Okay this post is apparently not going to win me many friends but I feel an obligation to put it out there anyway! Recently I just read about another unprovoked dog-related death and surprise surprise the dog breed involved was a Pit Bull or some kinda pit bull mix.
Now here is why I feel obliged to touch on this subject; lately I have written a series of articles entitled Powerdogs featuring…well powerdogs! I will be the first to admit that this list is highly subjective and the criterion to make the list lies solely at my discretion (hey it is my list after all). For example I am not sure that the Great Dane will necessarily make the list but that is really of little relevance here.
I bring up this subject of Powerdogs because about 4 of those dog breeds on that list are what I consider dangerous dog breeds and I think it is only fair to point this out to those folks who might be excited by the prospect of getting a powerdog breed. It is also noteworthy that the dogs that fit my criteria as dangerous breeds were developed to fight (in other words fighting is inherent in their genetic legacy). The list by the way is not complete and will most certainly include the Pit Bull and the Rottweiler, the two dog breeds responsible for the most mauling-related human fatalities each year (not to mention the dog-on-dog attacks).
Clearing Up A Few Issues First
Under the right circumstances even the sweetest dog can lash out! Undoubtedly if a dog is raised cruelly in a harsh environment it is no big surprise when that dog turns out to be a menace, no matter the dog breed! But for purposes of this article we are going to assume that the dogs were raised in a loving environment and treated well!
Understanding Genetic Heritage And Individual Dog Temperament
Dr. Michael Fox said in his book Understanding Your Dog “Genetic factors are transmitted by inheritance, but the traits themselves are modified by interacting genetic and environmental factors. Training and early experience greatly influence these traits…”
In essence what is being said is that with training and early socialization it is possible to counteract to an extent the genetic traits inherently bred into any dog breed. However please note the operative phrase “to an extent!”
These days it is well understood by dog experts and authorities (but unfortunately not widely acknowledged by the common public) that by the 7th week of its life the temperament that a puppy possesses is the same temperament it will exhibit as an adult dog. It is in fact possible to determine the individual and different temperaments of puppies from the same litter.
Thus when (as so often happens) owners of Pit Bulls exclaim in outrage that the breed is being unfairly singled out and vilified by ignorant oafs (such as myself), they proffer as proof of their justified outrage the fact that they so happen to be the proud owners of the sweetest loving pit bull that there ever was! Well as previously noted, much like human family members possess and display totally different personalities, so will puppies from the same litter.
Now going back to the case of those owners with the sweetest pit bull there ever was there is a high likelihood that their dog exhibited high passive defense reflexes, high inhibitability levels and measured low on the dominance scale (for the breed at least). A dog with high passive defense reflexes requires a lot of stress and stimuli to be induced to bite. Some breeds have inherently higher levels than others, and even within the same breed different individual dogs display different levels.
The Pit Bull
There’s a very good reason why the Pit Bull is by far and away the leader in both human and dog maulings as well as fatalities and that is because the pit bull was selectively bred for those traits that predispose it to enhanced aggression; a trait that is very valuable in the fighting arena.
Touch Insensitivity Trait
One of the traits that was selectively bred for in the pit bull in order to make this dog breed into a more efficient fighter is what is known as touch insensitivity. This trait of touch insensitivity is common to dogs bred for fighting so that despite being severely wounded they would continue fighting. A dog high in this trait would be pretty much impervious to a might yank on its chain which goes a long way in explaining why it is so difficult to call off and disengage a pit bull engaged in an attack.
Other traits that were bred into the pit bull that enhance its violent nature are a tendency towards dominance and excitability; both excellent traits if you’re designing the ultimate fighter. Other features that the pit bull was selectively bred for all in the name of the “ultimate canine fighter” were enormous jaw strength, unparallel tenacity and extreme resilience!
In fact the Pit Bull is unique amongst dogs in exhibiting the unusual behavioral trait of being unfazed or undeterred in attacking opponents far larger than themselves. This would account for the unusual pattern of their attacks in that they are just as likely to attack an adult as they would a child! The Pit Bull is also notorious for attacking without warning or apparent provocation (that’s where that excitability trait comes into play).
The Rottweiler on the other hand (which is next on the list for most maulings and fatalities after the pit bull) displays a more normal child/adult attack ratio. All said and done, even though the Rottwieler is a bigger and more powerful dog than the pit bull, one has a better chance of surviving a Rottweiler attack than that of a Pit Bull, if for nothing else than that the Rottweiler does not possess the unrelenting tenacity or resilience of the Pitbull.
But Other Dog Breeds Bite Too!
This is the most often quipped disclaimer whenever the statistics for dog bites, maimings and fatalities are compiled and made public. True other dog breeds are involved in attacks but of all the breeds involved two especially stand out (yeah I know I’ve listed 3 dog types):
Pit Bull: 1110 Attacks; 608 Severe Maimings; 104 Deaths.
Rottweiler: 409 Attacks; 223 Severe Maimings; 58 Deaths.
Wolf Hybrid: 71 Attacks; 43 Severe Maimings; 18 Deaths.
These figures alone do not tell the whole story because they do not take into account the prevalence of a particular dog breed in society. For example there are far fewer wolf hybrid dogs than there are the other two breeds which means that proportionally many more fatalities resulted from wolf hybrid attacks than they did from the Pit Bull or Rottweiler.
That PDF report is excellent save for the small error where the author listed the Bullmastiff as the Presa Canario which is an entirely different dog breed altogether. The Presa Canario makes my list of dangerous breeds (unlike the Bullmastiff) and has indeed been banned in many countries.
On a final note concerning the aspect of Powerdogs that I have listed (and those which I haven’t but will eventually ) the following make my list of dangerous dog breeds:
- Tosa Inu
- Presa Canario
- Pit Bull
Of those four dog breeds on the list the only one that wasn’t singularly developed as a fighter is the Rottweiler. In Scandinavia breeders for some time have been trying to reduce the tendency of the Rottweiler to displaying unprovoked aggression through a program of selective breeding much in the same way that the Great Dane was converted into the lovable giant of today!
All the other breeds on my short list of dangerous dogs were developed as fighters and even though the Pit Bull is better known, the Presa Canario is probably a more dangerous dog for the fact it has all the fighting abilities of the Pit Bull except in a bigger and more powerful package.
The Japanese Tosa Inu is not as long-legged and heavy weight as its American cousin (200 lbs) and is yet another dog breed like the Presa Canario that has been banned in many countries (not surprisingly because this dog is typically heavier than 150 lbs and when in a rage would be truly difficult to bring under control).
It is of note that some other large and formidable Powerdog breeds with excellent fighting skills have not made it onto my list of dangerous dog breeds.
For example the Boerboel, a large Mastiff descendant, has been known to kill a leopard single-handedly! The formidable Kangal dog is a proven wolf slayer while the Caucasian Mountain dog is another huge powerful livestock protection dog that can easily best a Rottweiler!
So why aren’t these dogs on my list of dangerous dog breeds?
Simple! They were never bred as fighters but rather flock guardians and protector dogs; thus they do not display the overt aggression characteristic of dogs that were bred to fight!
Article on savage dogs by Kayye Nynne