We seem to have become a nation fixated on certain breeds of dogs as the culprits in dog-related aggression toward humans. All dogs have teeth; therefore, all dogs can bite, from the cuddliest Pomeranian to the biggest of the big, Great Danes. Yet, not all dogs show aggression. Therefore, we have to ask why do some dogs show aggression and others do not?
Let’s look at two broad categories of dogs: family dogs and outdoor dogs. Family dogs live in the home, are socialized, played with, taken for walks, given appropriate veterinary care, including being spayed and neutered. In general, family dogs are members of the family. Outdoor dogs (meaning they live outdoors 24/7), are sometimes attached to a chain, live in makeshift kennels, or simply roam free. They are not socialized, they are not played with, they remain intact and in the case of females often have multiple litters throughout their lifetime. They sometimes don’t even get fed.
Yet, many communities want to ban a particular breed of dog, regardless of the breed’s function in the home—family dog, outdoor dog, guard dog, fighting dog, breeding dog. They want to ban the dog regardless of the owner’s level of commitment to the dog which would, in turn, affect the behavior of the dog. Communities want to ban breeds without understanding one of the most basic aspects of canine aggression—dogs don’t show aggression unless their humans train them to be aggressive, or treat them in abysmal ways by starving and beating them, denying them the most basic physical and psychological protection dogs require. It is ours, not the dogs’ fault, that we have created an animal who shows aggression, regardless of the breed.
Karen Delise in The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression states it most eloquently, “All breeds of dogs are created by men, therefore any breed-specific trait or ability is the result of artificial selection.
“Those who claim the Pit bull is destined by its genetic code to behave a certain way are denying the very fact that man has selected for these traits, continues to select for them and could just as easily select against them.”
Delise continues, “The fact that there is no documented case of a single, spayed/neutered Pit bull or Pit bull-type dog, maintained exclusively as a household pet, involved in a fatal attack on a human in the United States is proof that canine behavior is profoundly influenced by the function of the dog and quality of care and control practiced by owners.”
When you think about…is your dog a family dog or a resident dog? If you want a non-aggressive dog, you know what you need to do.