My Dog Killed Another Dog – What Do I Do?

dog killed another dog

I spent a long time debating whether or not to write this post. I got an email earlier this month from an owner whose dog has killed two other small dogs. In many ways, I don’t feel that it’s responsible for me to attempt to deal with such an intense problem in a blog post. At the same time, I feel like this owner – and other owners like her – deserve to have some good information online.

Earlier this month, I got the following “Ask a Behavior Consultant” inquiry to my inbox:

“My dog is aggressive towards any other animal. I’ve got smaller dogs around the house and she’s been aggressive to the point of killing 2 of them. What can I do to get her to not be so aggressive towards other animals?”

Sincerely, Pittie Problems

For more Journey Dog Training resources on aggression, check out these resources:

This dog is a one-year-old intact female pit bull who spends most of her time indoors/outdoors.

The owner has attempted to curb the problem by putting the dog in her crate after an aggressive episode, but otherwise is feeling lost. There are also kittens on the property that are in danger – it’s not clear whether or not they’ve been killed as well.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this: this is a very bad situation.

While we can certainly make it better (there are a lot of things we can try that the owner hasn’t tried yet), a dog who’s killed other dogs is likely never going to be safe around other dogs.

The fact that this dog is a year old, a breed that’s known for dog aggression, and that the dog isn’t just growling but has actually killed other dogs is all very bad news.

I know and love many pit bulls, but there is a truth to some of the stigma around the breed, especially concerning dog-dog aggression, and especially in certain genetic lineages.

If you’re living with a dog who’s killed other dogs, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Get help. This is not a training problem for an owner, an obedience trainer, or a K9-handler. This is a job for a very experienced aggression trainer. Look for a Vet Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, or Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.
  2. Manage the problem. This dog cannot have access to other dogs. Period, end of story, no discussion. You need to have at least two layers of protection between this dog and other dogs at all times. That means muzzle + leash, muzzle + crate, crate + baby gate, leash + fence, or other similar combinations. This dog has killed other dogs – you absolutely have to keep the other dogs safe. Until you get help from a professional, that’s all you should do. You should not attempt actual training on your own with a dog that’s killed other dogs.
  3. Have a long, hard talk with your behavior consultant. There’s a chance that I’m wrong, and this dog can actually eventually be helped for a “normal” life. But there’s also a chance that this dog will never be safe around other dogs.
    • The fact of the matter is that rehoming a dog like this is probably not an option. After attempting counterconditioning, desensitization, redirection, and management training, humane euthanasia might still end up being on the table in order to keep others safe around this dog.
  4. Focus on keeping your own dog happy. Giving your dog more exercise, structure, or obedience training will not fix this problem. But helping your dog feel happier will improve your dog’s quality of life, and therefore is a worthy cause. Add in tricks training, puzzle toys, and nosework to help keep your dog a bit happier.

If your dog killed someone else’s dog, there’s a chance you’ll end up in court. I am not a lawyer or an expert witness, so I can’t say much about this.

But this is very serious.

Do what you can to support your own dog and keep everyone else’s dogs safe. At the very least, demonstrating that you’re doing everything you can to keep other dogs safe will help.

Above all, seek help from an experienced aggression trainer. Cases like this are not easy and it’s very important not to go to the lowest bidder for training.

You need a Veterinary Behaviorist, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, or a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.

You need to get expert help, the best you can get, and fast.

If that is not an option for you for logistical or financial reasons, you need to have a long, hard think about if you can keep the dogs in your area safe from your own dog.

If you can’t and you can’t get help, euthanizing your dog might be the only responsible course of action.

Of course, I cannot suggest euthanizing a dog without a thorough consultation and attempting some behavior modification. But you need to be aware that this is on the table. The dogs around you are in mortal danger.

There are a lot of things to try to help dogs that kill other dogs. But there are no guarantees in the field of behavior, especially when we’re dealing with aggression.

Comments 16

  1. I have a question because my dogs killed a smaller dog but there 3 huskys but my male gusty grew up with a smaller dog but when it died we got him two sisters and he was supper nice to them and now that they are grown they keep on killing smaller animals but I crossed the line today when they killed a small dog what should I do

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      Hi David, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It can be so scary and difficult. Did you try to implement the safety strategies outlined in this blog?

  2. My lab husky female(mitsy) and my german shorthair( Heidi)who have been together all of Mitsys life got in a fight. noone seen it. Heidi was a bloody mess and ended up dying. Mitsy was devastated and grieving..Would not eat, was crying. Mitsy growled and snapped at my dads 2 year old german short hair yesterday and tried to bite her leg. We were present because I do not trust Mitsy. I thought maybe heidi who was 12 years old instidated the fight. now im not sure and feel like Mitsy should be put down for fear she will hurt my child or another dog. Please help me

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      Sue, I’m so sorry. That’s a very serious situation. Follow the advice in the article, and I strongly suggest hiring a trainer for further help.

  3. I visited a 2 year old pittie in a rescue last week. Beautiful and sweet. Wasn’t aggressive to me or my daughter but one of the rescue personnel said her owner brought her there because she had killed a smaller dog by accident in the home. I was considering adopting her because she didn’t seem harmful but my neighborhood is surrounded with small dogs and small animals ie bunnies. My sister said no I shouldn’t get her. Should that be a deal breaker?

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  4. Hi , early June my Pitt got out through our garage. He has gotten out before and he usually runs as fast as he can around the block “the route he takes when walked” and come right home but on that horrible day he ran around the corner and came a pond a group of ppl with dogs. One owner started going in front of him like trying not to let him get by. But my dog got around him and got to there Lill dog and managed to lay on him and grab his neck. When we got there and told him to let go he did right away and got in the Jeep. I stayed and the Lill dog wasn’t a bloody mess she had a puncture wound and was still breathing. I managed to find them a vet that was open to take them to and off they went. After a few hours the owner came back and said they thought she would make it. The next day he told us she passed away. We were sick I literally couldn’t get out of bed for 3 days all I could think about was that Lill dog and there owners. We payed there 4200 vet bill with no problems I would hv payed 10 thousand we were devastated to say the least. I was a vet tech for 13 yrs and understand this that this was not normal behavior for our dog. We hv had Lill dogs also and he never bothered them The Lill dog behind our house he never bothered. The owner told us animals are animal and he understood that our dog never did this before and this was a horrible accident We were fined as we should hv been for dog at large. After a week or so it was brought to my attention That a flyer was going around the neighborhood with there dogs picture on it wanting justice for there dog. Then they took it to social media put our full address on there and gave a full description of my husband Then we were hit from animal control a ticket for trying to get my dog marked as dangerous. Now mind u. Our dog has never had any reports to police or animal control or any neighbors complaints to us regarding fear towards our dog but everyone now are saying they are. We hv a lawyer. And we are fighting. We hv spent thousands of dollars re enforcing our back yard and our front porch. We hv a electric collar also. He isn’t out side unsupervised neither of my dogs are now he doesn’t go on walks anymore neither Of our dogs. We lived here 30 yrs and I fell like a prisoner in my own house. This was a horrible horrible horrible accident. And I just hope I hv a leg to stand on Ty for listening

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  5. I was walking my pit on leash. A man had his puppy outside without leash. It ran up on me and my dog I tried everything to stop it but my dog killed the puppy

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      I am so sorry that you had to witness that, Sabrina. Are you ok? And what are your plans for preventing this again in the future? I hope this article helped you make a plan.

  6. This is a really tough subject. I am really sorry you are going through this.
    Last year we went through the same situation. Aries was an American bulldog that my husband rescued, he came from a really abusive home. We knew he had some triggers, we couldn’t even hug him or hold his neck but he was a really sweet boy at the same time. That dog was so loving!

    He bit my husband twice before we had “the talk”. The third time was really hard to control him. We looked for help in the shelter we rescued him. We had to make the hardest decision in our lives. We had to put a healthy, loving and happy dog down.

    The risk of having it happen to my stepson or any kid, or a neighbor was not worth it.
    I just want people to know that to love is to care, and we have to make some hard decisions to care for our family.

    The feeling of guilty will go away at some point knowing that you made the right decision.

    You’re not alone. I can tell you that our lives have been easier not having to live with the fear that something bad can happen at any time.

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      Oh, Leryanne, I’m so sorry. Needing to put down a dog for behavioral reasons is just so incredibly difficult. I am so glad that you’ve found some peace.

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