Which dog breeds are more likely to bite? An Irish perspective.

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Illustration © Lili Chin

‘Rottweilers…..don’t they bite?’ she asked.

As the lady posing the question already owns a dog she should know all dogs have the potential to bite. She went on, quite smug;

I have a Golden Retriever‘.

As she didn’t expand the conversation any further, I’m guessing her implication was that dog bites are something Golden Retriever owners don’t often think about. But they should.

I have written before about the problems regarding breed specific legislation (bsl) following the publishing of O’Súilleabhán’s research on the substantial increase in hospitalisations due to dog bites since it’s introduction. He argues that..

“Regulating breeds places restrictions on dogs that pose little risk and ignores the possibility that any breed is capable of inflicting serious injuries” 

(O’Súilleabhán, P. 2015).

  Ill-judged legislation, coupled with an absence of a proper educational campaign with supports to encourage responsible dog ownership leaves government policy with regard to ‘controlling’ dogs recklessly unbalanced.

Since the government vilified in stone, 11 breeds of dog in this country, hospitalisations in this country as a result of dog bites increased by nearly 50%.

The lady who asked a very specific question about Rottweilers might do well to consider the study published in 2012 by O’Sullivan and Hanlon  which reviewed dog control data from Cork for the year 2007.

“the experience of a growl or snarl from a restricted breed is more likely to result in a complaint to the authorities than would similar behaviour from a non-restricted breed. It is the authors’ view that this reflects the media derived perception amongst the public that the restricted breeds pose a more significant public danger.” 

The research found that although people were more likely to report incidence of aggression (a snarl or growl) from a dog on the restricted breeds list, the actual threat to public safety, in the form of dog bites, came from a variety of breeds;

The top offenders when it came to dog bites were Terriers, German Shepherds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Springer Spaniels and Collies

(you’ll notice only one of those breeds is on the restricted breeds list. See the table here ).

So in answer to the lady with the Golden Retriever; my dogs are just as likely not to bite as yours (possibly, as studies have shown, even less likely) which is why dog control legislation in this country needs a serious overhaul in conjunction with a canine awareness education programme rolled out through all the schools.


4 thoughts on “Which dog breeds are more likely to bite? An Irish perspective.

  1. Good post with lots of good points to boot. Some people do have this weird tendency to make assumptions about which dogs are “friendly” or “dangerous” and which aren’t. It’s worrying really because many take this as some sort of guarantee and don’t bother playing it safe or teaching their own children or dogs about the need to assume every dog might not be friendly until told otherwise.

    I have a springer spaniel and a border collie – both very well trained, friendly and obedient dogs I’m almost certain won’t bite or nip but I’m not daft enough to think they never will because ultimately they’re still dogs. When kids asked to stroke either; I’ll say it’s fine and they’re friendly but sit them down and hold them close to me whilst they do because I can’t absolutely guarantee anything. The child might be one of those you see pulling a dog’s ears or trying to sit on it and I can’t say for certain how mine will react if this is the case. Parents that go “Oh it’s OK he/she loves dogs” make me twitch because they seem to assume it’ll be safe on the grounds that their child loves dogs?!

    What does bother me is the growing trend for utterly thoughtless, clueless idiots coming home with dogs that are enormous, very powerful and not necessarily well trained or well-cared for by previous owners. For that reason I’m wary of people with baseball caps, few teeth and enormous bull mastiff’s which is unfair I know but true all the same. Know a guy with a young mastiff he has absolutely no control over whatsoever and puts everything down to “she’s just a puppy” It hasn’t had even the most basic obedience training and jumps up / mouths everyone that goes near it but despite explaining how her sheer size and weight alone could cause someone an accident or injury is lost on him – he hasn’t done a thing with her. I won’t go inside his house unless she’s locked out of the way which he thinks is me just being a bit soft.

    From experience, very small dogs like Yorkshire Terriers or Chihauhas tend to be the ones most likely to yap or nip at you. Probably “Little man syndrome” for dogs but I don’t worry too much about those because being only very little means at best you’ll get a nip. You could pick it up with your finger and thumb if need be but it doesn’t work quite the same way with an enormous, incredibly powerful mastiff that’s not well-mannered or trained. If one of those decides to take a dislike to you? Paddle. Shit creek and not an oar in sight.

    • Great comment, thank you. You’re absolutely right, there are individuals who choose breeds for status with little thought of training or even proper exercise for the dog.
      As always, it’s not the poor dogs fault, the owner must be made aware that they are responsible for their dog’s behaviour. Sadly though, as all too often happens, the dog gets the blame when something unfortunate happens and ends up in the pound or put to sleep.

      I wrote before about a Ricardo Tisci design of a snarling Rottweiler on a designer top for Givenchy. Images like that attract the wrong type of people to acquire the breed. By wrong type I mean people like you describe who have no time or inclination to train or take responsibility for their dogs actions.

      Taking responsibility means being aware of the potential of all dogs to bite whether it be our own or other people’s.
      Thank’s for taking the time to comment, it’s an interesting topic 🙂

  2. I have to agree with you for the most part. There is no such thing as a bad dog, but dog-owners who either do not understand their breeds or their needs.

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