Many people believe that certain breeds of dogs–such as pit bull type dogs, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers–are innately aggressive. If fact, many areas have instituted breed bans, meaning that certain so-called dangerous breeds are outlawed or ownership is restricted due to this notion that certain types of dogs are naturally aggressive.
Such attitudes, however, tend to ignore the responsibility of the dog’s owner for the care and control of the dog. While the breeds of dog involved in fatal attacks has changed a great deal over the years, the number of fatal dog attacks has remained fairly consistent. Most studies show that it is not the breed of dog that causes aggression, but the behavior of the owner.
Dog breeds and aggression
Statistics have shown, over the years, that the incidence of dog bite related fatalities has stayed relatively constant over time. However, the identified breeds of dogs involved in the attacks has varied according to the breeds that are popular at the time, and often, no breed is identified at all.
Notably, too, identifying a dog’s breed is notoriously difficult, and is generally based on subjective criteria, such as victim and witness reports, which are frequently unreliable. As such, links between dog breed and aggression are not well supported. Reports on dog bite related injuries and fatalities from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) specifically disclaim any clear link between dog breed and potential for aggression, and discourage use of any such statistics to support bans or restrictions on specific breeds of dog.
Owner behavior and dog aggression
According to published studies, some of the clearest predictors for aggression in dogs involve not the breed of dog, but negligence on the part of the owners.
Studies have shown that owner behaviors such as the following are some of the strongest predictors of dog aggression:
- Owners who do not have their male dogs neutered
- Owners who leave their dogs outside for more than eight hours a day
- Owners who chain their dogs in the yard
- Owners who do not license their dogs
In general terms, it is the dog owners’ negligence to appropriately shelter, attend to, and care for their dogs that is most likely to result in that dog becoming aggressive and attacking.
It stands to reason that an owner whose dog has attacked someone would be unwilling to admit responsibility or prior knowledge of the dog’s behavior, as any admission of knowledge or culpability in the aggression would establish that the owner is liable for the dog’s behavior.
All too often, though, other factors are involved, including the owner’s treatment of their dog, knowledge of the dog’s aggressive tendencies, and other information that could be important to establish what caused the dog’s behavior, and whether the owner’s lack of care and control of the dog may have been a factor in the attack.
What to do if you have been bitten
If you or a loved one is bitten by a dog, the best course of action–once everyone is safe and the victim has received emergency medical care–is to contact an experienced dog bite lawyer who can advise you and help gather all the pertinent information regarding the incident, including any breed bans or restrictions in your area as well as other information that can help establish whether the owner’s negligence may have contributed to the attack.