Behavioral euthanasia, it’s something no one really wants to talk about, but unfortunately, it’s a reality. Sometimes, despite all our best efforts, an animal simply isn’t safe to be around. We want to bring this decision to light, to fight the stigma attached, and to explain how this may become someone’s only option.
Dogs, like humans, can have mental health issues. Some people think it’s all in how you raise them. Really, it’s not. Mother Nature can be cruel sometimes, and not all animals are “wired right” in the head. Nothing will change that. It’s ok, as a pet owner, to acknowledge that your pet is suffering just as much as if it has a physical ailment.
There can be warning signs such as resource guarding, aggression towards specific people or things, or fear of people, places, or situations. These behaviors may cause you to reach out to a trainer or Behavioral Veterinarian for advice. Then, there are the warning signs that cannot be ignored.
- The intensity or severity of aggressive outbursts, as well as the size of the animal. Obviously, a chihuahua biting at your foot isn’t going to cause as much damage as a Labrador that can reach your face.
- Lack of clear warning signs. Most dogs will growl, snarl, bare their teeth, or show some sign of impending aggression. When you have zero warning, and attacks happen out of the blue, you have no way of protecting yourself.
- Predictability of triggers. If one day they bring you a toy for you to play with them, and the next time you reach for it they bite, it’s a problem. When you know what bothers your dog and you can avoid that situation, you have a better chance of working with a Trainer to adjust that behavior.
- You also have to consider your family unit. Does your dog not like children? Do they fight with other pets? It’s not fair to keep them locked up in a different room, a crate, or make them live outside on a chain because they are aggressive towards family members. That is in no way “quality” of life.
Rehoming isn’t always an option. If you have cats and your dog attacks only cats, perhaps rehoming to a home without other pets could be feasible. However, trying to rehome a dog you know to be unpredictable and aggressive simply isn’t safe. A dog like this can seriously injure or even kill someone if things go wrong. It would have been unfair and tremendously irresponsible to pass the responsibility along to someone else.
Taking them back to the rescue you got them or dropping them off at the pound is again prolonging the inevitable. A dog with a bite or severe aggression history is doomed to be put down or live in a cage away from human contact. If you know behavioral euthanasia is the best option, taking them to a strange place where they will spend their final days muzzled and in a kennel really isn’t fair to them. At least if you take them to the Vet, they are with someone they know, and maybe it will be a more peaceful transition. We owe our pets, even the ones we can’t keep, that much.
Sometimes, doing everything to keep your pet means prolonging a bad situation, keeping your family at risk, and dragging out your pet’s suffering. Sometimes, euthanasia is the kindest option, sooner rather than later.
When you have a dog like this, no amount of love, medication, training, management, time, or effort is going to change them. It doesn’t mean you failed as a pet parent. It doesn’t mean the trainer failed. It means you let your pet slip peacefully away, no longer suffering from fear or anxiety. It’s loving them enough to let them go.
It is not an easy decision to make and some may not understand how difficult it is and judge you. If you are considering behavioral euthanasia or have had to euthanize your pet due to behavior issues, please check out these support resources.
- Honoring the Bond Support Services
- Facebook Group: Losing Lulu
- Difficult Decisions
- Euthanasia for Behavioral Issues
- Loving a Pet with Behavior Problems
- Living with and Loving Pets with Behavioral Issues
- Falling Short: Life and Love with an Imperfect Dog
- Pet Owners’ Experiences
- The Emotional Toll of a Reactive Dog
- Sometimes it is the Dog, Not the Owner
- Living with a Difficult Dog