Veterinarians of the Lachine Veterinary Clinic give their opinion.
Some dog breeds are known to be dangerous. For example, several cities in Quebec prohibit pittbulls on their territories. Is it justified to ban breeds known to be dangerous? Are there any races that suffer from their bad reputation?
It’s really sad that there are so many bites each year. Approximately 45,000 children are bitten by dogs each year in Quebec (to qualify as a bite…the bite must have caused marks on the skin or generated lacerations). Total bites amount to about 164,000 in Quebec alone! It’s way too much.
However, according to veterinarians of the Lachine Veterinary Clinic, banning breeds does not solve the problem. When ,in a given city, a race is prohibited, a new breed becomes more popular, and statistically becomes more likely to be added to the list of biters. In the 70’s, it was the Dobermans, in the 80’s pittbulls and in the 90’s Rottweilers.
Some breeds considered ‘sweet‘ can also be aggressive. Example, it is not impossible to see an aggressive Labrador. Should we, then, ban all Labradors? In the US, for a while, the dog that bit most was the Australian Shepherd (mistaken sometimes as a working dog ‘lapdog’ …).
So how do we reduce bites?
Several things can be done. Here are some recommendations from the Association of Veterinary Medicine in Quebec physicians in practice for small animals (AMVQ).
- We must advocate a selection based not only on the physical, but also the psychological balance of the subject (genetic selection is an incorrect method).
- Choosing a dog must also be based on the experience of the owner as well as the harmonization of the character and distinctiveness of each race.
- It is very important to socialize the puppy between the 2nd and 4th months of life for an early detection of situations that create anxiety .
- Encourage owners to follow dog training oriented courses on positive reinforcement, not punishment.
Can a law on vicious dogs be a good thing ?
Yes, provided it does not target specific breeds. It should be to promote safety and protect the public against the dogs judged wicked. This is also the position of the Canadian Association of veterinary medicine.
How can we point out a ‘mean’ dog ?
This is quite complex, but in the position of the Canadian veterinary medical association (CVMA), a dog is considered dangerous when:
A dog exhibits inappropriate and unprovoked aggression, a dog that bites or attacks a human or other animal, whether on public or private property. Dogs that show aggressive behavior or when inappropriate behavior is present in a modified sequence ex : (no warning before biting; no relaxation of the bite, or a bite without warning in between events, etc.) (5). Here are other indications of aggressive behavior:
- the dog’s aggressive behavior cannot be justified or explained by circumstances (it is inappropriate, for example, for a dog to bite if that dog is NOT in a state of pain or fear(panic) or NOT acting out of self-defense caused by a threat by another human or animal);
- the frequency of events is excessive for the context;
- the severity of the bite is excessive for the context.
Veterinarians that are trained in animal behavior and are best placed to assess how dangerous a dog is and determine if there is not a medical cause to the underlying aggression (e.g a painful ear infection …).
Last myth: We all heard that there are no bad dogs, there are only bad dog owners: that is not true at all ! Some dogs are aggressive, among other things, because of inadequate genetic selections. By cons, good dogs can become aggressive because of an unsuitable environment and /or education
If you ever have any questions, do not hesitate to contact a member of the medical team of the Clinic (514-634-4190) who will be happy to assist you.