Should I put my dog down?
July 23, 2012 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Should I euthanize my healthy, but difficult dog?

My ex and I adopted a rescue mix about 7 years ago, naturally I ended up with the dog.

From day one, he has been a difficult dog. Resource guarding. Leash reactive. Has bitten several people. So on.

Generally, he's very mellow and the biting incidents only occur during resource guarding situations. He's generally friendly and people like him.

Over the years, I've gotten by because I was lucky to have a support system (roommates and lovers helping out), but right now I'm entirely on my own. And of course, at this most inopportune moment, he developed a severe separation anxiety and has caused a thousand or two dollars in damage and vet bills. He has to be with somebody 24/7, which is starting to take a toll on me. It's so severe to the point where if I step out even for a minute, he'll immediately try to break out.

I can't really afford doggy daycare or trainers. Due to his age and temperament, I'm having a difficult time finding a new home for him. Family members and friends have refused to take him in, even temporarily (not that I blame them).

On top of this, I'm healing from depression, and am hanging from a thread financially. The whole situation is really stressing me out to the point where it's affecting my health and work, not to mention really bad for my bank account.

Now, the main question: Should I have him put down?

I'm wrestling with this question, because 1) It will be held against me by some of my friends who feel that I should be responsible for him no matter what. 2) I will feel like a murderer. 3) It's not his fault.

Alternatively, I could surrender him at a shelter, but that's a pretty much death sentence for him anyway. He has been rejected from no-kill shelters (not that being stuck in a crate for years is any better).
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (64 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have been there. The world will judge and hate you for this. But the world does not have to live your life, in your context and your challenges. You will have to take the decision that is best for you. (And yes, this thread might also hate me for this answer).
posted by infini at 11:21 AM on July 23, 2012 [34 favorites]

Could you donate him to a big farm?

I work with farmers in a huge industrial agricultural area in california and I have met hundreds of "difficult" dogs that just roam around with their farm dog friends, scaring intruders and eating rats, sleeping outside, and being fed at the yard once a day. If they were city dogs they would be biting kids left and right and would be considered dangerous and antisocial. But out there, they are just regular mean ol farm dogs, and they seem happy.

This might not be possible with his separation anxiety, but it seems like a better option to explore than a shelter for now.
posted by cakebatter at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

He's bitten people, he's're not a murderer. This would be merciful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:25 AM on July 23, 2012 [16 favorites]

Oh and if anyone gives you crap ask them to take him; ask them for money. See how quickly they shut up.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:26 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you are out of options. You cannot be with this dog 24/7. If you are looking for permission to put the dog down, you certainly have mine. And unless your friends are volunteering to take him on, it's none of their business. In your position, I would not be above lying to them - some kind of terminal illness which caused personality changes, and meant that he needed to be put down?
posted by plonkee at 11:27 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

You're the only person who can answer this question. Only you know if he has a good enough quality of life to continue on. To put it another way, if you were in his state of mind, would you want to continue living?

Have you tackled the separation anxiety through medication yet? Some of them can be very reasonable, and if you talk to your vet about the financial limitations, they might have ideas for you (If you're in SE Michigan, me-mail me). For example, I know of a couple trainers in my area who would trade free services in exchange for an extra person to help out at their classes.

I do think that when you adopt a dog, you make a commitment to care for them. I suspect that you thought that too, when you brought him home. That said, if the animal has become increasingly violent toward people and other animals, sometimes there is very little you can do without more resources. I can't imagine that feeling like a murderer (your words, certainly not mine) would help your depression.

Wishing you the best of luck, I hope you both find peace with whatever outcome you choose.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:29 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I hear of an older dog suddenly developing new behavioral issues, I think "underlying medical concern." I know you've been racking up vet bills - has he had a thyroid check/blood panel? Personally, I would feel responsible to at least rule out something easy to fix.

It will be held against me by some of my friends who feel that I should be responsible for him no matter what.

I'm a vindictive person, so I'd probably drop the dog off with one of these friends and thank them for saving his life.

Also, isn't your ex in some ways responsible for this dog? I don't see him/her anywhere in this question.
posted by muddgirl at 11:30 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh and if anyone gives you crap ask them to take him; ask them for money. See how quickly they shut up.

I actually think this is a great idea, not because I think they will all just shut up (I'm sure a lot will) but because I think some of them would probably want to help, even if they couldn't take the dog themselves.
posted by cairdeas at 11:34 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can the dog go back to the rescue it came from? If not, I know he is a mix, but is he any noticeable breed where he could go to a breed specific rescue? Can you contact your ex to see if they want the dog?

If not, you do what you have to do so you can survive.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:35 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have been through this with a cat, not dog. It is a difficult decision, but it sounds like you have made a real effort to work it out. Putting your pet down is sometimes the kindest decision. If you can get a vet to come to the house to do it and then take the remains away, that was what worked best for me. I still "what if?" about it occasionally but at that time of my life, it was the best choice for me.
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:39 AM on July 23, 2012

You're not a bad person if you're not willing to impoverish yourself or otherwise undergo severe hardship for a dog. (Flipside: you are a bad person if you put down a dog that you could give a few good-quality years to because you want to stay in a fancier hotel at the beach this year.)

The two things you ought to weigh are the dog's quality of life and yours. Yours, obviously, is bad. So look at what you're "buying" with your suffering. Is the dog getting really good quality-of-life, given that it's fundamentally impossible for you to stay at home with the dog all the time and its bite history makes it less suitable for most training environments? Or is the dog's life dominated by stress, as it seems to be?

If what the dog is receiving is low quality of life because it's messed up in the head, and what you're paying for that is the dramatic reduction of your own QoL, then euthanasia is not a bad thing.

You would be a better and more responsible owner and caretaker for your dog if you euthanized him yourself rather than dumping him on a farm or other facility where he might have a decent life, might be beaten to death or sold to a dogfighting ring, or might be torn to bits by the other dogs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:45 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think the appropriate thing to do is to put him down calmly and humanely, rather than likely agonizing death in the "surburban wild" (making him someone else's problem to boot) or horrible stressful confinement in a shelter followed by euthanization.

He's not going to know he's dead. He's not going to feel punished. He is suffering. There are a lot of better-balanced dogs in the world who needs homes and won't get them. You have considered your options, and I think you have come to conclusion that makes the most practical sense.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:47 AM on July 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

His chances might be slim in a shelter, but slim is better than none.

Nope. A low-stress weekend at home with the owner followed by humane euthansia is better than a stress-filled week followed by euthanasia. Dogs are about quality of life, not quantity.

A shelter's ability to adopt out a dog with a known bite history, that the anonymous would have to be an absolute asshole to omit or lie about, will be very limited.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:47 AM on July 23, 2012 [10 favorites]

Sounds like you have already made up your mind, you put forward a lot of arguments for putting the dog down but none saying that you really didn't want to.

You can work on separation anxiety and resource guarding in a dog, it's not easy but it's doable if you want to put in the work. You can crate the dog while you are away so it can't damage the house. You can go to the vets and get med that might help it cope, you can try pheromone dispensers there are a lot of other options.

I understand you are coming out of a clinically diagnosed depression and so the idea of the work involved is overwhelming, made even harder I am guessing by your being alone, all that can make the idea of doing the work needed to help your dog daunting and if the work isn't done your dog is going to get worse and if it's taken to biting people this is not a good thing. In that case maybe putting your dog down is the best answer, if you do it though do it with courage and be with your dog and pat it and hold in and love it while it's passing don't let it die alone with strangers and scared dumped somewhere.

I guess that some of the people that have commented would now tell me if it's so easy to not put the dog down why don't I take it. I would but already I have already taken in 2 rescue dogs with similar fear and biting problems (and on a very tight income) and spent almost two years working with them to the point where they are pretty healthy happy normal dogs. It is not something everyone wants to do or can do I get that, but there are options other than putting the dog down if you want to take them, but if you decide otherwise please do it in the least stressful, most loving way you can for your dog.
posted by wwax at 11:48 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, FWIW anon, if you MeMail me I might be able to offer you some other help.
posted by cairdeas at 11:50 AM on July 23, 2012

I have similar types of issues with a cat. (Not the biting, but the damage to the house, the shitting in everything but in his box, etc.) I have tried no kill shelters. No one seems to have room. I am preparing to give him to a shelter where his chances of living a month are slim and none. I have tried asking a vet to put him down, but his regular vet refused because he is still relatively in good health.

There comes a time where you have to take care of yourself. Do what you think is best.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:51 AM on July 23, 2012

No. You are responsible for him which means you need to find an alternate solution for him. It requires time and patience and dedication which you signed up for when you adopted him. Putting down a dog because you haven't been able to take care of him (leash issues, biting etc. could have been corrected with the right training/class/time and effort-did you and your ex did any of that?) or because your life situation has changed-is not his fault. Pets are commitment and most don't realize that when they take one up. Putting down a dog does not absolve you of your commitment to his welfare,someone that lived with you for 7+ years
posted by pakora1 at 11:53 AM on July 23, 2012 [8 favorites]

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not just dump your dog on someone's farm or in the suburban "jungle." Euthanizing him, if that is the only other kind option for you and the dog, is so much better for him. Not only would you be setting a known agressive dog loose [what would you do if he bit someone?], but the majority of dogs cannot actually fend for themselves outside. He is not a wild animal. All of his life he has had food given to him, shelter provided for him, and he has no experience trying to survive in harsh weather. He will probably starve to death or get hit by a car or, god forbid, bite someone who he sees as a threat. And dropping him off at a farm only makes him someone else's problem- all the farmers that I know don't actually want any of the dogs that are dropped off on their land, but are too kind-hearted to leave them to fend for themselves.

The suggestions to contact your rescue where you got him were good ones. Even if they cannot personally take him back, they might be able to find you some resources in finding him a new home or coping in the meantime.

Known aggressive dogs are special cases- in many counties after a dog bites someone it is suggested to put it down anyway. If you take it to a shelter he will not be adopted out and to be honest, it would be taking resources away from the pets who could have homes.

Separation anxiety is rough to deal with- we eventually had to take a dog back to the pound because she caused many thousands of dollars in damages. You might be able to contact your local SPCA and see if they can get you in to a free clinic [they have them multiple times a year] to get that checked out.

You have the obligation to make the best decision for your animal's welfare. Unless it's treated, blind panic for most of the day when you're gone doesn't sound like very good quality of life to me anyway.
posted by shesaysgo at 11:54 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

[Folks, question is not "Which aspects of this will people be judgmental about?" OP has acknowledges it's a tough decision. be helpful or keep moving. Those are your choices.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:54 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Were it not for the biting, I'd say you are obligated to this animal in the same way you would be a child. However, the biting makes the animal dangerous and that is the one and only factor you've described that makes this a reasonable consideration.

But - before you go to that point, consider that there are drugs that may make a difference, significantly. My parents recently started one of their cats on Prozac (prescribed by the vet) and there has been a radical behavior change from destructive and anti-social to safe, mellow and friendly. Perhaps this is an option for dogs too?
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:54 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

A low-stress weekend at home with the owner followed by humane euthansia is better than a stress-filled week followed by euthanasia. Dogs are about quality of life, not quantity.

With all due respect, this is an unfounded assumption that absolutely cannot be substantiated. It's the kind of thing that pet owners always tell themselves to make themselves feel better about euthanasia, but that does not necessarily make it true.

Your dog has a fur coat to keep him warm, and the amount of food trash people throw out means he would be unlikely to starve. I live in Boston, and even in a heavily urban area like this there is a huge wild animal population. Walking down the streets of Cambridge at 4 AM, I've seen raccoons, skunks - even wild turkey. Most people don't realize how many wild things live in their area quite comfortably.

It may be silly to project myself into your dog's shoes - but if I were him, I would greatly prefer the chance to fight for my survival, rather than experience a great weekend followed by lethal injection.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:58 AM on July 23, 2012

Why don't you buy a good sturdy crate and lock him in it everytime you leave the house? Yeah crate training would be nice but for now you need safety and to be able to go to work without having your place destroyed.

I did this with my current dog for over a year. She is fine now. Did she like the crate and "think of it as her safe place"? No. She thought it sucked being locked in a crate. I thought it sucked locking her in there. We're both pretty happy that she doesn't have to be in there anymore but it didn't kill either one of us at the time and it let me got to work without having my furniture and books shredded.
posted by fshgrl at 11:59 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Your dog has a fur coat to keep him warm, and the amount of food trash people throw out means he would be unlikely to starve.

I'm sorry but that's completely dumb. I've lived in rural areas where people dump dogs and they do starve to death. Unless someone finds them or they get so emaciated that they get killed by another dog or a car. Dumped dogs are too scared to approach people and farm dogs won't let them on the property so they starve. I've seen with my own two eyes plenty of emaciated dogs and cats and plenty of dead ones too.

The city isn't any better. Go and volunteer at a shelter and see how well the strays are doing on their own. My dog was let to go feral for 3 months before I got her and was nothing but skin and bones when they picked her up. 30lbs for a dog that should weight close to 60.
posted by fshgrl at 12:04 PM on July 23, 2012 [30 favorites]

wolfsdream01: what actually can be substantiated is that OP would be releasing an animal with known resource aggression problems to scavenge through unsuspecting peoples' garbage for his livelihood. This would be an utterly irresponsible thing to do. On top of that, if the dog can be traced back to OP, he or she would be held liable for for any injury caused by the dog to an unsuspecting person investigating the noise around their trash bins at night.

Regarding the continued hope for adopting an aggressive dog out -- especially one who has successfully bitten twice in the past -- the chance is vanishingly small. Very occasionally good-hearted trainers (whose life already revolves around their animals) will take one in when they have space for another dog open up, but this is so rare as to really be false hope. OP knows how hard living with an aggressive dog is. Nobody is really going to volunteer for this.
posted by rocketpup at 12:08 PM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sorry that you're in such a crummy situation. I would personally try to place the dog with an ad on craigslist that describes the issues you have with him honestly. At 9 or 10 years old though (making the assumption that he wasn't a puppy when you rescued him), I think that will be a horribly difficult thing to do.

Please do not follow the absolutely horrible advice about just turning him loose in the suburban or rural "wilderness". In the rural areas, 60% of the stray dogs starve/freeze to death or are hit by cars while the other 40% are shot by landowners who don't want someones discarded pet chasing and killing their livestock, harassing their own pets or threatening their children. Packs of loose stray dogs in the suburbs are a huge threat to the local residents, their children, and their pets. Most will end up hit by cars or destroyed by animal enforcement officers. I would judge someone way more severely for abandoning a pet to that kind of death somewhere than I ever would judge them for a humane euthanasia.

Euthanasia should be your very last resort, but if you've exhausted all possible options than maybe it's the best thing.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 12:12 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I guess I come from a different background from some people here (namely both of my parents were raised on farms/ranches).

Responsible ownership of an animal means committing to its welfare, yes, and that means you provide it food, shelter, medical care, and appropriate socialization; you prevent it from harming other people or their property; and you minimize its suffering. It doesn't mean you let the animal suffer while you drag yourself into bankruptcy. Nor does it mean releasing it to become someone else's problem.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:27 PM on July 23, 2012 [27 favorites]

Some pet-owners see the only permissible kind of pet-ownership is one of adopting and committing to take care of that animal until it dies of old-age or illness, come what expenses and trouble may. That is fine for them but in my opinion, another model of reasonable pet ownership is committing to maintaining a good quality of life for your animal for as long as is financially and emotionally reasonable for you, if it stops being reasonable for you while the pet is still living, preventing their suffering by either finding another good home or putting them down.

Dogs are not kids and putting a dog down isn't murder. Sometimes putting a dog down can be a way of *taking* responsibility, not fleeing it. Quantity of life does not always outweigh quality of life.

I think that if you give your dog a good death, you do not need to feel any guilt or regret. Your friends who think otherwise are entitled to their opinion, but not to force it on you.
posted by Salamandrous at 12:28 PM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Your dog has a fur coat to keep him warm, and the amount of food trash people throw out means he would be unlikely to starve.

Wolfdreams, I know this seems like it would make sense, but you are wrong. 100% wrong. Ask anyone who works in animal control if you don't believe it.

I live in Boston, and even in a heavily urban area like this there is a huge wild animal population. Walking down the streets of Cambridge at 4 AM, I've seen raccoons, skunks - even wild turkey. Most people don't realize how many wild things live in their area quite comfortably.

Yes, wild animals are fine in the wild. Domestic animals are not wild animals. By and large, they do not have survival skills. It is apples and oranges.
posted by cairdeas at 12:28 PM on July 23, 2012 [11 favorites]

To actually, answer the question the OP posed:

You have two options --

1) Crate your dog when you are away (and assuming you live in a place where having a dog potentially bark loudly for eight straight hours is OK). Ask your vet for advice regarding potential medical intervention and referral to someone (a trainer) with experience with dog aggression and separation anxiety. Work with your vet and trainer to evaluate the problem and work on a regimen to attempt to address it. If you haven't had your dog evaluated in this way and can afford the vet bill, I would suggest you do so if only for your own piece of mind.

Note that the regimen will involve a significant time commitment on your part and some expense. You will always have to be wary of his potential for aggression, but you may see some alleviation of the severity and increased threshold for his triggers. Same with the separation anxiety.

You will have to continue working on the problem for the rest of the dog's life, though less intensively as time goes on, assuming adequate improvement occurs.

2) You can have your dog humanely euthanized. After exhausting option 1 -- if you go that route -- you may end up here anyway, though you will probably feel less conflicted (but no less heartbroken) if you do so. And if you don't believe you can keep up with the expense or time commitment involved in option 1, I would personally deem it the kinder option sooner rather than later. You may be judged (this thread is evidence for that) but you really can't let that be a factor in your decision. As another poster suggested, lying in this case is not out of the question. It's not really anyone's business.
posted by rocketpup at 12:28 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


As someone who, like you, lives in Boston I'd like to kindly ask you not to recommend that people dump their dogs in my city. Or any city. It's cruel to the dogs and it's incredibly dangerous for other pets, for the local wildlife, and for people.

Also, please don't pretend that a FERAL DOG is equivalent to the odd turkey or skunk I find in my backyard.
posted by lydhre at 12:29 PM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

[Folks, let's get back to answering the OPs question please and not continue the "your dog has a fur coat and can eat trash" derail. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:31 PM on July 23, 2012

Have you tried anti-anxiety medication? That seems like a cheap and logical step but it isn't guaranteed to work.

I am a crazy bleeding heart animal obsessed vegan, but I think if the medication doesn't work, then euthanasia is the only option. Locking an extremely anxious dog in a crate all day is an absolutely terrible idea. Your dog is clearly unhappy. You can't even leave the house for a minute without him having an anxiety attack.

You love your dog and you gave him a wonderful and loving 7 years. You're out of options at this point (and an expensive trainer is not guaranteed to fix anything). I think you need to make this decision based primarily on what is best for the dog. Your friends might disagree and you might feel awful because it's not his fault, but your dog doesn't want to live in this state of constant anxiety.
posted by Hey Judas! at 12:32 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Look, it's a DOG.

If it were a healthy, happy animal without a history of biting that would be one thing. But if your life circumstances make it impossible for you to care for this animal, and its issues make it impossible to rehome it, then euthanasia is going to have to be the answer. Anyone who judges you for that should either take the animal off your hands or is, sorry, not worth your concern.

In my world people are more important than animals, period. That does not mean that animals should not be treated as the responsibility they are, or that they should be dumped for no reason, but with the life circumstances you are dealing with, you cannot cope with the issues this animal is bringing into your life. The dog does NOT outrank you!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:32 PM on July 23, 2012 [9 favorites]

OP, yes, you should put the dog down. The dog bites and you cannot continue to care for it. I'm sorry there is only one option for you and your pet.

Responsible ownership of an animal means committing to its welfare, yes, and that means you provide it food, shelter, medical care, and appropriate socialization; you prevent it from harming other people or their property; and you minimize its suffering. It doesn't mean you let the animal suffer while you drag yourself into bankruptcy. Nor does it mean releasing it to become someone else's problem.

Quoting since I can't favorite more than once.
posted by anti social order at 12:36 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read a really great maxim about situations like these: people are allowed to judge you for your choices, only to the extent that they're willing to help you with the situation. So, as people upthread have said, your friends think it'd be murder to euthanize this dog? Great, then can they help fund a trainer/ help dogsit while you're at work/take him for respite care on weekends? No? OK, not their choice to judge.

If you're worried about this being a "selfish" decision, is it possible you could arrange to take part of the resources this dog uses and redirect them somewhere where they keep helping other dogs? So, if you'd normally spend $30/week on food for him, can you donate $15/week to an animal shelter? If you'd normally spend 5 hours per week walking him and calming him down, can you start volunteering for 2hrs/week at some sort of rescue charity? Just to be clear, it sounds as though you've done everything you could in this case, and I don't think you have any continuing obligation past this point; but trying to keep "giving back" to animals in some way might help you to feel as though the loss of this dog is freeing up resources that can be used to give other dogs more promising futures.
posted by Bardolph at 12:36 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify I was not suggesting that the dog be dumped on a farm without the landowner's permission. I'm not talking about cute little petting zoo farms, I'm talking industrial sized valley farms where the farmers I know are interested in dogs that bite people and would be open to a few more WITH PERMISSION.

Dumped dogs hurt everyone.
posted by cakebatter at 12:39 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure if this makes you feel better, but if you lived in California, you'd be obligated to put him down. It's a "one bite state" - one dog bite, you're out. A biting dog is a huge liability - don't feel too guilty about putting him down. Could your vet come and do it at your house? That might make the process more comfortable for you and your dog.

I am so sorry that you're going through this.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:39 PM on July 23, 2012

Yes, it seems to me that the multiple bite incidents would mean that many people would have chosen to (or been required to) euthanize the dog before now anyway.
posted by gaspode at 12:44 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if this makes you feel better, but if you lived in California, you'd be obligated to put him down. It's a "one bite state" - one dog bite, you're out.

This isn't true, or at least wasn't as of last year. My sister's dog bit someone in CA last fall, and she was fined and had to quarantine him 10 days in her home, but the dog wasn't seized or put down.

posted by cairdeas at 12:47 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

1) A low-stress weekend at home with the owner followed by humane euthanasia is better than a stress-filled week followed by euthanasia. Dogs are about quality of life, not quantity.


2) With all due respect, this is an unfounded assumption that absolutely cannot be substantiated. It's the kind of thing that pet owners always tell themselves to make themselves feel better about euthanasia, but that does not necessarily make it true.

As someone who has worked at an overcrowded underfunded kill-shelter and an animal clinic where in both places I have assisted in euthanasia, I can safely say that the first view is right. I don't have empirical evidence to prove this, just the 15 feline and canine euthanasia’s I have personally assisted in.

This decision in the worst. I haven’t been there personally but I have a fair amount of personal experiences in the trenches and have sat with owners who have had to put their dogs down because of behavioral issues.

Don’t abandon your dog. See him through to the end.

Please MeMail me if you need to talk. Judgment free zone.
posted by OsoMeaty at 12:51 PM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

OP, if this previous AskMe was yours, I can see you have been working very hard and for a long time with this dog. You have reached the point where your health and livelihood are compromised. I think it is now time for you to extend the same kindness and love to yourself that you have extended to your dog over the years. I think it is time to let the dog go (euthanasia) and focus on healing yourself mentally, emotionally, and financially.
posted by needled at 12:56 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

The dog is suffering now. If may not be a physical form of suffering, but it's still suffering. Just as it's not always the best thing to prolong an animal's life if it's in physical pain, sometimes it's not right to prolong its life if it is feeling other sorts of pain. You've saved this animal's life once; you've taken care of it through some very tough times and through what must be potentially dangerous situations. I would never fault someone who faced this situation and decided to give the dog a few last happy days and take it in to be put to sleep feeling loved and safe, just as I would never fault someone who did not prolong their dog's life at all costs to it and themselves. If people won't take the dog in and still sit around judging you without offering anything substantive in the way of help or money, they are contemptible in my opinion.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:02 PM on July 23, 2012

This is a quality of life question, and based on what you've described to us here, it sounds like that no matter where this pup were to go, his quality of life would still be the same: stressed, anxious, and on edge.

I think this is the time to treat him like a prince for a week, and then ask a vet to put him to sleep in the comfort of the home he's known with you by his side. This is the kindest and most gentle thing to do. I applaud you for working so hard to do right by him.
posted by Hello Darling at 1:13 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I suggest booking an appointment with your vet purely to discuss the possibility of euthanasia. He or she may be able to suggest alternatives (treatment options for the anxiety, rescue organisations you were not aware of, etc.). If none of the alternatives sounds good to you, book another appointment (say in a week's time) for the dog to be put to sleep. If, when that date arrives, you still feel you are making the best decision, then go ahead.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 1:23 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had to ask myself a similar question about my dear but aggressive dog. If you're at the end of your rope, have an evaluation by a trainer or shelter as to whether they think he can be placed. Even if the answer is 'no' there will be comfort, down the road, knowing you had someone give you a professional opinion.

But ... perhaps you aren't at that point yet. Here is my advice.

Also, muzzle your dog without fail when outside or with guests over. Minimizing the odds of biting will take a lot of stress off you and him. My dog's trainer recommends the plastic Jafco muzzles. They're light, allow breathing and drinking, and are nigh-impossible for a dog to remove (short of running into an unyielding object like a wall). Muzzling may seem terrible, but I found it to be a huge relief when dealing with my biting dog.

By the way, if you are in the Bay Area, the UC Davis Vet School has a program to evaluate pets, for free I think, for behavioral issues including aggression.
posted by zippy at 2:02 PM on July 23, 2012

I am about the biggest crazy dog lady you are likely to encounter, and I firmly believe that euthanasia is FAR preferable to trying to rehome this dog (which cannot be done in good conscience, given its bite history) or abandoning him. I do think medication might be worth a shot, but you are certainly not a bad person if you opt to euthanize a dog who leads a very stressful life, and who cannot be responsibly rehomed, and who is making your life miserable.

As best we can tell, dogs are not able to understand that this is their last car ride, and that this is a lethal injection (unlike humans), what they ARE able to understand is that they are stressed and unhappy much of the time. Spoil your dog rotten for a weekend, feed him hamburgers and take him to the beach, then take him to the vet and stay with him while he is euthanized, if that is what you feel is the right choice. I am not in your shoes, I cannot say what is right for you to do, but I CAN say that a humane death with his favorite person there is FAR from the worst thing that could happen to him (being abandoned on a farm, left to fend for himself, or placed in a shelter to be stressed and miserable before being euthanized with little care for his comfort or wellbeing as it happens...those are all far worse).

Some dogs just cannot live well with people, despite our best efforts. There is no shame in admitting this. I definitely do not subscribe to the "it's just a dog" school of thought (by ANY stretch of the imagination), but even so, a dog should be a joy, not a burden, it should not be a source of stress and misery. You are not responsible for keeping a dog alive until its last natural breath, you are responsible for ensuring it leads the happiest life possible, and giving it a humane death when that is no longer possible.
posted by biscotti at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2012 [39 favorites]

A very strong seconding of everything Biscotti said above.

And OP, I am sorry you are having to face this difficult decision, but please don't ever let "friends" guilt you when you know in your heart all that you have done for your dog over the years. They are out of line.
posted by vers at 2:18 PM on July 23, 2012

I'm seeing a lot of people talking about Boston in this thread, although your original post does not mention where you live. However, if you do live in the Boston area, memail me. My wife and I have worked with a wonderful trainer who lives on the North Shore and did wonders for our two dogs. Her rates aren't cheap, but she's not expensive either. Her "bang for the buck" value was enormous.
posted by fremen at 2:20 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you considered a thunder shirt?
I have heard great things about them, but have never used them myself.

His chances might be slim in a shelter, but slim is better than none.

Nope. A low-stress weekend at home with the owner followed by humane euthansia is better than a stress-filled week followed by euthanasia. Dogs are about quality of life, not quantity.

I couldn't agree with this more. I will try to rescue any type of creature that I come across, up to the point of spending thousands of dollars in vet bills for a seemingly lost cause...but after volunteering for only a few weeks in a kill shelter here in NYC I came to the conclusion that quick euthanasia was far better than an animal abandoned at a shelter, not understanding where his family had gone, confused and utterly utterly stressed out, terrified, and miserable. That route is the truly cruel route to take here.

I fostered a problem dog that kept getting returned to me. I had this dog almost a year and a half, and he had some aggression issues with other male dogs. I ended up giving him to my brother who lives in a rural area. That dog (and my brother) couldn't be happier. He has no aggression issues, (he is protective of my brothers property but hasn't attempted to bite anyone) except for against the woodchucks that attempt to forage in the garden, and he goes boating and snowmobiling and hunting in the back woods and his the epitome of happy dog.

If it's at all possible, before the euthanasia step, see if a change of locale type as suggested by other posters can happen. You want to be sure for your own peace of mind in the future that you did all that you could, I think.
If you absolutely cannot deal with this pet any longer, and drugs or hugger jackets or crating don't work, and relocation to a different more well suited environment is not possible, and you are sure that you will be able to be okay with your decision in the years to come, euthanasia at home is the humane step to take here
posted by newpotato at 2:56 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, you will hate yourself, but that is your choice. You could try crating him, training him (we have trained aggressive dogs to be less aggressive), or put him on some kind of tranquilizer (Valium). Sometimes a dog is beyond hope, I don't think your dog is, but the choice is yours.
posted by fifilaru at 3:13 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

We had to put down a cat who became more and more aggressive. Should have had him put down the day he scratched my wife up badly, but we kept after "options."

You don't have an ethical duty to bankrupt yourself or endanger others for a pet. I know it's gutwrenching, but have him put down.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:14 PM on July 23, 2012

Reach out to the people in your life who are most likely to help, but also to those who are most likely to give you a hard time about putting your dog down.

Ask them to help you find a rescue that will take your dog, a farm that will take your dog, or a foster home that will take your dog. Loop them into the conversations, ongoing; a weekly update (even if that weekly update is "I still haven't found a foster, another shelter turned him down, and he's torn up more carpeting. Has anyone found any options?") This way, it will be top of mind.

If nobody has helped, you can send out one last "I've run out of other options, and I feel that I have to put him down, to end his suffering but also to end mine. I really don't want to do this. I'll be doing it on [date/time]; does anyone have any last-minute ideas, and if not, can folks come with me to provide moral support?"

Your dog's needs aside, if you loop your community into the effort to avoid this decision, then either you'll be able to avoid it (because someone will come through with help) or your entire community was involved, so it will be really hard for them to judge you negatively.

Good luck, and I'm sorry.
posted by davejay at 3:51 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anon, if you are truly out of options, euthanasia at your home where the dog feels safest and most loved is probably better than leaving him to a shelter where he will most likely be put to sleep after an unhappy stay. I'm sorry, this is horribly sad and I would be miserable myself.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:57 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

If your friends/ex who feel you should be responsible are interested in adopting him, by all means allow them to do so. But if that's not an option, you have my permission to have your dog euthanized. If anyone asks just tell them that your dog was sick, and in pain, and after discussing your options with your vet you had to make the difficult decision to put your dog down. That's the truth, and they don't need any more details than that.
posted by fermezporte at 5:32 PM on July 23, 2012

Don't make this troubled animal someone else's problem. Put the dog down humanely. You will feel sad, because you are a caring person. But do not allow anyone to make you feel guilty. You have done all that is currently within your power to do.

There are thousands of dogs who are stable, gentle and completely ready to be loving pets, but nevertheless are reluctantly euthanized in shelters across the country every day because the resources to care for them simply cannot be found. At some point in the future, when you have the resources, rescue one of those animals in his memory.
posted by peakcomm at 7:44 PM on July 23, 2012

It's one thing to humanely put down a dog that you did the best for and who is living a painful existence with no hope of getting better.

You have not described that dog.

What you have described is a pet owner that has not taken the time to properly train their dog and now is considering kill it because it's not behaving properly.

Putting the dog down is doing the absolute opposite of taking responsibility for your own actions - it's punishing the dog for your inaction. If you cannot handle the dog right now, that's understandable - it sounds like you're in a tough place right now. But again, don't put that on your dog and kill him. Give him to a shelter.

Being unable to handle a dog is not a humane reason to put it down, and putting a dog down for inhumane reasons is no better than animal abuse.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 8:24 PM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Give him to a shelter.

For a biting dog with serious behavioral problems giving him to a shelter is just like having him put down, but with a period of torture and fear first. It is irresponsible.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:26 PM on July 23, 2012

Also, a lot of the above posters are in favor of "ending his suffering" .... but considering you have not written one word about him actually suffering (separation anxiety is not "suffering"), I would consider that in your scenario - your dog is not "suffering" and you won't be doing him any favors.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 8:27 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

For a biting dog with serious behavioral problems

OP: Generally, he's very mellow and the biting incidents only occur during resource guarding situations.

Resource guarding biting is normal - just a sign of (easily corrected) poor training, not a "serioud behavioural problem"
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 8:29 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Resource guarding biting is normal - just a sign of (easily corrected) poor training, not a "serious behavioural problem"

My understanding is that, in most kill shelters, resource guarding severe enough to lead to biting IS seen as a problem that makes a dog unadoptable. Unadoptable dogs are euthanized.

The fact of the matter is that if the OP lives in a "kill shelter" city, sending this dog to a shelter will lead to the same end for the dog as euthanization now with perhaps a less pleasant journey.
posted by muddgirl at 5:47 AM on July 24, 2012

Are you planning on getting another dog if you do euthanize? This should be a factor in your decision, here's why...

Facts, as stated by OP: You adopted a dog seven years ago. You state he has been difficult since day one. In the mean time the problems have not been fixed, by you or otherwise. You have paid $1000+ in vet bills at some point to rectify damages the dog has caused

Speculation, as stated by me: This dog's undesirable behavior may or may not have been correctable but 7 years is quite long enough to address most if not all non-physical behavior issues in the dog. That is to say that the dog may have a brain injury or some sort of biological imbalance that is causing his behavior but even that's treatable with chemical/behavioral therapy in some cases. That didn't happen. The dog's behavior wasn't corrected and now that you don't have a support structure strong enough to support said dog you have a tough decision on your hand.

So, back (via the long way) to the point: Are you planning on getting another dog once this one is put down? If you say no, then I'd say that euthanizing this one is a moderately acceptable decision for an animal that is likely unhappy and scared for a good part of his average day. You tried and gave him a good 7 years he would not have had otherwise. If you are going to be replacing this dog with another one then I'd say that's not fair and that your past history makes me very concerned that NewDog might end up like OldDog with regards to behavior inadequacies and your current lack of support structure. If that's your thinking then you should continue to care for OldDog as it's not his fault he's out of control.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:04 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Please ignore those would blame you. Despite what some posters have assumed, nothing in your OP suggests that you failed to properly train the dog. Dog training isn't universally easy and effective for every dog, plus as a rescue he may have been mistreated by others before you even got him and that could still be affecting his behavior and trainability, as could underlying medical issues. None of that is your fault.

Remember, he was a rescue. You've already given him an extra seven years of life that he wouldn't have had without you. Don't feel guilty if you just don't have the resources (financial, emotional, medical) to continue.

If your health and finances permit, by all means look into suggestions above like crates, muzzles, medication, extra training, finding someone who is willing to knowingly adopt a difficult dog, etc. but if those options don't pan out (and they might not) euthanasia may end up being the most humane choice out of a bunch of bad options.

I'm so sorry you have to go through this. It's not your fault. You have my sympathies.
posted by mahamandarava at 2:38 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know that I am really late to this one, and hoping that you haven't already made your decision. Before I start I want to say that I would understand your choice, but that I think that with some work and some research you could find a way to deal with this issues in an effective way without having to spend a boatload. However, it will take commitment on your part to work with him.

I also wanted to point out that, as cheesy as it sounds, our dogs sense, and respond when we are anxious, stressed, upset, tense etc. and can cause them to act the same way. So it sounds like his separation anxiety behavior may coincide with the time in your life that you are feeling more tense and stressed or depressed. I know that you can't control that in your life right now, but just thought it may give you a little perspective on why this could have started happening all of the sudden. (aside from medical issues if you have in fact ruled those out)

Resource guarding is really common, I have a dog that does it myself, and really the key to that is just making sure that they only get their high value treats in calm safe situations (no children or strangers around). He should never get anything like that otherwise, just to prevent an accident. ALOT of shelter dogs have problems with resource guarding.

The separation anxiety problem can be more difficult but the easiest solution is to crate train. Since he is anxious I would recommend an airline style crate that is more closed in, that will give it a more den like atmosphere, which most dogs find calming. Dogs with anxiety issues need constancy and a usually thrive off of a controlled environment. If you are financially strapped check Craigslist! There are usually crates people are trying to get rid of for way less than you could get at retail. There are some other tactics you could try if you are opposed to crating. (Or even in addition to crating) The ThunderShirt can work wonders for some dogs, and will run you around 40 I think? You can also use DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheramone) in that area he spends the most time in. (They sell a plug in that humans can't smell but has a calming affect on dogs). Also... I know this is again going to sound cheesy, but you could also leave on some calming music before you leave as well.

Also more specifically with separation anxiety, coming and going for you should be very uneventful. No, excited petting or talking to him when you leave or when you get home for the day for a little while. You can also slap some peanut butter in a Kong, toss it in the freezer at night, and in the morning when you leave for work, calmly give him his treat. That should keep him occupied for a while, and ease the pressure of you leaving. (Plus his brain says : "I GET THIS AMAZING TREAT WHEN SHE LEAVES! I'm may be alright with this now")

Also... have you contacted the shelter or rescue group at all that you got him from originally? If it is a no-kill shelter they may have some resources that could help you out in order to save your pup. A lot of those places also would want to have the dog back if you were thinking about getting rid of them (or putting them down) issues or not. Even if they can't take him back they may have a trainer that they use that could help you out for a small fee (or maybe pro bono).

Just saying, I am not a full blown certified dog trainer yet, but I should finish a program soon, and I know that I am not to the point of charging anyone yet so it is easy for me to say, but if someone contacted me with a story like yours a needed help, I would be willing to give it to them for free to see if you can make this work. And seriously, if you have any questions or anything that I could possibly help out with please feel free to MEMail me. Seriously. I'll offer up any knowledge I can to help you out. Good luck with this tough situation.
posted by Quincy at 2:09 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm certainly chiming in belated on this post, but I felt compelled to offer my 2 cents.

I have suffered from clinical depression as well, so I completely understand how overwhelming it is to deal with a situation that is both dangerous (for you and others) and that demands so much attention--it's a recipe for anxiety that will worsen your symptoms.

The bottom line is that domesticated pets are supposed to enhance our lives, not deconstruct them.

Could you have done things differently in the past so things never got to this point? Yes. Could you go broke and exasperate your condition by trying to fix it? Yes. Could the dog be rehabilitated and become a lovely pet for another person? Perhaps.

But these are all could have, should have, and would haves and they certainly don't help the situation as it is now. The reality is that: you have an older 'problem' dog who needs some specialized training/care. You are not in a financial or emotional position that makes this possible. Rehoming the dog is a liability to you and any potential new owner. The suggestion of dropping the dog off on a farm isn't sound---farmers do not want dogs that bite or resource guard on their farms---it's playing with fire and they have a lot to lose (livestock, other dogs, their children, or even themselves). And to that point, homes that want to adopt older dogs are slim---homes that want to adopt older dogs with lots of behavioral issues are even slimmer.

Who cares what your friends think? They are not the ones dealing with the dog, nor are they the ones in your position. I second asking them to take the dog or contribute funds so you can keep him. It seems to shut up self righteous people pretty quickly.

The point of all this is that it IS affecting your health (emotionally and physically). My view may not be a popular one either, but having the dog humanely euthanized is better than dropping him off at some shelter to suffer until he is undoubtedly euthanized. Remember---the potential home he MAY have---the resources he WILL require are taking them away from an otherwise perfectly healthy dog/puppy who has now lost the chance for a home because so much effort is going into trying to rehabilitate/adopt out a KNOWN biter with severe separation anxiety. The tragedy of that seems far greater than accepting things could have/should have been different and having the dog euthanized.
posted by stubbehtail at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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