The Los Angeles Times ran an intriguing story last week about a six-year-old American Eskimo dog named Cotton who had undergone the controversial medical procedure – Canine Disarming. The surgery was initiated by the dog’s owner, Diane R. Krieger as a last ditch effort to stop her beloved pet from viciously biting anyone who came onto her property.
The story posed an interesting question for all pet owners. “What would you do if you had a highly aggressive dog?”
According to Krieger, her 35-pound dog is so severely aggressive that no medication or technique has remedied the problem, including assistance from the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan. Krieger has tried therapies such as herbal supplements to alter her dog’s mood, desensitization training, a low-protein diet and a dog-aggression expert.
“I tried clicker training, high-pitched electronic tones, pepper spray, throwing soda cans filled with rocks. I considered an electric shock collar, but worried that in the hands of an amateur…it might do more harm than good,” said Krieger.
Krieger was running out of options and considering euthanasia when she saw Dr. David Nielsen, a veterinary dentist being interviewed on Animal Planet. He was discussing a permanent cure to aggression and biting called – canine disarming.
Krieger signed Cotton up for the procedure and the L.A. Times followed him through the surgery.
While canine disarming is not new and in fact dates back to Native American Indians, Dr. Nielsen has created his own technique for the procedure that promotes less pain for the dog and quicker healing. He uses a laser to cut away 4 millimeters off each of the dog’s four canine teeth; then he smoothes over the ends of each tooth with the laser. The same procedure is also done to the dog’s extra set of pointy incisors.
The dog must then have follow-up care at 3, 6 and 9 months to be sure the roots of the teeth do not die off. If that happens, a root canal must be performed.
The procedure is considered highly controversial by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Gail Golab, from the AVMA reported that the organization is opposed to disarming for aggression because it doesn’t address the underlying cause of the problem. She believes owners may become lax about protecting their dog from people after the surgery.
On the other hand, the American Veterinary Dental College adopted a position statement in 2005 endorsing the procedure in “selected cases.”
Even Dr. Nielsen believes canine disarming is controversial. On his website he states, “This procedure is performed on dogs that have bitten people after all forms of behavioral treatment and training have been exhausted.”
The site further states, “It has been said by notable dog trainers that once a dog has crossed the line and bitten fiercely, that we cannot expect them to be trained otherwise; hence the need for disarming, which is preferable to euthanasia.”
Cotton’s case poses some intriguing moral questions:
1. Is Diane Krieger the ultimate pet owner because she was willing to go to extreme lengths to save her dog?
2. Is she acting in the best interests of her pet?
3. Will the end justify the means if Cotton stops biting?
Advocates of canine disarming say it works because the dog realizes that it can’t use its teeth to harm anyone, so it becomes more submissive.
Apparently Cotton hasn’t heard this bit of information, yet. Since the surgery he still runs after people, especially men, who enter the property. He has chased after a gardener who offered Cotton his boot to gnaw on and a handyman who let the dog chew on a wooden handrail. In each case, Cotton hasn’t been able to do any physical harm to the workers. It will be interesting to see if the advocates are right and if Cotton loses interest in attacking people in the future.
Photo: Jake Stevens L.A. Times
Jake Stevens L.A. Times
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