Dog Training World Forums Aggression Problems Fear Aggression When to put down… Reply To: When to put down…

  • Michael D'Abruzzo

    April 22, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Hi Tina, you are facing a difficult and serious situation.  I am getting these calls and emails daily from people with very similar situations.  You are not alone.

    I never tell people what to do when faced with a difficult situation with no clear answer but I can tell you my take on it.

    Safety is ALWAYS first.  I am a lover of all animals, especially dogs.  But, I am also a lover of innocent people.  This is always the first concern.  Can you create a situation that is safe for people and other animals.. INCLUDING Rocky?

    In general i consider aggression outside of the inner circle a lower level aggression problem, mainly because it is easier to prevent bites on people than if a dog shows aggression toward the people who live in the same household.  There are thousands of dogs that are owned in the world because they are not social and will bite outsiders and that is why they were obtained.  We call these guard dogs.

    The problem lies when someone brings a dog into the home with other intentions.  This definitely sounds like something you did not sign up for.  Also, Rocky sounds as if he has FEAR aggression.  This is much different than a dog that will bite just because you walked on their property or came to close to the owner, flock,  or other possessions.  These are dogs that will go out of their way and pursue people and animals for no apparent reason other than “i’m going to get you before you get me” paranoid like thoughts.  This can be potentially extremely dangerous when paired with 90lbs of the most perfect killing machine in the dog world.  One accidentally open door or gate is potentially the only missing piece of the formula that stands  in the way of another mauling or worse statistic.  Maulings in the US happen daily and a death by a pitbull paired with an underlying behavior or management problem occurs about once every two weeks.  It is a fact that other breeds of dogs bite just as much as them, but also a fact that their bites are far more dangerous because of their genetics.  This is why over 80% of deaths in the US 2015 have been from pitbull type dogs even though they represent a small percentage of the total dog population.

    So you are not in the same category as someone who has a nasty chihuahua or even a labrador retriever and should never allow yourself to be judged by anyone who has not been in your situation.

    With all of this being said, if you think you can keep people safe from Rocky we can help with a plan to help improve the situation.  But, it is likely that you can forget about any thoughts of having first time guests in the house without him muzzled and closely supervised or off-leash in public or within close range of strangers on busier sidewalks and such without a muzzle as part of the long term plan.  It is just the responsible thing to do for everyone given the capabilities.  Not just for others, but for Rocky too.

    With dogs like Rocky we work on a plan that first involves troubleshooting leadership to make sure he truly views you as someone who is in position to guide him in these situations.  Without that we will be fighting mother nature trying to train him in control.

    Then, you continue providing him with his basic needs such as exercise to prevent any problems related to not having outlets for his energy.

    After, we work on true obedience.  This is where you learn to exercise your authority so he MUST listen to you even if he does not like the situation.

    Then, we work on changing his perception as much as possible about unfamiliar people.  This is hard to do safely though when we have no way of controlling his bad decisions.  This is why the controlled obedience is important prerequisite.

    Finally, we put together a long term management plan to make it extremely difficult for an accident to happen and continue to work on improving his patterns of behavior and perception.

    Now, this is not easy to do and there are risks throughout the whole path.  It requires extreme devotion and time to a plan and you can only expect IMPROVEMENT for the situation and everything beyond that is an extra bonus.  Sometimes you will be amazed at what can be achieved over time.

    Here, is the flip side to things though…

    There is risk to others and even yourself when handling such a powerful dog that is showing aggression.. a real risk.

    You also have a quality of life issue to consider.  Are you living a quality life and is Rocky living a quality life.

    If someone feels that the risk to safety and problems with quality of life outweigh the probability of being able to improve the situation to a degree you feel is acceptable, euthanasia is NOT something anyone should be ashamed of.

    In my opinion a shorter quality life is better than a longer life that is spent locked away or otherwise compromised to the point  where the quality of life to the dog or owner is suffering.

    By the end of this day thousands of dogs will be gassed that have no aggression problems, including other pitbulls that do not have any aggression problems.  It is a triage situation.  You cannot save them all anytime in the near future.

    If you ever decide to go that route of euthanasia it doesnt mean you don’t love Rocky with all your heart.  You obviously have been given him a blessed life, one he probably would not have had with most other people.  I do not believe dogs understand time in the same way that we do.  He understands that he has been loved his whole life no matter how short or long it is.  If you decide to put him down as softly as possible, that is because you love him and it is better than being shot by a police officer or being dragged away on a rabies pole.

    Ultimately, when people make that decision, at some point they heal enough to rescue another dog (or two) and bring life to another so the other’s life was not in vain.

    If you know in your heart you are a good person, just don’t let anyone pressure you in one direction or the other.