Over the last 15 years, fatal dog attacks in the UK have double. This arises the age-old argument of whether there are innately deadly breeds that should be banned, or whether the blame lies with the owners inability to properly train their dog. There is an element of truth to both sides of the argument, which is what we will be exploring today.
Are certain breeds of dog more dangerous than others?
So, are there dog breeds that could be deemed more dangerous than another? The answer is yes and no. Some breeds, such as pit bulls or bulldogs, were selectively bred to carry out tasks that required higher levels of aggression. This gives them an innate drive for aggression that could be considered higher than a breed that was bred differently, but people often forget that these dogs were also bred to be incredibly loyal to people. This trained aggression was used for hunting and other blood sport, and they’re rarely aggressive towards other people.
Those who are opposed to the ownership of big dogs, like to point to the statistics that show that there are certain larger dog breeds that dominate the records for minor & fatal dog attacks, but there are also data studies that show this coincides with the popularity of the breed. For example, Dobermans had the highest rates of attack in the 1970s, but this was also when they were at their most popular. This trend repeated itself in the 80s with pit bulls, and in the 90s with rottweiler. This doesn’t tell the full story but shows how statistics can’t always be taken at face value.
Re-introduction of Dog licenses
On the flip side, the eye test doesn’t look great. Just a quick scroll through a list of fatal dog attacks in the UK and you will see a trend in the breeds. This begs the question; how can we prevent these attacks from happening? There have been recent calls for mandatory dog licenses, which on the face of it would solve a lot of issues involving improper handling of aggressive dogs, but unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. Dog licenses have already been implemented once in the UK, with it ultimately abolished in 1987. This was due to the difficulty and administration costs of trying to enforce licensing, compared to the revenue made. It was a heavy failure that has resulted in proposals of re-establishing dog licensing being disregarded; but what’s stopping us from learning from the mistakes of the past and reimplementing it effectively?
There are many benefits to implementing a mandatory dog license, including raising funds which could be used to help with a range of dog-related issues, such as dog aggression and strays, and it could also help deal with irresponsible owners. It would mean we’d have a lot more information on the number of dogs in the UK, thanks to the annual registration; this information would benefit many, including the local council. However, with as many benefits as there are to licensing dogs, there are also many negatives. As stated previously, it is very difficult to enforce. Where does the responsibility lie? With the already over-stretched police force? Dog wardens? It’s a difficult question to answer, and would need to be addressed thoroughly, before there’s a chance of a dog license being implemented again. On top of this, many politicians tend to avoid the subject, as a dog license is unpopular. There’s a sentiment in these times that the government is always looking to take as much as they can from the people and that a dog license is just another ploy to take some more, regardless of the many benefits a dog license would bring.
Proper dog training is the key
There are other solutions to the issue of dog attacks which don’t involve outright banning of certain breeds or a dog license. It is argued that ‘it isn’t the breed, it’s the owner’, which in some respects is true. A properly trained dog, no matter the breed, is much less likely to enter an aggressive frenzy, and is much more likely to be able to be brought back under control if they do. The biggest issue here isn’t your average dog owner, but irresponsible ones. There are many kinds of irresponsible dog owners which ranges from never picking up their dog’s mess, to having no control over a genetically aggressive dog. If you own a large dog breed, you have an inherent responsibility to ensure that they’re well trained and that you can prevent them from attacking other animals or people. An irresponsible dog owner could forego any behaviour training and thus put other lives at risk – this effectively means they have a deadly weapon at their side that they can’t control. If we implemented much harsher measures on irresponsible owners, this could reduce the number of fatal dog attacks we see per year.
However, although ‘it isn’t the breed, it’s the owner’ does have some truth to it, it doesn’t account for the ever-present risk of unexpected behaviours. Dogs are inherently territorial and protective of their family, meaning even the best trained dogs can pose a risk under certain circumstances, with the larger game breeds posing higher risks due to their genetic dispositions. There isn’t a solution to this as it’s impossible to eradicate all risk, but it’s important to remember the danger of death is present in every faucet of our lives. Even if every dog on Earth was trained by an experienced professional, that risk would still be there. If every driver on Earth was Lewis Hamilton, there’d still be road accidents.
Work together to improve
In conclusion, it’s a difficult discussion that gets passionate people riled up on both sides. There is no clear-cut answer as to how to effectively reduce fatal dog attacks, and there’s not one element/person you can place the blame on. The best we can do is ensuring our dogs are as well trained as possible, and to carry out good etiquette by ensuring we don’t lose control of our dogs when on walks.