My dog just bit my mom :(
January 18, 2012 4:54 PM   Subscribe

My dog has now bit my mom and my grandfather. I'm overwhelmed and I don't know what to do.

My dog just bit my mom on the face, drawing blood. This is the second time he's drawn blood, although he's jumped at people's faces many, many times. He's a 2 year old Boxer mix who I love so much, and can be such a sweet dog, but I feel totally overwhelmed and at a loss for what to do with him.

He's a really well-behaved dog, otherwise. He's sweet and really well trained. His two issues center around being protective: protective of me and protective of food. I've worked with him A LOT to try to reduce his aggression, but it just seems to be getting worse.

The most terrifying thing that ever happened was when I was camping with my girlfriend on a sparsely-populated island, her and I and our two dogs. We were feeling a little nervous because we weren't camping in the designated camping spot on the island (it was a soccer field), but chose somewhere secluded where we thought no one would come upon us.
Then, as we were building a fire, a man appeared out of the woods. My dog lost it at the man. He was jumping at his hands and face and snapping and growling. After screaming I ran over and pulled my dog away, completely shook up. The man was yelling that my dog had tried to bite him (I don't know if my dog succeeded - the man was wearing gloves and a coat and stormed off before I could get information from him). After that happened I felt like I couldn't handle my dog's aggressiveness - a bunch of other minor incidents had already happened, and I felt out of my league.

I hired a behaviourist, who seemed optimistic about my dog's chances for recovery. She was impressed with the level of training I had done with him, and thought that as long as I was careful that nothing else major should happen.

But then I went to my grandpa's cabin, which is on a (mostly) deserted island. My dog knew my grandpa and had acted fine around him. I had my dog on leash because I was now too scared to let him off leash, even out on the island. I was helping my grandpa unload the boat. I had my back to my grandpa, and my grandpa reached his arm out to touch balance on my shoulder or something. My dog leapt up and bit my grandpa on the arm, drawing blood. My grandpa was furious and I was terrified. My grandpa banned my dog from ever coming back to the island, which was a hugely devastating (but understandable) turn of events for me. That island is everything to me and I wait all year for our family trips out there. That was last summer.

I figured that these two incidents meant my dog was not good around strange men and strange situations, and started being very careful about that. I also knew he was bad around food and around children, and so was careful about that as well (I'll list those incidences below). I was certain, however, that my dog would never hurt me or my mom, who he lives with. My mom is like, 95 lbs and he loves her to death. So just now, I was cooking his dinner. I was at the counter taking bones out of the salmon, and my mom came into the kitchen. Her and I and the dog were all standing in close, but not snug, proximity to the kitchen counter, although she wasn't looking at the salmon or even in arm's reach of it. He leapt up at her face and bit her on the cheek, drawing blood through two puncture wounds. This scared the hell out of both of us. She no longer feels comfortable around him now since he has showed he is capable of biting her. She's upset that she feels terrified in her own home.

These are not the only aggressive incidents he has had. I will list them now, in chronological order:

-As a puppy, he was very mouthy. He would bite my girlfriend's nose a lot. We really worked to try to remedy this behaviour, reading a lot and trying different techniques (although never alpha rolls or anything like that), and he mostly grew out of it, but still jumps at people's faces. He is always sternly reprimanded, although never physically punished, for this behaviour.

-When he was a puppy he was often around a kid we babysat, so we thought he was alright around kids. Then one day, he was tied on to a coffee shop terrace where my girlfriend and I were having coffee. He was chewing on a bone. A toddler, two year old girl, was kind of playing around him (we should have intervened at this point - naive and inexperienced). He suddenly lunged and snapped at her face. Her father scooped her up immediately and for an agonizing five minutes, while her face was buried in her father's shirt, we had no idea the extent of the damage he had done. Turns out he hadn't made skin contact as far as we could tell.

-He went through some resource guarding (showing aggression when you get too near precious bones, etc.), although never with me, only with my roommates. We all worked together to fix this by having people approach him and give him treats while he had a precious object. Just throwing them at him at first, and gradually approaching closer and closer over time. He seemed to resolve most of his resource guarding, but would still jump at people's faces the odd time. For example :
-I was reading the ingredients on the back of his treats to my cousin (trying to convince him to eat one...), and my dog jumped and snapped at my cousin's face.
-Or, his bone was in his crate, and he was waiting to get in his crate. My roommate's girlfriend got close to crate, he jumped and snapped.
-My friend was feeding him carrots, and another friend was sitting in a chair, nowhere near the carrots. He lunged at her face as she was just sitting in the chair!
-A kid was throwing treats at him from a distance (behaviorist suggested this). He lunged and snapped at the kid, but didn't reach because he was restrained by a leash at a distance.
-A friend dropped a piece of cauliflower on the ground, went to get it, he jumped and snapped.
-My mom's friend was petting the dog, they seemed to be getting along, suddenly the dog jumped and snapped several times at the friend's face (there was no food in this equation, which worried me, because usually there is food or 'threat').

Okay I got out of chronological order here, because it's mixed up in my mind as well. But the attacking the woods-man came before biting my grandpa came before biting my mom.

My mom is crying now, wondering where she will live because she feels too scared to be in the house with him. She says she hates that this happened because they were getting along so well.

I just don't know what to do anymore. I've trained him as much as I can - he listens to me completely and I don't know how else I could curb his aggression. I've stopped giving him bones or things that make him snap, I've stopped letting him around children, I warn strangers if they want to pet him, but I can't stop feeding him! I can't keep him away from my mom if we live in the same house.

It's probably relevant that he has hip dysplasia. I'm not sure how much pain he is in, but that could be contributing to his aggressive impulses. He is on metacam daily, is fed a homemade diet, gets plenty of exercise each day, and seems to mostly not be too bothered by his hips. I definitely can't afford the 5000$ surgery in another province so that's not a solution.

I'm worried too because I want to start a family in the next little while. I want babies and a house full of guests and children. When I got this dog I was so SO certain that I would be committed to him for life. I was completely dedicated to raising a happy healthy dog, I did my homework, and I feel hopeless now that things have gotten this bad. I love him immensely, but if I knew there was a home that would take him where he would be happy, I would give him to them. I just feel so scared for the future and for what might lie ahead since he just seems to be getting bolder/worse, even though in daily life he just keeps getting better - more well behaved and chill. But nobody is going to want a dog with aggression issues and hip dysplasia. I can't give him to a shelter - I just wouldn't do it. I couldn't even leave him at the kennel the one time I tried. The other thing is I can't leave him with anybody because of his issues - if I had a trusted friend who could take care of him while I went to my dad's for christmas (he's not allowed in any of my family's homes after the grandpa thing), then I feel like I could somehow resign myself to him having a restricted but still good life. But I can't leave him with anyone, can't go anywhere at Christmas, can't go to the island. And the one person who could take care of him, my mom, doesn't even want to be in the same room with him anymore.

Can I get through this? Do you think he'll get better or worse as he ages, since I know that age 2 can be a difficult time?

Any insight or advice will be clung to for dear life.

Thanks, mefites.
posted by whalebreath to Pets & Animals (132 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I'll add that my dog shows hardly any signs that he is about to jump/lunge and snap/bite. He doesn't growl or bare his teeth or anything. I wish he would growl so people could back off. I've never discouraged or punished growling because I know it's an important warning sign (but I have been firm about the inappropriateness of aggressive behaviour). I can play with my dog, wrestle etc., and he'll make sure that his teeth never touch me. If they do accidentally, he will immediately stop playing and sit down and wait for me to reinstigate. So I don't think this is an issue of him not understanding that his behaviour is unacceptable. He knows that teeth on skin is not okay.
posted by whalebreath at 5:02 PM on January 18, 2012

He knows that teeth on skin is not okay.

Apparently not, if he is still biting and attacking people. And he has done a lot of attacking and biting in his short two years of life.

Are you sure that he's not in physical pain due to his hips?
posted by HeyAllie at 5:04 PM on January 18, 2012

You sound like a great dog owner but I think you just got very unlucky and ended up with an inherently unpredictable dog. I think you already know you can't keep him and that he's not safe (a small snappy dog is one thing, a big snappy dog is quite another). Give yourself a short period of time to find him a home with a trainer or rescue and if you can't have him put down. It's the best thing for everyone.

I've had a lot of problem dogs and this is one I wouldn't keep. Im sorry.
posted by fshgrl at 5:07 PM on January 18, 2012 [18 favorites]

posted by juniperesque at 5:11 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

It makes me so sad to read your story, whalebreath. I've been through something similar, and I'm sorry you have to go through this. But the truth is, your dog has seriously bitten two people, and you cannot control him. Giving him to someone else is simply giving the problem to someone else. Do you think there is some magic that can be worked so that he won't continue to act as he does?
And for all your love and sorrow, what if he mauls a small child and disfigures her for life? How sorry will you be then?

There are a hundred muted ways to say this, but I will say it as cleanly as I can: you must take this dog to the vet and have him killed. It will break your heart, but to otherwise is to be seriously remiss as a pet owner.

(In the documentary "Buck," about the famous horse whisperer, who seems to be able to work magic on all horses, he encounters an extremely aggressive stallion. He calms him down enough to get him in a trailer, but firmly tells the owner she MUST have him put down immediately before he harms anyone else. It makes it clear it isn't fair to the horse to do anything else.)
posted by kestralwing at 5:11 PM on January 18, 2012 [56 favorites]

I'm so sorry. You have to put your dog down.
posted by bq at 5:15 PM on January 18, 2012 [19 favorites]

I don't know if he can be retrained -- at 2, it's certainly going to be harder than it would be at a younger age. A dog that bites people who aren't even strangers? I'd say that's a really, really bad sign.

If he's in pain, that can probably be managed. But biting two people who he should recognize as part of the pack? It's not looking good, I'm sorry. If he snaps and grabs a kid by the neck, shit is going to get incredibly real very quickly.

You need to be strong and protect innocent people -- like your mother, for Christ's sake -- from this aggressive and unpredictable animal. If I were you, I would spend some real quality time with him as much as you can.

And then take him to the vet and have him put down.

He's dangerous. He's going to keep hurting people and you will never know who or when. You need to be brave and I know it will hurt, but you have to, to protect the people you love and to protect any unlucky strangers. That is your duty. I'm sorry.
posted by clockzero at 5:15 PM on January 18, 2012 [9 favorites]

Oh, no. I'm sorry. Of course, there's no way you can give him to a regular old shelter with these issues anyway -- it's incredibly unethical and dangerous (who's going to keep him away from kids? But I'm sure I don't have to tell you this) if you don't tell them, and they won't take him if you do. You can try to find a rescue group, but they need a clear picture of what they're dealing with. You don't want them turning away a dog who can be helped because they used too many resources trying to help a dog who will never be safe around a child's face.

And it really wouldn't matter if he growled first -- you can't count on a little kid to get out of the way in time, or even to stay far enough away from him if he is restrained. Little kids are unpredictable and liable to turn up oblivious to everything in places they shouldn't. Can you guarantee that your dog will never get out of your yard even once, for the rest of his life? Because you know you and the two-year-old are both incredibly lucky that that toddler didn't have to have reconstructive plastic surgery, or worse. It's just a matter of chance and inches, not anything to do with your dog, that you haven't been legally forced to put him down yet.
posted by Adventurer at 5:16 PM on January 18, 2012 [12 favorites]

I am very, very sorry. I think you need to have this dog put down as soon as possible. And I'd put your mom up in a hotel until you do. I am honestly really sorry.
posted by tristeza at 5:18 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

You need to consult with both a really good behaviorist and vet. Immediately. If the biting is happening because the dog is in pain or has other health problems (hypothyroidism can cause aggression, for example), you need to attend to that now. the health costs are part and parcel of having a dog. Once this is addressed -- or in conjunction with -- you need to bring in the best behaviorist for you dog that you can find.

I can tell from what you've written that you're committed to be a good, even great, dog owner. If you want to give your dog a chance, with your family or with someone new, you have to do this minimum.

Chances are he is in pain. Pain makes animals highly unpredictable. Solve that first.
posted by vers at 5:19 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm worried too because I want to start a family in the next little while. I want babies and a house full of guests and children.

Whatever your choice -- and I feel for you, my pets have always been my best friends -- you cannot allow children to be around this dog, ever.
posted by tyllwin at 5:23 PM on January 18, 2012 [31 favorites]

I'm very sorry for you. But bq is right. You can't risk the safety of people by keeping this dog, and you can't have a dog that's terrorizing your family. You need to put this dog down. I would look in the future for a breed that's extremely laid back and non-aggressive, like a Golden Retreiver.

My sincere condolences - I know that putting a dog down can feel like losing a family member, but you just have to remember that dogs are not as important as the safety of your actual family members, or any children the dog might come into contact with.
posted by Dasein at 5:25 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

You know what? If it were my dog, I'd call the behaviorist, who I am assuming was using positive reinforcement to work with you, and listen hard to what she says. Meanwhile, your dog needs to either be kept away from anyone he could bite, or to wear a gentle mouth muzzle when he is in proximity to anyone.
posted by bearwife at 5:26 PM on January 18, 2012 [11 favorites]

And I also second vers -- call the vet too. Right away. Pain is an urgent condition.
posted by bearwife at 5:28 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you should explain all of this to the vet, exactly as you have here, and let them help you with what to do next. It might be to put the dog down, but I think you need to make a decision like that WITH someone. Let the vet be your ally and advocate for the dog.
posted by sweetkid at 5:29 PM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

It is my understanding that the fact the dog does not display aggressive or anxious behavior prior to biting makes it even more likely that this is an issue that cannot be de-trained. Dogs that give warning are biting as a last resort. Dogs that bite without warning are biting because they feel it is acceptable to bite.
posted by Anonymous at 5:38 PM on January 18, 2012

Also, from reading through your other questions it sounds like the dog already has a history of biting kids and aggressiveness towards other dogs, and you have been struggling with this behavior from Day 1. I am so sorry, it doesn't sound like the outcome here is good.
posted by Anonymous at 5:42 PM on January 18, 2012

I love dogs, I really do. They're my favorite. But no, you can't have this dog anymore. I'm quite shocked by your dog's behavior, whether your dog is "well-behaved" normally or not. Your dog is dangerous. Do you care more about your dog than his mother? I hope not. Your dog bit your GRANDFATHER. I mean, seriously. I would feel eternally bad for that happening, and you gave up the island, which was "everything" for you, for this extremely dangerous dog!? Augh. I don't even know. I'm at a loss. Go to the vet. Seek therapy.
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:42 PM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

i have two dogs myself and come from a position where if i had to deal with this with either of my dogs, i would feel the same way as you and not be able to make a decision that needs to be made. my heart goes out to you.

but. you know you have to put your dog down. he's bitten your mom and grandfather. they're family and it sounds like there won't be repercussions beyond emotional ones. but your dog is unpredictable. the next time he bites will most likely be a stranger or someone who won't be so understanding and who will take you to court.
posted by violetk at 5:42 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay I haven't gotten through all of the comments yet...I've just gotten to the two that have said to put the dog down. I don't know if I'm in denial or if I just haven't portrayed the severity of the two bites enough. He didn't bite either of them bad enough to need stitches or really deep bites or anything. Just enough to break the skin and for blood to come out - just small punctures. Maybe I'm trying to diminish the severity of the situation, I don't know, but do we really put dogs down for small punctures? And with my grandpa I thought that maybe it was because his skin is old and kind of papery and so maybe that's why it punctured. I really can't bear the thought of putting him down...I'm crying so much right now I'll go read the other answers now.
posted by whalebreath at 5:49 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

please discuss this with a vet. Good vets really are advocates for animals. I haven't had this situation, but I did have to put a very sick, very young kitten down and making the decision with the vet was much better than reading it as a bunch of advice on a screen would have been.
posted by sweetkid at 5:52 PM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have been bitten by dogs many, many times. I had a chocolate lab growing up who had an extremely mouthy puppyhood. I have NEVER been bitten hard enough by a dog to draw blood.

This is big deal. I'm very, very sorry that it's a situation you're having to deal with, but it's alarming to read about as you've described it here.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:54 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

You can't try to rationalize this. Ok so he bit two people and it wasn't THAT bad, but next time it could be. What if next time he bites, he holds on and won't let go?

You need to have him put down now and not wait till something seriously awful happens. Dont let future whalebreath handle this, present whalebreath needs to do it.
posted by Sweetmag at 5:55 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, it's the Story of Orson, from the thread that juniperesque linked to that might be the biggest help here.

It's a terrible decision. I'm so sorry you have to make it.

The way I see it is this: Your dog would be at peace. And your life, and the lives of everyone you care about, would be more peaceful.
posted by peagood at 5:57 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're diminishing the severity of the situation. If it were strangers - imagine if it were the two year old girl with 'slight puncture wounds on her face' - it would in some jurisdictions be an automatic penalty to put the dog down. I received a 'small puncture wound' that didn't even really bleed from a strange dog when I was 10 and I was sick with fear (took at least ten years to not be afraid of my friend's pet dogs). If we'd been able to tell where the dog came from/find the owner, my dad was fully prepared to be in court arguing to have the dog put down. If you wait until this happens to someone who isn't a family member, it's going to be a lot more upsetting with police involved and a bunch of people on the other side of the incident who hate you and your dog.
posted by jacalata at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2012 [9 favorites]

This is a very, very sad situation. I would definitely consult with your vet on this and really rule out pain as a cause of the behavior. The vet is in the best position to give an expert opinion on what you need to do. Relevant ASPCA article on dog aggression. Also: Liabilities and options if you have an aggressive dog.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:59 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wanted to post two links I think may help you process, and/or decide what to do. They are both from the same blog, Dog Foster Mom, about a woman who volunteers and fosters dogs from shelters in her region.



I am so sorry this is happening.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:01 PM on January 18, 2012

I know it doesn't seem "that bad", but the problem is you don't know if the dog is capable of worse. Your mom and grandpa were only small puncture wounds. What if that was simply because the dog was familiar with them? What if the stranger your dog went after hadn't been heavily clothed--do you think he would have gotten away with just puncture wounds?

In some areas, not sure if this applies to you, owners can face legal action if their pet attacks someone, especially if the pet has displayed prior aggressive behavior. Do you want to take this risk? It is a terrible decision for any pet owner to make, but unless you can find him another home that can adequately address his issues it is the only responsible one.
posted by Anonymous at 6:03 PM on January 18, 2012

Nthing behaviorist and vet, but I don't have high hopes for your dog. He is not well trained, he does not understand his behavior is not okay. The only reason, I think, there haven't been more physical bites is pure luck. I think, unfortunately, the situation is growing beyond your control. You were right there when this dog was biting and snapping at people and your presence is not enough to curb the behavior. Just because he doesn't bite you doesn't make the situation better.

I'm really sorry, because I understand that this is very painful for you, but your dog has some issues and you owe it to your mother, your friends, and strangers to take this really seriously even if the physical damage itself isn't so much. Again, I'd go with your vet, a behaviorist, and maybe a few second opinions. They might even be able to help you find a home where he can be re-trained professionally or a rescue group for aggressive dogs. Otherwise, your alternatives are narrowing... and quickly.
posted by sm1tten at 6:04 PM on January 18, 2012

Please rule out or address health issues before making a decision to kill your dog. I am fully aware not all dogs can be saved, but to kill a dog with a treatable condition is cruel. At the very least, contact your local boxer rescue and ask for their recommendation along with that of your vet.
posted by vers at 6:06 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I agree 100% that you can not continue to tolerate this dog biting people.

But, at 2 years old, I wouldn't be ready to throw in the towel. But I think you'll need to spend some money to avoid what people are suggesting.

1. Trip to the vet to rule out ANY possibility that this is a health issue.

2. You need a trainer that will solve this problem, probably not the one you used before, that didn't work. I suspect that it will involve your giving this dog to the trainer for a length of time (weeks, months) for the dog to learn new behaviors.

This is not an inexpensive process, but probably the only way to avoid euthanizing this pup.
posted by HuronBob at 6:09 PM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

Picture the extreme likelihood of him biting someone random at some point:
> He will be placed in abhorrent boarding conditions with no comfort from you while his fate is determined, and it is just about guaranteed that there will be only one outcome - euthanisation.
> And you will almost certainly be fined - potentially more than his surgery would have cost.
> And you may be sued (I know, different where you are than the USA, but not unheard of, particularly not for dogbite cases) - likely far more than his surgery would have cost.
And then there's your human guilt for allowing yet another person (age and association aside) to be harmed by him.

Fairly high toll, I'd say, and one that doesn't do him much honour.

It seems to me that talking to the vet and the behaviourist would be the first thing you'll be doing tomorrow. You may need to take him in to have pain levels ascertained, to rule that out.

But what if there is pain and you take all the steps to resolve it, yet this turns out to be unrelated behaviour? The risks of severe injury (or worse) seem only to be increasing for the people around him every day

Could you keep him in a muzzle nearly all day for the rest of his life? I don't think I could do that to a beloved dog, myself. Could you always guarantee he would always be in check one way or another, without spoiling his quality of life? I don't think you can.

I think the only way you can really love him is to save him from himself, because he clearly doesn't understand what he's doing is not allowed and it doesn't seem likely at all that he ever will.

You've gone very far for him. You should give yourself credit for that. You should know that this decision is one that has to be made with all of the love you feel for him and wanting him to be happy and loved until...until. No one will feel you gave up on him, no one will accuse you of not doing your utmost (and if anyone does, they are nutcases who don't understand the incredible responsibility of being guardian to such a being).

I have to add this - it disturbs me that your mom is worried about where she will live. Please tell us you've reassured her, told her that her home is safe and where she will stay or that you will put her up in a safer place while you take the couple of days you need to sort this out. I truly hope she's not having to consider where she will spend even one night after this experience.
posted by batmonkey at 6:09 PM on January 18, 2012 [10 favorites]

I am so very sorry for you, but I agree with everyone who thinks you probably need to put the dog down. The fact is you have been very lucky that the dog has only bitten two people. But that alone isn't all of it, this dog has tried to bite several more people. These are warning signs. What if the dog were placed in a more intense situation? It seems likely that if the dog acts this way under calm conditions, it could be frighteningly dangerous around bouncy kids that don't know better, or loud people, excitable people, etc. Your story is sad now, but I see a real chance of this turning into a tragedy if you do not euthanize this dog.
posted by nasayre at 6:09 PM on January 18, 2012

Whoops, to be clear -

Ziggy was somewhat rehabilitated (may still end up euthanized, but is out on adoption trial right now).

Sal was euthanized.

From your description compared to hers, your dog sounds like a Sal, but if you think your dog is a Ziggy, you could try a similar boot camp before making the final call. Though I'd also consider seeing if a volunteer group affiliated with a shelter would raise the funds for the hip issue, first, and then for the boot camp, if you decide to go that route.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:12 PM on January 18, 2012

Points that jumped out at me:

1. This is not a one-off incident.
2. He has drawn blood multiple times.
3. He has attacked someone's face.
4. He has hip dysplasia at 2yo.

Places my mind went:

1. A pattern of behavior has been established.
2. Blood = wound = potential to seriously injure a stranger = potential to be sued.
3. Attacking the face of a baby or small dog = disastrous.
4. He could absolutely be in pain and that is not fair to any creature that cannot advocate for itself.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:14 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

He didn't bite either of them bad enough to need stitches or really deep bites or anything.

This is chance. Luck. You lucked out with the two-year-old. I cannot stress this enough. You are incredibly lucky that your dog did not bite that two-year-old's face and scar her physically and emotionally, at great expense to you and incredible pain to her. This would probably not have been a puncture. That is not what happens when dogs bite tiny children's faces. He wouldn't have to jump up or anything, he'd have a chance at more than a simple snap, because the child has no escape but to back up and no way to fend the dog off. And you cannot possibly guarantee that your dog will never in its life come into contact, even accidentally, with another child who is no bigger than your dog. You can't guarantee that the leash will never slip through your hands, that your dog will never escape from your yard.

There is no dog that only snaps with just enough force to barely draw blood from any given victim every time.

The way you're talking right now, it sounds like you would only put your dog down if he sent somebody to the hospital. How will you feel when that happens, and your dog is put down anyway, without the benefit of your presence? Because it sounds like this is just a matter of time.

You have a certain responsibility to your dog, but not above and beyond your responsibility to keep your mom, your grandpa, children, strangers safe from an animal who cannot be trained to refrain from biting them. He's not your child, you know? Children can talk and listen, they grow out of things, they can't kill or maul to the point of requiring reconstructive surgery with their teeth. You cannot currently guarantee that that last part will never happen. Do talk to your vet tomorrow and see if he isn't doing this for some medical reason like intense untreated pain, talk to a boxer rescue organization tomorrow and don't leave out a single bite or close call with a child, but prepare yourself to put this dog down so animal control doesn't have to take him away and do it for you.
posted by Adventurer at 6:17 PM on January 18, 2012 [25 favorites]

The thing is, as I understand it, dogs know exactly how much pressure they are applying when they bite. I think your dog didn't accidentally bite too hard, I think he bit exactly as hard as he meant to. And next time it could be much much worse. It's just not worth the risk.
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:19 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you are in denial. Your dog has been biting children since he was 10 weeks old. At this point, you are putting your own feelings about the dog above the safety and security of your own family.
posted by yarly at 6:22 PM on January 18, 2012 [31 favorites]

I feel bad for the two year old child. From what you said of her reaction post-snapping, I would guess she is quite traumatized by the event. I would worry that she could end up terrified of ALL dogs, robbing her of the enjoyment of non-dangerous dogs. She's two, how's she supposed to know the difference? Sure, your dog didn't actually puncture / do worse to her face, but what might he have done to her mind? I don't think it's a case of "no blood, no harm" here.

And do you really want that to happen to another child?

The dog needs to go.

Someday you can get a dog that's not dangerous, that doesn't bite people, that doesn't terrorize small children. And that doesn't have a major chronic health problem at the age of 2.
posted by marble at 6:29 PM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry, but you need to put the dog down NOW.

Maybe I'm trying to diminish the severity of the situation...

Yes, yes you are. Your dog is not sweet and well-behaved. Sweet, well-behaved respectful people-loving dogs do not snap at children, rush at and attempt to bite strangers, and repeatedly bite people the people they live with hard enough to draw blood.

Your mother is afraid to be in the same house with this dog. Your mother, in her own home. This is not acceptable.

Are you actually going to wait until this animal severely hurts someone before you do something about it?

I understand you love the dog, but for the sake of your family, innocent bystanders, and the dog, you need to have him humanely put to sleep.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:31 PM on January 18, 2012 [18 favorites]

Very sad. He's out of your control, whalebreath.
It would be great if you could find another home for him who can take the considerable time & expense to modify his behavior.
But it's time to let him go. One way or another.
posted by artdrectr at 6:32 PM on January 18, 2012

Response by poster: I realize that I'm probably not thinking rationally right now, and should wait until I stop crying to write this, but I just want to ask that everyone who decides to comment really read my dog's story carefully. He hasn't attacked other dogs, he doesn't draw blood every time he snaps (most times he doesn't draw blood). Also, he does have a medical issue, hip dysplasia, that may be causing pain.

My dog is going to live in my room until we figure out what to do. My mom has calmed down a bit as well.

I'm writing rescue groups right now and asking for their advice/insight. Making an appointment tomorrow for the vet.

Finally, the two year old girl probably should have been traumatized, but she was one tough/brave kid. After she stopped crying she wanted to approach my dog again! Her father and I had to really convince her not to, that he could be dangerous to her.

If anyone has ever had to put their dog down and is open to maybe talking to me about how they made it feel better and not hurt so bad and what it was like, etc., I'd really really appreciate hearing from you in memail.
posted by whalebreath at 6:35 PM on January 18, 2012

He hasn't attacked other dogs, he doesn't draw blood every time he snaps (most times he doesn't draw blood).

Someday, if your dog does wound someone to the point that they are seriously injured mentally and physically, that line will come to haunt you, because it will be of no comfort to the people who've been hurt. Please understand that I KNOW with every fiber of my being how hard this is, but you are behaving selfishly. You've given your dog a good life. You've shown him kindness, respect, and what it means to be loved by somebody like you. You cannot let your love for him blind you to the moral and ethical responsibilities you have by virtue of owning an aggressive animal who has repeatedly bitten and menaced other living beings to the point where blood has been drawn.

I am so, so sorry. I have put down dogs, cats, etc, and sometimes you absolutely must do it for the good of the animal and for the good of the people around said animal, especially if the dog is in pain and is taking it out on other beings (though I don't think this is the case, given the stimuli preceding the snappings).
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:42 PM on January 18, 2012 [10 favorites]

Aaaw, hang in there whalebreath. I love my dog more than anything and cannot even begin to imagine the sadness if I were faced with this situation. Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible and talk it through with them.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:46 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

you are behaving selfishly

OP has asked for memails about putting the dog down and will make a vet appointment tomorrow. And is crying. I know people mean well, but this is a tough thing to get through and it takes steps. OP you have made some good first steps here. Good luck tomorrow.
posted by sweetkid at 6:46 PM on January 18, 2012 [27 favorites]

Nothing about putting your dog down will be easy, it will be awful. Putting my elderly, lived-great-lives dogs kills me. But if you can't find a solution, and I'm so sorry, but I've dealt with owning food-aggressive and owner-protective dogs, and this doesn't sound fixable at all, it has to be done. You cannot do the easy thing and continue to stay this course. My MIL did this once, and another dog died as a result - but it could've been a freakin' person.

I'm so sorry. You seem like a great dog owner and it's not your fault.
posted by kpht at 6:47 PM on January 18, 2012

Your dog is a dog. He's not a good dog or a bad dog. He's scared, and stressed out, and he bites, and he can't be around people.

You are a person. You're a good person and you love your dog and you know he can't be around people, again, ever. Because you are a good person, this is going to suck horribly for you and it's going to take you some time to get over it but you're a good person and your dog is a dog and you're going to do the right thing here.
posted by ftm at 6:49 PM on January 18, 2012 [13 favorites]

Everything with teeth, bites. There is no such thing as a person, or dog, or cat, or hamster or rat etc. that will not bite ever. If you are managing a being with teeth including toddlers, the most important thing is to keep he/she under the threshold where it may bite. Whether it's pain, frustration, stimulation, hunger... that does not matter. Dogs generally have better bite inhibition that other mammals if they stayed with their littermates long enough to learn it.

There is no mammal that does not have a threshold for biting. To say kill this dog and get one that doesn't bite bypasses the facts as we know it entirely. The dog in question may be in serious pain, may god forbid have a brain tumor; we do not know that. The dog needs to see the vet, full stop. But to say this one's bad, and the next one will be fine? When AskMefi answerers are writing this dog off as a lost cause before he's even seen the vet? We can do better than this, and I am sorry if you all are afraid of teeth.

whalebreath, I know you are doing the best you can under difficult circumstances. Please take every precaution and explore your options. I hope you pursue all avenues and are at peace with the choices you make. Fwiw, I'm always available through memail.
posted by vers at 6:50 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

yeah i mean we do not need to pile on and accuse this person of selfishness or whatnot.

at the same time i would ask you OP what your answer would be if you looked at the situation 100% from a 2-year-old's perspective, and 0% from your dog-loving perspective. not even a close call, the answer i think would be automatic and inescapable.
posted by facetious at 6:50 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have read your dog's story extremely carefully. I went back and read your past questions about your dog. I read through this question more than once.

My answers stand.

I grew up with Dobermans. I was twice the lucky guardian of Chow Chows. I spent a summer as a vet tech. My family and friends abound with canines of various temperaments and histories. I've helped with rescues of dogs of uncertain provenance. I was even quite close with uncle's Boxer.

I know this hurts to even consider. I know it does. I've seen a dear friend struggle similarly. Ultimately, she had to ask herself the questions I posed in my answer and came to the heartbreaking conclusion that she would far rather choose the method of exit and the level of comfort for her pup than to risk the various disasters and crushing guilt of the other possibilities. She then chose to donate heavily to rescues that specialise in rough cases. Maybe that would give you comfort as well.

Biting without provocation is a serious flaw. It is extremely difficult to train out, it seems you've already tried most of the recommended methods, yet it gets worse. Lunging for faces is even more serious than biting alone. Lunging and biting without warning is just about the scariest behavioural issue a dog can have...worse still if it's happening towards familiar people. Everyone has been incredibly fortunate so far. Particularly your dog.
posted by batmonkey at 6:51 PM on January 18, 2012 [20 favorites]

I was just in a very similar situation. A dog we adopted had very similar behavioral issues and the behaviorists that I took him too were also optimistic. They were wrong. Working with some of the best trainers available he became a star at general obedience but his agression and resource guarding behavior only worsened. My husband finally, uncharacteristically, put his foot down about finding a new home for the dog. He was fostered for a bit and when his behavior problems surfaced at the foster home we brought him in for a temperament evaluation as a local shelter which he did not pass and he was put down.

99% of the time he was great but when he wasn't he was unpredictable and terrifying. Your dog has bit your mother in the face without provocation - I'd call that unpredictable and terrifying. I couldn't make the decision to put him down myself because I felt I had failed him but really I had put many people who I loved dearly in danger. This is what you are doing as well. This dog has hurt people you love and will hurt your future children. I'm sorry. You, like me, have given this dog more chances that he deserves. It is not your fault.
posted by a22lamia at 6:53 PM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

You have a responsibility as a pet owner to ensure you put the safety of others first, before anything else. I know this must be hard for you, but it was worse for your mother, who is the actual victim here (not the dog). You have been fortunate that your dog has not seriously injured anyone, but that is just a matter of luck and luck is fickle. Everything your dog does is your responsibility - do you really want to be responsible for anyone else coming to harm, whether it be a stranger or your future children? I know this is difficult and that you love your dog, but being a responsible pet owner sometimes means making the hard choices. I'm sorry, but you need to step up and do the right thing.
posted by Lina Lamont at 6:55 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

FWIW, most dangerous dog laws do not require blood to be drawn, or even an actual bite to occur. The attack itself is enough to qualify, and Canada actually seems to have fairly high assumption of owner-liability, especially when the owner can clearly be shown to know of past dangerous incidents from the dog as in your case. A discussion of the various laws in different provinces says:

"All of these statutes and regulations allow a dog that bites (or tries to) to be seized and destroyed, either with or without a judge’s order, possibly at the scene of the incident. Statutory fines for infractions such as bites or ‘running at large’[31] are imposed in some provinces, in addition to victim compensation, but vary greatly by region".
posted by jacalata at 6:56 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

FTM's right. I never meant to imply that you're a bad person for wanting to keep your dog. That's not what this is about -- this will be devastating and horrible and my heart breaks for you and everyone involved.

However, I was bitten in the face by a sweet dog just like yours who bit my mouth hard enough to draw a lot of blood and knock me down at a running jump when I was about 7 or 8. The owner of the dog was nowhere near as responsible as you, and they informed me and my parents that the dog had done this before, drawn blood multiple times, but that they wouldn't do anything about it because losing the dog would break their heart. They also continued to bring said dog around children despite the fact that the dog had shown a proclivity towards menacing smaller children such as myself. That IS being selfish, and I stand by my comment, because as stewards of beautiful creatures like domesticated animals, we must be ready and willing to take on all of the responsibilities that come with being a pet owner, no matter what they are.

Please know that my comment was not meant to imply that you are good or bad depending on what you choose. You are just a person trying to do right. Thank you for that.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:57 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm so sorry this is happening.

I think your plan to call the vet immediately and to keep the dog away from everybody -- everybody -- until you see the vet and consult with the vet is a sound one.

As for how to survive euthanizing an animal should it come to that, I always remember a lovely vet who put my parents' darling dog to sleep, who told them in effect, "I know you. You have always loved him and been his friend and cared for him. And now this is what he needs, and this is also part of loving him and being his friend." If you decide to do that, it will be to spare harm to people but also avoid a potentially terrifying and miserable path for the dog should someone be injured who chooses to call in some sort of outside authority. If you do it, it's not going to be because you don't love him, but because he is your responsibility, and unfortunately, there are moments when that's what the responsibility is.

You will not feel good about it if you do it, but you will also not feel good about it if the dog causes further injury. You are a tender heart; you are in a situation that is not good for a tender heart. I wish you well.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:06 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think you need to immediately figure out how much time and money you are able to put into rehabilitating your dog. Maybe he needs that $5000 surgery to not be in pain. If you can't possibly afford it, it is the most humane thing to put him down so he is not in pain. If you're going to give behavioral therapy another shot, you need to get the best behaviorist in your area and commit entirely to turning this around - and be clear-eyed about the fact that even this may not work.

Keep in mind that when you do intensive rehabilitating, your dog cannot be around ANYONE else. Your friends, girlfriend, family, strangers, anyone. You cannot let anyone approach your dog on walks. You are either with your dog at all times or he's in the crate. You have been really lucky that no one has been seriously hurt. You have to make SURE that cannot happen. Not just "well he probably won't bite my roommate tonight, or it probably won't draw blood..." No possible exposure at all. I think this is what you have to be willing to commit to for you and the dog to have any chance at this.

I also don't think it's selfish to consider your quality of life as well as your dog's. You've already said you can no longer travel for family trips, Christmas, etc. If you keep this dog and aren't able to rehabilitate these issues, you will spend the next 10+ years as the only human he is allowed to interact with, and you will lose a lot of time with your family, friends, relationships etc. because you cannot ask other people you love to assume the risks here. You cannot have a baby. You cannot live with a significant other, or if you do, you have to know that your otherwise-good relationship might end because your dog is too dangerous for your partner to be around.

And that doesn't sound like a great life for you or the dog.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:10 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's clear that you love your dog and you want to protect him, but it's more important to protect your grandfather, mother, and any and all children you may come across.

When I was seventeen, our family dog bit me in the face. He didn't draw blood, but as soon as my father heard about it, my beloved dog was in his crate, in the back of my father's car being driven away. I was heartbroken, but I also felt deeply protected and loved. It was a reaffirmation of my value and my place in the family. I hope you are able to do the same thing for your mom very soon.
posted by gentian at 7:11 PM on January 18, 2012 [22 favorites]

I'm so very sorry you and your dog (and family) are going through this. I am a dog person to a ridiculous degree and can't even imagine being in your situation. I do lean more towards the side of those people who are urging you to get in touch with both a vet and behaviorist ASAP - tomorrow, not a week from tomorrow - as I really couldn't fathom being at peace with the decision to kill my dog without exhausting any reasonable possibility. HOWEVER, for that to have even a chance of working I think you need to seriously, seriously examine and modify your own behavior and ways of thinking about this situation. Even before some of the more rationalizing statements you've made in your followups (and I'm sure there will be plenty of people who comment on those as it is so I'll leave those alone for now), there were some really concerning lines in your original post. For instance:

As a puppy, he was very mouthy. He would bite my girlfriend's nose a lot [...] he mostly grew out of it, but still jumps at people's faces. He is always sternly reprimanded [...]

So you've been reprimanding him, and yet he continues to jump at people's faces. This would suggest that reprimanding is not a successful technique for this situation. Are you continuing to keep trying it? I would think that a change in tactics would be necessary.

When he was a puppy he was often around a kid we babysat, so we thought he was alright around kids

Was this after you had already started noticing concerning signs of aggression in him? If so, I really question the wisdom of letting him around kids you were babysitting and just assuming/hoping he would be okay.

I'm not sure how much pain he is in, but that could be contributing to his aggressive impulses.

Others have already pointed this out, but just to emphasize: if you are determined to keep working with your dog for the time being, you absolutely need to find out how much pain he is in and how that is affecting his behavior. You cannot just allow this to be an excuse for his behaviors; being responsible enough to handle this means you need to determine if this is a problem, and fix it. Again - vet, now.

I warn strangers if they want to pet him

This, to me, is HUGE. SO huge. Warning strangers is absolutely insufficient with an unpredictable dog who has bitten before (whether or not he's drawn blood). Strangers don't know your dog, and might not understand the seriousness of any warning you give them - you can't just leave it up to them to decide whether to pet your dog or not. The bare minimum of "being responsible" to your dog and those around him would be to take charge and not allow anyone to approach/pet him until and unless you get this under control.

There were other comments in your follow-ups that concerned me (why did you and the father of that two-year old have to convince her to not go back up to your dog?? That was a point where physically removing the dog or - if that was somehow ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE - physically getting between your dog and that kid was called for), but overall my point is this: If you want to keep working with this dog - if you are going to be the type of person who has any business working with an unpredictable dog who can and does bite - then you need to take charge, even more than you already have. If you and your dog are going to have any chance of this working out, you need to be clear-eyed and honest to yourself about what your dog is capable of. Instead of going into situations hoping your dog won't bite, or worrying about whether he will or won't, you need to operate as if he will bite, and act according to that. And for heaven's sake, you need to eliminate in your mind the distinction between "bites that don't draw blood," "bites that draw blood but only a little," and "bites that are really serious" - they are ALL serious, and trying to minimize them is not helping you to help your dog.

Again, I am so, so sorry you're going through this. You sound like someone who is trying to do the best in a very bad situation, and I know that you'll do the right thing in the long run - whatever the "right thing" turns out to be. All my best to you and your dog.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:20 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

I should also add, since you asked for people's experiences with putting down pets:

My family put down my childhood cats when I was away at college and didn't tell me until afterwards. They were old and incontinent, but relatively healthy. It really, really sucked. I am still really angry and hurt that they did that. I am still really upset that I wasn't there to say goodbye. But most of all, I regret that I didn't make the decision and do it myself, because it would have been right for me to do right by them and be there, but I waffled and hoped I wouldn't have to until someone else did it.

Your situation is not directly translatable, but if you have to make a very realistic choice between putting down your dog or having animal control take him away or being sued or court-ordered into putting him down because he has severely hurt someone, I would rather do it of my own moral free will than have it not be a choice.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:32 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife and I had to have a dog put down for biting about 6 months ago. It sucks. He was fine most of the time. But within a couple days, he bit several visiting children, one on the face. No, the bites were not gashes, just welty scratches. But there's no way we could handle the stress of being constantly on guard that he might hurt someone we loved.

In short, it sucks. It's heartbreaking. But sometimes the right thing hurts. Very very sorry, honest.
posted by The Deej at 7:37 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

OP, maybe it would help to think of this from your dog's point of view. He has a medical condition that hurts him and makes it hard to walk, jump or play- things that dogs love to do. He must be very scared and nervous to bite familiar people like your mom who he lives with. He might be this afraid of everyone except you, so he must be afraid nearly all of the time. He is constantly worried and scared that you will take away his food or that someone will come near him and hurt him, so he jumps and bites. Something that every person who comes in contact with him has- a certain facial expression or way of moving- frightens him so badly he attacks them.

It sounds like, as much as he loves you and you love him, his life is very scary and painful, even if he seems like a playful, happy dog when it's just the two of you. His life does not sound peaceful at all. You will feel sad, but your dog will be at peace if he is euthanized.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:38 PM on January 18, 2012 [17 favorites]

when a family member of mine was 3 or 4, a dog known to him bit his face, separated his lip up through his nose, and he ended up with 100+ stitches. he's lucky there was a plastic surgeon on call that day because they were able to put his face back together. he only ended up with a scar and a fear of large dogs. as i remember, this dog had only ever been nippy and reactionary before, he hadn't actually ever drawn blood. he was, of course, immediately put down.

your dog's aggression can't be brushed off and minimized. i'm glad you're taking it seriously.
posted by nadawi at 7:41 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

My dog Bo was abused before my family adopted him, and so had a lot of behavior problems that we were never able to work through. My parents didn't put him down even after he bit three strangers and my Dad, because every one of us loved him and couldn't let him go.

In retrospect, we should have put him down. We could not take him out for walks in the neighborhood because a couple of the people who he'd bitten were neighbors who were understandably afraid of him and about a second away from calling animal control. He was lucky because my parents had a good-sized yard and a dog door for him, but he was also bored, obese, and started to get into the garbage/ have other negative behaviors because he had a lot of energy and nowhere to use it. Finally he got past the baby gate and the childproof locks in front of the kitchen garbage (smart boy), ate something that screwed with his digestive system, and was dead within the next day.

So I guess my question is, what kind of life are you going to provide your dog if you don't put him down? If you're a conscientious person, I don't think that there will ever be a time when you will feel 100% safe leaving him alone, even with a close family friend, and so that means he's fenced in or on the leash all the time, little to no interaction with other people or dogs, and needing a lot time and attention from you.

Is this something that you're going to be able to provide? If you have the luxury to live your life around the dog, that's okay, I guess--but not a lot of people actually do. Is that kind of life good for your dog? I know that you really love this dog, but there comes a point where your clinging to him leads to a worse quality of life for him.

This is all aside from the real and severe threat that your dog poses to other people's safety. I also had a level of denial about how dangerous my dog was (and he was a cocker spaniel, not a boxer), but really, he could have done a lot of damage if put in the wrong situation, and there were a lot of 'wrong situations' that set him off.
posted by _cave at 7:48 PM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm in consensus with everyone else, as much as it breaks my heart as a dog-owner and lover. But I also want to give you a big hug. I'm so, so sorry.
posted by changeling at 8:12 PM on January 18, 2012

I'm very very very sorry. This is bad for everyone involved.


I've been the guy who had to kill the honored pet because it had gone nuts & was attacking a child.

I don't really know exactly how to say this, but it was simply horrible. Simply, and utterly, horrible. In every possible way.

It's going to stay with all of us, more or less forever.

Let me be clear: I would do it again.

...but that poor creature deserved a better death than the one he got by my hand.

I still feel terrible about that. I will always feel terrible about it.

I still cry (like now) when I remember his eyes. But I'd still do it.

The poor guy deserved a better end.
posted by aramaic at 8:13 PM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

Maybe I'm trying to diminish the severity of the situation

You are. You're saying that bites that have drawn blood aren't serious. They are. You're waiting until this dog that has bitten people repeatedly hasn't seriously injured someone. Someday he probably will - maybe a child. A responsible dog owner cannot take that risk. You could be legally liable - possibly for quite a lot of money - if your dog seriously hurts someone and it's shown that you allowed him out. If you're not going to put your dog down, the dog needs to be muzzled at all times when outdoors or around children. That's without getting into the issue that you appear to be willing to let your mother leave in fear for the sake of this dog. This is tough, but you need to keep your priorities straight. Again, you have my sympathies.
posted by Dasein at 8:23 PM on January 18, 2012

Response by poster: Twist to story: I called my ex-girlfriend and told her what's happening. She said that if anything she will take the dog. I told her that he's dangerous (she knows this - he once ripped her nose ring biting at her nose) but she loves him. I don't even know what to think now. She's good with dogs, has a great dane, but I don't think she understands completely. I don't know. I'm exhausted from crying. Pup licked tears off my face :(
posted by whalebreath at 8:33 PM on January 18, 2012

Here is my story. Yes, I had a perfectly healthy dog put down because he was unpredictable and aggressive and no, while I cried buckets of tears at the time, I do not regret it. I have three dogs now - one of them I had back then as well and two who arrived in my life (none of my dogs were planned dogs; I'm bad with the dog control) after he was gone. They're all wonderful dogs and I don't have to worry that they will bite. Jump on people with muddy paws, yes, that's an issue, but bite? No. This sounds terribly harsh but honestly, there are many, many, many wonderful friendly nonaggressive dogs in the world who need people like you. Love and care - and you've clearly done all the right things, more than most would do - cannot solve everything. Some dogs cannot be saved.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:34 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm sure you are relieved at the idea of a rescue from the ex-girlfriend, but her deciding "come hell or high water, I'm keeping the dog and taking my chances that it will injure someone" is no better than you doing it, and you giving her the dog knowing that's what she's going to do is not any more responsible than doing it yourself. It's no different from giving her the dog knowing she won't feed it. Of course she loves the dog; you love the dog, too. She may be informed, but her neighbors, possible visitors, and UPS delivery person probably aren't. I regret to say I don't think that's a solution, and I think your heart is telling you it's not.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:40 PM on January 18, 2012 [19 favorites]

What did the behaviorist help you with concerning the dog? My dog was equally protective of me, however it turned out it was because of ownership issues. He thought he owned me. I had a behaviorist come by and teach me a few ways of taking back that ownership so that my dog would be less reactive. Just after the first visit, it has already worked.
I say, try and get another (perhaps more experienced) behaviorist. If that doesn't work, I'm sorry, but I agree with everyone else.
posted by Polgara at 8:45 PM on January 18, 2012

I'm so sorry you're going through this, but giving the dog to your friend wouldn't solve anything. The issue isn't that you can't care for the dog - you've been an exemplary dog owner. The issue is that the dog is a danger to people and needs to be put down.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:52 PM on January 18, 2012 [12 favorites]

So your ex-girlfriend is going to have to decide whether to put the dog down and face the possibility that the only way to save it (if it's biting out of pain, which others have already suggested is likely not the case) might be to get it a $5000 surgery? Did she see it come so close to biting a two-year-old's face that she didn't know whether it had succeeded? Has she seen it bite her mom and her grandpa right in front of her? Then she doesn't understand the problem like you do. You're going the wrong direction. Giving the dog to somebody else who will then not be able to ever have kids or let it out of the house without a muzzle or even ever have a child (or possibly any guest; wasn't your mom supposed to be the dog's family?) in her house does not solve the problem at all, does not make him any less likely to hospitalize somebody and get seized and put down by an officer of the law. I'm sorry, but the fact that she is necessarily going to understand the problem less well than you do and be slightly more relaxed about it -- she only has to let her guard down once -- only makes it more likely that this dog, which is going to remain the same dog, is going to injure or kill someone.
posted by Adventurer at 8:53 PM on January 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

I don't know if I'm in denial or if I just haven't portrayed the severity of the two bites enough. He didn't bite either of them bad enough to need stitches or really deep bites or anything. Just enough to break the skin and for blood to come out - just small punctures. Maybe I'm trying to diminish the severity of the situation, I don't know, but do we really put dogs down for small punctures?

Are you going to wait until he does do serious damage? Your dog is dangerous and unpredictable and you admit you cannot control him even in your own house around people that he knows. It sounds like you have taken all the appropriate steps and have given him more than one chance...

Dogs have been domesticated for a very long time. If a dog bites a human - especially more than once - that dog has very serious, very deep issues. The right thing to do is to put him down. It is best for him and you. If he's 2 and acted aggressively this many times, his life is not going to be happy or end well.

I love dogs, and all the dogs I have owned have had their own behavioral issues that needed work. Biting a human crosses a line though. Giving your ex the dog is irresponsible.

I'm very sorry.
posted by bradbane at 8:58 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry, but I think people are being too nice. You are not getting it. As the parent of a baby, and you know, as a reasonable human being, your follow ups are making me angry. The rest of us are not a laboratory for you to test your dog on until you decide it's enough. My kid deserves to grow up safely. I also can't believe you made your own mother think you would choose your dog over her (that's what I take away from what she said). Put the damn dog down already.

Maybe this isn't constructive or supportive, but it really doesn't seem like constructive is getting through to you. I feel like we're all wasting our time and you or your friend are keeping this dog no matter what. Ugh.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:00 PM on January 18, 2012 [38 favorites]

If anyone has ever had to put their dog down and is open to maybe talking to me about how they made it feel better and not hurt so bad and what it was like, etc., I'd really really appreciate hearing from you in memail.

I just want to say that I've been here, in your situation. We had to put down a dog I loved when I was fifteen because she bit both me and another girl in the face (I just have small scars, no stitches or anything--but the girl she bit two months later needed plastic surgery). We did everything we could, and were working with a behaviorist from the no-kill shelter where we got her who was very insistent that the behavior could be trained out of her.

But it was horrible. She continued to lunge at people--visitors to our house, kids who would walk by us. I was very tense and uncomfortable and my mom couldn't handle it either. We eventually put the dog down because it was no life for any of us. If we kept her, she would have hurt someone else. It was horrible, heartbreaking, and I still feel sadness about it--couldn't we have done more?

But we tried the best we could with a bad situation. Sometimes all you can do is make the best of a bad situation--put the dog down now before more people are hurt and before it causes significant fracture in your family, while he's surrounded by his pack and loved ones. It's an act of mercy--for both of you.

I'm so sorry you're going through this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:01 PM on January 18, 2012

I know I've posted this before, but it's applicable here, too.

When we were really young, like 5 and 8, my sister and I lived next door to a young couple who had an English bulldog. We LOVED him, and were always in the shared backyard playing with him, but never unsupervised. One of the owners once remarked to our mother that the dog had bitten someone before, but he'd been a puppy then, and he'd shown no signs of aggression since. One evening that spring, my sister and I were out in the backyard by ourselves while our babysitter was inside. The neighbors put the dog out, and for some reason, he came STRAIGHT for my little sister and bit her on the leg. At the time, she was so small that the dog's jaws enclosed her calf entirely, and I believe the neighbor had to pry his teeth apart to get him off of her. It was REALLY scary for me to watch my sister getting chased and bitten by this dog we liked so much, especially because our babysitter (my dad's mom, ugh) didn't come outside even when she heard us both screaming for her.

There were no hard feelings from our parents, probably because my sister and I cried at the thought of not being able to play with the dog anymore, and the couple opted not to put their dog down. The next summer, the woman got pregnant with their first child. She had a very difficult pregnancy, and was home alone one afternoon, lying down. Unprovoked, the dog lunged for her face and tore her nose, which bled profusely given the higher blood volume of pregnancy.

They ended up putting the dog down after that. I'm sorry.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:02 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh and maybe . . . well, you've had a really emotional night. Turn off the computer. Go get your dog's favorite brush or something and spend some time alone with him. Let yourself feel what you're feeling right now. It sucks and you have a right to feel sad and mourn. But being here, on metafilter, feeling it necessary to defend your dog and yourself--well, you don't need that right now. Our comments and thoughts will be here in the morning, when you've gotten some sleep, okay?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:05 PM on January 18, 2012 [19 favorites]

Response by poster: I know I shouldn't give the dog to her. She's convinced that he doesn't have to be put down and I'm (almost, heartbreakingly, reluctantly) convinced that he does. She said if I put him down that she's not talking to me anymore.

The one thing that's making me hesitate is that all the friends I talk to don't think I should put him down, and are surprised to learn that a bunch of people on the internet do think so. So it's making me question if I've told his story right, because I do have a tendency to overreact. WHich I think I'm not doing...I mean...everyone is suggesting that I am under-reacting and that is a totally valid possibility to me. I just feel so extremely confused and torn.

I guess I will turn off computer, go see vet tomorrow, wait for responses from rescues. The first rescue said that she thought his problems could be resolved (I copied and pasted my metafilter question in an email to her). Again making me uncertain.

Okay, goodnight.
posted by whalebreath at 9:09 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another way of looking at this is, from your original post you are (rightly so) very into the idea that adopting a dog is a lifetime commitment. With commitment comes responsibility for their care, etc., including knowing when is the right time to end their life. Pet owners, of course, hope that this will be after a long happy life when they are in pain and you don't want them to be.

But part of your responsibility is also responsibility to keep other people from danger, since dogs interact with human society. If he is simply unable to interact with humans without significant possible danger, then your responsibility as his caretaker is to measure whether it's better for him to end life painlessly or live a life of extremely little interaction with any other people or dogs, and less attention from you since any time you want to interact with people he cannot come along.

So it might help to think of your initial adoption commitment not as "adopting him and giving him a long life no matter what,"" but as a commitment to sometimes make really, really hard decisions about the quality of life you can or cannot give him.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:27 PM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

Honestly it sounds like you're waiting for someone to say:

You know what? You *can* get this dog to turn around. Nipping children and biting people in the face isn't as big a deal as people make it out to be. The dog is two years old, he still has time to be trained/grow out of this. It's worth the risk to keep him-- your mom is overreacting, too.

You say you want to have children. By then you can bet, based on your dogs past behavior, he will be free of this little biting issue if you train him well enough and take the leap of faith of keeping him. You'll never have to worry about your dog by then-- he'll be cured, with a bright future. In fact, I think there's a pretty excellent chance this bite he gave to your mother is his very last incident.

Babies crawl around and are vulnerable, but dogs are part of the family, and it's a risk worth taking to keep a dog that bit people in the face and attacked children before. We've heard of many examples of this, rather than the opposite, as you've read in many of these stories.

Hey, you can always keep him in your room or a crate 24/7 and muzzle him if ever he comes out. That's a pretty sound solution and his quality of life isn't so bad. Or you can bring him to a no-kill shelter and they can give him away to a person, couple or family who surely won't have this little problem with the dog which you seem to have. And your ex, who is using emotional blackmail to stop you from making the decision to put him down, should have a say in this, so listen to her, too.

Does that sound reasonable to you, really?

PS Please don't let the dog that just bit your mother in the face lick your tears away. That's not a great idea.

PS 2 Not trying to be mean, but I'm just shocked by your responses and trying to get you to see the seriousness of this dog's problem.
posted by devymetal at 10:05 PM on January 18, 2012 [13 favorites]

I hope you got some sleep. And I hope you'll understand, in the clear light of day, that your friends are in the worst possible position to evaluate this situation. Here are the people who are in a good position: 1) somebody who has seen all these unprovoked attacks and attempted attacks on your mom, your grandfather, more than one child, your cousin, your mom's friend, more than one of your friends; and 2) people who don't know your dog but have access to the list of people he attacked, whether and how often he drew blood, the circumstances surrounding the attacks (was it noisy and confusing, was his food being taken away, was he being hit, etc). (This could be the vet as well as us.) There is no way to relay these facts in a way that will make your dog sound OK without actually omitting the attacks. Regardless of what's causing it or whether a rescue organization thinks something can be done, there appears to be nobody in the world but his owner whom your dog is guaranteed to not bite in the face. Strangers, children, people who clearly live in his house. There isn't even a discernable reason for it.

Your friends are in a bad position to judge because not only do they feel bad for you and not want you to have to put your beloved dog to sleep, but they also know the dog and think of him as just a friend's regular dog, he couldn't possibly be as bad as all that, he never growled at them, maybe he snaps a little but really he's just young and likes to play, etc. etc. etc., without knowing the equally real horror of seeing him come within inches of biting a two-year-old girl's face, seeing him bite their grandfather's face and draw blood (please don't say "it wasn't much very blood"), seeing him bite their frightened mother's face and draw blood, seeing him lunge for another child and only be restrained because the leash held, seeing him snap at the faces of all those other people. I seriously doubt that they understand that you can never have kids as long as this dog is alive in your house.

Your friends are basically the people who get interviewed after somebody gets arrested for murder and say, "I don't get it, he was so polite, he seemed so friendly, maybe he kept to himself a little but I can't believe he was capable of anything like this." And I'm not just throwing the word "murder" around because it's flashy. Your dog can literally kill a small child. What if that toddler had freaked out, screamed, flailed around, not had an adult directly behind her? I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly lucky you and your dog have been so far.
posted by Adventurer at 10:08 PM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

...all the friends I talk to don't think I should put him down, and are surprised to learn that a bunch of people on the internet do think so.

Perhaps I'm wrong here, but you and your friends seem to have an attitude that many young people have, in that they haven't seen the damage that can occur in these situations, and therefore they feel that it's not all that serious. I'm sure your friends have seen your dog at his tail waggin' best, and they didn't see him biting your grandfather or your mum or lunging at the toddler. Seems like there's not much empathy there. People want to think the best they can about the animals they have befriended. Sometimes it's hard to realize what can happen. I wonder what would happen if a total stranger's dog bit them, their grandfather, mother, or child? I'd bet their attitude would be quite different about that dog.

Think about this scenario: Your mother weighs 95 pounds. The dog lunges at her again in an attempt to nip or bite. He knocks her down. Even if he doesn't actually break the skin in a bite, she could hit her head, fall and break her arm, or frighten him into biting hard if she cried out or scared him as she went down.

Talk to the vet. Take what you wrote her to the clinic with you, and let the vet read it. See what they think, and heed that counsel .

It hurts to have to give up on an animal you love and have been trying to help.

If your ex won't speak to you, even when you've explained the situations detailed here, then she's simply not accepting the severity of the situation. That childish reaction makes me highly suspicious she would have the emotional stability and judgement necessary to work with a problem dog. Additionally, she certainly isn't considering your feelings as a friend in this. rather than being supporting and helpful, she's making this already hard decision even more difficult to think about rationally. She needs to realize that sometimes you have to put on your big girl panties and realize that your behavior can be part of the problem, not the solution.

I am truly sorry you are in this position. There will be another dog for you to love again. It will not be this dog, but you'll be able to know that you did the right thing for him, out of love and compassion, and for everyone else concerned.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:13 PM on January 18, 2012 [11 favorites]

The part that gets me about this is how random these attacks are. Even after being properly trained, the dog still attacked your mother, that's not good news to me.

Unlike some of the other posts, I don't think you should, necessarily, put the dog to sleep (I am usually miffed by euthanasia, although I reckon it's necessary in some cases), but you sure need to talk to your vet/behaviourist ASAP and if no solution is found, then at least give the dog up to a shelter. That is, if any does want to take him in.

It is indeed a very grave situation. Nothing of extreme gravity happened yet, but what if it did? Would you still hesitate?
posted by Trexsock at 11:47 PM on January 18, 2012

read this
posted by meringue at 12:15 AM on January 19, 2012

I second BlueHorse. People who haven't seen dog bites go bad may be downplaying the issue.

I'm an emergency department doctor. I see dog bites go bad. There are people out there with compromised immune systems, like transplant patients, people with cancer or diabetes, and babies, and old people. When those people get bitten, even a little bite that is just a puncture wound, it can become very serious, very fast. They don't have immune systems that can fight like the rest of us do. The bites get infected and the infection spreads quickly. It can spread into their bloodstream. It can start to eat away at the tissue around the bite. Sometimes even our best antibiotics don't help. A puncture wound means that the bacteria go down deep into the wound, and then the wound closes up over the top of them - in that way, it's almost better to have a more open wound than a puncture wound (infection-wise, not scar-wise). That's part of the reason cat bites are more dangerous than dog bites - their teeth are thin and leave puncture wounds like needles. Those bites get infected frequently.

I saw a little old lady a few weeks ago who got bit by her son's dog, just a little puncture. She was old, and it was on her leg, so she didn't see it much, and she was a little bit confused from time to time so she didn't keep a close eye on it. She went to the doctor's office on the first day, but he said it looked OK but it would hurt for a while. So she didn't think anything of it when it was still hurting two weeks later. Then her family came over and saw the black part of her leg peeking out from under her skirt. I had to tell that grandma that she was probably about to lose her leg. In fact, if she isn't dead right now, she's very lucky. I can still see the look in her eyes, like they were glazed over. I was thinking "how can she seem so calm? She's being raced to the operating room. Doesn't she care about her leg?" Then she looked at me and said in this little voice "doctor, I am so scared."

Almost makes me cry just thinking about it. I'm telling you so that you know what just a little puncture wound can do.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:19 AM on January 19, 2012 [36 favorites]

I seriously hope that your dog's problems can be fixed. If not, it is time to put your dog down. You DO NOT want to get in the situation my friend is in: her neighbor's dog ate her kitten and bit another neighbor and was put down by court order. If it gets to court order, there is a possibility that people can sue you.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:32 AM on January 19, 2012

Please euthanize your dog now, while he is still in your care and has not permanently harmed someone. For HIS sake. I am so sorry, because your dog's story is a tragedy that will inevitably end in one of these ways:

#1. Your dog bites a person again, potentially inflicting permanent or fatal harm. He'll be taken from you Animal Control, isolated, caged for an indefinite time, and then destroyed as a dangerous dog or to check him for rabies.

#2. Your dog bites a person, and someone attacks him in defense--with a gun, rock, etc. The dog is injured (&taken into custody) or killed (&dies in fear and pain).

In both #1 and #2, you'll have no control over the  quality of his last hours of life and may not be with him as he dies. You'll also face legal and civil fines and charges that will stagger you. 

In the absolute best case scenario #3 (an unrealistic fantasy), your dog will be magically mellowed and never bite again--but you will live in fear that he may for the rest of his potentially long life. You will never be able to trust him running freely, even behind a fence, or socializing with other humans/dogs--both things that an active, social dog will feel the loss of keenly.

Consider: if his hip problems really do contribute to his aggressiveness, your dog may be in terrible, chronic pain. If you can't afford the money to get him treatment, you can't afford the money and heartbreak in legal and medical costs when the dog loses control because he hurts and can't make it stop.

I am so sorry. Find a kind vet, perhaps one who will make a house call in this case. Give your dog his favorite treats and play his favorite games and spoil him. Then euthanize  him, and if you can stand it, pet him and tell him you love him as he dies. You are his owner and his human and he trusts you, and it is your responsibility to keep that trust by allowing him to die peacefully and loved.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:33 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've just read all of the responses and I just have to echo what was said up thread about you not taking this seriously enough.

You *have* to put your dog to sleep.

You're trying to do what's best for your dog, I get that, but palming off the responsibility to your ex-girlfriend and relying on testimony from your friends (who are probably similarly afflicted with their own personal bias of liking/loving the dog as much as you are. Either that or they're just telling you what you want to hear...) is actually diminishing your responsibility as a dog owner. You've come across as a good guy for the majority of this thread, but your recent responses are making me think that you're looking for a 'win' out of a lose/lose situation.

You cannot know how your dog is going to react in the future. You cannot know how bad his bite is going to be. You cannot police him all the time. But you will be held responsible for his actions and how bad you feel now won't even come close to how bad you will feel when the shit hits the fan.

Sorry to be harsh but you're not listening to good sense here. Your dog is a biter, and an indiscriminate one at that.

Please, do the right thing and put him to sleep.
posted by Scottie_Bob at 2:56 AM on January 19, 2012

I've been bit by dogs before, and they're always by dogs that the owners have always said: Oh they've never bit anyone before They're usually such a good god etc. etc. etc.

Now whenever I am out walking I always carry a large thick stick, so if a dog comes running up I can get into a defensive stance ready to absolutely twat the shit out of said dog if it lunges at me.

If your dog came up to me and lunged at my face I doubt it would walk away from the attack. If it lunged at the face of a child it certainly wouldn't walk away from the attack, and you wouldn't be walking very easily either if it was MY child. A dog that has shown a constant history of agression should be put down. Get a new calmer dog, preferably a smaller one without the potential medical problems.

I know it sucks and I know it isn't the dogs fault, but humans have a right to live as well, and I don't enjoy having to carry said stick around, but enough people have agressive dogs that I am happy that I have it when it is needed.
posted by koolkat at 3:04 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

So I didn't read everyones comments, but I wanted to give you a bit of perspective from someone else who owns a dog that is protective and food aggressive. If the doctor says that your dog isn't in enough pain to be causing the unpredictability, I'd put the dog down. My dog is protective and he had some major food aggression when I got him (and still does to a lesser degree). He would attack the fake hand when it messed with his food during behavioral testing. However, my dog always always always gives lots of warning before he'd ever get to the (literal) snapping point and except for one time (a long time ago) he has never ever bitten anyone and never drawn blood on a person. And he has only snapped at someone like maybe 3 times ever in his 7-8 years with me, and that's when he got really cornered and people ignored his growling to leave him alone. Because of his issues, we have to be really on top of him and make sure that he is in our control all the time and remove him from situations when he starts to get overwhelmed to prevent anything from happening. With this he is deal-able and I we have no plans to put him down.

However, this is not your case. Your dog, which has similar base issues, does not warn before biting, seems to snap at people quite frequently, and has drawn blood. You don't have a small dog or puppy with sharp teeth that could easily puncture skin, you have a boxer, their teeth are bigger and if they are breaking the skin your dog is biting to mean it and not as a warning. There are aggressive dogs you can work with, but yours unfortunately isn't it. And unfortunately having your dog wear a muzzle all the time isn't really an option either. And you can not have kids with this dog.

You have a vet and a trainer. Be very up front with both of them about what is happening and ask them if they think it's time to put the dog to sleep. Listen to them. But unfortunately this doesn't look good.
posted by katers890 at 4:39 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was in my teens, I was hanging out in a neighbors' yard with the neighbors, talking. I wasn't gesturing, touching the neighbor, nothing. Their dog came up, completely out of the blue, and bit me in the ass twice, with only "small punctures drawing a little blood" but hard enough that the next day my whole right cheek was black and blue. Im not much for sensationalist stories, but if that was some kid's face, the photos and write up in the newspaper would have been pretty ugly. The neighbors apologized but brushed it off saying he was "still a puppy" at 2 yo and because despite multiple instances of this dog snapping at people prior, I was the first person he ever but. I was hardly mauled, but it wasn't a puppy nip either.

The shocking conclusion to the story was when the dog DID make it into the newspaper a year and a half later for almost biting someone's nose off and ended up euthanized.

Honestly, if I didn't know people in real life who are actually this unrealistically attached to an animal that proves, multiple times over only two years of being around, that it's not capable of behaving safely around grannies and babies, I'd think this post and the followup replies from the OP were trolls. That's how astonished I am that you would consider keeping this dog around. Seriously. I have people come into my hospital All The Time with various facial parts hanging off by a thread and they're still trying to assure me how awesome their dog is. Their dog. The dog that bit them, their owner. Let just say that these sorts of things very rarely happen entirely out of the blue, so someday when this dog either puts you in the position to be sued or lands you in an ER getting your finger reattached, you have only yourself to blame for missing the many, many warning signs up to that point.
posted by takoukla at 5:33 AM on January 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

I posted earlier, so sorry to post again, but this is from a different angle, which helps explain my intolerance for bitey dogs.

When I was 14, on the first day of Christmas break from school, I was walking to the store 2 block from my house with my little brother. A not-too-big dog was walking toward us on the lawns. It wasn't a "stray" but had a collar and looked like it was taken care of, but obviously it had gotten out of its yard, or the owners simply let it wander.

The dog seemed very non-threatening, but as soon as he past me, he turned and lunged at my back, biting me several times on the upper and middle back. I kicked at the dog and yelled at my brother to get away. No matter how I fought, the dog kept attacking me. I covered my face and got deep bite wounds on both arms. I was wearing a heavy winter coat, which certainly saved me from worse damage.

The dog was relentless; he simply would NOT stop. I started rolling on the ground until I actually rolled into the street in front of an oncoming car. The car screeched to a stop only a foot or two from my head, and laid on his horn. That scared the dog enough that he finally went away.

I went home a bloody mess with a shredded coat and torn clothes. After an ER visit (no stitches needed, thank goodness) we spent the rest of the day trying to find the dog, unsuccessfully.Most likely the dog did not have rabies, but the penalty for being wrong about rabies is death, and once the symptoms develop, it's too late (or at least it was back then). I spent the rest of Christmas vacation going to the doctor's office each day for the next 14 days to get rabies shots in my stomach. (Thankfully rabies shots are less awful now.) I spend over a month in pain from the swelling caused by the shots. I could't cough, laugh, sneeze, bend, or hardly move without intense pain, and sleeping was difficult.

All that to say, a dog that bites unprovoked is a big problem. This is far different than a puppies playful nips while learning boundaries, or a defensive bite when there is no other choice. My dog mauling happened over 35 years ago. I carried physical scars for many years, that have finally faded, but I am still hyper-vigilant and tense around any unattended dogs.
posted by The Deej at 5:54 AM on January 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

I'm sorry about what you are going through, but I'm with crabintheocean.

You have to put your dog down. We're telling you this precisely because we're random strangers on the internet that have no emotional connection to you or your dog. Of course your friends don't think you should. They love you and love your dog.

What we care about is the safety of ourselves and our families. I'm a new mother. It sickens me that you would let this dog out in public, knowing his aggressive tendencies, where it could be around small children who can't defend themselves. It's extremely irresponsible and selfish on your part.

What would happen if the next time your dog attacked, he mauled a small child? He almost did it once, you're extremely lucky he didn't nip that toddler. I don't know the law, but I would hope that you would not only be liable monetarily, but would have significant criminal charges thrown at you as well.

I think the advice and showing of support for you here has been great, it's hard to hear, but it's honest and sympathetic. But it's only luck that nothing tragic has happened yet. Up until this point, I generally have assumed that most dog owners are responsible, and I can feel safe around their pets if they are out in public. But given yours and your friends' attitudes, clearly that is not the case.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:11 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

You sound like a really good dog owner, and I empathize with your situation.

I am not a vet, but I have worked in veterinary medicine for years. I do think you should check with your vet to see if your dog is in pain, but I'm not sure that explains his aggression. His aggression seems almost exclusively focused on food and food guarding. You expect a dog in pain to bite or lunge when touched or physically manipulated, but that doesn't seem to affect your dog in the same way food does. That said, pain can make a dog unpredictable, so maybe that is a factor.

Even so, his aggression is so extreme and so dangerous I really think he would be best served by being put to sleep. Dogs do not like to bite, they do not want to bite, and biting is a symptom that -- for him -- the world is a scary and dangerous place. If cost was not an issue, then I would say you could try and begin treating his severe psychological issues with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, (I'm not sure if there is a similar Canadian organization, as there are Canadian vets listed with the ACVB) but since you don't even seem to have a veterinary surgeon nearby, I suspect you will not have a behaviorist close enough to see regularly. You should put him to sleep. I'm sorry.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:40 AM on January 19, 2012

I don't agree at all with Tooty McTootsalot's assessment of your character, but this statement is right on:

You have to put your dog down. We're telling you this precisely because we're random strangers on the internet that have no emotional connection to you or your dog. Of course your friends don't think you should. They love you and love your dog.

posted by Rock Steady at 7:41 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I just wanted to address the part of your question where you asked, "Do we really put dogs down for small punctures?" The answer is that it's not so much the severity of the bites that people are latching onto here, it's the circumstances surrounding the bites: your dog was not being touched, you were not being threatened, the victims were well-known to him, he could easily have given a warning growl rather than immediately biting.

I was bitten on the face as a young child. We were visiting family friends, and the child of the household was holding onto her dog's rear while I was petting his head. She suddenly took a stick and poked the dog with it, hard. (She was a horrid, horrid child.) The dog bit me in the face, I guess because I was the closest to his teeth. The dog was small, so while I had a couple of puncture wounds, there was no bruising or scarring. I told the adults what had happened, and nobody suggested putting the dog down. This is because he was not an unpredictably aggressive dog, he was just sorely provoked. The child was scolded, and we never went over there again.

Contrast that with our own family dog, who a few years ago, suddenly started biting. He was elderly by then, but still strong enough to draw blood on my father a couple of times. It may have been some kind of doggie dementia; he seemed to panic and bite and then not even realize he had done it. After the second incident, my parents put him down. The most comforting thought, for me, was to know that in his true loving doggie heart, he would have wanted to die if he'd known he had hurt my father, his favorite person in the world. I am convinced that what they did was best for him as well as for every human being who may have come in contact with him.
posted by palliser at 8:25 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Nthing this is serious and the dog should likely be put down. See what the vet says about pain, though I doubt you're going to get a definitive response. I know this is touchy, to say the least, so I'll leave it at that.

I do want to add one sidenote to the discussion that might help you in the future, with this dog if you decide to keep it or others that you choose to adopt/rescue.

With regards to training the dog as a pup the OP said:

(although never alpha rolls or anything like that)

I feel like alpha rolls are a GREAT training tool and shouldn't be avoided. I don't know why you didn't use them, perhaps you weren't aware of them at the time. Whatever, that ship has sailed. Give them a shot in the future, I feel like it really does do much for the dog's level of security as well as certifying that you/humans are the dominant creature in interactions.

Good luck, I know this it doesn't seem like it now but there are other dogs that can become yours and need someone to love them like you obviously love your current, troubled, critter.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:04 AM on January 19, 2012

I'm so sorry, but I have to agree with everyone else.

It's not IF your dog ever hurts someone's only a matter of WHEN.
posted by Windigo at 9:06 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

She said if I put him down that she's not talking to me anymore.

really? that kind of statement is not only immature but emotionally manipulative and selfish. you are trying to make an intensely difficult decision (to protect people from an unpredictable dog) and instead of being supportive she lays that b.s. out? if i was you, i'd stop talking to her for making things worse for you at a time when you are already emotionally distraught by a decision you know you have to make.
posted by violetk at 9:58 AM on January 19, 2012 [18 favorites]

Whatever else you do, whenever you do it, put a muzzle on this animal, and only remove it when you are alone in a room in order to feed and water him.
posted by Scram at 10:23 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Whalebreath, I am very, very sorry. Whatever choice you make I hope you can find peace with it.

Good luck.
posted by AmandaA at 10:24 AM on January 19, 2012

You have a lot great advice in this thread, so not much to add except one thing. And that thing is this: if your mom feels unsafe in her own house that is not acceptable. You need to get the dog out of the house while you decide what to do - maybe a (pre-warned) boarding kennel or the vets office. But your mom has a right to feel safe and quite frankly, right now with dog in the house and willing to attack, she is not safe.
posted by zia at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whalebreath, I just want to join others in saying I'm so sorry about this. This is an incredibly difficult and sad decision to face. I know you love your dog. I know you are committed to him. That's why it's your very very tough responsibility to make an assessment whether to put him down. It makes me cry thinking about it. Hang in there.
posted by Cocodrillo at 10:48 AM on January 19, 2012

Please do not allow friends to make you feel guilty. I share the sense that others have shared with you that in some ways, people who (1) love the dog and (2) really have nothing at stake if you guess wrong and the dog hurts someone are not the right people to advise you. This is precisely why you seek advice from vets and behaviorists. I'm not suggesting you have to take advice from random people on the internet, but I also would caution you against advice that essentially tells you to hope your luck, and the luck of those you know, does not run out.

Your friends are bringing to this the emotion of loving the dog, but you have that already, in spades. Your friends are giving you the part of this that you don't need, and people here who do not know the dog are giving you something different. That doesn't mean you can't consider both, but your friends are basically speaking for the part of you that speaks so strongly for itself, that tells you that you love the dog and that you hate the idea of putting the dog down to prevent disaster that, in *theory*, might not happen, even though all the signs are telling you it will. Your friends are echoing your own feelings -- strangers have a different perspective. You are feeling the push-pull of heart and head, I think, rather than people who are more familiar with the dog versus less.

I am not a dog expert, but my fear is that your only choices here may turn out to be putting the dog down to avoid a disaster on the one hand and putting the dog down in the wake of a disaster on the other. If those are your only two choices, then one is horrible and the other is worse, which means that feeling horrible doesn't mean you're not doing the right thing.

Take care; this is such a sad story.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:35 AM on January 19, 2012

Whalebreath, I feel for you. My best buddy is my gorgeous Chocolate Lab, who is the biggest softie and loves everyone. Best dog on the planet. Happy to see everyone. I loathe the fact he's getting old.

If he were to bite my mom, or my wife, or some stranger on the street, and draw blood, I'd never let anyone else near him. If he did it more than once, I'd bring him to the vet to have him put down, and I'd weep the whole way there and the whole way home.

But I could not bring myself to hesitate. You must be strong and do the right thing for all the humans you know, and for the animal himself.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 11:45 AM on January 19, 2012

Response by poster: My dog is getting put down in ten days.
posted by whalebreath at 11:49 AM on January 19, 2012

I'm sorry about your loss whalebreath. I know this is hard for you. You're doing the right thing. Sometimes, doing the right thing feels shittier than doing the wrong thing. This is one of those times.

Reading all these comments, I feel your pain and understand what it's like to love a dog like it's your own child. Personally, I'm not a fan of euthanasia but this sounds like a very severe case and it would be hard for me to do the same thing you are doing.

You are brave, and kind in your own way. Stay strong.
posted by xylandaria at 11:59 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry, whalebreath. You're doing the right and merciful thing, which doesn't make it any less horrible feeling. This is not your fault, and there is absolutely no one who could have loved this dog more or fought as hard for him as you have.

Keep in mind that what good days your dog has had until now are directly related to the care and hard work you have lavished on him. I am certain that if not for you, this dog's life would have been ugly, brutal, and considerably shorter. Instead you have given him two years of as much doggie happiness he could achieve.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:34 PM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

I really do think you're making the right decision, and you have all my sympathy for how difficult and heartwrenching it is. Something that may help ease the pain is knowing that you are not hurting your dog by doing this. Your dog lives in the NOW. He can't picture the future any further ahead than "soon". If its time for dinner he may be thinking "soon I will get to eat!" or if it's dark he may think "sleep time is soon!", but he can't anticipate the way we can. There is no "next week we go to the island!" or "summer will be here in a few months!" in his head. So as much as YOUR heart will hurt after he's gone, you're not giving him a moment's sadness or pain. In fact, you're giving him a precious gift. All his nows have been good, filled with someone he loves and who loves him. He will not go when he is hurting or when he is scared. He will be happy, and then he will just... not be. He is lucky to have had you.
posted by MsMolly at 12:41 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do and I don't think I'll ever stop feeling that I've failed him. I'm going to try to give him the best ten days of his life.

I tried to start a photo's really unorganized and incomplete as of yet, but for anyone who wants to know just how cute he is, the beginnings of it are here.

I've listed all of his worst moments in this thread, but I want everyone to also know how wonderful he's been. How his butt wiggles so hard when we come home, and he gets so excited that he can't stop sneezing. How well-behaved he is 99% of the time, so much that strangers have often commented on it. How his ears are always on inside out. How he is the best cuddler I have ever met. How he plays with himself if he finds a stick - he throws it up in the air for himself, and chases it, then throws it again. He changed my life in such a positive way for the most part - I get out into nature with him every day, I cook more, and I stay grounded because I know he needs it. I'm lonely in the town I'm living in and he's been my best friend.
posted by whalebreath at 12:45 PM on January 19, 2012 [22 favorites]

Absolutely adorable dog. I'm so, so, sorry.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:59 PM on January 19, 2012

Bless your heart. I'm so sorry.

You gave him love, shelter, and a long chance that many others never would have given him. His spark will be returned to the Universe more full of nurturing than when it arrived in his fuzzy form. Some part of his energy will always be with you, always. You have appreciated and encouraged the goodness in him where others may have only seen a problem or even a monster. There are so many other possible ways his life could have gone, very few of them positive, and you have given him a cherished place in your heart and will be giving him the dignity of a loving, comfortable exit.

That is beautiful and kind, even as we acknowledge it is also immensely sad.

Big hugs to you, him, and all who care for the two of you.
posted by batmonkey at 1:14 PM on January 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

So sorry whalebreath. I know I'm not the only one tearing up for you and your dog right now. Thank you for making this tough decision.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:15 PM on January 19, 2012

Thank you for sharing Stinky's pictures and the process that led to your painful decision. I've learned a lot from your experience and, should I have the opportunity to take on a dog, I will be a better care provider for having read this thread.
posted by carmicha at 2:25 PM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't think you failed him at all. A lot of people wouldn't have been consistent with training, less would have kept trying for two years, and even fewer would have sought the help of a behavorist. You did all that you could, and now you're making the right decision. There isn't anything more that you could have done.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:53 PM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, I am so, so sorry. You and your pup have been on my mind all day. I love my little dog more than anything and can't even imagine what you're going through. This whole thing has made me cry as well. Your dog is gorgeous and I'm just so sorry it turned out like this.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:37 PM on January 19, 2012

he is absolutely darling, whalebreath and i really, really am sorry that you have to do this. even thinking of the day when my dogs have to leave me brings tears to my eyes so i can't imagine how hard it would be if i had to be the one to determine when that day is. but know that you are doing the right thing. one day soon when you are feeling better and want to share your love again, there will always be any number of wonderful dogs in need of homes who would love to share your life with you.
posted by violetk at 4:02 PM on January 19, 2012

Good for you for taking the difficult, correct decision. You're being a responsible dog owner, and I hope that one day you look back on all this and feel good not about the situation, but about your ultimate choice.
posted by Dasein at 4:04 PM on January 19, 2012

Many thoughts and hugs to you.
posted by SillyShepherd at 4:51 PM on January 19, 2012

Aw, dude, I'm so sorry. He will have lived a great, happy life with you. You are very brave and strong for doing what's right, even at the huge emotional expense you're going to face. I seriously am tearing up right now. But the thing with dogs is that even after the incredible heartbreak of putting a dog down, you will love a dog again. Every time I think it is the last, and I can't possibly do it again, and yet I do.

And I thank you profusely for not bringing him to a shelter. Awhile ago, I did a lot of research on a dog that was fostered - the foster mother didn't know all the history but had her for many months, she seemed OK, did OK around children the foster mother had over - and then bit my baby in the face when my baby crawled on her and startled her out of a slumber. It sucked. My kid was fine and didn't need stitches, and he was too young to be traumatized by it, but I really, really thank you for not putting anyone else in that position.

My other comment was, did you get this dog at a shelter, or through a breeder? If the latter, you should definitely be in contact with that breeder to let her know what has gone on with the dog's temperment.
posted by kpht at 5:03 PM on January 19, 2012

He's a beautiful doggy. I am so sorry that you have to do this, but you have not failed him and more than that you are doing the right thing by the community you're a part of, as well as by your mother and grandfather. Along with all the negative emotions that come with grief, I hope you'll eventually be able to look back and be proud that you did take the difficult but correct course of action, even when pressured not to do so by friends. Good for you, and hang in there.
posted by Lina Lamont at 6:03 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh sweetie, I am so sorry you are having to go through this. You haven't failed him. Others have described the miserable end he could have if the authorities get involved; it won't feel like it but this is the last act of compassion that you can provide as his very loving family. Bless you.
posted by BoscosMom at 9:26 PM on January 19, 2012

I am so sorry, this is such a terrible decision to make.

I can't find the article, but I read an account of a man giving his dying dog "One Good Day". Dogs aren't like people--they live entirely in the moment. He took the dog to the park, gave him his favorite people food, played as long as the dog wanted with his favorite toy, that kind of thing. Perhaps spend the next days with your dog making sure he is spoiled rotten with love. You're doing the right thing for your pup.
posted by Anonymous at 10:16 PM on January 19, 2012

I'm so, so sorry, whalebreath. I wish for peace for you all.
posted by peagood at 10:50 PM on January 19, 2012

schroedinger: was that from the Tobolowsky Files podcast? (Note to whalebreath: uh... maybe you shouldn't listen to that right now.)

Anyway, whalebreath, I am very proud of you for doing the right thing. I know it's awful. But it beats the alternative. Thank you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:59 PM on January 19, 2012

whalebreath, I'm so sorry it came to this. I have a cat who bit me, seriously, twice, resulting in infection both times; I'm diabetic, so this made me have to think about putting him down. In my case it worked out, as spaying and allowing him to be outside when he wants evened out his panicky reactions, but I know exactly what you're going through.

I can only recommend that, when you're ready, you watch My Dog Tulip [ebert][another][another]. Unlike almost every other film depiction of dog ownership, this one treats it as a story unto itself, with emotional narrative and difficult periods of problem-solving. It is sweet, but not sentimental. It will provide perspective on dog ownership as a responsibility.
posted by dhartung at 12:02 AM on January 20, 2012

I am deeply sorry, whalebreath. Hoping you can find some comfort in knowing you've done all you can and you are taking the right action. Your dog was very fortunate to be loved so well by you.

This may be the article schrodinger mentioned above; The Perfect Day.

Wishing you peace.
posted by vers at 7:53 AM on January 20, 2012

i'm so so sorry for you and your buddy, whalebreath. i hope you both get to make the most of the time you have left together.
posted by lia at 9:34 PM on January 20, 2012

Thinking of y'all.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:26 PM on January 30, 2012

Hey whalebreath, I was thinking of you today and I hope you're doing okay.
posted by crankylex at 10:31 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Me too Whalebreath. I saw your recent comment on the "should I get a dog" question and wanted to send good thoughts your way.
posted by Cocodrillo at 12:05 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Photo link edited for privacy concerns at request of OP.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:50 AM on April 17, 2012

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