessed it, you’ve likely explored a long list of alternatives to behavioral euthanasia (and if this is still a decision you are grappling with, make sure to check out our full guide to how to decide when an aggressive dog should be euthanized).
Even for owners who have had problem dogs before, every situation in unique.
Experiences vary tremendously, and every dog is unique. Just because one owner was able to make a situation work with their aggressive dog does not mean that you could have with your own dog.
Let Yourself Mourn
Don’t forget to let yourself mourn for your pet who has passed.
I think for some people, mourning a pet you’ve chosen to put down can feel like an odd emotional juxtaposition. If you chose to put the pet down, why should you feel sad, since this was your choice?
It’s normal to feel sad. To feel heartbroken. No matter how the result came about, you’ve still lost a beloved family member and dear friend. You have as much a right to mourn as anyone who has had to put down a dog for illness or disease.
So, go ahead and mourn. Get a piece of pet memorial jewelry made, create a digital canine memorial page, or make a photo book celebrating the good times with your dog. Let yourself grieve.
If you’re struggling with grief, consider reaching out to a counselor. Voice what you’re feeling and work through your struggles for as long as it may take. Your feelings are valid and deserve time and attention to process, too.
Losing a dog is always hard, and you’re allowed to grieve. Your situation is nothing to be ashamed of, and this result is not the sign of you being a failure as a pet owner. If anything, you’re incredibly strong and responsible in protecting your dog and others from further harm and suffering.
It’s OK to Feel Relieved
Many owners who have had to put down dogs due to behavioral euthanasia may find themselves struggling with an additional, difference sense of guilt; guilt for the feeling of relief they’ve experienced.
Do not be ashamed of this.
No one can deny that living with an aggressive dog is enormously stressful. It can have a huge impact on your quality of life and can exacerbate anxiety and depression. Living with and managing a difficult dog is a ton of work, physically and emotionally. It’s natural and normal to feel some degree of relief once this hardship is released.
These feelings of relief do not mean you don’t love or miss your dog who has passed. It just means you’re a normal human with varying and complex emotions.
Trust Your Decision
There may be some days where you find yourself second-guessing your decision. But ultimately, exercises in ruminating on the “what-if’s” will not be fruitful. Remember that you have gone through all your options, and you’ve tried all management and behavior modification techniques that were at your disposal.
Behavioral euthanasia was your last option, and it had to be done.
Trust that the choice was the best one for all parties involved.
Imagine if your dog had gone on to seriously injure (or perhaps even kill) someone. The guilt from that would be far worse than the guilt you feel from euthanizing your dog. And that doesn’t even include the potential ramifications you may suffer, like a lawsuit or criminal charges.
While the dog’s life was meaningful and valuable, so is yours.
So are the lives of those who were at risk from your dog.
Part of responsible dog ownership is ensuring your dog doesn’t hurt others, and if this isn’t possible, euthanasia is the best solution. Many times, aggressive dogs spend years bouncing from home to home or alone in a kennel. That’s a cruel existence that does no favors for the dog.
Also keep in mind that each pet owner’s situation can vary throughout their life.
It’s possible that – years later – you do obtain the financial resources that would have allowed more thorough and ongoing work with a certified dog behavior expert, or you end up living in a household situation that would have been more conducive to your problem dog. In the end, you did not have these options when you had to consider euthanasia, so they end up irrelevant. Don’t beat yourself up for factors outside of your control.
Consider Finding a Support Group
You aren’t the first owner that’s had to cope with the gut-wrenching decision to euthanize your dog, and you don’t have to go through this alone.
In fact, there are several helpful support groups and similar resources available to owners going through these kinds of difficult situations.
Some of the most notable include:
- Losing LuLu Facebook Group
- Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
- The Pet Loss Support Page
- The Argus Institute
Also, please understand that dog loss is a subject very close to our hearts here at K9 of Mine, and we’ve tried to provide a number of resources for owners dealing with this kind of pain.
For example, you may find it helpful to memorialize your pet or read about how I coped with the loss of a beloved family pet.
We also encourage readers to share any other resources they may have found in the comments below.
My rescue dog Remy has a lot of behavioral issues involving reactivity and aggression. We’re at a place now where his behavior is manageable – but it wasn’t always like this.
For the first six months I had Remy, living with him was absolute torture. And I really don’t consider that an exaggeration. He would bite, bark, and nip at me several times a day, every day, and I couldn’t figure out why. It was physically painful but – even more – emotionally scarring. I felt abused and betrayed by this dog I was trying to help and had opened my home to.
As I read every article I could find relating to Remy’s problems, and even as I brought in professional trainers to help us, I was in agony. I started drinking and crying every night, I had to double my anxiety medication dosage, and couldn’t leave my bed at all some days.
Eventually Remy and I got through it, and his behavior has gotten much better as a result of a ton of hard work and focused effort.
But I often think about those days where I did have to at least consider behavioral euthanasia. I knew I could not continue to live my life in that state. If I hadn’t begun to see improvements in Remy’s behavior, euthanasia would have been a possibility I would have had to really contend with.
That period when Remy was at his worst was the hardest time of my life. I say that while also acknowledging I had the financial resources, emotional support, time, and interest to basically make working with Remy my full-time job.
I honestly think there are very few people who could have made the situation I was in with Remy work. And I am sure there are many other dogs out there like him.
Despite being in a good situation with Remy now, I’ve sworn to never judge anyone who has had to go through the kind of agony I went through with Remy. There is no easy way out of a situation like that, and every decision is a hard one.
Please know you are not a bad person if you had to put down your dog for behavior issues. You did not “fail” your dog. You did not make the decision lightly. You did your best with a dog whose genetics and/or past trauma made it very difficult for them to lead a normal, happy life. You gave them all the love and support they could ask for. Sadly, sometimes that’s just not enough.
For all those who had to make this excruciating choice – we support you. You are not alone.
Dog aggression is an incredibly complicated issue, and many of the variables at play are out of our hands.
Some dogs, due to genetics, may have aggression and imbalances ingrained in them. While some can be rehabilitated using hours of hard, consistent work and training over several years, that isn’t always the case.
Attempting to do so requires managing a dangerous animal all the while, which takes an extreme amount of time, money, risk, and patience. It’s reasonable to not feel emotionally or physically up for committing years of your life to fix or manage a dog with serious issues when in extreme cases, the behavior never improves, and everyone suffers.
We’re so sorry that this is even a topic that must be discussed, but we hope you find peace in your decision, whatever it may be. Euthanizing an aggressive dog is never easy. Please share your experience in the comments if you think it may benefit others going through this difficult time.
March 27, 2023
this means a lot. this saturday we have to put down our sweet pit bull mix Mia. i’ve been sobbing nonstop and my brothers are taking it hard as well as my parents. this dog got us through covid but she’s so mean to people that aren’t us. we’ve done everything, we sent her to training consistenly and kept her locked away but my parents decided last night that we’re putting her down. every article has been about euthanizing sick dogs and not behavioral euthanization. we’re all devastated and are dreading this weekend. i just don’t want to forget her.
March 28, 2023
Hey there, Bee. We’re so sorry to hear about Mia.
Please consider checking out some of our resources about coping with pet loss.
And don’t worry — you definitely won’t forget her. Dogs leave an indelible mark on their people.
We wish you the best of luck getting past this difficult time.
March 17, 2023
Thank you for this post and opportunity to comment. We are euthanizing one of our dogs in a couple days and my parents are unfortunately focusing on alternatives instead of supporting us. Our dog is a beautiful, often loving and very lovable male who was rescued from severe abuse around 9 months old. We spent years working with and getting him from being extremely aggressive (multiple bites with multiple people) in most situations to a place in which he trusted us, loved people and could be taken most places. He’s 9 now and we’ve loved the majority of our time with him.
Unfortunately, before the pandemic our ability to provide the structure key to that reality changed drastically. We became caregivers to a my MIL with dementia and ALS in our very small home. A month after she moved in, the pandemic started. After she died peacefully with us we finally became pregnant after years of trying. It’s been a wild few years.
Ultimately our ability to walk him and keep him stimulated enough faded. The poor guy needed it and understandably fell back to habits of his youth. We had developed boundaries as our daughter grew but our dog reacted out of nowhere one night and bit her in the head enough to draw blood. I reacted just in time to stop a second attack on her. I knew immediately we were facing horrible choices. I deal with ADHD and struggle with discipline & the type of focus needed for functional training wasn’t something I could deliver while also being a stay at home dad to a growing toddler. And our little girl’s safety is our unquestionable priority.
We’ve spent the last few months researching, calling and applying to professional rescue shelters that felt appropriate to surrender with all the while muzzling him inside. I refuse to re-home him outside a professional setting for many reasons. But it was quickly clear he had bitten too many people too be safely and ethically rescued. And those places that might have taken him were full from pandemic surrenders dogs that could be helped and rehomed.
I’m devastated and grieving but know it’s the right & kind choice.
And it’s so hurtful and painful to carry that burden without the support of my parents. And it’s not just the lack of support but the palpable disgust they communicate each time it comes up. I fear this is all too common an experience.
So thank you for leading a conversation with compassion and nuance. It’s a hard enough decision and journey already. We all need the type of support from our communities that y’all are role modeling here.
March 20, 2023
Hey there, Phillip.
We’re so sorry to hear about your struggles with the pup, but we’re glad you found the article helpful.
And you bring up an excellent point — owners finding themselves in these kinds of situations often face backlash from friends and family. And that certainly doesn’t make things any easier.
We wish you the best of luck and thank you for your comments.
March 14, 2023
I am so fortunate to have found this article. We had to put down our 3 year old, Jasper (Blue Heeler), today. My husband and I are absolutely crushed as he was our first dog and our first “baby”. His behavior issues began when we got a new puppy. He became aggressive with our other dog who was a very small puppy. Then he started all the neighborhood dogs. I couldn’t take him on a walk without an altercation happening. Then he got out and killed all of our neighbors chickens and then our own. We were at a loss. We didn’t know what to do. We talked to trainers and no one wanted to take him on. Then we looked into re-homing as an option and all fell through because of his aggression towards other animals. My husband and I have many nieces and nephews who were all terrified of him due to jumping, growling, barking, showing his teeth and quite frankly, it scared us too. But he never turned on us like that. He was so sweet when it was just the three of us. We didn’t know what else to do, we are both struggling with the decision we made and are both feeling so much guilt. Reading this article made me feel somewhat better. Grief has no timeline though so we still have some healing to do in the next coming days, weeks and months.
March 14, 2023
Hey there, Allison.
We’re so sorry to hear about Jasper.
And while you’re right that grief has no timeline, it does usually have a direction, and it will, eventually, fade.
In the meantime, please consider checking out some of our dog loss resources.
We wish you and your husband the best of luck.
March 12, 2023
This article means a lot. Yesterday I had to put down my almost 3 year old blue nosed pit. My husband and I got him at 8 weeks old. He is so beautiful but there was something wrong with his head. We took him everywhere, vacations, dog parks, hikes ect. He went everywhere with us. Slowly things that were fine with him yesterday were a trigger the next day. He use to sleep on my chest while I pet his head to sleep. Suddenly one day he’s growling at me for petting him. Then it became I can’t touch him at all. Then I can’t sit on the couch with him without him growling and charging at me. We realized he had issues with resource guarding and decided he can’t be on elevated surfaces. He went from my sweet puppy to being held hostage in my own home. I was sitting on the couch and he jumped up and started licking my face. As I gently told him to get down I pet his head and he locked eyes with me and started snarling in my face while I turned away. I got a big bruise on my arm from where he scratched me. I was so terrified I quickly asked if he wanted a treat and slowly moved off the couch to throw treats in the corner to escape. I was trembling the rest of the night. There was a part of his brain that would switch and there would be no warning. We tried everything. Got him fixed, Consulted over 6 trainers. Paid over 2k for one trainer who seemed promising. Money we still haven’t paid off our credit card. Got him on antidepressants, tried muzzle training and took him on walks every night after 11 pm to avoid any people or dogs. After many sleepless nights and tears trying to figure out how to help him we decided he needed to leave our home. I called every shelter in Florida trying to find a no kill to take him for life. I eventually found a no kill sanctuary that will keep dogs if they can’t be rehomed. When I met with their trainer he was very aggressive to him and my husband. He has no loyalty to anyone. They said they would take him if he becomes less reactive and is muzzle trained. We got to the point where only my husband could handle him and he spent most of his time in his crate due to needing to be watched closely by my husband any time he was out. To make matters worse we adopted another dog (he needed our help) and had to keep them separated 24/7. It was a huge stress and worry that if we make one mistake he could escape and kill our other dog. The final straw was we were eating and my husband gently pulled him down from putting his paws on our table he bit my husband and made him bleed. That moment I knew even if the sanctuary accepted him it’s unfair to burden anyone else with this dangerous dog. Yesterday we took him to the vet to get his shots so he can be boarded at the only place we have ever been able to trust with our dog. While there he was so nasty and aggressive the vet said she didn’t feel comfortable allowing him to be boarded there anymore. After hearing that news and seeing how he was acting we came to terms with the fact that he needed to be put down. If they can’t watch him we would never be able to leave our house for more than a few hours at a time. He won’t allow us to bathe him, touch him, get him medical care. He is being neglected because of his level of aggression. If we can’t take care of him properly what kind of quality of life is that. I have cried so many times over this scenario. We did absolutely everything in our power to save him. My husband and I are devastated. Even though his life was short, I think he was supposed to be with us. I don’t think anyone else would have done this much for him. When he was mentally healthier he had a fantastic, loving, and adventurous life. We love you so much Devildog. I hope you know that.
March 13, 2023
Hey there, Samantha. We’re so sorry to hear about Devildog. 🙁
For what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like you had many other options, and quality of life is always important to think about when making these kinds of decisions.
Understand that the pain does fade with time, so hang in there. Check out some of our resources about pet loss and be sure to focus on the good times you shared together.
We’re sending good vibes in your direction.
March 10, 2023
Currently heartbroken and guilt ridden after putting down my dog Odin (8). He had a laundry list of bites under his belt from the time he was a puppy. Another male from his litter had also been put down for aggression. All his bites were from being startled, which is something we couldn’t fix. I now have 4 children and trying to protect him just became too much for me to mentally handle. I tried rehoming a few years ago and it fell through. My whole life revolved around keeping him safe and now I feel so lost without him here. He was the most loving dog and I will miss him forever.
March 10, 2023
We’re so sorry to hear about Odin, Natalie.
But it sounds like you probably didn’t have any choice — especially with young kiddos running around.
When and if you feel up to it, you may want to consider reaching out to the breeder to let him or her know about the problems. Given that Odin had a brother who also had bite issues, it’d likely behoove the breeder (as well as any future puppies and owners) to look into the problem.
We wish you the best of luck and encourage you to check out our dog loss resources.
March 10, 2023
Thank you for the recommendation. Unfortunately he was a Dixie dog rescue so I’m not sure I could do much.
March 3, 2023
loosing lu lu is not an option. There are 100 and one rules, and they kicked me out for expressing my opinions and fears.
March 2, 2023
I wasn’t sure whether to write this because I’ve never been in this position, in fact never even had a a dog that was at all “reactive” or had problems (which is 1% skill and 99% luck). I just want to say that I think you folks are incredibly loving and responsible to make that decision knowing how much it would hurt yourselves. I wish breeders and rescues would be more responsible ŵhen they send dogs to homes. Life at all costs is not right in such a crowded world. Living in a permanent state of fear and overarousal is ruddy miserable and its own sort of torture and euthansia stops that pain for the dog and you and your families. Maybe in the future we will be able to prevent or treat these issues but right now preventing further suffering is a loving thing to do.
March 2, 2023
Thanks for the kind words, Elizabeth.
February 18, 2023
So blessed, I came across this article while googling about feeling guilty putting down our beloved Mila (Mix Sheperd) because behavior. We adopted Mila form our local shelter after our beloved 12-year-old Princess passed away because of cancer. We have another small mix bulldog rescue and because he seems depressed, we decided to adopt another dog. They started to get along very well but then I noticed when he was with me, she started to be aggressive towards him. Another time, it was so bad they got into a fight and Mila bit him on the face. Also, we noticed, every time we walked her, she will launch toward other dogs and Men’s. I called the shelter to asked if they can give me any feedback on her behavior and her background. They told me she was found on the streets with puppies and when she came to the shelter only was care by female staff. It makes sense and I can see her protective behavior from being a mom. I tried training programs but those had last only a few months and then she goes back to her old behavior. The reason, I have to take the nerve raking the decision to put her to sleep, today we were on a walk and she started to chew on her collard because she saw another dog and with her sharp teeth was able to break (don’t mind, I special leach supposed heavy duty anti chew) I ran after her and my neighbor kid and I broke the fight but the kid got hurt Praise the Lord only scratched but that was a big awaking, what if next time wasn’t scratches. My daughter and I felt like we fail her but reading this article and other people experience give me a peace of mind that I’m not along on this journey and will take time for our family to heal and just remind us that we didn’t do this because we didn’t love Mila it was for the safety and peace of mind of our family and Mila. Since, I will have her for two more day. I’m spoiling her so much and give a lot of TLC. Mila always will be in our hearts.
My apologies for my grammatical errors English is not my first language.
February 20, 2023
Hey there, Rosana.
We’re so sorry to hear about your struggles with Mila. But we’re glad no one has been seriously injured, and we’re pleased that this article (and the comments from other readers) have helped give you some peace.
February 9, 2023
My heart is breaking I bought a 16 month old patterdale on Monday there and when we got in the car he started going for my husband we just thought it was because we where new took him home let him explore the house so my husband went to change his lead he came with to another lead to go a wee walk and the dog was showing his teeth and growling at him anytime he was going near his neck went a walk around the block got home and my kids came home from school and they where so happy about the new dog went to pat him and he went for them and bite my husbands hand at this point we tryed to speak to a vet to see what to do couldn’t get through so went to pets at home where we where told to put a muzzle on him and alot of anxity things to help calm him down and also so he didn’t bite the girls so got home tryed to put muzzle on and he kept going for us I manged to after 2 hours of trying gained a same amount of trust to get it on him thank god we did as my 3 year old had came in to speak to me and the dog went for her face neck area nocked her over and kept trying to get to her I got my daughter and he started going for me so we foned the dog warden who told us to call police and police came and took him away he was held in a police dog kennel for 3 days as vets where refusing to put him down and no rescue place would take him it has been a roller coaster since Monday one police officer found a place for him to go and stay but they couldn’t pick him up till next Thursday so police called this morning and demanded that we make a decison we either take the dog back or take him to pdsa where they said due to police being present they would put the dog down I felt so quilty as it was the case of we have the dog in the van he’s either going to u or pdsa witch then I was told he wasn’t aloud near my home due to the kids so today at 1 o’clock he got put to sleep we asked the periods owner to take him back and was told no I said he will get put to sleep if u don’t to be told maybe its for the best I’m feel so guilty I know he attacked but he was only 16months old
February 10, 2023
We’re so sorry to hear that, Geraldine! Especially since it sounds like these troubles started the moment you tried bringing him home.
We appreciate you sharing your story though, and we wish you the best of luck moving past this difficult situation.
January 13, 2023
Thank you. This is 100% accurate. Thank you. I don’t hate myself right now because of reading this
January 17, 2023
Sorry you’re obviously dealing with a hard situation, MP, but we’re glad the article helped somewhat.
Best of luck moving forward.
January 13, 2023
Thank you so much for this article. My wife and I had to go through this difficult decision with our 3.5 year old American Staffordshire mix Brutus. Most times he was the sweetest boy but had really bad territorial aggression. This past Sunday my wife was cuddling with him on the couch when he tried to attack our ten month old baby- he had shown no signs of aggression before to our baby. His ‘flip’ had switched and he now viewed our baby as an enemy. Thankfully my wife was able to grab him before anything terrible happened. We were left with no other choice but to go with behavioural euthanasia as all shelters were full and he was a danger to our baby. That didn’t make it easy to do. At the vet I laid on his dog bed while they sedated him then he went to sleep. I cried hysterically. I can’t believe it happened. Brutus and I would go on walks at 6 am every day and after work. I don’t know what to do with myself now. I know it was the right thing to do and I’m glad I was there with him while he went to sleep so he was comfortable. I just wish he didn’t have that ‘flip’ switch of aggression. I tried so hard for him to help him but I could only do so much. You will never be forgotten Brutus!
January 13, 2023
Hey there, Ryan.
We’re so sorry to hear about Brutus.
Please consider checking out some of our resources for coping with the loss of a pet.
January 5, 2023
Our beautiful 22 month old Vizsla, that we have had since 8 weeks went back to his breeder two days ago. This is our attempt to give him another chance at life. But the news yesterday was not good and now, knowing Sascha the way I do, I feel we should have compassionately euthanized him here at home, where he is happy and loved and in his safe place. The breeder is a kind and knowing man but Sascha is anxious and sensitive and being in a new strange environment, he has become distressed and has already bitten the breeder and fought with one of the other dogs. The breeder Philip, will phone us today with an update. We can only hope that things will get better for Sascha but in my heart I am doubtful and I am an opportmistic person.
My husband and I spent 3-5 hours everyday running Sascha, off leash and on. He loves people and dogs and could play and run for hours. We went through obedience classes and daily training, agility and one on one sessions with a trainer which helped us with many of Saschas difficulties. He started resource guarding crates and car seats when he was a year and that is when the bites and aggression started, though puppy hood was a huge challenge as well. We worked through a lot and made huge progress but every few months something would trigger Sascha and it was usually when he was pushed to do something he didn’t want to do.
That dog is deep in my heart and soul. I connected with him like no other dog and every day was a joy but also we learnt to always watch his demeanour and were very careful.
Sascha wouldn’t growl or snap but rather lunge and it felt like an attack. And then he would be sad. He is/was a true Velcro dog loving nothing better than cuddling so how could he have this small part of him that was destructive.
After the last bite we contacted the Vizsla society in Ontario and were told a relative of Saschas was in his sixth foster home after a bite in each home. He is on his last chance. VSO stated Sascha could not be rehomed because of his bite history so we contacted the breeder and Philip has taken him back but Sascha is in a kennel and traumatized and unhappy. I fear for him and feel like we have let him down. Saschas brother was also returned to the breeder for aggression so Philip is looking at genetics of Saschas line but this does not help us or Sascha.
I await a phone call today. I am trying to send peace to Sascha, trying in my mind to tell him not to worry, trying to send him comfort.
If Philip feels he should be euthanized I may drive the five hours to be with him at the end. I just want him to be at peace. My pain is awful. I know my husband hurts too. But Sascha is confused and hurting and this is what hurts the most.
January 5, 2023
What a sad story, Deborah. We’re so sorry to hear about your struggles with Sascha.
It definitely sounds like there is at least a predisposition for behavioral challenges in Sascha’s family tree, given the bites and aggression his relatives have demonstrated.
But you’ve clearly done everything you possibly could for him, and we’re sure he’d thank you for all of that love and effort if he could.
We wish you, your husband, and Sascha all of the best. Please consider checking out some of our resources about pet loss, if you think they may help.
January 9, 2023
I’m so sorry you’re going through this traumatic situation. I had to put down my little 16 pound Chihuahua, Oliver. If love alone could have saved him…I tried everything. Two behaviorist, three dog trainers and two vets, meds, and nothing eased his anxiety. I loved him with all my heart and putting a physically healthy but mentally disturbed dog down was truly agonizing. I’m thinking of you and hope you find peace with whatever happens.
December 8, 2022
I don’t know where to begin… My heart hurts and I feel like I’m falling down a deep dark hole with the decision I am being forced to make. My wife and I picked out our English bulldog at 7 weeks old and it was love at first sight. We were inseparable from day one. I took him to work with me every day and carried him around no matter where we were going. As he grew older month to month we noticed he had a very alpha dog mentality with both us and other pets. We chose not to neuter him for whatever reason and the as more time passed by the more macho he became. Eventually we had to deal with our first incident which involved him pining and borderline attacking our other dog that we’ve also had since a puppy over a bowl of food that he felt was his and only his. We thought nothing of it and figured it was normal dog behavior to correct each other and set boundaries. Not too long after that he was hiding underneath our bed and wouldn’t come out when called and my wife decided to reach underneath the bed with her hands to grab him and his toy to get him to go to bed in his crate. He was merely a year old at this time and thats when we experienced our first bite encounter with our pup. He tore right thru her palm and left a eye opening slash between her thumb and index finger. We were so afraid that they were going to take him from us once we went to the hospital so we lied and said he missed his toy and accidently got her hand…. My wife was really shaken up by the whole ordeal and was understandably weary around the big guy. A good amount of time went by incident free thankfully and we moved from California to Florida with our little fur family but left our oldest dog behind with my mother who she was really attached to. In the process of us settling into our new home we started to experience some more of his alpha dog issues. He didn’t seem to respect my wife the way he does me and would let off warning growls from time to time randomly when she would try to get close to him. It eventually lead to our second bite incident which thankfully wasn’t as gruesome as the first time but she was shaken non the less. We talked to a few dog experts and were advised to neuter him to kill his production of testosterone. We even decided to get another pup so that he would have someone to play with at home and not be so lonely. Well… that didn’t help for long. My wife was laying on the couch and he decided to join her and by this time she had regained trust because of how much time had past by without any incidents. She moved her legs to stretch and that was enough for him to get worked up and pounce on her. He didn’t bite this time but when she attempted to run off the couch he decided to chase after her in full attack mode. It didn’t matter how loud I yelled at him to stop and gain control he continued his chase. We then hired a behavior expert which was insanely expensive but we felt like we had control of the situation once again. And like before my wife being the trooper that she is gave him yet another chance and regained trust. We learned that one of his triggers was our feet. He hated being stepped on, tripped on, or being nudged by not just our but anyone’s feet. And we learned that lesson by at least 5 more biting incidents that included friends and family. Again we let it go since they were just nips and only one of the bites lead to actual puncture wounds. I kept excusing his behavior to just “oh he’s just a dog” “he doesn’t know better” “he is getting better” etc. He is a little over 4 years old now and just yesterday morning we were going through our normal morning routines. My wife gets up, opens their kennels, they get some morning love and butt scratches and then they come barreling through our bedroom door to say good morning to me. They went outside to pee and came back inside to receive some more loving. At that point my wife leaned over to kiss me good morning and in the middle of us going over our days schedule she looked down at the floor and started backing away immediately in fear. We didn’t hear any warning growls, no barking, not one warning sign period. He lunged at her with his mouth wide open and caught her by the hand and pinned her against the wall. I was confused as to what was happening being all groggy still from waking up until I heard her screaming and then realized how severe the situation was. I attempted to jump out of bed and pull her towards me onto the bed since he cant jump high enough to reach her but in that process he lunged at her a second time grabbing her arm this time. Her screams are something that will haunt me for the rest of my life… I finally was able to get a hold of him and try to subdue him giving her a chance to escape but our bulldog is 55lbs of muscle and he managed to escape my grip to bite her one last time on her butt cheek before I was finally able to hold him down. We spent the whole day in the hospital ER waiting for her to get stiches on both her hand and arm. She hasn’t stopped shaking from the whole experience and to be honest neither have I. Looking at her wounds and seeing the fear in her eyes I “easily” made the decision in my head that I had to put him down. That this was just too far. It was unfair for her or us for that matter to live in fear of our own dog anymore. I wanted to come home and he be gone already. I didn’t feel like I had the courage to see him… My baby boy, my best friend… I know there is nothing I could do to save him this time. He crossed the line and there isn’t a lie or excuse out there anymore that I could use to keep him around my life. In Florida there is a 10 day quarantine before you could put your pet down after a bite incident. I can’t stress to you guys enough how detrimental this is to my mental state. All day today I’ve struggled to look at him as he waits there as if nothing happened wagging his tail waiting for my love and attention. I feel so guilty like I failed him as his owner and father. I don’t want to send him to a pound to live his last days in a cold kennel alone and afraid. I don’t want to send him off to some no kill sanctuary ranch that says they deal with aggressive dogs and find forever homes for them. I’m terrified that he will be adopted to early and he will bite someone else. I don’t want him to be passed around peoples homes never finding comfort again. He doesn’t deserve that… He is a good boy 90% of the time. I can’t find it in my heart to let him sit in an outdoor kennel abandoned and barked at by 100 other dogs. But I also feel tremendous guilt with ending his life over this. My wife comes first and if this were to happen to anyone else in the future I would never let that guilt go either. So here I am typing a short version of my dogs story as I wait with him in his last days with him not knowing why I am crying. Why I cant look him in the eyes without a lip quiver. It’s day 1 of 10 and I just don’t know if I have it in me to do what is expected of me. I love him so much… why did he do this to us. Why did he put me in this position. We’ve given him nothing but love his whole short life.
I am so thankful I ran into this page. I have been feeling so alone about this and as horrible as it sounds it makes me happy to know that there are others out there who have dealt with or are currently dealing with this trauma. Your words and the words on the comments don’t make my decision any easier but I no longer feel alone or isolated and for that I am thankful. I wish nothing but peace to everyone who has to even search for this topic. I hope I get some peace next week as well… I love you brisket the bulldog… I always will
December 9, 2022
Hey there, Carlos. What a sad story. 🙁
We’re sorry about the issues with Brisket, and we hope your wife recovers from her injuries rapidly. These kinds of situations are absolutely brutal, and you’re right — there’s not much more we can say to help.
Except that you are also right that many owners have had to navigate the same waters you are, so you certainly aren’t “alone” in this.
We hope that you’ll find some peace and that Brisket’s final days go as smoothly as possible.
Please consider checking out some of our resources about pet loss — they’ve helped some of our other readers.
December 29, 2022
Thank you for your testimony. I will take my 2 year old tomorrow for her euthanasia. It is the “adult” and correct decision but I’ve been crying like a kid… it is an awful situation to be in.
January 9, 2023
Carlos, I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I’m crying as I read your story and I feel your pain. It had to be done, but I understand by my own experience with an aggressive dog, the guilt and pain associated with this decision. I hope you find some peace.
September 25, 2022
I appreciate the words of advice and reading other people’s testimonies from your website on BE. It has helped me recover from my loss of Sully. Sully was a beautiful party colored Tibetan Spaniel that had a white marking on his forehead. We said that marking was his Buddha blessing. We had Sully for over five years and played and walked with him every day. I learned how to used positive reinforcement training to get him to focus on me and I used a crate, gates, harness and muzzle to control situations where he needed to be restrained. I kept a journal of bite reports to help me understand his triggers and determine the best type of prevention. I took Sully to my veterinary to euthanize him after he attacked my wife while she was sleeping next to me on the couch. We had settled down in front of the TV and I had let Sully lick my bowl that I had ice cream in. He looked up at her while she slept and started raising his lip and immediately lashed out on her left arm. He bit her three times before I had a chance to sweep him off of her and bit the back of my hand too. I had never seen him bite without warning before this. I lost my trust in him that night. I feared that he was going to hurt me, my wife or the public without any provocation.
We got Sully from a rescue when he was two years old. We fell in love with a dog we found on the internet. The rescue told us that he was a fear biter and needed a secured yard with no small children in the house. Sully could be picked up using a towel over his head and he just needed some training and regular walks to adjust to his new home. When we took him home from the rescue, he jumped out of the car and I had to retrieve him. This happened about three times and on the third time he bit hard into my left hand and tore open my palm. I should have refused him then but I was determined to reform this dog. We took two dogs home from the rescue thinking that the two could work out their issues better than just having one. The second dog, Princess, was a pup that constantly wanted to play with Sully. In three weeks, she quickly out grew Sully in size and wore Sully out to the point that we had to hospitalize Sully for pneumonia. I returned Princess to the rescue. As I worked with Sully, I observed that he lunged and threaten people. He liked other dogs and got along with them on our walks and ignored the dog owner. I had to caution dog owners not to engage with Sully. I stopped my beer drinking habit with Sully because I needed to keep a clear head. When I was venerable, Sully would bite me. He initially liked to play bite the hands and I taught him not to bite so hard by telling him it hurt. I gave him rawhide to work out some of that aggression. He tore up his toys, we went through about eight toy bunnies and three lamb chops. He like to play tug-a-lug with the toys and he did not give them back to throw. Maybe I should have stopped with the tug-a-lug but that was the only way he liked to play. Sully would get excited and worked up in the backyard when he heard the neighbors on the other side of the fence, or a creature in the trees. When I called or approached him, I could not get him to stop barking and come back to the house. If I touched him or pulled his leash, he would bite me. Sometimes he would stop for a treat but not always. If the neighbors try to engage with him, he goes crazy. If someone knocked on the front door, I could not open it. I went out another door and out a side gate to talk them. I had to crate Sully if someone came into our house. I learned early that he had to sleep in a crate at night and not in our bed because we had too many biting issues.
In the last year we noticed his left eye was getting cloudy. After examination by an eye specialist, it was recommended to remove a cataract in the eye. After the proposed surgery, Sully would need eye drops applied three times a day for a month. To put eye drops into his eye, we were shown a towel restraint technique where a towel was put around his neck and the head was pull back to put in the eye drops. We were instructed to practice this technique before scheduling the surgery. We tried to do this at home and it was stressful. Sully was difficult to decoy. We had to be quick about it and not choke him. He would try to get out of the towel and we did not know if he would start biting if he did. After it was done, he was calm. This procedure made him more on edge and we decided to postpone the surgery for now. We thought that the warmer weather was making him more agitated and he might allow us to do the towel restraint during the winter. We noticed that the blindness in his eye made him bite if something was near that he could not see. We also believe that he was less aware of sounds. I noted in my journal that there were about six to eight bite events per year that puncture the skin, typically our hands and fingers. There were fewer biting events from December to May. I made my decision based on the fact that the biting events were not going down and that the last one was unprovoked with serious multiple bites. We also feared that his loss of sight and hearing would make him unmanageable.
September 26, 2022
Hey there, Joseph. We’re so sorry to hear about Sully, but we’re glad the article and comments from readers have helped in some small way.
It certainly sounds like you and your wife did everything in your power to help Sully adjust and live a normal life. Honestly, I don’t think many owners would have put in a fraction of the work you did.
We’re sorry that you had to make such a difficult decision, but you certainly did *everything* humanly possible.
Thank you for sharing Sully’s story.
September 25, 2022
I keep coming back to this article and want to share my story. My pit/lab rescue that I found outside walking the streets with his brother, was in my life for 5 years. I finally put him down because I got pregnant. He bit 2 kids, several adults, and many dogs. He never bit me. I felt like he was only loyal to me, so it was the hardest decision I had to make. Yet knowing his bite history with other children, I knew it wasn’t an option to keep him, and the way he reacted to other dogs/bikes on walks, it would be too difficult to walk him while pregnant. He was very strong. I loved him with all my heart, but I had almost been to court over one of the bites, and I tried to train him a couple times with no success in his behavior changing. Walking him was always a nightmare because of how aggressive he was. He would bark and spin to try and get out of his leash so he could attack. I could have put more time into training him, but the risk on my child’s life in the meantime was not acceptable. It would have also taken a lot of money that I did not have and still don’t. I was able to train him one time with a great trainer because I had no rent while living with parents for a few months. The risk he was toward other people and their children and dogs was not acceptable either. I miss him very much. I feel so guilty to this day but I know I had no other choice.
September 26, 2022
Hey there, Abbey.
We’re sorry to hear about your pooch — reactive dogs can certainly be very challenging to manage.
We hope that you heal from this as quickly as possible and potentially find another four-footer to share your life with in the future.
September 19, 2022
I wanted to thank you for writing this too. We euthanized our sweet five year old dog because of extreme animal aggression. We have been working with her for her whole life and were never able to change her reaction. She would attack any dog she had even the slightest opportunity to get to. She was under constant management and we all lived in fear of making a mistake and having another tragedy happen. She was an angel to humans though. I’ve never met a dog I loved more than her and all I want is to feel her here with me. The guilt and second guessing myself is really hard.
September 26, 2022
Hey there, Pepper.
We’re glad you found the article helpful, but we’re really sorry to hear about the struggles with your pooch.
Be sure to check out some of our other resources about dog loss — they may provide additional comfort.
February 22, 2023
I’m currently on my way to put down my 6 year old pit/Chihuahua mix and it’s the most agonizing decision I’ve ever faced. He is so sweet and loyal to my partner and I, and would never harm us. But our 2 other dogs and cat have been attacked by him so many times, I felt one day he might kill them. He has also bitten children and adults and we just made this decision to protect our other pets and people. I cannot tell you how much it tears me apart, but I take some comfort in knowing I’m not the only one.i wish you all the best and I hope you and your family are coping well. I pray that we can get through this as well.
September 13, 2022
My wife and I have recently come to the decision to euthanize our dog, and I just want to thank the author of this article for mapping out the complex web of emotions that we find ourselves in. This is one of hardest periods of our lives. We love our dog dearly, but the risks are too great. Best of luck to anyone else facing this decision.
September 14, 2022
Hey there, G.
We’re so sorry to hear you find yourself in such a difficult situation, but we’re glad the article help in some small way.
We wish you and your wife the very best.
August 3, 2022
This article has truly helped with the very difficult decision we are making this week.
We have given all we can to our beloved Leo, sadly the ideal rehabilitation homes have a 6 month waiting list.
This is thanks to the irresponsible breeding and puppy mania here in the UK during the pandemic.
We gave exhausted every option for our lad, but feel that this is the ultimate kindness for him. We are giving him a few wonderful days with us rather than putting him through the stress of shelter which, even if they took him which is doubtful the criteria is so strict as they are so over run, would only lead to the inevitable.
This way he goes out absolutely clueless aside from picking up on our wrecked emotions.
I feel for you all that are in this heartbreaking position.
Nobody knows your dog like you do, my heart goes out to you all and wish you strength and courage as you face carrying out this ultimate kindness.
Thank you again for this wise and comforting page.
August 3, 2022
Hey there, Cindy.
We’re glad you found the article helpful. Best of luck moving forward.
July 23, 2022
Thank you for this. We just went through a year-long process of trying to work with our beloved dog, only to come around to the realization that euthanasia was the only option that made sense. I’m heartbroken with no idea where to turn to handle the guilt and grief, so thank you for these resources.
July 24, 2022
I’m so sorry for your loss.
July 9, 2022
Thank you for this article. I was looking on line as we just euthanized our two year old lab mix for multiple attacks to our family members. We’ve counted and he attacked us about 15 times. A lot of those times should have warranted stitches but we didn’t want to get him in trouble so we just bandaged up and moved along. A lot of the time we thought he was protecting me, but sadly these were just excuses. The last two times he bit us it was my husband in April and me in June. He bit my husbands hand so bad that the tendon was showing and he needed stitches in and out. In June, I was sitting on the couch and he wanted me to pet him. I was and the next thing I knew, he was attacking me and my left hand was badly injured. I needed stitches in both hands and the worst part, is my 16 year old daughter witnessed it.
When he attacked us, there was no growl, no warning, just an attack. To clarify, he was about 110 pounds and pure muscle so it was very scary. His bites included my hands, my husbands hands, arms, and legs (he was attacked the most, my older daughters stomach and foot, and my younger daughters face, right by her eye, and her hand as well. We lived in a house of fear but we lived him so much. We had trainers, behaviorists, medications, board and train, you name it, we did it. Nothing seemed to help.
I am thankful that we did have the money to try these things but in the end, we simply couldn’t live like this anymore, just waiting for him to attack.
After he bit me, we decided that was the end. My daughters and I were all on the same page, but my husband was not. It was very hard to make that decision in the house when there’s a person against you. In all honestly, there was NO alternative. He could not be rehomed. No sanctuary would take him. And then it was explained to me what they do in sanctuaries with aggressive dogs. He would be in a pen, a little run with a tiny little “hut”. He would have little to no human contact. How could I do that to him? He wouldn’t be happy.
In our state, we had to wait 10 days from the day he bit someone to euthanize. That was horrible!! I could have lied but my hands told the story. I had a wonderful vet come to my home and take care of it. My daughters and I were with him and he didn’t have to be more stressed by going to the Vet in his muzzle looking like a killer.
There is so much guilt that I feel and I wish I didn’t have to do what I did, but my children and I lived in fear. In the end, I know that we did what was right for him and us.
It’s nice to know that others have been in the same situation and understand.
July 11, 2022
Hey there, Debi.
We’re so sorry to hear about your experiences. For whatever it’s worth, it definitely sounds like you did the right thing, and we applaud you for doing everything you possibly could before resorting to euthanasia.
Thank you for sharing your story — hopefully, it will help some other owner in a similar situation.
We wish you and your family the best of luck moving forward.
April 27, 2022
This article is so timely. We are facing the difficult decision of putting our our pooch. He has become so aggressive unprovoked. He has always been moody, but it is escalated to the point that he bit a pizza delivery person (did not break skin) and also slipped out the front door, ran down a walker and bit her. We have spent a lot of money on trainers/animal behavioralists, we broke his reactivity to the front door, but mistakes happen, like slipping out the door, and I cannot live with the guilt of anything worse happening. It is so unfair to have to do this, but I have anxiety that he will bite a child, and I cannot live with that. Thank you for your kind words.
April 28, 2022
Hey there, Nicole.
We’re terribly sorry to hear about the situation with your pupper — especially given the fact that it sounds like you and your family have tried really hard to address his issues.
But if you’ve exhausted all your options, there simply may not be anything else you can do.
We wish you the very best of luck in this difficult time. Be sure to take a look at some of our resources about dog loss — they may help too.
March 22, 2022
This definitely made me feel not so alone after you described absolutely everything Ive been going through. I moved away from my dog and I was horrified everything would get worse. Then one day I got a call & it did. He had never bitten like this before, but he sent my mom’s friend to the hospital. I was devastated. I still am. And struggling with the guilty feelings & what ifs don’t make anything easier. Im getting back into therapy soon but thank you for this article in the meantime ❤️ It is very comforting knowing other people have been through very similar, horrible situations. Thank you!!
March 22, 2022
Hey there, Olivia.
We’re so sorry to hear about the struggles with your pooch and the injuries your mom’s friend suffered. But we’re really glad you found the article helpful, and we hope the therapy (and time) help you feel better.
We’re sending good vibes your way.
December 30, 2021
Thank you for such a thoughtful article, and especially for acknowledging the conflicting emotions of loss and relief. I’ve been grieving the loss of my dog and spend a lot of time reliving her final moments, contemplating solutions we may have missed. We tried the medication, training, mediation, and CBDs. She had simply become inconsolable since the passing of her previous owner, a family member. I’ve been told that this is not uncommon, but euthanizing her felt like the ultimate betrayal of her previous owner. I’ve felt like I have no right to mourn though, since it was ultimately me, her sole advocate, who made the call to end her life. It’s hard to explain my sadness to people who knew of her aggression. To everyone else, even our family, the choice was obvious. For me though, it feels wrong. I still keep a jar of her bedtime treats just in case she comes back.
December 31, 2021
We all can only do our best with our current situation, and it sounds like you did the best you could to help her. It is undeniably a confusing situation to be in, but you do have the right to mourn. You’ve lost someone you cared deeply for, regardless of the scenario.
November 19, 2021
I reallyappreciate your article. I had a dog that I put down because of BE. I always ruminate, that i didnt do enough. Suffering from mental illness myself and having so much improvement on Prozac, how could I not try it on my rescue. Her vet said it wouldn’t work for her. But i’ve read so many stories about people who tried it and it did work. I was exhausted. The dog I had before her i raised from a puppy, and she developed cds. She bit me multiple times every night for 4 monts. She was small so i allowed it. I finally euthanized her. I was tramatized and still am, Because I asked the shelter for any dog except one that bites, but it’s my fault, Because i knew and i wanted to save her. I couldnt leave her in jail the rest of her life.
November 19, 2021
We’re glad the article helped, but we’re sorry you needed to read it in the first place.
It’s never easy to euthanize a pet, so please be sure that you take care of yourself during the mourning process.
You may want to check out our article about coping with the loss of a pet and see if that provides any more help.
Best of luck!
August 19, 2022
Last night was one of the hardest nights I’ve ever had as a pet owner. My staffy mix (from the streets of Chicago) was so loving to us, but kept getting into fights with my other dog & was aggressive on leash to any other animals.
Last night, she & my other dog got into another “tizzy”, one that I’ve done my best to prevent (any aggression triggers are an aggressive dog owners worst fear & constant worry. Behavioral books, vets, specialists, all give you the know how, but not everything is full proof.) however my 3 year old had a French fry, and this tizzy went from a 2 on the aggression scale, to my staffy completely “switching” into survival kill mode. My husband broke them apart, getting badly bitten in the process- and if he had been 5 or 10 seconds too late our other dog would have been killed.
(Our other dog ended up with staples in her head, 10 stitches in her mouth, 8 stitches on her leg, with multiple other bites that were dressed & cared for. She’s currently home & healing, but is in rough shape).
When my beloved staffy “switched” back, it was too late. We had already seen something that we couldn’t ignore, and all of this happened a foot away from my toddler (with another baby on the way).
She was constantly in shelters & had multiple incurable health issues. We promised her she’d always have a home with us. We loved her so much.
I feel so much guilt, because we opted for euthanasia. We wanted her to know she was loved and cared for right to the end, instead of being put in another cage & unloved only to be euthanized anyway.
I’m heartbroken. My head & heart are at a constant battle, wondering if I made the right choice.
August 19, 2022
Hey there, Pogoria.
We’re so sorry to hear about your pup and the decision you had to make. We’re also sorry to hear about your other dog’s injuries and wish her a speedy recovery.
We obviously can’t tell you if you made the “right” decision as there is no objectively “right” decision to be made in these circumstances. You simply have to make the best decision you can for all parties involved. But I can tell you that it certainly sounds like you tried your best to do exactly that, and that’s all any of us can ever do in these situations.
We wish you the best of luck moving forward and would encourage you to check out some of our resources about dog loss — they’ve proven helpful for other readers in similar situations.