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Canine disarming: One family’s experience

One family’s experience with “canine disarming” — a controversial last resort for dogs who haven’t been able to lick the biting habit — was the subject of a first person account in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times.

Dog owner Diane R. Krieger wrote about her dog, Cotton, a six-year-old American Eskimo dog who even ”Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan couldn’t help,

“I had tried everything. Puppy classes and basic-training at the neighborhood PetSmart. A library of self-help books and videos. Even a pricey dog-aggression expert whose Israeli accent made me want to stand at attention. He ordered counter-conditioning and desensitization drills, supplemented by a low-protein diet and a doggie herbal remedy akin to St. John’s Wort…

“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.

“Finally, I appealed to the fabled Dog Whisperer.”

Krieger writes that Cotton became calm and submissive — until Millan left.

Running out of options, she considered surrendering the dog, and even euthanasia.

Then she saw an Animal Planet program featuring Dr. David Nielsen, a veterinary dentist based in Manhattan Beach, talking about a miracle fix: “canine disarming.”

Instead of extracting the four canine teeth, Nielsen cuts away 4 millimeters of tooth, then blunts the extra set of pointy incisors. Nielsen says he has “disarmed” some 300 animals in the last dozen years, not all of them dogs.

Kireger notes that Nielsen may be something of a maverick. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that disarming dogs, once fairly common, fell out of favor several years ago as behavioral modification techniques improved. The association is opposed to either tooth removal or disarming.

The American Veterinary Dental College agrees that disarming is controversial, but in a position statement adopted in 2005 it endorsed the procedure in “selected cases.”

Cotton’s reconfigured choppers cost Krieger $1,600, and led to no lasting physical side effects.

Nielsen told Krieger canine disarming does have psychological effects, though. “You can see it in their eyes almost the moment they wake up from the anesthesia. It’s like they’re wondering, ‘who took away my knives?’”

Cotton still bites, Krieger wrote, but inflicts little damage.

Comments

Comment from Ed
Time July 29, 2009 at 7:55 pm

I can’t see how this is worse vet practice than performing corrective surgery on intact AKC show dogs who can’t breathe or eat or use their eyes without an operation.

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