What to do....euthanize?

doucanoeJune 13, 2014

I really need some advice.

Two years ago after having to put down our 13 year old German Shepherd for health reasons, we adopted a 1 year old German Shepherd from a local rescue. He is high strung but very sweet, smart and loveable.

HOWEVER....he has terrible social anxiety. When people come to our house he goes ballistic and it takes everything we've got to try to get him under control and to calm down. It's even worse when people decide to leave.

We have had trainers and aggression specialists out to try to address the problem and we have made some progress but not enough.

Last fall he nipped at my mom and another time at a girlfriend. That's when we contacted the aggression trainer. She told us he was not aggressive but nervous and helped us with some excercises to teach him to calm down.

It has been 9 months and he still barks and jumps when people come and go, but Wednesday night he bit the neighbor in the hand when he walked by him to get in his truck to leave.

I contacted the rescue to discuss surrendering him back to their care, but because of the biting incident they won't take him back (which I totally understand). However, we simply cannot have a dog that nips/bites. The risk is far too great, especially with the fact that we have two small grandchildren.

Our friends don't come over anymore because they are all frightened of this dog.

I spoke to our vet and she said euthanasia may be our only option, but we have to quarantine him for 10 days from the date he bit or we would be responsible for taking his remains to the university to be tested for rabies.

So he is quarantined for now.

I can't wrap my head around euthanizing a healthy 3 year old dog but what other option do I have?



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You are in quite a quandary, I am so sorry!! Since you've tried everything else, would it be possible to use medication in combination with a muzzle for a while? Since the only other alternative would be euthanasia, you have nothing to lose. Here's a website describing meds for this sort of situation.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fear Aggression

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 5:25PM
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I would contact rescue groups that deal only with German Shepherds and ask for any help they can offer. Don't hesitate to call out of state since many rescues can arrange transportation.
I feel your dog may improve in the right environment but finding a new home for him will require you make phone calls and email any and all GS rescues you can find.

I have a small dog that gets overly excited and will nip others if I don't watch him closely. The worst if if a worker had tools or keys that make noise. Dealing with a small dog is difficult enough and I can't imagine what you're going thru with a large dog.

If you're doing the quarantine in-house then I would suggest investing in a comfortable muzzle for him when visitors are expected.

Here is a link that might be useful: muzzle

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 7:28PM
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Thanks, Petra. We tried Lorazepam back in October when we crated him while we had a party and it made him more agitated that ever.

We have considered a muzzle but we would pretty much have to make sure no one just "dropped in" without advance notice.

It may be worth a try.....

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 8:21PM
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Annz, the problem is the fact that he now has a "history" of biting. The rescue told me that for insurance reasons they cannot take a dog knowing that it has bitten.

I suppose I could call others and see if they tell me the same thing...

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 8:25PM
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I agree with annz. Call GSD breed rescues. They understand the breed and are likely to be much more willing to work with a GSD with behavioral problems. Here are links to GSD rescues in MN:


    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:55PM
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Has your vet checked your dog for low thyroid, sometimes this makes dogs aggressive.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 2:19AM
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Thank you for the links, I have e-mailed the contact person at one of them to see what her thoughts are.

I am not sure if he has been checked for low thyroid, I will mention that to my vet. Thanks


    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 3:02PM
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Vets sometimes pooh-pooh any suggestion that thyroid might be a problem;
they often have been trained to think that hypothyroidism is so rare that there's no reason to test for it.

which means that they don't know how many dogs die from it...

(like the days when doctors never checked women for heart disease, since "women don't get heart disease")

Don't be put off by a vet's reluctance to do a thyroid test;
make him/her do it.

I wish you the very best.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 8:56PM
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But if it was thyroid issues, wouldn't the aggression be noticeable all the time?

He is fine when it is just us or once he settles down when guests arrive. It's just the arrival and departure of people that triggers an aggressive reaction.

I will certainly talk to the vet about it and do a search online to find out more about it.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 8:10AM
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I don't know how low thyroid would make a dog 'nippy' or more irritable (in fact, it seems to me that low thyroid would make him duller, lazier, etc...unless I read the whole thing wrong & we're talking about hyperthyroidism, which sounds like it could make him hyper-vigilant & irritable), but I'd guess his aggressive behavior would depend at least somewhat on the 'irritation' factor:

when he's around his family, he's fine.

but people coming & going stimulate, irritate, aggravate, etc.

& it could be something related to that German Shepherd perimeter-guarding thing.

When they come in, they're invading!
When they leave, they're crossing that boundary again!
When they're just sitting there, *with his pack leaders who have reassured him that these strangers are welcome*, he's fine.

The mother of my best friend in high school had a big mostly-Border Collie, mostly white with a little black (I mention this because it seems like I read somewhere that the white factor in Border Collies is connected with health & behavior problems), & your dog sounds a lot like him.

Duffy never got over his fearfulness (you could tell it was fearfulness), & he nipped me several times.

If I was sitting at the kitchen table (where everybody sat), & I got up to go to the fridge or the bathroom, Duffy would wake up & growl, sometimes bark, sometimes nip...

Mrs H would scold, "Duffy!", & he'd subside.

Eventually, after I had spent most of my high school years at that table, even *I* could say, "Duffy!", & he'd calm right down, but he'd do it again the next time anybody moved.

Thank goodness he was an inside dog & was no danger or aggravation to people who just happened to walk by.

That was a very long time ago, & I don't know that Mrs H ever asked the vet for advice or guidance...
chances are the vet would have recommended euthanasia;
that was just what people did before we had gardenweb & google & Prozac & dog whisperers...& it seems like there's a canine equivalent of Feliway, a calmative for cats.

Even when Duffy nipped, it seemed like he was afraid, like he was just going through the motions so you'd think-or he'd think-that he was a big bad dog instead of a scaredy-cat.

like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz!

I think, in your boots, I would try everything I could.

If one thing doesn't work, you can always try the next thing, but if you euthanize, you can't try the next thing.

I hope that made sense, & I do wish you & your dog the very best.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 7:12PM
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I can't imagine what the poor dog is going through now, while quarantined. Talk about stressful!

I certainly feel for you and for the dog. I am absolutely not pro-euthanasia, but I do feel that there are things worth than humane euthanasia. The dog is terrified, labeled a danger, and is bound to have difficult life. Given what you've told us, I think that I might exhaust all possibilities noted above, and if none worked, I'd hug and kiss and comfort the dog while relieving him of his anxiety. And yes, by that, I mean giving him the release through euthanasia.

To many/most it may sound cruel. But I assure you that I mean it as last resort and as a blessing for the pup if need be.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 12:58PM
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I know a couple who went through something similar. They had a lot of dog experience - they showed dogs, and had worked with Irish Setters and Labs. They lived in the country, and their older Lab was happy as could be.

Then they moved into town, and BJ became very territorial. She would go nuts if anyone walked by on the sidewalk, to say nothing of what happened when someone came to the door. They tried everything they could think of, and considered rehoming her back out to the country - but they decided that if they couldn't work it out with her, probably no one else could either.

They ended up euthanizing, and their thinking was exactly like susieque - BJ was very stressed, she was not happy, and they had tried to make her better without success. Putting her at peace was the kindest thing they could do for her.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:23AM
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You shouldn't try and pass the dog on to another person/rescue. That is just passing a problem on. If the issue is only when people come and go then just have the dog crated in a room while people are over. Give a nice kong/bong to chew, some TV/radio for white noise.

Euthanasia is an okay solution if you've exhausted your other options. Dogs aren't afraid to die and don't have regrets, they live in the moment. If the moments are more negative than positive than the humane thing to do might be euthanasia. 10 day quarantine is rough on a dog (I work at a shelter and see the dogs in our quarantine area, very stressed).

Good luck

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 3:52PM
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'If the issue is only when people come and go then just have the dog crated in a room while people are over. Give a nice kong/bong to chew, some TV/radio for white noise.'

Well, of course.

(I should have thought of that....)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 6:46PM
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We crated him a couple of times when guests were over, once we even gave him a mild sedative that our vet prescribed. He spent most of the evening barking.

I have been in touch with the humane society and a woman from one of the links shared above.

She recommended kenneling him while he is outdoors. For now he is tied up when outside, and he is miserable. In a kennel we think he would be even more miserable.

Since he has been tied he has started demonstrating other "bad" behaviors. I have caught him on the couch and on the guest room bed (he is not allowed and has never gotten on the furniture in the past).

This is tearing me apart. I think at this time we will see what the behavior specialists at the humane society tell us. We have an appointment with them next weekend.

Thanks for all your insight. It is greatly appreciated.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 11:39AM
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I've volunteered with several rescues/shelters, and found the specialty groups (e.g., GSD rescue) to be the most helpful & willing to work with challenging cases.

My sister fostered a dog who started out in the midwest, then was adopted by someone in CA. When that did not work out the dog came back to my sister - to again foster. The dog ended up in FL and is doing absolutely great. Just needed the right situation. Medical & travel costs were covered by the specialty rescue.

What state are you in?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 12:00PM
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I have no opinion about what you should do about the dog, but I did find this article when visiting another forum. Maybe there is some "food for thought" here. You are definitely not alone with this issue.

Good luck with whatever you decide, and I hope the Humane Society can help.

Here is a link that might be useful: aggressive dogs

This post was edited by socks12345 on Sat, Jun 21, 14 at 16:38

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 4:28PM
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A dog acts totally different when tied vs being in a kennel. You could always rent a kennel, or cyclone fence panels, and see how he reacts before spending money on one.
He will definitely feel a lot more 'free' vs being tied. Also, sedated/drugged dogs often bark and act differently when in that state.

With all that's going on with the dog I wouldn't consider getting on the furniture bad behavior so don't panic until you have him evaluated.
IMO there are dogs that are frustrated in their current environments and act out, but I also believe there are circumstances where aggression is neurological and when all other options fail, then euthanasia is a choice you can make guilt-free.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 7:52PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

He needs to live with a professional trainer for a while, one that can really change him, not a trainer that just comes to your house once or twice a week. He can be rehabbed, but intensive professional work of weeks or months is likely needed, or a very experienced owner that is home full time and has the capability of working intensively with him. He may simply be the wrong dog for your family. Please try to find him the right rescue group or trainer.

I had an aggressive mess of a rescue dog and he ended up a sweetheart to the end of his almost 17 years, after living with a trainer for several months. You need advanced help at this point, please keep trying.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 8:02PM
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The humane society called back and said they would be unable to take him because they would not be able to place him.

We don't have the money or the resources to send him to live with a professional trainer.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 8:39AM
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I am sorry to hear of this. I feel that animals, like people, have mental illnesses, and it's so hard to help our furry friends because they cannot tell us how they feel.

After watching the episode of Morgan Spurlock's Inside Man on CNN, I understand better the process the rescues go through with respect to aggressive dogs, although it was still very sad.

I wish you all the best in your decision.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 9:02AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I think it is ok, fine, to put him to sleep. Most people do not have unlimited resources and you have done a great deal so far. Don't beat yourself up over this.
Be with him in the end and one day he will greet you again.

Thousands of beautiful dogs who do have wonderful temperaments and personalities are killed daily across the country because no one wants them.

Find one of those dogs who needs a forever home and move on.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 10:00AM
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I totally agree with Bumblebeez. It is time to put him down. You put up with the problem much longer than I would have. As far as I am concerned, when a dog bites a human - he/she is history. Why on earth would you take a chance???

Years ago I had a GS that we got from a shelter. (Probably why he was there) We went to the expense of having him neutered right away but the aggression was getting worse. A young boy came to our door to get the keys to his parent's house which we had. The dog attacked - he had on a heavy leather jacket and that is what saved him. I put the dog in the car, took him to the vet and had him put down. The vet completely agreed with my stance.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 11:22AM
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It is very, very, very difficult to decide to euthanize a 3-1/2 year old, sweet, loving dog. But unfortunately we feel there is no other option at this time.

The angst we have been feeling for the last week has been excruciating.

What if there was one thing we didn't try?
What if we had unlimited resources?
What if we just lock him away when guests come? (which, I believe is how he got this way in the first place...)
What if someone comes along after he is gone with a miracle cure?
But he is so sweet when we are alone.
Are we doing this for selfish reasons?
I can "kiss him on the lips" and he won't hurt me.
Maybe as he ages he'll mellow out....

If you have never been in this position, consider yourself blessed. We appreciate and have read and considered all of the opinions posted above.

Our beloved baby will only be with us for a couple more days. As much as we love him with all our hearts, the risk is just too high.

I have been sobbing uncontrollably for days, now. My stomach is in knots, I can't sleep.

I pray that there will be some way for us to know that we are doing the right thing.

I think we will be "petless" for a while after this.

We did all that we could.

(I love you, Bullitt.......)


    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:42PM
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I am so so sorry, Linda. What a heart-wrenching decision you have had to make. Bullitt will leave this world having known your love, and that's a beautiful life for a dog to have had, even if it was short.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 10:39AM
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I surely do feel your pain and anxiety, Linda, and your last post brought me to tears. You love your dog, but people have to come first. You are not being selfish to protect your mother, your neighbor, your grandchildren and others who may come in contact with your dear dog. My heart aches for you, and I wish you peace.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 3:08PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I did not mean to be so harsh, as I know how difficult the decision is as you love him so very much.
if you do go ahead with it, try and focus on all the good memories, and the good life he had with you.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 6:28PM
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Just in case you missed my earlier post.

I've worked with shelters and found specialty groups (e.g., GSD rescue) to be the most helpful/willing to work with challenging cases.

What state are you in? Perhaps, I can help refer you.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 6:37PM
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mdln thank you for offering to help. We are in east central MN and I have contacted several GSD rescues in MN and WI. Some didn't even bother to respond. The ones that did either wouldn't take him with the "bite history" or didn't have room and offered no other options.

Thank you all again. Tomorrow is going to be a very tough day....


    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 8:03PM
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Linda, I am so sorry for this difficult situation you are in. Unfortunately, I am not going to be contacts my resources by tomorrow, and don't even know that they can help you. Most involved in rescue work are volunteers, with full-time jobs. That may explain why you may not have gotten a call back from some places.

Please reconsider being petless. We all understand what you are doing and why. However, while you could not save Bullitt - you can save another dogs life by adopting!

My thoughts are with you.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 8:45PM
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Thank you, I understand and I know that they are mostly volunteers after working with the rescue we got Bully from. I actually had planned on volunteering at the rescue, even fostering dogs, but he was such a "handful".

We'll see. We are thinking of moving so if we do take another pet it will be after we figure all of that out.

Right now we just feel like we failed as "rescue parents", and need to regroup.

We will make sure Bully has the very best day tomorrow, running free and maybe even an ice cream cone before we go. We love him so much...it's going to be so damn difficult.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 9:22PM
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I'm so sorry for both your family and your dog. We had a dog that was socially very challenging, similar to your situation. We could not put her down. One thing you mentioned that we experienced was that our dog mellowed as she aged...she was so loving to us. We kept her till the day she passed.

Just a small suggestion if you try the crate. Use a large crate so dog won't 'feel' caged. Drape crate sides and back with a sheet or blanket. This creates a 'safe haven' for your dog. We never used a crate for previous dogs (for potty training) but it was suggested for current dog when we got her at 8 weeks. Initially fed her in the crate, water bowl there, toys, etc. What I noticed once she started viewing crate as a safe haven, whenever she felt stressed or there was too much going on, she would go into her crate (we left crate door open). I wish I had known about it with my prior dog. I definitely would have tried it.

Prolly sounds silly, but 'dogs are smarter than you think'. A book I read during that time when a dog was having accidents in house (dog was potty trained). DH wanted to get rid of dog; high frustration levels. During one of our snuggle sessions, I told this dog she would not be able to live here with mommy and daddy if the accidents continued. Do you know that dog never had another accident in the house. Strange.

I wish you the best and hope things work out. I've been where you are at.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 9:30PM
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Linda, I cannot imagine having to make the decision you had to make. It is difficult enough making the decision when your pet has come to the end of the road. If it's any comfort, imagine how you would have felt if the dog accidentally got out and attacked a small child. While I don't know for sure what I would have done, I know I wouldn't want to live with an unpredictable dog even if he was loving to us.

Mags, I had the same experience with my last dog. She was a rescue and a week or two after I got her, she peed on my rug right in front of me, after admonishing her and cleaning it up, I sat down in a chair, held her little face in my hands and said "you know, I'm not that attached to you yet, if you keep doing this, you will go right back where you came from." She never did it again! LOL

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 1:16PM
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How're you doing, doucanoe?

edited to add:

'I wouldn't want to live with an unpredictable dog even if he was loving to us.'

Years ago, I had a perfectly healthy, charming dog put to sleep.

He was a Border Collie mix, & he killed one of my cats & constantly looked at the other 2 with that 'alert' look.

I knew that the prey drive was a part of him, something that couldn't be overcome.

Living with him stressed me out & stressed out the 2 remaining cats, & I just finally couldn't bear any more.

I lived in an area where most of the dogs weren't treated well, there were tons of 'strays' roaming the streets, & I was afraid of what might happen to him if I found him another home.

Like you, I felt horrible-
guilty, sad, just horrible.

but when I returned from the vet's office, when it was finally over, I felt...relief.

I did, & do, remember him with fondness & some sadness, or maybe just the memory of sadness, but I never have regretted having taken the action that I took.

It was just the only way.

(When I did get another dog, she was a Border Collie mix who was completely submissive, & she loved those cats.)

I wish you the best.

This post was edited by sylviatexas on Wed, Jun 25, 14 at 18:29

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 6:15PM
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Thank you all. I made several more calls today to rescues both here and in the neighboring state. No one will take him. I called my vet to see if maybe his anxiety could be treated with medication.

It could, but at a very high cost because there is only one vet in this state that will work with a dog with a bite record, and it is quite costly. She also added that because he has a bite history, if he ever were to bite and cause bodily harm we would have no defense, because we could not say "we didn't know".

We are devastated, but know there is no other option. There will be no miracle, there will be no pardon.

He will cross the bridge in a couple of hours. Mojo and Chessa will meet him there and take good care of him, I am sure of it.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 6:56PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I hope you are ok, Linda. I've been thinking about you.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 4:49PM
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also thinking of you, hoping you are OK

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 6:56PM
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sweet_betsy No AL Z7

I am so sorry--wishing you peace.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 7:13PM
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Ditto bumble & mdln posts.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 9:36PM
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My heart goes out to you and your family. It is a difficult decision. We are major dog lovers -- we did dog rescue for years and have had many dogs and foster dogs. We also volunteered in shelters. But we did choose to euthanize our aggressive dog. In that time, we only had one truly aggressive dog. Because of our beliefs, we did everything possible. We even tried human prozac (in addition to trainers, etc). The dog knocked me and bit me so badly I had to have stitches -- when I was pregnant! We argued about it during the pregnancy, but I was reluctant to take my husband's dog and have it euthanized without my husband's OK. My husband could not bear to euthanize his dog. But to his credit, as soon as our baby was born, my husband took the dog to be euthanized, saying that suddenly he saw the dog as a risk to our baby.

What I am saying is -- if this dog is truly aggressive, it will be heartbreaking, but you know you are doing the right thing. In your situation, I would euthanize the dog. As far as finding special rescue groups, we were active in the rescue community and decided that we could not do that. We took responsibility and made the horrible and heartbreaking decision on our own.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 9:51PM
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I had to euthanize a 3 year old lab I found. She was never socialized , I got her when she was about 10 months old ....... I did everything I possibly could for 3 years -- she was deathly afraid of everyone and everything. I even turned away family visitors for years. She got worse & was living a terrified life . She couldn't be fixed. The vet said after all we did and she was no better , she was hard wired for fear . To this day , I keep questioning myself of what else I might have done. ((((( HUGS )))))

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 1:21AM
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'hard wired for fear'

The phrase brings back a sad memory.

I once worked with a Rottweiler-loving gal (does it seem like the big girls like the little dogs & the little girls like the big ones? Jane was a willowy blonde & all her dogs outweighed her.)

Her dogs truly were gentle giants;
they were house dogs who washed their feet in the kiddie pool after they'd been outside & slept on the couch & rode in the car;
they lived with several cats-
& were terrified of one of them, a bossy tortoiseshell...

Jane lost her beloved Rosie when Rose was about 7 years old.

From what I understood, Rotts are susceptible to or have a genetic predisposition to develop a kind of blood cancer.

It was a long hard journey, & Jane was heartbroken at the end.

About 2 months afterward, she went, on a whim, to look at a litter of Rotts.

She said she'd had no intention of getting a puppy, but she wanted to see them.

The 'breeder' had the mother & father dogs chained to doghouses, there was no grass in the yard, the water was dirty, it was awful...

& Jane felt sorry for the pups & bought one.

*She raised that dog in exactly the same way she'd raised the other*.

He too, should have been a 'gentle giant', but he became more & more aggressive, snapping at the cats, growlilng at the other 2 dogs, etc.

The cats were afraid of him, the dogs were afraid of him, & eventually Jane was afraid of him.

One day when Jane tried to get past him to go into her kitchen, he growled & raised his hackles & bared his teeth.

She said she'd never been afraid in her own house before.

Yet, like so many of you, she kept trying.
She tried everything under the sun.

She finally had him euthanized, & the vet tried to comfort her, tellng her that it was a genetic or inborn irregularity, using the phrase "bad wiring".

You cannot overcome bad wiring.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 12:00PM
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It's been a week and we miss Bully terribly.

I still find myself going to let him in because I swear I heard him scratch at the door.

It is what it is and the best we can hope for is that he is at peace and romping with the other dogs on the other side.

Thank you all for your kind words and support. It is truly appreciated.

(Rest in peace, Bullitt. You were a sweet boy and we loved you very much.)

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 9:39AM
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(((((Linda))))) Thinking of you.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 5:30PM
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Big hugs to you, Linda.

You didn't "fail" Bullit at all - you loved him, tried to help him, and did the best you could for him. Sometimes the best thing we can do is let them go.

Give yourself time - if the right dog comes along, you'll know it.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 11:53AM
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