If you are considering euthanizing your dog for aggression you are likely facing the loss of an, often strong, emotional attachment in your life.  The decision to end a dog’s life is a difficult one.  Yet it is often in a crisis that people make the decision (2) because emotions are running high.  Unfortunately, when we are under duress, we don’t always make rational decisions.  Unfortunately euthanizing a dog is a permanent action, so it helps to learn more before rushing into the decision.

Consider this:

Dog aggression as a problem is over-diagnosed. (1)  This is largely because most people don’t really know what is normal dog behavior and what is not.  Nor do most people know how to read the signs of stress and anxiety in dogs, to avoid escalating a situation into aggression.

Most owners of aggressive dogs are told by someone  (a veterinarian, friend, trainer, family, etc.) to euthanize (3) at some point, yet most aggressive dogs do not need to be euthanized (2).  Dog aggression can be challenging to treat and is rarely “cured”, but can often be fully controlled (2).  But if you are unwilling to work with your dog, you will invariably make the problems worse.

Parents need to balance two areas:

  • The potential threat to their children assuming the aggression is directed towards family members.  Or if the dog potentially has some kind of pathology and is a real threat even if the dog has not been aggressive towards children in the past.
  • The impact euthanasia can potentially have on their children.  Children don’t have an adult context in which to understand the reasons why a dog must be destroyed, or a dog is “given away” (or what other stories parents may tell their children).   As all children misbehave, the children may worry that they too will face serious consequences, regardless of adult assurances.

If you are seriously considering whether or not to euthanize your dog, it should not be a rushed decision.  The e-booklet Should You Euthanize Your Aggressive Dog?  discusses what factors you should be aware of when you are making the decision, from personal concerns, to how much potential your dog has to improve or cause harm.


[1]Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr 1991 Jan;98:15-9 [Behavior disorders on Dogs — study of their classification] [Article in German] Feddersen-Petersen D. Institut fur Haustierkunde, Universität Kiel

[2] Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, 1997, Dr. Karen L Overall

[3] In 1993, 100% of the clients at the Behavior Clinic And University Of Pennsylvania were told by someone to euthanize their aggressive pets. “For 100% of all canine patients seen in the past 2 years, someone had recommended euthanasia before their visit. After evaluation of treatment fewer than 10% were euthanized within a year of their visit.“, Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, 1997, Dr. Karen L Overall, p2-3


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