To bite or not to bite: The truth behind dog breed statistics

Hannah Gabel, Staff Writer

 

When it comes to dog breeds, there are a lot of debates and assumptions made on whether certain breeds are “good” or “bad.” These can be very broad, and blanket terms to describe a dog species as a whole, and can lead to some negative images about certain dog breeds that can make great pets.

Every dog breed was bred for a specific purpose, whether that be hunting specific animals, like rats, moles, or birds; for tracing specific scents; herding farm animals; or a number of other reasons. There are no dogs bred specifically to attack humans, and while those instances can happen, they are rather rare.

Throughout the years, there always tends to be one specific dog breed targeted with ideas about them being excessively aggressive, and more likely to attack anything. In the past, it was believed that dogs such as Dobermans, Rottweilers and Bull Terriers were the dangerous ones. However, those perceptions have been changed on those dog breeds, while people now seem to focus on the idea that Pitbulls and other similar breeds are the most aggressive. Yet, a growing number of people are speaking out in defense of Pitbulls, and how they make great family pets.

To start, Pitbulls are not a specific dog breed, but rather a term used for a group of similar breeds, such as American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, Staffordshire Bull-Terrier and many others. Most of the dogs under the term are called “Bully Breeds,” a breed group that originated in ancient Greece to herd farm animals and livestock, much like Collies and shepherding dogs. They obtained the nickname “bully breed” when were used to hunt bulls in a gruesome sport called “bull-baiting.” However, that sport has long since been outlawed and is no longer a common use for bully breeds.  

Because of this regular belief that bully breeds are fairly aggressive, numerous studies have been come out that focus on the number of attacks, and bites, people receive to give an accurate assessment of which breeds are more “dangerous,” and where bully breeds actually rank on that list. On the surveys studied, all of them either had no bully breeds on the top ten list at all, or had them ranked lower than first on the list. Two-thirds of the surveys listed the Chihuahua as the most aggressive dog. While it might be humorous given their size, it does make sense as it is common for people with small dogs to put more effort into training them because they are a small breed and thus cannot cause much damage if they do misbehave or even snap. Canine Journal conducted an open survey over three years which didn’t even have bully breeds on the “top ten most likely to bite” list, and even had some bully breeds on the “least likely” list. Dogs that were on the “most likely” list were various herding group dogs, such as Collies and German Shepherds, among other breeds. The reason for this is that shepherds and herding dogs are specifically bred to not only protect livestock, but also guide and steer large flocks of them to certain areas, which can often involve nipping at the livestock’s heels to encourage them to move. When owners fail to properly satisfy the herding dog’s needs, the dogs can turn to trying to herd the owner and their family and friends.

Yet, bully breed dogs still are commonly seen as the most aggressive or dangerous. The reason for this is that they are known to be used in dog fighting rings which earn a bad reputation for the breed as a whole, to no fault of their own. But the truth is that bully breeds are naturally very gentle dogs, and owners that put in the proper care and time into raising them, as they should with any dog breed, will have a very loving, loyal, family dog.

Dog bites and attacks still do occur though, but it isn’t as common as some people may think. According to a few studies, dog bites are estimated to happen about 4.5 million times each year, but over 80 percent of them cause little to no injuries. The study states that people are more likely to die from cataclysmic storms, hornet, wasps, and bee attacks, or from choking than they are from a dog attack. And there are always some extra precautionary measures to take to prevent potential dog attacks.

First and foremost, never approach or suddenly pet a dog, unless you have permission from the owner, not only is this polite for the owner of the dog, but the owner can warn you if they know their dog isn’t very social. If you ever come across a dog that seems unfriendly, back away slowly and calmly, while still facing the dog, making sure to avoid eye contact. When first introducing yourself to a dog of any sort, put out your hand palm up so the dog can get your scent, never immediately go to petting a dog on top of the head, as it can startle them and make them nervous or uncomfortable. Most importantly, don’t obsess over the idea that you’ll be attacked by a dog, as it is actually very rare. Dogs of all breeds are very loving and affectionate in their own ways, especially when raised properly.

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