Q. With all the media coverage of Pit Bull attacks, I feel like I should be cautious whenever I see one. Are Pit Bulls really more aggressive than other dogs?
A. If you’re talking about aggression towards people, the answer is no. Looking at the data tells us that the incidence of dog bites is more a reflection on the relative popularity of a breed than a reflection on the breed.
As a breed becomes more popular, there are more individual dogs that could bite in the population. Historically, Great Danes were once the major perpetrators of vicious bites, followed by Rottweilers, and now Pit Bulls. This is directly related to the popularity of these breeds. While big dogs can physically do more damage if they bite, serious injuries can also result from small dog bites.
There are however, four factors which have remained consistent across time with regard to dog bites:
1) Gender of the dog: unneutered male dogs are involved in 70-76% of reported dog bite incidents.
2) Age of victim: 70% of fatal dog attacks and more than half of dog bite wounds requiring medical attention involve children younger than 12 years old.
3) Gender of the victim: males are up to 3 times more likely to be bitten than females. Most at risk are 5-9 year old boys.
4) Relationship of victim & dog: the family dog is involved in 25-33% of reported dog bites. Only 10% of reported dog bites are inflicted by dogs who are unknown to the victim.
So you can see that a number of factors are at work when dogs bite people. Educating people about these factors is one of the best ways to prevent dog bites in our community.
Public education should be at the forefront of a multi-faceted approach which includes controlling free-roaming dogs, licensing, vaccination, and legislation.
Singling out one particular breed of dog for control has not been shown to help prevent dog bites. What has been shown to work is mandatory spay/neuter laws for all breeds.