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« Weekly Roundup - Week Ending 1/9/11 | Main | Updated: Five year old North Carolina dead from dog bite tragedy »

January 10, 2011



I think intact status is important, especially if an intact male (or males) is present amongst an in estrus bitch. Guarding precious resources is something we have been unable to breed out of dogs...and there is nothing more instinctively worth defending than the ability to mate. That would, by definition, be a causal factor in a dog reacting aggressively to an interloper, like a human. The same would be true for intact bitches with pups or about to give birth - those hormones are telling that dog she needs to a) get ready for nesting and b) get ready to protect your offspring.

As to the claim spaying increases aggression in female dogs - key word is "may". That is not definitive, by any stretch and it is why they use that word. (Note: I am not an advocate of willy-nilly castration.)

Intact status may certainly be a red herring, but it is absolutely a contributing factor in cases when access to desired resources (like mating and protecting young) is denied/interfered by humans.


Marji makes some good points.

I think there are a lot of "factors" that can certainly influence aggression without being "causes".

I don't think being intact makes a dog aggressive. It can certainly be a factor depending on the circumstances.

That was always one of my main arguments against MSN at City Hall. No one in Europe alters anything, and yet we don't see the Europeans and the English wandering around sporting large bandages, stitches, and missing extremeties due to the preponderance of intact dogs. Although, Brent's comments about all the attacks in the UK are giving me pause, LOL.

I have a friend who had a spayed Dobe bitch that had to be put on estrogen when she was nine years old. She was spayed at six months (this was over 20 years ago, when we spayed all of them at six months). This bitch became aggressive toward the younger male Dobe, among other things, and the estrogen solved the problem.

Same goes for tethering. I don't think it necessarily causes aggression but it's undeniably a factor in some attacks and bites.

Both of these factors are documented in Karen Delise's book.

When I was a kid everyone tethered their intact dogs and we were rarely bitten.



I agree with a lot of your points -- and yes, there are instances where there is a major attack in which a child interrupts the breeding process or because it got too close to the mother's puppies. These instances are fairly rare, and generally fall under the "where was the parent?" type of attack. Meanwhile, none of the 33 attacks this year fell under either of those scenerios.

So yes, I'll grant you that this could be a conditional factor in such attacks -- I remain unconvinced that it is a causal one. I would be open to it if more information presented itself though.

KMK -- The tethering thing is a little trickier. While the very act of tethering is not really harmful to dogs, having a dog tethered as its sole form of containment usually is (primarily because it leads to lack of socialization because the dog is left to fend for itself, can definitely lead to protection/resource guarding) because the animal is left to fend for itself. This ends up leading to the problems that lead to the attack.

I think most city halls get this wrong and go after all tethering instead of the primary form of containment type of tethering....


I know everyone is looking for causes here but IMO it really all comes down to owner responsibility and treating the animal humanely.
I`ve owned puppies,one abandoned that didn`t even have it`s eyes opened yet.
I don`t recall officially teaching it bite inhibition.
It never nipped,bit or killed anyone.
I`ve adopted older dogs.
Never knew anything about their background.
No problems with them.
I`ve tethered dogs for reasonable lengths of times where I could keep an eye on them.
I`ve never had the fence that some people now think should be a requirement before you`re allowed to adopt certain dogs.
I`ve neutered at an appropriate age(or not) dependent on the advice of a Veterinarian.
I`ve owned little dogs,medium size dogs and fairly large dogs.
They`ve all lived out their entire lives without any problem.
No unsupervised running around,no nips,no bites and no dog classes with a Trainer.
Just good old commonsense.
And if they had been able to talk they would have all given a paws up to their lives.
I don`t think dogs are any different now that they were 10,20,30 etc years ago.
There seems to be more irresponsible or just plain dumb,cruel people nowadays.


Agree really does all come down to responsible pet ownership.

I would disagree -- I think there are fewer dumb people these days than there were before (cruel would be debatable). Statistically there were many more dog bites back in the 70s and 80s than there are now. Now, we weren't as likely to hear about them without 24 hour news and the internet and I do think we were more likely to blame the victim -- I know when I was a kid and I came home hurt my parents were very likely to ask me what I did to hurt myself (and this includes being bitten by a dog on a couple of occassions - as the newspaper delivery boy in my neighborhood I was a big target for the dogs in the neighborhood).

But by and large, I agree, I don't think dogs are that different now than they were before (although with leash laws, we certainly THINK differently about them). But by and large, dogs are very flexible at fitting into our lifestyles and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to make it work out. It's pretty easy actually. But some times you just have people who can't make it work -- and that is almost always their fault, not the dog's.


I wasn`t aware of that bite statistic but when I hear of people being bitten I usually think "What did the person do to annoy/hurt the dog"?
I really think the whole issue of dog bites is overblown regardless of the bite stats and I`m sure the Internet is to blame for that.
If dogs could verbally communicate I`m sure there would be fewer bites because they could just say "Get lost,get away from my food,somebody grab that kid,quit pulling my tail etc"
I`d like to see less controlling of dogs to reduce the bites and more education of people.
What else can a dog do but warn,growl then bite to protect itself when it feels threatened?
When people ask me if my dog bites.
I always answer of course she`d bite under certain circumstances.
I cringe when I hear people say their dog would never bite.
I guess that`s why I feel there`s a lot of dumb people because I read that constantly and I hear it constantly.


Johnny Wilson was killed by dogs that had recently whelped, were intact, and were being used for breeding. John Reynolds was killed by multiple dogs used for breeding with pups on-site and possible bitches in heat.

There are five other fatalities involving multiple intact dogs of both genders, with media accounts not making clear if the females were in estrus or not.

I am not stating sex hormones caused these deaths. That would be silly. I don't think the intact status of the dogs should be ignored, either. They are a piece of the puzzle.

Balance can be found between including intact status as a contributing factor and claiming intact status CAUSES dog bite related fatalities. The former is an honest assessment of how dog-related deaths can occur...the latter is a bald-faced lie and has no place in the discussion.

Dog bite related fatalities are statistically rare events and have remained so for a long time (as you already know). They are tragedies, to be sure, and they are so provocative because we assume dogs to be "friends" while ignoring their status as a biological carnivore with teeth and claws. They will always occur so long as we keep dogs as companions and guardians.


I consider reproductive status to be as much of a red herring as breed, or to be more accurate, shape, in the whole dog bite issue.

It is a red herring much loved by the animalib crowd, who are in favour of mass neutering for obvious reasons.

Obviously, there are cases where young children blunder into a situation involving one or more dogs in the vicinity of a bitch in estrus. These situations are rare and of course the very situation istelf speaks to irresponsible dog ownership.

On the other side of that particular coin, many people assist purebred dogs with the breeding process (such as a very good friend of mine) and are right in there with the dogs during the mating - they are not bitten or threatened in any way.

Fatalities are so statistically rare that I doubt there is much to be done to further reduce the numbers, although I wish there were. Would we could say the same about all the other ways in which we shuffle off this mortal coil.

There have been serious studies, most notably the ones using the German Shepherds of the Korean armed forces, that have shown a definite connection between spaying and increased territoriality, nuisance barking and an increased tendency to bite. Studies in the UK and elsewhere have likewise shown a relation between spaying and increased tendency to bite.

Neutering in males has been shown to increase activity levels and nuisance barking.

And of course there are the many health concerns around neutering, particularly juvenile neutering.

It is not a benign procedure, in other words, and shouldn't be taken lightly. Waiting until maturity to neuter seems to offer some protection against some of the health issues.


Around 300 children under 5 drown every year in residential swimming pools.


We are fighting BSL in Texas. Certain groups are saying "there should be permits for breeding" and things like that (most cities have breed-neutral ordinances against breeding or selling dogs anyway). Their reasoning is that in the attacks where we know the reproductive status, the dogs were intact. As if breed and reproductive status is the only factor causing these extremely rare incidents.

Folks need to understand that any compromises as far as BSL is concerned is going to mean more dead dogs.

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