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If you were to ask random people on the street, “What’s the most aggressive breed of dog?” you’d probably get typical answers like “Pit Bulls” or “Rottweilers.”
The truth, though, might surprise you.
It’s often not the Pits and the Rotts that you have to worry about if you’re concerned about being bitten – it’s the little guys. You have to watch out for Dachshunds and their owners, and all manner of other little dogs.
Of course, if a little dog bites you, it’s not likely going to be a big deal – you’re just going to slap an elastic strip on the wound and forget about it. As opposed, to say, having your hand re-attached if a Rottie bites you.
The thing is, though, the research seems to indicate that little dogs are far more likely to bite than the big bruisers.
Of course, nobody is screaming “ban the Dachshund!” so their owners are a lot safer from breed specific legislation (BSL) than owners of large dogs. For more information on this, see Breed Stereotyping – Why It’s Harmful, and Why We Need to Fight It.
The University of Pennsylvania recently studied 6,000 dogs and their owners, and surprisingly enough, they found that Dachshund owners were most likely to have dangerous dogs. In fact, their research revealed that no fewer than one out of five “wiener dogs” had attacked other dogs, and many had even snapped at their owners.
It’s not just Dachshund owners who have to worry, either – the same study revealed that the next “most likely” biter was the Chihuahua. The Jack Russell Terrier came in third.
So, what this tells us is that although large breeds of dogs might cause more damage when they bite, they’re actually less likely than the little guys to want a piece of you.
So, why do the big guys get a bad reputation? It’s exactly as I said before – most of the time, when a big dog bites, it gets reported. That doesn’t mean, though, that little dogs don’t bite – it just means that nobody much cares, because most of the time, no real damage is done.
One of the researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. James Serpell, offered up the suggestion that small dogs might actually be more predisposed, genetically, to biting than larger dogs. He suggests that small dogs are 20% more likely to want to bite a stranger, and 30% more likely to be inclined to bite another dog, than their larger counterparts.
In similar studies, big dogs like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers actually scored very low on aggression scales.
Moving Right Along…
So, now that you know the research, what does the general public think?
I took a look at a website, DogGuide.net, and found the conversation raging fast and furious. Most aggressive dog breeds? You might be really surprised at what people had to say. Dachshund owners, of course, came out quickly, defending their breed of choice. Other dog owners also jumped into the fray, claiming that their breed of choice was being unfairly maligned. Here’s what some of the posters had to say (note that I’m editing in some cases for brevity, paraphrasing also for brevity, and cleaning up a lot of really shitty grammar).
Chetan gets the ball rolling by pointing out that the Discovery Channel has identified the Rottweiler as a very dangerous breed, and that in some areas, they’re actually banned.
Nanci slams back at Chetan, pointing out that she adopted a female Rottweiler, and she can’t understand why the breed is so maligned. Her dog goes to the dog park several times in any given week, and plays with the other dogs – there are no aggression issues whatsoever.
Dawn says that she doubts that was ever on the Discovery Channel at all!
This poster says that the problem isn’t the dog at all, it’s “the arse behind the leash.” ERROL has an AmStaff, and says it’s the kindest, gentlest dog in the whole world. His brother has a Jack Russell that is also very pleasant.
Nicki hates seeing Pit Bulls tarred with the “aggressive” brush. She’s had a Pitty for five years, and the dog has never hurt another animal. Except maybe a cat. And a gopher. Her Pit once got into a fight with a Dachshund, and the owners had to separate their respective dogs. The Doxie got scratched up a bit. Pitty was fine.
Josh takes exception to terminology. He points out that American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers are two very different breeds. He says that it shouldn’t matter, though – both are loving and loyal.
Josh does not offer an option on Dachshunds and their owners.
James has a Rottweiler, Bruno, about three years old. Bruno has never shown any kind of aggression to anyone, human or canine. He loves kids, and plays with cats – and by “plays with cats,” James does not mean that Bruno uses them as chew toys. James believes that there is no such thing as a dog that is genetically predisposed toward violence.
Alix believes that any dog can become a monster. She likens it to parents who can’t control their kids – you have a creature that needs guidance, and sometimes a firm hand, and if you’re not offering it, then it’s your fault, not theirs.
Lavamom is a veterinary technician who loves Rottweilers, but small dogs, not so much. She says “97% of small breed dogs are evil.”
Come on, Lavamom, tell us how you really feel!
Rich has a problem with people, not with dogs. He attributes a lot of dog behavior problems to people who refer to their dogs as “kids.” He says, “This is wrong on a serious psychological level and means you are an unstable person and so it goes to reason that your dog will be unstable.”
I’m not even going to comment on this. What do you guys think? Are people who refer to their dogs as their “kids” crazy? Do you do it? Do people who do it annoy you? Leave a comment below and let’s get a discussion going.
Michael thinks that certain breeds were specifically created for guarding and fighting, but that they were also bred to be non-aggressive around humans. He points out that often Rottweilers, for example, can be very territorial, but kind and gentle with their humans. Michael feels that you should know your dog, know what he’s bred for, and behave accordingly.
Jaimee is a dog rescuer in Kansas, specializing in large breeds like Great Danes, Rottweilers and Dobermans. She says that she was raised with big dogs, and never worried at all about being harmed. She says that every dog is entitled to a chance.
Donna grew up around German Shepherds, and she agrees with ERROL PACE that it’s “the arse behind the leash.” She says that there are no bad dogs. Dogs, she maintains, will pick up on your attitude – if you’re aggressive, then chances are that you’ll have an aggressive dog.
Here’s someone who’s a bit of two minds on the Dachshund. Owners, she says, might have one dog that’s very kind, friendly and sociable, and then end up with another that’s… well, not so much.
Sue isn’t at all surprised at the idea that Dachshund owners might have time bombs on their hands. She says that she’s worked all her life with dogs, and the only ones that have ever bitten her have been Dachshunds.
Okay, usually I try to be receptive and open to all people and all points of view. An although I agree with HURRICANE WIND SHUNTING DOGS that there are no bad dogs, just bad owners, I kind of tend to pull back a bit when someone says that they’ve owned over 80 dogs, and they’re posting in all caps.
Patty says that she’s had all kinds of dogs, and now has a Rottweiler, Grissom, who’s as gentle as a lamb. However, she also points out that she works with Grissom, keeps an eye on him, and doesn’t allow him to be unattended with children or other animals.
For my money, Patty has it exactly right.
Tiffany works with all kinds of dogs, in rescuing and grooming. She says that she was once bitten by a Rottweiler, but the dogs that seem more likely to bite her have been Shih Tzus and Cocker Spaniels.
In all cases, Tiffany blames the owners. She says that they a) don’t understand the breed, b) don’t train them properly, c) don’t socialize them effectively, and c) don’t give them the exercise they need. All of that adds up to problems.
Janice doesn’t find the numbers surprising. She says that she’s had both small and large dogs, and generally speaking, the smaller dogs were always more aggressive. In fact, she says that Chihuahuas are “the most ill-mannered breed.” She recommends larger dogs as family pets, because she believes that they are generally more loyal and gentle.
Denis makes a simple, but obvious point. He says that if he had to be bitten (although he’d prefer not to be) he’d rather be dealing with a small dog.
Kristy says that the idea that Dachshunds are vicious is bunk. She’s one of many Dachshund owners who insist that there’s not a mean bone in her dog’s body. Her dog will allow anyone in the house, and she says that if someone wanted to rob her, her Doxie would just lead the burglar to the silver and help him load it in his car.
As to aggression, Kristy believes that sometimes, Dachshunds can act out – this is because they’re little, and if they think that someone much bigger than they are is going to hurt them, they’ll react accordingly.
Vanessa thinks that one of the main reasons Dachshund owners come in for so much invective is that they don’t properly train their dogs – they think, okay, I have a little dog, so he’s not much of a threat, and I don’t really have to bother with training him.
Vanessa says that of all the owners of small dogs she knows, very few actually bother with training, and the behavior of their small dogs reflects that.
Get this – Lorraine says “Pitbulls are evil and ruthless. One attacked my friends 5 year old daughter and ripped her face in half. 900 stitches and many more to go.Nerve damage and broken jaw.Really? thats nice dog.It happens every day. Those dogs should be outlawed.”
Well, good job (not) on the grammar, capitalization and punctuation, Lorraine.
I’d like to point out that I read nearly 800 posts on this thread, and Lorraine is the only one with a story like that. I’m not making judgments here – there were enough people following her post who did that for me, so let’s move along.
Sandra points out that she had three rescued Cocker Spaniels, and it didn’t surprise her in the least to learn that Cockers were responsible for more attacks on postal workers in America than any other breed.
C has a Rat Terrier and a Chihuahua, and says that they’re two of the most aggressive dog’s he’s ever encountered. C also expresses the opinion that although there definitely are large, aggressive dogs, in his experience, small dogs are far more likely to be aggressive.
Jennifer works at an animal shelter, and says that the dogs that cause the most problems are small dogs. She’s also annoyed by people who will refuse to adopt a Pit Bull because of the breed’s reputation, but will bring a small dog into a house with children, even when they’re told that the dog is “nippy.”
K. Conley lost a Pit Bull due to old age, and says that the dog was incredibly calm and lovable, and wonderful with children. On the other hand, K’s Dachshund can’t be left alone because of a tendency to bite. In K’s opinion, as one of many Dachshund owners, the breed is not to be trusted with children. K plans on getting another Pit Bull, because the breed, in K’s opinion, is far more stable and trustworthy.
Judy says that she has a Doberman that is very protective, both of her and her children. He’s never tried to bite anyone. Her Dachshund, on the other hand, was snappish.
Lis puts a really good perspective on the “vicious dog” argument when she points out that she was once bitten by a Lab mix. She wonders if that means that all Labs are monsters.
Now here’s something that I actually think cold be really useful advice! jclvt suggests, “if you want the truth about aggression and if it is breed specific or not go to a veterinary office and ask the staff who is more aggressive!”
That makes sense. After all, veterinary staff see all manner of dogs every single day. Who’s better qualified to give you an opinion on breed temperament?
That adds up to a lot of opinions. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg – literally hundreds of people weighed in on this topic, and their opinions were all over the map.
So, what do you think?
Every single dog person has a breed that they love. For me, it’s Boxers, and I don’t want to hear a single word against them. Dachshund owners, and owners of other breeds, are probably pretty much the same. They love the breed that they’ve chosen, and they don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t share their passion.
Do you have a dog that you love, but whose breed is unfairly maligned? Are there breeds that you dislike – maybe due to a bad experience?
I’d love to hear from you. What breeds tug at your heartstrings? Which ones not so much? Have you ever been accused of having a dog that’s an aggressive breed? Let’s talk.