Harboring An Aggressive Dog, Struggling To Have To Put To Sleep?

This past Saturday we had to bring in our eldest dog for a recheck after her surgery and we somehow got around to babbling on with the vet, eventually we got to talking about our four year old red heeler mix dog and his aggression. He was always aggressive – in the litter he was a bully to the other puppies, as a pup he would bark and snap and go completely mad, . . . I foolishly thought nothing of it until about two years ago when it became too much. Several times he came within inches of nailing someone, when he was just 5 months he bit my sister’s friend’s finger, it’s just a constant thing and I can hardly manage bringing him in to get health care if he is sick. I don’t have the energy for it any longer. His dad was also mildly aggressive to dogs and people. As my vet put it, “you’re dog is one of the few that is born with a ‘screw loose’.” And she’s right. It’s even more difficult because he is so loving, and wonderful within the family and the people in our home but with outsiders it’s a whole different ballgame. I’ve consulted with a few trainers, and breed rescue groups they said my best bet is to humanely euthanize — and my vet agrees.
It’s hard on me because I fought so hard to keep him (I was a young teen when he was born and we kept him) and since then he’s been my life. But I simply don’t have the energy to care for a dog with aggression and I question his quality of life because of it. I’m finding myself trying to distance myself from him and I know that breaks his heart because we are so close and it hurts.
I wish for so much a place that would take him in and rehabilitate him rather than what I feel like is murdering him.
I don’t know how to cope with this, has anyone been in this situation before? How do muster the courage to go through with putting your dog to sleep?
And as an alternative, would anyone know of a place that might consider taking him?

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8 Responses to Harboring An Aggressive Dog, Struggling To Have To Put To Sleep?


    Read the question.
    This is an ugly situation and I wish I knew what to say that would help you, but should anything happen where the dog bit someone it is your liability and they will sue the crap out of you and most states would require very expensive “jail” for the dog (happened to me and my girl just scratched someone by accident) or they will force you to euthanize him anyways. The circumstances are almost impossible and I don’t blame you for not having the energy to work with his aggression any longer, it is too much and obviously heartbreaking. You might send out an email pleading for help to several rescue groups in the area and see if they take him not necessarily a ACD rescue.
    Putting to sleep is hard especially when the reasons are not old age or terminal illness.
    I’m sorry, but you would be doing a wonderful thing for him. Going outside is miserable for him and locking him away in the house for life is no way for any dog to live.

  • WyrDachs says:

    Have you done a Thyroid test on this dog? It’s well documented that an Underactive Thyroid can cause aggression. For all you know, the sire of the dog may have had low thyroid also.
    Before making a decision, I would run a full battery of thyroid tests (T3, T4 etc). If he has an underactive thyroid, it can be managed thru medication. However, if this is not the issue and there turns out to be no underlying health issue, than euthanizia may be the best thing for him.

  • scrgrl says:

    Consulting leads them to believe your dog should be euthanized? They haven’t tried working with the dog? I don’t understand this if what you say is what happened. I can’t see a trainer give up on a dog without trying to work with him or her.

  • BostonJe says:

    I’m not sure where you live or what your resources are, but….
    Dogs that have aggression issues will always have aggression issue. The aggression is inside them. You can’t get the aggression out of them, but you might be able to learn to control the aggression. You need to find a trainer that specializes in dogs with aggression issues. One suggestion is to call your local police department’s K-9 unit and ask them who they use to train their dogs.
    At the very least, you should have your dog evaluated by such a trainer.
    The good news is that If you chose to learn how to control your dog’s aggression, you will learn a lot about dogs. The bad news is that there isn’t a quick fix and it could be a little pricey.
    You can’t give this dog away. That’s just passing his aggression issues to someone else who may be even less able to deal with than you.
    Good Luck.

  • John says:

    Try a dog trainer and get their honest opinion after a few sessions. If the trainer says that euthanasia is the best option then that will be a properly considered opinion based upon real facts.
    In the meantime get a muzzle for your dog so that he can still run around outside and have some fun without the risk of nipping people.
    Read up on Dog Calming Signals in the link below and let your dog know that you’re reading him loud and clear and taking charge of any threats before they occur.
    Give your dog this last best shot at rehab.
    Add: ‘Breeders Are..’ You need to read the qeustion properly too. The OP is not yet ready for euthanasia and seeks validation of that option from 3rd parties. It would be disengenuous not to encourage that input from a properly informed third party.

  • Kateryna says:

    I had to do the same thing. It hurts but it was the right decision. Giving agressive dog away is to know someone else might hurt him and abuse him for his aggression. You have to make a difficult decision but the right one.
    Hi girls,

    I am heartbroken. We euthanized my doggy Tinker this Saturday and I was there and my heart is in so much pain. We did it because of aggression but he was only 6 years old, healthy and my heart and soul. I was in agony contemplating this decision for two weeks.

    We had these issues with him for a while.

    – Never ever let anyone come inside my house because he attacked by barking and trying to bite peoples feet (I lost half of my friends because if this)
    – Never let my husband pet or touch him in any way. Never let him come close. (We’ve been living now together for 4 years)
    – Bit my husband by his toes; was territorial with him (ex. will not let him go to the couch; will not move away and stands his ground)
    – Marked (peed) my house by peeing everywhere at least 3 times a day
    – Barked at and attempted to fight with any dog the we passed during walks (I always have to change sidewalks)
    – Barked at any outside noise and “attacked” TV if someone was too loud there
    – Aggressive towards passing people during walks. Bit my neighbours fingers.
    – Had to be sedated for grooming

    I loved him so much so I stopped inviting people over a long time ago, just not to stress him. When we lived in a condo, I even took stair to 12th floor back and forth just so he would not get stressed over elevator. My whole life revolved around him. He bit my husband so many times and I ignored his behavior because I felt guilty to correct him. You know, so many times I stayed on the couch with him instead of my husband, because he was aggressive I had to choose either him or my husband and I always chose Tinker.

    The issue that was the last string of events is babies growing up. They started to crawl all over and now trying to walk. So I did not want to lock him up and instead separated him by baby gates so he was roaming free in kitchen, breakfast area and family room. He marked everything, chairs, fridge, carpets, curtains.

    While my twins had to be separated playing only in the living/dining room area. He would growl and show teeth when kids were close to the baby gate. I tried to “introduce” them once and he started to act like a “hyena”, obsessing and walking in circles.

    I also read that once dog bites, it cannot even be trusted around kids so I was advised to lock up Tinker in the laundry room when kids babies were awake, but that was most of the day now, I thought that was so cruel because all he wanted to do was be beside me.

    He wanted me back in the day, when it was just us and I had no kids, no husband and could spend my day lying with him on the couch. He never “moved on” with my life that I now had a husband and later babies.

    This was not a life for a dog. Also bad for my babies who did not have access to my whole house and could not continue for long and I could not keep them segregated.

    I know it’s my fault and I feel terrible…I feel like I should have tried harder to train him and try different techniques, but I was just so tired and busy with twins alone all day. I guess I am trying to find an excuse.

    Last, for the past 6 months he would not let me groom him. He would act strange and pull away, growling if I tried to brush him or clean his eyes. He just became this unkept animal that lived in my house.

    I miss him so much but I also feel like I gave him my all and he just terrorized my hole household. Now I can hire a nanny, I can invite people to my house, I can have playdates with other moms and so on, yet I feel so empty.

    As regards to adoption, I actually contacted Humane Society and a rescue group which both said that if a dog has aggression and bites unprovoked, most importantly bite history, it will most likely be euthanized at the shelter after a couple of months. The rescue group said that he would have 15% chance of being adopted as it would have to o on his record that he attacks and bites. Not many people would give him a chance. Also she said dogs like this usually get returned back and euthanized at the end.

    I guess I decided not to put him through the pain of being away from me, being caged, being stressed by new people and environment. I was also scared that if someone adopted him and he bit them, those people would get angry at him and either hurt him or throw away on the street. He went to sleep in my arms with me kissing him and saying his name. He could smell me until he took his last breath. It was so peaceful but it was so heartbreaking…

    It was the right and humane thing to do. I am just so so sad…Thank you for listening….

  • Alex says:

    *sigh* i could have written some of these postings & OP myself. our dog is now 12 years old. he has from day 1 been an absolute jerk quite frankly. he too is extremely loyal, just so playful, lovable & cuddly with us. but he snaps, growls, lunges, etc. he’s opiniated, cranky, moody, aggressive to the point of having had bitten.

    he has slowed down some now because of age (& almost blindness) but still hates most dogs. we cannot trust him off leash ever! even at a dog park, empty hiking trail or beach he is always leashed. i totally agree that once a dog is aggresive he is always this way – it’s just how he is. it is almost seems our dog is just angry at life. everything annoys him. having him off leash is like having a loaded gun ready to fire at any time!

    i agree too that you can’t change it, but you can (sometimes) curb it. i’ve done a whole bunch of training, he takes anti-anxiety pills (since he was 2). but nothing really changes it. i have had extreme anxiety because of this dog.
    i’ve done the whole walking stairs instead of elevator thing for years (we live in NYC). i have many times found myself resenting my dog & fantasizing about him dying. having said this, he caught mange & almost died (really close to dying) & i did all my research on line & demanded the vet treat him for mange (if anything to rule it out). well he survived. i love our dog. i would never want to see him suffer, let alone, any animal.

    who is anyone to judge though. every situation is different. when you throw into it the liabilty of a dog who bites, lifestyle restrictions or children/ babies who are being snapped, growled or God forbid bitten, than the line gets murkier.

    our dog wanted to harm, no….kill our baby when we brought our son home from the hospital. it was the scariest moment i have ever had w/ our dog. it became almost primal: the dog wanted to kill the baby and would (i believe) have hurt me to get to it. my husband had to become physical with our dog (something we never did). he kicked him until he backed off. we then banished the dog to the bathroom & hardly gave him anything except walks, food & water for about a month. slowly we introduced him back into our life. during this horrible time frame it became so severe that between crying to ourselves about it – we started feeling shame. shame that we had a dog like this. we were / are nice people! are son is nice! we were raised nice! how can we have a dog that is this un-friendly, this un-safe.

    this is around the time that my DH & i talked about putting him down. we were tired of fighting him. tired of having the liabiltiy. tired of being held hostage by this dog’s aggresive behaviour.

    we just couldn’t do it. i couldn’t give up on him.this is not a judgement to those who had to eunthinize, rather it’s just what we decided for our family. things are better now. our dog knows his place has changed (HE no longer runs the family, household). i would NEVER trust my dog alone w/ my son. but they have become a pack (my son above the dog) and have adjusted nicely to each other. sometimes they have some really sweet moments together. but the dog still snarls, grumbles if our son is annoying him or he wants space. he see that as a warning the dog is giving us & respect it. so we seperate toddler & dog. dog goes in the kitchen behind baby gates.

    but i still worry about having kids over for playdates. i get anxious when i know i have to take him into the vet & face all the other dogs in the waiting room. he still goes nuts on other dogs outside. we have taught our son how to respect & animal and it’s space. the rules are simple for him: no tail pulling, no hitting, no jumping on him, etc. the rules are also simple for our dog: you show teeth to our kid you will get your @ss kicked, you bite him, it’s over.

    only another dog owner of a very troubled, aggresive, high-maintenece dog will ever EVER understand how this feels.

    i miss my dog when he is gone. i will cry a flood to tears that will never seem to end. a whole in my heart will insue (i’m tearing up now).

    BUT i will feel a GREAT sense of relief.

  • Queenie says:

    The problem with dogs are the tendency that they might hurt people. I have experienced this one also. My dog tend to bit people. I gave him away to our local vet who happens to be adopting dogs. It is hard when your dog suddenly gets aggressive.