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To PTS or not? Our 2 yr old Amstaff is highly reactive, aggressive and unpredictable.

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  • To PTS or not? Our 2 yr old Amstaff is highly reactive, aggressive and unpredictable.

    We are facing a horrible decision. We took on an Amstaff pup at 4 weeks, he was born with a severe cleft palate and lip so was hand raised. He came from a litter of 13 and was the biggest and first born.

    It wasn't noticed that he was cleft for 3 days when he was found very weak and limp, close to death. He was given a chance at life instead of being PTS like most cleft pups and thrived. He was unable to remain with the litter as at first the mother accepted him but then started acting aggressive towards him.

    He has done puppy school and obediance training, and excelled in both and was well socialized. I am his main carer, I am also the person he bites. He is highly protective of both my husband and son, both spend time with him mainly giving him affection. He clearly sees them as under him in our pack and it seems he challenges me for dominance all the time.

    He is very stubborn and although he can be very obediant refuses to sometimes. I have recieved 6 bites (puncture and bruising) the latest one was when I went to get out of my chair and my husband reached for the remote at the same time he charged at my face and I raised my arm to protect it and he bit it my hubby was quick to grab him before the second bite connected.

    He was completely in the red zone, it took 5 min to get him outside. It seems like he was resource guarding for my hubby, we have never had an issue with him with food aggression or possessive aggression before. He has never displayed dog aggression either. He is very aggressive towards strangers and children.

    We searched for a behaviour specialist and only one would actually take him on and unfortunately we were unable to afford the cost.

    We have him in the bark busters program at the moment but it doesn't seem to be helping and nor does medication, he actually seems to be getting worse.

    I have never owned a dog that bites before but have known a few, our boy shows no signs of attacking, no whale eye, no lip licking, no growl he just launches into a full blown attack(charges at face) in an instant. I have been bitten for not allowing him to run when doing lead training, not letting him out the door before me, touching my sons head, placing my hands on my husbands shoulders.

    I understand that the first two bites are about dominance issues.

    We have another dog, she is a 5yr old toy poodle and is dominant over him. We have been doing everything to assert our dominance , we have always eaten first, no couch, try to not let him through doors first etc.

    The last bite has really un-nerved me and I feel really betrayed by him and wonder if he ever escaped what he would do to a stranger if he can attack me like he does.

    I feel really guilty and that we have failed him. We have had trainers,vets friends etc say that he is just wired badly and it is best to put him to sleep as he is a dangerous dog, I wonder if we are the best owners for him and if he could do better with another owner that had more experience with aggression but who would want to take on a dog with these issues not to mention his medical issues?

    He is very nervy about new objects or old ones in a different spot and spends his time mostly running laps of the back yard, he never seems really relaxed, he has to be separated from visitors and muzzeled for the vets/ in public etc. We went to the vets yesterday and picked up some strong sedatives and made an appt to PTS next week.

    In a way I feel I am making a responsible decision but its breaking my heart (he can be such a loving good dog sometimes), am I making the right decision? Have we done enough? Pls dont be abusive or all us bad owners, we are doing our best and have had 2 bull breeds in the past that were both well adjusted easy going dogs.

    If any one has helpful suggestions we would appreciate it.... I forgot to add that he is desexed and never been abused and his aggressive behaviour started around 8mths up until then it seemed like we were raising a perfect happy balanced social dog and he has been vet checked for any issues that may be causing him pain etc.
    Last edited by Hyacinth; 26-02-2014, 05:29 PM. Reason: spacing for readability (I couldn't read it)

  • #2
    First of all... Well done on being such wonderful people and taking in a puppy with his condition You are definitely not bad owners!
    Is he from a registered breeder (papered) or is he from a back yard breeder? That could have a lot to do with how he is 'wired'.
    Personally, I think you are doing the right thing in getting him pts, it's never an easy decision to make but it would be awful if he seriously injured your son or a stranger/child. Has he been tested for a brain tumor? Sometimes that can cause severe behavior/aggression issues.

    Good luck with everything and please take comfort in knowing that you gave him an excellent life


    • #3
      Thanks Kristy, its one of the hardest decisions I have had to make and just feel so guilty even though I know its for the best. I cant look at him at the moment without crying. He came from my Brothers dogs I know the female had papers and the male was from his friend and parents had paper too. Both the bitch and dog had skin issues so I believe they should not have been bred and my Bro said he wasn't going too but just happened not to de-sex them both?! I know that another pup from the litter is having aggression issues too but mainly dog aggression. Our boy has been tested for a variety of issues as he was losing weight, we are feeding him twice as much as he should have atm to keep weight on him. His results were all clear and the vet thinks he is just using a lot of energy due to being so hyper-active. Im not sure if she specifically tested for brain tumors though, I would assume so she is very thorough and has known about his aggression for a long time (he is one of her most freq patients due to his other medical issues) will def ph her and ask. Thanks for your kind word, most appreciated


      • #4
        Ok - hate to say it but with your situation - I would rate BB as a complete waste of time or likely to make things worse.

        I don't know what the right thing is to do with your dog. He could be wired wrong. Or maybe he could be retrained with the right people. I'm leaning towards "wired wrong" and "with the wrong people" combo. He certainly can't be fun to live with most of the time.

        I do know that some dogs on the PTS list for aggression have been successfully rehabilitated with new owners - but most of them were in trouble for different reasons to yours.

        Yours has a collection of genetic and other problems from puppihood that can be contributing. I know of another person whose BYB dog attacked its puppies and its owner. It was being badly treated by one of the people it lived with and the owner didn't find out until it was too late and that dog had to be PTS because the risk of major damage was too high. An Amstaff type dog can do a lot of damage very quickly.

        Genetic and puppy problems - cleft palate, aggressive mother, not enough time with the litter, huge litter, biggest puppy in the litter (wins resources by aggression not negotiation)

        Susequent red flags.
        He bites his owner, his owner tries to be dominant. People who try to "dominate their dogs" in the Cesar Milan way (Don't try this at home the TV show says), get bitten. A lot. Often.

        This doesn't mean you let your dog misbehave or take resources from you that you want.

        The whole pack theory that Cesar bases his training on is flawed. The guy who wrote the original study has said that.
        David Mech's Theory on the Wolf Alpha Role

        NILIF (nothing in life is free) is a good technique. It's subltely different to the "I'm your boss, you do what I say, or I will make you". It's more like "All good things come from me and you have to earn them". So the dog has a choice with the second method - and the dog enages its brain - works out that it has to do what you want to get what it wants (food, pats etc), and makes the choice. Because the dog is making the choice - and you're not forcing the issue, the dog learns what a good choice is.

        we have always eaten first, no couch, try to not let him through doors first etc.
        I think if you look at that from the "All good things" perspective - you can see how it might not work. I think you can see from your story that it doesn't work.

        I have a different structure.
        * No dinner without my permission - which for my dog I have upgraded to "you have to fetch some stuff for me before I give you permission" because I want her to like retrieving. And a lot of her dinner (the kibble part) I hand feed her - one trick at a time.
        * no couch without invitation. Actually I routinely fail on that one but I really don't care. She will get off when I ask, and she will go in her crate when I ask (tho she thinks that means she's about to get a treat or a game or something fun). She doesn't think she can boss me round because of it. And she is absolutely not allowed on the lounge chairs. Not ever.
        * doors - require a sit stay while I open it first and then you can go through with my permission.

        This is easier to train and manage than "I go through the door first" because my dog would routinely wipe me out, blasting past to get outside or inside and I'd have no way to stop her from doing that if I was going through the door at the same time.

        So if we no get a sit in front of the door - I don't open the door. Sometimes I have to remind her what the job is - because I'm not totally consistent about it. If we have a sit and I start to open the door and the butt lifts up - I shut the door. I have to get the door all the way open with the dog controlling herself... before I give permission and then I say "Go". If I had two dogs it would be "Frosty, Go" then "Smokey, Go".

        He is very aggressive towards strangers and children.
        This is probably what would make me want to take him to the vet and PTS. It does depend a lot why. But dogs are not supposed to be human aggressive - not even fighting dogs. Some guard dogs are supposed to be protective but they're not supposed to bite unless trained to, and then it's supposed to be on command and if the person they are confronting stands still - no biting...

        It makes him very unsafe. You'd need to keep him in such a way that nobody could accidentally let him off your property.

        He is very nervy about new objects or old ones in a different spot and spends his time mostly running laps of the back yard, he never seems really relaxed
        This bothers me too. There are some dogs that are wired this way - and you can't train it out of them. They don't like surprises or unexpected movement and they bite first and apologise later. I'm also wondering if there could be a problem with his eye sight that means he overreacts.

        In his favour - he doesn't try to kill your poodle. In fact he defers to her. My family had an Australian Terrier who was older and completely bossed around our bigger stronger smarter Kelpie x Cattle dog. You might be able to use your relationship with your poodle to train your Amstaff. Since I imagine your poodle defers to you?

        There is one trainer I'd consider getting an assessment from before PTS, but I have a feeling she may recommend the same as your other trainers and friends. She's the only one I know about in WA.
        Kathy Kopellis McLeod
        Dog Training Perth | Western Australia

        If you get some video of him just being himself around the house with you - Nekhbet might be able to offer some advice about what could be possible but she lives near Geelong, Victoria.


        • #5
          it may be a neurological issue, it may be issues related to the age at which he was separated from his mother and litter mates - could be any number of things that it is impossible for people on the internet to judge iykwim?

          Personally I'm not a fan of the whole "red zone, need to be the alpha" etc - it is well know and popular due to the cult following of various celebrities, but behavioural science for the most part has debunked those theories, however if they work for someone and their dogs without harm, I'm not about to get on my soapbox about it. It sounds as though whatever your training protocols are - they are not working for you and this particular dog.

          If you do not have the means to control him and his behaviour then PTS is certainly an option to consider - as much as I love bull breeds, your personal safety and the safety of others must come first, however maybe consider contacting one of the bull breed rescues or large dog rescues about him first? Some of the people involved in rescue are experienced in dealing with 'problem' dogs and rehabilitating them, it may be that a different environment will result in a different dog.


          • #6
            Thanks for your reply, appreciate it. I dont have much time to reply atm but will do so later tonight. It has been really confusing we have had advice that is really conflicting. Kathy is the lady that we unfortunately can't afford, I have talked to her in the past and she has been really mixed about whether he can be less of a risk.


            • #7
              Maybe you could get a payment plan from Kathy? Or borrow family and get a payment plan from them. I think all you'd need before you decided to spend the big bucks is for her to see the dog in action - in a safe controlled neutral environment for everyone - given how much he likes strangers (not).

              With computers I'm happy to say something like don't waste any more money - get a new one. But it's much harder with a living critter.

              Unless it's a mozzie that just bit me.


              • #8
                do you have to put him down? can't you drop him off at a pound or find a new owner?


                • #9
                  Goggles, how could you even suggest to dump a dog like that at the pound?! That would be highly unethical!

                  Unfortunately, the vast majority of rescue organisations will PTS a dog that shows aggression towards humans.

                  This dog sounds seriously messed up and it must be heartbreaking. It doesn't make you bad owners. You have tried to give the dog boundaries. Even if you used methods that some don't agree with, personally I doubt that that has had much of an effect on the severity of your dog's symptoms.

                  In my opinion, regardless of the cause, if a dog repeatedly attacks humans without warning, there isn't really a way back. You will never be able to trust him again and the only safe place for him really would be in a kennel, without direct human contact. Which isn't a good life for a dog. And he already doesn't sound happy.

                  That was my lead up to say that I think you are doing the right thing by having him PTS. I wouldn't normally form an opinion from a forum post and I am far from an expert on dog behaviour or training. But this is extreme and I think it would be somewhat irresponsible to keep a dog like that in the community, unless you keep him in a cage at all times. I understand none of this will help you deal with the guilt and sadness... It will be a tough grieving process. I can only offer your my sympathy and wish you lots of strength whatever you decide to do.

                  Maybe getting this advice from a well respected trainer would ease that guilt a bit though? But if you really cannot make that happen, then so be it.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by goggles View Post
                    do you have to put him down? can't you drop him off at a pound or find a new owner?
                    Hell NO! If you were to send him to the pound just save him the stress and get him PTS straight up, it is all they will do anyway. And a new owner would most likely lead to getting passed around from owner to owner when one realised they can't handle him. Better to save the stress of that and PTS.

                    Jojo22 you know in your heart what is the right thing to do. I would be worried about the what ifs. What if the next time he lashed out at you he did some serious damage. What if he did it to a little kid, or a random. I would never forgive myself, and as hard as it is sometimes putting them to sleep is the right thing to do for everyone involved including the dog. It is a horrible situation to be in and it sounds like you have done everything you can to help him.

                    I really feel for you, it must have been so difficult to even get to this point.

                    There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.


                    • #11
                      Hi There
                      Awful decision and I made the tough one once and like you the sense of responsibility is huge. Sometimes it just doesn't work for a variety of reasons.
                      My view for me was that I was responsible so when it was necessary to have him pts I arranged it. You have done so much and I am so sad for you it wasn't enough to turn the tide for your dog and you. Awful time.


                      • #12
                        I once spent a lot of time rehabbing a dog that wasn't wired quite right but the big difference is that she was not aggressive towards any member of the family, just highly reactive towards strangers. The fact that this dog will attack you without warning is a pretty scary characteristic. I actually had my dog assessed by Kathy. I took her to her house and had a basic assessment without the written report before I decided what to do next. So that would be an option.

                        However I would not blame you one bit if you decided to PTS. It is a horrible decision to make but you really do have to consider your safety. I would think this dog is going to take a lot of work. I have a professional dog trainer friend who rehabbed a dog like this but she has to manage him closely. I can find out from her if she would assess him for you.

                        Please PM me if you are interested.
                        Last edited by Kalacreek; 27-02-2014, 12:25 PM.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by goggles View Post
                          do you have to put him down? can't you drop him off at a pound or find a new owner?
                          Googles - this would be wrong and probably illegal.

                          The dog has already bitten humans including the owner. That makes it dangerous. Dropping it off at the pound or rehoming it without getting it properly assessed neurologically and possibly retrained - is putting the pound staff and any new owner and their family and pets and neighbours in danger.

                          It's also really bad for every other owner of a pitbull/amstaff looking dog. As all dogs of the look get blamed and treated suspiciously if one gets out and attacks people.


                          • #14
                            Thanks for the time you have spent in replying and offering solutions/ideas, most appreciated. Fez (our dog) has never been ill treated, he was with my sis in-law for the first 2 weeks and then my Mum and I shared his care until he was 4 wks old and I then took him on full time. I can assure you that no person has harmed him, my dogs are with me 24/7, due to his behaviour he has never been left with anyone else except my Mum (when we went on a holiday for 2 weeks) and my husband, my son and I could never harm an animal.

                            He has had one scare from a family friend who booed him (verbally frightened him), he didnt know this person well and I think this may have been a factor in him turning aggressive toward strangers. A lot of friends think we simply haven't been hard enough on him or sooked on him as he is "special" , he has had a lot of operations (fusing and dental work) you do tend to feel for a pup who is going through all this but I did my best to treat him the same as the other dogs I have owned. We have obviously tried to give him as many positive experiences with new people since, all barr 1 ending in attacks even after he has taken treats displayed positive body language etc.

                            I should of been more specific about the training techniques we have used, I dont use Cesar techniques on him, to alpha roll him or assert dominance in a physical fashion would be suicidal!! He is allowed on the couch when invited (he is our huge lap dog) and we use NILIF style training, feeding/doors etc, I have to admit though I have a hard time not giving him his dinner if he doesn't sit and as for door work it sometimes takes us an hr to get outside, depending on his mood some days he will sit with just a hand sign other days total refusal. With training him we have used reward based training/positive re-enforcement ( treats, praise, pats) but have tried to assert more dominance (not physically) with the BB methods as we are running out of options and will give anything a go atm.

                            I have had people suggest all kinds of different techniques, even prong collars and e collars (Leerburg methods)which I couldn't use as I believe they are cruel and I think these would send him into being more aggressive as the BBuster bag sent him into a frenzy when we tried it. We have tried a lot of different techniques on him, we have gone through 3 trainers so far. My friend is a great trainer and offered to work with him and after 1 session and a lot of bruising she stated that he is the only dog she has ever been scared of and refuses to come to our home now let alone work with him. BBuster were our last option. Kathy McLeods issue with Fez is his poor impulse control, she doesn't believe that he can be trained out of it but is willing to give it a go but has stated he will always be a high risk and advised to PTS though.

                            For her to train him we have to travel and meet at my Mums house as we live rurally, my Mum was happy to do this before but since she was bit by him when we were on holiday for not letting him do what he wanted (go out the back with my dad and play with the hose) she has been really scared of him and asked us not to bring him over and she has been worrying about him biting me and now wants him PTS, she was alongside with us has been his biggest defender/excuse maker. Alongside the logistical issues is the price it will cost us around $340 per session and he will need 10 plus, a lot of money to spend when she has already stated she believes he is just badly wired and my husband refused to go ahead with it before as we have sacrificed a lot for Fez already (he refers to him as a money pit!) he might be talked around now though as the reality has hit and he is having just as hard a time with this desicion as I am.

                            Maybe we can improve his behaviour but can we ever stop his impulse to lash out (my main concern)? My poodle (Promise) does defer to me and he def does to her, how would I use this to to train him? This is going to sound crazy, I spoke to my vet lastnight and cancelled the appt next week (I feel I need more time) and she suggested removing his teeth. I understand this wouldn't stop his behaviour/anxiety/make him mentally balanced just render him less dangerous and I honestly wonder if keeping him alive with his mind like this is cruel and would we be being selfish because we dont want to lose him or go through the turmoil,guilt and sadness of giving up on him... What is your opinion on this? Feel as though Im clutching at straws atm, never thought I would ever be in this position...Nearly forgot he has medical issues besides the cleft but his eyesight has been tested and is fine, we too thought it could be a contributing factor to his behaviour.
                            Last edited by jadielee87; 27-02-2014, 03:54 PM. Reason: Readability


                            • #15
                              The pound would put him to sleep straight away, if he is to be PTS I think I owe it to him to give him the comfort of being there with him he would be terribly stressed out otherwise. I really dont believe he is re-homeable. He does really love us and wont even venture 10m from our sides when we are able to let him have a free run at the beach (always muzzelled), he wouldn't cope with being put with strangers, it would be a very dangerous situation for them and someone would get seriously hurt. I think his behaviour would get worse if he was put in a strange environment, he is very nervous about new things. I understand you really feel for him and are just trying to help avoid him being PTS , you are obviously kind hearted, I wish it was as easy as re-homing him. I have rang rescues and none are willing to take him on and I really cant blame them, he is ultimately my responsibility and can not be passed on to others.