Monday, January 4, 2010


Have you ever put a dog to sleep other than because he was dying? My answer to that question is no! I’ve put them to sleep because they were near death but I still wasn’t thrilled with making that decision. Most people will do the humane thing when it comes to putting their beloved animal out of his misery. Then some people who are not breeders and some pet owners that I know think that that is a terrible thing that we do and no one should take the dog but God. This is a personal choice and everyone has to live with their decisions. But that’s not what this article is about. I wanted to write about those people who chose to put their animals to sleep because of other reasons.

Some people have put a dog down because of poor temperament. I think anyone who has been a breeder for any length of time will have seen the occasional dog with an undesirable temperament. There are different degrees of undesirable temperament. Some will destroy a dog that shows any sign of bad temperament. I have had a few over the years that were not always great in temperament, but I never chose to destroy them. I think the only time that I would make this painful decision is if they every tried to attack me or a loved one. This would be a dangerous dog for anyone to live with and as breeders we have the responsibility to do the right thing.

There are those breeders who feel that if the dog doesn’t turn out the way they want them to (show, breeding), then they dispose of them rather than look to place them in a pet home. If they get too old to breed anymore, then they dispose of them. Oh yes, they do exist. I know of a few of them. They will look to justify what they did, but it was due to their own laziness or “I don’t give a damn” type of attitude that they take the easy way out. Dog doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped……take to the vet and give him the needle. Putting a dog to sleep because it’s past its “prime” is just plain old cruel!  Animals are not disposable……or shouldn’t be!

Some breeders have told me that they won’t tolerate bad temperament and they’ll take the dog to the vet and put them to sleep. As I said, if the dog is a threat to someone, I could understand, but if he isn’t, I would never do it. It’s like saying someone had a kid and he’s not the perfect child. He has a disagreeable personality. He’s always getting in to trouble. He doesn’t listen, etc., etc., etc. So what do you do? Do you put him to sleep? Sometimes you might feel like you’d like to, but of course, you don’t! Right about now, I can hear some of you saying, you can’t compare a dog with a child. One’s an animal and the others a human being. Well, for this writer, the animal feels every bit as much pain as the child. He has every bit as much right to his life as the child. You brought the child into the world and if you’re a breeder you brought the dog into the world.

I have heard breeders say, this is a German Shepherd Dog and he better have the ideal temperament because I won’t live with it if it doesn’t. In their minds, there is no room for error. He’s a German Shepherd and he better act like a German Shepherd. Woe to this dog if he doesn’t! Well I’m not an ideal human being and I don’t know too many ideal, flawless human beings. There are very, very, few people that I dislike. But of those few that I dislike, it’s because they are evil spirited and enjoy doing bad things to others. The dog doesn’t think like these types of people. I’ve never known an evil dog, but I have known a few evil people! I’ve known some bad dogs but most of the time, that’s due to poor genetics or a poor environment and poor training or lack of it. Many people think if the dog doesn’t have the ideal temperament than they won’t waste their time on him. Most dogs can be worked with and trained unless he’s a true wacko! A dog can be people aggressive or dog aggressive. It’s important to recognize the difference. Just because he may not like other dogs, doesn’t mean he’ll be a threat to people.

Let’s face it; we all love it when the whole litter we just bred has excellent temperament! If bred correctly, they should. However, genetics being what they are, this is not always the case. A dog with the ideal German Shepherd temperament is a joy to live with. They need a little basic training and attention and they should bring you years of enjoyment. When you do come across a dog with the less than ideal temperament, this is the type of dog that will need considerable more work. Some people are not willing to do the extra work that it may take with this type of dog.

I love watching “The Animal Planet” and “National Geography” for all the wonderful shows about animals especially the ones about dogs. I have heard some of you who have liked Cesar Millan’s "Dog Whisperer” program and others who do not agree with his training methods. I’m far from being an obedience expert, but I love his program. The breeder that I interviewed here on this blog over a week ago, Dawn Restuccia (Laxfield German Shepherds) attended one of his training lectures and she raved about it. I’ve question him saying that no dog is too much for him to handle. Can that be possible? Then just last night I was watching a program that I taped on Animal Planet about a young female Pit Bull Terrier that was traumatized and fearful of everyone and everything. She had absolutely little contact with the outside world. But it showed how this sweet natured little girl with training and positive reinforcement and running and playing with the other dogs brought her out of her shell. She loved being with other dogs because her mother was the only contact she had ever had in her young life.

So I guess what I’m saying is, each case is certainly an individual thing. But I am so against those people who never give a dog a chance, who never take the time to socialize the animal, who never train the dog and turn around and put him to sleep because the animal would have taken too much time and work! Some children take more work than their brothers and sisters. They present us with a tougher challenge, but we don’t give up on them because of it.

With the “sue happy” society that we live in and finding it harder to get home insurance when you own an “aggressive or dangerous” breed, owning a less than desirable tempered animal can prove to be too much for some people. If you decide to breed, realize that you may get the one puppy that is not displaying the happy “wagging tail friendly” traits of his litter mates. His momma and daddy weren’t running down the street one day and they decided to mate. No, we took it upon ourselves to breed the “ideal” litter. The decision to bring these little guys in to the world was made by us. If we are not willing to take responsibility for the type of animals we bring into this world, then we shouldn’t be breeding. We won’t always produce great temperament in every single puppy that is born in our households. We need to recognize this. Take responsibility for that puppy and do the right thing by him and not take the easy way out by destroying him. Yes, he’ll take more work, but there were no guarantees that everything was going to go the way that you wanted it to.

In this writer’s opinion, there is something morally wrong with putting a dog to sleep because he has less than ideal temperament. Here again, this is a personal choice and what’s right for me to do may not be right for you to do. (Again, I’m not talking about a dog that is vicious and menacing to people). I’m talking about the fearful, shy, timid dog. Even a dog that has dominant tendencies can be trained. It all takes time.

So as I said in the beginning of this article, some breeders will not put up with less than ideal temperament. No one who loves the German Shepherd Dog wants to see him cowering in the corner or shaking at the first unfamiliar noise that he hears. Breed for any length of time, and evidently you will see one of these types of personalities. Some of you will destroy them. Some of you will make sure the dog gets the extra training that he needs to make him a happy part of someone’s family. Growing up, I know that I haven’t always been the most ideal type of personality everyday of my life. My mother and father didn’t take me out in the back yard and shoot me because I may have been disagreeable! They disciplined me and taught me right from wrong. So who am I not to give a less than desirable tempered animal the same consideration through discipline and training and “Oh yeah, in some cases” a whole lot of patience?!

My rating: train your dog: (4)!


  1. I really enjoyed that article. I've never understood killing a perfectly healthy animal just because it wasn't "ideal". My family has only done it to one dog and she had a temperament that noone could work with. It wasn't poor temperament so much as something in her head was not right. She was a foster so not sure exactly what she was but definitely part beagle and likely some other hound thrown in. We got her mother about 4 weeks before she delivered. Puppies were born fine without any problems - 3 boys and 2 girls. Four of the pups were normal puppies but one of the girls wasn't. By three weeks old, she was growling at people and by five weeks she'd try attacking if she got half a chance. The others were adopted out as was their mother but we kept Missy was not a candidate for adoption. We chose to keep her and try to make her a normal dog. By the time she was a year old, she'd try going through solid walls to attack us, the people who raised her, and that was when we finally decided the dog was just not saveable. I've never met another like her. I've taken in LOTS of fosters that have been aggressive or terrified depending on the circumstances they came from combined with their own temperament. All were able to be adopted out eventually to good homes. It just took more work with some than it would have if they'd had a good home and stable temperament to start with.

  2. Wow, I guess I never realized that there are people out there who will put a dog to sleep just because of looks or attitude. That's crazy! When we got our dogs, one of them was friendly and playful and the other one was all shy hiding behind his brother, behind tables, behind the previous owner's legs, and around the corner from us... and that's why we got him! My husband said to me "What if no one ends up wanting the shy one because of the way he acts... then he might not have a home.. and anyways the playful one will need a friend if we have to be gone for a couple hours." And I thought "Why not?!" So, that's why we have two. But, it's so sad to know that some people won't even give a dog a chance if he's shy or cowardly. As for dogs being people or dog-aggressive... we figured out that the boys are people-aggressive ONLY when we, the parents, are around. When they are at the doggy resort/kennel, they are good! I shouldn't say we're fine with the aggressiveness, but I have to admit... it does not bother us so much. We're hermits and hardly ever have people out, we keep to ourselves mostly... so in a way it's ok. BUT I know it is not all that ok! So, we are going to get the boys a trainer. Wish us luck!

  3. In being associated with so many Rescues, we are very aware that not all dogs are able to be saved. Sometimes a questionable temperament can be brought around through training and TLC. It may be a temporary setback caused by the dogs general confusion or from the insanity of the shelter surroundings. Other times, a dog is too far gone; brutalized by those who were charged to care for them and therefore unsalvageable. In situations such as that, a peaceful passing in the arms of someone who cares is ALWAYS better than shifting responsibility and liability to someone else.
    I have personally read of dogs beaten, set on fire, sealed in their dog houses, because of owners anger at their behavior; either their aggression, their wandering, or even their LACK of aggression.
    LHSH receives a great many emails from owners claiming that their dog only "bit once...". In situations such as that, we advise them to seek a trainer to determine if the problem is THEM or the dog. They will often ask us to find a Rescue for this family pet. Rescues are hard put to take a known bite case...the liability is inordinately high. Should they put that dog out into the public KNOWING that he had previously bitten someone, they are not only doing the public a disservice, they are also doing the BREED a HUGE disservice. No breed needs to be plastered on the cover of the morning paper because they mauled someone. This type of problem is one of the reasons that homeowners insurance is so dreadfully difficult to procure when you own a GSD.
    It is always best to confer with a professional trainer before making a permanent decision. Be certain that it is someone who is familiar with your breed. Believe it or not, some trainers are actually AFRAID of GSDs, Rotties, Dobes or AmStaffs. Ask for the trainers credentials and don't be afraid to ask for references from satisfied customers.
    Remember; whatever you put into your family companion is what you will get out of him. Shelters are full of unruly, untrained, belligerent dogs. THEY are the ones who pay the ultimate price for our neglect.
    If it is possible, attend one of Cesar Millans seminars or speak to one of his trainers. His methods DO work when applied (speaking from experience here! I attended a seminar and it was truly amazing). Unless you are showing, remember to alter your companion animals. It takes away that incessant drive to reproduce and allows them to breath a sigh of relief.
    Finally, remember...DOGS ARE NOT DISPOSABLE.
    There were no guarantees when you signed on to that squiggly pup...hopefully he left his breeder with a sound, stable mind. Its YOUR responsibility to keep it that way and protect him/her from making mistakes.