So we’re going to tell you a story.
Yes, yes it is.
Once upon a time there was a rescue puppy. A well-meaning rescuer adopted said puppy and from the beginning there were problems. Nearly a decade, multiple attacks on adults, children and other dogs and a total lack of any successfully incorporated management later, and he was euthanized after attacking an octogenarian. But don’t worry because the rescuer saved him from himself. The, incredibly sanctimonious, end.
After hearing this story our heads just explodes into what we can only describe as rage confetti. In the near decade this person had “tried everything” but he was great at home so…
What the Actual Fuck?
The most irritating part of any of this isn’t even that the dog was so amazingly mismanaged that he had to be put down, it’s that he wasn’t put down sooner. We here at TDS are big believers in the realities of rescues; you cannot and 100% should not save them all. However, if you make the decision to save one of these dogs ( who in most other circumstances should be put down), you are committing to a literal lifetime of management–not shitty half-assed management, but real, rigorous, consistent and safe handling of a dog who is a risk to everyone around them.
This is the kind of management that sucks. It’s inconvenient. It’s restrictive in the extreme. It means that you can’t just do what you want with your dog when you want to and barriers and precautions for safety are always at the forefront. It means muzzles, cancelled vacations, and a kennel run, and signage and crating and walking at non-busy times. It means, yes Virginia, there is the all important quality of life question. He bit multiple people through a muzzle? That’s quite a trick. He chased people down the driveway? That’s mighty hard to do in a crate inside the house. That quality of life was not even an issue until this far along tells us that whatever bullshit management was in place was not enough and clearly not well executed. We know people with extremely unstable dogs and their management regimes are unreal and well-beyond what most households should or can undertake. Their primary concerns are safety followed shortly thereafter by well-being. When the two can no longer be balanced, they do the right thing. A freak-accident in their carefully managed home turns into a nightmare. They are heartbroken, and rightfully so, when they must do the right thing for them. No one else was ever in danger of their dog since their vigilance with strangers never faltered but unstable is unstable. Even with restrictions in place, a single error and you can’t go back to how it was before.
So here’s some real talk. You don’t get a medal for failing (unless you are involved in youth sports or science fairs). You don’t get cookies or head-pats for consistently and thoroughly putting others at risk because he didn’t chew shit in your house and was sweet at home (You know other than the raging instability and bite history ). Multiple bites on multiple people is not okay. Poor management of a dog with multiple bites on multiple people is unacceptable on every single level. You failed every person and dog that was bitten after the first time with poor management which should have been a clue after the second, third, hell even fourth bites. We’re truly sorry that you are sad and blaming yourself, but before you attempt to rescue yet another sad-sack rescue nightmare, take these words into consideration.
Saving the unsaveable doesn’t earn you extra points. There is no special place in heaven for people who keep dogs who attack children (and if there is we don’t think it’s the nice kind of special) and you’re not getting any kind of extra karmic bump for being inconvenienced by proper management. Keeping a truly dangerous dog alive is a selfish choice in 100% of all situations but it doesn’t have to be a bad choice if it’s done well.
So we guess what we’re saying is this: If you’re going to be selfish. do it right. If you can’t or won’t do it right, then you don’t need to have that dog and more importantly, that dog doesn’t need you. Are you willing to put your life on hold for one dog who will likely never be safe in everyday situations? Are you willing to dramatically alter every interaction you could ever expose this dog to? Are you willing to spend years hunting for work-arounds, long-term behavior management techniques, trainers and behaviorists with a clue and the money that flows out of your wallet with each new attempt and in many cases failure? It is a hard choice and making that choice “to save” or not is heartbreaking, but ultimately it comes down to reality. If there is no safety net (Your dog’s breeder or rescue; Do not cut them out of any temperament-related decisions. It’s info they need to have) it is up to you, your dog’s advocate to make the hard choice.