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First post here, but I'm not a troll. I've been looking for some advice on our Doberman and have read much on this site, and it seems that there are some knowledgeable people here that may be able to offer some advice. I think a little history is in order, so I apologize in advance for the length of my post, but here it goes.

Around May, 2016, we rescued a Doberman that had been placed five times previously. When I asked for the reasons, I was told that the dog (Max) had problems with large groups of people, that he had snapped at a cat, that he had snapped at a new owner who put his face in the dog's face, he had head bobbing seizures, and some other minor issues that I attributed to owners that did not know how to handle dogs. I spent some time with Max, and we bonded immediately. It was obvious that someone had spent some time with him, as he could catch, sit, and not jump on me.

I brought him home, and initially we had a little trouble as would be expected. He was aggressive at the vet, he growled at my daughter, and some other things that were easily corrected. He now shows no aggressiveness toward other dogs or people. I figured I just needed to make him know his place, and after working with him, he displays no alpha tendencies. When he messes up and gets corrected, he always bows his head. When he knows he's done wrong, he pouts without any correction. He is not allowed on the furniture (except my son's bed at night). He must give way when people need to pass. We've trained him to heel, down and shake. Other than what I'll get to in a minute, he's been one of the two best dogs I've ever owned. The head bobbing almost has completely gone away now that he's in a stable home.

He was initially terrified of guns. If I had one in my hand for cleaning, he would run to another room. With time, he seemed to realize that nothing bad was going to happen, and now he really doesn't seem to be concerned when I have one out. I mention this because I was initially concerned that he may have been shot at some point, but I suppose it's also possible that he was around the loud noise. Since we've had him, he has not been around any gun that was discharged.

I have never hit him. I don't hit my wife or kids. My house is relatively calm. Max is outside when no one is home, and inside when we are. If the weather is unfavorable and no one's home, he is in his large crate. Never for long periods of time.

We had two cats, now one, and he has never attacked them.

Now to the reason for my post.

Early in the adoption, my wife brought Max and out old Dachshund to the vet (this was after we thought his aggressive behavior was corrected). Max attacked the Dachshund, seemingly unprovoked, but didn't cause any serious damage. He did break the skin, however. Another time, when I was working in my home office, he did the same thing in my presence. Again, I saw no reason for him to do that. I intervened, scolded Max, he pouted and it hasn't happened since.

Also early in the adoption, we had a thunderstorm one night and a thunderclap woke Max and my son abruptly. Max bit my son in the face. Not an attack, but it was enough to draw blood. My son was terrified that we'd get rid of Max, but I agreed to keep him if he was crated during thunderstorms. There was another incident with my son, but I can't remember the specifics.

It has been months since having any problems, and I thought he was adjusted. Last night I was getting ready to wrestle with him like I've done many times before. This starts by me bending down to his level and pushing him at the shoulders. When I pushed him, I could see no evidence that he was irritated, and without any warning that I could perceive, he lunged at me biting my neck and face. I was able to push him off, then he got my shoulder. Eventually he latched on to my arm, and I was able to use it as leverage to twist his head around and get an advantage. In the process, his teeth went to the bone, but once I was able to get control of his head, he ran upstairs as soon as I gave him a chance to get away. He wouldn't come back to me when I called, so I followed him upstairs and told him to go downstairs and get in his crate, which he promptly did. He's been pouting since. I went to the Doc, and they looked at the bites in the waiting room and told me that if they admitted me, they'd have to notify animal control. I didn't want my son to see animal control come get his dog, so they advised me on how to treat things myself, and I left.

My dilemma is now this:

If this had happened to my wife or kids, the results would likely have been much worse, so I am concerned about them being alone with Max. I understand that there are situations where a dog will snap and retreat, and that's what the previous episodes seemed to be. However in this case, he didn't show any signs of retreating. I can't be sure if he let go of me because I was a better fighter than he was (I imagine he could have done much more damage if he had wanted to) or if he briefly lost his mind then came to his senses. I don't know how far he would have taken things if he had gotten hold of my wife or kids who wouldn't be able to fight back.

Obviously, we've learned to crate him during storms already. And now I've learned not to wrestle with him. I'm concerned about what other things might trigger an attack that we don't know about. He doesn't normally display any behavior problems that a behaviorist could help with (of course I may be wrong on that). It would be irresponsible for me to give him to a rescue, and I doubt they'd take him anyway. Are there any options for Max other than euthanasia? We recently had to euthanize a cat that got cancer, and good grief, I don't want to go through that again.
 

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I love this forum, and I love Dobermans, that being said I readily admit I have very little experience with them. Mine is a half bred, and I've discovered the different dog breed communities all have very differing ideas and ways to go about certain issues.

I know it's not what you want to hear, but for the safety of your family and potentially others, euthanasia is the most sensible option. It may not be his fault as wonderful dogs have often found themselves in predicaments, but due to his fluctuating past it certainly indicates there just is something not right. He didn't just nip you, he hospitalized you. To the point where animal control would've put him down. Would you be considering keeping him around if he had done the same to your son? Or your wife?

This dog is unstable, and dangerous. There are thousands of wonderful dogs in need of homes that are put down every day, in my opinion there is no room for one that is a habitual biter. I've had American Pit Bull Terriers all my life, the most misaligned dog breed arguably in the world. Something that we consider very highly is the ambassador factor. BSL is everywhere, and while pit types are the main hype it's only a matter of time before other "dangerous" breeds are brought into it.
 

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Call Jeff Gellman he will do a skype session with you for short money. He is an expert with this particular issue. Your dog should not be killed without you trying to help him. Did you attempt to get a person experienced with this kind of behavior to help you. Adopting a dog always comes with slightly more risk of abnormal behavior. Solidk9training.com Gellman is no joke, in fact he became a dog trainer for exactly the same problem you are having, he was told that his dog was not workable and must be killed.
 

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Can you give more detail on how you've corrected what you describe as the undesireable behaviors?
 

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Can you give more detail on how you've corrected what you describe as the undesireable behaviors?

I'm with meadowcat

Can you tell us how you have dealt with undesired behaviours please.
 

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I'm sorry, but he has had months to adapt to your home. Your first commitment is to your children and their safety. In my opinion, this dog may have something wrong in his brain. It may be from his life experiences, or it may not.
In any case, he has bitten unprovoked several times, and in your case it was serious. I would not be giving him another chance, I would take him to the vet and have him euthanized. It would be a very hard thing to do, but in my mind, the only thing to do.
The one thing I would not do, is pass him off to another home. It is likely that he has bitten in the past.... and legally you could be held liable if he did it again.
It is so sad when this happens - I really feel for you and your family.
 

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My fear is the dog has been corrected in such a way that he is no longer giving any warning signs before biting, and you will know when he is about to bite. If he's been corrected for growling, for example, he may no longer warn you by growling before escalating to a bite. Given this, as well as having a child in the picture, I do not think he can be safe in your household, and I do not think it is responsible ethically (and possibly legally) to place him elsewhere. I have to agree with MaryJo - sometimes humane euthanization is the best of bad options.
 

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Can you give more detail on how you've corrected what you describe as the undesireable behaviors?
He has responded very well to firm verbal correction. When he acted stupid, all it took to turn him around was for me to talk to him. He really wants to please.
 

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My fear is the dog has been corrected in such a way that he is no longer giving any warning signs before biting, and you will know when he is about to bite. If he's been corrected for growling, for example, he may no longer warn you by growling before escalating to a bite. Given this, as well as having a child in the picture, I do not think he can be safe in your household, and I do not think it is responsible ethically (and possibly legally) to place him elsewhere. I have to agree with MaryJo - sometimes humane euthanization is the best of bad options.
That may be. I don't know what he had been corrected for in the past. I've only heard him growl one time when he wasn't supposed to (and I can't say that I've ever heard him growl otherwise), and that was when my daughter was coming down the stairs. Max stood up and started growling at her. Then I confronted him, told him to sit, and told him that he was not to be growling at her. And that was the end of it.
 

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He has responded very well to firm verbal correction. When he acted stupid, all it took to turn him around was for me to talk to him. He really wants to please.

What do you mean?
For example if he growled at someone how was that dealt with?
 

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That may be. I don't know what he had been corrected for in the past. I've only heard him growl one time when he wasn't supposed to (and I can't say that I've ever heard him growl otherwise), and that was when my daughter was coming down the stairs. Max stood up and started growling at her. Then I confronted him, told him to sit, and told him that he was not to be growling at her. And that was the end of it.
I think he is not predictable, and that it's very hard for children to read dog body language. Kids, especially, do things that dogs do not enjoy, and they cannot read the signals that dogs give that they are uncomfortable. While I'm not there to see the dog in person (and having an in-person evaluation is always valuable), I would not personally be willing to take the risk of another bite. Please carefully read this description of the dog bite severity scale: http://www.dogtalk.com/BiteAssessmentScalesDunbarDTMRoss.pdf. His bite was at least a level 4. Read the prognosis for that type of dog. Ask yourself how you will feel if he DOES, in fact, bite your child or your wife as severely or MORE severely than he bit you. Is that something you can live with?
 

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It doesn’t sound like you have been able to pinpoint exactly what is triggering his biting.

But if he bites to the degree you describe, even if you know the triggers for his biting--pain, a fear of sudden loud noises (thunderstorms and guns), some kind of brain seizure causing momentary instability, or any of many other possibilities, it does not sound like he is stable enough to keep in your household, especially with a child in the house.

His unpredictability is a severe liability. I don’t think you will be able to control his environment well enough to ensure that he doesn’t have his aggression suddenly triggered by some random event which leads to another episode of biting.

Unfortunately euthanasia is probably the best thing you can do in this situation.


I’m very sorry you have had to deal with this. Our thoughts are with you during this tough time...making a decision in a situation like this is so difficult and painful.
 

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I think he is not predictable, and that it's very hard for children to read dog body language. Kids, especially, do things that dogs do not enjoy, and they cannot read the signals that dogs give that they are uncomfortable. While I'm not there to see the dog in person (and having an in-person evaluation is always valuable), I would not personally be willing to take the risk of another bite. Please carefully read this description of the dog bite severity scale: http://www.dogtalk.com/BiteAssessmentScalesDunbarDTMRoss.pdf. His bite was at least a level 4. Read the prognosis for that type of dog. Ask yourself how you will feel if he DOES, in fact, bite your child or your wife as severely or MORE severely than he bit you. Is that something you can live with?
Thanks for the pdf. Very informative. It was a level 4. Also, thanks to the others that have responded. In my heart, I figured that euthanasia was likely the only realistic option, but I had some hope that there might be a way to get his behavior corrected. The unpredictability aspect made me think otherwise, but I'm willing to admit that I'm not an expert. I really like this dog otherwise, and it breaks my heart to have to do this, but my family is my primary concern.

Now I'm struggling with whether or not to tell my son the truth, or tell him that I took Max to a shelter. He's 13.
 

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Thanks for the pdf. Very informative. It was a level 4. Also, thanks to the others that have responded. In my heart, I figured that euthanasia was likely the only realistic option, but I had some hope that there might be a way to get his behavior corrected. The unpredictability aspect made me think otherwise, but I'm willing to admit that I'm not an expert. I really like this dog otherwise, and it breaks my heart to have to do this, but my family is my primary concern.

Now I'm struggling with whether or not to tell my son the truth, or tell him that I took Max to a shelter. He's 13.
You tell him the truth. In fact, you may offer him the option to go with to the appointment, if you have a compassionate vet who does this well (or, you can do it in your own home). He deserves to know the truth. Your dog loves you, but your dog is also suffering. Mental suffering is just as real as physical suffering. Your dog is ill, and he cannot be fixed. He doesn't want to hurt you, but he might, and because he loves you and because he is suffering and there isn't any more you can do to make it better, you are going to ease his pain. It's not any different than a dog that has cancer and has reached a stage where they are in pain and cannot keep going without suffering. It truly isn't.

Your son will find out some day if you lie to him, and that is a huge betrayal of trust. Just my two cents. I have had to euthanize a dog for behavior than could not be fixed or managed anymore, for HER sake, and it was one of the worst choices I ever had to make. I would still do it again, because it was the right choice. And we sat beside her and let her go peacefully. Your vet can make that happen for you.
 

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I'm no parent, but if humane euthanasia is the unfortunate conclusion to Max's journey 13 is a good age where your son will be strong enough to understand that Max is very ill and you are giving him release. As others have pointed out, a wait and see attitude could be catastrophic and could forever scar your son and wife. For a child I feel that having a dog in the house should be a joyful learning experience and not an unpredictable struggle. I hope that your family will be fortunate to share your home with a stable gentle dog in the future, doberman or otherwise.
 

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Thanks guys. I thought of something else as well. I don't want to teach my son that it's acceptable to allow another family to take a dangerous dog. This sucks.
It really, really does suck. I'm so sorry you have to go through this.
 
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This is a horrible predicament. I feel for you, I really do!!

AS a Mom of two boys, my best advice is do not lie to your son. Have a frank discussion with him on why you've come to a decision, and allow him to say good bye and grieve. Explain to him that as horrible as it is, it is the kindest thing you can do for Max, to avoid having him abused or worse if you dropped him at a shelter. Allow your son to come with you if he needs to, in the room, or in the waiting room, leave it up to him. I've always found with my boys, honesty, no matter how hard a truth may be, is always the best choice
 
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