I'm at the end of the road and am now facing the decision of euthanizing my dog. I'm afraid we don't have any other option, but I'm not familiar enough with dog behavior to really know.
This is a dog we rescued from some neighbors. They had, after many months of neglect, moved away and left him roaming the neighborhood. He was a very sweet little dog and came into our home easily. He had been neglected but I don't think he was abused (though their children may have been unkind to him).
After a few months he bit our son. We chalked it up to innappropriate behavior for our son (he attempted to take away a bone from the dog). Over time though, we had more frequent bites, until recently it's been very problematic and he bites our kids and their friends with no provocation at all. We felt he needed a child free home, so we placed him in foster care with a breed specific rescue group, who had experience placing child biters.
Unfortunately, in foster care he has bitten 3 people, 2 of whom were adults. All bites were unprovoked. The two adults he bit after he came up to them and put his paws on their lap. When they pet him, he bit. The third was a child, who he followed into another room and bit several times.
He has never bitten adults in our home. The bites are usually minor, he has only broken skin once. He gives no warning. He does not growl, act dominant or aggressive. He is not in situations where he is trapped when he bites, he could easily get away, and these recent bites occurred when he approached people. He also does not act fearful or shy, he does not cower or shake and frequently before he bites someone he will approach with tail wagging.
I cannot understand his behavior. The closest thing I can come up with is that perhaps he wants attention, but when he gets it he suddenly becomes fearful. He never bites myself or my wife, and is a very sweet and affectionate dog towards us. His foster home was in tears over this, agreeing that he was very sweet towards her and she said she wished she could keep him.
We have a baby due in 3 months. Baby's can't be taught to stay away from dogs. All the kids in our neighborhood are terrified of him. We cannot keep the dog, unless perhaps we kept him drugged and muzzled constantly, and I don't know what kind of life that is for him. I cannot conceive of how we could possibly place him in a home, as he is unpredictable. I think in a home with 1-2 people, with infrequent visitors and a calm environment, he would be a great dog, but I can't know for certain.
I can't get any advice from an animal behaviorist, as they all say they need to examine him before they can tell us anything. He's still in foster care currently, and we have to decide whether to let them euthanize him or take him back.
I feel like with dedicated training and careful watching for the rest of his life, he could do well. However there is no gaurantee of that and given the coming baby in our home, we do not have the environment for that. I'm afraid we have no option but to euthanize him, for the sole reason that we aren't in a situation to deal with him. But I have no idea how to find someone who could deal with him, so it seems my options are limited.
They agreed to take him because he had only bitten children and felt that he would do ok in a calmer empty nest household, the plan was to evaluate him in foster care to make sure he would be ok. He was placed with a veterinary studen who had experience with child biters before.
I think we will have to euthanize him, as we are out of options. It is hard though, because the poor guy is a real sweetie with us and I feel like we've failed him. You take an animal that has thousands of years of instincts and bring them into your home expecting you to follow a human lifestyle, that is a great responsibility. He has his reasons, whatever they are, for his behavior and we simply don't have the environment to deal with it.
And I feel like a total failure for being unable to find a place he can happily exist.
The behaviorist has to see the dog in person and in action to make a diagnoses. Cause dogs bite, for different reasons. Just reading your post it sounds like this dog is dominant. You never mentioned the breed. Tail wagging doesn't say "I'm Happy, or be my friend" Its an indicator of a dogs pushyness or doninance. But it doesn't necessarily mean he would bite. A dog that is dominant and feels that it is in control over everything in its environment, has the right to bite anyone he chooses. Thats canine language. And there may be a bit of fear mixed in there plus, owners and care givers without that knowledge of Canine language. Hes running the show. If you go and hire a behaviorist, he has to come in, see what the issues are, and he'll be able to tell pretty quickly, by how you interact on a daily basis. Then he'll come up with things to do on a regualr basis to change the behaviors. Theres nothing wrong with the dog, just the way hes been raised. You need to decide if your willing to take on that task of re-socializing him and retraining him. If not talk to trainers in your area to see if any one is interested, cause he needs an owner who can run HIS roost, in doggie language. Otherwise, I guess you'll have to euthanize him.
I think you said it all in your statement that being muzzled is no way to live.Sometimes after all options have been exhausted it is the kindest thing to do to avoid suffering..be it pain or suffering from a life that has no joy to it. Sounds to me like you have agonized enough over this situation. Maybe you can drop it off at the vet's office for euthanasia and tell them to feel free to try to place the dog with a trainer, and then do not call back to find out what happened..Assume someone did take a chance with him. That way you'll never know for sure.....