How do you know when to euthanize an aggressive dog?
If you’re facing the decision of when to euthanize an aggressive dog, I am so sorry. I hope you find peace with your decision.
Some dogs are truly dangerous to society. They have tried to bite or they have already bitten or attacked. They are capable of causing serious injuries.
If you own or love one of these dogs, I want you to know:
- It’s not your fault
- You’re a good dog owner
- You love your dog
- Only you know the right answer
- People will be insensitive
Most people love animals, but they can also be incredibly unloving to one another.
Ever heard anyone say something like this:
“Blame the one on the other end of the leash.”
Or, “There are no bad dogs, only bad owners.”
These “no bad dogs, only bad owners” messages can be painful to someone who loves and cares for her dog but is dealing with serious canine aggression. Aggression in dogs can be caused by a variety of complex issues. A “bad owner” is just one possibility among many others. Labeling all aggressive dogs as dogs with “bad owners” is not going to help people get the support they need.
The issue of dangerous dogs and what to do about them is a tough topic for those of us in the animal world. (And I’m not necessarily referring to dangerous dogs in the legal sense, which is another complex subject.) We all want to believe we are capable of “fixing” these challenging dogs. Sometimes we are capable. Sometimes we are not.
When a dog owner is faced with the difficult choice of whether or not to euthanize an aggressive dog, the rest of us are quick to judge. We think we could’ve done “better” had that dog been ours. We would’ve been more patient. We would’ve spent more money on a better trainer. We would’ve loved the dog more. Given him more time. We would never “give up.”
How arrogant. These attitudes are not helpful.
While I believe 90 percent or more of aggressive dogs can and should be rehabilitated, I believe we also need to admit when we are dealing with the other 10 percent.
We can’t fix them all
No amount of love or training or experience will fix every single dog. At least that is my belief.
While I support the movement to end the killing of healthy, adoptable dogs in U.S. shelters, dangerous dogs don’t fit into that equation for me. Some aggressive dogs can be managed safely in the right homes, but other aggressive dogs are not adoptable. And some should be killed. That is my belief anyway. No dog of mine will ever come before the safety of any human.
I have been on the receiving end of a dog attack, and it is not pretty. I’m not saying this dog was in the 10 percent. I’m saying each owner needs to look at his or her own dog and make the best choice for his or her unique circumstances. I will never tell another dog owner what to do.
Until I have had to make the difficult choice on whether or not to euthanize a family dog – not to end his physical suffering, but to protect others from harm – I can’t possibly criticize others.
We all need to turn our judgments to empathy and be supportive:
“I’m sorry to hear of your situation. I wish I could help.”
“I’m so sorry to hear of your loss.”