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When You Have to Put a Dog Down Because of Aggression

Updated on December 13, 2014
photos on this page belong to Cari_Kay. Please do not use without permission.
photos on this page belong to Cari_Kay. Please do not use without permission.

Losing our Beloved Dog to Canine Rage Syndrome. Here is Our Story:

I miss our dog. Well, technically, he was my son's dog but I just loved that dog so much. This dog was truly special. He was smart. He was obedient. He fit the definition of 'love puppy'. He loved to love and to be loved by us all.

So, if he was so wonderful, why did we make the agonizing decision to put him down at only three years of age? Unfortunately, a very small percentage of the time, we had no control over him. It was like a switch went off in his brain and we was in attack mode. No amount of love, training or intervention seemed to change his sickness and, yes, dogs that suffer from this type of aggression are sick.

That is why this has taken me six months to write about our loss. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of him. I know others who have gone through this same situation and I hope that by sharing this page, you'll find some help and solace in it as well.


Fourteen Hours After Putting Our Sammy Down

I posted this

Thankfully, the night before we made the decision to put our pup down, I found a forum for those who have lost their pets. I found such solace in reading the stories of other families who had lost their dogs to this same reason. Of course, the loss was quite painful and in my grief, I reached out. Here is my initial post:


"I apologize in advance if this is a bit incoherent because this hurts so much and I cannot just stop crying.

I feel such guilt and I am brokenhearted.

Just over 14 hours ago we had to put our beloved three year old American Staffordshire Terrier down due to aggression.

Let me just say, 99.9% of the time, this was the most loving dog EVER! He was so smart. He'd been through obedience training and excelled. Although he was my son's dog, I was probably more attached to him than any dog ever and that is saying something because I love dogs.

However, the other 0.1% of the time, he worried us a lot. It was like something would snap off in his brain and we'd have no control. We are so blessed he did not do more damage than he did but some dogs do that and we tried not to let him out ever after dark because of all the nocturnal critters in our area. Still, he did catch and kill an assortment of small critters (i.e. squirrels, birds, snakes, etc...). He's had a few instances of being aggressive and, the last straw was when he escaped our backyard two nights ago and bit a small child just playing down the road. The child did nothing to provoke it and his parents were so gracious. It was bad but we know it could have been much, much worse for that poor family. For three years we had been so careful with him but we knew another escape could happen one day and there are just to many precious young children in our neighborhood. As much as we loved our Sam dog, we could not risk the life of a child. We also know he would likely have been quarantined by animal services and our dog would not have done well at all. He was so nervous with others and just lived his life for us, his family. Quarantine would not have changed the outcome so we wanted to do this as humanely as possible, with us at his side.

So while I know we did what we had to do, it hurts so badly. That dog trusted me so much. I hurt so much for our son who is fourteen. He picked him out from the pound just three years ago and he loved his dog. His dog ADORED him.

We took him to our vet because we thought it would be easier than if Animal Services took him away and put him down. Our vet had to muzzle him though because he had bitten someone. He shook so badly. My husband held him and I just petted him during the last moments but he was so frightened and shaking so badly. I feel so guilty. I just want him back. I'll never forget his eyes looking at me above the muzzle expecting me to help him and I didn't. Oh my goodness, this hurts so badly. I don't even know how to help our son right now because I cannot even keep it together.

I found this site 24 hours ago when researching what to do when you have an aggressive dog and found other posts from women going through the same thing. I cried my way through their stories but knew that they had no choice and neither than we but I just need somebody to tell me this will get easier. We've put down two dogs in the last four years. Both were fifteen and it had to be done. That hurt but they were sick and hurting so I didn't feel this intense guilt. I know this has to get easier. I just don't see how though. At some point, these tears have to stop, right?"

Rage Syndrome

After discussing our options (or lack of) with our vet, I found that Rage Syndrome is a very real disorder in some dogs. He actually had a golden retriever that had to be put down for this very reason. Hearing that made me feel a little better. Our vet is known for going out of his way to save every creature brought in to his clinic.

What is Rage Syndrome?

Fortunately Rage Syndrome is fairly uncommon. However, that doesn't offer much solace to those of us who have lost a pet due to this disease. A pet struggling with this disease, can suddenly without warning, turn in an uncontrollable beast, snapping and growling. No amount of training will get this pet to a point where they will snap out of it. Often, you may notice the dog's eyes just glaze over as if they are someplace else. This is what we would see with our dog. While it didn't happen a lot, it did happen enough to scare us.

If you would like more information on true Rage Syndrome:

"Rage Syndrome in Dogs: Idiopathic aggression is (thankfully) quite rare, but also quite dangerous."

Have you had to deal with an aggressive pet?

See results

"I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there [in Heaven], I believe he'll be there."

— Billy Graham

The Guilt

As a serious dog lover, the guilt I felt putting our beloved Sammy down was so overwhelming. I was drowning in it.

You think to yourself, "What if?" Here were my common 'What ifs' before we made our final decision:

What if we got him more training?

What if we found better drugs for him? Do they make Xanax for dogs?

What if we just kept him chained in the yard so he could not escape?

What if we kept a basket muzzle on him at all times except to eat and drink?

What if we found him another home?

Well, we did extensive training with him. Even his trainer thought he had some mental imbalance because of his aggression toward others. We tried some calming medications for him. They kept him calmer but, on one walk, he lunged at a little girl. Thankfully we used a prong collar to control him. Chaining him in the yard as well as the muzzle just would have been cruel. He was a member of the family and that was no way to live. And, finally, we were told that even if we found him a new home, if he bit somebody, we'd still be liable.

I believe strongly in Heaven. I do believe that our pets end up in Heaven. I know I'll see our Sammy again someday. Really, for him, it was the kindest thing we could do. He had a sickness and while it didn't happen a lot, it happened enough that it scared us. We just could not take the chance of him harming anybody.

Despite all this, I won't kid you, I still feel guilt. I still shed some tears when I really take time to remember him. The guilt does ease though and I do know we made the right decision.

Part of our Healing

Although she is not a replacement, we thought it important that our son get another dog soon after Sammy's death.

As with all our pups, we found this little beauty at the pound.

She has helped immensely in healing the pain caused by Sammy's loss. Like I said, she could never replace such a special dog but she has earned a spot in our hearts nonetheless.

Are you going through this now? I'd love to hear from you. I know, when I went through it, just talking to others who understood helped immensely. I read story after story of other families who had to put their dogs down for the same reason. Just knowing you are not alone can help so much. Kind and supportive comments only please :)

Would love to hear from you

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    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 5 weeks ago

      I am so sorry. Yes our dog had the same vacant eyes. I'm still heartbroken over his loss. It is hard and I am so very sorry you are going through this as well.

    • profile image

      5 weeks ago

      I just had to put my 3 year old cockapoo down a few days ago due to this. I Feel so guilty because I remember the happy, sweet snuggling side of her. She was up to 4 bites and I knew it would only get worse. She had dead eyes and would just stare the last few bites, It was scary. Such a hard thing to do. My hearts broken

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 11 months ago

      Oh Carolyn, I am so sorry you had to go through this. This was one of the toughest things we ever did and just broke my heart. I still think of him all the time but I know we did the right thing. He had a sickness and it was getting worse. I miss him though. Huge (((hugs))) for you.

    • profile image

      CarolynL 12 months ago

      This article is exactly what my husband needed this morning after days of prayer for our 15 month german shepherd. I read it to him this morning before our appointment and he immediately said he no longer had doubt. Thank you for this, it helped us accept and follow through with what needed to be done. Our minds knew, but our hearts did not. It was an answer to us.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 2 years ago

      CoopersMoma, I am so so so sorry. I still get tears in my eyes over this. Praying for you!

    • profile image

      CoopersMoma 2 years ago

      My boy is currently in quarantine, at home thankfully, he couldn't do it animal services.... I have to put him down, they're making me wait until the quarantine is over even though he'd didn't break the skin.. a week from today. I fear I will die of a broken heart before I even get there...

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 2 years ago

      It is such a heartbreaking thing and, yes, people come first, even as much as we love our dogs.

    • Shades-of-truth profile image

      Emily Tack 2 years ago from USA

      We have been through this, twice. Once, was with our wonderful pit bull, who turned on one of my children for nothing. I was right there when it happened.

      The second time, was with a pit bull mix that we had. After 3 years, he growled, pulled his ears back, and bared his teeth when my 2 year old granddaughter walked toward him.

      As much as I love dogs - I have owned 35 of them, people are people, and an aggressive dog will not be kept in my home.

      I feel for you, and have been there...

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 2 years ago

      It truly was heartbreaking. Thank you for your comment.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      What a tragedy. I have not owned a dog for years, but I can't imagine having to make that kind of decision. It sounds like it's not known what causes canine rage syndrome, or how to treat it. I'm just glad to know that it's very rare.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 3 years ago

      That is still one of the hardest things we've ever had to do. We still talk about him quite a bit. I am so sorry you had to do the same with your Abby.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 3 years ago from USA

      We had the same thing happen with our Springer Spaniel. They are noted for getting this. First she acted like she was having epileptic fits just by shaking. Later she displayed full symptoms of rage syndrome.

      You did the right thing having the dog put down. When they go into a fit, they are dangerous.

      Abby was the same way. The most loving and smartest dog we ever had. I am sorry you had to lose your dog. It was hard getting over Abby.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 3 years ago

      @longingformaximus: Oh my goodness, I so understand your emotions here. It's been some time now since we put our dog down and there is still such a sadness about it. I loved that dog like no other. He was so smart and so loving! Looking back, though now, I'd still make the same choice. I knew he could seriously harm somebody or somebody's pet. Almost all the time, he really was the perfect dog but about one percent of the time, something in his brain would switch off and I knew it'd be during one of those times where he could hurt somebody. Still, it hurts. It does ease up over time and now we share more happy memories of him. I really do think it helped our family to adopt another pup not too long after. Admittedly, it took some time for me to bond with her but she is such a sweet dog and everybody loves her. Huge hug for you!!!

    • profile image

      longingformaximus 3 years ago

      I just had to put my 2 pit bulls down for aggression, I have so much guilt so much pain. I feel it is my fault and I feel if I kept themlocked in the house they would have been fine. I loved them so much,they use to wait for me to come home and would look out the window for me. I would sit and one would wrap his paws around me. I just miss them so much I never thought I would feel this pain or guilt. I feel like I let them down, I couldn't protect them and I couldn't fix them. I just want them back!!

    • profile image

      WinWriter 3 years ago

      We haven't had to put a dog down for aggression, but I read your heartbreaking story and just wanted to encourage you. It was the kindest thing you could do. I too believe animals will be in Heaven. You'll see your Sammy again :)

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
      Author

      Kay 4 years ago

      @shay-marie: Such kind words. Thank you. If our Sammy had been any other type of dog, I don't think we have made the same decision. We just knew that he could turn on somebody and because we knew he could do serious damage, we made this painful decision. We have another dog who is a grump with strangers but we don't worry about him because he is also a very lazy 100-lb lump of lab!

    • shay-marie profile image

      Shay Marie 4 years ago from Southern California

      I had a Cocker Spaniel growing up and she was a food guarder, big time. She was also super snippy. She bit me on the face once when I tried to pick her up - I didn't tell my parents until after she had passed away because I was always worried they'd put her to sleep or something. I sympathize with your story. I'm sure if our cocker had been a different breed, and could have actually done serious damage, I might be telling a different story.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image
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      Kay 4 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: Thank you so much. It still hurts :(

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      Loss of a beloved dog is painful enough, but it's intolerable when you feel guilt as well. It sounds like you understand fully that you made the only possible decision - for everyone's safety - and I hope you come to know that in your heart as well as your head. I have seen Canine Rage Syndrome in two dog students (a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Dachshund), and you describe it well. It is like a switch is flicked in the dog's brain, no warning at all. No amount of training can correct a mental imbalance. It is dreadfully sad, because these dogs are so often otherwise lovely and loving pets. Your story, and the resources you've shared, will surely help some other dog owners who are in the same painful situation. Blessings.