If it seems like every other household in the United States has a pet dog, it is because they do. A 2017 survey shows that there are approximately 89 million pet dogs in the United States, an increase of over 20,000,000 since the beginning of the new millennium. For the most part, they are loving and playful animals that certainly earn their position as man’s best friend.
Unfortunately, not every dog is perceived as being as cute and cuddly as Toto. This article reveals the supposed top four dangerous dog breeds in the United States. It is based on a report put out by Forbes that examines the breeds involved in the most fatal attacks on humans between 2005 and 2017.
However, the main purpose of this article is to unpack these statistics and dispel some of the stereotypes surrounding these animals. Not all dogs of the same family are dangerous, nor are any of them inherently vicious beasts. There are a number of factors that contribute to their negative reputations, many of which will be discussed below.
4. American Bulldogs
According to the report put out by Forbes, the American bulldog is the fourth dangerous dog breed in the United States. In total, they are responsible for fifteen deaths. Put into perspective, however, this number does not seem as startling. Between 2005 and 2017, the ever-adorable Labrador Retriever has killed nine humans—only six less. So is the American bulldog truly a dangerous breed? Or does it come down to reputation?
Bulldogs can be aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex and certain smaller animals, but take almost any dog to an off-leash park and see what happens when they set their sights on a skittering squirrel. They are energetic dogs who need constant exercise lest they become rambunctious, but again, this is not a unique bulldog trait. For those who remain active, bulldogs are good-natured, calm, respectful, and incredibly loyal.
Beyond exercise, the most important thing for any owner is to socialize their dog with other canines and humans. They are very protective creatures by nature, so it is essential to break down those barriers early on.
In truth, most of the stigma against bulldogs comes from the fact that they slightly resemble pit bulls. Because of this, some people are uncomfortable around them. In this case, it is up to the owner to prove that the only truly dangerous thing about bulldogs is that you can drown in a puddle of their drool.
3. German Shepherds
While German shepherds certainly have a reputation for being vicious beasts, they are also America’s second most popular dog breed. Because of this fondness, they seem to experience a little less prejudice than the other breeds on this list, which is curious considering they are responsible for five more deaths in that twelve year frame than the American bulldog.
They are remarkably intelligent animals who are able to devote and apply themselves to many tasks. This makes them excellent working dogs not just for handicapped individuals, but for the police, the military, and search and rescue as well.
What prejudice they do experience tends to be based on appearance. They are large, muscular dogs and therefore, can be quite intimidating. But the truth is, aggression is not their natural tendency. They have earned their bad reputation purely because they can be easily trained to show aggression. Think of any crime thriller. What breed of dog is usually protecting the “goods”? Their ability to exhibit particular behaviors is exactly why certain people prefer German shepherds as guard dogs.
The rottweiler is another breed of dog that has earned an unfortunate reputation because of their raw power—think of them as a bundle of muscle on four legs. Between 2005 and 2017, they have been responsible for 45 human deaths. This statistic, however, is merely an indication of our general ignorance surrounding the breed. Randall Lockwood, the Humane Society’s vice president for research and educational outreach argues: “It is not a rottweiler problem… it is a people problem.”
Rottweilers are territorial creatures by nature. Left unchecked, they can easily grow aggressive if they feel like their home is being threatened. Unfortunately, many individuals and families lead very busy lives and do not have the time or energy to train their pets. Because of this, it is up to the buyer to understand what breed of dog is most compatible with their lifestyle.
Similar to bulldogs and German shepherds, rottweilers will get along with most people and other dogs as long as they have been socializing from an early age. They like to display dominance, but when put in their place, they will lovingly submit to their owner. With the proper training, they are calm, confident, and adorably silly animals.
1. Pit Bulls
For much of the twentieth century, pit bulls were widely adored across the United States. Up until 1980, there was only ever one instance of a pit bull attack that made national headlines, but even then, the owner had intentionally released a pack of 26 dogs on a young woman. Has the expression “there are no bad dogs, only bad people” ever rang so true?
But recently, when it comes to the crowning champ of bad reputations, no breed comes close to the pit bull. Such a poor image is due in part to the fact that they have been responsible for 284 fatal attacks on humans in just twelve years.
In reality, pit bulls are some of the most loving, loyal, and dedicated animal companions that we as humans can have. This number is so high because of several factors, including poor owners, improper training, or a lack of understanding regarding the breed’s needs.
Another more specific reason dates back to the 1980s when illegal dogfighting slowly revived. Due to their muscular build, pit bulls were often chosen to fight. Because of their developing reputation as savage dogs over the following decades, they soon became the preferred animal for people involved in illicit activities and therefore, where often placed in violent situations.
Sadly, the entire breed has fallen victim to stereotypes and general fear, prompting some countries to ban the poor creatures. Some experts are referring to this as “canine racism,” a not-so-subtle comparison to the racial profiling of humans. By spreading the truth, owners and animal welfare enthusiasts can hopefully rehabilitate the image of pit bulls and the other dog breeds on this list.