Stopping Vicious Dogs with Canine Disarming

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


Jane Walbridge
Jane Walbridge8 years ago

This dog is mentally ill and should never be allowed to have contact with anyone. Why is it anywhere near someone in the yard? I have a dog who is aggressively friendly and scares people because she's a pit bull. I never ever let her out when anyone is there and gate or crate her when a stranger is in the house. If Cotton isn't biting her owner why would there be a need for this surgery? Sounds like the owner is the one who needs the training.

Sharon L.
Sharon L8 years ago

Los perros no son agresivos por naturaleza. Es la falta de informacion y educacion de los dueños que los hacen asi por no enseñarles a ser sociables desde pequeños. No quieres que tu perro ladre? no tengas un perro! asi de facil

Judy S.
Judy S8 years ago

It is unfortunate that such drastic methods are being used. A dog is a dog and because we love them we sometimes forget it! The hardest decision of all is when to call it a day. When will this dog`s companion realise that it is sooner rather than later now? A person may not be bitten but die of heart attack, what remorse will be felt then?

Menghini L.
Menghini L8 years ago

The problem is the way dogs are educated, even by professionals. I honestly believe that the problem is in the current theories on animal behaviour, which often if not always treat the animal like a machine than a living being. They talk about automatimses, responses, insticts and such, and professional trainers do reflect this kind of thinking (not every single one of them, of course!), so they fail to understand the dog's underlying problems. For example, they try to stop the "behaviour", which is more likely a symptom, than his or her mental issues. Ah, and by the way, I'm no veterinarian or trainer, I just listened carefully to some conferences, read stuff, tried in real life, and it worked for me.

Jade H.
Jade H8 years ago

I have to agree with you, Lesley M! I have horses and 4 Queensland Heelers (Australian Cattle dogs). I've been training dogs and horses for years (and believe there is no excuse for obnoxious animals OR children! LOL). The rules have changed for teaching children good manners, but working with horses and dogs always comes from a loving, gentle, BUT FIRM attitude - herd and pack mentality is ONE is the leader - they don't vote, but do support the one they trust to keep them safe and lead them well. When I have visitors outside the house and the dogs have not settled down about barking I just turn and tell them to lay down and shut up. One time a lady stood there in awe as they all complied immediately - and she asked how I managed to get them to do that. I laughed and replied, "It's simple: I'm the Alpha Bitch in the house/yard, and I'm the Lead Mare in the corral - and everyone knows and accepts that!" I watch all my animals be cautious around strangers till they decide the new person can be trusted - and I respect them for that. I don't force any of them to be anything other than what they are - dogs or horses. I ask visitors to respect them as they are, and if they have any concerns or fear around them, I make sure the human doesn't get that near them. But I do expect them to have manners with anyone who does come near them - and that's just training combined with their trust factor with me. No bad animals - just bad owners is the usual cause of problems.

Jim D.
Past Member 8 years ago

Hi Bernice,

You're not alone; many have contended something similar to this:

"The I can only suggest to her, as a Pit Bull owner for a number of years, is to be more careful with the dog. I'd make sure that the dog is put up: in the house, in a crate, in a dog run when strangers are there."

But is this the most compassionate? Is a period of pain worse than a life of frequent imprisonment and limits to its socializing? I really dont think so. Folks are free to choose. But this seems, to me, a more cruel treatment of the animal.

Just my opinion.


Bernice W.
Bernice W8 years ago

I want to know what Cesar had to say about this dog too. I've seen him work with some really hard dogs & have had positive results.

Seems like this procedure is to keep the teeth from puncturing the flesh not to keep it from bruising & being very painful.

The I can only suggest to her, as a Pit Bull owner for a number of years, is to be more careful with the dog. I'd make sure that the dog is put up: in the house, in a crate, in a dog run when strangers are there.

Even though my dogs aren't vicious, they can be very scary to strangers, so I put them into their crates when someone comes over. So my advice to her, once again, is to put the dog up when people like the gardener come over.

It didn't say whether the dog was a house dog or not, but I'd make him one if he wasn't. I would then "supervise" him when he went out. If I had to I would put him on a long training leash if I had to to keep the dog under control.

I know of several dog breed professionals say that American Eskimos can be a more vicious dog than other breeds, even more than the Pit Bull "reputation".

Alvin H8 years ago

Not as extreme as euthenasia, but still ugly. What evidence is there that this kind of mutilation won't itself cause adverse psychological effects.
As to behavioral shaping, the article doesn't reveal when these attempts began. Six years is a long time.

Elinor Israel
Elinor Israel8 years ago

Oddly enough, I think this procedure could be necessary in extreme cases. If this dog bit someone he could end up being euthanized.

People seem to forget that dogs have brains just like humans. Mental illness occurs in humans so why not animals? Prozac has been used in dogs who have obbsessive compulsive behaviours. It sounds like this owner did everything possible to train this dog and used the surgery as a last result.

Olivia W.
Susan Clay8 years ago

I'm grateful that more than 40% of people would not choose surgery to "disarm" a dog. They understand that disabling a normal physical "part" doesn't solve the underlying mental problem: fear. I've discovered a simple, positive system that has a 100% success rate among dogs, no matter how vicious and longstanding and hopeless the case. It's called Dialogue. This humane method of dog training, premised on the fact that every dog is a good dog, can be found at helpyourdog (dot) com. P.S. It also works wonders on the guardians of these dogs, teaching them how to be consistently expectant of good in their canine companions!