Behavioral Euthanasia

March 25, 2024by sacvalleyvet

Behavioral Euthanasia

When aggression is too much 

Should I put my aggressive dog to sleep? 

Sacramento Valley Veterinary Services

Sacramento In Home Pet Euthanasia

Sacramento Mobile Pet Euthanasia

Behavioral euthanasia, also known as aggression-based euthanasia can be a very controversial topic that can provoke a wide array of emotions for animal lovers. Making the decision to put your dog down is difficult enough when it is due to declining health, let alone inappropriate behavior. We’re not talking about a dog that jumps excessively or even lifts his lip when your near his food bowl, we’re talking about behavior that is unsafe to other humans or animals. As animal lovers, we want to see our pets live full, happy lives. However, when aggression is an issue, humane euthanasia can sometimes be the only responsible decision as we must consider the health and well-being of society around us. 

Choosing to euthanize a pet for aggression can make people feel guilt and shame for “not doing enough”. First things first, know that you are not alone! We have learned that people choosing behavioral euthanasia for their aggressive pets come with many different background situations and have usually done their personal best to help their pet live a happy and full life. No matter what you have tried or what your current situation is, we do not want our clients to feel judged or ashamed for their decision to keep their families or society safe. 

Can’t you just train the dog? 

A common reaction to people choosing behavioral euthanasia for aggressive animals is that they just need training or medication. While this may occasionally be the case, once an animal has proved itself to exhibit aggression to the point of physically hurting a human or animal, our perspective must change. While certain behaviors can be helped by trained professionals or behavior altering medications, when a level of aggression is present that involves physically harming behaviors such as biting and attacking, trainers must keep even themselves safe. These animals unfortunately, usually have deep-rooted behavior problems that are beyond training or medicine. We encourage you to seek out the help of a professional animal behaviorist and your veterinarian to help make this distinction of you’re unsure. 

Is it ok to just keep him locked up at home? 

Frequently, people choose to keep their aggressive pet in confinement and not euthanize. If you do choose to do this, it is important to consider quality of life for all members of the household while catering to the animal’s aggression triggers. Does your animal require wearing a muzzle every time he or she goes out or even in your home? Can your dog walk outside or be in public without the possibility of hurting a human or other animal or is he or she housebound? Does your animal require heavy medication to keep your pet sedated so he or she is not as easily triggered? Can you not relax in your home because of your pet, or does he or she need to continually be in solitary confinement? As pet owners it is our duty to ensure our pet’s quality of life is good, and if you are answering yes to any of these questions, that may not be the case. 

Should I just take my aggressive dog to the shelter? 

Another common misconception is that it is ok to turn your aggressive animal into a shelter or rescue instead of euthanasia, especially without giving the animals history. People think maybe their dog will do better in another environment. We strongly advise against this as it is extremely dangerous to shelter and rescue staff as well as other people and animals after potential adoption. Additionally, shelter

situations are incredibly stressful for dogs so their already unpredictable behavior can be worsened. All dogs are behavior tested prior to adoption from a shelter. If your dog is aggressive at home, he will also be identified as aggressive in a shelter setting. Dogs which are identified as aggressive and unadoptable will be euthanized by the shelter. Staying in unfamiliar surroundings away from a family is very stressful and arguably unfair for even the most aggressive of dogs. If you are considering taking your aggressive 

dog to the shelter, have a conversation with shelter staff about what options may be best for your situation. 

Even if I choose euthanasia for my aggressive dog, won’t it be too stressful? 

Sometimes, even when you know euthanasia is the right thing to do for an aggressive animal, people will hold off in fear of the process being too stressful. They are concerned that the animal’s final moments will be filled with anxiety or that they are putting professionals like us, at risk. We want you to know as veterinary professionals, we have dealt with this before and just like you, we do not want your pet’s last day to be anxiety ridden. We can guide you through our process and come up with a plan which keeps everyone safe and keeps your dog’s anxiety as low as possible. 

The decision to euthanize your pet due to aggression is extremely difficult and shouldn’t be made alone. We encourage you to discuss your situation with your veterinarian and research a professional canine behaviorist. Many behavior specialists will offer phone consultations. Below are links to find a behavior specialist that may be able to assist you, as well as the link for the veterinary behavior service at UC Davis. 

Ashley Froschauer, RVT

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