“Dangerous” Dog Breeds

Someone pretending to knowledge & authority trotting out the tired idea that some breeds of dog are inherently more dangerous than others. There are no "dangerous dog breeds," just dangerous dog owners. (Inbreeding & maltreatment can produce psychosis in dogs, which can make individual animals dangerous.) Every generalization about a breed in the blog entry is belied by actual experience. I know a pug, for example, who bosses around the neighbor's 140 lb pit bull. Some dogs are larger and stronger than others and especially when badly raised / trained, those dogs can do real damage to other dogs or humans when provoked.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

14 thoughts on ““Dangerous” Dog Breeds”

  1. “trotting out the tired idea that some breeds of dog are inherently more dangerous than others”

    that’s right, it’s just like saying that cliffs are more dangerous geological features than hills… oh.

  2. Cliffs are perfectly reasonably safe if human beings act responsibly around them. I’m not arguing that there are not individual dogs that are dangerous, which would be foolish, but that any one breed is inherently more dangerous than another. My objection to such lists is that they generalize from very imperfect data & that they ignore the role humans play. It’s fear-mongering.

  3. I certainly agree with you in spirit. I own a big, beautiful GSD who’s as sweet as any golden retriever. I’ve also met many people with a fear of my dog, which is just kind of a shame.

    At the same time, you have to admit breeds have characteristic behaviors, and those that tend to be territorial, protective, and fearless (as well as large) have a greater potential for harm if they’re mishandled.

    If the list were presented as “don’t get one of these breeds unless you can handle a head-strong and energetic dog” it would be fine. Even beneficial. People need to know what they’re getting into.

    Just calling them “dangerous,” even with caveats, sends the wrong message and does more harm than good. I’m not even sure what the point is. It’s like listing the “most dangerous” guns. Duh.

  4. My wife and I stayed in a very nice bed and breakfast in Oregon that had a resident pit bull to greet guests. It was a loving, playful dog that never put off any of the guests.

  5. Darn if I’m not troubled because of course it’s true that a breed of dog isn’t inherently more dangerous than another breed and of course there are dogs bred to be dangerous. The AKC asserts that a dangerous American Pit Bull is to be culled from the breeder’s kennel, while a dangerous pit bull in Oakland, California is worth four times the price. This regionalized pit bull mongrel is damn dangerous near these streets, Jack Russells notwithstanding. There’s a chihuahua across the street that will likely hurt me one day and a Great Dane that nearly stopped my heart while merely running happily through the fog one morning. Over the centuries, we have inserted features into breeds. We select. We select breeds.

  6. That Great Dane was almost certainly harmless. A very gentle, though startlingly large breed. So, sure, we can make certain kinds of generalizations about dog breeds, but ‘dangerous” is individual & contextual and is furthermore a lousy basis on which to make policy.

  7. I agree with you entirely. And I’ve enjoyed your blog posts and thoughtful twists immensely too.

    My writing has been too obscure lately because I meant to celebrate that Great Dane clamoring the beach through the fog! and the Jack Russell! and to point to the diligence of registered breeders to assure the “American Pit Bull” is a gentle and happy dog. I live with a witty springer spaniel carrying about 1200 years of careful features in his good heart.

    Besides, your posts truly isn’t about the dogs. Making policy these days doesn’t require rational justification, merely a crossbreeding of paranoids and authoritarians. Now that’s dangerous!

  8. We had two bulldogs. They bit. They weren’t vicious but they were awfully stupid. I think it is probably that we weren’t the right kind of owners for these dogs. I have never figured it out.

  9. That perhaps is the reason we were unsuccessful — I was supposed to be in charge, but I wasn’t. I treated them too much like human babies (they were awfully cute when they were little.)

  10. I don’t agree. I have an Akita, she is taught to be kind & loving. But if someone comes in the house that she doesn’t want there, run & make sure the door shuts cause she’s gonna catch you before you get to the grass.

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