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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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I have decided after great thought and soul searching that

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I have decided after great thought and soul searching that my lovely 5 year old crossbred bitch (american bit bull x portuguese crossbred) is becoming so aggressive with other dogs she is uncontrollable when off the lead, that I will have to have her put down. What is the best way to proceed should this be the decision?
Hi there, I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian in the US who works exclusively with dogs and cats. I'm so sorry to hear that you're in this difficult situation with Poppy. I'm glad that you're seeking input on all of your options - I know that this can be a very heart breaking and difficult decision. I just euthanased a dog last night in my office because she killed the owner's cousin's dog. It wasn't the first incident of aggression but it happened despite the owner having done a great deal of work with the dog and her home situation to try to avoid encounters like this. Unfortunately that owner made the decision that the risk of keeping her dog was too great. When it comes to dog aggression, usually anxiety and fear are the underlying stimulus. These issues can usually be worked through but it's definitely NOT EASY. My suggestion would be to seek both the input of your family veterinarian to confirm that she is in good physical health and also the input of a knowledgeable dog trainer who can put together a plan of action. When my clients have these issues, I start with a thorough physical exam and a small panel of bloodwork to check to be sure that there's no health issues. It's particularly important to check thyroid function, as thyroid disease can affect general behavior and anxiety levels in dogs. I then refer my clients to a reputable local trainer with whom I am well acquainted. I refer them so that they can get the benefit of a more comprehensive and longer lasting relationship with a professional than I can provide in a 15 minute office call. There are so many complex and nuanced factors to consider when dealing with this sort of situation that it requires a lengthy history taking session and potentially a home visit to lay out the groundwork for training. I'm blessed to have a local trainer that I trust - another option would be veterinarian who is well-versed in behavior issues (some practice exclusively with animals and behavior - such as a board certified veterinary behaviorist). Training consists of a combination of increased structured exercise, structured obedience training, exercises to strengthen the pet-owner bond, and introduction and use of calming techniques. In some cases, if the situation is severe, some vets will make use of anti-anxiety medications to help the dog open up to training and be more receptive. The meat of tackling fears and phobias are two techniques called deconditioning and countersensitization. These go hand in hand. Desensitizing is the practice of "Getting a pet used to" something - this starts with introduction of the scary stimulus (in your case, another dog) at a very long distance. The distance should be so great that the dog barely even notices the other dog and that he shows little to no response. At that same time, we "Countercondition" the dog by rewarding him with a great treat for not reacting to the other dog. We also use our previously mastered calming and obedience techniques to help the dog relax in the face of his fear. The reward helps the dog realize that other dogs aren't actually that scary - in fact, when we see them, we get great treats!! I caution owners to not rush this process, and I definitely recommend that it be overseen by a vet or trainer who is well versed and experienced in the technique. While it may make sense to punish a dog after they've nipped, etc, this actually confirms to the dog that the situation is scary. They remember that the last time they saw another dog, it went poorly and they ended up being corrected, and this contributes to their anxiety the next time they see a dog. Here are a few great links with further information: http://chrome-extension://bpmcpldpdmajfigpchkicefoigmkfalc/views/app.html If, after assessing your options and your ability to follow through, you determine that you can't do what the vet/trainers are suggesting, then it's definitely reasonable to either search for a new home environment or consider humane euthanasia. Rehoming a dog with behavior issues is always difficult and fraught with ethical and legal perils. Sometimes it works out, but many times there is no "perfect" home for the dog - as there aren't many people looking to take on a challenge of this magnitude. Please let me know what other questions I can answer for you - we can continue to chat until I've covered them all. ~Dr. Sara ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------My goal is to provide you with the most complete and accurate “five star” answer. If my answer isn’t what you were expecting, it’s incomplete, or you have more questions PLEASE REPLY to let me know what information you are looking for BEFORE giving me a negative rating! If my answer has been helpful to you, please show me by giving me a favorable rating. Thank you so much :)
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