Aggressive Dogs – Who’s At Fault: Is It The Aggressive Dog Or The Pet Owner?
Sadly, stories of the aggressive dog have been in the media lately, but is it a problem with the breed or are we as a society at fault?
This is such an emotive subject especially when people are killed or children are harmed. Many studies have been undertaken to prove whether aggressiveness is related to breeding, or if it’s due to other reasons. The results might surprise you.
The issue with aggressive dogs is very much a public health and animal welfare issue. With more than 39% of households owning a dog and there being over 4.2 million pet dogs it is essential that we have programs in place that help us to be better dog owners.
We need these programs not only for our sake but for our dogs.
Most Aggressive Dog Breeds
It is very easy to be misled into believing that certain breeds are more aggressive than others.
We’ve all heard the tragic stories of people being horrendously injured or killed.
The majority of dogs that have been at the centre of this are often big and powerful.
We need to remember that these are biases attributable to a disproportionate risk of injury associated with larger and/or more physically powerful breeds.
As a vet in practice, I can tell you that there are some very scary chihuahuas out there!
The importation of the following breeds of dog into Australia is prohibited:
American pit bull terrier
Perro de Presa Canario or Presa Canario
Each state has it’s own definition of what a restricted breed of dog is defined as. You can find the laws here:
In the US, some states allow insurance companies to deny giving you insurance if you own one of the following blacklisted dog breeds or a cross with one of these breeds:
- Pit Bull Terriers
- Staffordshire Terriers
- German Shepherds
- Presa Canarios
- Chows Chows
- Doberman Pinschers
- Cane Corsos
- Great Danes
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Siberian Huskies
Breed specific bias is, therefore, alive and well, but is this really the problem?
While these might be the most aggressive dog breeds as per an insurance company, is it more appropriate to say that they are the ones that might just inflict the most damage?
Is Breed Restrictive Legislation Working?
The simple answer is no.
All dogs have the potential to bite regardless of it’s breed.
Risk factors for biting causing serious harm include:
- the dog’s behaviour/training
- the dog’s size
- the number of dogs involved
- the vulnerability of the person bitten or the other animal attacked
- how the dog is treated by it’s owner
- sex of the dog and neutering status
- the target i.e. owner vs stranger
- location of the dog i.e. urban vs rural
As Duffy et al (2008) wrote of their survey-based data: “The substantial within-breed variation…suggests that it is inappropriate to make predictions about a given dog’s propensity for aggressive behaviour based solely on its breed.”
How To Stop Dog Aggression
As we mentioned above, it isn’t the breed of dog that is the problem, it is the environment and how the dog is trained that results in dog aggressive behaviour.
Unfortunately, there have been a few very prominent dog trainers over the years that promote a dominance-based assertive leadership type training that has only made dog behaviour worse.
It is important to try and understand why your dog or what your dog is being aggressive towards before we can begin to work on the behaviour.
Common Types Of Dog Aggression
Competitive (new baby) aggression
Possessive (eg. food, toy) aggression
Idiopathic vicious attacks
Once we understand what triggers the aggression then we can take steps to change the dog’s behaviour.
Treatment Of Dog Aggression
Personal safety and the safety of other people and children must come first. Please seek professional help from Your Vet Online where we can advise what you need to do to keep safe and get a good outcome.
The key aspect of treating dog aggression is to reward good behaviour and ignore every other type of behaviour. You need to make it very clear to the dog that you as the owner control all things of value: cuddles, food, furniture, toys.
For the dog to get what it wants, it must obey commands. You do not give it what it wants, i.e. a treat, unless it sits.
Start with the easy things first like sit. Avoid situations that can trigger the issues until you have the basics mastered.
A qualified Delta trainer can assist you with this.
Prevention Of Aggression In Dogs
There are many ways that we as a community can prevent dog aggression.
Much of it comes down to learning how to train our own dogs from a young age, and how to act around other dogs.
We will be covering a lot more of this in the weeks to come.
In the interim, if you have a problem with an aggressive dog contact Your Vet Online for help. Together we can work to make our community safer.
Do you have aggressive dogs in your community? Tell us about what you see and what ideas you have to solve these problems.