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Aggressive Dogs: Fact and Fiction

By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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The recent Presa Canario attack in San Francisco has focused the nation's attention on aggressive dog breeds and what to do about them. Many questions arise as a result of this ongoing dilemma. Is canine aggression the big problem? Are certain breeds more likely to be aggressive? What are the owners' and breeders' responsibilities and who, if anyone, is culpable when things go wrong.

This article provides a few facts to shed light on the situation in the United States. For a more in-depth look at the issue, see Aggressive Dogs and Society.

Facts

  • Each year, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs. (There are 58 million dogs in the United States.)

  • Children are three times more likely to be bitten than adults.

  • Over 500,000 people per year receive medical attention for dog bites.

  • There are about 10 dog bite fatalities per year.

  • Dog bites have reached epidemic proportions.

  • German shepherds and chow chows are more likely to be involved in biting incidents than other breeds.

  • Male dogs are six times more likely to bite than females.

  • Sexually intact dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs.

  • Rottweiler and pitbull breeds account for 67 percent of human fatalities.

  • The top 10 breeds involved in lethal dog bite attacks, accounting for four or more human deaths each over the last 20 years, are: pitbull-type (66), Rottweiler (39), German shepherd (17), husky-type (15), malamute (12), Doberman (9), chow chow (8), Saint Bernard (7), Great Dane (7) and Akita (4).

  • Twenty-five breeds have been involved in 238 dog bite fatalities over the past 20 years.

  • About 82 percent of deaths involved unrestrained dogs either on (58%) or off (24%) the owners' property

    True and False

  • All dogs may bite – its what dogs do. (TRUE)

  • Dog bites can largely be prevented by proper training and management. (TRUE)

  • Dog bite fatalities are relatively uncommon. (TRUE)

  • People are more dangerous than dogs. (TRUE)

  • Chronically irresponsible dog owners are to blame for many of the problems. (TRUE)

  • The owners, rather than the dogs, are the main problem. (OFTEN TRUE)

  • Children should be taught never to play with or approach a strange dog, and to avoid direct eye contact with unfamiliar dogs. They should also never play with a dog without adult supervision. (TRUE)

  • The breed of dog involved in the deadly San Francisco attack, the Presa Canario, has been banned in several countries throughout the world. (TRUE)

  • To single out certain breeds as potentially more dangerous is canine racism. (FALSE)

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