Whenever a dog kills someone it makes the news, but it really isn’t as likely as you might think. You’re 226 times more likely in your lifetime to be killed while walking down the street than to be killed by a dog, and 650 times more likely to die in a vehicle accident, but we haven’t tried to outlaw walking or cars to protect people — yet.
But we have created Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), which are laws that ban the ownership of certain kinds of dogs — generally pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, and several other power breeds. On the surface, there might appear to be statistical logic behind this, but it would be no different than banning only BMWs because more people are hit by them per year.
Now I have a question for you: What do you think is the most dangerous dog in the world?
If you answered a specific breed — any breed — then you’re wrong. The most dangerous dog in the world is the one that has been made that way by a human, and we only need to look at the pit bull to see why.
A hundred years ago, the major job of the pit bull breeds was to guard the home. Specifically, they kept watch over the children, even babies, and they often did it unsupervised. They had a well-deserved reputation as nanny dogs, and stories of pit bulls attacking humans were unheard of. Before the 1980s, there is only one incident, in 1947, when a pack of pit bulls killed a woman, but the only reason they did that is because a human made them do it.
Things changed in the 1980s as two trends met — dog fighting and gangs — and power breeds, including pit bulls, German shepherds, Rottweilers, and mastiffs, became the dogs of choice. They were used in dog fighting, and they were also trained as attack and guard dogs. Since dog fighting and gangs are both associated with the illegal drug trade, these breeds also made the perfect security to protect drug operations, dealers, and their money.
The reputation has nothing to do with the breed. These same people could have easily decided on St. Bernards or Labrador retrievers or Great Danes as attack or fighting dogs, and could have trained those breeds to do exactly the same thing. For that matter, Yorkies or Chihuahuas could be trained to show all the same aggression.
Of course, the bigger the dog is, the more dangerous it is simply because its bites are more likely to be fatal, but people aren’t only killed by the big dogs. People have been killed by beagles, dachshunds, and even Pomeranians. If you’ve ever seen a Pomeranian, you’re probably finding it hard to imagine that breed as a killer, but it has happened. Any dog can become aggressive, just as any dog can be balanced. The most important part of the equation is not the dog’s breed or the dog’s past. It’s the human Pack Leader involved.
In order to change the present situation we need education. First, we need to teach people that no dog is born to be a killer — we eliminated that need when we domesticated them, so they no longer have to hunt to survive.
Second, we need to teach people that a dog’s behavior is a direct result of the energy of the humans around it. Calm, assertive Pack Leaders have calm, submissive dogs. It’s only when we bring in weak or unstable energy that our dogs develop behavioral issues.
Certain breeds do have specific instincts, of course — sheepdogs herd and spaniels hunt — but by redirecting those instincts in other ways, like through Treibball or agility training, we fulfill the need without it turning into aggression or obsession.
When we first brought dogs into our human packs thousands of years ago we made a promise that still holds when we adopt a dog today: to help the dog live a happy, balanced life by letting it be a dog. There are no troubled breeds. That’s a myth. A dog’s misbehavior begins and ends with us.
Stay calm, and fulfill your dog!
Do you own a dog that has been targeted by BSL? Tell us your experience in the comments.