Help Talking to Daughter About Loss of Dog After Dog Bite ;-(

Updated on May 24, 2008
A.G. asks from Stoughton, WI
9 answers

Hello all! I need some support and advise! Our 2 1/2 year old daughter was bitten very badly in the neck by our family dog; it was the second bite in the last 3 months and it was due to her grabbing and poking at him incesently. We tried over and over to explain how important it was to be gentle and we also kept them separated as much as possible after the first bite, but this was a split second occurance where we were out of the room; the guilt is absolutely overwhelming that she was hurt so badly and that we did not prevent this from happening.

We made the very VERY VERY difficult decision to put him to sleep as we did not want to risk finding another home for him and find out later that he hurt someone else. Now I am second guessing myself and feeling like I murdered him and he would have been fine in a home without any small children. My daugther is so upset that he is gone and is having an awful time dealing with it as are my husband and I.

Has anyone else been through this? How did you explain it to your child? How did you cope with the guilt and the loss? I have been through some pretty tough things in life, but this one is up there as one of the hardest.

Any help/advice you can offer would be great!



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answers from Salt Lake City on


It is a very difficult situation. We went through the same thing in June. Our family dog of 2 years had bitten each of my children, and we had been working closely with our Vet on aggression issues with our dog. Then she bit my next door neighbors little girl. (She only ever bit in the house, when there was no adult in the room, she was terrific with our kids and the neighbor kids in the yard.)

I felt the same way you do. I struggled with the guilt of putting her down, but at the same time could not risk my children or someone else's children to be bitten. It is still hard when I think about her. My kids still talk about her sometimes. My kids are a 7 and almost 6 yrs old so they probably understand more than yours would being so young. I just sat down with mine and explained that she needed to be put to sleep, for the biting reason, and that she would go to heaven. That seemed to help them.

I hope this helps you.




answers from Provo on

I know that you did the right thing. I know that this was hard but can you imagine the other outcomes. Maybe you should do something in his honor so that your daughter can also see how much he meant to you. (donate to the Humane society, plant a rose bush in his honor, etch his name on a rock and place it in your yard. I think with your sutuation time will heal you all but, you did what you had to do and it wasn't easy. Best Wishes and Good Luck.



answers from Boise on

I was in you exact situation 14 years ago, we had an Akita and had seen previous signs w/ him he had bit another child, but NEVER had been anything but good with mine, we had two at the time him and a female, she was actually who we worried about, she was trained as a gaurd dog for my husbands then decease dad and could be very picky and tempermental. One day my son was running through the hall to get to grandmas's room when bam he got him, we figure my son starteled him, 9 stitches uder his eye later and a load of medication later, we made the same decision you made and it hurt, it still does some days when I think about it, he was our child until we had our "real" ones :).I have to admit I didn't tell my children the truth I told them we gave him to a family that had no children, I think that was more for me then them, but they were still very upset, I takes time but they do move on, children are amazingly resilent, maybe try a different pet something smaller, where her attention can be refocused, we got a guine pig, that helped. But more importantly you did the right thing, you are protecting your daughter, and that of any other child who may have come in contact with him/her. A side note here the female that we worried about was the BEST dog they could do anything to her and she would care, you could tell her to go check on the kids and if they were doing something they shouldn't she would bark to let us know. Don't give up on dogs completely, they can be amazing friends for our children, she has passed and that was just as hard. I wish you luck and hold you in my thoughts.



answers from Benton Harbor on

Hi A.~
First let me say that I am an animal lover down to my soul! We love our dogs like they are family and even sleep with us. That said, you did the right thing! Animals are just that...animals, they run on instincts that you can't control no matter how diligent you are. Sometimes we get a mis-match with our pets and kids and it's just a risk that you can't take. The only thing you could do was put him to sleep. He didn't feel a thing and he didn't feel unloved...he just went to sleep. I understand that you feel like you "murdered" him, but you didnt. Imagine if that dog had been placed with another family and killed a would you feel then? Your daughter is too young to understand the whole picture of what happened, so keep your explanation simple and short and move on to another subject. By explaining over and over, you will only solidify her thoughts that it is a bigger deal than you are letting on. It's okay to mourn for him, you are showing your daughter that animals do deserve to be loved and missed, but when they are sick, they also deserve to be put down and not made to suffer. You'll help her to not fear animals in the future and to be humane to them when she is an adult herself.

Again, you did the right thing in so many ways!



answers from Milwaukee on

Your child is of utmost importance, and she needs to feel safe. In many states your homeowners insurance would drop you if they knew of the bite incidence. Don't feel guilty at all. With regards to talking to your daughter, probably the easiest is to explain that it was not safe in your home with the dog and either that he is in doggy heaven, or the rainbow bridge idea. It's too hard for a 2 yr old to comprehend a dog "waiting" for them at the bridge for when they die so be careful with that.



answers from Pocatello on

I feel so sorry for you but you really did the right thing. This past Monday I put my puppy Emma to sleep , or had her put to sleep because I saw aggression in her from when I got her at 10 weeks . She was a different dog for sure, I Have had dogs all my life but I could see this was not going to work . Then twice she tried to attack my 6 year old grandson, and we were right there in the yard with them. We screamed and she stopped ,then my daughter in law tried to grab for the dog and she turned on her also . The pup was only seven months old . We tried, we really did . I took her to my wonderful Vet and I held her head and said it would be ok and that ''we tried, Em, we really tried'' and I told her she would be just fine now and she went to sleep . I cried over her but I just cannot risk the chance of her mauling someone or worse . I have her sister pup ,who really misses Emma. But Betsy is no way like Emma was . She is so gentle ,
But it was hard . It's hard enough to explain to my grandkids and they knew her ...time will make it better , I also thought "what right have I to say whether this dog should live or die?" That should be left to the creator ....but then I Know that God gives us the wisdom to act responsibly ....



answers from Saginaw on

You did what you had to do. Thankfully, you cared enough about your dog to do the right thing for him versus dropping him at a shelter where he could be adopted out to a new family that may not know his history. Putting a dog down is a difficult decision. I do rescue for Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and occassionally will come across a dog that there is just no other way for them, I can't risk putting them in the general population because lets face it. Even that old couple who lives in the boonies occassionally has visitors and let me tell you...If they find out you knew the dog bites, even if you adopt the dog with open disclosure-they can come back and sue you right into poverty. Unfortunately you have to cover your own butt too.
I would definately wait until your daughter is older before you get anymore animals, especially puppies and kittens. This is just an age where they don't mix very well. My 2.5 year old drives our 3 dogs insane as well so I keep them separated unless under supervision. Really it should be that way with any dog, not just my canine good citizen/therapy dogs.
As far as your daughter, keep working on her "dog manners". I wouldn't go into a lot of detail with her, but if she asks-Just say he was sick and you couldn't make him better so he had to go to doggie heaven. You could have a little ceremony if she needs it, plant a plant or tree if she needs it but I wouldn't burden her with a "He is dead because you wouldn't leave him alone" because at 2.5 she is still impulsive and can't always control what she is doing, even if it is tormenting Fido.
Good luck, email me if you need anything else.



answers from Omaha on

My mother just recently went through this decision with her own dog. After he bit my sons toe and took skin off, I was pregnant at the time and she was worried about a new baby in the house. She also didn't want him to go into a new house and bite someone else. We just told our kids that he went to "Rainbow Bridge" which is a special heaven for dogs. There is even a poem out there about it. He just wasn't very happy on earth. With our family dog he had problems with his hip and we had to let him go as well. He is now in doggy heaven and running without hurting. It is a very difficult decision.



answers from Casper on


I hope that what I say doesn't offend you. However, my view is a dog is a dog and does not rank with a child. Dogs are companions and to owners they are very loved and adored. Your daughter is a small child and was not and is not able to understand the gravity of what she was doing in regards to her actions with the dog. If she would have tripped and fell on the dog, the event of the attack could have happened. Animals of all kinds are unpredictable and defensive of themselves.

I would follow the advice of the others in how to explain to your child that the dog was sick and is ok because he is in a better place.

You should not feel guilt for your putting the dog to sleep. Your child comes first and anything you must do to protect your child should never cause you guilt. I know that is easier said than done. I have had to remind myself of this in other circumstances.

That is my two-cents, hope it helps.

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