Aggressive Dog Teeth Removal

Is "Disarming" Your Dog the Easy Way Out?

Aggressive dog teeth removal
Aggressive dog teeth removal

Teeth Extraction for Aggressive Dogs

If you own an aggressive dog, you may be desperately looking for solutions, especially if your dog now has a bite history. Teeth extraction for aggressive dogs may have crossed your mind, especially if you own a level 4 or 5 biter, but is this an acceptable form of treatment? Is this more something of a last resort? Let's take a closer look at what this procedure exactly entails and then look at some important considerations to keep in mind.

What is exactly teeth extraction for an aggressive dog and what does it entail? First, let's take a closer look at Rover's teeth. As hunters, there's no doubt that dogs have been blessed with powerful jaws neatly lined up by sharp blades of teeth. These 42 weapons to be exact, are there as to attest to the dog's meat-eating evolutionary past; a daily reminder of what life must have been in the wild. The 12 incisors were used to cut, nibble, pick up objects and groom. The 4 fangs, better known as canines, were meant to tear food, slash and puncture when fighting and to cradle the tongue and keep it in place. The 16 premolars helped with cutting, shearing, carrying items and breaking food into smaller particles. Finally, the 10 molars were used and continue to be used for grinding food.

When a dog bites, there's no doubt about the fact that those teeth can cause extensive damage to the skin, soft tissue and muscles. Even when a dog's teeth don't puncture the skin, the bite itself can cause bruises to the underlying soft tissue. So how does teeth extraction work, and what does the procedure entail?

Generally, a veterinarian may opt to extract teeth when behavior modification and other measures have failed and euthanasia is being considered. In this case, the vet may suggest an invasive procedure such as full mouth extraction or crown reduction-- a procedure where the teeth are filed down to the gingival margin. Removing the teeth though may appear to be a quick fix, but does it solve the problem?

Dogs with extracted teeth may still do harm.
Dogs with extracted teeth may still do harm. | Source

Evaluating Teeth Extraction for Aggressive Dogs

Perhaps one of the most famous cases of canine "disarming" was Cotton, the American Eskimo who had a history of biting and the Dog Whisperer was unable to help. In this case, a laser vital pulpotomy at the level of the canines was performed making the canines quite blunt. Removing Rover's teeth may look like a quick fix; after all, since without teeth a dog shouldn't be able to do harm, correct? Teeth removal for aggressive dogs though is not a cure-all remedy. Let's take a look into what important organizations have to say about this procedure.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is opposed to teeth extraction or reduction of healthy teeth as a solution for dog aggression. The reason for this position statement are several. For starters, teeth removal fails to address the underlying cause for the aggressive behavior in the first place, and secondly, the dog's welfare can be negatively affected due to potentially painful and invasive procedure. And last but not least, consider that dogs are still capable for causing extensive injury with the remaining teeth. A better option would be to consult with a professional behaviorist.

The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) further warns that teeth extraction for the purpose of decreasing aggression, will "not absolutely prevent injury to people or to other animals." However, according to the organization's position statement: " the removal of crowns of teeth may be necessary in selected cases."

Should teeth extraction in aggressive dogs be an option?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Only for severe cases at risk for euthanasia
See results without voting

Alternatives to Teeth Extraction

Proper management and behavior modification carried out by an experienced behavior professional is the preferred protocol when it comes to dealing with aggressive dog behavior. Of course, this route is undertaken after having ruled out medical conditions. Confrontational training techniques are not recommended as these increase the dog’s aggression and may lead to punishment fallout. Counter-conditioning and desensitization are positive, more appropriate methods that can be employed in the rehabilitation process.

Management is key in preventing the dog from rehearsing the biting behavior and keeping the public safe. Crates, safe fences, leashes and muzzles are important management tools. Also important is not exposing the dog to triggers of such an intensity as to cause the aggressive behavior. This often entails walking the dog in the hours when he's less likely to be exposed to people/other dogs, locking the dog in an inaccessible room when there are children visiting, muzzling the dog at the vet, etc.

The welfare implications of a tooth extraction procedure should be evaluated carefully. It's important to determine what is causing the aggression in the first place and assess the best behavior modification protocol. Consulting with a veterinary behaviorist is recommended. It would be unfair to resort to such a drastic procedure when the aggression may be due to an underlying medical condition such as hypothyroidism or chronic pain. In a few cases, re-homing the aggressive dog may be an option.

Removing crowns of teeth may provide a false sense of security and often doesn't address the dog's level of suffering. Aggression is often defensive behavior carried out by fearful, anxious dogs. A dog without teeth may no longer sink his canines in your skin, but his underlying stress levels may remain high and addressing them is of paramount importance so to relieve the dog's suffering.

Another alternative a colleague trainer of mine brought to my attention, is the Saciri Bite Guard. This may look like a brilliant invention, but it doesn't take a behavior expert to read the Rottweiler's uncomfortable body language when he is exposed to the child in the video below. Such options should not be used as a substitute for behavior modification, and most importantly, the dog should not be exposed and placed into situations he cannot handle in the first place!

If your dog is suffering from aggression and you are concerned about safety, consult with a veterinary behaviorist before resorting to tooth extraction. Teeth removal shouldn't be considered unless all other treatment options have failed. And remember: an aggressive dog with extracted teeth has still the potential for being dangerous!

Disclaimer: this article is not a substitute for professional behavior advice. If your dog is aggressive, consult with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

Alexadry© All rights reeserved

The Saciri Bite Guard: Brilliant Safety Measure or Bandaid?

Saciri Bite Guard: Brilliant Invention, or Band-Aid?

  • Brilliant invention, will help prevent bite injuries
  • Band-Aid, won't fix the behavioral problems
  • Acceptable, can be used along with behavior modification
  • Not acceptable, people will put dogs in situations they can't handle
  • It looks uncomfortable.
See results without voting

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gail641 profile image

gail641 3 years ago from Mason City

Hi, it would be hard for a dog to eat if its teeth were all extracted. It would be better as a last result rather than having to put a dog to sleep, but only if the aggressive behavior can't be fixed. Very interesting hub!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

I agree Gail! I wrote this hub cause I had a person asking me about this option and wanted to give a detailed answer, so I printed this out for her along with the position statements. It's interesting to see what inventions/procedures have been created to reduce dog biting. Disarming a dog isn't really the cure-all solution expected.

gail641 profile image

gail641 3 years ago from Mason City

I agree, too. I think its best to be positive about aggressive problems with dogs, and to try to help dogs that need help with aggression.

epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Interesting hub. I never even knew teeth removal was an option to curb aggressive behavior. I'd have to imagine that they could still do some damage. I've seen aggressive dogs go for behavior training and it seemed to have helped. It did take a long while, however. Great hub- voted up!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for the votes up epbooks. Behavior modification for aggression indeed takes time and the owners need to keep up. It's not easy and requires loads of management.

Wendy Bonds 3 years ago

SeeThe Animal Medical site on canine disarming. It gives a good overview of the process. Each case has to be evaluated on its own merits and in some cases, a truly aggressive dog who has gone through behavior therapy,ect. might be beyond benefiting by being disarmed, but for many dogs it is a life saving process. You don't put your pet down if there is a chance of saving it!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Wendy, thanks for commenting and allowing others to read about your experience. I have denied your first post because it has your e-mail address, I don't want spammers and other malicious people to get a hold of it, but I will happily post your experience in this quoted segment without your e-mail: "Our rescue Golden Retriever/Collie/? was disarmed in May '13 by a veterinary of dentistry & we are completely at peace with our decision to try it as a solution to his snapping without body language signs or warning growls. Otherwise, he would have been euthanized, as we were his 'last chance' parents. He had been rescued & raised by a positive reinforcement trainer(award winning) as a pup & adopted by friends of the trainer who had children. Although we don't know the whole story(Nannie involved) he bit a child sometime around his 2nd birthday(Dog's bd) & was surrendered to a dog sanctuary. The original trainer rescued him from there. In hopes that pain from an elbow problem was causing the snapping behavior, the trainer had our dog go through stem cell therapy. We adopted him the following week. He was highly stressed & we gave him his space, continuing with training. Within the 1st month he bit my husband's thumb & 1 of our dogs. In the next few months, he bit both of our other 2 dogs, my daughter's dog and finally me. Our choices were euthanization, behavior therapist(for a dog with near perfect training responses who was a joy 99.9% of the time) or disarming him immediately. I could not picture allowing him to remain a threat to our other dogs or us while we tried the behavior therapy & did not want to euthanize, so after discussing options with the trainer and dentistry vet, he was disarmed. I picked him up the afternoon of the surgery and he as on pain meds & antibiotics for 10 days. He actually showed no signs of pain, even during recovery. We have not had an incident of aggression with him in 3 1/2 months & gradually our other 2 dogs have accepted him into the pack. He seems to know that he no longer has the option of snapping to express his discomfort with situations. We continue to feed him softened kibble(Fromms) with a Tbsp. of canned food mixed in(although the vet said this wasn't necessary past the 1st ten days). He can play with toys, chase balls,ect & live a normal dog life(we'll always avoid contact with children & take precautions around other people & dogs). Disarming him hasn't seemed, from our viewpoint, any serious consequences for him other than making it harder to hold on to some types of toys. But he's alive & happy and we do not regret our decision. Leave a post if you're considering this option & need someone to discuss it with or e-mail me at -address removed for privacy reasons-" Wendy Bonds

Lucas 2 years ago

Hi, I have owned different breeds all my life, rescued, fostered,am part of a charity that gives scholarships for dog training etc. I am well educated and do have means and have had good dog trainers to work with. This past Dec I pulled a mix, 10mos old from NY that was to be euthanized for displaying aggressive behaviors. I knew work would be involved but this dog had been stabbed by owner, no details, taken to vet for 3 months to recover andcthen back to animal control. I did shut down, basic training and tried to start integration. I quickly found after about a month she is fear aggressive and dominant. She will bite. Luckily the people she has bit did not require medical attention but the fear and fight response was clear. This has happened with my other half who she loves also. We have tried tovwork on her dominance issues and I try to desensitize her to new situations and stangers but she is unpredictable. Even our people that she is OK with 10 times she will then bite them the 11th time. Luckily these people have been friends with no serious injury but she is a huge liability. We have no kids, she has her own bedroom we can put her in but I can't socialize her as much as Id like because of the bite factor. She wants attention, she is happy in her comfort zone, the yard and house but I would like her to be able to make friends and keep them, keep trust building. Right now she has me and my husband that can handle her but if he comes near me when we are together she tries to go for him. She has bitten him twice but tried more. So my vet and both of us have discussed putting her down. The problem is she has made small steps and we both love her. My father suggested removing her teeth. I am leaning towards it because I feel we could work with her more with our dog savy friends with less chance of someone getting really hurt. Of course shell probably never be one of our dogs to be around people that come over and I understand she is still a liability as all my dogs are. Weve done, doing dog training. We do have a vet behaviorist we could go to but even on doggie xanax I know she will be so intense it wont prevent her from biting if she goes for it. I have to muzzle her and drug her to go to the vet, she had a bowel obstruction and we took her home after surgery because the vet called ans said she was starting to snap as she was coming out of anesthesia. I am in the medical field so am practical about medical implications. Any thoughts from anyone who has done this?

Wendy Bonds 2 years ago

Hi Lucas,

I understand what you're going through! It's been over a year since we disarmed our rescue(see above post). We did have one incident a few months after the procedure where he bit using his remaining side teeth & did break skin but it was a food aggression issue that could and should have been avoided by us. Over the past year he has gradually learned to trust us and he feels much more secure. Nevertheless, we will always have to be careful with him and limit his contact with visitors, ect. More than ever, though, we feel we made the right decision in disarming him. It's given him the time to recover from whatever trauma occurred prior to his rescue and he's definitely been worth it. It's not a cure-all though and the ability to bite and cause damage is still there, just not to the degree that having a full mouth of teeth gave him. Best of luck in making your decision. Each case is different but I'm glad you're at least considering it as an option!

Brynn Thorssen profile image

Brynn Thorssen 16 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO

My mother had a very aggressive rat terrier. She got it from a shelter and had to eventually give it up to a "home" for other naughty terriers because it would attack us whenever we were eating. It became a danger to my children (and the ONLY time it would attack is when we were eating) and then became so unruly with my mother that she thought about putting it down. She was a long-time dog owner and even a breeder in the 1970s of afghan hounds, so she was quite experienced in raising and training dogs but Max was not going to be cured.

I think the bigger issue is that people need to stop thinking of dogs as accessories and breeding needs to come to a standstill. Most people I know who have dogs shouldn't have dogs. And shelters need to be more honest about the dogs they are adopting out. I know it's a difficult decision, but judging by the animals that just my mom has adopted, perhaps more of them need to be put down before they're dumped on another unknowing family. I know it sounds terribly cruel, but Max was a truly horrid little dog and how the shelter could adopt him out again is beyond me.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 16 months ago from USA Author

I am sorry to hear your mom had to go through such an experience. I agree that shelters should be very careful in screening dogs before placing them in homes, especially if the homes have children! Some shelters are better at assessing than others. Some are horrific, I have fostered shelter dogs and these dogs were definitively not suitable to go to a home! While resource guarding is something they should definitively screen for, unfortunately, they are also sometimes limited in assessing certain types of aggression that occur only in specific contexts or situations. In my opinion, it would be ideal to have more experienced people fostering dogs before for a certain time frame being adopted out, so they can actually observe the dog beyond the "honeymoon period" and assess them better, but it's likely not as easy as one would think finding all this help.

Alicia Jen 7 months ago

Overall, it is after a dog mauling that you wished you had had this procedure done on your dog. A child's face or your friend's leg is more important than a dog. A good dog may be great with his family, but if he mauls a intruder or a neighbor's pet, you could be liable. Humans are more important than animals. Animals who don't respect humans, gotta be dealt with. It only takes one bad bite to ruin your or someone else's life.

Michaela 7 months ago

We have a young pitbull . OK with people but have had a couple of serious incidents with our other dogs. Considering canine extraction rather than euthanasia. I know she will still be able to cause damage but less likely to kill.

Wendy Bonds 7 months ago

If it's between the two, I'd try canine dental disarming (along with working with a reputable trainer). Warning: it cost us $2100 for the procedure & good trainers aren't cheap! Have you worked with a trainer yet?

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    Adrienne Janet Farricelli (alexadry)1,687 Followers
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    Adrienne Farricelli is a former veterinary hospital assistant and now a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of dog books.

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