Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "The Big E." brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

The Big E.

by Charlotte Peltz

My, how we dodge around the word, euthanasia. The Big E. Yet, we have to deal with it very regularly in the canine world. While euthanasia does not get the attention here that it does in many communities in the U.S., we have to face this issue and make efforts to save more dogs -- not "put to sleep," "destroy," [or] euthanize them.

This weekend, I found myself two-for-two with consultations on dogs with "problems." One was a dog that had endeared himself to people who knew him during his short life that appears to have been lived (if we choose to call it that) on the street. His owner put out lots of money addressing his health problems and thought she had a great companion for the years ahead. But, there was a glitch. He "nipped."

Hmmmm. When I hear the word "nip" I am at attention, because it means different things to different people. Some dogs, deemed aggressive, actually show great bite restraint when they "nip" while others nip only in the eyes of their owners who do not want to deal with the truth that they are actually biting their victims.

Dogs bite for various reasons and it is important to understand that all dogs -- ALL dogs -- can bite given the right conditions. Always bear that in mind. Biting is canine behavior in its most natural form. What we aim for is "bite inhibition" and that comes from careful socialization of pups and carefully scrutinized breeding stock.

The first dog in this story was behaving beautifully. He was sitting, taking treats and being a really lovely guy. Then, without the slightest bit of provocation, he leapt up and bit the person who had been giving him treats! Any time I hear someone say, "there were no indications…" I have questions because, almost always, there is something but, no, in this case, there was no warning sign. A lovely, happy pup leapt up and ripped open this person's arm. Maybe the worst part of this scene is that the pup showed no indication of awareness that he had done that.

Together with other bites and threats on the part of this dog, the only thing I could recommend was euthanasia. No trip to the SPA. No home in the country. No putting him back on the streets. No chance to rip open the face of some child.

The other dog is also a sad story. He was "un regalito" -- at two weeks of age! Maybe the owner is mistaken with that age. If so -- it surely isn't by much. It turns out that he is a purebred, and there were some bits of information about him. The sire of the litter was a known biter. A male littermate has now got a number of bites to his "credit."

Since this dog has attacked the maid twice, and appears to have gained confidence, if the damage from the second bite is any indication, he is no longer allowed in the house -- or even on the property. He has been placed all alone on a piece of land where no one lives. His only "connection" is this lovely young woman who truly loves her dog.

We talked about what his life is like. What is the hope for this young dog of fifteen months? What are the risks of him getting off the property where he is because doors always open, and that means a dog can get out? Maybe the worst dogs I have ever encountered are those -- the ones who never get out, except as shot from a cannon when the door opens. Sure enough. He has gotten out and scared people. That provides fuel for his fire, meaning he will bite those who show the greatest weaknesses, and often that means children. I asked her to think about the life of a child whose face has been ripped open.

Great care must be taken when adopting dogs or -- OR -- buying them from irresponsible breeders! Genes dictate basic character, and, while we cannot change that, we can surely destroy the best of genetic layouts. Many, many displays of aggression are things that can be dealt with successfully if the handling is done in a positive fashion. We must get past the point of harsh corrections for such behavior. The success stories are things we all love to read and hear about. There is a downside, and this is a suggestion that you be aware.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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