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, when dogs get put to sleep without the owners trying to rehome the dog first, I have issues with it. The belief that kindness doesn’t extend to saving dogs from death row needs to change.

You might not want to “pass your problem onto others” but some people really can handle your problem. And to them it might not be a problem at all!

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, and another lady who used to train with me at the time decided to get a Malinois as well. She already had 2 aggressive German Shepherds that she couldn’t control. But one of them must have been gone by then.

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 her pup 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 her pup’s sire and dam and catch up with her pup’s brothers 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)  told me that the lady who owned that Malinois pup was having trouble with her. 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 the lady with her Malinois to join us as well because I wanted them to get the help they needed as well. 

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 don’t pretend to be the easiest person to get along with. I’m very blunt and to the point. OK, and opinionated. But that doesn’t mean that I enjoy seeing people fail! 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 the other Malinois pup. 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 the other lady’s Malinois had run across a field to attack another dog.

Everyone else knew this too in the Malinois community so that made it very difficult for me to find any homes for any of my 6 puppies. Anyway, one of my so called friends contacted me and told me that the lady was having her Malinois 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! But not only that, the Malinois didn’t need to be put to sleep because I could easily find 3 homes more than capable to have her and train her!

Anyway, when I begged my ex-friend to tell the lady with the Malinois that I had a range of homes lined up for her dog, but my friend 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! And that from someone who was a Vet Nurse, I really struggled to comprehend the situation! I couldn’t believe it! The people with the homes ended up contacting the lady directly. But I fear it was too late.


What Happened

The problem seems to be that the lady with the Malinois was insistent on raising her pup using only positive training methods. But Malinois aren’t biddable dogs, they need to hear no and they need to know that once you’ve said no that’s it. Refusing to properly educate her dog in not only the things she liked but also the things she didn’t like, cost that Malinois her life. The sad thing is that her owner was repeatedly offered help, however, she refused and I believe that her pride caused the death of her dog.

The lady’s other dogs were aggressive, and one of her GSDs had also sprinted across a field to attack my own dog, Kaz (not that Kaz is entirely innocent). So, really her Malinois 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 my electric collars, 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.). Plus it’s super useful to teach a dog how to understand pressure to help them handle stress better.

The Utopian ideology 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. 

This dog 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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