I Don’t Know If I Can Keep This DogI Don’t Know If I Can Keep This Dog


Today has been a day and I feel like I need to write this.

I get emotional calls from dog owners all the time, some from clients and some from desperate dog owners just looking for someone to talk to.

This call was not unlike others I have gotten from a person dealing with a difficult and dangerous dog: “I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can keep her.”

A lot of dog owners will never know this feeling. The hopeless, overwhelmed feeling that your dog will never be “normal” and that you don’t have the mental strength to continue trying.

Having an exceptionally difficult or dangerous dog is not for everyone. It takes a constant vigilance and awareness that a lot of people are not capable of. It can be isolating and you don’t get to do things spur of the moment. At least in the beginning.

There is no shame or judgement in saying, “I can’t do this.”

With that being said, if you can’t put the work in with a dog who is dangerous you should do the kind thing and make them a euthanasia appointment.

I can hear people gasping as I write this, “but Skyler, didn’t you adopt a dog who bit people and rehabilitate her?” Yep, and I had already decided that if I couldn’t figure out a way to live with this dog safely, I would set the appointment. I went so far as to have it in writing that if I passed away before her, she would be euthanized and our ashes would be mixed together because I didn’t want my family to rehome her.

Why? Because if I had given her to a shelter/rescue and she had bitten someone(staff, volunteer, potential adopter, member of the public, etc.) that bite would be on me. I was the one who chose to put this dog back on the market even though she was defective. As someone who was aware of what she was capable of, it would be irresponsible to let some other person come along and find out the hard way.

I use the word “defective” because a good portion of dogs who are legitimately dangerous are genetically flawed or mentally stunted in some way. Coconut, my bitey girl, is part Coyote and spent her first year of life in a shelter so she’s doubly defective.

I can also hear people saying, “The shelter would never knowingly adopt out a dog who was dangerous!”

Assuming that statement is true; she’d suffer the same fate, just without anyone she knew to tell her she was ok and to hold her paw.

I decided to figure it out. I worked with several trainers and was really skilled at managing our situation while we figured out what would work.

Here’s some of what I did:

  • I kept her on leash around people she didn’t know or trust.
  • I made sure people on the street kept their distance and didn’t try to pet her.
  • I taught her to wear a muzzle.
  • We worked on fostering beneficial relationships with people I saw regularly.
  • I didn’t force people on her and let her go at her own pace and keep her distance.
  • I didn’t allow people to force themselves on her.
  • I didn’t let her interact with people without my supervision.
  • We went a lot of places there weren’t a lot of people.

I was also 19 and working two jobs.

I decided that I would do this for her, so I did.

I realize that isn’t possible for some people. Honestly, I don’t know if it is something I would do now at 30 and that’s ok.

If you are in a situation with a highly problematic or dangerous dog, it is your choice if you want to put in the amount of effort it takes to help and manage that dog for the rest of their lives, and if not that’s ok.