Help! Our dog bit our friend's child tonight....unsure what to do? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 02:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Here's the background. We rescued Belle nearly three years ago from the pound. We were told she was 5 months old. (We think she's older). She is a spaniel mix (but looks just like a black lab mix).
She has ALWAYS been very very timid. When you walk up to her, she lays down and puts her leg up (extremely submissive). We assumed she was badly abused She never barks, always potties outside, very gentle with the kids, etc.
Last year she began growling at our kids when they would tell her to go outside or tried to assert authority over her. She even snapped at my son a few months ago but she has problems with her back so we thought she was in pain. The vet told us to give her aspirin (baby) for the pain. She has some deformities in her hind legs that are causing back pain.
Anyway....tonight, our friend brought his little boy over (he's 6). Belle was under the table laying down and our friend's son bent down to pet her and she turned and snapped/bit his face (scraped the skin, not puncture wound but it did mildly bleed for a second). I FREAKED OUT. She is up to date on her Rabies shot. My friend took her son home and I called to check on him. She said he's fine and sleeping. They put antibiotic ointment on it after they cleaned it off really good. He was more traumatized than hurt but still. I feel HORRIBLE. My husband is adamant that we need to rehome her to a house with no other children. I don't know what to do. I think we should rehome her (he wanted to do this a few months ago when she started snapping and growling at our children). This was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Please no flaming. I just want opinions on what to do here. My friend is leaving tomorrow morning for their family vacation too. I feel like I ruined their vacation and traumatized their child. Any opinions/suggestions? Thanks

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#2 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 02:25 AM
 
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: I would rehome her. It sounds like a warning (knock with the eyeteeth vs. a real bite) but it sounds like she's escalating and I wouldn't chance my kids (or someone else's kids) safety.

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#3 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 02:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you It's so hard because when we first got her, we could tell that she had been abused. She was so sad and so submissive. She has always been so good with the kids, I just don't understand it. I think it could be PTSD? I don't know

I'm wondering if it will be responsible to rehome her after this? Would we be responsible if someone took her and then she bit them? Ughhh this sucks.

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#4 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 02:39 AM
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I'd have the vet give her a thorough exam before doing anything. It sounds like she didn;t have any problems like this for the first two years you had her, so it seems like something has changed. If she is in serious pain, maybe the baby aspirin aren't cutting it anymore.

After that, you'll have a better picture of what's going on with her...

 
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#5 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 06:20 AM
 
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I'm so sorry for what you're going through.

They say that every dog will bite, most dogs just have a much much higher threshold than dangerous ones. Your dog sounds like a tragic example of how awful people can mess up a dogs life, and how kind people such as yourself are left holding the bag.

The willingness of an animal to bite the face is a signalment that you just do not want to mess with. The ONLY home this animal should ever be in is one where there is zero chance that she will ever come into contact with a child. I suspect that type of home is very difficult to find, and the chance that a situation could arise where a child would be bitten would probably lead me to seriously consider euthanasia. I would not want to be responsible for the life long facial deformity of any child.

If you chose to go with stronger pain management, please make sure that the dog is either muzzled (cage muzzles can be a good option, the dog can drink through those) or physically separated from children.

Sending you good vibes and many sympathies.
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#6 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 02:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, Dar and An_Aurora.
Dar, our vet (and the vet at the pound where we got her) told us that baby Aspirin is all we could give her for pain (long term). The other thing is I don't think she's doing this all because of pain. I think she's having some serious mental issues
My dh says she's been growling at him too at times
I'll call the vet tomorrow and ask if there's something more we can try but I'm worried they will advise us to find her another home as well (or euthanize) which I can't even BEGIN to think about.

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#7 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 02:20 PM
 
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If she is starting to act out in other ways, rehoming is not a good idea. Its not fair to the new family or to her. She may be very sick right now if this is all fairly new. Also, there are many pain meds out there for long term if its that bad. I have lately heard great things about and herbal product called DGP. A lady who runs a huge amimal refuge uses it for a lot of hip dysplasia cases and loves the way it works.

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#8 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 02:58 PM
 
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I would have her put to sleep. Sorry, you probably don't want to hear that

I wish you the best in making this hard decision :
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#9 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 02:59 PM
 
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Yes I would probably have her put to sleep also. Sorry.
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#10 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all. I called Animal Services and they wanted to take a bite report. Now I'm scared. She has her rabies shot so I'm not worried about that but geez...I feel like we're criminals

I'm trying to call around and see if I can get her in to see a vet today but not sure if we can afford hundreds of dollars worth of Vet bills today. I swear this is such a nightmare. She's been a great dog and now I feel like I'm dealing with a feral animal (she's asleep under my feet right now too...)

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#11 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 03:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Greenmagick~ Sorry, I didn't see your post. I'll look into other pain meds or herbal remedies (for now) but I was told there was no other meds for her....(by two vets). (These were both low cost vets so I'm not sure if they just didn't offer anything more expensive?)

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#12 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 05:36 PM
 
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I just wanted to say that I don't think this is a situation where she should be euthanized. Rather, it is possible to rehome her under these circumstances as long as the person adopting her is aware of what they are getting in to. Just like I wouldn't give up on a person right away, I would never give up on a pet either. Especially one that has gone a significant amount of time without previous issues. Hang in there......

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#13 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 06:24 PM
 
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I am sorry you are going true this and have to make such a decision.
You are getting her evaluated by the vet which is good, I would also recomend you talk to behaviorist about her growling and biting to see if training would help.
If you can not keep a biting dog in your house I don't think it would be fair to ask another family to take a risk. She could bite anybody else, child or adult. Now when you know your dog is a "biter" and it is in the record you might be held liable if she bites anybody in her new home.
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#14 of 33 Old 08-09-2009, 09:53 PM
 
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I highly recommend getting a doggy shrink (animal behaviorist). Chances are very good that her biting, whether fear or pain, can be prevented and that her behavior can be improved.

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#15 of 33 Old 08-10-2009, 02:33 AM
 
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You won't be able to rehome. She will be put to sleep - no rescue or shelter would rehome a dog that has a history of biting.

I strongly urge you to take her to the vet and thoroughly check out her health. If you have had no problems with her in the past, and something has cropped up recently, it could be that she's in more pain than you think. Aspirin may no longer be cutting it. Dogs who are in pain WILL act this way. It's not aggression, it's protecting themselves from more pain. Touching her may hurt her, may cause her discomfort, so she protects herself from this.

There's no reason to rehome or put to sleep just yet. Actually, you won't be able to rehome. You'll only be able to put to sleep.

ETA - ooops, I see that you are taking her to the vet. If you can't afford the vet bills, or if she's in chronic pain where nothing will help - having her put down may be best. Unless you can find someone who doesn't mind taking a sick dog who has a history of snapping due to this.

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#16 of 33 Old 08-10-2009, 03:11 AM
 
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First of all, a big hug to you and your family ... . This is a horrific thing to be going through.

That said, I would lean toward putting the dog down, were she mine.
It's a terrible position to be in ... I've been there! My dog was 13 and ailing when she bit someone for the second time in her life. We put her down.
I think it's a braver and harder thing to do than 'rehoming' her ... which is just passing the problem along. I do agree that you could bring on a dog behavior specialist ... we did with Keda when she bit the first time. She was four at the time (also a rescued shelter dog) and we were told that she had fear aggression and that we'd have to take on the responsibility for her behavior at all times. We did, for almost ten years. It was an incredible responsibility, 24/7, which we were only able to do because we were childless and lived rurally. And still, she bit again. Albeit nearly a decade later ... but I tell you with sincere honesty, it was a decade full of nerves and trepidation when it came to taking her anywhere. And she was a lovely dog, 90% of the time. I still miss her.

As it happens, we just put down our other older dog this evening because of cancer. It's never easy, but rest assured that if you do go this route, you can arrange to have it done in your home, as an option. It's quick, and very peaceful, or so it seems to me. We're still bawling our eyes out, and are very sad, but at least we can lend mercy to the animals that we can't lend to ourselves.

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#17 of 33 Old 08-10-2009, 10:07 AM
 
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I just need to mention that our shelter has successfully rehomed several dogs with a history of biting. Givent the right situation.....it can work.

Tricia, married to DH. 2MC's & 4 yrs ttc...finally mom to Andrew6/06 and Benjamin 10/09. Adopted bro & sis 2002. My 2 fav. words: Spay and Neuter! I'm an Ultimate Viewer, 2010!

 

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#18 of 33 Old 08-10-2009, 10:29 AM
 
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She sounds like she is in pain. Dogs don't just turn aggressive over nite. The key to your story is she was fine for years then started growling so my guess is she's in pain. Have you ever taken her to the vet and asked for pain meds?

As far as what to do with her. I would start with pain meds and see if that helps her attitude. If not, then I would likely try to rehome her myself (I have experience with rehoming rescue dogs and this is the only reason *I* would do this) or I would put her down. Since you are not familiar with rehoming dogs and rescues/shelters are unlikely to work with a biter, perhaps your best choice is to put her down.

I put down a completely healthy 4 year old Great Dane for aggression. Let me tell you that was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. He was severely abused by a woman and went after me several times. Lunging at my face, arms, etc. The last straw was he went after my pregnant belly. We tried for 2 years to help him in every way we knew how. We could not in good conscience rehome him with this aggression even if we made the new owners aware of it (he was suppose to be a rescue to be rehomed but we couldn't). He was truly aggressive from day one. His was from years of a abuse that made him mentally sick. Your dog doesn't sound like this.

GL in your decision but definately get her checked out by a vet first

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#19 of 33 Old 08-10-2009, 06:39 PM
 
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I don't understand why the vets are telling you that baby aspirin is the only thing you can use for pain relief. There is a whole lot more out there, including holistic medication and supplements to support whatever issues she is having (i.e. joint problems?).
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#20 of 33 Old 08-10-2009, 07:11 PM
 
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Either in pain, or has an issue with children who are around the age of the child she bit, perhaps.

Either way, I would *not* be comfortable having her around children ever again. I am so sorry, I would hurt over it too, but if she ever hurt a child or made them scared of dogs, I wouldn't forgive myself.

Were she mine, she'd go to another home without children or I would put her down.
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#21 of 33 Old 08-11-2009, 12:06 AM
 
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Can you/are you willing to get a second opinion from a different vet?

I don't think rehoming is an option.

If she bit because she was in pain, rehoming doesn't solve that. She will still live a painful life. I am of the opinion that as custodians of animals, our first duty is to give them a life free of pain. If that's not possible, our only recourse is a humane death. I'm sorry. I know it's hard to hear.

If she bit because she is of an unsound mind, I don't see rehoming as a responsible option. For one, it's highly improbable that that mythical home where she will never encounter children or strangers even exists. But, more importantly, if she is so unstable as to bite randomly, my bet is her day-to-day mental state is not a comfortable one--something akin to a life of physical pain--and again, the kindest, most loving option is to give her a humane death.

Get a second opinion on pain relief. I have had dogs with chronic health problems, and I know for a fact that baby aspirin is not your only (or even most effective) option.

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#22 of 33 Old 08-11-2009, 01:50 AM
 
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Im sorry you are going through this. I have a policy with animals, snapping/bitting without cause means a rehoming (if I can find something I think can deal with them) or they have to be put down. I won't take the chance with my family/children.

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#23 of 33 Old 08-11-2009, 02:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone. This has been an especially difficult time. The first vet that told us baby aspirin was at the pound where we adopted her. The second time was when we took her to our vet clinic we use. The vet there told us baby aspirin for her pain was the best we could do

We use this clinic because it's inexpensive and the staff has always been very good with our pets.
I called them this morning and they said they could see her tomorrow but we will have to wait because they will squeeze her in. They also asked if we could bring a muzzle (which we don't have).
The really awful part about all of this is we are sooooooo strapped right now due to medical bills from my son plus my husband losing some accounts from work. They also sort of eluded to the fact that if she's a "biter", they will encourage us to put her down.
I'll update tomorrow. I don't want to put her down per their opinion but I don't know who else we could go. (We priced vets around here before we got her and an office visit is around $75)

(It's not helping that DH is nonchalant about the whole thing : )

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#24 of 33 Old 08-11-2009, 12:09 PM
 
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If she is in chronic pain like that, I would definitely consider euthanasia. Not only is she in pain, with a history like that wouldn't be able to be rehomed but you also have increased personal liability now that she's a 'known biter'. So sorry that you have to go through this.

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#25 of 33 Old 08-11-2009, 07:49 PM
 
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Very strange that they would ask you to bring your own muzzle, I can't imagine they don't have one.

Is there something else going on with her medically that all she can have is baby asprin? There are all sorts of other pain management tools that we can use that aren't crazy expensive, things like tramadol that can be filled at your human pharmacy at a low cost.

They're probably going to push you to Euth, as the willingness to bite in the face is a signal that the dog is past a bite inhibition that is hard to work back from. They're also protecting their license, they will need to document that the client was advised that the animal has potential for further injury to children.

I hope you're managing okay, and that your husband is being more supportive. Thinking kind thoughts for you.
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#26 of 33 Old 08-11-2009, 10:20 PM
 
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There are many better pain options than baby aspirin. You can get them much cheaper online-ask your vet to write you a script for them.

As for biting the face-children tend to get bit there because that is what is level with the dog's mouth. Generally severity and not location depends on bite inhibition.

This is a very serious incident and I truly feel for your difficult situation. Considering keeping the dog would require hands on professional evaluation at this point.
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#27 of 33 Old 08-12-2009, 12:52 AM
 
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So sorry to hear about your experience. I know how stressful and frustrating that kind of incident can be. I wanted to write to clear a few things up as a veterinary technician and a dog trainer.

Please don't let anyone bully you into putting this dog to sleep unless they have behavior training and have taken a full history. I did not see what happened and have not taken a full history, but from what you have written, I don't think this dog is a good candidate for euthanasia.

First of all, this dog has grown up with your family and not had any incidents until recently, so you know it has a good base relationship with you. Secondly, it gave plenty of warning signs that I read in your post: growling, acting in a fearful and avoidance manner, hiding under things. Finally, when it continued to feel threatened by humans that seemed to ignore its loud cry to be left alone (whether due to pain or fear or both), it escalated into a snap. Contrary to what someone else wrote, that scratch your dog left on the child's cheek showed a GREAT amount of bite inhibition. Instead of whipping out the equivalent of a gun or a knife (a real bite that leaves puncture or tear wounds), your dog chose to deal with a perceived threat by pushing the aggressor away with the equivalent of a hard shove and a yell ( a scratch or air snap). Dogs have a great amount of precision with where they bite. You dog did not want to maul or hurt that child, she only wanted it to move away from her, and since the child did not understand how she was communicating it (and neither did any adult nearby who could direct the child), she felt the only way to move him away was to escalate into aggression to protect herself. The only significance of it being on the child's face is that it was the closest thing to the dog's muzzle. That is why most children get bitten in the face- they are on face level with the dog.

You need to get this dog checked out for pain first of all, especially since you suspect it already. I would suggest a different vet, if at all possible. The fact that they would say aspirin is the only thing available is just ridiculous. There are a TON of meds MUCH better than aspirin (robaxin, metacam, rimadyl to name just a few). Pain meds can do wonderful things to a dog's temperament when they are grouchy because of pain. Also, the fact that they told you to bring a muzzle because a dog scratched someone with it's teeth?? And that they would slap the label of a "biter" on her without ANY previous bite history? It takes 3 seconds to whip up a muzzle from gauze, too, BTW. Something they should know if they can't even afford to keep any real muzzles on hand. Also, don't automatically assume there is a mental "sickness" here or abuse, any more than a shy child is mentally sick or abused. Abuse is possible, but genetic predisposition is very likely too. Consult with a trainer before assuming those things.

Finally, what I would recommend right now:
1. Keep the dog away from any children until you can come up with a reasonable way to deal with her real fears
2. Assume she is in pain, avoid any unnecessary handling that she does not solicit. If she growls about something, please listen to her! She is saying she is uncomfortable. Punishing, assertiveness, reprimands or retribution will only scare her and make her think she needs to defend herself with aggression.
3. Have her checked by a real vet
4. Consult with a trainer
5. Be realistic about your family situation. If you do not have the time or energy to deal with a fearful dog and all the issues that come with it (management, training, etc.) then look for a new home for her.

Don't assume that just because your dog has done this once that it should be put to sleep. If there was more damage or more bites in her history, it would be an entirely different story, but I don't see any reason right now to put her to sleep. It sounds like a very manageable case in the right home that can deal with a fearful dog. The website www.fearfuldogs.com has a lot of great info too.

Lots of hugs to you as you go through this. Feel free to send me a private email if you need to.

Sarah Walker
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Mom to DD #1, DS #2 and DD #3; Part time dog trainer, full time baby trainer

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#28 of 33 Old 08-12-2009, 03:10 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flarmonster View Post
Contrary to what someone else wrote, that scratch your dog left on the child's cheek showed a GREAT amount of bite inhibition. The only significance of it being on the child's face is that it was the closest thing to the dog's muzzle.
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Originally Posted by betsyj View Post
As for biting the face-children tend to get bit there because that is what is level with the dog's mouth. Generally severity and not location depends on bite inhibition.
While that was the wisdom many decades ago, these statements simply do not follow contemporary veterinary medicine practice. If you're interested in current studies and texts, a good place to start is with Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, it was my textbook in vet school, and continues to be the gold standard, or the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. I'm not a DipACVB vet specialist, but did concentrate heavily on canine behavior both in school and since, and would never feel comfortable making blanket statements about an individual animal's propensity for face biting.

Seeing a veterinarian (not a vet tech/trainer/self educated behaviorist) who can point you in the right direction should be your next step. Sadly you're in a situation where you must consider what would happen to the next child who your dog might bite, be it life long deformity or just a band aid while balancing your legal responsibilities. I'm so very sorry that your vet wasn't more proactive about pain management, and I hope that whomever that vet is, she takes something away from the situation.
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#29 of 33 Old 08-12-2009, 04:22 AM
 
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This sounds like a really hard situation. I want to scream "don't kill that dog!," but I can definately see how you might feel that's the only solution given that you're likely not going to find another home for her overnight and you can't keep her there with your kiddos.

I can't imagine that it could be true, though, what people are saying about you still being responsible for any future biting if you rehome her. That really doesn't make any sense to me. It also doesn't make any sense that there wouldn't be potential homes without children. I have no doubt that there are plenty of homes w/o children. Obviously the people who take her would have to know the history, but if they do I just cannot believe that you would be responsible.

So, I just want to mention our situation bc we have lived with a difficult (and wonderful and lovable) dog for 11 years now. She started biting people about 3 mos after we brought her home from the pound (she had been very severely abused), and I'd say in that first year she probably nipped/bit (I think it was probably escalating towards biting, but I don't think she ever punctured anyone with her teeth) four or five people. The last three were people who were very much aware of the situation and thought they could help socialize her. But she wasn't having it. Sooo, she has not had a chance to bite anyone since then. She's basically been grounded for the last ten years. She has to go into the back yard or into our bedroom when we have company and she's not allowed offleash unless we're in a completely closed in area. When our first son was born, we were terrified and we had her completely separated, unless he was in our arms, for about three years. But it turned out, thank goodness, that she completely accepted him as a member of our pack and actually adores him.

I'm telling you this mostly because we are responsible dog owners. We adopted her and brought her into our family and loved her and there was no way we were going to get rid of her UNLESS she went after a child. I completely understand that your dog cannot live with your children any more. But there are other responsible dog owners and dog lovers out there and you may be able to find them.

Hugs!

Jayne, sewing up a storm mama to ds1 9/03, ds2 2/09, and 2 sweet furbabies.

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#30 of 33 Old 08-12-2009, 08:50 AM
 
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Most vets are not trainers or behavioralists. I use my vet for medical advice and my trainer for behavioral advice. She should see her vet to discuss pain and the mgmt of that pain. She should have her dog eval'd by a professional trainer/behavioralist for the aggression. There are many behavioralists out there who have years or decades of training and experience.

Good luck OP-this really is a terrible and heartbreaking situation to find yourself in.
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