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Should dog be euthanized if he bites?

Species: Dog
Breed: lab / hound mix
Age: 2-5 years
We adopted a lab / hound mix dog from a local shelter. They didn't know much about his history, just that he he been found living on the streets. He seems to be about 2-3 years old. He has several scars and bot his ears are torn. The shelter did behavior testing on him to see how he would react if food was taken away from him and he "passed". We got him about 6 weeks ago and he seems "scared" sometimes and cowers when you go to pet him. He loves people, though and very much wants our attention. He has been to the vet, to a groomer and to doggy day care, and been around many types of people with no problems. But, last Saturday, he was asleep in the laundry room and my husband opened the door to let him out. He was leaning against the door so he had to push a little harder to get him to move and when my husband put his hand it to pet him, he bit him. It broke the skin and bled. We contacted a behaviorist / trainer and she has suggested using positive reinforcement. If a dog bites in this situation, does it need to be euthanized? She alarmed us a bit by saying that if he does it again he might not be able to stay in our home or any other home. He has snapped one other time when he was sleepy and resting. Otherwise we have not seen any aggressive behavior around food or in other circumstances. He approaches people in a friendly way and wags his tail. Still, the trainer said if he bit once he will likely do it again. She said to walk by him when he is resting or sleeping and throw treats at him so he learns to associate those situations with something positive. In your experience, can a dog that bites in this kind of situation be rehabilitated?
Thank you!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

This is a really tough call. Can a dog who bites once ever be trusted again?

I have seen many cases where a dog had one biting incident and never had another. Hopefully this will be the case with your dog. One of my own dogs, years ago, bit me when I reached down to a plate of food he had. It was a one time incident and he lived a long life without ever biting again.

Given that your dog has only had one incident I would be very hesitant to put a label on him saying that he will always bite.

With that said, I would still be very cautious if he is around young children and monitor him all the time. A bite to a young child could be much more devastating to an adult.

One thing that I might advise is to have a veterinary behaviorist examine him. Many trainers are excellent, but I will always put more trust in a veterinarian who specializes in this area. A veterinary behaviorist has not only gone through all of their veterinary schooling but also several additional years focusing intently on behaviour problems in dogs.

If this were my dog and he was not showing any ongoing signs of aggression I would not be talking about euthanasia. I would watch him carefully when he is with children and remove him from the situation if he looks at all uncomfortable.

I hope that helps
Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.