Should I put my dog down?
August 22, 2017 2:33 AM   Subscribe

Should I put my dog down for behavioral issues? There's a blizzard inside, of course.

I adopted my dog slightly over a year ago from a local rescue organization (the type of organization that pulls dogs from municipal shelters) and, while they warned me about one specific issue he had, I adopted him with no idea that he had pretty deep-rooted anxiety and fear-aggression issues. We’ve dealt with a lot – fear and aggression around physical handling (particularly grooming or any unusual/stressful situations like, ah, dingleberries [ew sry] or getting tangled up in a leash or petting from a stranger), stranger and dog reactivity, separation anxiety, resource guarding, etc. He has pretty much every issue a dog can have at some level or another – thunder/fireworks being the sole exception I’ve found (he doesn't care at all! dogs, right?).

Some of those started to show pretty quickly, but at that point I had no faith in the organization to place him appropriately and I didn’t pursue returning him. Instead, I decided to work with him as much as I could and quickly started to learn about dog behavior and try to fix things.

I’ve done most of the “right” things – started working early on one-on-one with an awesome, modern, well-respected trainer; went to a veterinary behaviorist (who approved of our trainer’s methods) and got a pretty effective medication routine going; upended our lives in many ways to accommodate his needs and set him up for success – and it definitely helped. We understand him well enough to anticipate his signals and stress almost all (but still not all) of the time and we’ve seen enormous progress – but he’s not and never will be “normal.”

I’m not perfect, though, by any stretch. On a daily basis, I definitely don’t do nearly enough formal training (I think he should probably be getting 20-30 minutes a day; realistically, he gets more like 5 minutes a day plus thinking toys, nose work, etc for all of his food every day), and I definitely fall into a rut of too much management and not enough progress (for example, he’s reactive toward other dogs on walks, and we almost always turn around or cross the street to avoid reactivity rather than working on letting the other dog pass calmly – or for another example, we’ve been getting him sedated at the vet to get groomed instead of going through the scarily enormous amount of desensitization that would be involved in grooming him otherwise). We also probably under-exercise him, though not severely (he’s a 25-pound, 5 year old, mediumish energy dog and since he lives in an apartment he always gets four walks a day even though some may be a little shorter than is fair to him. Dog parks, day care, etc. are not an option with his behavioral issues although we do try to hike and get extra-long walks in whenever we can – which has been challenging recently since none of us do that well with this summer heat). Every time he’s snapped, bitten, or otherwise freaked out, it’s been because of a failure of mine to manage a situation appropriately or read his cues faster…aside from early things where I just didn’t understand yet, I strongly believe that nothing has ever been “out of the blue.”

We’ve had several bites (probably once a month) with moderate-but-inadvertent triggers – plus usually a decent amount of trigger stacking. I would never say any of the bites are “out of nowhere” but they’re definitely caused by situations that wouldn’t cause most other dogs to bite. Most often, it’s been some sort of resource guarding incident when we reached out while not realizing he was in hunting-for-crumbs mode or inadvertently touched him in a way that he is particularly sensitive to, plus there was trigger stacking already in the picture. He has never bitten anyone other than myself or my boyfriend except for one time, when I stupidly let my guard down around friends that were pretty familiar with him and, while my back was turned, one of them noticed him raiding the recycling and tried to take the item back from him (ugh ack ugh). All of his bites have been Level III or below – none of them caused major injuries or took more than a few days to heal – but I realize that the number is concerning to nearly everyone (myself especially). I think the frequency has increased, as well - I'm not sure why since we've always tried to respect any pre-bite signs of fear (stiffening, growling) with as much space and respect as we would a bite but at this point he has clearly and unfortunately learned that bites are an effective tool. He is fairly well desensitized to a basket muzzle but he doesn't wear it very often - and most of his bites have been while chilling around the house so to have that there as a preventative would mean he'd have to wear it nearly constantly.

My wonderful boyfriend, who had near-zero experience with dogs before this dude, has been more than patient. The pup is definitely harder on him/more distrustful of him than he is on me, and my boyfriend has taken the lion’s share of his aggression, even though he (boyfriend) has always treated him with kindness (save one long-ago incident, that seems to have increased a lot of the fear, when we physically restrained him together in an emergency situation and he ended up pretty traumatized). We’ve never used force/fear-based training methods – we know that would only escalate things – and I trust that my boyfriend is as kind to the dog when I’m gone as he is when I’m there (especially since I’ve witnessed many of the bites and they’ve come from minor triggers like I described above). He’s been an active participant in his training and just such a good guy about everything but I do worry about the impact on him (he’s never once suggested that I/we get rid of him, even when I’ve asked him what he thinks we should do).

At the same time – and I really do actually mean this – he’s a very sweet dog. 95% of the time, he’s awesome. He’s snuggly and affectionate, he loves people (except when he’s scared of them), he’s deeply attached to us, he’s the perfect energy level for our household, he’s smart and quick to learn (and fun to brain-tease!), not to mention that he’s cute as hell. When things are good, life with him literally couldn’t be more perfect. He loves hiking and car rides and I get such a kick out of just seeing him enjoy small things and new adventures. He’s incredibly perceptive about my emotions – unfortunately, that mostly means that when I’m anxious (either because of work or him) his anxiety level seems to increase as well.

As wonderful as all that is, I’m not sure we share as close a bond as we should. Sometimes I hear about other dogs having fatal medical problems and I imagine that happening to him and the feeling I feel is almost more relief than sorrow (perhaps that way we could both find peace without guilt). All my friends (well, the ones I have left, since this whole thing has taken enough energy and time to be reasonably socially isolating) think I’m a crazy dog lady who just worries too much about everything (partially true I’m sure).

Rehoming is probably not an option due to his bite history – I did talk to his rescue organization a few months ago and they confirmed, as I suspected, that they would no longer be able to rehome him because of the liability. I don’t know who else to ask – I will reach out and talk to my trainer and everyone else who works with him, though I’m pretty sure the home he needs (quiet, no kids, savvy training-oriented adults, no other dogs) is a unicorn (at least he’s a very desirable breed mix, though). One thing I'm sure of is that I refuse to rehome him in a way that is setting him up to fail - that seems far crueler than euthanasia.

The idea of putting a healthy dog down is beyond heartbreaking. I know it’s my decision to make and it wouldn’t be irrational at this point (I broached the topic with our veterinary behaviorist and she said she’d absolutely be willing to help us and do it in a kind, stress-free way if I chose that route) – but I also know that I’ll never forgive myself for it, especially given how many mistakes I’ve made with training. I suspect my trainer, in particular, will not understand and instead will offer (wonderful! probably effective!) ideas for new interventions that I’ll probably end up falling short on. I’ve struggled so long and so far with what to do, and “just wait and see” hasn’t worked very well for me…I don’t want the impetus for euthanasia to be him seriously hurting someone, but I fear that’s the only thing that’ll let me know that that’s the right decision to do. I know part of me wants to do this (and I feel like a monster for it), but I also don’t…I lost a previous dog under heartbreaking, partially-my-fault circumstances and I don’t think I could live with myself if I let another sweet pup down like that. And I'd miss the hell out of him and all of the amazing moments we get to have together.

To be clear: I'm not really looking for training help; I feel like I've got about as good a team working with him as I possibly could. It's just that what we should do and what we actually manage to do, well, there's a disconnect.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've worked in a vet office.

He bites at least 12 times a year. Trust me, vet offices do and have put down dogs for way way less than that.

I want to tell you that you are doing a great job. You have gotten the appropriate people involved, you walk your dog 4 times a day, you train with rewards, you've paid attention and have worked on translating signals of your animal. You've put money, relationships and friends into this little guy.

I'd talk to your behaviorist before making a final decision. And explore all options you are comfortable with.

But for unpopular advice from a stranger, if it is time, it is time. It's not your fault about your dogs behaviour, someone before you caused this dog serious problems. You've done what you can for this pup and given him a good life with love. Sometimes, that is the best pet owners can do.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:32 AM on August 22, 2017 [29 favorites]

This dog is going to bite someone else. You cannot and should not need to be on high alert at all times trying to prevent this. And this new injury could be serious. I think in this case, putting him down is the right decision, for your safety and others. Sorry.
posted by Kalmya at 3:46 AM on August 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

From what you're saying, you're asking if you should put the dog down because of his behavior--behavior that you acknowledge you are not working hard enough to control, and you don't want any training advice.

Since you've seen progress with this dog, can you commit to another six months? Three months? After some hardcore training--which, yes, you have to actually do--you can open up this discussion? I'd lean towards this is a seriously damaged dog and you've done your best, but you acknowledge you haven't done your best and you're not keeping up with the training. So this is on you to try harder to fix.

You know what works and what doesn't. You know he needs to wear his muzzle when you have people over, you know you need to work on desensitization at the vet and on walks, so you should do those things. I know this isn't easy but unfortunately, you've got a tough, cute, trainable dog who deserves more of a chance--so work harder with him.

I feel like if the split was 95% untrainable scary dog and 5% cutie, then the answer would be more obvious. But you're describing a basically great dog, you know you're not keeping up with the training, and yeah, it seems putting at down at this point is premature.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:52 AM on August 22, 2017 [14 favorites]

Sorry to say but if the dog can't reliably be trained to stop biting people, then yeah you don't really have another option apart from putting him down.
posted by jenjen23 at 3:55 AM on August 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

No way should you put this dog down yet. Bump up the training to what you know you should be giving him, and look into doggy Prozac. Exhaust all your options, and know that you've done EVERYTHING you can, before you consider euthanizing a pet. It may seem like an unmanageable situation right now, but future you may have some SERIOUS regret once the deed is done if you don't feel like you've done everything you can.
posted by dondiego87 at 5:22 AM on August 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Assuming you mean that he's breaking the skin once a month or so, the dog is a time bomb and you need to euthanize him. You need to euthanize him while you're still worried about him causing a tragedy instead of in response to one.

We've put down a dog for behavioral reasons. He never had the chance to hurt anyone, but in our case the final straw was him going after a baby puppy which is sufficiently far from normal to be deeply scary. I'm really sorry, but you need to steel yourself for a really horrible experience. Not the euthanasia itself -- though in our case he required a second dose because he wasn't frail or physically near death to start with. But the guilt about doing it, the guilt about the relief and peace you feel when you can finally let your guard down for the first time in forever, etc. This shit is deep and lasting.

Doesn't mean you don't have to do it though. The thing I focus on when I'm feeling down about it is what I expect is the bottom-falling-out-of-the-world feeling it would be to watch your dog disfigure some kid, knowing it's not really a surprise.

If you don't euthanize him, this is not a dog to take hiking and such. This is a dog that stays home and doesn't meet new people. You know he's a biter. You cannot ever put him in a position where he could bite a stranger; this is now an absolutely flat-out unacceptable outcome. If he bites a stranger, your liability is going to be practically limitless because you know that he's dangerous. And it doesn't matter whether they sue or not, because their health insurance company for sure will.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:28 AM on August 22, 2017 [18 favorites]

What a heartbreaking situation! It sounds to me, random internet stranger who is also a dog lover, like you're doing everything you can reasonably expect yourself to do. You've certainly done more than many, many people would do in order to rehabilitate the dog. And yet you're holding yourself accountable for any and all "lapses" in your effort, thinking that if you'd just been perfect in executing your strategy the problem would be resolved by now. Only you can determine whether you really haven't given this dog your very best effort or whether you routinely hold yourself to high and generally unreasonable standards. An honest answer to that question will point you in the right direction, I think.
posted by DrGail at 5:31 AM on August 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

I adopted a 2 year old abused dog and, after 4 years of ownership, he became protective aggressive towards certain types of people (tall, blond women). Worked with trainers and veterinary behaviorists. It's been 3 years this August and, although I still regret that I couldn't do more, on (most) days I think I made the right decision in putting him down. It's a horrible choice to make but I did what I felt best for him. I still miss him every day.

I'm sorry that you have to go though something like this. Whatever you do, please do not feel guilty for doing what is appropriate for you, your family, and a pet that you obviously love.
posted by bCat at 5:52 AM on August 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

I love dogs, I love problem dogs, I believe in working hard to help dogs overcome behavioral issues. BUT your dog has a significant bite history. Human aggression is not something to be fucked with. I think euthanasia would be the kindest thing for your dog. Even if you somehow manage to build up his bite inhibition, I'm skeptical that he will ever be able to enjoy a rich life free of anxiety and fear.

From one dog lover to another: There are hundreds of dogs in shelters right now that don't bite humans. Help one of them.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:54 AM on August 22, 2017 [15 favorites]

I am a dog lover. If people that know me were asked to name 10 things about me, that surely would be one of them.
I would put him down (of course feeling terrible about it the whole time because that's how I am). This dog is stressed and not happy - none of which is your fault.
We had a similar rescued dog. We had to change our whole lives to take care of him - move from a condo, tons of training, stop hiking and biking with other dog, no vacations since he couldn't be trusted, etc. He was like this until the day he died-he never mellowed. But our dog would NEVER bite us, just others. You can't live a life where you might get bit in your own home. That is no way to live.

Give this dog lots of love and put him down and give him some peace. Then shower your next rescue dog with all the love that this poor guy should have got as a pup. There are hundreds of dogs getting put down everyday.

DONT feel guilty. Feel good about how much you did for him. Not many people would have stuck it out for so long.
posted by beccaj at 5:59 AM on August 22, 2017 [18 favorites]

I love dogs and am very sorry about your situation. You sound like you really have made an immense effort with minimal improvement- a dog that still occasionally bites his owners. I think the ethical though very sad thing to do is to put the dog down before it causes a severe injury. It seems practically inevitable from your description.
posted by emd3737 at 6:30 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I came in to say just about exactly what beccaj said.

We had a beautiful German Shepherd with similar issues who eventually bit a telephone engineer, a dog lover who spent 30 minutes with him in his lap, gently gaining his trust only for him to bite the poor man in the stomach as he left the house.

Our contract with the dog rescue meant that we had to return him there and the last we heard he'd been taken in by an army department as a patrol dog. I don't know how true that is but the sense of relief at being able to walk past other dogs with our other dog, not have to time dog walks to avoid boxers, great danes, rotties, falling leaves, you know what I mean was immense and let us enjoy our other rescue dog a great deal more and to be honest, improved her quality of life too.

You have put so much wonderful work in to this poor dog, time to let him go to be anxiety free on the other side.
posted by humph at 6:37 AM on August 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry, this is beyond heartbreaking. Facing a similar situation a few years ago, we made the decision (with our vet) to put down a healthy young dog with similar issues.

For us, the breaking point was too many bites. We knew if our dog somehow got out of the house and came in contact with someone she would probably harm that person. We could identify the issues that would trigger a bite - and we did everything possible to prevent the bites. We worked with a behaviorist, worked on training, and used medication. However, unless we completely eliminated contact with the outside world, and eliminated walks, we couldn't control everything.

We have been judged for this decision. I'm sure you will be too. But it is the right decision, for you and for your dog. I will echo the sentiment not to feel guilty - but I did, and I know you will too. As my vet told me at the time we went through this - you let this dog know what love and a family feels like.
posted by donovangirl at 6:47 AM on August 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

I am sorry, but you need to put this dog down. Of course, you will feel terrible, but you will feel much worse if he seriously injures or kills another dog or a child because you will know that you could have prevented it. Even if you are the most careful person in the world, there is no way you can 100% guarantee that he will never get loose. And the legal liability could literally ruin your life. I am surprised that the authorities have not gotten involved already.

I’m not perfect.

You are not required to be perfect to have a dog. And even if you were, even if you were the best dog owner in the history of the world, there is no way to guarantee that this will not end in tragedy. The shelters are full of dogs who will be put down if they aren't adopted. Adopt one of them.
posted by FencingGal at 6:55 AM on August 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

We adopted a similar dog. At one year out, your dog seems to be better and more predictable than ours was. We also had the benefit of an older, larger dog that helped to keep him in line. It never would have occurred to us to put him down. Now at 5 years out, he is at about 99%. He still has his moods, but we have learned all of his triggers and established "the rules" for when we have company or are walking him. For a while, we would see changes in his behavior every day. Now they are a little more gradual, but he is still improving.
Your dog sounds ideal for an older person or couple. If you do not feel like you still the ones to provide the environment and training he needs, I would encourage you to try to find a home yourself, or find another rescue that would be willing to find a home if you acted as a foster family. is a good resource for this. If you try to rehome him yourself, keep in mind there are some sick people out there that troll the want ads looking for bait dogs to train fighting dogs.
I know you are not looking for training advice, but if you decide to keep him I can share with you some of the things that helped with our fluffy ball of fury, affectionately nicknamed Diablo Blanco.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 7:22 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Honestly, second Yes I said Yes I will Yes... it sounds like you've consulted people but not actually done much in the way of applying their advice. In fact you've probably reinforced this dog's issues, from what you've described, by taking the easy way out. (And a five minute walk isn't really a walk, it's just making sure he doesn't poop inside.)

He bites, you'd get a pass from most if you wanted to put him down. But the fact is you took on more than you could handle, and didn't do the work required to help this dog. If you're asking, ethically, should you put him down, I'd say no, you should do what you said you'd do. (From a practical POV, odds are this is just not your bag. Ok... You didn't know that, now you do, but again I agree with YISIWY, it's on you.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:37 AM on August 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

To state the super obvious, just because sometimes I feel that is what is needed: your dog could bite a child, unless the behaviour is corrected. If it were my kid who (after having been taught the correct way to interact with animals, not pulling tails or taunting them and so on) got bitten, I wouldn't care how hard you'd been trying or not trying to fix the problem. I wouldn't blame the dog - I'd be mad at you. Most likely not to the point of legal action, since stuff can and does happen, and depending on the severity of the injury, and so on. But I'd consider that injury to be your responsibility, very much so.

I have seen abused dogs learn from their owners, be trained properly, and curb their aggression. Alternately, I have seen a dog put down, a German Shepherd, that could not overcome its abuse (despite working with experienced trainers) and attacked and killed a cat. Nobody was happy to do have to do this.

Is it worth it to you to take more steps to try and get him to learn not to bite people? And if you can't get him to stop, is the liability of keeping such an animal worth the risk, to you, of injury to another person, especially a small one?
posted by Crystal Fox at 8:22 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would add at least 30 minutes of serious exercise a day, preferably more. Many problems with dogs can be dramatically reduced with exercise. If there's anyone who can take this dog out for a run, ask them. It doesn't sound like the dog would be safe at the dog park, but maybe with a muzzle. Your existing training program isn't working - the dog bites on a regular basis. Talk to the trainer to get advice, but your current course of action is not adequate. Poor pup must have had a crappy early life, and you have put in tons of effort. Next step is up to you, no poor reflection on you if you choose to have the
posted by theora55 at 8:34 AM on August 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Most likely not to the point of legal action

Your health insurance company has no such scruples and doesn't give a shit whether anonymous can pay his/her rent or ever retire.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:34 AM on August 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

If there's anyone who can take this dog out for a run

This dog's bite history means it would be irresponsible to allow him, unmuzzled, near strangers ever again. This dog's bite history means that it would be irresponsible to allow others to take him out since then you will be responsible for what the dog does even while he's under someone else's physical control.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

Whatever you decide to do, you are NOT failing this dog. You are doing 95% of everything possible to fix him, and it's a hundred times more than most families would do. Like you said, the person or household who would do better by this dog may very well be non-existent. Cut yourself some (emotional) slack.

someone 6 months into a similar but not as extreme situation, who also carries a ton of guilt about "not doing enough"
posted by natabat at 8:58 AM on August 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

So I, like, you, am a person with an anxious dog that I have gone to Ask Metafilter about! Let me welcome you to the unfortunate club, and also say that if you ever want to memail and just vent about how stressful this situation can be, I am totally here for you.

That said, there's a few particulars that stand out for me that I think would be helpful in clarifying the situation.

You say
we’ve been getting him sedated at the vet to get groomed instead of going through the scarily enormous amount of desensitization that would be involved in grooming him otherwise).
What, precisely, do you mean by this? Are you talking about nailclipping? Fur brushing? Does he let you touch his paws and body under normal circumstances, when you don't have a nailclipper in your hands? I know this seems like a little thing, and it's certainly not the thing you're the most worried about, but your commentary about a "scary amount of desensitization" being necessary makes me wonder. Most especially, what does he do when you make efforts in that direction? Does he just try to get away? Does he snarl or snap at you? Where is he coming from?

We also probably under-exercise him,

This is a real thing that happens - summer heat is the worst. One of the things that I was recommended that really helped me was taking longer walks at night, when it's cool out and there are less people. I know, again, this seems like such small stuff when you have big real problems - but by observing whether this stuff actually helps or not, you'll have a better answer on "what is best for this dog." If you can see improvement, that speaks more to hope than if you're unable to.

We’ve had several bites (probably once a month) with moderate-but-inadvertent triggers –

Super important here - what do you mean by bites? Like, I own a German Shepherd Land Shark and that dog has put his mouth on me a truly ridiculous amount of times, but never with malice. You say "all Level 3 and below", but if you're looking at the same scales I am, Level 3 is "One to four punctures from a single bite with no puncture deeper than half the length of the dog’s canine teeth." I know he's a small dog, so that can sometimes lead towards underestimating the effect of serious bites, but there's an enormous difference between "Dog gives 12 Level 3 dog bites a year" and "Dog doesn't usually puncture skin, but did once."
posted by corb at 9:55 AM on August 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

I would nth seeing if you can get him some serious exercise, beyond walking. A good, hard run every single day could help a lot with his anxiety. I know this is difficult given his inability to use dog parks or roam leash-free.

Whatever you do, it sounds like you've worked really hard for this guy, and my heart goes out to all three of you.
posted by whistle pig at 10:28 AM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm a dog lover in the extreme. My life revolves around them, I have two of my own, I foster dogs, I volunteer at the humane society (one of the most well-regarded ones in the country) and I take training classes whenever I can. As a dog lover, I would advise you to put the dog down, but I also don't think you should be asking here for advice. And I'm very sorry that the rescue you worked with is so badly run that they haven't offered to take the dog back and rehome it. That's outrageous — any reputable rescue would have insisted on taking the dog back instead of putting that on you, but it sounds like that's not on option and you shouldn't be rehoming the dog yourself.

The thing is, there are so many dogs out there who need love and attention. Many of them need training to help them become happy, well-adjusted dogs. And a few of them will never get there. There is no one here on Metafilter who can make that distinction without knowing your dog and of course many comments here will be garden variety advice on further action you can take, some of which is downright unhelpful or unrealistic. (Exercise doesn't cure all dogs.)

So what does your behaviorist, who knows you and your dog, have to say? If you did everything right would the dog still be prone to biting? You're placing a lot of blame on yourself and your guests for bites but I'm not sure it's warranted. Don't beat yourself up about it to the point where you're doing a disservice to the dog by being unrealistic about his chances of ever being a well-adjusted dog. I guess what I'm getting at here is that you shouldn't be asking Metafilter, you should be asking yourself, your partner and the experts around you (vet, behaviorist) this question, and accept the answer. Because yes, it sounds to me like you should put the dog down, and you should do that without feeling guilty. I truly mean that! But I'd also urge you to take the opinions you're getting here with a grain of salt because it's ultimately not the answers here that matter.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:37 AM on August 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

One thing I'm sure of is that I refuse to rehome him in a way that is setting him up to fail - that seems far crueler than euthanasia.

It sounds like that's exactly what happened a year ago - the rescue organization matched you up with a dog that had much worse issues than you were prepared to sign up for. I would try to extend yourself and your boyfriend some of the same compassion that led you to decide not to try to rehome him into less than ideal circumstances.

The dog is lucky that he ended up with you, who put a lot of time, effort, and expense into trying to fix things for over a year. You gave him a loving home and more second chances than most owners would, I'm sure. At some point, it is not immoral to prioritize the safety of your family, friends, neighbors, and yourself over continuing to try to help this dog.

I am so sorry you are in this shitty situation. I would put this dog down and feel sad but not guilty about it.
posted by beandip at 2:04 PM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you decide to put this dog down, here is another internet strager saying that you shouldn't feel guilty, but I hope that, when you are ready, you adopt another dog because it sounds like you are a responsible, loving dog gaurdian and so many pups out there would be lucky to have you. I'll just add though, that good long walks are a must for every dog. One long walk/run of 45 mins or more (depending on your dog) is way better than 4 short ten minute walks in my opinion.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:22 PM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Put him down with love and regret, but do what you know you need to do.

So you up the exercise, keep working with him, use the muzzle--can you guarantee that he will never have a bad day, a bad situation, or the opportunity to cause a bad bite?

Even very good dogs, dogs that have never bitten and who you would never expect to bite, can get into bad situations that may cause them to snap at someone and break the skin. Your dog is a known biter. You are liable. If he seriously injures someone, how will you feel?

Part of the problem is that there are lovely dogs that are being euthanized right now, and others that desperately need a good home tomorrow to avoid that fate. If there were no good dogs, many of them, needing your love and attention, I'd say maybe there would be a reason to give a known biter a chance.

People who are saying that you should give this dog a chance, you're not being fair, are full of crap. You gave this poor damaged pup a chance. You were more than fair and practiced patience with his issues. This is a dog with serious problems. What about the others? Is it fair to them?

Sometimes it's better to be stoic and do what seems to be cruel to be kind in the long run.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:39 PM on August 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

The idea of putting a healthy dog down is beyond heartbreaking.

He's not healthy. He's suffering from the dog version of severe anxiety/mental illness.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:04 PM on August 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

You are doing approximately a THOUSAND times more than most people would do (and I am a dog trainer and I work in veterinary medicine, so I see more of this kind of situation than many people ever do). Putting a dog to sleep is very far from the worst thing that can happen to it, and please do not listen to people who tell you otherwise or otherwise want to guilt trip you into making your whole life about managing this dog's issues even more than it already is.

Owning a dog should be a joy. There will be work, and sadness, and hassle of course. But the majority of your dog ownership should be joyful. Not everybody wants a project, most people just want a pet which enhances their lives, and that is just fine. Not every dog can live well, happily or safely with people, and biting is breaking the contract.

As a dear friend told me when I euthanized one of my dogs for behavior (after nine years of training, meds, behaviorists and workshops), and as Rock 'em Sock 'em also says, his brain is part of his body, his brain is not healthy. And he is a danger to other people in addition to that. What if he bites someone's kid?

You are 100% allowed to put a dog with a bite history to sleep, and you should not, for one second, feel guilty about it. You have done everything you could, and have gone well above and beyond what could reasonably be expected of you. This dog has a screw loose, you will at best manage him for the rest of his life, and at worst endanger someone else because of his issues. Humane euthanasia is sometimes the only thing you can do for a dog.

You don't need my permission, but you have it anyway. I love dogs more than I love most people, and I would put this dog to sleep. Eking out every last second of life is not the point of pet ownership for most people, nor should it be, in my opinion.
posted by biscotti at 12:51 PM on August 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

At the same time – and I really do actually mean this – he’s a very sweet dog. 95% of the time, he’s awesome.

Given the above information, and your very honest statements "We also probably under-exercise him" and "he should probably be getting 20-30 minutes a day" - I'd try two things before putting him down:

1) anti anxiety meds;
2) 15 minutes a day training instead of 5 minutes OR more exercise time other than bathroom break walks (or some sort of combo of the two.)

Either of these could make a huge difference. But I'm a stranger, not in your shoes, and not faced with this very difficult decision.
posted by mulcahy at 3:12 PM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

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