Should we get rid of my grandmother's aggressive dog?

Beckert7 asked...

My grandmother has had a lap dog for about 7 years and she has been very important to my granmother. My Cousin gave her the dog. The dog has always been slightly aggressive. Now the dog is at least 10 and is starting to go blind and get very aggressive. My grandmother doesn't get good rest and neither do my husband and I because the dog with wake us up literally screaming. She is barking all the time and has been biting. She pees in my grandmothers closet regualarly and if we shut the door she does it on the couch. She bit my granmothers nose(even though grandma swears she didn't) My grandmother smothers her so the dog bites at her hands and face. She attacks our other dog now. I know the dog is scared and can't help acting out but I don't know at what point it isn't safe to have the dog around. She is also aggressive at some of the babies that come to out house. My family agrees she isn't safe but don't want to take that from grandma. Currently Grandma keeps saying she is so suprised that Holly is still alive because she is so old. I don't know if this is the perfect time to get rid of the dog and just get a new one to replace it. She is in the last stages of Alheimer's but thrives with a dog to take care of.

Expert Answer

For 20 years, physical therapist Connie Lambert has worked with individuals and families with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. As founder and CEO of Our Generations, LLC, she provides specialized dementia and behavioral management training for corporations, facilities, and groups.

Yours is a difficult situation, especially since your grandmother thrives on "caring" for the dog. But, from what you describe the situation is unhealthy for your grandmother, the rest of the family and for the dog. She lacks the judgment to care for a dog with special needs and also to protect herself. I would suggest you try the following steps:

  1. Call your vet, the humane society or a pet rescue society and discuss your situation. Be clear that the dog can no longer live in your home. The experts can help determine if the dog's condition is painful and requires euthanasia or if she just requires a different environment.

  2. Discuss your decision with your grandmother and let her know the dog is in pain or frightened when she is crying and needs a "special" environment.

  3. Try to replace her "caregiving" with another activity. If there is another animal in the house perhaps she can assist in the care of it. But before you replace the aging dog with another dog remember that your grandmother will need supervision while caring for any animal. Her tendency to "smother" the dog, as you described, can cause even the tamest personality to act out a bit.

I wish you the best of luck in handing this very sensitive situation.