What Would You Do? (Dog Question) - Geneva,IL

Updated on September 13, 2016
S.C. asks from Geneva, IL
25 answers

We have a beloved 2-year-old Saint Bernard.

He started exhibiting signs of aggression at age one. First it was with other dogs. Then it went from that to dogs and men. Then to strangers in general. Finally it began to include kids that he did not know.

He has never bit anyone, but would bark aggressively and the hair on the back of his neck would stand up.

I have always been able to work around this. We lock him up when friends are over, keep a tight grip on him on walks, invested in extra training, etc.

But, this week, he bit my son. Our kids were being loud, he was a little uncomfortable, and he turned around and my son went to comfort him and surprised him and he nipped my son in the face. That little nip punctured my son's lip, and I realized how bad it could have been. It could have been BAD.

He weighs 200 pounds.

I will add that he is otherwise and amazing pet. We all adore him.

What would you do? Keep him, put him down, or re-home him?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Well, I posted on here to get an unbiased opinion. I had already taken action and have just wondered if my friends were being nice since they already knew the route I had chosen.

I put my dog down three hours after he bit my son. It happened so fast and I have just been so sad about the whole thing.

I chose to euthanize him because he bit my son. He had escalating aggression issues. He had a very, very hard time being away from our family for even an overnight and I knew re-homing him would be nearly impossible given his history anyway, and even in the best of circumstances, would have been so devastating to him. I felt like a fool for not realizing sooner that no matter how much I trusted him, I was asking other people to assume the risk I was willing to assume. I was putting my kids and their friends at risk. And then I felt like I betrayed my favorite dog. Ugh. What a crappy situation.

We are experienced dog owners. I have had two dogs who each lived to be 15. This pup had some severe medical issues that prevented him from being properly socialized from 12-20 weeks of age. We tried to compensate that with additional training by a very experienced trainer. In addition, I had worked with the vet repeatedly regarding his aggression. On top of that we took additional steps to try to prevent him from being in compromising situations.

My decision was made the moment he bit my son and I literally took him in less than three hours later to be put down. I expected my vet to attempt to talk me into rehoming, which I was against, because I knew it would literally about kill my dog anyway. Why put him through that only to have it end the same way, but with months or years of crappiness leading up to it? But she, the biggest animal lover I know and a huge advocate of re-homing, said this was literally the only morally responsible decision I could make. Not only did it spare him, but with his escalating issues, and the stress of rehoming, someone could be hurt.

He really was an amazing dog. And I miss him. But I know I did the right thing.

Thanks, ladies, for a little outside perspective.

Featured Answers



answers from Washington DC on

Talk to a St. Bernard rescue group and get some advice from them. They know the breed. They are passionate about the breed. They may be willing work with you or to take him.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

He should be put down. I can't imagine how hard the decision must be, but that's not safe.

My parents had a German Shepard who growled at my oldest twice when she was a baby. They talked to the vet and the recommendation was to put him down. At 180 pounds and showing aggression, things could have gotten bad. It was awful, but it was what was safe for my child - their grandchild.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I had a cocker spaniel that I adored, who was an excellent watchdog. The day he bit my child (unprovoked), I had him put down.

5 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Milwaukee on

Your dog is 2 years old, I'm assuming you've had him since puppy-hood. That means you've spent the past 2 years teaching your dog that he should be concerned with his surroundings & the activities within, and that he cannot count on you to keep him safe - he needs to protect himself. That is what he is saying with his actions, which by your description have continued to escalate.

You have not "worked around" anything - you have put bandaids on a severe wound & hoped it would get better. It hasn't. At this point, the problem is you & your family, not the dog. But unfortunately, it has gone on for quite some time, & your options are limited.

You can hire an animal behaviorist trainer to do an in-home evaluation & work with you, your family & the dog. This requires a lot of time & money, & ensuring that you have a GOOD trainer working with you (given your situation, they should have 10-20 years experience with success in similar situations & breed type). Even still, it may not work. There are 2 years of reinforced behavior on your part & the dogs - you may not be able to get past that. And you may not be able to make the changes he needs, given your family dynamics (I don't know, just a thought).

You can re-home him, but honestly, you now have a very large, mature dog with reinforced behaviors who has escalated in his aggression to the point of lashing out at human family members with mild provocation. Who is going to take him? Who is able to assume such a liability in a dog like that? And it would be completely unethical to re-home him without disclosing that information, & carefully checking the new owners to make sure they are adequately experienced to take on such a dog.

It is a tough situation to be in. You don't mention contacting your breeder in your post - have you reached out to them for help in any of these situations? They may be able to help you with resources, or even take the dog back (do NOT expect to get $$ in exchange for the dog, this is a problem you created that they would be taking the burden of). If you did not get this dog from a responsible breeder that is able to help you, St. Bern rescue & your vet would be good resources for further help & options.

Good luck, and regardless of the decision you make, please remember where you are now, & how you got here. If you retrain this dog, or he leaves your family & you get another dog at a later point in time, you need to make sure to take steps to avoid this from occurring again. T.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I would never put him down for that incident alone.

I would seek professional help.

Of course... Priority is your family but maybe this dog just got placed in the wrong home.

Please Don't put him down without exploring all options.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I am sorry for your loss.
Dogs hold a very special place in our hearts.
You did your best for that dog. Know that he was very loved.
Mother Nature is very black and white, unfortunately.
Sure does make things hard though, when love/caring isn't enough.

ETA: Just thought I would share this.
I have a friend who is an animal lover (I don't even think she kills mosquitos). Her only pets are rescues and she usually takes the problematic ones because she is so patient and knowledgeable. Well one her rescue dogs snapped at her two year old daughter and then a few weeks later bit her. She consulted professionals, and her vet also recommended he be euthanized. She was so distraught but knew she had to protect her daughter (s). The morning of the appointment she gave him ice cream for breakfast and then McDonalds for lunch (she did not give table food to her pets) and then said goodbye. It was a ceremonious good bye. We were heart broken for her.

I think this is one of the hardest parts of pet ownership.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

you need a serious dog trainer.

However, I've always stated if my dog bit without provocation, I would put him/her down.

You were worried about Pit Bulls. Now you have a HUGE dog and it needs big-time training. If you took your son to the hospital and stated dog bite? They have to report it. Your dog might get quarantined.

I'm sorry you are going through this. It's a tough decision to make.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Contact a dog trainer asap. He started to be aggressive and you didn't do anything except let it escalate by trying to work around it which really didn't help the situation. He doesn't see you as the top dog in the house. He needs to see your entire family as higher in the pack than he is. If you don't get a handle on this asap he's going to do some serious damage and you will have to make the difficult decision to put him down.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

ETA: So sorry, MLT. I know this is so hard for you and your family, but you absolutely did the right thing, the most humane and ethical thing. I hope with time, you will come to feel peace at this decision.


I don't think I could ever trust a dog that bit my child. In my opinion, this bite to your son's face is a serious incident, no matter what the circumstances that preceded the bite.

How old are your children? Even if they are older, like 10 and above, kids still make lots of noise at times; they are rambunctious at times. You can't have your children walking on pins and needles and afraid to be kids just so the dog won't get spooked again.

I would seek advice from a St. Bernard rescue group, your vet, and another professional dog trainer to see if there is a responsible way to rehome your dog to a family with older teens or to people without children and who live a very calm, quiet lifestyle. Of course, you will have to fully disclose the dog's history. But even if you find such a home willing to take him, how do they take a dog so big out for a walk and never run into strangers? This is not a dog that can be confined to the house all the time, but as soon as you take him outside, he will be exposed to strangers and men, groups that the dog has shown aggression towards.

I have to wonder how many people would be willing to accept a dog into their homes with such a history, particularly since the aggression seems to be increasing in frequency and spreading into an increasing number of different situations.

Not trying to be negative, just looking at the facts and the reality of the situation.

I just know I would not keep a 200 lb. dog that bit my child.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I think Tara's response is excellent.

Playful nipping as a pup is one thing, but aggression is usually a problem.

I know several families where the dog became aggressive, and it got worse for them. In the three cases I can think of, it didn't end well - someone was bitten. And then they had to put them down.

I would talk to a vet and trainer and see what they think. That would be my first step. It's hard to say whether you could re-home it. A dog that just doesn't do well with kids can often be re-homed to a a childless home, but aggression is not something most people would want to take on. Still - I'd ask someone in the know first. Then decide.

Sorry it must be a horrible situation to be in. I know you love your pet.

ETA: I read your SWH. I'm so sorry :( Couldn't have been an easy decision, but sounds like the best one for your dog and family.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Your child vs your dog?
Your child should win.
It's tough - but you can't let an animal injure your child.
Dogs are social, so it's hard to keep him away from people but a 200 lb dog could do some real damage if he loses it.
Do what you have to but your child comes first.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

This is a very sad situation. In the 10 years after college but before I had kids I adopted a 1 year old husky. She was alpha and had never had any training. She wanted to bite if you came near her food. She wanted to growl and nip other dogs to assert dominance when she first met them. I worked with trainers and exercised her TONS (as in 5 plus mile runs, dog mushing, walks, long hikes) daily. I did non stop dog classes. I was able to turn her around so she stopped biting and became a wonderful dog -- but I don't think I would have ever trusted her to be alone with kids. She died before I had kids myself. I would try contacting a St. Bernard rescue group and explain your situation. They might be able to help and find someone who can take your dog. Your dog would need a home with no kids and a special person who is devoted to training constantly. I do not think there is any way you can keep him...it is not safe for your son. I'm very sorry. A dog that large that is also aggressive or nervous around kids is a very very dangerous thing.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would rehome him FAST. Those types of bites ONLY get worse over time. A loud, chaotic environment with children can be very stressful for dogs like you have.

We went through something similar with another dog that we used to own. We consulted a trainer and he told us that there is absolutely no way to unlearn that aggression. So, we made the difficult decision to rehome the dog. We found a lovely couple without children and now he is doing great. We were very honest about his biting and they were totally fine with taking the dog because they will never have children.

Honestly, make the decision now, before you end up in the ER with a more serious dog bite. At that point, you will have to deal with the dog being quarantined or euthanized. Not fun for anyone.

I also want to add that a rescue group will NOT take a dog with a bite history.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

So you talked to a certified dog trainer right away, and it didn't work.

Talk to your vet about possible anti-anxiety medications and a full evaluation. That should have happened the second the dog was aggressive. You're not "working around it" - you're ignoring it or taking baby steps to address it. I'm sorry but you are risking your family.

My family had a terrier who did the same thing, and we had to euthanize her. It was awful. But she was a 30 pound dog living in a home with 2 adults (both us kids were in college) and my parents still couldn't take the chance. My uncle explained his view that sometimes an animal reverts to the wild side. I don't know if people would say that's true now - but animals can have mental imbalances and reactions to stress, just like people.

But you have a 200 pound dog and a child. You have to act immediately.

Rehoming is extremely traumatic for a dog - please understand that. You'll have a hard time doing it anyway, and if he spends time in a shelter first, it will be incredibly awful for him. I have a twice-abandoned rescue dog now and it wasn't easy for her. She still suffers from anxiety and separation anxiety after 5 years.

Good luck - I'm really sorry.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

We had a dog that had a very similar history. We ended up having to put him down. I hope your story doesn't have to end that way.

Our dog never liked other dogs, no matter how much we tried to socialize him. Then, around 1, he got weird around men. Then strangers, then even his dog trainer we paid tons of money too. To make a long story short, we dumped a lot of money into anxiety meds and training. Then around his 2nd birthday, he lightly nipped our toddler. Our trainer told us that the personality settles in around the 2nd birthday, and our little guy had serious anxiety issues. His excitement (happiness to greet people) was turning over into aggression. We tried re-homing him, we tried returning him to the rescue where we got him, but at this point, he had bit. No one wanted him. He was mostly a great dog, and we loved him like a child. So we made sure the toddler was never near him (gates all over the house), we did more training, tried other meds. In any case, he ended up biting my husband on the hand hard enough to leave a mark. All hubby was trying to do was put a harness on him to go for a walk. Less than 12 hours later, my husband took him to be put down.We didn't want to risk our toddler getting seriously hurt. We couldn't risk it.

Now, my brother has a dog that was in a home with young children. The dog wasn't doing well with the noise, and to prevent danger, they gave the dog to my brother. I don't trust the dog around my toddler, but he is great in his new home with two adults and one teenage boy. He is also great with my 8 year old.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

You need a professional dog trainer right now!! I would keep him but send him away to be trained until this is under control.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

So sorry you had to experience this. But I would have done exactly the same thing.

If it makes you feel any better, we had a dog who also started showing signs of aggression. At one point he turned and snapped at our infant son, but didn't bite him. I took him to an animal behavioralist at a local university. He pointed out that our dog was extremely anxious. He told us that rehoming his wasn't a good option because of his aggression. Training also wouldn't help.

So our two options were to euthanize him or keep him, but keep him completely separated from our son (and therefore the rest of us)-- we were going to need to be diligent to ensure they were never in the same room together. But isolating our dog was only going to cause him to be more anxious. When he told us he'd give our dog a prescription for Prozac because of the increased anxiety, the choice became clear. We had him euthanized the next day.

My sister always says that when her kids were born her dogs became dogs, and it's so true. I loved our dog, but I would die for my son. I know without a doubt that we made the right decision.

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answers from Indianapolis on

If he bit my child he would be gone if I didn't shoot him first. With the dog being that aggressive you are lucky he hasn't bit a stranger and faced a major lawsuit. My aunt had a schnauzer who became very aggressive. He bit my cousins friends mother and they had to pay her medical bills. They were lucky she didn't sue them. He bit her hard enough where she had to have several stitches. I don't want anyone or anything near my child that could hurt her. I would drop him off a the pound and wouldn't care what happened to him. Just thinking of the damage he could have done makes me ill. Good luck with your decision. It's one I definitely wouldn't have to think about.

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answers from Atlanta on

oh. I just read your SWH. I'm sorry.

Sorry you are going through this.

There is no way I would re-home this dog. That's unfair to the gaining family.

He's exhibiting signs of aggression. he needs to be put down. It's awful, I know. but if he bit your son and weighs 200+ lbs, what if there is a next time?

Do not re-home. If you are serious, get a strong trainer. My decision would be made the minute he bit my child. He would be put down. I'm sorry

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Before you give up on him take him to a vet. It's very possible that he's suffering some type of anxiety that is heightened with more people, louder people, strange people, and then being approached by those he loves. If you all love him, don't give up on him, see if the vet has an idea first. Best wishes! <3

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

wow, what a huge bummer.
everything i would have suggested, it sounds like you tried.
trying to rehome an adult aggressive dog would be terribly difficult, and probably result in a long term shelter or foster situation at the very best. it would have been traumatizing for him.
i haven't read ahead, but i hope you don't get tattoo-ed too badly. i applaud you for taking matters into your own hands and having your big guy euthanized yourself, and didn't just dump him on the pound.

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answers from Austin on

My heart aches for you. We had a somewhat similar thing happen with our 8 year old pit shepphard mix. He never showed aggression though but we had 2 instances 1 when my son was a baby crawling he snspped at him- afterwards we kept them separate in the house/ when my son started walking hubby said, "we need yo intergrate them so Myer knows Chase is the boss" I turned my back for second Chase went to get on couch Myer snapped again. My 2 year old needed 7 stiches . We called the local rescues & even offered to drive ftom GA to CA to take him back to the rescue we got him from- no one would take him because he showed aggression towards a child. Offered to build my friend a fence to take him. No one could so we had to put him down. I know if he wanted to hurt my son he could have- he was the size of a Shepperd 150'pounds with the proportionate head of a pitbull. I just couldn't take the risk. We had to put down a beautiful healthy dog down. Never ever thought I would EVER donsuch a thing. Our animals are people- still haunts us 💔 Try to get him a home- farm only dog no kids around first ... But be prepared. so very sorry - took us 12 years but just adopted another dog

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answers from New York on

Don't put him down but you have to get him out of your home. Call the ASPCA.


answers from Springfield on

what michelle s. said


answers from Chicago on

Our son believes that it is his duty to make every living creature feel better...this has resulted in cat scratches from the cats at the cat shelter at which we volunteer and a nip on the nose from our little dog who was nervous when the dog was receiving medication.

We had to spend some time with him explaining that when animals are stressed you have to leave them alone to calm themselves down...a hissing cat does not need him to bend down and talk to him!

I don't think your dog needs to be put down, I think that 1) I'd spend time as a family discussing what to do about your dog under common situations. If there is a lot of noise, the dog should be in his kennel or in another room 2) if the dog is "uncomfortable" the dog needs to have you or your husband take him out of the room.

If you son was nipped in the face, unless your dog jumped up and bite him, his face was near the dog's mouth. Never a good move with an animal which is upset. I'm sure your son meant well, but not doing this should be part of that family discussion.

I'm going to speculate that your dog has become increasingly protective of his "pack" ...our 14 lb dog would go ballistic if anyone can never the stroller when our son was stroller age.

Also, have your dog checked out by your vet. Our dog has a bad back and he automatically hides when any kids come round, cause he's been made uncomfortable by kids who want to pet him all the way his back.

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