Unless you've been in a cave for the past few days, you've probably seen the story about the a dog bite study that was done in part by a University of Pennsylvania researcher that named the Dachshund as the biggest biter among dogs. The Chihuahua and Jack Russel Terrier finished #2 and #3 respectively. This story has been covered virtually everywhere, in newspapers and in blogs. Even the Kansas City media jumped on this.
No one really published the actual data behind the study, although I did finally find a copy of it here.It appears from the chart that the study covered just over 3500 dogs and tested them for aggression vs humans, their owners and other dogs. According to the numbers, over 50% of Dachshunds showed some type of aggression (I do not know if the numbers are mutually exclusive, so I've assumed they are for these purposes).
There are several different ways we could interpret the data. We could take the "mad mothers" route and push to ban these dangerous dogs, known for their eating of toes and genetalia. It sure sounds ridiculous when I say that in the context of Weiner dogs and Chihuahuas, but let's face it, if we'd seen Rottweilers or pit bulls top the list, these news stories would certainly have had a different twist.
Or, we could simply ignore the numbers, citing things like small sample sizes, the reality that no body seems to have a clue about their methodology, etc and decide that this isn't really accurate and get nothing from it. That seems like a mistake too. So what should be the takeaway?
In total, nearly 20% of the dogs showed some form of aggression. 4.4% showed aggression toward strangers. 1.9% toward their owners, and 13.5% toward other dogs.
For starters, aggression is not breed specific. Look at the list. Every single breed (all 31) that was covered in the story showed the capability of having aggression. Every single one had at least one bite directed toward its owner or a stranger. Every single breed showed at least some signs of dog aggression.
Dogs are generally friendly to strangers, with 95.6% of dogs being kind to strangers. No single breed had the majority of its dogs that showed aggression toward strangers. The highest were Dachsunds at 20.6%, Chihuahuas at 16.1%, and Australian Cattle Dogs at 9.6%.
No dog breeds were likely to bite their owners. Beagles topped this list at 7.9%.
Dog vs dog aggression is really quite rare also, with 86.5% of the dogs studied showed no signs of dog vs dog aggression. While a good many people perceive 'pit bulls' to be "naturally dog aggressive", over 2/3 of the pit bulls covered in this story did not show any type of dog vs dog aggression. Their numbers comparatively high, but their 30.3% number trailed Jack Russell Terriers at 30.8% as the two most "dog aggressive" breeds. However, many other breeds had over 29% of their dogs have some type of incident, including: Dachsunds (25%), English Springer Spaniel (24.6%), Australian Cattle Dog (24.3%), Chihuahua (21.4%), German Shepherd (20.9%), Wheaton Terrier (20.4%), Boxer (20%) Border Collie (17.8%).
So what do I take away from it? I guess the same thing that I've always thought.
1) In spite of what media reports would have you believe, most dogs are not by nature aggressive. In fact the VAST majority of dogs are not aggressive at all. And the vast majority of ALL breeds are not aggressive.
2) That said, all dogs can be aggressive if certain instances present themselves, either through heredity, lack of socialization, environment, or other learned instances.
3) Dog vs dog aggression is far from a "unique" pit bull characteristic and can carry across all breeds of dogs.
4) If we're ever going to get at the very root of aggressive dogs in this country, we're going to HAVE to quit pretending this is a breed-specific problem, and educate and demand that all dog owners take responsibility for the training and behavior of their dogs. When we start doing that, we will start making progress. Until then, people will continue to believe "their breed" isn't a potential problem and the problem will not be solved.