When Should an Aggressive Dog Be Euthanized?

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Dog Behavior By Erin Jones 31 min read January 6, 2023 88 Comments

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when to euthanize a dog

Deciding to euthanize a beloved pet is one of the most difficult decisions that anyone can possibly make. Especially when it comes to behavioral euthanasia – the decision to euthanize a dog for severe behavioral concerns. 

Though this option is never made lightly, there are a small percentage of dogs who will never be manageable or fixable. They are dangerous to themselves and others and thus are living a poor quality of life in solitude via extreme management measures. 

You should never have to make this type of decision alone. A behavior consultant and your veterinarian can help to guide you through the decision. But ultimately, the decision is personal. It’s yours to make. 

Below, we will discuss some of the things you’ll need to consider before deciding whether to euthanize your dog for his aggressive behavior or continue with management strategies and behavior modification.

Key Takeaways: When Should an Aggressive Dog Be Euthanized?

  • Some aggressive dogs may be dangerous enough to warrant euthanasia.
  • You’ll want to make these types of decisions in conjunction with your veterinarian and a certified canine behavior consultant.
  • It is important to consider your living situation and the resources you have to offer when deciding whether or not to euthanize an aggressive dog.
  • There are a few viable alternatives to euthanasia, which may work in some circumstances.

Signs and Behaviors That Dog Euthanasia May Be Warranted

Every dog and every situation will differ, and the decision to euthanize an aggressive dog will ultimately come down to the severity and danger level of the situation.

When considering euthanasia, you’ll want to think about the following four things:  

1. The Intensity Level of the Aggression. 

A canine behavior consultant can help you to assess the severity of the situation using Ian Dunbar’s Bite Scale or Dr. Sophia Yin’s Canine Bite Levels.

Both scales have six categories:

  • Level 1: The dog snaps at a person but does not make contact.  
  • Level 2: The dog actually bites the victim and achieves tooth on skin contact, but causes no puncture wound.
  • Level 3: The dog’s bite penetrates the victim’s skin, but the wound is  shallower than the length of a canine tooth.
  • Level 4: The dog not only bites, but he clamps down and/or shakes his head too. Because of the clamping and pressure applied, the wounds are deeper than the length of a canine tooth.
  • Level 5: The dog inflicts multiple bites or attacks victims multiple times. 
  • Level 6: The dog bite leads to the victim’s death.  
bite levels

If a dog has a bite history, it is important to note the frequency and severity of the bites that have occurred. Generally speaking, the more severe or frequent the bites are, the more likely you’ll have consider euthanizing your dog.   

2. The Absence of Warning Signals 

Almost all dogs give a warning before they bite — very few bites happen “out of the blue.” In fact, there is usually an escalation from mild stress signals, to severe warnings, to an eventual bite if the warnings are not heeded.

However, in some rare cases, a dog may not give any warnings at all. This could be due to medical or neurological issues. It could also be because he’s been punished for giving warnings in the past. 

Dogs who fail to give warnings are often considerably more dangerous than dogs who communicate their feelings before reaching their breaking point

canine aggression ladder

3. Unpredictable Behavior 

If your pup displays warning signs, such as growls, snarls, or stress signals, when he gets upset, then his behavior is predictable. If you know his triggers – for example, he becomes agitated or anxious when he thinks you’ll take away his food (aka resource guarding) – his behavior is also predictable. 

This is a good thing.

Predictable behavior is often manageable behavior. We can prevent bites from happening and work to modify his underlying feelings of fear or anxiety to decrease the likelihood of a future bite. 

However, if your dog is truly not giving any warning signals or there are no discernible patterns to his aggressive behavior, it can be incredibly difficult to manage him and to ever feel truly safe.

This could result in a dog who spends the majority of his time kenneled for preventative measures, decreasing his quality of life.

4. Size of the Dog 

It isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but size matters when considering behavioral euthanasia. Clearly a large German shepherd or cane corso can do much more damage than a papillon. 

This is not breed discrimination; it is simply an undeniable fact that larger breeds are capable of inflicting much more severe wounds than smaller breeds.

This means that you may have to consider euthanasia more seriously for a larger dog than a smaller dog, even if they have similar bite histories. 

behavioral euthanasia for dogs

The Potential Ramifications of an Attack or Bite 

When trying to decide if euthanasia is appropriate, it’s important to consider the consequences of caring for an aggressive dog. Especially if the dog has already done something serious, such as biting a child or killing another dog. 

Ultimately, in the United States and many other Western counties, our dogs are considered property. That means we are financially, emotionally, morally, and legally responsible for their actions.

That means you’ll want to consider what could happen if your dog bites someone. This includes:

Physical Injury

As we have discussed, bites can vary in severity, but almost certainly, bites usually get worse over time (more frequent and/or more virulent). But whether this is your dog’s first bite or the most recent of many, the results can be very serious.

In a best-case scenario, a minor bite could be simply startling and painful. It may not cause punctures or bleeding, but perhaps bruising and broken trust. Minor bites might also cause small punctures, and it’s important to visit your doctor in order to have the wound properly cleaned and tended to.

But in a worst-case scenario, there could be multiple bites and head shaking. This could result in very serious wounds, including lacerations, severe bleeding, or broken bones. In extreme cases, these injuries could ultimately lead to the victim’s death.

In such scenarios, you may even have to use emergency intervention to stop the attack and contain the dog. No one wants to imagine that this kind of thing could happen, but sadly, it can

Mental or Emotional Trauma

If there is one thing that is particularly upsetting for dog parents, it’s having your very own dog behave aggressively towards someone. Particularly if the target of your dog’s aggression is someone in your household or if that target person is you.

But there’s no getting around it: Mental and emotional trauma often follows a dog bite or attack. 

We tend to feel as though we have failed our pups in these situations. That they must not love us. That we are “bad” dog parents. Or, that somehow, it’s our fault.

On the other hand, for those who have been attacked by a dog, whether it’s their own dog or a strange dog, there is an inherent underlying fear that often develops towards that dog, or any dog. 

Unfortunately, the trauma of an injury goes far beyond the physical wounds and may scar our minds forever.

dog euthanized for aggression

Legal Ramifications 

In most places, dogs are considered our property under the eyes of the law. Therefore, the liability you carry for your dog can be based on the idea of negligence

This can be in the form of failing to properly secure your dog or entrusting him with someone deemed unfit to restrain him, for example. According to Rebecca Wisch from Michigan State University College of Law, the court may consider several things when deciding whether a dog owner is negligent: 

  • Was your dog’s action categorized as a “dangerous” activity?
  • Does your dog have a bite history or a history of aggressive behavior
  • If so, did the defendant have any knowledge of your dog’s aggressive history?
  • Was your dog’s dangerous behavior what caused the harm?

Therefore, if you have prior knowledge that the dog has behaved aggressively and haven’t done your due diligence to manage your dog, you could be liable.

Some states may also impose a more stringent specification called “strict liability”. In those states, the liability is automatically yours for attacks, bites, or injures. You may even be held liable for damages if your dog simply chases someone. 

In other words, it’s not necessary to prove that the owner was negligent in these states.  

Additionally, nearly all states, most Canadian provinces, and several countries have some laws that govern what can be termed “dangerous dog” laws.  

This could result in anything from breed specific bans to “strict liability” for dog parents of “dangerous breeds or dogs”. This strict liability law may also mean that you will be liable regardless of whether the person who was bitten was trespassing on your property or not.  

Financial Ramifications 

Vet bills, doctor’s bills, and training costs could be the very least of your worries following a dog bite. You could also get sued if your dog bites another person or animal. 

Insurance policies may provide you with some financial protection. However, not all insurance policies will cover the costs associated with a bite, and the amount could also be in excess of your policy payout. 

euthanize a dog after biting

Owner Considerations When Debating Euthanasia

There is no one size fits all answer to whether someone should euthanize their dog for behavioral reasons. It’s a personal and often devastatingly hard decision. Always speak with your veterinarian and certified behavior consultant before you make any decision

The following may help you decide when it is right to have a conversation:

Your Resources 

You will need to decide if you have the resources to both manage your dog and to be able to work on a treatment plan.

Everyone who makes the decision to euthanize their dog loves them very much. We want to do what’s best for them. But despite what you read and hear, love isn’t always enough.

It is emotionally exhausting managing a dog with serious behavioral issues. It can also be very expensive to work with your behavior consultant and veterinary team.

Knowledgeable behavior consultants cost anywhere from $80 – $100 or more per hour. Online behavior consultations can bring down costs considerably, but for extreme cases of aggression, in-person work is often preferable.

Your Living Situation 

There are a lot of variables to consider when living with a severely aggressive dog. It is important to consider the costs and benefits of living in a home with these types of serious behavioral issues. 

For example, you’ll want to consider if there are:

  • Children in the house
  • Frequent visitors
  • Other dogs or pets

Also consider whether these are avoidable or manageable variables, and how much this might affect both you and your dog’s quality of living. For example, is it feasible to keep your dog separated from most other people?

Do you have a way to ensure your dog still gets exercise, affection, and everything else he needs to enjoy a high quality of life, while being managed in a way that prevents him from biting anyone?

These variables may be out of your control and they may be a vital component to your life. 

dog aggression solutions

Your Dog’s Age 

Age may or may not play a factor in your decision. Overall, I would say that age doesn’t matter.

Any dog of any age can become aggressive for many reasons, including  medical-, psychological- or trauma-related issues. It could be genetics, and sadly, there’s not much we can do about that other than to continue to push for better breeding regulations. 

However, there may be other factors you’ll want to weigh when making your decision.

If your senior dog has suddenly become unpredictably aggressive in part due to a cognitive decline at the age of 13, you may decide that he has had a great life until this point and there is likely only going to be regression from here on out.

If, on the other hand, you have a young puppy showing aggressive behaviors, diligent hard work with behavior modification and behavioral medication may be successful. But just because he is young, doesn’t mean that it’s a solvable problem 100% of the time.

Your Dog’s Breed 

Dogs are individuals. Of course, some dogs have been bred specifically with certain drives and traits in mind. But aggression is not a breed-specific trait, and any dog of any breed can act aggressively

However, some breeds are larger and stronger than others, making their bite force simply much more dangerous to the victim. A standard poodle, for example, by weight and size alone, can do more damage than a miniature poodle.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Contemplating Euthanasia

how to decide if euthanasia is right

Owners of aggressive dogs have a lot to look at when considering if behavioral euthanasia is the right decision. It’s not always a black and white question and answer, and gray areas may exist that need to be explored.

Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA says it best: 

“It’s not as simple as just determining if a dog is human aggressive when considering euthanasia. There are important variables to consider such as type of human aggression, intensity of aggression, how long the dog has been presenting with the behavior, size of the dog, human bite history and whether there are treatment options with a realistic positive prognosis.”

We’ll explore this issue in greater detail below. 

1. Is My Safety or My Family Members’ Safety Compromised?

Most importantly, you must consider everyone’s safety when contemplating euthanasia. This includes the safety of you, your dog, as well as the safety of other people and animals in your home. 

If your dog is a constant threat to others, the situation is not only dangerous but also stressful for everyone — including your dog. Living in a constant state of terror is no way to live at all, and you can’t risk yourself or others if the aggression is unmanageable. 

That being said, there are a number of management tools you can employ to keep your family safe, including:

  • Muzzles. Especially useful for walks and outdoor settings where your dog may be in contact with the public and other strange animals.
  • Gates. Gates can be used to seperate animals in the home or keep a resource-guarding dog isolated safely while he eats. Gates can also be set up in doorways or foyers to double-secure a dog from escaping via an outside-facing door.
  • Crates. A crate can be used to isolate a dog when company is over, or when a dog needs to be left alone while eating.

Everyone has a different idea of what kind of scenarios are “safe” and which are manageable. However, the management tools listed above can go a long way towards mitigating risk. Canine management solutions are often best employed while an owner seeks out veterinary help or a consultation with a certified behaviorist to begin working on medication and/or a training plan.

You’ll also need to consider who else resides in your household. Many owners have less tolerance for an aggressive dog in a home with small children as opposed to a home with only adults. This also means looking at your dog and realizing what he’s capable of.

When a dog bites a child, the amount of damage can vary a lot based on the child’s age and the dog’s size. A large, powerful breed is more likely to inflict serious harm (or -rarely – even death) on a child, while a small or toy breed dog is not

2. How Much Am I Willing to Modify My Living Arrangement?

Unfortunately, housing and caring for an aggressive dog can essentially feel like a full-time job.

You must provide an environment where safety is paramount for everyone, with an escape-proof home and outdoor time that is carefully monitored to ensure your dog is secured at all times. In some instances, this may mean keeping him muzzled when out on walks or upgrading your fencing.

You’ll also have to forgo some of the fun things other dogs and their people get to enjoy

You probably will not, for example, be able to welcome visitors into your home or casually chill at the local coffee shop with your pooch. And visits to the dog park may be complete non-starters. These don’t necessarily need to be deal-breakers, but you will want to consider how much you value these activities.

If you absolutely love to host parties and gatherings with friends nearly every weekend, and you have a dog who is terrified of strangers and has severely bitten guests in the past, there is a compatibility issue. This doesn’t need to result in euthanasia, but it will require a reframing of your values or the consideration of rehoming.

In other cases, the living arrangement is simply bringing on too much stress for the dog. A timid dog may struggle to handle the loud noises associated with city life, and resort to aggression to keep scary cars and bicycles at bay.

Again, this doesn’t need to result in euthanasia, but it will require some consideration as to what your dog’s ideal home might look like – and is such a home even a possibility?

Also, it’s important to realize that your dog may only allow you or select people to care for him

This makes traveling very challenging. Trips away may require more experienced dog handlers to dogsit or require you to board your dog in facilities that cater to aggressive dogs, all of which can come with a considerable cost. You’ll also have to consider the possibility that you’ll suffer an unexpected illness or injury. If you’re incapacitated or unable to care for him normally, who will take care of him? 

3. How Much Time and Effort Am I Willing to Put In?

You must be honest with yourself about how much time you have to devote to work on training with an aggressive dog and what your abilities are in regards to training

Some questions to ask include:

  • Can you work with a professional for the months (or more) it may take?
  • Can you afford to pay for this training and any equipment or medications necessary?
  • Are you willing to work with a dog who has frightened you or injured you in the past?

It’s never easy to ask these questions.

A dog is a serious commitment, and you do owe it to your dog to at least do the basics, which include:

  1. Consult with your veterinarian. You’ll always want full labs and bloodwork performed on an aggressive dog to see if there is an underlying medical issue that could be at play.
  2. Reach out to a Certified Canine Behavior Expert. A behavior expert can help you identify why your dog is demonstrating aggressive behaviors and help you develop a training plan. They can be pricey, but many offer online options as well that are more affordable.

Even after following these steps, you may find that you simply don’t have the time or ability to work with an aggressive dog. Maybe you are a caretaker for an elderly relative, or already have your hands full with three children at home.

There are many reasons why you may be unable to devote such extensive amounts of time to working with your dog on his aggression issues (and make no mistake, it will indeed take a significant amount of time to resolve).

For the vast majority of aggressive dogs, there are behavior plans that can help a dog improve. But, especially for an inexperienced dog owner, it can still take months and months of work. Even years.

Sometimes the cost associated with rehabbing an aggressive dog is just too high. Not just the financial cost (which yes, can be considerable) but the emotional and time cost as well.

Different individuals may be at different points in their life when they need to contemplate how to handle their aggressive dog. Some are better suited to handle the emotional burden and stress than others. Some are interested in dog training and up for the challenge, while others are not.

Let me say – there is no shame in deciding you don’t want to devote the next years of your life to rehabbing a problem dog, especially a dog you’ve adopted without knowledge of their issues, and especially when the aggressive bouts are difficult to manage and difficult to predict.

4. What Type of Aggression is My Dog Displaying? How Severe is it?

As we’ve discussed, there are various types of dog aggression, and it’s important to evaluate all dogs on a case-by-case basis

For example, there’s a clear difference between a dog-aggressive pupper who reacts to other canines and a people-aggressive dog that poses a risk to humans.

Dog-on-dog aggression is far easier to handle and less of a danger than human-directed aggression. 

There are also varying degrees of aggression toward people; some dogs may only growl at humans, while others may lunge or actually attempt to bite strangers. And there’s even a lot of variation among dogs who bite. Some will only deliver warning nips that don’t break the skin, while others will deliver full-power bites that cause traumatic injuries requiring stitches. 

Ultimately, the more severe the aggression and reaction, the greater the risk to others. And the greater the risk to others, the more seriously you need to consider behavioral euthanasia. If your dog has been known to bite with enough force to put someone in the hospital, you’re dealing with a much higher-risk situation than a dog that barely breaks skin.

While most dogs display subtle warning signs prior to a bite which can be detected with some basic understanding of dog body language, some dog aggression may be idiopathic, meaning it’s of unknown origin. Idiopathic aggression is often the most dangerous form of aggression, as it tends to be unpredictable

Dogs with idiopathic aggression tend to struggle in most home settings and are an ongoing risk to those around them. Their reactions are often sudden and explosive, which can result in serious and terrifying injuries.

5. What Kind of Legal Liability Am I Willing to Take On?

It’s important to know that owning a dangerous dog may not be legal where you live, especially if you’re in an apartment or renting a home. 

If your dog has a bite history or has been legally deemed a dangerous dog, you may be bound by the court to uphold certain living conditions. For example, in New York, you may be required to carry a liability insurance policy and muzzle your dog at all times in public. 

In other cases, the dog may even be seized and euthanized without your consent.

An aggressive dog can also make finding and keeping homeowner’s insurance difficult. And if you find coverage, you will likely pay a premium rate if your dog has a bite history. Never lie on these forms, as tempting as it might be to save a few bucks. 

In addition to the claim being denied if your dog bites someone, you might face legal trouble for falsifying insurance forms.

6. Can My Dog Still Have a Good Quality of Life?

It’s important to consider this question carefully: Does my dog have a good quality of life? Beyond his basic needs, is it possible to also achieve his emotional needs? This may differ from dog to dog. 

An older Lhasa apso may be quite content to stay on his property for the rest of his life and enjoy your company solely. But a young husky may find this kind of life very depressing and stressful.  

Ask yourself: 

  • Is my dog able to experience life the way he should or could? Or is he spending 15 hours a day in a kennel because he can’t be trusted around people or another dog in the home? 
  • Are you able to provide him the proper care he needs, or is it too risky to handle him? 
  • Is management so restricting that his entire agency and ability to express natural behaviors inhibited?

If your pooch is going to spend 99% of his time kenneled or alone, he isn’t going to enjoy much of a life. 

And depending on what’s causing the aggression, this environment may make the situation far more volatile and stressful. 

When a dog is so aggressive that he can’t interact with anyone or anything without becoming dangerous, it’s time to consider his mental well-being going forward. 

The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary says it best: 

“Ask yourself: Is my pet having more bad days than good? Can he still enjoy his favorite activities? Is he able to spend time with his people, or does he need to be isolated for safety?”

It’s very normal to have a lot of guilt when contemplating behavioral euthanasia for a dog, but sometimes it’s the safest option for humans as well as the most humane option for the dog.

While you need to consider the safety and well-being of you, other people, and other pets, you must also take your dog’s quality of life into account when trying to figure out a path forward. 

These are tough questions to face, but they are imperative to help guide you through this very emotional decision. 

Alternatives to Euthanizing an Aggressive Dog: What Else Can You Try?

alternatives to dog euthanasia

In some instances, there are alternatives to euthanizing an aggressive dog. 

These alternatives aren’t always appropriate, and dog aggression is an incredibly nuanced issue that should always involve a certified dog behavior expert. But, you may find one of the following solutions will allow you to avoid behavioral euthanasia if your dog’s aggression is manageable or if a change in environment could be a major factor.

It’s best to exhaust all options before you consider the possibility of euthanasia. Some of the best alternatives to euthanasia include:


You may be able to rehome your dog if his aggression doesn’t put other humans in danger.

As an example, you may be able to rehome a dog-aggressive canine or if you can find a suitable family that doesn’t have any other dogs. The same holds true for dogs who don’t do well with cats – there are plenty of homes out there that are feline-free and might not care much if their dog has a high prey drive that doesn’t mix well with cats. 

Perhaps a home without children, or other dogs would be a better fit for your pooch. Or maybe a home that is less busy or located in a rural area. 

In these instances, you must ensure the dog is going to responsible owners who are fully aware of the dog’s issues. You must disclose any bite history to prospective owners. Not only is this just the right thing to do, but you may be held legally liable for any damages that occur if you do not.

However, in many other situations, rehoming won’t be a solution for dogs displaying severe aggression. Or heck, even moderate aggression – most folks aren’t interested in bringing home a bite risk. Your chances at rehoming might be a bit better if your dog is a specific breed with a big fanbase or a breed that’s somewhat rare.

Some breed advocates who are crazy about certain types of dogs may be more willing to overlook problem behaviors.

Rehoming your dog is not a guarantee that your dog’s quality of life or behaviors will improve. But for some dogs, it very well could.

Surrendering an Aggressive Dog to a Shelter


Relinquishing an aggressive dog to a shelter is a potential alternative to behavioral euthanasia, but it is rarely a reasonable, responsible, or ethical choice. 

Most shelters cannot or will not adopt out an aggressive dog or one with a documented bite history. In many such cases, the dog will be euthanized in an unfamiliar, stressful, and scary environment without his loved ones nearby. And that’s almost too horrible to type, let alone consider. 

In other cases, your poor pooch may spend the rest of his life in a small kennel with little interaction at a no-kill shelter. Some would argue that this is even worse than euthanizing him. 

With all that said, it may be worth calling a shelter or rescue and asking if they’re willing and able to accept an aggressive dog. But don’t hold your breath — this alternative is worth exploring, but it’s unlikely to work out in the end. 

And as with rehoming, you must disclose any bite history or aggressive tendencies when surrendering to a shelter

Intensive Training and a Comprehensive Behavior Plan

Behavior modification can sometimes help address a dog’s aggressive behavior.

But it’s essential to choose someone who is very qualified with aggression cases and follows a scientific and modern approach to behavior modification. 

A good starting place is the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants or a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist. A professional can build a treatment plan using counter-conditioning techniques and systematic desensitization.

managing an aggressive dog

This isn’t a quick fix, and seeing progress with your dog will take time, effort, dedication, and money. It also means disregarding any harmful training tactics, terms, or punishments you’ve heard about in the past, such as alpha-rolling or dominance — these are only going to make the situation worse.

Some owners may be interested in sending their dog away to a doggy boot camp for intensive training, but shipping a dog off to a board-and-train facility isn’t recommended in most cases – especially not for aggression issues.

We won’t go as far as to say these programs are always traumatizing or counterproductive, but the good ones are somewhat rare. You have to really do your homework to ensure that you select one that eschews aversive training methods that may make your dog’s aggression worse upon returning home. 

Plus, aggression is not the kind of issue that can be resolved with a two-week boot camp. While ethical, well-managed board-and-train facilities can at times be successful for teaching obedience or basic manners, these programs will absolutely not be able to fix aggression cases.

Aggressive behaviors are situational and often fairly specific. Not only that, but a lot of successful behavior modification will involve you and how you respond and handle his problem behaviors.

This isn’t to say you are necessarily at fault for your dog’s aggression, but his recovery will be based a lot on how you manage and redirect his behavior, and how you desensitize and counter-condition him to triggers. The hard, long work required relies on your effort, not a third party.

Over time, these techniques can be successful in helping your pup to change his reflexive negative emotional reactions to something more positive and to teach him alternative coping strategies. 

Additionally, a professional can help you to understand the root cause of your dog’s aggression and how to better read and understand his body language.

Behavioral Medications 

There are several types of pharmaceutical products out there, from fluoxetine and tricyclic antidepressants to SSRI’s that may help with the underlying fear or anxiety related to your dog’s aggressive behavior. 

You will need to speak with your vet about the different options and what might be best for your dog. Medication, however, is not a solution on its own and should always be used in conjunction with behavior modification.

Behavioral medications can be effective for dogs suffering from certain types of aggression, but they don’t work for all forms of aggression. Also, medications are variably effective among dogs — some dogs exhibit fantastic results, but others don’t seem to improve much at all. 

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to discuss the issue with your vet and see if he or she thinks behavior-altering medications would be appropriate in your dog’s specific case

It’ll also give you the chance to verify that your dog’s aggression isn’t being caused by an underlying medical condition — something you should always try to rule out when faced with a difficult dog.

Management Strategies

Depending on the situation, it may be possible to keep your dog away from other people and/or animals through secure housing and safety measures. These kinds of practices are often referred to as management strategies.

For example, if your dog is aggressive with other people or pets yet gentle and loving with you, you may want to consider this option. Especially if your lifestyle doesn’t require your dog to be exposed to other people or pets very often.  

This may mean using a crate or gate (with small dogs) to keep him away from visitors or using a muzzle when it’s impossible to avoid others, such as during vet trips. You may also have to do things like seek out uncrowded parks to visit for exercise and canine enrichment, and take extra precautions when allowing him to enjoy the backyard.

Muzzling is one of the most versatile and powerful management options out there to keep everyone safe when working with an aggressive dog.

There are some wonderfully designed options out there for everyday use, such as the Baskerville Ultra muzzle or Bumas, and others that are similarly designed “basket” muzzles. 

muzzles for a dog

The Muzzle Up! Project has excellent tutorials on how to fit a muzzle and condition your dog to enjoy wearing a muzzle as well, all delivered by experts in the field.

Other management options may include double leashes and a harness when walking providing extra control and a back-up safety measure should one leash fail.

Additionally, you can install a safe and well-constructed fence for containment, or place your dog in a kennel when visitors come over. These tools, when used wisely, may help you to prevent an unfortunate situation from happening.

Living with an aggressive dog is stressful, but it is manageable in some cases.

You’ll simply need to consider your dog’s behavior, your living situation, and your willingness to do the things necessary to keep people, pets, and your dog safe. 

No management, however, is foolproof. And it’s strongly advised to seek professional assistance. 

Finding Help for Your Aggressive Dog

Deciding whether or not to euthanize an aggressive dog varies from difficult to outright gut wrenching. So, avoid trying to make the call by yourself. 

Instead, discuss the issue with professionals, including your vet and a certified behaviorist. 

Not only can this help steer you in the right direction and rule out underlying causes (like medical conditions), but it can provide peace of mind long-term and avoid an endless circle of could have-should have-would have in your subconscious. 

Ultimately, this is your decision to make, and you know your dog best. But get the input of others who can help.  

But that doesn’t mean you can just open Google and pick the first person that shows up — you have to carefully choose the professionals to guide you.

For example, many trainers claim to specialize in aggressive dogs and promise the stars. They’ll often “guarantee” results before they’ve even assessed your pup. 

Approach these types of trainers with caution (read: avoid them entirely).

For starters, the dog-training industry is completely unregulated, which means anyone can call themselves a trainer. Many of these so-called “trainers” use toxic methodologies that can backfire and worsen aggression or get someone seriously hurt. 

Also, no reputable trainer will ever guarantee results, as some dogs are simply impossible to rehabilitate. For that matter, a lot of dog rehabilitation hinges upon the owner’s actions — something the trainer has no control over. 

In fact, trainers aren’t the ideal professionals to work with aggressive dogs, anyway

Instead (and in addition to your vet), you’ll want to consult with a veterinary behaviorist or certified dog behavior consultant

  • A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who’s trained to be a board-certified animal behavior professional. They can properly assess the connection between your dog’s health and his behavior, and then recommend solutions that may work. 
  • A certified dog behavior consultant undergoes rigorous, science-based training of dog behavior and training techniques, including the assessment and management of aggressive dogs. These professionals are capable and well-trained, but they are not veterinarians. 

There are benefits to working with either of these types of professionals, but both are equipped with the specialized training necessary to handle dog aggression properly.


Making the decision to euthanize your dog is a personal one. No one can make that decision for you. However, there are resources and professionals who are out there to help you. The first thing is to let go of the idea that all dogs can be rehabilitated through love. 

Have you ever faced this decision with a dog in your life? Tell us your story. Your story may help others to know that they are not alone.

Types of Dog Growls
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Types of Dog Growls: What is My Dog Growling About?

Written by

Erin Jones

Erin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. After completing her MSc in Anthrozoology, Erin moved to New Zealand early in 2019 to complete her PhD at the University of Canterbury – New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies. Her research focuses on the ethics and social constructs of the human-dog relationship and humane training practices. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband and their dog, Juno.


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We are dealing with this right now. We have 3 small dogs, and one we adopted when he was a puppy. He is 3 years old now and has been on anxiety medicaiton and it never really helped him. He has bit 6 people in the last 2 years and the mail lady today. I don’t trust him around kids and the teens at home can’t even play with him because he can get worked up and bite. He has started growling at our oldest dog now, just in passing. We have three kids with special needs and I don’t know what to do. We can’t afford behavior plans in our area to help him. We don’t want him to go to a shelter and then be scared and not be adopted; OR be adopted and then abused for his behavior. I have been thinking about this and I feel like a horrible person for thinking that euthanasia might be the best thing for him. I think that if we go through with it that my kids will hate me forever, but I have to be the grown up here. His bites are getting more severe and frequent and I have elderly parents that visit daily, that he still barks at every time. He has bitten both of my parents, and my mom has an immune problem where she can develope severe infections really easily if her skin gets broken. Bottom line is that I just don’t trust him. Any more advice that anyone can give me?

Ben Team

Hey there, Kim. We’re so sorry to hear about the problems you’re experiencing with your pooch.

It definitely sounds like your pup needs the help of a certified dog behavior consultant — six bites is not the kind of thing to take lightly (especially when there are kiddos and elderly parents involved). So, the best thing may be to try some creative financing options (such as a GoFundMe campaign) if at all possible. You may even find a behaviorist willing to let you pay for services over time.

But if that’s a complete non-starter, you may want to consider management options.

Essentially, that means managing your dog in a way that reduces or eliminates his opportunities to bite anyone. For example, you may want to just section off a portion of your home with dog gates or fitting him with a muzzle when company visits. You can even employ management strategies to keep your dogs separated from each other (I do this with my own pups).

I realize neither of these options are ideal, but they may help you avoid euthanasia.

We wish you the very best of luck!


We had a beautiful 4 year old labradoodle that was a rescue to us 3 1/2 years ago. She bit many times. We could not have her around other dogs, we had to put her under anesthesia to be groomed. We were always a bit anxious when guests were over. We spent a fortune on trainers, medication, vet bills. We loved her. This week she bit my elderly mother whom she loves. The injury was bad and required sutures. That was our decision maker. The question I asked was is this dog safe to be around people…… unfortunately no. After consulting with several of our veterinarians we made the agonizing decision to euthanize her. We are devastated but feel that was are only option left. I hope this helps you with your decision.


I am currently going through this heartbreaking situation now. I have an 8-year-old mini labradoodle who has been with us since he was 7 weeks old. He has always been a handful, constantly nipping, and high energy, overstimulated. We had a trainer early on who said he needed medication because he was so overstimulated he could not focus on any training. For the past 6 years, we tried numerous medications and have had him on fluoxetine for about about 3 years. He has been extremely aggressive on leash lunging, pulling, barking, zig-zagging, pretty much impossible to walk. He would behave like this even if there were no people or dogs on the street. If people or dogs came around it would be even worse. It has been so stressful but we love him so much. In 2017, at less than 2 years old he gave his first bite to our 10-year-old son on his hand when he tried to take his bone. I made excuses for him because he had a bone in his mouth. His next bite was in 2020 when he was sitting next to me licking his leg and I told him to stop and he nipped me breaking the skin. I went to the doctor to get antibiotics. My husband and i travel several times a year and I always worry he will bite the sitter. The next bite came in the summer of 2020 to my friend who was sitting for him while we were traveling. She said he appeared anxious by barking coyotes outside and when she went to comfort him he bit her finger, it broke the skin and bruised it. The next bite came to me in 2021 when he was stretching his legs and i touched him as we were doing this, again he knicked my fingers. The next bite came this year with my friend trying to put on his harness and he bit her finger when she was struggling to get it on. This latest bite was 2 weeks ago. After having my friend’s dog outside on our patio for an afternoon which he saw thru the sliding glass door and was enraged, the next morning he went out and smelled where the dog had been. About 10 min after I had him come in for breakfast and as normal i put out his turkey meatballs and then went and got a biscut to lay down beside the meatballs it is when I laid the biscuit down he grabbed my hand and clamped down. I screamed and had to pull it away. He came at me for a couple of steps lunging and growling at which point I was screaming and he stopped. I went to the hospital this time I had 5 wounds, one was a small laceration that was not just broken skin. I am devastated. My husband and I are traveling next month for 4 weeks and have his normal sitter scheduled. At this point with this escalation, I can not in good conscience leave him with her due to what just happened. I am so conflicted. I don’t want to put him down. We have lived 6 of the 8 years of never being able to take him to a dog park, or restaurant, or socialize with other dogs. Even driving in the car to the vet has been so stressful. Everything he sees is a threat. I feel such tremendous guilt because if we were not traveling next month I would not put him down even though my friend who is a vet says he will do it again and we should.

Ben Team

Hey there, Jamie. We’re so sorry to hear about the struggles with your pooch.

Have you reached out to a certified dog behavior consultant yet? While euthanasia may very well be the best path forward, you don’t want to leave any stone unturned.
You could also consider boarding him (along with full disclosure of his issues) at a professional kennel while you’re gone. Some kennels/boarding facilities are happy to work with challenging dogs.

Either way, we wish you the very best of luck.


I’m at a loss.
We have had my pup Mickey since he was 8 weeks old. I’m thinking that may be part of his issues. We were told he is a mix of bull terrior and English Bulldog but we aren’t certain. He is now 13 1/2 months old. He has attacked another dog when he got loose out of the house before I could retrieve him to the point that the other dog had to go to the emergency vet costing me $1,200. He was socialized as a pup around people and animals but he is very aggressive. We have a fenced in yard but any time cars, dogs, people who walk by he aggressively barks and growls at them. He is now used to seeing our neighbors so he doesn’t bark at her or her dog any longer. When people come into our home, he is excited but is not aggressive or barks at them, only when they are outside or knocking on the door, but once they are inside he is fine.
When we are watching tv and he sees a dog he lunges at the TV and has even broken it. When he gets like that he does not respond to any commands and he is so strong and hard to handle. When he hears a car door or something outside he runs and barks looking out the window.
When he is with us (myself, husband, two teenage daughters, and an older English Bulldog) he is fine. He is loving and cuddly. He has however nipped at us when he is pulled away from doing things like getting into the garbage.
We have tried training, more socializing. I’m just afraid he’s going to hurt another pet or person. We have a fence but he’s so strong I worry he will jump the fence to get out if triggered enough. We live in town. I don’t know what to do. I’m so anxious and sad about this situation. He was not raised to be aggressive so I just don’t understand it.

Ben Team

Hey there, Nicole. We’re so sorry to hear about the trouble with Mickey.

Ultimately, you just have to do what you think is right in the circumstances, but we’d encourage you to reach out to a certified dog behavior consultant (as opposed to a trainer) and have an assessment performed.

Best of luck with Mickey.


We had to make this heartbreaking decision almost a year ago. We had a 2 year old Golden Retriever who since he was a puppy had displayed toy possession aggression. It was very mild and we always backed off and sought help from a trainer. She said it would have developed during the early weeks with his siblings and we found lots of techniques to help dilute the behaviour and it worked. Things were going really well and we had had little to none incidents for over a year. Then over the course of a couple of months we noticed some changes in behaviour. He didn’t want to be petted as much and didn’t like having his lead put on him. One day he stole a storage box from the table, and I went to retrieve it and he growled at me so I walked away but my husband then came in and decided to take it off him. The dog had been fine with us taking things away as we had done so much training but this time he snapped and my husband ended up in hospital with hand injuries. It wasn’t huge, but going by the table in this article was a level 4 and took 5 months to heal.

We were and still are heartbroken that this happened and we did decide to put him down that week, having spoken to the vet. He was 40kg, and we have a young child. The vet thought that given some of the symptoms and also that he had lost some weight and wasn’t quite himself that it was likely he had an underlying disease such as a brain tumour. Looking back at his photos you can see a physical decline from around 4 months before but day to day we had no idea.

Even if he hadn’t been sick and we have no confirmation that he was we still thought this was the best option. We didn’t want him to be poorly and in a kennel. We couldn’t rehome him with the incident having happened and we couldn’t keep him after what had happened. We have since heard about an illness that is common in Golden Retrievers at a young age that wastes their muscles and can cause them pain. We think going by the photos of our dog that he had this illness, he had all the symptoms but individually each one didn’t make us realise there was something wrong.

It is such a difficult decision to make but I think things would have escalated either with health, behaviour or even more likely both and a few months down the line we would been back trying to decide what to do.

I miss him dearly, it’s not got a lot easier. It is grief, and I know it takes time but it is complicated by everything that happened and all the what if’s. I also know that writing the story here will just help lift and process the emotions. Thanks for writing such an in depth and sensitive article.

Ben Team

Hey there, Rach. We’re so sorry to hear about your pup. 🙁

We hope that reading this article and sharing your story helps give you some comfort.
Please consider checking out some of our pet loss resources.

We with you and your family all of the best.


I’ve had my little boy Phil for about a year. I rescued him from this Facebook post when he was 10 months old. He will be 2 in a couple weeks. The previous owner gave him to me after he bit their child. I assumed it wasn’t anything serious and we had no major problems, or so I thought, until two weeks ago. Phil has known my boyfriend for almost a year and they were always really good buddies. They would play and cuddle all the time. Last week, Phil bit my boyfriend in the face and it required a trip to the ER. We planned on medicating Phil, since he has severe anxiety issues outside the home like on walks, and we started the medication a couple days later. Last week I was cooking dinner and Phil decided he wanted to counter surf. My boyfriend, healing from his injuries still, said no and gently pushed him down. In return, Phil snarled and lunged for my boyfriend. We are at a loss, no rescue will help and a behavioral plan is a “maybe might work” and $3500 that we do not have. I’ve contacted shelters all over the state and either haven’t heard back or they are full.
Looking bad, this isn’t the first time. Phil and I were out at a restaurant and a little girl approached and he nipped her. When my mom came over, he lunged at her. Luckily I had him on the leash and was able to stop him. And finally, I had a friend over and Phil bit him in the arm.
I feel bad knowing I could have and should have noticed these things and could have tried to get him help. We don’t have any other options and my boyfriend and I are now living completely separate lives. Phil is either with me in the office or in his crate. We have to be careful on our walks as the county is already involved due to the bite needed medical attention. I wish I could do more for him. I love him so much but his quality of life is not good.

Ben Team

What a heart-breaking story, Ashley.
We’re so sorry to hear about Phil’s issues, and wish you the best of luck trying to find a home for him.


Unfortunately at this point no one will take him. We will have to surrender him to the county.


Thank you for posting and responding, I really appreciate it. I had been keeping Lucy and Reece separate (and still am), but we’d never kept Ivy separate from either dog before since the majority of issues happened between Reece and Lucy. So at any given time, it could be Reece and Ivy out, or Lucy and Ivy.

After the incident last night, we now realize Lucy will have to be kept completely separate from both dogs. This is going to mean a lot of kennel time for her or isolation, which has me questioning her quality of life. I am desperately reaching out this morning to see if anyone can help me rehome Lucy for a better quality of life for her, but I just don’t know what, if anything, will come from it. I’ve already heard from at least one place that cannot help.

The vet is currently working on Ivy, and the likelihood is that Ivy will need a drain placement as well as sutures or staples to the tune of nearly $900, so hiring a behaviorist is definitely out for now. I’m just hoping that a rescue group or shelter can help me find a place. How do you keep your dogs completely separate without issue?

Ben Team

Ah, I get it now, Carrie. Thanks for clarifying.

Well, it’s certainly not easy keeping our gals (a big ‘ol Rottie and an even bigger Great Pyrenees) separated and happy, but rehoming either of them is a complete non-starter for us.

Fortunately, the layout of our house is pretty conducive to keeping them apart, which helps.

My fiancée and I have an office downstairs, which is pretty much where we are during weekdays. One of the gals hangs out with us, and the other is either outside, in our bedroom, or the living room (we have installed a dog gate separating the kitchen from the living room). In the evenings, one gal will usually hang out with me while I’m cooking, and the other will hang out with my fiancée in the living room. At night, one of the girls sleeps with us and the other is either in the living room or with one of the kids.

We have crates for them, but we don’t use them very often. That’s really more about space than anything else. Big crates take up a lot of room.

One thing is important to remember: Communication (among humans) is critical. You need to know where the dogs are, who’s walking them when, and who may be behind closed doors.

In terms of their quality of life, we feel like they’re both doing pretty well — certainly better than any of us would be were it necessary to rehome one of them.

We try to limit the time either gal is alone, we take one or the other with us on errands anytime we can, and we try to provide them with the specific things they need (the Rottie needs lots of “jobs” and people time; the Pyr needs lots of time to bark at things in the backyard). As another example, the Pyr is very frightened by storms and fireworks, so we know she needs to sleep with us on those nights. We make it up to the Rottie once good weather returns by allowing her to sleep with us several nights in a row.

Pulling off this kind of arrangement isn’t easy, but there are things you can do to help things go as smoothly as possible.
I’m working on an article on this very subject to help give readers in similar situations some ideas, so keep an eye out for it in the coming weeks.


I happened on this article tonight after searching for next steps with my aggressive Australian Shepherd mix, Lucy. The humane society didn’t know what type of mix she was, but I suspect some kind of pit or lab mixed in, though I can’t be sure. I adopted Lucy at almost 2 years old, and in fairness, the humane society said that she would be best as the only dog in the household. However, they never mentioned any issues with aggressive behavior, and she reacted perfectly with my senior dog at the time, so I brought her home.

After my senior dog passed, I adopted an 8 week old Australian Cattle dog mix puppy, Reece, who Lucy was great with. They played wonderfully and Lucy let Reece run the show in many ways. About four months later, my mom moved into my house with her dog, Ivy, who has a traumatic past from a puppy mill. Ivy is an Aussie-doodle who is very territorial when it comes to my mom, and we think that her “guarding” my mom combined with Lucy’s love for attention caused Lucy to react before we recognized the signs. She went for Ivy’s neck and caused fairly significant bite damage, with Ivy requiring a vet visit for sutures/staples, pain meds, etc…

After this incident, we were much more careful to monitor the dogs for possible issues, and we slowly allowed them to be together once again. And for 1 year, things were fine. Then unfortunately, when returning to the house with Ivy on a leash, Lucy was loose in the house. She must have been stressed about being left at home while Ivy went to the vet, and the excitement of them returning coupled with the other factors caused Lucy to attack Ivy. This was more serious than before, with Ivy requiring drains to be placed in the wounds as well as pain meds, etc…

Lucy developed some concerning behaviors, such as extreme fear of many things and highly anxious behaviors. But there were no more attacks until about 3 years more, when Lucy was about 6. My mom made the mistake of deciding to try a shock collar on Lucy when I wasn’t home, and when Lucy barked, she got a shock that she appeared to think Reece had caused. (Please know, for the record, my mom now understands how bad shock collars are and will never use them again.) Lucy attacked Reece, again causing punctures and bleeding. Just 1 month afterwards, my mom brought Reece home from the groomer and Lucy attacked again, causing more punctures and bleeding. Then a few weeks later, when my mom returned home from the store, Lucy went after Reece again. Every time got tougher to get them apart, and that time, Lucy actually lost her full upper canine from the scuffle and refusing to release Reece.

After yet another incident a few weeks later, in which Lucy seemed to go for the kill with Reece (death grip on neck, head shaking, etc…), we visited the vet for help. We got anti anxiety meds to help Lucy, as well as tests to ensure there wasn’t an underlying medical issue causing the aggression. On the vet’s suggestion, I also hired an animal behaviorist who came to the house and provided training. We used these teachings to have a successful 7 months, but then we had another incident after Reece had gotten a walk and Lucy hadn’t yet had her turn. That was the worst fight. Lucy went for the kill, shaking Reece, causing deep punctures in Reese’s throat that required staples, pain meds, etc….

Once that occurred, we vowed to keep Lucy and Reece separate. This management was working, but then Lucy developed some issues with her leg. After x-rays, blood tests, etc… no real cause could be found, though the vet suggested perhaps a torn meniscus. We’ve been managing it with pain meds and anti-inflammatories and things have been okay. We put up gates in the house so Lucy and Reece could be separate but we could still keep both dogs. I did look into rehoming Lucy to a single-dog family, but the places we reached out to could not help us and the only individual we talked to about adopting wanted to let Lucy run free on his unfenced property. We didn’t think that would be safe, so we went with management at our home.

Unfortunately, tonight, almost 1 year since the last incident, my mom and I came home this evening to find that although Reece was safe in her kennel, Lucy had attacked Ivy while we were gone. We’re not sure what the triggers were, but there were blood smears, feces, and urine all over the house, and Ivy has some sizable holes in her neck that will need vet attention in the morning. I’m (frankly) shocked that Ivy survived and that this happened even when we weren’t home, as the other incidents have all occurred when someone was home (which we believed to be a precipitating factor in each incident).

I don’t know what to do next. I’ve been crying all evening trying to help clean Ivy up and decide on next steps. It isn’t fair to Lucy to euthanize her for things outside of her control, but I don’t know who could take her when she has a history of aggression and medical issues. Believe it or not, she’s the sweetest, most loving dog to people, and most of the time to other animals, but these incidents are becoming frightening. I don’t want Lucy to kill Reece or Ivy, and I don’t want Lucy stuck in a kennel all day every day either, but I can’t afford the behaviorist anymore with vet bills coming in tomorrow. And I feel awful for poor Ivy, who is now a senior and likely didn’t mean to set off Lucy with whatever happened.

If anyone still reads this and has any suggestions, I’m open to ideas. I’m not rushing to make a decision, but Lucy is only 8 (going on 9) and I hate the idea of euthanizing her. She deserves a happy existence just like Reece and Ivy. I just don’t know what to do to keep all the dogs safe without costing me a small fortune.

Ben Team

Hey there, Carrie. We’re so sorry to hear about the troubles with your pooches!

Maybe I just misunderstood your story, but it seems like you were going to keep them separate and then stopped doing so — is that correct? Would it be possible to simply go back to them living separately?

My two dogs do not get along at all, so they live completely separated lives. It’s certainly not easy to do, but we really have no other choice.


Your article was somewhat of a relief for me cause I had to euthanise my dog Dino last week and I’ve been in a very bad emotional state ever since.

I adopted him 4 years ago at 2 months old when a friend of mine found 5 puppies in the garbage. He was the cutest thing ever being a white fluffy labrador mix. Me and my girlfriend fell in love with him and gave him all the affection and love an owner could give, managing to socialize him regurarly with other dogs and people. We all had a fantastic time taking him to trips, going on huge walks until he reached 12 months.

Thats when he started showing signs of aggression towards people. We were in a park sitting when he ran suddenly towards a couple of children passing by hitting a boy with his front legs and behaving like I’d never seen him before. That was a major shock for me as I could not explain the reason for this behavior. As he grew older and bigger reaching 30kg, he continued to show aggression towards people and animals but mostly when he was in the house or around it, while being very fearful and insecure away from it.

Our lives changed as we always tried to constantly maintain a secure environment for the dog with no triggers, which was as you said was exhausting and felt like a full time job, but we did not give up cause we loved him so. We visited a dog trainer in order to make him more manageable and it worked to an extend as he learned some orders but the sudden bursts of aggression remained and got worse with time. He was very unpredictable and showed extreme aggression without warning but at the same time he was very sweet and loving towards me and my wife.

Then one night came the biggest shock as he was in my parents’ bedroom trying to climb up (which was forbidden) and when they stopped him he started growling and showing teeth. I rushed in and when I tried to push him out the room he attacked me and tried to bite me but I managed to hold him by the neck and unfortunately had to hit him to make him stop. He immediately stopped and had a look of utter confusion and surprise in his face.

Despite all these red flags, I still kept on trying cause I really loved him and felt that there was no other option for him cause no other home would take him and shelters were not an option for me. That was until we had a child a month ago. I really really tried to introduce the baby to him in the best way, possible giving him all the attention and love he was used to and it kind of worked for a few days but after that he was agitated and started showing signs of aggression growling at me again. I knew I had no other option as he was now a 39kg dog with unpredictable behavior making everybody in the house anxious and you could tell he was having a bad time too. I spent the last day of his life petting him and giving him treats and I was with him during the whole procedure and then burying him in our garden where he used to play for all his life.

I know I did the right thing being responsible for a newborn child and not letting his quality of life vanquish by giving him to a shelter or a clueless family but I am an emotional wreck as I can not stop thinking about all the great times we had. I will always carry him in my heart and cherish all the good memories of my boy Dino.

Ben Team

Hey there, George.
We’re so sorry to hear about Dino, but it sounds like you didn’t really have a choice.

Please consider checking out some of our resources about dog loss — they’ve proven helpful for some of our other readers.

Thank you for sharing your storing with us.


I am beside myself right now the pain in my heart is unbearable
I own a 9 year old female Great Dane that I have had since she is 8 weeks old she has always been quirky
She has always had an anxiety problem that has just gotten worse as the years progressed she is afraid of everything and we have had her on multiple different medications over the years
She only likes a few certain people and has bitten my brother in law and my sister ( not severe just a nip) she will aggressively lunge when on a leash
She doesn’t like little kids she will aggressively bark and growl at them
When we have company she has to be crated for everyone’s safety
We have 2 other dogs a 13 year old chihuahua and a 4 year old Great Dane
She attacked my chihuahua years ago and I have never let them near each other since
Her and my younger Great Dane have always gotten along but the other day they got into a fight and the older Great Dane wanted to keep it up
We have them separated now and have tried to introduce them a few times but the older one isn’t letting go of the grudge and growls and lunges and my younger one
My younger one is so upset by all of this
I am taking my older one to the vet tomorrow to check for any medical conditions that could be causing this but I know that there won’t be any she has been this way her whole life but now we are playing musical dogs and our home isn’t big enough for that
I can’t rehome her because she is so unpredictable and she is 10 years old and I think the anxiety of a new home would kill her
I feel like a monster even considering euthanasia but I don’t know what else to do
My other dogs aren’t safe and I have a 2 year old grandson that is here a lot and I worry for him also

Ben Team

Hey there, Kathy. We’re so sorry to hear about the problems with your pooch.
We don’t have any magic solutions to offer, but I can at least sympathize.

My Rottie has always been anxious, and she’s also been extremely dog reactive since she was attacked by an off-leash dog while young. I have to keep her permanently separated from my other dog, as fights are 100% guaranteed, despite my efforts at nurturing a positive relationship between the two.

So, while we can’t offer any great advice, just know that you’re not alone.


Charlie is a 12yr old 20lb terrier/schnauzer mix that has for the beginning had guarding behaviors and light aggression like growls nips barks but the past few months it has been getting worse. The severity and warning signs of the bites have upscaled to attacks. Charlie was found wandering a high way entrance in the city when he was roughly 1 year old. I took him in rather than him going to a shelter when a friend of mine had found him and did not find his owners. We noticed signs of aggression, nipping, small growls etc from the beginning but thought maybe he was scared/fearful of the new environment. Upon taking him to the vet they discovered one of his canine teeth to be damaged in a way that looked like human abuse. She had suggested clicker training and positive reinforcement along with getting him neutered. It seems evident from his behaviors that he was abused by a previous owner. He is fearful of newspapers moving quickly, he has issues with feet such as attacking with nips when a chair is pulled out with feet rather than hands or when the foot opening trash can is pressed. He usually gives warnings for bites/we know his triggers and avoid them as much as possible. roughly 5 years ago Charlie but me the hardest he ever had. before that it was only nips. I almost passed out from the pain. I had been trying to slowly and calmly take away something he had put in his mouth. I knew I was at risk for a bite as he was exhibiting guarding behavior but I didn’t want him to choke. He ended up breaking the skin on my hand and I almost passed out from the pain. because of this incident my sisters offered to help me pay for a trainer for him, a few that specialized in aggressive behaviors/abused dogs came by to see him. We found that a trainer would not be possible do to the cost and time commitment needed along with the prognosis from the trainers. we also looked into having him rehired somewhere that could handle his behaviors such as terrier rescue foster homes etc but no one would take him. at that time I seriously considered putting him down as I was afraid of him and living in fear in the house. My sisters talked me out of it making me feel like I was a heartless person to even consider it. Looking back I think perhaps I should have gone through with it. Over the years Charlies bites, guarding, aggression have gotten much worse. This Christmas Eve he attacked my boyfriend (whom he has lived with cuddled with and loved for 4 years) My boyfriend tried to touch charlies collar to move him because he was guarding the trash can, Charlie ran at him and bit deeply into his foot and did not let go for 5+ seconds. The wound was very close to needing stitches as It was deep. My boyfriend had to jump up on the counter to get away and my dog still tried to get to him, then turned towards me and growled. After that we started gating him most of the day for safety. When not exhibiting aggressive behavior he can be a sweet loving dog. We stopped isolating him as we felt bad for his quality of life. we agreed to only wear boots in the house and avoid his triggers. That was a mistake. a few days later my boyfriend was leaving for work and wanted to say goodbye to me. My dog came running over to guard me, when my boyfriend started to tell him no Charlie ran at him from a few feet away. he rebit his foot opening the wound again and bit his hand in 3 places, he tried to run away and Charlie followed biting the back of his knee and calf. he had to hide behind a door to escape. Charlie is only a 20 lb terrier but his bites are deep. going by the chart they are level 3/4. for the last week he has spent all of his time confined to the living room, and when my boyfriend is getting ready in the morning I take him outside to avoid contact. I now only wear thick high boots to keep feet and calves covered in fear of being attacked. He used to give warning signs and then only nip but now there is hardly any warning and bites drawing blood. My boyfriend was out recently so I had Charlie in the kitchen with me and I dropped my phone on the floor between the table and dishwasher. he guarded over it for 30 minutes and would have surely bit me over it. I believe he is doing it as attention seeking because he doesnt want to get put back in isolation but it is the only way we feel safe in the home. He has always had anxieties and fear due to past abuse and I really have to consider his quality of life in this situation. I have made an appointment with a vet who specializes in behavioral issues so he may be checked out for any health issues that are causing his aggressive tendencies to worsen. The quality of life for the both us has gone down significantly. I also fear for how my sister and family will feel if we decide euthanizing is the only option. I can not keep living like this and it also isn’t fair to him to live his like mostly alone in a room. I am hoping the vet has some good advice for us. He has not been to the vet since precovid as getting the muzzle on is dangerous. once on he needs to be sedated to be seen. I am fearful of trying to put the muscle on for this vet visit as I do not want to get injured. I fear for how deep his future bites will be. This has been a source of stress for both me and my dog for many years and im not sure what to do. I feel that if I have had him this long I should be able to make this work but I really fear him now. He’s bit roughly 6-8 people over the years and im lucky none of these people sued me as they are friends but I also fear for future legal ramifications. Yesterday I accidentally stepped on Charlie paw and he tried the attack my feet, luckily I had my boots on but when I turned around my boyfriend was shaking in fear because he was afraid Charlie was going to hurt me like he hurt him. This is an inceredibly heart wrenching and difficult decision. Thank you to anyone who read this far, there is a lot on my heart about this situation. This is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make. again really hoping the vet has good advice.

Ben Team

Hey there, Jess. What a heart-breaking story! We’re so sorry you’re going through all of this.
Obviously, see what the vet says before making any decision, but it certainly sounds like Charlie’s problems are pretty serious. You (nor your loved ones) should have to live in fear the way you are.

We don’t have much advice to provide except to say that you have clearly done everything humanly possible to deal with this situation, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Charlie obviously had a very traumatic puppyhood, and those mental and emotional scars are obviously quite severe.

Continue to keep yourself safe and try to give Charlie the best quality of life you can. We hope the vet provides some helpful advice.

Lee Ann Simpson

Ozzy is a 5 yo Newfoundland Dog- the 5th Newfie that I have owned. He was rescued from a shelter in Western MA at 8 mos old and ID’d only as a stray. We noted resource guarding- growling early on and were working on that. He got along and played with our other dogs at the time. At 10 mos old, he brutally attacked me, necessitating an ER visit and multiple sutures/disfigured arm. We consulted an amateur, yet well respected/locally renowned animal behaviorist. A 6 wk stay at his “boot camp” as well as behavior mod. for mom and dad was quite effective. He was a constant companion for my husband during his treatment for cancer and ultimate demise a year ago. He went to doggie daycare 2x/wk (at the behaviorist’s rescue/sanctuary) for about 3 years without issue, until my husband’s illness and subsequent retirement. During the past 4 years, he has attacked me at least 5 times, 4 of which required or should have required ER visits- the latest on Christmas Eve, which resulted in bites to both arms as well as a fall and fractured wrist. These all occurred when I failed to pick up on his “signs. ” His aggression generally occurs in the evening after he has eaten his dinner. An e-collar has been effective- I have only ever used the vibration feature and never in response to aggression. I believe Ozzy feels more “secure” with it on. He was doing so well for the past year, I rarely used it. Ozzy has never attacked anyone else aside from a provoked situation where my son purposefully took his food away in the attempt to modify his behavior . Most of the time, Ozzy is very loving and the “Gentle Giant” that Newfies are noted to be. He sleeps in bed with me every night. I love him sooo much. Currently, close family and friends are aggressively conspiring to convince me to euthanize him in order to “save my life.” I get it, they care. I am so offended that they are talking behind my back. I was mortified when my DIL sent me a link to a mobile vet who provides euthanasia. I have put so much energy and $$ into saving my dear, sweet friend. Am I in severe denial? Than you so much for your article. It helps to realize that I’m not alone.

Ben Team

Yikes, Lee Ann! It sounds like you have your hands completely full with Ozzy.

As we state in the article, you and only you can make this decision. But this sounds like a pretty serious situation.

We don’t want to encourage you to continue with a dog who’s already sent you to the ER multiple times, but if you do want to at least weigh your options, we’d recommend speaking with an actual certified dog behavior consultant, rather than an amateur (who, by definition, doesn’t meet this criteria).

No matter what you decide, please keep yourself safe and know that many other owners have dealt with similar situations.

Best of luck!


I’m in this position right now. I have a 2.5yo GSD who has always been a handful, highly-strung and dog-reactive (manageable with distraction). In the last 6 weeks or so, something has changed. He’s now reactive within the house to family members (myself, my wife and my 12yo son) – intermittently, and with growing levels of aggression, diminishing warnings. It started with purely defensive behaviour in mid November, where he would back away from us at some point during the late evening, growling and exhibiting “don’t come near me” signs. His post-reaction body language was pure fear. A couple of nights ago, he was curled up on the sofa, and when my wife entered the room he attacked with full commit. Luckily for us, because I’ve been “on top of him” every second of every day since this began, I was able to intercept him mid-leap and redirect his momentum into his crate, closing the door behind him. It was only my intervention that prevented my wife from being hospitalised.
Since my son started his Christmas break from school, he’s effectively been trapped in his bedroom whilst I’m WFH with the dog with me. If he tries to come downstairs, the dog is reactive and growls / barks at him. This is heartbreaking as the two of them had been inseparable for the last 2 years until this began. Now I’m having to take him his breakfast and lunch to eat in his room.
He’s constantly reactive to both my wife and son now, I have to take him out before my wife gets up for work, and stay out until she’s gone. I need to take him out before she gets home, keep him out whilst my wife and son eat dinner, then when I come back keep him in the kitchen with me until the others have gone to bed. I’m trying not to crate him any more than I absolutely have to just because I don’t want him completely isolated for what will likely be his last few days.

The worst element for me is that most of the time he’s his normal, loving, affectionate, playful, goofball self. He has been occasionally reactive to me, but I can manage it when it’s just me and my family isn’t at risk, and most of the time with me he’s just his normal self. When I was having a breakdown yesterday, crying my eyes out about what was to come, he came in, licked my face, then went off and found his ball – bringing it to me because “bol make everyfink betta”.

We’re seeing the vet tomorrow morning. One last physical to see if any treatable medical cause can be found. I’m booked in with a veterinary behaviourist, but the initial consultation is still over a month away, and with the speed at which his behaviour is escalating, we just can’t manage that long. My work and health are already suffering (I’ve been sleeping less than 4 hours a night for a month and forget to eat), and my family as a whole is breaking down because I’m effectively absent from them to manage the dog.
I’d do anything, spend as much time and money as needed, to “fix” whatever’s wrong with my buddy and bring back “my dog” whom I could trust to play outside with my boy, who would snuggle up with my wife on the sofa to watch some terrible period drama on an evening. Where I could put a sausage between my teeth and he would give me a kiss to take it.
But nobody can tell me what’s wrong, or what to do. We have plenty of theories, from CCD to sundown syndrome to over-attachment to brain tumour to digestive issues to the wrong phase of the moon. But no way of knowing which, if any, of them are right. And nobody can tell us what to do beyond “keep yourselves safe”. And in the meantime I have to treat him like a bomb that could go off at any time. His QoL is deteriorating because of how I have to manage him. The bond between him and my wife & son is broken. They’re both terrified of him now. My son is crushed – he understands intellectually what is happening but is struggling with the feelings it’s creating. Especially the part where he understands that we will likely lose our dog, and he can’t even properly spend any time with him beforehand.

I know in my heart that he won’t come home with us tomorrow and the guilt is crushing me. What did I do wrong? How did my boy end up like this where he’s so scared of his own family that he feels he has to fight us? What could I have done that I didn’t? Why does he have to pay with his life for my failure to give him what he needed? There’s no answers to any of these, and there’s nothing I can do to save him. Tomorrow I’ll come back to a house that’s empty because my best friend is gone, and all I’ll have left is the guilt that I could have, SHOULD HAVE, done better for him.

Ben Team

Hey, Mike.
What an utterly heart-breaking story.

We obviously can’t know for sure, but it is incredibly unlikely that you did anything to cause your pup’s behavioral change. Sure, some people do terrible or misguided things that cause behavioral problems, but these types of folks are rarely as thoughtful, dedicated, and caring as you obviously are.

In fact, it sounds like you are doing *everything* right.

You’ve given your dog a loving home and family.
You’ve recognized his reactivity and put in the work to figure out how to manage it.
You’ve given him tasty treats, toys, and undoubtedly scads of other creature comforts and simple pleasures.
You’ve been attentive and engaged enough to notice the changes in his personality.
You’ve upended your entire life to ensure he continues to enjoy the best quality of life possible.
You’ve clearly done everything possible to address the issue and figure out what’s going on with him.
And yes, you’ve kept you and your family safe.

These things all make you a pretty damn good dog dad in our book.

We’re hoping for a medical diagnosis that may give you a glimmer of hope. But if that doesn’t happen, please take care of yourself.
You may also want to check out some of our pet loss resources.

Give him some scritches for us, please.


Just to update on this, things continued to go downhill very quickly after my post above. My buddy continued to be ok with me, but aggressively reactive towards both my wife and my son (only once they got within “smell range”), though when I took him to the vet he was the same with me and we had to fully sedate him. There was nothing found, and on the basis of advice from the veterinary behaviourist, the vet, and a trainer, he crossed the rainbow bridge to go pester the angels to throw his ball last Thursday morning. We’re all crushed, not just from losing him but from this happening so young, so suddenly, and being so helpless to do anything about it. We’ve been told that it appears to have been early-onset CCD, coupled with sensory pathway degeneration, resulting in extreme confusion, which manifested as fear, leading to the reactivity / aggression. His senses were feeding him conflicting information, which meant he was constantly disoriented and unsure about what was going on, and he reacted in the way a dog would react to that situation. There was nothing that anyone could suggest as even a long-shot treatment or management, so the only thing I could do was to stop him being a constant ball of distress.

Ben Team

Ugh. We’re so sorry, Mike.
If nothing else, I hope that this diagnosis helps to alleviate any guilt you may be feeling.

We wish you and your family all the best coping with this, and we thank you for sharing your experiences.


If one decides that euthanasia is the only course of action, how do I go about finding someone to do it? When I call my vet they talk about behavioral work, etc which is not the responsible option in my case

Ben Team

Hey there, Mary.

First of all, we’re sorry that you find yourself in this kind of situation at all.
Your vet is typically the best first option. If he or she just refuses to perform the procedure, then you can contact other vets (you may find that one who’ll come to your home will be easiest for all parties).

This assumes that your vet’s recommendation to do behavioral work rather than euthanasia is off-base though. If he or she knows your pet well and doesn’t think euthanasia is warranted, then you may want to heed the advice provided.

Best of luck navigating this difficult time.


Hey thank you so much for your article. I really appreciate how through it is. It’s good to read the comments too, and know we are not alone, although what we are going through is so stressful with our dog. I wish everyone the best of luck with their situations.

Ben Team

Hey there, Sarah. We’re glad you found the article helpful and that you contributed your own comments as well.
Best of luck.


I adopted my 6-year-old Shar Pei mix, Nyla, when she was 10 months old. She had already been adopted as a puppy and returned to the rescue. None of her paperwork really gave a reason as to why she was returned. Almost immediately after bringing her home, we had issues with very high energy and anxiety. She barked and lunged at everything and was so overstimulated in groups of people or other dogs. She avoided me when I carried anything in my hands and scratched up all of my windows trying to get the squirrels or chipmunks she saw outside. We tried group training to work on what the rescue said were just “puppy issues”, but that was overwhelming and stressful for both of us. Then, I sent her to a train and board that used aversive methods (e-collar) because I didn’t know better at the time and was desperate for some help. She came back from that slightly subdued but not at all herself, which was concerning to me. After a few days at home, she had her personality back and her behavior was a little better for a while. However, after a while she would only behave with the e-collar on and I could tell she was just scared of it, so I stopped using it and started seeing a trainer who used more positive and reward-based strategies. Even with this training, using management strategies at home, and pouring all of the love I could into her, the behaviors were still prevalent. She still lunges and snaps at people and has to be completed sedated for vet visits due to the fear aggression issues. She goes wild when she sees a cat, chipmunk, or squirrel, and there is no redirecting her attention from it. We used many strategies in our home to keep Nyla and any visitors safe and comfortable, but we didn’t have visitors often due to my anxiety over her behavior. When I first got her, I brought her with me to family events, dog parks, and visits with friends but I had to stop doing that after a couple of years because she was always so amped up and I was always terrified that something bad might happen. We had been working on reactivity and muzzle training for a few months when I had an unexpected opportunity to move to Hawaii. My plan was to find housing here that would work for us and then go back to get her, but the housing market here is insane and there are no rentals that allow dogs over 25 pounds (if they even allow pets at all). Also, she would have to be seen by a vet immediately upon arrival, which probably wouldn’t go over well with her vet anxiety. She had been staying with my brother, then my mom, and then was in boarding for nearly a month because no one would take her in. For now, she is back with my brother. I have contacted over 20 rescues throughout the Midwest (we are from Wisconsin) and even in Pennsylvania, New York, and Colorado. No one will take her in to help rehome her. The rescue I adopted her from recommended behavioral euthanasia. Maybe I was naive, but that never crossed my mind when I moved. I thought the worst case scenario would be having to rehome her. I don’t believe she is unadoptable and I don’t believe she should be euthanized. But I’m running out of time and options. Unless I can find someone in the next week or so who will take her in and love her as much as I do, this may be my only option, and that absolutely kills me. I don’t know what to do.

Ben Team

Hey, Hannah.
That sounds like an absolutely agonizing situation to be in, and we’re so sorry to hear about the struggles you and Nyla have both been enduring.

I don’t know that we have any great solutions to offer, but we certainly sympathize with your situation. Honestly, it sounds like you’ve done just about everything “right” anyway (including the switch to a positive-only training regimen).

Were time not a factor, we’d recommend reaching out to a certified dog behavior consultant, who’d be better equipped to deal with the types of extreme fear and reactivity you’re dealing with. We’d also ask about the amount of exercise Nyla was getting and perhaps recommend some confidence-building techniques too.

But as it stands, we just wish you the best of luck finding someone who will give her a good home. And even if you aren’t able to do so and have to go down a more heart-breaking path, you can try to take some solace in the fact that you did everything humanly possible for her.

And don’t forget, she has had a wonderful mom who loved her dearly. Unfortunately, many dogs never get to say that.

Gwen Williams

Today I am at the point of contemplating euthanasia as the answer for my aggressive dog. He was a rescue and I have had him for six years. He has attacked the feet of three people who have enter my home. I put him in the kennel when anyone comes into my home – even when my children visit. I muzzle him when he goes to the vet and groomer. He has tolerated these visits well until today. I took him to the groomer and he bit her with the muzzle on. He was not happy with her today.
I put him in the kennel at night and this sounds crazy but, my thought is that if I die during the night, no one will be in danger when they come in to find me! I am a senior citizen and this is very stressful to me at this point.
Any comments would help me.

Ben Team

Hey there, Gwen. That sounds like a really difficult situation.
Ultimately, only you can decide whether euthanasia is warranted or not. It sounds like you’ve largely been utilizing management strategies, but you may want to reach out to a certified dog behavior consultant before taking the next step. It’s possible that he or she may be able to help, and therefore allow your dog to continue living by your side.
Best of luck!


I am currently grappling with this decision and really appreciate this article.
I have a 1.5 year old male German Shepard/Australian healer/ coon hound mix. We’ve had him since he was 9 weeks old and very early on recognized there was a potentially aggressive streak in him as well as incredible potential as a dedicated guard dog and so we sought out help from a behaviourist from the time he was 6mos, at this point he had already experienced some health challenges (broken K9 tooth from catching on a rope toy, vet trauma, cougar encounter – he scared it off, yet was also terrified being so young- and some other health issues that led to pain related behaviour issues.) we’ve had a tone of in home training support, particularly for me(!), a lot of vet bills, and come a really long way. We had a big leap forward when we had him neutered. Yet still there is an unpredictability in his behaviour that we cannot see his triggers. Mostly stranger aggression towards people and dogs, but not all people and dogs. Sometimes he’s great with a person during one visit and lunges and barks at the same person another day. Even with friends who have walked him from when he was very small and been around consistently. He hasn’t broken skin in any encounter, yet he is so intensely aggressive at the times he is it is scary for all. We have a 4year old daughter who is deeply bonded to him. I have done a lot of internal personal work to move through my own fears as well as become far more skilled as a dog parent. He is not my first dog, or puppy. I love him so intensely. I’ve tried to rehome him a few times with others who actually have the skills to manage him as well as who recognize his potential risk. Both would have taken him, yet one moved unexpectedly out of country and another has another dog that is incompatible. I don’t want him to experience any more trauma. I feel it is irresponsible to surrender him to the spca and also would traumatized him. We are about to move to a new town. I feel This undercurrent of visceral hipervigilence that I can’t shake. My vet said early on she didn’t think he was a good fit for my family. I am absolutely devastated, however I am fairly sure I will need to euthanize him. I couldn’t live with myself if he injured anyone, particularly a child, when I have this sense in me. I feel like the most loving thing to do may be to hold him while he dies rather than cause him further stress and anxiety.

Ben Team

Hey there, Jess. We’re really glad you found the article helpful, but we’re sorry you had to search for it in the first place.

It sounds like your little guy has been through a lot (a cougar encounter?!?!), and you’ve undoubtedly experienced a ton of emotions dealing with his challenges as well. We obviously can’t tell you what the best solution is — all dog owners have to make their own decisions in this regard, so we simply wish you the best making your choice.

However, I will say one thing that I hope provides some comfort: Often, owners seem to “throw in the towel” rather quickly when faced with a challenging canine. But it certainly doesn’t seem like you fall into that category, and we applaud all of the efforts you’ve made to address the situation. Also, while your story sounds like it probably won’t have a happy ending, it’s heartening to see just how much you care about the little four-footer and the amount of concern you have for his quality of life.

We’re sending out internet hugs to you and scritches to your pupper.


I’m disturbed by the “canine bite levels.” Whether or not a canine tooth penetrates skin is a purely speculative measure of the threat posed by the dog. A bite can be completely different just based on the dog’s aim and whether the target was moving. It’s no indication at all of a “threat level” or something that helps you determine an appropriate course of action. You absolutely cannot predict what an aggressive dog will do next or what their limits are based on the “level” of the last bite. That’s really bad advice.

Ben Team

Hey there, Frank.
Bite scales certainly don’t tell you everything about a given dog bite, but they do provide a ton of information that behaviorists can use to assess the relative aggression level of a dog. And from there, they can design a behavior modification approach (in some cases) to help address the problem.
The thing I think you may be missing is that different bite levels require a different level of “commitment” to the bite by the dog — bites aren’t an all-or-nothing phenomenon. Some dogs only offer a relatively delicate nip, while others will not only grab the skin firmly but bite down as well.
But thanks for sharing your thoughts!


I find something deeply disturbing about this article. At the very least it acknowledges that biting isn’t a breed specific behavior and true aggression is rare. All my rescues came to me deeply confused about their place in the world and did in fact use their teeth to communicate that confusion. This is not okay, obviously, and all of them had to learn they were safe and that biting was not necessary nor acceptable. It was a pretty easy lesson for my Indian street dog who is a medium energy dog with no eye toward dominance (and significantly, he had the least interaction with humans trying to “fix” him with treats and such as the others). He occasionally snapped if woken up suddenly, but that clearly is a good defense if your sleeping on the street. It is also a behavior you can only correct by making him feel safe. He didn’t mean it and he stopped it quite quickly. My Cocker Spaniel was a complete disaster and tried to bite people, puppies, malamutes alike. Luckily his jaw was not all that large and nor was he that strong, so while training him I could prevent serious injury. He did become 100% rehabilitated and I would have left him beside an infant. My Australian Cattle Dog, similar story but much more grave. She came to me at 8 months, more or less fully grown, having received no training whatsoever. No one wants to hang around an unschooled cattle dog. She attacked my Cocker, lunged at my parents, made a play for my nieces and nephews. She did not attack me or my husband. She learned very quickly we were dominant. My husband is very familiar and a lover of the breed and so she started her training the day she came to us. When she went after my niece, there was no way she could have bit because she was being handled continually given her lack of self-discipline. But no one is allowed to hurt children, accidentally or otherwise. There are always consequences. If she had bit that kid, my family most definitely would have demanded she be put to death. We knew this, and my husband addressed the behavior immediately and forcefully. For some reason the parents of said little kids didn’t like the discipline and wanted him to just let her go (..to go on and seriously harm their kiddies). She is a dog that could potentially be very dangerous. She needed serious training that involved corrections as well as rewards, and sometimes with a lunging cattle dog, the corrections aren’t pleasant to look at. It really took less than 6 months for her to figure it out. She’s never attacked anyone since, although she certainly will let strangers know they are on her land.

We had neglected dogs, but not physically abused, not used for fighting, and they were neurologically sound. So those lessons, when done correctly, worked quite easily.

But when I think of my Cocker, a lot of the problems we had at the beginning were because I didn’t know what to do and I was nervous. I was encouraging the dog’s behavior even though I really didn’t mean to.

I think way too often we categorize dogs as aggressive by nature and we completely neglect to consider what their interactions with humans has been and how a particular dog might interpret my language differently than other dogs do. We leave ourselves out of the equation.

Sometimes this is simply because of neglect and ignorance and indifference. None of those people end up on a site like this, but we cannot say it is a hard thing for ANYONE to kill their dogs. Dogs are dumped every day. Dogs are beaten to death or fought to the death daily. When it was time for my Cocker to give up his fight with cancer, we went to a hospital that didn’t know us. Even though he couldn’t walk and was incontinent, before the vet would continue with the euthanasia she interviewed me quite thoroughly to ensure we were really using euthanasia as a blessing and not an easy way out or punishment. There are plenty of people who ask vets to kill their dogs simply because they don’t want to figure out how to deal with them. So when the article says no one wants to euthanize a pet, that’s simply false, although it probably is true that no one reading this article wants to euthanize their pet.

I do appreciate—because I’ve been there—that loving and knowledgeable dog owners can find themselves over their head even when they didn’t think that possible. That state of worry and confusion is totally understandable. It is also terrifying. When my Cocker was still a true menace to society the question was constantly going through my mind about what was going to happen if I couldn’t help him.

But what seems to happen so often is someone with a troubled dog wants to fix the problem and they logically find a trainer or behaviorist. And then they get dumped by the behaviorist because the dog doesn’t respond to treats and clicks. And then the desperate person finds another and another, all who end up saying your dog is unfixable and you should kill him. I think she has smartened up a bit, but I believe Victorian Stilwell used to do this.

And then there are stories of highly trained, astute trainers who understand dogs better than the worried humans and they CAN rehabilitate death row dogs. Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah is one such place. They don’t kill and they do rehabilitate. Bait dogs, abused dogs, whatever. There are other well known figures and there are many trainers out there that can see beyond the treat and who do not think any dog is unsalvageable.

I taught troubled teens for 20 years. If we preemptively incarcerated or killed those who were dangerous, I would have had very small, calm classes. But I don’t reject a kid just because he did something (or many things) that are truly horrible. I watch until I find a way in, and I find the counselors and psychologists who also don’t believe in writing people off because they are a potential threat to society in the future. They believe that potential can be quashed if the kid gets the right treatment and isn’t written off by every other adult in the building (which actually is often the case).

One might convince me that a fraction of 1% of aggressive dogs are unsalvageable. The others need the right person with the right knowledge and intelligence and dedication. And even if they never become dog park dogs, even in the worst case, they don’t have to live in basements or be murdered. There are sanctuaries for those dogs.

I do not criticize any dog owner with an aggressive dog whether that owner be an experienced dog-person or newbie, I just criticise the notion that because I haven’t found a solution yet, the best one is murder, and that murder is okay because he’s a dog and “will be better off anyway.”


I can relate to what you are saying and I agree that the vast majority of dogs can likely be rehabilitated. But that often takes many months or even years of intense effort. I feel lucky that I was able to make working with my rescue who had tons of behavior issues more or less my full-time job for 6 months. The average owner does not have the financial resources, time, or mental bandwidth to devote the many hours needed to understand and rehabilitate dogs with serious behavior issues. The unicorn homes with experienced handlers who don’t have other pets are more or less non-existent, since those individuals likely already have troubled dogs in their household.

It’s very tragic and sad that euthanasia has to occur in extreme behavior cases, but it’s important to consider the human’s quality of life too. Sharing a house with an aggressive dog is extremely stressful, isolating, and can be downright terrifying. I experienced extreme depression when first bringing home my problem dog – it was miserable, I could never have done it alone.

The average owner is not a dog trainer – they simply want a pet, and expecting an average owner to sacrifice so much mental and physical resources to basically become an expert dog trainer is unfair and unrealistic. Many owners have human families of their own that also need their attention. They simply cannot devote every waking hour to working with their aggressive dog, and we should not expect them too.

Many loving owners have exercised as many options as they can with their behaviorally-challenged dogs. As you have noted, this article is for them – the people who have tried their best and love their pets deeply. Yes, there are some people who will put down a pet without any consideration of other options, but those aren’t the people this article is addressing. For those who have needed to put down a challenging dog after exploring as many other avenues as they could, we have nothing but compassion.


I agree with you completely about the lack of resources and often lack of time. I too was incredibly lucky with my rescue in that I work at home. Most people don’t have that time. But the cases we are mostly discussing here are the more extreme cases for which a professional who has studied dog behavior and in particular aggression and who believes dogs are incredibly resilient, much more so than our species is truly needed. That dog needs work with someone who knows his needs exactly. And definitely not the coaxing treat showering clicking softy (if that worked for you, that’s just fine; it’s not going to work for death row dog). But then the roadblock of finding someone who actually understands aggression and money. Those again are human problems that are being taken out on the dog. I don’t have the answers, but to acknowledge the need of real trainers and of accessibility issues is far more honest than ignoring this human side of the problem.

If more of those trainers worked in shelters the adoption success rate would probably soar. Also, I realize there isn’t a sanctuary on every corner (unfortunately), but they are there. There are safe places to relinquish your animal when you accept you can’t fix him. Most shelters are grossly underfunded (another major contributor to the problem), but not all of them. I mentioned Best Friends, which truly is a haven one would never believe possible. There are other rescues that only accept death row cases. People just don’t know. Not there fault. Our society thrives off the fear of dangerous dogs and generally does not promote rehabilitation centers that actually can rehabilitate. If they did those dangerous dog stories would be harder to come by.


It sounds like we have very different ways of handling aggressive dog cases. I can assure you that those who are most knowledgeable about dog cognition do indeed use gentle tactics that involve counter-conditioning via food and clicker usage. And yes, those tactics do work for “death row dogs”, but behavior change takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not easy. There isn’t a magic hack to fix your dog, dogs can have complicated and traumatic histories just like humans do. To suggest that this is not the “real” way to rehabilitate a dangerous dog is very concerning to me. The vast majority of dogs have aggression issues due to fear. Fighting fire with fire through forceful, dominance-based strategies will only result in a bad outcome for everyone, as making a fearful dog more afraid is never a good solution. Consider reading up on our article about why dominance theory and alpha wolf theory has long been debunked.

Regardless, I think we can both agree that there is a lack of availability when it comes to certified dog behaviorists who can help challenging dogs.


Your article is the first that didn’t make me feel like a failure at doggie parenting. Our first dogs lived happy lives until dying of old age at 16 and cancer at 14. We are not novice dog owners.
Currently, we have two 9-year-old Australian shepherds. About three years ago Toby lunged and bit at me when I tried to put him in his cage as I was leaving the house. He tore my shirt and left lots of scratches and bruises. The dogs have always been in their cages when we are gone or at night. Toby even goes in his when we are watching TV at night. I work from home and am available all the time for them.

We would have periods of calm and then he would get aggressive again when we attempted to cage him because of guests, someone at the door, or just us leaving the house. He has lunged at snapped at my husband, our adult son, and our daughter, but I share the brunt of the attacks. Recently he tore through my jeans.
This past summer, Toby bit at a man who came on our campsite, with permission, to do some work. Toby bit him behind the knee but didn’t penetrate the jeans or skin.
The other dog, Mac, is more timid but he bit our other adult son when Mac was scolded for barking early in the morning. The bite was a puncture wound to the hand.
The dogs originally belonged to our boys but the dogs were left at home when the boys moved out. We have talked with each and laid out the choices per an extensive talk with a vet tech: euthanize both dogs or rehome them to a home without children. If the boys chose rehoming it was up to them to do the research but Dad and I will make the final decision. One voted for euthanasia while the other says he would be devasted.
I am having surgery in two weeks and will be unable to care for the dogs for several months. I won’t be able to hold the dogs to put the chains on for going outside. I would have to guard against them jumping up on me in excitement.
Your article helped me realize that a very serious discussion needs to take place in outr family this weekend.

Ben Team

Hey there, Deb.
We’re glad you found the article helpful, but we’re sorry to hear about your pups and the situation.
Best of luck talking things through with the family, and don’t forget to consider rescue organizations too — you may find an Aussie rescue willing to take the pups in and find them a good home.


I am struggling….We have a 1 yr old GSD that has issues with my teenage son. She started out with growling at him when he tried to pet her, mostly when tired and sleepy. It has progressed to frequent biting and lunging attacks at him. If he walks by while eating, if wiping her muddy paws or basically anything she doesn’t like. She will tolerate when others do these things but not from him. She has not bitten anyone else except for him. She will play and do obedience training with him and a few hours later will freak out and attack for no reason. For example I was in the kitchen spraying her with tick repellent getting her ready to go to the park. She does not like getting sprayed down but will tolerate it. Today she walked away into the den where my son was lying on the couch. I followed her in to finish getting ready and he reached out to pet her and she attacked. We have to literally pull her off him several times and put her in the crate to stop the attack. I have spoken with my husband about training but I don’t think we can wait anymore. I feel like we have let this go on so long that there is no other choice but to put her to sleep. I would feel bad if she ended up hurting someone else if rehomed. I can’t risk having her hurt my son as the attacks are getting more frequent and severe. I don’t know what to do. She is otherwise a happy, smart, loving dog. We would all be heartbroken if we had to put her to sleep.

Ben Team

Hey there, Mish.
We’re so sorry to hear about the problems with your pooch, and we understand how hard this must be on your entire family.
Ultimately, you’ll just have to make the best decision you can, but we’d encourage you to at least speak with a canine behaviorist first.

He or she may feel that the dog is dangerous, which will wind you up right where you are now anyway. But it’s also possible that the behaviorist would have a solution that may work.
Best of luck, whatever you choose to do.


Hi Mish – Ben offered some great advice for speaking with a behaviorist. Also, have you done a vet check? When a dog acts out in this way sometimes it can be related to pain, so I’d run a vet check before anything else. It does sound like the dog has particular issues with your son. Does the dog attack your son without prompting? From your example, it seems it only happens when your son engages with the dog. I’d suggest having the son simply ignore your dog. Do not approach, do not pet. The dog is afraid of your son and him approaching, even to give pets, is too scary for her. I’d suggest your son work on some basic trust-building exercises with the dog. These can even be done when the dog is gated off in a separate room to keep everyone safe. I hope that helps!

Anne Marie

First I’m so sorry to hear about your GS and your son. Oddly enough we are having the exact same issue with a one year old GS only he’s a male. Same thing too he always targets my daughter. And lunged at other people. Two weeks ago he attacked my daughter out of no where and it took my 240 pound husband to pull him off her three times because he wouldn’t stop going for her. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever witnessed. This was the second time only the first was very short and quickly handled. It was still bad because he broke skin and this time he tore up both arms and broke one arm with the force of his bite. Everyone is telling us to put him down but I don’t know how to make that decision myself or convince everyone in the house it’s the right thing to do. I’ve given them all the different scenarios about what could happen next but they think it will be fine with training. I’m so beside myself. I pray we both make the right choices!!


This article is really helpful. About a month and a half ago we adopted a 2 year old rescue. He’s a lab/hound mix and at the beginning he was very good on walks and he did well at meeting people. But recently he’s been acting more aggressive towards people and occasionally other dogs. We’d be on walks and a person would pass and he’d loose his mind. One time on a walk he nipped at the strangers shirt and luckily he didn’t tear his shirt or bit him. Other times he’d lunge at the person walking by. He didn’t do this at the beginning. Well a friend stopped by the other day and as my husband went to greet him our dog attacked him unprovoked with little to no warning. He ended up braking skin on our friend’s stomach and thigh. We have never dealt with a dog reacting like this to anyone before. He’s what seems has become aggressively protect our us. I have a 2 year old and now am afraid of him turning on our 2 year old. He aggressively barks at the window when people walk by. I’m even afraid of trying to handle him when he’s barking that way. He’s been very sweet to us and is a big love bug, but I can no longer trust him with anyone. I’ve called the rescue he came from and they said they wouldn’t take him back because he won’t be able to be rehomed due to his aggression. I’m just out of loss on what to do and financially we can’t afford a behavioral trainer to come in to work with him. We also can’t guarantee that the training will keep him from lunging and biting again.

Ben Team

Hey, Megan. So sorry to hear about the issues with your dog.
You’ll ultimately have to decide what the best path forward is, but your first priority has to be keeping everyone safe. Keep in mind that it may be worth calling around to behaviorists and asking for a discounted rate on an assessment — at least this way, you’d get a professional opinion about whether or not there’s hope for the little guy. You could also try setting up a Go Fund Me page to raise the money.
Best of luck!


Hey Megan! Ben gave some great advice – you’ll definitely want to reach out to a certified canine behaviorist if at all possible. The good news (for all that counts for) is that this is a fairly normal occurrence with rescues, as dogs usually take 2-6 weeks to decompress from the stress of shelter life. My dog was the same – his behavior got a lot worse after he settled in. It does sound like your dog is expressing some reactivity behavior. We have a few great videos talking about reactive dogs here: https://youtu.be/PjsRUUEnVbc and you can see our recommended playlist here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqj_se-bICd_yaGWw86hhq2S-ZXiZ5V8p

First, I’d suggest giving your dog as much space from other people and other dogs on walks. So that means crossing the street when someone is walking down your side. If your dog seems to be hyperfocused on the stranger, toss a pile of kibble or treats into some nearby grass to distract him. Your goal is to change the dog’s association with the stranger, so instead of being scary, the stranger means the dog gets treats!

Barking at the windows, you can start a similar routine – try throwing some treats away from the window to distract him and as long as he is not barking, keep feeding treats.

Lastly, to help you get some peace of mind, I’d suggest employing the use of gates throughout your home so you can separate the dog into one or two rooms until you feel more safe and confident with him. You certainly shouldn’t have to be worried about your child around the dog, so using gates can ensure everyone stays safe! Muzzle training and/or crate training might not be a bad idea too for when visitors come over.

When guests come over, you could also try gating the dog in a separate room where they can see the action but can’t reach the guest. Then, have the guest throwing treats away from the gate, towards the other side of the room. This is referred to commonly as “treat and retreat” and can help a dog create positive associations with guests safely. Also check out our guide to dealing with stressed and anxious dogs, as well as our dog body language guide, as your dog is likely showing signs of stress and discomfort before biting incidents that you may just not be privy too.

I know how overwhelming this all seems. It can feel like a lot. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide if this is something that can work for your family or not. I’d suggest practicing some of the methods detailed here for a month or two and consulting with a certified canine behavior consultant before making a final decision. But I also know you probably adopted wanting a pet, not a project. And feeling frustrated and possibly not being able to really work on this stuff with your dog is valid. Don’t let anyone judge your decisions. As someone who accidentally ended up with a project themselves, I know how hard it can be. Hang in there!


We rescued our energetic, goofy Boxer mix last summer at 7months old. He was still very mouthy and nipping. He would charge and lounge at us in the backyard nipping our arms and legs (even if we turned around). I got a trainer to come to the house and after implementing all the recommendations, he calmed down in a few weeks. He seemed like the perfect, chill dog until last week. We went out of town and a neighbor came to take care of him. She was the same person that took care of him a few weeks ago but this time he was growling and refused to go outside to use the bathroom. She held a broom
in front of her as she moved through the room. As soon as she put down the broom, he bit her on the arm going through a jacket and shirt. Then as she ran to the front door, he bite the back of her leg. Both punctured the skin and her arm needed several stitches. It seems like a level 5 bite to me. We love our dog so much! It seems very likely that he could repeat this and it would be a similar level of damage or worse. I would not be able to forgive myself if it happened again. I am leaning towards euthanasia because the shelter we got him will not take him back. They feel like they would not be able to regime him. We live right next to the neighbor and I have three kids. Heartbroken and confused!

Ben Team

Hey there, Mel. We’re so sorry to hear about the troubles with your pooch. That certainly sounds frightening, frustrating, and heart-breaking all at once!
Ultimately, you will simply have to make the best choice you can on behalf of all parties involved. But we would encourage you to reach out to a canine behaviorist for an assessment before coming to a final decision.
Until then, be sure to keep everyone safe (meaning that you should probably keep children and strangers away from the dog).
Best of luck!


Hey Mel – I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with that, it sounds terrible! My dog was actually very similar when I first adopted him – lots of nipping at my legs and clothes and bruising. It was very stressful. I’d like to know more about what the trainer you brought in recommended. While I can’t say for sure without knowing which methods were recommended, it sounds like whatever they suggested dramatically increased your dog’s fear and anxiety. Hence, the refusing to go outside to the bathroom, the fear of the broom, etc. Your dog sounds very scared!

Did the trainer suggest punishment-based methods? It sounds like they might have, unfortunately. I’d suggest reaching out to a certified dog behavior consultant for this issue – NOT just a trainer, as trainers are not qualified at all to deal with aggression cases and will often recommend strategies that can make a situation worse.

Cricket L DeNunzio

We have a 6 year old male lab-pit mix who I thought was lonely after our last dog passed. Nine months ago we adopted an 8 year old female pit who weighs 40 lbs less than the male. She became extremely ill within 3 days and was hospitalized with a stomach bacterial infection, so it took a couple of months for her to get her groove back. The dogs did not bond tightly, but they coexisted, slept on our bed, do walks together and sometimes engage in play. About a week ago a fight occurred near the male’s food bowl. It’s the only thing he protects. But since then, the smaller female has attacked the male on several occasions. He is afraid of her and avoids her as best he can. He won’t fight back, and just lays downs. The attacks have become more frequent and intense. She goes for his face and neck. Today was the worst. She sniffed him and just laid into him and drew blood on from is scruff, which is thick with fur, so she really had to try. We are separating them now. I’m heart broken. We had to put down our other pit because she turned on him. But she was always a challenge. This one has been such a sweet girl until the last week. We are at our wits end.

Ben Team

Hey there, Cricket.
We’re so sorry to hear about the troubles with your pooches. Resource guarding can be a difficult issue, so we certainly sympathize with your situation.

It sounds like you’re doing most things right, and we’re glad that you’ve separated them. But understand that euthanasia may not be necessary at all — your gal may thrive in another home (especially another home without dogs). So, we’d encourage you to try that route first. You may also want to enlist help from a certified behavior consultant who can help you get a better sense of issues happening in the home between the pups.

Best of luck!


Thank you for this article. I am currently battling with this difficult decision right now. I rescued a Shepherd at 7 months she has always been anxious even at 8 weeks old. Her mother tried to destroy the litter so the pups were fostered out and bottle fed. When I ran into her at the shelter she was terrified. We have come along way, but she is quite reactive (barking and lunging) at strangers and dog. About three years ago she attacked my other dog (at the time my Lab was 11). This is unprovoked and with no warning. She grabs her neck, shakes, and pins her. There has been ear abrasions to my Lab. This has happened 12 times and can go months without an incident. Today it happened again different locations, people, situations. My concern is I have a busy home with my children and grandchildren visiting all the time. The attack is so violent I fear that the grandchildren may get hurt and my heart breaks for my 14 year old dog.

Ben Team

Hey, Tracy.

So sorry to hear about the troubles with your pooch, but the behaviors you describe sound pretty troubling. We can’t tell you if euthanasia is the right decision (only you can decide that), but it definitely sounds like you’ll need to find some solution.

Minimally, we’d recommend keeping her separated from your other dog, as well as other people until you can get a canine behaviorist to assess her.

Best of luck!


I am heart broken. We always have had rescue dogs, and when one of our dogs died, we had a young coonhound who really enjoyed the company of other dogs, so we rescued a 9month old lab mix and brought her home -she got along with him so well and they never had any fights. A few years later, we adopted another rescue dog which was much smaller, a terrier mix. she was ok for the first few weeks, but all of a sudden, this new addition started biting my coonhound who had been around the longest, and the lab mix joined in a couple of times, seemingly unprovoked the last time she attacked my coon hound. The last time she attacked my coon hound, I wound up in the ER with a nasty hand bite. Our coonhound had to go to Emergency Vet for several puncture wounds he received in the fight, and this was expensive. We had to take the new dog back to the kennel we got her from. Please know that we had tried Prozac and trazodone for our lab mix as when we first got her, she destroyed 5 different couches, among many other costly things, but we loved her and kept her. eventually, she stopped destroying things, and she came off of the Prozac, which I am not sure really did anything for her because she continued to chew things up for a while after she started the medication. we decided to wait for a while before we tried to adopt another dog.
About 3 months ago, we adopted another shelter puppy that was 5 months old. We figured that since the last one was an adult when adopted, being a puppy would be easier to fit into the family. And he is a great addition. He does not have an aggressive bone in his body, and he and the lab mix LOVED playing together. She would snap at him a couple of times, but he was totally submissive to her. Our coonhound mix was the police of the family. The lab and new puppy would play hard and bark, make growling noises of which he was not too found of. However he likes the new addition as well. A month or so after we got the new puppy, our lab mix jumped on our coonhound for no apparent reason and did not do much damage this time, but the coonhound got a laceration on his nose. The second time, my coonhound was around me and I was petting him, when the other dogs walked up and when the coonhound attempted to leave, our lab mix attacked him again, this time breaking his leg and causing multiple lacerations which required bandage changes every three days, and a splint for 10 weeks. He is still limping from this attack, but he no longer has to wear a splint. It seems that the attacks are non provoked and more intense each time they happen. Our lab also has trouble with hypothyroidism, but she had just been checked and her dose had been recently adjusted prior to the attacks.
The third time was June 26th. It was awful. The lab did not break any of the coonhounds bones this time, but caused severe lacerations to his neck and his back leg this time. She would not release him. It took at least 5 minutes to break up the fight (the puppy was cowering in the corner). The lab had such a hold on his neck that we were sure she was going to kill him. I tried throwing water on them, my husband tried physically to break it up, but he could not. She got hold of the coonhounds leg and pulled and he had several deep puncture wounds and lacerations. We finally got the fight stopped with me pulling up on her collar area and putting my hand to the side of her jaw. It seems she just “snapped out of it” and then ran to another side of the room, We were able to get her outside, but the other dog would not allow us to touch him and we had to wait until the next morning to get him to the vet.
This was the most gut wrenching, heart breaking, traumatizing decision we ever made, but we decided to have our lab mix euthanized the next day due to her unpredictability with no warning or provocation of attack. I will never forget how painful this was, have had animals all of my life as they have always been a source of comfort and unconditional love to me in a world I feel is very judgmental. I know I did the right thing, but then again, think I did not. Please let me know what your opinion is. We just could not take her back to the shelter where she likely would have been euthanized due to her behavior but could have been in a cage for several days before she was euthanized, and I would not have been able to be present. With her unpredictability and the prior use of Prozac/trazodone which had little to no effect on her, I would feel awful if she were adopted out to another family and she actually attacked a person. I would have also felt terrible if she had been adopted out to a family who could not love and provide for her the way we did, had thoughts that she may go to a home that would tie her out when she had always been an inside dog with free access to food, water, shelter, toys and beds. Then I thought what if she were adopted to a fight ring. I do not believe that shelters do well with the screening process of potential adopters anymore because the shelters are so over crowded. Do you think I did the right thing? I am having trouble coming to terms and getting over this feeling of total heartbreak. Thank you.

Ben Team

Hey there, Kathy. What a heart-breaking story.

I don’t know if Erin will have time to respond or not (she stays pretty busy), but I wanted to let you know that — from my perspective — it sounds like you did the right thing.
Every situation is different, but it certainly doesn’t sound like you left any tools in the box, so to speak. For whatever reason, it just seems like she was a troubled pooch, who’d drifted into pretty dangerous territory.

The odds of finding her a suitable new home were probably pretty slim, and the process would have undoubtedly been very traumatic for her.
So, for that reason, as well as the safety of you, your husband, and your other dogs, it doesn’t sound like you had many other options.

We hope this helps, but there’s just no way around it: Having to euthanize a pet is devastating.

So, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to grieve, check out some of our resources for owners who’ve lost dogs, and try to take solace in the fact that you acted in the best interests of everyone involved — including your little gal.

We’re sending good vibes your way.


Thank you so very much for responding. My heart feels a little better now knowing that it was likely the best outcome for everyone involved. Be blessed.


Hi Kathy,
I too had to make that same decision. It is the hardest and most painful thing I’ve ever faced. I know that our babies are in heaven and no longer hurting themselves or others. Please remember the happy times, and know that you are not alone. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Best, Kathleen


Hey, I was heavily involved in dog rescue at the time I picked up my husky lilah, no one claimed her, she was in the desert. She was great with my 2yr old daughter helping her through her night terrors…
Living situation changed and I had moved back to my moms, she was part of the pack with my moms 2dogs. I had someone surrender a 2week old heeler pup to me because the mom got hit by a car, the healer pup became my service dog.
My mom and I kept fighting so I was living out of my truck with the pup. My boyfriends parents said I can stay there but I couldn’t have my dog there (service dog or not) only because they didn’t know how their dog who is a male not fixed would act.. I kept telling his parents my dog helps me with every day to day tasks . I didn’t want any conflict so long story short my mom ended up moving and I had to find a place for all 4 dogs.. we bounced around from place to place,my husky then dug and chewed up the chicken wire to get to my heeler, she attacked and killed her, then, someone had cut the lock off her kennel where she went on a rampage killing 10chickens.. she attacked another dog and left wounds.. all rescues have denied her because I am honest about what she did. I have no other choice but to humanely euthanize her….. I have a 6month old daughter that I do not trust my husky to be around. I have no other choice… she has changed.. its like a switch has been switched and she just wants to kill kil kill… this is the hardest decision I’ve had to make.but its the right one

Ben Team

Hey, Nicole.
We’re so sorry to hear about your pooch. It’s always tough having to make these kinds of decisions, but all we can do as owners is to make the best decisions we can on behalf of our pets.
Be sure to check out some of our resources about dog loss, if you think they’d be helpful.


Thank you so much for this most helpful articke, and thanks to others who’ve shared your stories. Our Percy was 7 mos old when we took him home from the shelter to foster. His legs were covered in scars and he was afraid of everyone. I thought we cd help him. He learned basic obedience in a few weeks and quickly earned 3 rally titles. He’s happy and loving but has remained fearful aggressive and has bitten 2 friends in our home, just breaking the skin. Now 50 #, he has snarled at us a few times in the 5 yrs we’ve shared with him, but we were shocked when he attacked the cat 2 days ago and yesterday our other dog, who is recovering. We know we have to say goodbye, but i cant help looking for an alternative. He loves the beach so much, and cuddling in our laps. My heart is breaking.

Ms. Meka

Hi. Everyone. I went to the store and returned to my wife having been bitten for the 3rd time. Snow (Labrador/Bull Mastiff) is normally a very loving dog although a bit hard headed at time. My Snow also has severe anxiety he has bitten her in the past when anxiety was very much at play. He is territorial about me and my son. He hates for ppl to argue or get loud for any reason. He does not care at all for strangers or change. I live an extremely quiet life, because I love it this way and obviously so does he. The first time he bit her we had hosed him off after he had eaten something dumb and we were trying to help him free it from his bum. (Although I’m the one who freed it, he bit her, not during but after the ordeal when she just happen to get close to his bum. The second time she was being a bitch to me raising her voice. Disclaimer: I’m a bigger bitch but I don’t have to raise my voice to do it. And no I don’t enjoy it. It’s rare in our home, so rare that he hides under my son’s bed or in his closet or mine if something is annoying him or he just wants to sleep. I Guess THE FINAL STRAW/bite. My daughter in law is visiting she is very pregnant, also very loud and an attention seeking drama queen. Fights with her husband then calls everyone who will listen to tell them about it loud enough for the whole house to hear. 4bd 3.5 bath. Loud af. As I mentioned before Snow does not do well with what looks like anger and upset nor is he used to seeing the behavior regularly. In addition we have had strangers in our yard all day today building a new fence so he has worn himself out barking (put my damn fence back chump!) My wife was cleaning around his bowl after he was done cussing out the fence guy in “bark” he then bit her was the story. I’ve cried like a baby already and didn’t even care to see the wound because I feel like I have no choice but to put him down because of it. I also know that she likes to push unnecessarily with him and I didn’t witness it this time. I know how hard it can be to rehome a dog who has bitten. I refuse to let him live in a shelter cooped up in a cage with fleas. I can’t, he would be heartbroken and miserable, and so wld I. I think I’d rather gain an angel and pray he understood me making the decision to not let him live on in so much fear. Help me help us get through this if you can. (I’m on the verge of kicking everyone out but my son and dog) Help please…… Fur mom of 7.5yo JohnSnowSkipper

Ben Team

Hey there, Ms. Meka.
Sorry you’re having such a tough time with your pup. It also sounds like your general living situation is pretty stressful at the moment.

While it definitely sounds like some of the things happening in the home right now are stressing Snow out, it also sounds like there are some issues he’s struggling with internally. You could try talking with the two-footers and explaining that Snow needs a calmer home, but it sounds like you will also need to do some work with a canine behaviorist.

Behaviorists aren’t exactly cheap, but there’s probably no other path forward at this point. You can’t (especially given his size) allow Snow to keep biting people, but we obviously understand that you don’t want to rehome or euthanize him.

Best of luck! We are really pulling for you all!


Hi to all! Sending Love, Light, and blessings! We just surrendered our dog to the animal shelter a few days ago. We’re experiencing all sorts of emotions dealing with doubt, sadness, guilt. Unfortunately our dog had 2 biting incidents within a short period of time, one for which we are currently being sued. I can identify with so much that has been said in this very informative article. By far this has been one of the most difficult decisions our family has to live with. One thing about it is that we are all obviously loving pet owners because if that weren’t the case we would not have been on this page. We’re all researching and looking for ways to make peace with the difficult reality of having to part ways with our loving pets. If we didn’t love them we wouldn’t feel anything. Rest assured we are all in the right place and have to make the best decision for our pets and ourselves.

Ben Team

Hey there, Butterfly.
Really sorry you’ve found yourself in this situation, but I think this:

One thing about it is that we are all obviously loving pet owners because if that weren’t the case we would not have been on this page.

Is very well put.
Just hang in there and be sure to check out some of our other resources on the loss of a pet.


We have a 2yr old Cattle Dog cross who we adopted from the shelter a year ago. He was there as a stray so no history. He appeared fine for the first month great with our other dog and people. Then COVID came meaning less visitors to the home. He bit my brother in law first as he came into the house just a quick nip . Then my father in law quick nip but broke skin. He has lunged for strangers on walks BUT great with us as a family, husband and grown up sons and loves my daughter and her friends. We put strategies in place, on Prozac,training,muzzle and vest on walks and 6ft fencing!! He has managed to escape out gate twice. He bit a dog and today just randomly ran out gate and in a unprovoked attack bit a 14yr old who was walking past. Thankyou for this post as I feel terrible, my kids are devastated that myself and my husband have decided our only choice is to euthanaise him. I feel I have some justification after this post as he’s last 2 attacks have been unprovoked and no warning. So sad that he can be so lovely with us but not safe with others

Ben Team

Hey, Maria.
We’re so sorry to hear about the issues with your pooch, but we’re glad you found the article helpful.
Best of luck moving forward.


I can empathise completely with you, Maria.

We adopted a gorgeous little Jack Russell cross just under two years ago. He was 2 years old at the time. He was a rescue, and we were told he was seized by the RSPCA so he’d been traumatised.

It’s a similar situation to yours – as he settled in with us, he became fearful and aggressive with anyone who entered the house, with the exception of two close friends.

Covid also impacted our training opportunities, and made things worse. He could not practice. But his behaviour was significant before this. We could not get anyone in the house without significant wrangling. He was basically frenzied.

He lunged at many things on walks – motorbikes, people wearing high vis, people wearing flapping clothing, cats, people in dark clothing, or just randomly. Sometimes children on bikes etc… Walking him is a stealth mission. Very stressful. We’d always keep a wide berth. This is where social distancing was useful.

Over the time we’ve had him, we’ve tried behaviourist dog training and different medications, as well as numerous harnesses, leads, foods, contraptions (baby gates) etc… But sadly, with an ongoing frenzied response as soon as the gate clicks open, a significant number of trouser nips and two very nasty bites that injured and traumatised relatives, we made the painful decision to say goodbye to our little doggy.

The hardest this to fathom was the fact that he was positively delightful and attentive with us. He was worlds apart from his fear-aggressive side. He was a sweet, loving little guy.

We said goodbye yesterday. Heartbroken.
We talked this through with our really supportive vet who showed compassion.

Wishing you all the best. It’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.

Ben Team

Sorry you went through that, Gayle, but we appreciate you sharing your experiences.


Thank you so much for this article. I am also dealing with a beloved lab mix who has bitten a friend recently. Without warning that I could tell and unprovoked. It was a good, serious bite. Thankfully she is okay. However my pup has also bitten another friend and the Gardner with a little nip. The bites and behaviors have escalated despite a dog coach, training, love, positive reinforcement, boundaries. It’s heartbreaking and overwhelming emotional. We are going to talk to our vet after the weekend and our fog coach again, but will likely out the dog down. I don’t want him to ever hurt someone else or heaven forbid a child. I also know rehoming him (if there was a home that would accept him) would be devastating to him. He is very attached to me. He’s brought me so much joy daily for the past three years. I know this is the right thing though. Thank all for sharing your stories.

Ben Team

Sorry that you find yourself in this situation, Lisa, but we’re glad the article helped.
Best of luck grappling with this tough decision.


continuation…sorry sent prematurely! This beautiful, loving dog is perfect 99% of the time…but the 1% this time caused serious injury to me. He has increasingly become more aggressive and his bites worse. I have been crying non stop since Wednesday night, because I feel I failed him. My daughter enrolled him in behavior training, and we were all aware of potential triggers…however, there are times of the day, that he would “shut down” and look at us, like we were strangers. He started to wag his tail more and began to appear like a happy adjusted dog (smiling, wagging tail, prancing around, sharing his toys with us) tho some days he’s non responsive and withdrawn. My daughter was beginning to become afraid of him, as he would occasionally stalk her or corner her aggressively. He started to violently attack older household dogs who were of no threat to him and would latch on to my senior female labrador and shake her profusely by the neck or head. The day he bit me, he had attacked the Labrador in the morning unprovoked and out of the blue. The lab was trying to avoid him, gave no eye contact, and steered clear of him. Most of the time this dog would be stuck like glue to me, curled up in a ball tucked beside me at night. He had terrible separation anxiety and would scratch or damage doors & mounding if you left the room. The vet was assisting my daughter with his anxiety issues. She had him for 2 years and the first year he was not as aggressive. The second year, was when he started to bite with out warning. No growl, no baring his teeth, just a quick lunge and snap! The choice to euthanize him is breaking ALL our hearts…we feel we all did everything possible for him. The stalking and cornering was scary. Oh, he bit me, because I went to hug my husband on the sofa, which is at the foot of the bed and he was on the bed. He lightening quick bit a triangle shaped piece of flesh out of my lip, cheek area. Probably protecting him. I still love that dog immensely and I mourn what could have been. It’s terrible to think of euthanizing a beloved dog who you loved with all your heart & soul, who was vibrant and intelligent…who once again, you planned his future with you. I can’t stop crying. Great article btw.

Ben Team

Hey there, LiliRu.

We’re so incredibly sorry to hear about your injuries and overall experiences with the pooch. But it sounds like you’ve taken all of the reasonable steps and probably have no other choice at this point.

We wish you a speedy recovery and hope that you and your family are able to find some peace after making such a tough decision.


As I write this, I’m in bed recovering from plastic surgery to repair the wound my dog caused to my face. I LOVE THIS DOG…but he gives no warning and has bitten everyone in our home. My daughter adopted him, knowing full well he was abused (evidence of cigarette burns on his legs) and that he was a moderate biter. Ugh

Siam Sa

This post is so helpful – thank you!!! This helped calm me down and get me out of the emotional state I’ve been in and look at the seriousness of the situation as well as practical steps to consider before putting our dog down.

We have the most fun-loving 2-yr old Frenchie, who is an absolute terrorist when it comes to other dogs, small children or delivery drivers. The worst we have experienced and on multiple occasions now, is him getting lose from the house or yard and attacking other dogs out for a walk with their owners. No real harm has been done aside from lunging and biting at fur, which is enough to scare the bejesus out of the other dog and owners. It is extremely embarrassing (and scary) to us because we pride ourselves on being friendly and caring neighbors.

It happened again tonight and its the last straw. I will call the vet in the morning but am not ruling out that he may need put down. Thanks to the article, for now we are going to treat this situation as “we have a dangerous dog,” and take steps to see if this can be corrected before taking that final measure.

Ben Team

Hey there, Siam.
So sorry to hear about the problems with your dog, but we’re glad the article helped.
Best of luck making your decision and navigating these difficult waters.


Thank you for this great article. We are going through this right now. We adopted a Pit/Bulldog mix from the shelter in October. She was a wonderful companion to our 13 year old Pit and 15 year old Beagle Mix. A month ago, without warning she attacked our Beagle Mix and he had to be put down. We tried training and kenneling, but 2 weeks ago she bit our Pit, also without warning and when my husband tried to separate them she bit him. Heartbroken at losing a furry family member.

Ben Team

We’re glad you found the article helpful, Maike, but we’re so sorry to hear about your pooch.
We also appreciate you sharing your story — hopefully, it’ll help others in similar circumstances know that they’re not alone.

Jacqueline Ferrer

Thank you for this wonderful article, it really helped me.

Nathalie Gerassimov

I adopted a 2 year old lab pit mix from a shelter 4 months ago and he has been an absolute delight to me and my family. Last week we had a babysitter over and went on a date for the first time in a year. The dog bit her unprovoked badly. I love this dog so much and I was hoping this is something fixable.

I hired a dog behavior specialist and she thinks he is unsafe for people especially children. I am having cognitive dissonance about how this dog who I experienced as such a loving creature can be so aggressive. How could my intuition and gut be so far off?

Today I faced the fact that I need to give him back to the shelter. I told them that I will be checking in on him and they said that they have to be honest with me and because of the severity of the bite he will not be put up for adoption and be put to sleep. The shelter suggested that it might be kinder if I put him to sleep at the vet because I can be with him when he dies.

I understand that the situation could have been worse but at this very moment, I am so deeply sad and my heart of breaking.

Ben Team

We’re so sorry to hear about your pup, Nathalie. That’s truly heart-breaking, but it sounds like you are doing the right thing. And for what it’s worth, it probably is kinder for you to take him to the vet yourself.
Be sure to take care of yourself during this time and let yourself grieve.
You may find our article on dealing with the loss of a pet helpful — some of our other readers have.
We wish you the very best of luck moving forward.


I’m sorry Nathalie. If that is the road you choose I recommend the Facebook group “Losing Lulu” it helped me with the loss if our dog. Best to you.


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