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When Should You Put An Aggressive Dog Down (Euthanize/Euthanasia)

Dear John,

At what point would you advise putting an aggressive dog down? I have no problem doing it if it is necessary, but I’d also like to give the dog the ability to change his behavior if it’s possible.

My dog growls and snaps at everyone in our family often when we try to take toys or food from him. We have tried all of the things the trainer advised (taking the toy, saying “No!” loudly, giving him food and then taking it away, making him work for whatever he has, etc.) He has never bitten anyone else, but he has growled and snapped at a child when we were at a playground. (Yes, the child was running toward him and yelling. It was a kid at a playground, I expect nothing less.) We obviously haven’t taken him out to places where kids are, but we are thinking maybe it’s time to just put him down.

Thanks for your advice.


Dear Sarah,

Great question. I’ll do my best to answer about when you should put a dog down for aggression but if you are accurately conveying what ‘the trainer’ has advised it is highly likely that you have an amateur trainer.

Read these and decide for yourself whether you’ve been getting the best advice. It’s possible you and your dog have been set up for failure?

  1. Puppy Mouthing, Nipping and Biting – When It Doesn’t Get Better Or Is Getting Worse – This Is Probably Why – by John Wade (Free)
  2. ‘What Are The Different (and best) Puppy and Dog Training Methods? – by John Wade’(.99 cents)

Note 1

Behaviorally speaking, one very significant reason so many people run into behavior issues with their dogs is that of the level of expertise in dog trainers they encounter.

The concept of Caveat Emptor is as apropos in the companion dog training world as anywhere. Perhaps more so.

Companion dog training is an unregulated industry unfortunately now dominated by people without the educational background or in its place, the intellect, and the self-discipline to acquire an understanding at the very least of critical thinking, scientific methodology, cognitive bias, etc. This has left many unable to distinguish between legitimate and applicable behavior science and pseudo-scientific ideology.

The end result for companion dog owners are the following two realities:

1. The majority of trainers companion dog owners now encounter have been influenced by ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ or ‘Might Is Right’ companion dog training dogma and not actual science.
2. There are fewer legitimately trained dogs, far more dogs unable to lead lifestyles not akin to ‘house-arrest’ and far more re-homing and euthanasia.

Note 2

I recently updated this article, adding three more options for a total of seven. You can find the updated article here:

Seven Options Available to Dog Owners with Dogs With Very Serious Behavior Problems (Aggression)



John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
Embracing Science and Common Sense


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22 thoughts on “When Should You Put An Aggressive Dog Down (Euthanize/Euthanasia)”

  1. Paige Marie

    My dog is aggressive there is no denying it. I have been tossing and turning for days now. He is NOT people aggressive. He hates dogs, he has had multiple trainers out and the only thing that happens is he fears the handler, my dog is timid so it’s not working for him and defintiley not me. He is my baby and I love him so much it makes me cry seeing him the way he is. He will lunge bite, flip around on the lead, snap snarls, scream and shakes excessively. He has also peed one time. Any time he sees a dog it’s like holding back a giant mastiff in a tiny French bulldog body. We tried positive and negative reinforcement we also tried balanced training nothing works. He has bit numerous dogs and the muzzle is affective. You name it, we have done it. I got that desperate I even tried spiritual healing, I know ridiculous. It’s to the point where I see no improvement. He does agility and trick training but I can not work with him in this aggressive state. If you have him chilled out or ignoring a dog it only takes a split second for him to turn and lunge which doesn’t make me enjoy owning him at all!!! As I say I love him so much but I have been thinking is he eligible to be put down? If he is it only takes him to bite one more time and someone call out for him to have him PTS. If your wondering he left a bull mastiff with a bloody eye, a pig with a bumpy nose and a little tiny puppy without a chunk of fur and red roar.

    1. Hi Paige,

      You have either not tried a real trainer or you are not following through on what it takes to help you and your dog. FWIW, anyone can call themselves a trainer. Very few are anything more than someone that loves dogs and wanted to work with dogs. Either way, no trainer can make your dog like dogs but I’ve never met a dog that couldn’t be taught to behave around other dogs. You are doing something wrong either in who you’ve chosen to work with or how you are following through.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  2. Michele Spooner

    I feel your agony and your frustration as I also have a dog that has become aggressive with our other dogs in the home and nomatter what we have tried (believe me, I work with my dog constantly with the trainers advice) and he still is not changing his behavior. He has severe anxiety and fear which adds to the issue. I have tried MANY calming aides and have tried prescriptions from the vets and he still shows signs of aggression at the vet etc. It seems we step one step forward to only step two steps back lately. He used to be good on walks and would pay attention to only me when going by another dog and just tonight he acted aggressively towards another dog and it was totally out of the blue and not expected. We love him but honestly, I am not sure our marriage, family life can take much more of this stress and this constant “rotating of animals” around the house and the fear he will pounce at any moment! We have appt with a animal behaviorist this weekend and this might be his last chance at staying in our home and not being put to sleep! Please say a prayer for Stitch and our family as this has been going on for over a year now!

  3. Michael Gendron

    We just put down our beautiful St Bernard yesterday due to serious aggression. He was only 3 years old. I’m not dealing with the loss so well and the guilt and pain is extreme. I know it was the best but I still feel like I failed him. The first year of his life was great we took him everywhere he had no issues with anyone. Then 4 months later he didnt want to go anywhere and would lunge at strangers and people he knew prior but never at us. It would take me everything that I had to restrain him. And would not clam down until the person was gone. We tried putting him out side but he would then wreck the door to try and come back in. The hardest thing was that he absolutely loved us but his aggression towards others was extreme. The last 18 months we couldnt have visitors or family over they were all afraid of “Cujo” as they would call him. The last straw was this past Friday my wife was asked to watch our niece. So because I was not home she put the dog in the upstairs bedroom and when I can home work I let him but held on to him because I knew and sure enough as soon and he spotted her just sitting on the recliner he wanted to attack. Totally unprovoked. We tried re-homing him a few months ago but decided it wasnt fair to put him or a new family though that. It was the fist time I have ever had to put a dog down, and I dont ever want to go though that again. The pain is just too much. I cant stop thinking about him and reliving the last moments with him. We also have a 9 yr old Dalmatian who great with everyone and since we put the St Bernard yesterday the Dalmatian has been acting like a puppy again and rolling around all over the house, almost like he is relieved. Thanks for listening and for your article.

    1. Jacqueline McClain

      Please don’t feel guilty…there could have been an internal change in your dog’s wiring due to some health issue that your vet didn’t catch. There is controversy regarding the rabies vaccine which is mandatory to give our dogs regarding severe behavioral issues such as aggression. There is a myriad of factors that may have caused your dog to act like this. So sorry that it came to this but you did the right thing to protect your familiy.

      1. Note: Worth remembering that the controversy regarding rabies vaccine reference is based on anecdotal evidence only. That doesn’t mean it should be dismissed, but in the grand scheme of things, what you do have scientific evidence for is that a rabies vaccination does protect against rabies and the spread of rabies. Also worthy of consideration is that the “controversy” regarding the rabies vaccine is currently controversial amongst very few. You will be hard-pressed to find a practicing veterinarian that can corroborate through personal experience any of the alleged extreme reactions claimed by those in the anti-vaccine world. That is not to say that there aren’t reactions, just not the extreme ones often alleged and grouped inside the category of Rabies Miasm. That is not to say that there can’t be less serious, and even upon occasion, serious reactions. I don’t want a new dog owner to read the above comment and dismiss the value of vaccinating their dog. It can be far more easily argued that the good, by far, outweighs the bad. Vaccines protect the dog, other people’s dogs, and people themselves. Ask any veterinarian that wrote their boards before vaccines for pups existed concerning the survival rate. Ask communities in India about rabies. – John Wade (

  4. Sarah Ferreira

    I started fostering a terrier mix (22lbs) in May 2019. He reacted aggressively towards men and bit several people (didn’t break the skin) and the shelter said he wasn’t adoptable and might be euthanized so I adopted him in August 2019. He is very sweet with me and listens well but he struggles with strangers, typically men, and changes to his routine. My friend watched my dogs while I was on vacation last month and he would bite at her pant legs and shoes and became aggressive when she tried to get him in the kennel. I asked a different friend a few days ago to let my dogs out midday because I had an appointment. My dog has seen my friend several times and acts very loving toward her but when he realized I was not there his anxiety increased and he bit my friend in the leg which broke skin. Then today my dog got into a fight with my other dog over some food and I was bit on the finger. It broke skin in several places and is swollen. I took him to the vet this week and he was prescribed trazodone and calming dog food. I used a trainer for several months but I don’t think he’s qualified to work with my dog on these issues. I’ve looked into other trainers but one trainer won’t work with him due to his bite history. Today was the first day I thought maybe the shelter was right and euthanasia is an appropriate option. I’m at a loss at this point and don’t know what else I can do.

  5. Hi,
    I have an english mastiff. Hes been agrresive with other people but is now becoming aggressive with us. He doesnt want to go outside to use the bathroom and if you put a leash on him he growls. He is so large and it’s very scary when you have a 200 lb dog growling at you. We havent had this issue until recently. My husband travels for work now so I’m left with the dog and I cant manage him. He does the same when my husband is home. What’s ur best advice? I also have a teenager in the house who he growls at.

  6. Tammy Kimball

    I have a Belgium Melanie/wolf. When we got here they said she was Belgium/German Shepard. She has gotten very aggressive toward my husband, she growls and has bitten him on the hand when he was telling her to get down off the bed. When on the lead she will charge people walking by. As for me she does well. She knows her commands. sit, down, head down, leave it. She is defiantly a protector. I am reaching out for help. We do not want give up on her.

    1. Hi Tammy,

      I will send some information about my ‘Virtual+’ – Training consults via the email you provided.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense


  7. dogowner

    Hi John. the graphic in the background of this page is maddening, I just want to read it. is there a way to get it to display so it can be read? it seems to be totally different than the body of the article. thanks.

  8. I have a chow chow,, and he is so aggressive with other people.
    He’s just 1 year and 7 months now.
    i don’t know what to do,, hes very good with us,, but i can’t bring anyone into the house.
    He’s bit three people already.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      This isn’t uncommon in the Chow Chow world when the dog in question hasn’t been appropriately trained. It’s not that a trained Chow Chow necessarily ‘becomes’ friendly. Some do, in a Chow Chow sort of version. It’s that rather than solely taking their direction from their hormones and characteristics they’ve been intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally) bred they learn as they mature into adulthood to exert self-control, and take direction from their owners. In other words, rather than behaving as yours is, they bare minimum learn to ask, “May I/Should I bite this person?” You need to learn how to train a Chow Chow. You’ll find some guidance here and there in the hundreds of articles I’ve written throughout this site, or in one of my eBooks ( Alternatively, send some video of the problems you’re having and I’ll try to do an episode for my ATDG YouTube Channel. Here’s the link for sending video. Lastly, you could always book an aggression specific ‘Virtual+’ – Training session with me.

      – John Wade (

  9. My mom says my dog who sleeps lovingly and happily with my dad and wags its tail and never does anything aggressive until recently should be put down. I’m asking myself if I’m insane or hearing things because this is mental to me and sounds *******-up. The dog who literally wags its tail and loves everyone is supposed to be put down all because she has now become it seems an inconvenience to my mom. If this is how the world works I don’t believe it works. She got an injury and is basically recovering from it and my mom seemed understanding at first saying it made sense for her to bite at people while she was hurting. Only if anyone touched that area. Now that things are better she is saying she is finding her aggressive because she is fed up with her snapping at her every time she tries to give her medicine.

    You tell me…does that make sense? would a vet put this sweet dog down because my mom says so? because she is saying she can’t be helped and it made no sense I believe she can be and that it’s normal to put her down for this reason. I feel like I’m losing my mind and wondering if I have a normal head if this is normal and all of a sudden facts.

    How do you put down a dog and even call it untrainable if she only bites if you do certain things but is all around always loving in general? is there anything I can be told to feel at ease and peace restored in humanity again? I don’t really get what’s real anymore after hearing anything like that and won’t be able to sleep at night with a clear conscience with it.

    1. Hi Kuro,

      There’s more unsaid in your post than said, so it’s hard to provide guidance. In my experience a vet, at least most vets will not euthanize a physically and behaviorally healthy dog.

      I’d need to know a lot more about your dog to assess his current and future behavior prospects. Some questions do come to mind. Such as, why aren’t you or your dad helping with the medical care during the recovery period so your mom isn’t the only one faced with what depending on the dog what can often be a nerve-wracking and even dangerous proposition? Again, there’s so much left unsaid in your post/comment that it’s hard to provide guidance that is fair to you, the dog in question, and your mom.

      If you think the dog has ‘potential’ then perhaps consider booking an appointment with me or someone like me (as opposed to one of the plethora of part-time amateur dog trainers) to learn more about what can be done and how to do it. If with me, I would want everyone that normally interacts with the dog on a day-to-day basis to be available for the Zoom portion of our work. This, so I can get several perspectives as to what’s going on, and keep everyone on the same page afterward. You’ll also need to send videos of what the dog is currently doing now, and progress videos along the way.

      – John Wade (

  10. Hi there,

    We have a purebred American Staffordshire Terrier; we adopted him at about a year old from a shelter. We have had him for 6.5 years. He was fine for the first month or so. Then we started noticing he would bark at my neighbor, then he started to lunge at him when he would walk by. We started to not be able to have people over. We met with a pet behaviorist twice and kept up most of what they said but it doesn’t help. He is pretty anxious and on Prozac. He has since lunged at a lady, tending to bite her I’m not sure but it broke skin on her nose. He has run up to multiple people threateningly and aggressively and jumps around them. Today his tie out got loose and he ran up to a man walking by and looked like he was nipping at him. I’m not sure how much more I can take. My husband feels like putting a dog down is not giving them a chance. I feel like we have given him a great home and many many chances and I don’t know what else to do.

    1. Hi Amy,

      It’s hard to say how much wiggle room there is with this dog without knowing a lot more. I can say that it is extremely unlikely that you’ve met with a behaviorist. This is a legitimate title and no small thing to acquire. However, it seems it is a title used by more people that haven’t earned the right to use it vs those that often do use it, yet haven’t earned the right. One must have completed a post-graduate education in which they received a Masters or a Ph.D. in a behavioral science, or DVM or VMD degree with a behavioral residency. In my experience, a lot of amateur dog trainers call themselves these and other nonsense ‘qualifications. The more fanciful the made-up title the higher the likelihood that the ‘trainer’ in question is regurgitating things they don’t really understand. I’d highly recommend looking for some help but read this before you do Questions You Should Ask A Dog Trainer – Especially If They’ve Given Themselves A Fancy Title Finding qualified expertise for this sort of issue can be difficult. If you have trouble in that department locally as I suspect you might and are interested in what program and services I offer, just send me an email.

      I don’t know if you found this article yet, but it can help in cases like this where you don’t know what’s the best choice forward. Seven Options Available to Dog Owners with Dogs With Very Serious Behavior Problems (Aggression)

      – John Wade (

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