Adult Dogs

Knowing When to Put an Aggressive Dog Down


Euthanizing your dog is one of the hardest things that a pet parent ever has to do.

It’s incredibly difficult if your dog is old and ailing.  But it is even tougher when you have to put down an aggressive dog that is otherwise healthy.

But is putting your puppy to sleep the only option?

First – Have You Truly Tried Everything?

Before you even come to this point, you must make sure that you have truly exhausted all of your options.  After all, euthanizing a puppy is a permanent solution to a potentially temporary problem.

Many dog parents believe that they have tried everything.  They have:

  • Used intuition and common sense to get rid of aggressive behavior
  • Provided their puppies with a loving home (i.e. killed them with kindness)
  • Used some of the free aggression training tips listed here
  • Employ some of the professional dog training resources listed here

And still nothing works.

But do these really represent the full range of options?

When to Put an Aggressive Dog Down for Good

The above list is only a starting point.  Before you explore any irreversible solutions, be sure to look at the following.

Can You Rule Out Medical Problems?

Schedule an appointment with your vet to make sure your dog is not suffering from any health-related issues, such as:

  • Diet
  • Mental illness
  • Old age
  • Injuries

Remember that unlike humans, dogs can’t necessarily complain about pain or health.  There may be internal problems of which you are unaware.  And it could be that some simple dietary changes or new pharmaceutical drugs can help reduce your puppy’s aggressive behavior.

Have You Brought in Professional Training Help?

Another popular option is to enroll your dog in obedience training school (or hire a professional dog trainer).  The benefit of expert help is that a truly experienced trainer may be able to isolate problems and solutions beyond your scope of understanding.

If you’ve ever watched the Dog Whisperer, you’ve probably seen a number of miracles performed by renowned dog trainer, Cesar Milan.  Just think about all of the problem puppies that might have been euthanized – but escaped this fate due to his expert intervention.

Another benefit of professional training is that a 3rd party expert can give you his or her opinion about whether to put your dog down.  In fact, you shouldn’t even consider putting your puppy to sleep without consulting both a veterinarian AND a professional trainer.

  • If both recommend euthanasia, it’s probably the best course of action.  You’ll be beset with guilt, anxiety, and worry – both in the days leading up, and for many years thereafter.  But ultimately, it may be the right thing to do.
  • If they recommend against euthanasia, you’re not out of the woods yet (read on).

Everyone Agrees Your Dog Should Live.  What Next?

Both your veterinarian and professional dog trainer and have recommended that you let your puppy live.  But you still have a problem dog on your hands – and neither of these experts can provide any viable solutions for controlling your puppy’s aggressive behavior.

What should you do?

First, you must decide if this problem is something you can live with.

If the aggression is simply obnoxious (but not dangerous), perhaps you can give the dog away to a friend.  Or maybe redouble your training efforts in the future.

Sometimes, muzzling works.

Or you could limit your dog’s exposure to aggression triggers or volatile situations.

If your dog’s hostile behavior poses a threat to you, loved ones, or potential strangers down the road, consider sending your puppy to a local shelter.  Keep in mind that your dog may be put down at some time in the future (i.e. you’ve simply transferred the problem to someone else – and he or she will have to make the painful decision).

You owe it to your dog to explore all viable options before making such a drastic and irreversible decision.  We hope that you never reach this point.  And we wish you all the best with your canine training efforts.

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