This May marks 10 years that I’ve been working with animals.
Through my years of experience, I’ve learned a lot about pets. But I’ve also learned a lot about humans and how they interact with animals.
One peculiarity I’ve found is how people approach unfamiliar dogs. Often, people will interact more or less cautiously with a dog based on its breed or appearance. It’s important for all dog lovers to keep in mind that any dog can bite.
The “Dangerous” Breeds
I’ve written quite a bit about pit bulls — I’ve had 2 — and found them to be not so much vicious as terribly charming and cuddly. It’s disheartening to feel this way about a breed so discriminated against.
Pit bulls are always included (sometimes exclusively) in “dangerous” dog lists. Yet breeds dubbed as such are frequently loving family pets. And while I’ll never argue that these breeds won’t bite other animals or humans, it’s important to remember that all dogs can bite and should therefore be treated with caution and respect.
While working at an animal shelter, I used data over the years to come up with some statistics. I had charts prepared for everything, including:
- The cost to run the shelter for a single day
- Adoption trends during puppy and kitten season
- The reclaim rate for stray animals
Among the shelter data, I also found bite statistics. The most common breed reported for biting shelter workers was a Labrador mix. But the most common breed in the shelter overall was also a Lab mix.
This didn’t indicate that Lab mixes were more aggressive than any other breed in the shelter, though. It was just that bite incidences involving them were more prevalent.
Shelter Dogs I Feared
I wasn’t afraid of Lab mixes after teasing out the data — I continued to treat them in the same loving and respectful way I treated every dog at the shelter. In my experience, a dog’s temperament was the fastest way to gauge his dangerousness.
And there were certainly some dangerous dogs at the shelter. These are a few that stick in my mind:
- The chow chow. His name was Simba, and he was an aggressive dog from the moment he came into the shelter. I never had to handle him but still remember the deep bite marks he left in the leg of our manager when he slipped his muzzle.
- The boxer. She was simply adorable and, despite knowing better, as soon as I saw her, I ran up and petted her cute little face (the way I’d touch my own playful Boxer at home). I felt so comfortable with the breed, I never thought they could show an ounce of aggression. Fortunately, her handler had a strong hold on her leash, so when she lunged at me, she only managed to nip my fingers.
- The Lab mix. After being left at the shelter, he couldn’t be safely removed from his kennel until he was heavily sedated. Before the tranquilizers, he was the most terrifying dog I’ve ever met, throwing his massive body against the bars and snarling and biting at the air.
- The Golden Retriever. If there was a breed I never thought I’d have to fear, it was the Golden Retriever. The woman signing him over didn’t respond immediately when he began growling, and I asked her to pull him away from me. Not until he began lunging, teeth bared, and backing me into a corner did she finally drag him away.
Check out this friendly pit bull and her human:
Around My Neighborhood
Brooklyn is a big borough with a lot of dogs, and we meet other pups daily. Not all of them are friendly, either. These dogs I avoid in particular:
- The Cairn Terrier mix. It bit our old dog, Ajax, on 2 occasions, drawing blood both times.
- The collie mix. It took just a moment for him to bite my dog as we were passing by. Now we know to cross the street to avoid him.
- The Australian Cattle Dog. I haven’t personally met her, but she wears a muzzle when she’s outside and strains frantically toward any other dog she sees.
- The English spaniel. She’s a beautiful dog but highly dangerous. She bit a child’s face, unprovoked, while walking along the sidewalk last summer.
Not all dog bites are preventable, but being cautious with every new dog is the best place to start.