When Dogs Pay
With Their Lives

Luzelle & Puppy Sage of HausTralis Malinois at Starbucks Botany Auckland

By Luzelle Cockburn

I love dogs. So when a dog needs to be put to sleep for something that can be fixed, I have issues with it. The belief that kindness doesn’t extend to saving dogs from death row needs to change.

Showing a dog how to behave so that they can enjoy more freedoms and go more places with you, is the ultimate kindness. Excessive management of dogs isn’t kind. And neither is denying dogs the training they need to become great dogs. That’s when you are failing dogs. That’s when dogs pay with their lives.

A few years ago, a dog paid with her life. Here is that story from my perspective. 

“The Utopian idiology that all a dog needs is love does not fit who dogs are. Dogs are carnivores, dogs are predators, dogs are opportunists, dogs are scavengers. Dogs use their teeth as part of their communication.”

When Dogs Land in the Wrong Hands

When I got my first Malinois Delta, Theresa decided to get a Malinois as well. Theresa and I used to train together. She already had 2 aggressive German Shepherds, I can’t really remember if Bronx was gone by then yet, he must have been. It’s been ages ago now. 

Anyway, I was really happy for her. She stopped training with our group though for some reason. I think she wanted to focus on Agility, and my focus at the time was more obedience. Though the way we trained, wouldn’t have affected her goals. But, I guess that’s not really important. I met her and Kira at a beach one day and I invited her to come with me to the Schutzhund club in Hamilton. There she could meet the owners of Kira’s sire and dam and catch up with Kira’s brothers and sisters as well.

It must have been about a year later that my friends (at the time, this is also the story of the end of that friendship, I just cannot justify being friends with anyone who would rather have a dog put to sleep than save their life, but I digress) Estelle and Michalla told me that Theresa was having trouble with Kira. I was having a friend out to do a seminar (trust, me, Delta was no walk in the park! I had invited my friend out because I was having trouble with Delta as well) and I invited Theresa to join us. I wanted Kira and Theresa to get the help they needed. 

I realised there was some tension so I even said that I wouldn’t attend it if it meant that she could get help. I mean, I got the feeling that the tension was mostly between me and Theresa. I don’t pretend to be the easiest person to get along with. I’m very blunt and to the point. OK, and opinionated. The offer was never taken up.

Puppies & Problems


Anyway, I found myself with a litter of puppies, they were about 3 weeks old – and the sire was a dog I did not want to use. The same sire as Theresa’s Kira had. Firstly, I’d heard that one of his pups, owned by the breeder, had badly attacked a visitor without provocation. Plus I already knew that Theresa’s Malinois had run across a field to attack another dog.

Everyone else knew this too in the Malinois communeity so that made it very difficult to find any homes for my 6 puppies. Anyway, Estelle contacted me and told me that Theresa was having Kira put to sleep. Immdiately I jumped in and organised 3 possible homes for her. Because 1 half sibling getting put to sleep for aggression was bad enough, but having 2 half siblings put to sleep was not good for my precious litter, or Malinois!

Anyway, when I begged Estelle to tell Theresa I had a range of homes lined up for Kira, Estelle replied “I don’t really know how much I want to be involved with this”. Are you kidding me? A dog is about to lose her life, and you are not prepared to do ANYTHING to try and help the dog? You do not want to help save a dog’s life? I was disgusted! I couldn’t believe it! The people with the homes ended up contacting Theresa directly. But I fear it was too late.


What Happened

Theresa refused to use any kind of correction on Kira. That cost Kira her life. Theresa was repeatedly offered help, however, she was training with Claire Wellington a local Agility trainer and positive only trainer. I’m not sure if it was Claire’s influence, but Theresa would not use corrections on Kira, despite being told numerous times by different people that it would benefit Kira.

Theresa’s other dogs were aggressive, and her GSD Bear had also sprinted across a field to attack my own dog, Kaz (not that Kaz is entirely innocent). So, really Kira didn’t have much hope. Especially when it comes to Malinois, you cannot expect them to make good decisions, they’re just not that kind of dog. Consequences for bad decisions need to be part of their education.

And Malinois are not the only breed who needs this. Most dogs benefit from clear rules and a mix of positive consequences for good choices and negative consequences for bad choices.

The Future

I worry about Malinois in particular and I worry about the uproar in banning tools. To be honest, I rarely use any tools anyway, it’s too difficult to remember to charge them, etc. But I still see the value in being able to use them. And I feel it’s important to teach all of my dogs how prong collars and e-collars work, incase the tool is required for whatever reason (e.g. Kiwi Aversion training, etc).

The Utopian idiology that all a dog needs is love does not fit who dogs are. Dogs are carnivores, dogs are predators, dogs are opportunists, dogs are scavengers. Dogs use their teeth as part of their communication. And dogs use a lot of corrections in their everyday dealings. Expecting dogs to learn how to be good with purely love and unicorns is a recipe for disaster. 

Kira paid with her life. We don’t need to take the tools away from dog owners and basically cutting their hands off from handling the carnivorous, scavenging, opportunistic predators in their homes. Yes, your dog can be your rock in times of stress, but a lack of education and consequences for bad choices is turning dogs into spoiled brats. We are seeing a rise in dog bites because of it.

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About SolutionK9 Luzelle & Walter

Hey, I’m Luzelle!

If it has to do with transforming your naughty, embarrassing, frustrating or worrying dog into an obedient, well behaved member of the canine society that you can actually enjoy spending your life with, I can help.

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