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Behaviorial Issues and Deciding to Euthanize

March 7th, 2007, 09:07 AM
Hi there,

I know there are lots of experiences out there on this topic, and am hoping that other's experiences can help me sort out confusion I am feeling:

My dog is now two years old, and I have had him since a puppy. His issue from day one was extreme fear of new situations, people and dogs. I worked very had to socialise him, with numerous meet/greet scenarios, puppy and dog training, doggie daycare and more training. He is come along way, improved in that he isn't an obvious nut-case, but I know that his base-motivation is fear.

I don't have alot of guests, but the ones that have come over, he has growled at. (he no longer gets to meet company). He has reacted on dog walks to lawn chairs, lawn flags, and of-course, other dogs. A couple of times, he has pulled me into the street (he is 130 lbs). We don't go for walks in on side-walks much any more. His excericse is doggie daycare (where he is great), and dog parks. Dog parks are sketchy, because mostly he wants to have fun, but if he feels intimidated by another dog, he hides behind me, and displays fear, which just makes other dogs pick on him more. I watch to make sure we stay away from bad situations that could be trouble.

Last summer, he snapped at a stranger who leaned over him, making direct eye contact. I should have predicted this, but at the time he was making progress in training, and I was a dummy. Anyways, we don't meet strangers at all anymore. We have tried behavioral modification clicker training, and other types of traning that are more "leader" type.

All in all, I know Max is a bit unstable, and I manage him, but I am starting to wonder if he is a danger. I try to my best to see all the potential issues around us, and steer clear, but I guess I am worried about even the hint of "what-if". Of course, I am torn about putting him down (he wouldn't take to a new home...he doesn't get along with strangers). Maybe nothing will ever happen, but "what-if". He is 130 lbs. Naturally, I love him to pieces, and he is wonderful with me.

The other thing is that Max has been in numerous fights with my other dog (a bulldog). Although the bulldog is the instigator, he is much larger and it is quite a scary thing when this happens. They are now constantly separated in the house using babygates. I am afraid he is learning to fight back, and what this is teaching him.

Just wanting to put this out there, to see what people's thoughts are. I know everyone's decision is their own. Am I nuts to think that he is a danger and needs to be put down, or nuts to think of putting down a healthy dog who is a joy in my life?

March 7th, 2007, 09:31 AM
I dont know what I would do in the situation, but I've known people who have had the same problem. They kept the dog, muzzled him in places where he would easily be able to bite someone. Unless he is a danger to your family, I'd say stick with him. Maybe there's something that can be done. I dont know if they have anti-anxiety meds or not for dogs, but talk to your vet if you havent already. Maybe there are some calming things you can do before and after an outing.

March 7th, 2007, 09:43 AM
Am I nuts to think that he is a danger and needs to be put down, or nuts to think of putting down a healthy dog who is a joy in my life?

to be frank, yes, I think it's nuts to even consider it.

March 7th, 2007, 09:48 AM
I have somewhat of a similar situaton - and I worry alot about it because my dog is a Pit Bull. She is perfect at home and such a sweet girl, but in public - she is completely diffferent. To make a long story short, I have thought about what to do as well. Although my dog doesn't sound as extreme as your case(growling at people coming in house and fighting with other pet), I love her to much to give up on her. I am willing to take all the extra precautions and time in dealing with her behaviour. Now if she were to actually bite someone severley(depending on situation as well), then I would think twice about what to do with her.
You are aware there is a problem with the dog, and you just have to continue to be vigilant about it. I totally agree with athenamor - unless he is a danger to you or your family - stick with him!
But, yes I do know what you are feeling and thinking about the situation. And being fearful of the what-ifs. All i can say is precaution, precaution!

March 7th, 2007, 09:49 AM
I would also suggest talking to your vet. Although this is on a slightly different scale, my parents have 2 cats - one which frequently has to be medicated due to his aggression towards the other cat. My parents are sure that if left unmedicated, this cat would kill the other cat. Also, whenever my parents have company (like me and my family) the cat has to have some extra medicating because he does not like strangers and will spray all over the house (he is neutered) and viciously attack our legs/feet. When medicated this cat is pleasant. My parents also use "rescue remedy" - a bach flowers combination... but my parents are kinda hippy-ish...

March 7th, 2007, 09:55 AM
to be frank, yes, I think it's nuts to even consider it.

You have been such a wonderful source of advice and information to me - I am surprised that with such an apparently strong opinion on this subject you didn't follow-up with the much-needed advice this person is asking for!

March 7th, 2007, 09:56 AM
I can't say that I would consider euthanizing either.

I really think that you are doing a good job in trying to keep the situation under control. I don't think you should give up now after all of the hard work you've put in. Sometimes you just have to keep working at it.

If you are really worried about some of the situations you've described, why not consider a muzzle. I'll be honest with you, your dog is better behaved than mine, I can't bring Dory to a dog park and expect her to get along with any of the dogs. If you will, I'm envious of your situation, Dory is also fearful, but she's just a little dog so it's easier to control, but it's still extremely embarrassing, but that aside, I don't think it's uncontrollable, just something I have to keep working on.

For me, "what-if" is just not enough. Life is full of "what-if's" you have to prevent as many of them as you possibly can, and go into situations armed with as much knowledge as you can find.

Good luck

March 7th, 2007, 10:05 AM
My first dog was fear aggressive. We were very careful with him. When my husband walked the dog, he made sure he told anyone who wanted to pet the dog not to. There were no off-leash parks for this dog, our big backyard was his only off-leash area. We muzzled the dog anytime he went to the vet, had to just to get him into the car if he realized he was going to the vet or he would turn into kujo. If you wanted to trim his nails, you had to muzzle him, he had a real fear thing about his feet especially. He was only 75 lbs, so we could handle him, but any time kids came into the house or the yard, one of us had a hold of the dog because you were never sure what he would do. He loved my neice and nephew, even when they were small, but if they scared him, I know he would have bit them, so any time they were there we held on to him. It was like that for the whole 9+ years of that dogs life, so you have to be prepared. During his lifetime he never bit anyone but it was because we were very very careful. You may want to see if a trainer or behaviorist could help you, we never did, but we didn't have 130 lb dog to worry about either.


March 7th, 2007, 10:52 AM
I don't have alot of guests, but the ones that have come over, he has growled at. (he no longer gets to meet company).

By not allowing your dog to not greet company, you're sending the message that there's something to fear, or that company is dangerous and to protect himself, he must either attack, or stay away. He growls because he is unsure, and if they show nervousness or fear towards the dog, this tells him there's reason to be afraid and will only intensify the emotion. Especially if you remove him from the situation (instead of showing him that there's nothing to fear).

There is nothing that I read here that cannot be fixed quite easily, in a very short period of time. My golden went through a fear period for several months when he was a puppy. I remember one time we were walking (he's the friendliest dog in the world, and just loves everybody), and someone was walking towards us with a baby carriage. My dog went NUTS (I'm talking junkyard dog crazy. He was terrified of this big scary stroller). The closer they got, the more "aggressive" he became. If I tried to change directions away from the stoller, he got even more determined. However, when I explained to the lady that he's never seen a stoller before and if she would mind helping me conquer this fear by stopping and simply standing there (no make eye contact). I knew the lady, and I knew I was in complete control of the situation (there was a baby in there, for crying out loud!), so I calmly walked him towards them. When we got close (not too close!) and he slowed right down to carefully sniff it (from a distance - body stretched forward). His body language said fear (he kept taking a step backwards before attempting to sniff again). I showed him there was nothing to be afraid of and after a few sniffs of the stroller (he loves babies, btw), and he was fine. The tail came back up, the smile came back on his face, and within minutes he was his usual friendly self.

This had to be repeated with an umbrulla, an empty bag blowing in the wind, kids on rollerblades, men wearing hats, people with big clunky boots, workmen, etc. Of course I didn't always stop so he could check it out, but I would always give him the time to see that there's nothing to be afraid of, by not being afraid myself. Even if it meant stopping and asking him to sit, then walking closer to the object before carrying on our way. Other times I would give a quick leash correction and just keep on walking.

Now I'm not saying it's going to be this easy (it will take much more time with your dog, as the fear has already been reinforced), but you don't get over a fear if you avoid it. Afraid of water? Get in the pool. Afraid of flying? Go to Hawaii. Looking around for danger then trying to avoid it, is for sure making the situation worse. You might think "Hey Max, there's a dog over there! Let's walk this way to avoid it", but in doing this, your dog hears "Hey master! That dog over there must be dangerous! I'll protect you".

Definitely see a bevaiorist about this. With the proper guidance, your dog will learn not to be so fearful of everyone and everything. It will take a lot of work on your part, but with consistancy and the right body language, this will all pass quicker than you think. :)

PS. With a 130lbs dog, please don't get smart and try to copy something you've seen on some dog training show. This is a very strong dog, so asking for the help of a professional on how to gain control over him, is your best bet. Good luck!

March 7th, 2007, 11:01 AM
You have been such a wonderful source of advice and information to me - I am surprised that with such an apparently strong opinion on this subject you didn't follow-up with the much-needed advice this person is asking for!

Thanks for the compiment, but at the time I had nothing nice to say really.

I simply cannot comprehend how anyone could even think of euthenizing a 2 yr old dog they have worked so hard with because of "what if"'s, mainly because the dog was set up to fail.

contrary to popular belief, ALOT of dogs do not do well at dog parks. They are not the place for everyone. especially a dog who is fearful. dog parks are unpredictable. that is the LAST place a dog like this should be.

"he snapped at a stranger who leaned over him".... this is not how anyone should greet a dog. even with my own dog, I TELL people, even strangers, if they want to say hello, they MUST greet PALM UP AND NOT NEAR THE HEAD. there are ways to greet properly. looming over is NOT one of them.

"couple of times, he has pulled me into the street"... well, there are harnesses and training that can help that issue.

"He has reacted on dog walks to lawn chairs, lawn flags,".... what really matters is how YOU react when HE reacts. you could very well be enforcing the behavior.

"Max has been in numerous fights with my other dog (a bulldog). Although the bulldog is the instigator," .... so because the other dog starts it, Max gets punished because he's larger and you're afraid of what it's teaching him? seriously? sounds like the bulldog could benefit from some rules and training himself.

sorry, but these don't sound like dangerous offenses punishable by death to me. sounds like a dog who's training has gone awry, and who has been put in difficult situations.

March 7th, 2007, 01:23 PM
Something to think about, this dog is not reactive at daycare. What are they doing that you are not?

March 7th, 2007, 01:23 PM
I suggest reading Click to Calm by Emma Parsons. It's about dog-dog aggression but the principle behind clicking to calm any behaviour is the same. I'd also suggest you read Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas so you know how to calm your dog and how to recognize when he's using calming signals... I also think you'd benefit from reading Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson, the chapter on socialization, fear and aggression will be of great help to you.

Like Spirit suggested, I also think you need to work with a behaviorist...Its very hard to give solid advice when we cannot observe you and your dog. When dealing with fear based behaviours, accuracy and consistency is the key - having a reputable behaviorist guide you along is necessary!

With regards to guests, completely isolating your dog from them can cause him to be more fearful HOWEVER, unless you can devote 100% attention to him when you have guests, keeping him away is the best thing you can do. And I think you should start on neutral territory, not in your house. You need to enlist the help of a friend who will follow your instructions completely and who understand this is about your dog (so when you ignore them they aren't offended). Your friend shouldn't make any sudden movements, they should ignore your dog completely and NEVER make direct eye contact. You will have your dog on a head halter (and if he's never had one one before, you need to desensitize him to it before you do anything)... You will have a clicker and treats and will click whenever he's calm or if he looks at you or starts expressing calming signals. You can hopefully start with enough distance between your dog and your friend so that he is not reacting at all, if that's possible, I'd stay at that level until your dog gives all his attention to you and barely looks at your friend. At this point, your friend can try tossing treats toward your dog or maybe change position from sitting to standing or walking around (but still ignoring the dog, not forcing interaction and keeping the same distance). You can try tugging with your dog or doing some training, to keep his mind occupied and to make it as natural and positve as possible.

The problem is that by keeping your dog away from others for safety reasons, you are isolating him. So even though you think you are doing the right thing, the situation is made worse due to lack of exposure and your own fears/expectations/reactions.

Euthanasia wouldn't be an option for me. My last dog was just as fearful as your dog. We always worried that she'd have a heart attack because everthing terrified her. At the time, I had no idea about the wonders of clicker training and my Grand-father was heavy on the "alpha" approach so we all lived with her fear and did nothing to train or socialize her (other than basics of sit/down/stay/come/heel)... I have NO doubt that if I had known what I do now, she would have been a completely different dog...But even so, she had a happy, long life - like you, we had to manage every scenario carefully but that's what we signed up for when we brought her home as a puppy.
I really hope you can find a good trainer or behaviorist that can help you through this... Please don't let the "what if's" make this decision for you! :grouphug:

March 7th, 2007, 03:27 PM
I really feel for you because I have been there. In the summer of 2005 my girl began showing signs of extreme aggression. She had bitten before (my nephews girlfriend) and even me but I made excuses for it. She began showing aggression on walks, first with other dogs and then with people. When people came to the house she would bark and jump at their faces but never bit. One day she jumped over a railing on our deck and down an 8 foot drop to get to the UPS guy. Fortunately he had some sort of training, stood stock still and I was able to get her before she bit him. Her aggression began to escalate and became more frequent. When she bit a neighbors child for absolutely no reason I stopped walking her. She began snarling at me and my daughter who she loved. I posted here, on another web site and spoke to some very experienced golden people. To protect everyone including myself I talked about euthanizing her. Unless you have been in a place where your dog cannot be trusted with anyone you have no idea. One day someone sent me an article about aggression and hypothryoidism so I had her tested. She began taking medication and I waited for the miracle to occur. It didn't right away and when I asked people how long it would take I got answers like 2 weeks - 6 weeks. In the mean time I spoke to a trainer who had tons of experience with goldens. She diagnosed Chloe as a bully. Along with the medication for her thyroid we began taking classes. While I was waiting for things to improve I decided that at the 6 week mark if she was not better I would have her put to sleep. As the 6 week mark approached I began to panic and remember crying all the time thinking about what I thought had to be done. It was so difficult because there were people who had no patience and said to put her down while there were others who didn't understand me contemplating such a thing. What I learned with the right trainer was that Chloe thought it was her job to take care of me and not the other way around. Once she realized that she no longer had to be a bully the aggression stopped.
I consider myself to be an experienced dog person so boy was I surprised to realize I was doing so much wrong. She was a rescue and I always felt sorry for her and made her excuses for her bad behavior, something I have learned not to do ever again. The right trainer made me realize all this. The fact that he is okay with the doggy daycare makes me think that maybe he is behaving differently with you. He may be fearful because he thinks he should be with you.
If I were you I would have him checked out for physical problems by your vet. Then enroll yourselves in a good obedience class with a trainer that understands your problem.
Feel free to e-mail me with questions if you want. Good luck.

March 7th, 2007, 03:29 PM
My roommate's dog is extremely fear aggressive (she was abused as a puppy - the person who gave her her up even admitted to it), to the point that she will bite people who try to touch her (she used to act aggressive to people who even got near her, but she's making progress). But there are ways to handle it. As other people have mentioned, avoiding the problem (not allowing her to ever meet guests) wont solve anything.

I'd second reading Click to Calm - I read it after my roommate did, and it has some wonderful advice, even if you aren't dealing with an aggressive dog.

Someone mentioned that the problems you have are easily and quickly solvable. I hope that person is correct, but depending on factors that I don't know about, solving the problem could end up taking a lot of energy and a lot of time. Still, though, people who want animals in their lives should realize tough and time consuming problems can arise.

Contrary to what other people have said, it seems very natural to consider the "what-ifs." For example, it is probably a very good thing to recognize that if your dog severely bites someone, you may have to put it down (depending on where you live, you may have no choice). But you shouldn't let the "what-ifs" scare you into the wrong decision. It seems as if you can control the situation and help the dog realize that it doesn't need to be afraid. Again, Click to Calm should give you some great instructions to solving the problems - though, as the book states, the results wont be immediate, but that shouldn't be expected anyway.

Good luck, and I hope everything works out well.

March 7th, 2007, 04:18 PM
I think that the crux of the matter here is when you say that he is really great in doggy day care. If that is so, then it very simply means that this is a behavior problem, and a behavior problem regarding his interpretation of his relationship with you and signs he gets from you. I think that in your attempt to avoid any confrontation and aggression in him, you are exacerbating the situation and reinforcing his already aggressive behavior. I think this is a totally fixable problem, with the right trainer. Not only for him, but for you, too, in teaching you how to deal with him properly.

March 7th, 2007, 05:33 PM
Dont give up,
One of my dogs was severely aggressive towards EVERYONE and Everything! Including us.
He had bitten one kid ( approx 12 years old) quite badly, snapped at several others, lunged at me while I was bringing him food, bit my dad, attacked many other dogs at camp, and instilled fear in anyone who knew him.

After taking a good hard look at what WE were doing, and consulting a behaviouist ( not a trainer) and putting in many many hours, days weeks, years he now is acceptable. ( He may never be the friendliest dog in the world, but he now can meet new people, new dogs, kids you name it and actually make a few friends.)
By far it was not easy, first off, we had to accept that we were doing things all wrong for his breed. ( I know Rotties, I understand Rotties, Meik is a Border Collie... nothing like a Rottie.:o but I figured " a dog is a dog" right? WRONG) Believe me it was un nerving to accept that I was to blame for his "issues" but that was the first step in his and our rehabilitation.
secondly, we basicly had to un do all the "training" we did with him ( that was the hardest part in all honesty) then we had to start over.
There is hope, but you have to be determined and in it 100%.

March 7th, 2007, 06:22 PM
Thank you for all the replies, and keep them coming.

I should clarify that I don't isolate Max from the world. Yes, when company comes over, he stays on the other side of the door, looking in, but as far as the world goes, I take him with me to lots of places, and have since he was a puppy. I also try extremely hard to be aware of my body language and responses to other people/dogs when we are out, so that he doesn't tense up because I am tense.

One thing I would expect is that he is very much looks to me for guidance and is a bit "clingy". Which may account for some of his issues. I have never coddled him or encourgaged this behavior...and when he does this I ignore him. Why it hasn't stopped, I don't know. So, in other ways I try to build his confidence (for example group traning sessions).

So, very interested in what training is the best training. I have worked with a dog trainer who was more of the lead your dog by being alpha type. And I've worked with a behaviourist who is more of the clicker type. After three months of each type, and seeing little or no change, I don't know what else to try. Why can't I (or they) pinpoint what I am doing wrong? Is it always the owner at fault in that they don't "do" it right? Believe me, I could write paragraphs on all the socializing and things I have tried. So I guess I am frustrated at the lack of results. I love him to pieces and will keep trying, but where do I go from here?

March 7th, 2007, 06:44 PM
I think it is time for the dog whisperer,how could you get an appt w/that guy!! I feel for you..

March 7th, 2007, 06:49 PM
You need to work with a behaviourist a professional, a trainer is not enough , you have
fear issues to work with and Pack issues. this is not a mentally unbalanced dog but one with insecurities. who is big enough to do serious damage and if ans when a dog is becoming fear aggressive it is no longer a training issue for novices, you need someone you understand dog pyschology and behaviour, and for this reason I will not even give training advice, you need someone with a good understand watching and testing the dogs reactions to things in order to give the correct advice

I have an extremely fearful dog had her for 3 years and gradually improving but I also have 3 other dogs , none are allowed to gang up or bully her, and I would crack down on any dog that tries , though I still maintain full respect the pack order so as not to be causing chaos and I keep her out of situations where other dogs can gang up of her, like a dog park

March 7th, 2007, 07:05 PM
seek a behaviouralist. where are you located? people may be able to help you from where you live. is there a vetrinary college around take your dog there, maybe they can do some more test and have behaviouralist that can help you more

March 7th, 2007, 07:42 PM
One thing I would expect is that he is very much looks to me for guidance and is a bit "clingy". Which may account for some of his issues. I have never coddled him or encourgaged this behavior...and when he does this I ignore him.

I'm curious... can you define "clingy"? There are times when ignoring is good (ie. jumping does not get rewarded), and other times where you need to step in and say "Hey. Knock it off. You're fine." (ie. safety blanket).

Boo Boo
March 7th, 2007, 08:14 PM
Ask yuourself... do you have fear and anxiety on how your dog will react to given situations. Your emotions and reactions affect your dog's behaviour. Understanding your role as the pack leader is criticial to ending this problem. There is alot of beneficial and motivating things to learn on "dog whisper" show. But I would also seek help of a professional behaviourist, TOGETHER you both will learn to overcome this. Good Luck:fingerscr

March 7th, 2007, 08:20 PM
please please take everybody's advice and seek all options before you make that choice !!!!!

March 7th, 2007, 09:08 PM
First thing I thought too was behaviouralist.

Where do you live? Perhaps someone will have a suggestion of who to call in your area.

Perhaps try to contact the 'dog whisperer' (yup, I'm being serious, not joking or Stanley Coren, he does a lot of that type of work on his show (e-mail: website:

Good luck, and as everyone else said, don't give up.

March 7th, 2007, 11:04 PM
Euthanize for behavior that is natural to the creature?
Just me, but euthanasia should only be used for heath reasons in my opinion.
when a child goes to the top of a slippery slide, do you take the child off thinking that he may walk off the edge and get hurt? No.... you teach them how to do it. Thats what dogs need as well.
By eliminating all obstacles, they wont learn.
I understand the fear of the dog hurting someone. that is frightening. But unless there are other incidences, the gentleman you mentioned, behaved in an aggressive manner as well, at least as perceived by the dog.

I guess what I am saying, and i hope it isn't coming out harsh, is to think about what you want the dog for... a companion? a friend to your other dog? because it was a cute puppy? a guard dog? once you figure that out, you will know what to do. If the dog isn't meeting your expectations, it isn't his fault, it was just a miss match. perhaps he would be better with someone he is better matched with and you may be happier with a dog better suited to you and your family's needs. We dont "click" with all people, and we dont "click" with all pets either.

Just my opinion, but please rethink euthanasia for the animal.

I wish you and your poocher the best of luck. I hate to see a broken family!:pawprint: :pawprint: :dog: :pawprint: :pawprint:


March 8th, 2007, 02:36 AM
Please don't Euthanize.reconsider.And take the advice the other members have offered.

Furbaby Momma
March 8th, 2007, 05:03 AM
All the advice given by the members above is wonderful, please take a deep breath and begin to re-train and desensitize your beautiful dog.

Please bring your dog to the vet first, get a full check-up to rule out any health issues.

Then sit down and write out each behaviour problem, begin to work with one problem first, when the problem has been solved then work with the next problem...his confidence has to be rebuilt so that the equal trust comes back for both of you.
Remember that your other dog needs to be trained to respect that the home is to be shared, do not allow a fight to begin...EVER!
Give equal attention to both of your dogs, both dogs understand the same rules, and best of all both dogs get your hugs and kisses and praise.

Every member on has had an experience with their own animals, and now we can share our wisdom with you.
Then down the road it will be you sharing your wisdom with someone else. :thumbs up

March 8th, 2007, 08:00 PM
I'm open to all suggestions, so thank you for the replies. If anyone knows of an experienced behaviorist in Calgary, please let me know your recommendations.

March 9th, 2007, 09:40 AM
You can contact Barbara Walmer, Behaviorist, at The Calgary Humane Society, 4455-110 Ave. SE, Calgary (403) 205-4455