Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

What are your thoughts on these dog statistics?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42473points) January 22nd, 2015

From this website.

St Bernard responsible for 7 fatalities over a 20 year span.
Great Dane, 7 fatalities.
Chow, 8 fatalities
Doberman Pinscher, 9 fatalities
Malamute, 12 fatalities
Wolf-Dog Hybrid (didn’t list fatalities)
Husky, 15 fatalities
German Shepherd, 17 fatalities
Rottweiler, 39 fatalities
Pit Bull, 66 fatalities

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23 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

One thought is that, aside from “wolf-dog hybrid”, “Pit Bull” is the only dog on this list that isn’t an officially recognized breed. In reporting bites and attacks, any mixed-breed dog that is muscular and has a block head gets called a “Pit Bull”. Right there, you’ve described a large proportion of the dogs running loose in American cities.

When you do this, you end up comparing dogs that people have typically paid quite a lot of money for (and, presumably, get treated as valued animals) with dogs that have no status-symbol or monetary value and are treated accordingly. Dogs take their social cues from their owners (if they even have owners). These stats say more about the kinds of treatment these different sorts of dogs tend to receive than about the dogs themselves.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, they called it a pit bull terrier. I watched a documentary about dogs last night. They said the most aggressive, dangerous dog is actually the terriers. Terriers were bred to kill other animals (rats) mindlessly and viciously.

Jaxk's avatar

It would seem that the number of dogs in the population would be an important factor. If there are twice as many of one breed, you would expect to see twice as many fatalities. I’m not sure this article tells us much beyond their opinion.

thorninmud's avatar

@Dutchess_III There’s an organization (the American Temperament Test Society) that runs temperament tests on individual dogs. These test put the dogs through a variety of challenging situations and evaluate how the dogs respond (fearfully, aggressively, calmly, etc.). If the dogs get through the tests calmly, they get a passing grade. They also compile aggregate statistics for different breeds. Here are the stats (this is just the first page of the alphabetized list) showing the percentage of dogs in each breed that pass the test.

You can see that 86.8% of American Pit Bull Terriers pass the test. That’s higher than Beagles, Border Collies, Collies, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Dalmations, German Shepherds, GOLDEN RETRIEVERS (!)...on and on. You’ll also see that most anything with a “terrier” in it’s name scores pretty highly.

This kind of information is much more indicative of the actual character of a dog and breed than is any statistic based on eyewitness breed identification or that doesn’t control for environment and populations.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Very interesting @thorninmud. However, it’s not really a valid list. For example, English Pitbull scored 0%...but they only tested one dog. I think for it to be truly indicative they need to test the same number of each kind of dog.

But it was interesting. Thanks for sharing.

thorninmud's avatar

@Dutchess_III Yes, the bigger the sample, the more representative it will be. That’s why I only mentioned breeds with a large sample size.

Dutchess_III's avatar

On the other hand, they tested 870 American Pitbull Terriers. 115 failed.
However, they tested 3194 German Shepherds. 484 failed.

So of the Pitbulls, 7.5% of those tested failed.
Of the German Shepherds, 6.5% failed.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But I’m sure going to share it, and I have it book marked.

thorninmud's avatar

@Dutchess_III Math check:

15.15% (484/3194=.1515) of German Shepherds failed.

13.22% (115/870=.1322) of the American Pit Bull Terriers failed.

longgone's avatar

The website does not seem like a credible source.

Other thoughts:

1. The numbers would be far more interesting if they were relative to how many specimens of a breed there are.

2. If 100% of toy poodles bite a child in their life, I’d like to know that, too – presenting only fatalities is a little disappointing.

3. For an even slightly fair comparison of innate “viciousness”, all dogs would need to be raised in comparable environments. As it is, there is the possibility that certain breeds are more likely to be bought by a certain kind of human. Pit bull terriers, maybe?

Sidenote: As long as we refuse to treat dogs like canines, we should expect a lot more bites to come. Don’t allow a child to steal your family dog’s rawhide bone or pull his tail…that’s just asking for trouble.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Good points @longgone. So many people say it’s how they’re raised. In many cases yes, but in some cases it depends on the individual dog’s temperament. My Dakota was raised by a guy who tried and tried to make her viscous. I don’t remember if it was for one year or two. But he failed and so gave her to us. She is the gentlest, smartest dog I’ve ever had.

longgone's avatar

I found this most helpful when thinking about genetics vs. environment:

“A dog’s individual genetics determines the end posts on where it will sit on [a] continuum. Environment [...] then adjusts exactly where a dog will rest within those genetic parameters.”

VanArendonk Baugh

dappled_leaves's avatar

The original report, which summarizes many other cited studies, is not difficult to find. From this report:

“In contrast to what has been reported in the news media, the data contained
within this report CANNOT be used to infer any breed-specific risk for dog
bite fatalities (e.g., neither pit bull-type dogs nor Rottweilers can be said to be
more “dangerous” than any other breed based on the contents of this report). To
obtain such risk information it would be necessary to know the numbers of each
breed currently residing in the United States. Such information is not available.”

From a different report by AMVA:

“Owners of pit bull-type dogs deal with a strong breed stigma, however controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous.”

The “strong breed stigma” is certainly not helped by the clickbait site @Dutchess_III linked to, which said about the breed:

“To anyone who knows dogs, the American Pit Bull Terrier is no surprise at #1 on a list of deadliest dogs. In this study the Pit Bull stood far ahead of all the other breeds with 66 fatalities attributed to it. Known for their extremely aggressive nature, many states have legislation banning the breeding of pit bulls.”

As the AMVA study points out, pit bulls are preferred by violent people because of their reputation. It’s literally a vicious cycle.

Adagio's avatar

I don’t think those statistics alone say anything, so much depends on the owner, I would say that’s the most significant factor in aggression.

syz's avatar

The number of fatalities based on breed is essentially useless for drawing conclusion about breeds without numbers/percentages per breed.

After 30 years in veterinary medicine, I can tell you that I would absolutely rather deal with a pit bull than rotties, shepherds, chows, akitas, dachshunds, chihuahuas, shih tzus, min pins, cockers….... you get the gist. Let’s just say that I’ve never been bitten by a pittie.

Dutchess_III's avatar

As I said elsewhere, Pits were bred specifically for aggression and a willingness to kill other dogs. Since they’ve become mainstream it would appear that much of that is being bred out so we have a gentler dog. But you never know when you’re going to be faced with a throw back.
German Shepherds were bred for guarding. My dog instinctively paces off the back yard every morning. She places her self in close proximity to children and babies.

syz's avatar

They were originally bred a bull baiting dogs.

As an aside, dalmatians were bred as carriage dogs, and they bite more children than any other breed. In the veterinary world, we refer to them as “damnations” because they are so completely unreliable.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The Pit Bull was originally created as a fighting dog by crossbreeding bulldogs, mastiffs, and terriers to produce a dog that combined the size and strength of the mastiff, the gameness” and agility of the terrier, with the strength and tenacity of the bulldog.” Source

Bull baiting was a vicious sport that required vicious dogs.

JLeslie's avatar

It just reinfirces what I think in general. Pit bulls, Rottweillers and German shepards are scary dogs.

gailcalled's avatar

German shepherds are one of the top dogs of choice for guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, seizure dogs and therapy dogs.

Energetic and fun-loving, the breed is very fond of children once a relationship is established and a loyal family pet.

Consistently one of the United States most popular breeds according to AKC® Registration Statistics, the German Shepherd is also a loving family companion, herder and show competitor… approachable, direct and fearless.

thorninmud's avatar

The whole “bull” thing was not originally about viciousness, but about protection. It’s hard for us to relate to this today, but bulls (and here I mean actual bulls) used to pose a serious and frequent threat to humans in the countryside. They killed a significant number of people. The bullish dog breeds were trained to come between an attacking bull and a human and draw the bull away. There are many written accounts of people being saved from attacking bulls this way.

This required two main qualities: fearlessness and a strong devotion to humans. “Viciousness” wouldn’t have been an asset. It’s certainly possible to take a dog that has these qualities and channel them in dangerous ways, but they’re fundamentally excellent qualities for a dog to have.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I would be wary of German Shepherds in general myself, even though I own one. However, after my experience with Dakota I think German Shepherds are my favorite dog. SO intelligent. Critical thinking skills to boot.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I think the studies need to include the temperament and intentions of the owners to be more reliable. People looking for a status dog are more like to go for a dog that looks intimidating and anyone looking for a status dog is unlikely to raise the animal to be a polite and sweet member of society. As a dog trainer I have never worked with a Bull breed that wasn’t loveable and eager to please, I have, however, worked with Collies, Spaniels and Labradors that concerned me.

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