A dog seriously attacks an individual or maims/kills another dog. Subsequently, an Animal Control Officer, the Animal Control Commission, Veterinarian, or dog-training professional recommends or orders the dog to be euthanized. The owner shouts, “But he/she is a good dog!”
Is it? Let’s examine the pros and cons. My first question to a client is to ask about the circumstances surrounding this dog’s sudden attack. Was it provoked by a human or another dog? Was it because it wasn’t feeling well or is in pain due to a medical condition? Was the dog protecting its territory? Or was this dog misguided by its owner and now in control of the household? The aforementioned reasons may not lead one down the road of a decision to euthanize.
Many years ago I was involved with a case where a Pit mix bit its owner’s face. The Plastic Surgeon strongly recommended the owner euthanize the dog. After inquiring about how the incident occurred, observing the dog’s body language/behavior, I was confident this dog wasn’t a vicious animal. The owners weren’t in charge and needed to immediately change their attitudes. I prescribed obedience training and simultaneously worked out a plan of action for them to become leaders. In conjunction, an exercise program and a strict training schedule was instituted. The owner’s followed through and the dog lived a long life without any other incidents.
All too often, the answer is just plain and simple; the dog has a deep aggression issue and is a detriment to society. The cause might be due to horrific events it endured from its environment. We also have to factor in genetics which makes up a dog’s DNA. The only way to fix genetics is by responsible breeding!
A dog exposed to a poor quality environment may bite due to fear or it has been abused or neglected. This might or might not be ample criteria for rehabilitation. It depends on the severity of the damage done. It will require hiring a professional with an extensive background in behavior and rehabbing. Often, it means this professional taking your dog to their facility for a week or even a month. Can you incur the small fortune of money this might cost? Additionally it means the owner(s) will have to follow through at home.
A dog has a history even after just one bite incident. Rescues and shelters can’t adopt animals with this history since it’s a liability. Let’s face it; there are too many animals that truly deserve the chance to find a home. We have to sometimes seek the truth of reality, even though dogs are living beings; we have no choice sometimes but to humanely euthanize animals that can’t be put into our communities.
If you still think you have a “good dog” and do nothing, than you bear the responsibility and consequences when the next incident occurs. Do you want that on your conscientious the rest of your life?
Maybe your dog isn’t as good as you thought!
Gloria is the owner/operator of the dog-training and grooming facility Canine Connection (Cheshire, MA). She is a member and on the Board of the Great Barrington Kennel Club, author of “Dog Sense”, former breeder/owner/handler of Schipperkes & Rottweilers, and sits on the Board of Directors of the Sonsini Animal Shelter.