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When Should an Aggressive Dog Be Euthanized?

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Dog Behavior By Erin Jones 31 min read September 17, 2021 41 Comments

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

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-lAJUcDRk6/

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 working 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?”

So, just remember that 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:

Rehoming 

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

dog-surrendered-to-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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Mish

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.

Reply
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.

Reply
AdminLogin

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!

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Megan

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.

Reply
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!

Reply
AdminLogin

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!

Reply
Mel

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!

Reply
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!

Reply
AdminLogin

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.

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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.

Reply
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!

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Tracy

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.

Reply
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!

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Kathy

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.

Reply
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.

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Kathy

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.

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Kathleen

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

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Nicole

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

Reply
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.

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Chris

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.

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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

Reply
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!

Reply
Butterfly

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.

Reply
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.

Reply
Maria

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

Reply
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.

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Gayle

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.

Reply
Ben Team

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

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Lisa

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.

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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.

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LiliRu

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.

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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.

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LiliRu

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

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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.

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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.

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Maike

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.

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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.

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Jacqueline Ferrer

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

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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.

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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.

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Nicole

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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