Behavioral Euthanasia or Re-Homing a Pet
Updated: Apr 19
We had to consider behavioral euthanasia or risking others' safety with rehoming our beloved Pittie mix, Mari. There were 5 separate incidents within 6 months of having her with us of bites and aggression. We sought help with a behavioral consultant to work with training her, and had her go to a behavioral specific boarding facility when we went out of town to receive additional training.
We reached the last straw after almost an hour of her growling and following us aggressively over protecting a new bone. This was when we decided it wasn't safe when she wouldn't slow down and relax for fear that we were going to grab her bone.
There were at least 4 weeks since we've had an aggressive episode, and we had diligently been training her from resource guarding to common direction to sit, lay down, and fetch. It had become stressful to wonder when she would turn into Hyde when most times she sweet and just excited to see you and play. We took each of the advice the trainer and consultant had given us about how to work with her, and yet we continued to have more unpredictable incidents occurring. It can feel disheartening and heart breaking as you pour into this pet you love so dearly and find that it isn't yielding all that you're putting into them.
This last time, we tried Trazadone to help calm her, and after waiting it out for an hour. She finally calmed and we snuck the bone away to not trigger her again. There's a point you hit when you know this can not continue without the real risk of getting brutally attacked. We consulted with the trainer and behavioral consultant and both agreed this may be neurological, this coupled with separation anxiety, emotional conflict, and the behavioral issues made it a complicated matter. They both suggested the dog would need to see a specialized behavioral veterinarian. To be placed on a Prozac, even with this, it may take up to 6 months to figure out what the right dosage and prescription would be right for your pet. Additionally, it is not guaranteed to work. We were unable to take the risk of continued incidents, and were told she wouldn't be eligible for re-homing due to her behavioral concerns.
This is an extremely difficult decision to make and not one to take lightly. Here are the incidents we encountered with Mari that got us to the point of exploring behavioral euthanize or re-homing.
Thankfully the shelter proposed an alternative option, they believe they're able to rehome her and work with her despite the concerns. This provided a sense of hope.
She bit me breaking skin from my thumb and hand after 1 month of getting her. She growled to warn me she didn't want her harness on first. She continued to come after me, if not for my partner blocking her with a chair. She cooled down within 1 minute.
She was at the park and was off leash, a dog began to attack her and they tussled. The dog's owner came to separate them and claims Mari bit her hand showing me the bite marks. After discussing with the behavioral consultant, this is good information to know. Anytime you use hands, arms to separate two fighting dogs, the human will likely get hurt. Dogs are less likely to be injured during dog fights (not the case if you're putting a small dog against a large or medium sized dog).
Resource guarding a large bone given to her. Someone was trying to move the bone and was bitten twice on each arm. Both broke skin.
Playing with Mari on her back with her belly up, she was enjoying herself with belly rubs until she suddenly wasn't. She chased and attacked a bicep, hand, and then calf. This was when we feared the attacks were becoming unpredictable. And became more cautious.
A new bone specific for aggressive chewers was given to her. She seemed uninterested and yet guarded it with non-stop growling and following. Mari nipped at the hand when it came near the bone. We used a gate to separate her from us. This was the only thing keeping her from pursuing us for almost an hour.
We weren't safe and had to worry that visitors and other people we encounter weren't safe.
While 95 percent of the time, Mari's mostly a well behaved darling whom I love and adore like she were my child. The foster parent had no indication of aggression or any bite history. What we saw was her sweet side (Jekyll) and the Hyde would show up destroying all the work you thought was helping.
Love may not always be enough. As much as I love her and want to keep trying, we have to think of our safety. These attacks were becoming more unpredictable and frequent.
My heart breaks as I think of how much I’ll miss her wiggle butt every time we come in.
How she would sleep in till noon or 1 like a teenager.
She was excellent at catching food in her mouth.
She’d accompany me throughout the day while I worked my jobs in Sales and Therapy.
She has a big personality and only wanted to play catch, hide and seek, and tug inside of our 860 sq. ft. apartment.
She has the most unique spots, coloring, and even what looks like a Rorschach inkblot on her back, that people might imagine were a chick, a squirrel, a mouse.
Her ears flopped around and people would point at her.
“She’s looks like PETEY, in The Little Rascals."
It feels like I lost a light in my life. I'm going to miss her uncontainable excitement, happiness, and joy she had. At times, the best decision comes down to having the courage to surrender the control we think we have and giving yourself permission of letting go. We might have family or friends that have neurological difficulties, having a disorder is not their fault. It can be exceptionally hard to navigate life, relationships, and work as a person struggling with a disorder. Similarly, it is even more difficult being a pet that struggles with this. We need to approach this sensitively, respectfully, and with dignity.