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Sensitive question but I am curious what people's opinions are. I imagine most folks here are dog owners without high stakes in the world of rescue and sheltering so I'd love to hear your perspectives! Obviously a behavior is only a problem in the context the dog is in. For example, a dog that bites people may not be a problem for a solitary rancher who wants a dog for property protection, but would be a major problem for a university student living in a dorm. So very generally speaking, what behaviors do you think are treatable, manageable, or are such that you believe a dog with X behaviors deserves a chance to be owned, or rehomed, or placed through a shelter? And what behaviors do you think make euthanasia the most humane, ethical, or responsible outcome for a dog?
 

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I think, in general, if the dog can't have a good quality of life most of the time - and especially inside its own home where it should feel safest and be most comfortable and predictable - through tools, techniques, and management that are feasible for the owner to implement without severely damaging their own quality of life (eg reasonably affordable, doesn't prevent the owner from being able to work or attend to their own or their family's needs, doesn't become an emotional burden that triggers serious mental health concerns, etc.), OR the dog is a danger to other (especially domestic) animals and/or humans in a way the owner cannot or will not manage, AND rehoming is either unfair to the dog (putting an anxious dog through a shelter, for example), potentially dangerous to the new owner, or straight up nearly impossible because the dogs' needs are so extreme, euthanasia is reasonable.

Of course this is deliberately vague, because so many factors are in play. Some owners will take a serious anxiety case and be able to put the money, time, and emotional/mental labor in and make it through, and others are not willing or able to do that, and that's okay. Some communities may be hotspots for Dog People with more homes than average willing and able to take on project dogs and therefore rehoming becomes an option in more scenarios, whereas in other communities anything more than very basic behavior issues are going to struggle to find a home and sometimes euthanasia is kinder than sending a stressed or fearful dog through multiple unsuitable homes or sitting in a shelter system indefinitely.

I personally feel that serious, level 4 or above biting incidents without major extenuating circumstances (eg dog was being tormented, was severely ill or reacting to medication, etc) are grounds for euthanasia in most circumstances, as there's relatively few homes that have the experience (or money to hire experience) and ability to consistently and securely manage such dogs. Below that, I could see situations where almost every genuine behavior problem (eg stuff that's beyond a dog being a dog) might be reasonable grounds for euthanasia in certain circumstances.
 

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I think any dog that cannot be comfortable in its own skin would be better off euthanized. Dogs with genetic temperaments that mix fear and nerve are often never stable and never happy. Why support a life that will forever be tormented and ALWAYS need management?

Dogs that are truly dog aggressive or truly human aggressive are also candidates for euthanasia. These dogs are not common.

Dogs that are in a "shelter" for more than 2 months should also be candidates... Shelter hell is just a horrible environment for any dog.
 

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So very generally speaking, what behaviors do you think are treatable, manageable, or are such that you believe a dog with X behaviors deserves a chance to be owned, or rehomed, or placed through a shelter?
I think you and DaySleepers covered it pretty well. It varies a lot.

What you said reminded me of my previous dog, Fiona the American Bulldog. She was a hard, sharp, guard dog. Surprisingly dog social, but hated most human strangers. It's how I was able to have a revolving door of fosters while I had her. She wouldn't hesitate to escalate if things got dicey, with both dogs and people. She did, multiple times actually, and those people deserved it, but those are stories for another day. I was able foster fail her before she hit the adoption floor after talking about it with the shelter director, because I knew the more she bonded with me, she wasn't going to bond with others the same way. She was cordial but never really bonded with my SO; if he hurt me, she wouldn't hesitate to protect me. Owning her wasn't really hard or mentally taxing for me, despite her being a liability, because I come from a country where most dogs, both bought and adopted, are actually closer to that temperament then, say, the temperament of a more social breed. My SO didn't really have any hard feelings about that either, because he has a similar background (he's from Turkey and grew up around LGDs). I also just don't really care if my dogs like strangers or not, just don't act a fool in public.

So, all in all, if someone wants to step up and take initiative for a dog like that, I think rescues and shelters should be open to that. Of course, if they feel euth is a better option for a dog like that, I'm not against that either.




And what behaviors do you think make euthanasia the most humane, ethical, or responsible outcome for a dog?
In general, I would say any behavioral problem that is not coupled with a medical problem. Of course, like Daysleepers said, there's a lot of factors coupled with that.

Outside of that, I think it will depend on the shelter and rescue for the most part.

About "long termers"...If a rescue or shelter is able to adopt out a good number of dogs, and work to lower its return rate, while keeping the "long termers" humanely, I'm not against that. If a rescue or shelter is unable to at the moment, but is working to lower its euth rate through other means like retention programs and transport, I'm not against them euthing dogs they deem appropriate for that. Slight tangent, it would depend why the dog is a "long termer". If it is because the rescue or shelter is keeping the dog alive, when euth is more appropriate, then that's not right. If it is because the dog is not getting enough attention despite being pretty adoptable, then I would find it hard to say they should euth. The shelter across town has a "longer termer" right now actually; it's a 40 ish pound, wooly coat, natural bobtail (or just bad dock job), black mutt thing who splits his time as an office dog and with his foster dad. That's not a bad life. He's been at that shelter for a little over a year. If I had to pick his problem behavior, he's a little reactive, but that's common with dogs in general. Even the generally slow to go dogs like pits at that shelter were getting adopted before him. In that scenario, I think the best course course of action would be to give dogs like that more publicity.
 

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I just realized I said "level four and above" bites earlier. I should've just said "four" because level five bites are serious maulings and level six bites are severe attacks results in a human death and honestly at that point euthanasia really should be the only option. I'm sure there's some exceptions out there, but so few it's hardly worth speculating about.
 

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Generally I agree with DaySleeper's ideas. The sad fact is many dogs could live out decent lives in homes of a certain kind, but there aren't enough of those kind of homes available. For instance, in my semi-rural, well-fenced world, dogs don't meet strangers of the human or animal kind unless I actively take them places to do it. Except for vet, of course. So when I was doing rescue, I kept several dogs I was afraid to adopt to out, and they spent their lives with me without ever being a problem.

I chose to do that but wouldn't have if I could have had only one dog. My well balanced dogs that can go places and do things with me bring me great joy, and I would not give that up. Years ago I asked a vet friend what was the saddest thing he saw in his practice. His reply really surprised me: "People who waste money, time and emotion on dogs that aren't worth it when so many good dogs die because there aren't enough homes." The "aren't worth it" is IMO too harsh, but I understand what he meant.
 

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I think dogs that live in a constant state of panic/fear/anxiousness that causes them to a) hide from the world or b) lash out unpredictably at the world and don't seem to be helped by medication or behavior modification should probably be euthanized. I think that many "problem dogs" that never have to see humans or dogs outside their family would probably be perfectly fine...but in reality there are not enough homes like that in the world. And even if there were, service people still have to come to the house, sometimes strangers show up unannounced. All it takes is forgetting to close a gate or a door, and you have a tragedy if the dog is one to bite first and ask questions later.

I agree that dogs that severely maul or kill a human should be euthanized, even if they've never exhibited aggressive behavior before. That's just a huge liability.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Interesting! Thanks for sharing your perspectives. I do think the general dog owner/dog loving population in this country would disagree with the overarching sentiments here. In a nutshell, I agree with what's been said.
 

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For aggression- if the dog pursues a stranger to bite them (as appose to a nip and run from fear), if it bites it's owners, if it is child aggressive, if it is a danger to people if it were to get loose.
Fear aggression vs genetic aggression. Most dogs willing to pursue a person to harm them are not simply fearful, and you can't TEACH aggression so it cannot be taught out. Even in protection sports/work you are working with the aggression that is already present, you aren't creating it with training. I'm also not saying that genetic aggression is bad by any means, but if a dog cannot differentiate a threat from a non threat, that is an issue. My APBT will react if a stranger comes into the house not announced (just barking), but she will not if I am present and allow the person in. This wasn't taught, this is her instincts telling her what is and isn't necessary to react to.
It's a tough situation, I've gotten attached to dogs before who I knew were a liability, it's not to say that they can't be sweet dogs it's just unfortunate that people breed dogs with no consideration of producing stable offspring.

For anxiety/stress I guess I would say if the dog isn't even at peace at home then it isn't living a good quality of life.
 

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I think any dog that cannot be comfortable in its own skin would be better off euthanized. Dogs with genetic temperaments that mix fear and nerve are often never stable and never happy. Why support a life that will forever be tormented and ALWAYS need management?

Dogs that are truly dog aggressive or truly human aggressive are also candidates for euthanasia. These dogs are not common.

Dogs that are in a "shelter" for more than 2 months should also be candidates... Shelter hell is just a horrible environment for any dog.
I agree with most of this. I don't agree with 2 months in a shelter. Some dogs just take longer to find the right home and should be given that chance. When a friend passed away, his 2 dogs ended up in a shelter (I couldn't take them, already had 4 dogs) One was adopted right away, the other was adopted and returned twice before finding the right fit. (he'd been adopted/returned multiple times before my friend adopted him) The process took several months, but he actually enjoyed his time at the shelter and loved the staff.

We adopted a senior dog who had been at the shelter for 7 months. He was 8 years old, had skin infections, arthritis in his knees & hips and was just overlooked. We brought him home he blended right with our other dogs. We gave him 5 good years (lost him last summer) and he was just the sweetest dog.
 
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