Aggressive dogs that can't be saved??

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Aggressive dogs that can't be saved??

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Old 03-06-2012, 02:04 PM
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Aggressive dogs that can't be saved??

Hi guys, right now I feel quite shocked after seeing a video on youtube, that is from a dog TV show of a positive trainer that I like. It was just part of an episode that showed what happened to the family after the trainer helped them, so I don't know what was the dog's problem nor how the trainer helped him, but it seemed that the dog suddenly attacked one of the kids one day, by biting her a few times, which was a serious situation.
So after what happened, the family decided to contact the trainer again. They said that there was no sign nor any trigger, that the dog just attacked the kid all of a sudden. So the trainer advised them to put down the dog.

In that moment my thoughts were "WT*??". First, IMO, a dog biting a kid or anyone aggressively and repeatedly in the same moment, and not just snapping is very serious. Something must be done to such situation.
But then putting down the dog?? Is it really necessary??

I'm far from being experienced, and I don't have much knowledge about dogs, but in my opinion, a dog that is healthy and is only aggressive by behavior can still be trained, right? We are dealing with a medium size dog, not some kind of lion or big beast. An aggressive dog can be dangerous, but can't we rehome him to a house with a more experienced person without kids? Put a muzzle on him, rehabilitate him, just is it really necessary to put him down? I personally believe that a dog that is only aggressive by behavior isn't necessarily doomed. Maybe some cases are even more extreme, but I believe that it's not impossible for him to continue living without hurting anyone again.


I'm sorry for such a rant, I've been a bit away from the forum (busy with many changes in life), but I just feel so shocked right now (a positive trainer that I liked turned out to hugely disappoint me), and also feeling very sad...

But honestly, do you guys think that is necessary to put down a dog in cases like that? Isn't rehoming to better suited owners a possibility?? When would you think that putting down is an option? Honestly, only until recently, I've always thought that we only put down dogs that has some kind of disease that makes them suffer...
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Old 03-06-2012, 03:47 PM
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What case are you talking about? Victoria Stilwell and Benji?

If so the dog in question iirc attacked (and caused damage to) 3 different members of the family!
Due to the nature and severity of the bites Benji could not be safely rehomed, nor was it safe for him to remain as he had bitten both of the family's young daughters.

I hate to see any dog put down, but from what I do remember it was the right recommendation. The familiy's vet had given the dog a clean bill of health after the first bite and also recommended that he be PTS after the second. I believe they decided to give him another chance because they found out that they had been selected for It's Me or the Dog! The third incident iirc happened weeks after Victoria left and both the vet and Victoria recommended that the dog be PTS.
Really just sad.

Last edited by kmes; 03-06-2012 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 03-06-2012, 04:58 PM
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I can't find the original thread But if you google "detailed description of benji episode stilwell" a forum post comes up that explains what happened.

Last edited by millitantanimist; 03-06-2012 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 03-06-2012, 05:18 PM
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YES. I do think it was necessary to euthanize.

If I was in the same situation as those people and my dog attacked unprovoked as there's did, I would do the same thing and have her put down. They tried to rehabilitate the dog, it

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Old 03-06-2012, 05:43 PM
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sadly, i agree with the others.. alot of the time it's the owners fault but you still cant let an aggressive dog (no matter why he's aggressive) around children, and even if they did rehome the dog to another family without children its likely the dog might at some point get out of the house and possibly attack another person, or animal.. my dog was attacked by a neighbors dogs and in CO a dog only gets two violent/aggressive complaints and then gets euthanized.. unfortunately one of the dogs that attacked my dog had already had one, i felt bad for calling but i know it was the right thing to do.. even if they could "train" the aggressive behavior out of him, who knows how long that will really take and how many more children will get bit during the process.. i believe your dogs are your family but if one member of the family is a threat to the rest (especially if its an animal) i do believe you have to protect your family.. i'm sorry for the poor dogs that get euthanized but sometimes i do think its neccesary..
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Old 03-06-2012, 06:33 PM
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My understanding of behavior modification in relation to aggressive biting (different from mouthing) is that you can work to modify a dog's bite threshold, but not their level of bite inhibition.
You can attempt to alter in what situation the dog will deliver a bite (decreasing their reactivity to a stimulus, teach them to use alternate behaviors lower on the ladder of distancing signals) but you have no ability to reduce the strength of a delivered bite. A dog who delivers an uninhibited bite to a person cannot be taught to 'bite less hard,' they are already over threshold.
In the case of this dog, it delivered multiple uninhibited bites to family members in totally unpredictable situations.
Is it possible that this dog could have been trained to become less aroused to its triggers (ruling out an undiagnosed neurological problem - still likely, I doubt the did a brain scan)? Yes.
Was it possible to eliminate the dog's risk of delivering an uninhibited bite at unpredictable intervals. No.
No rescue or humane society will adopt out a dog with a bite history. The liability is too great. If the family had re-homed the dog, they would be personally liable further bites themselves. It's lose lose all around
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Old 03-07-2012, 05:39 AM
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Yeah it was Victoria Stilwell, I avoided mentioning who the trainer was coz I wanted to focus more on talking about euthanizing rather than the trainer herself. I only saw some episodes of "It's Me or the Dog", and I really liked Victoria Stilwell, so that I felt shocked about it. Fact is, I didn't see the entire episode so I shouldn't give my opinion about it, but I was impulsive coz I was really shocked in that moment. I will try to see if I can find the episode and do some research for other opinions/analysis later.

I'm just an average owner that I'm not familiar with more aggressive dogs or how they are dealt with, so I guess that I should try to understand better before giving my opinion about the subject. But IMO, there must always be a reason/trigger behind each behavior. Also, people need to understand that dogs are not humans, they are animals. I don't intend to inferiorize them, but I just want to point out the fact that there will always be some degree of danger in owning a dog. They are not as complex as humans, and their reaction and interaction is more primitive/"simple", meaning that they can resort to aggression easier when reacting towards certain situations. If you startle a human, he would probably not hit you back easily, but a dog might bite you out of reflex to protect himself. That itself is not coz the dog is bad, it's just coz that's how a dog normally reacts. Also, humans probably won't get physical over some resource, while dogs might resort to aggression to win over a certain resort. Again, that's not coz they intend to hurt each other, but they might do that coz they are biologically more primitive, and they won't think if they might do serious damage or not.
So when we own a dog, we have to be prepared to unexpected reactions/behaviors. Even if a dog is very docile and calm, you never know if he might someday show unexpected behavior that we might not fully understand the reasons behind it.

But well, back to the topic... Honestly, I don't know what to think about this case (again, must really check the episode and some other analysis first). Biting a kid, or humans of any age repeatedly without apparent reasons is dangerous, and I agree that the dog must not stay with a family with kids nor with someone inexperienced. But is the dog really attacking without trigger? The owners might have missed some signals, or there might be some physical cause behind it (that wasn't diagnosed). And is it really a lost case??

I agree with millitantanimist, that you can work to modify a dog's bite reactivity, but not their level of bite inhibition. And that is not possible to eliminate the dog's risk of delivering an uninhibited bite at unpredictable intervals. But as I mentioned, there will always be a risk of a dog suddenly showing unexpected behaviors, even thought the more docile a dog is, the less chances it will show such behaviors. But even so, depending on the reason behind it, and the nature of the behavior, it might be able to be dealt with. It's just hard for me to believe that there's no reason behind a behavior.
The reason behind a dog's aggression display is usually due to physical issues, or insecurity (the need of protecting himself, whether coz he was startled or he expected something) or fighting resources. But if it's the past 2 reasons, then I believe that it's still possible to deal with it, as long as the aggression is not extreme like "I want to kill you". It can be minimized with positive training, through changing a way a dog reacts coz he will realize that reacting aggressively doesn't being any result, and good behaviors most often beings happy results for him. But it can also be dealt with through aversive too. I feel uncomfortable to say the following, but well, from what I experienced and seen, dogs also tend to stop displaying aggression when it brings them worse results (again, as long as the aggression is not extreme). For example, for cases of biting due to reflex - imagine a dog suddenly started to bite someone repeatedly (briefly some 2-3 times) out of reflex coz he was startled. Then the person, out of reflex too, physically got aggressive with the dog too. It could take some 2-3 times to actually condition the dog to never react like that, at least towards that specific person again. It happened with my pup and me. There were 2 times when out of reflex he bit me very near my face coz the phone suddenly rang. Out of reflex too (it could be him or some person, I was startled), I hit him back. He never more reacted like that again. Of course, there's a chance he might act like that again, but it's understandable of why he stopped reacting like that - coz he realized that his reaction will bring out undesirable reactions from me too.
What I'm trying to say is not that hitting works or that we should resort to aversive. Aversive has many dangers behind it and positive reinforcement is much safer and better in most of the times. But what I want to say is that most of the time, if the aggression is not extreme, then it can probably be minimized (the danger of suddenly displaying unexpected behaviors in a dog will always be there, simply coz dogs are less rational, so we can't just expect 100% safety with dogs even with the most docile one, but that shouldn't mean there's no way to live with them safely).

Maybe I'm being naive, but I believe and want to believe that dogs should only be put down for aggression, if they are extreme cases like having extreme reaction towards humans that they would go killing mode, and not cases in which they react for resource guard or insecurity or reflex.


But well, I hope that my opinion isn't being too ignorant. I confess that this is what I believe and want to believe, so aside of my lack of experience, I might also be a bit emotional towards this (I'm sorry about this ). It's just I find it hard to "swallow" this, and this really got me thinking about it.
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Old 03-07-2012, 06:35 AM
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No worries! You are always welcome to give your opinion.
And fwiw I also have a very hard time hearing anyone recommend that a companion animal be PTS. Its just such an emotional thing and no matter the reason, it often makes me wonder if something else could have been done.

With that said...
I do agree with you that there is always a reason for aggression. In most cases a professional can identify the cause and work on modifying behaviors. These are the cases I do feel that a dog can be saved!

However, there are some cases where a dog attacks for unknown reasons (there is still a cause though, perhaps an undiagnosed neurological problem) and/or repeatedly with such a severity that it is just no longer safe for the owners to keep the dog. Also for the same reason these dogs simply cannot be rehomed, so unfortunately there is only one thing left to do!

The dog in question went above and beyond a simple bite. He actually mauled 2 different members of the family, the mother and a young child. These attacks were unprovoked. In fact the attack on the little girl was witnessed by another member of the family. The little girl was washing her hands ignoring the dog when he suddenly attacked her. This was unfortunately just one of those extreme cases where professionals (both the vet and Victoria agreed) have to recommend euthanasia not only for liability reasons but also because they just don't know what else to do! I'll send you a PM with a link (can't post it as it would break the rules) where you can read a more detailed description of what happened.

Last edited by kmes; 03-07-2012 at 07:11 AM.
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Old 03-07-2012, 06:50 AM
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kmes, thanks for understanding. I still feel sad about this, right now I'm going through thoughts of how serious is a case serious enough to be considered put down reasonable, and is there really nothing can be done and so on. It's just so hard to realize how many dogs are being put down due to behavioral problems (lives should be respected, specially when dogs are forced to live along side humans already), and then on the other hand, it is also very serious when it comes to dog attacks, that can result to serious damage and even death of someone.

Anyways, I've found what Victoria Stilwell said about the case:

Quote:
Victoria's Detailed Description of 'Benjy' Episode

October 18, 2006

As could be expected when dealing with such a sensitive issue, there has been an overwhelming response to the episode of ‘It’s Me or the Dog’ that aired Oct. 17, 2006. Obviously, the overriding sentiment created by the episode is one of sadness for Benji, Bramble, and their owners, and I think this is most appropriate. The family struggled greatly with the situation, and ultimately made the toughest decision a pet owner can ever make. My thoughts are with them, especially after the recent broadcast of the programme.

While the majority of the responses I’ve received via email and on my web site have been positive, there are those whose sadness and anger at the nature of the situation has, quite justifiably, prompted them to ask questions regarding the story. I will try my best to provide as clear a recounting of the situation as I can in the hopes that it will answer some of these questions. Because the format of the show is only 30 minutes long, it’s sometimes difficult to include all of the details and information involved in any given situation. Indeed, there is often quite a bit more training advice I wish we could include in each episode which I think is interesting and would be helpful, but due to time constraints, not everything can make it into the final version. This was also the case regarding the episode in question.

Benji attacked 3 different members of the Marshall family. The first bite was on Emily (the youngest daughter) and occurred because she had dropped a crisp packet on the floor, Benji went for it, and she went to pick it up - clearly an instance of somewhat typical food aggression. After this attack, the Marshalls took Benji to see their vet (who has been in practice for 25 years) to see if there was any medical reason for his aggression. The vet ruled this out, and after a full checkup, Benji was given a clean bill of health. The vet concluded that Benji deserved a second chance.

The second attack was considered a mauling, as Benji attacked Susan (the mother of the family) in a frenzy, not having been provoked. Both of these attacks occurred before I visited the family. After this incident, they returned to the vet, who recommended (based on Benji’s history and the results of his prior checkups) that Benji should be put to sleep.

The Marshalls were considering putting Benji to sleep when they found out they were accepted on ‘It’s Me or the Dog', so they all decided to give Benji another chance. We did some good work together, but as I mentioned on the programme and still firmly believe, once a dog has shown the propensity not just to bite, but to attack (especially unprovoked), that dog can never be trusted not to attack again.

Six weeks after I left the family, they phoned the production company to inform them that Benji had attacked a third member of their family, Rachel (the middle daughter), unprovoked. The girl had been hanging up washing in the back garden and was ignoring the dog when Benji mauled her, inflicting the wounds shown during the programme. The eldest daughter (16 years old) witnessed the attack from beginning to end, and the mother witnessed the end of the attack, dragging Benji off of her daughter.

The family placed Benji temporarily with his groomer while they determined the next course of action. They consulted the vet again to seek his advice, and they decided not to put Benji through any more medical tests. Based on all the information he had collected regarding Benji, the vet’s advice was to put the dog to sleep. They called me while I was filming another episode to ask my advice, and based on Benji’s prior history, the vet’s advice and my intimate knowledge of Benji’s situation, I concurred, as was shown on the programme. As I was filming elsewhere in the country during this time, I was unfortunately unable to be with the family while they went through this terrible time.

I have been made aware of rumors suggesting there may have been individuals or organizations supposedly willing to take Benji in after his third mauling, but neither I, my representatives, or the production company have any firsthand knowledge of these or any other facts surrounding these stories. If true, we were not made aware of any such developments. Understandably, those involved with Benji’s life before he went to the Marshalls can be expected to maintain that he did not pose a significant threat, either out of fondness for him or defensiveness for their practice. It has recently come to my attention that the Benji's breeder has produced at least one other black Cocker Spaniel with a history of unprovoked attacks. Regardless, I firmly maintain that rehoming Benji was not a suitable option, though it was one that was strongly considered. Throughout the entire affair, a qualified veterinarian's input was regularly sought by the family, which resulted in repeated diagnoses ruling out medical causes for his aggressive behaviour. Even if Benji had been rehomed with adults who were able to provide the best possible environment specifically for him, there is no sure-fire guarantee that he wouldn’t someday be exposed to others (children or adults) who could then be at risk. That was a gamble neither the vet nor myself were willing to take when advising the Marshall family about Benji. Ultimately, however, the final, difficult decision was made by the Marshall family themselves, and I stand by them fully. They have expressed their gratitude to everyone involved in the situation, and I wish them the very best as they move forward.

Victoria Stilwell
source: Positively | Victoria Stilwell | Forum • View topic - disgusted!!!

I've been checking on some forum posts too, and it seems that the possibility of unkown conditions like genetic and/or neurological issues can be the cause too (over breeding, some dog from the same breeder having the same sudden unexpected attacks too, and so on).
But before concluding anything, I must watch the episode itself first. Even so, it's hard to understand what happened, since we can't really understand the situation entirely just by watching some 30mins episode. By the way, do you guys know where I can see the episode online??
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Old 03-07-2012, 08:03 AM
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I have worked with many aggressive dogs ( not fearful, there is a big difference) and I have yet to see one "cured". They can be managed, definitely.

Who is going to take dangerous dogs in, and response sibly care for them, ensuring they are not a danger? Not many pet homes. Some of the working dogs can he very aggressive, handler aggression is common. Depending on the work ability of the dog, the handlers experience, and the job fit for the dog, depends on where the dog goes. With that said, they are not curled up on the couch in the evenings. They are kept kenneled when not working. Some dogs don't care to be cuddled or doted on. This is not what I prefer, as mine are pets as well.
you must consider quality of life and responsibility before keeping a truly aggressive dog. Any dog CAN bite. Yet some are far more dangerous than others.
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