Unusual opinion by animal control officer

HandyMacAugust 3, 2011

I talked for about 15 minutes with a local animal control officer yesterday.

Our city has a pitbull/any similar breed ban and a LOT of people who own/keep pits.

His opinion of the worst dog for aggression problems?

German Shepherds.

He said chows/pits do not hold a candle to GSD's as a breed when he has to pick up a dog. BTW, Kansas City, Kansas(my town) has a county shelter that is now 99% kill free. They euthanized five dogs last year and only about seven the year before. Pretty decent change from several hundred a year.

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Got first Doberman in mid-70s. She was the greatest dog. Very protective. Occasional growl... what I would call appropriate... like when someone she didn't know was at the door. Really can't remember her EVER showing any truly agressive nature!?! At that time Dobies were the "bad" dog that a certain element wanted... before Rotts and Pitts gained popularity. Purely by coincidence, came across article in a magazine (maybe Better Homes & Gardens or something like that) that listed the 10 breeds most and least likely to bite. At that tie Doberman wasn't on either list. GS was on most likely list... probably in top 3, along with Chow & Akita. St. Bernard was somewhere on that list, but about half were what I consider "small" dogs... Cocker Spaniel, Chihuaua and others.

Over the years have had 5 Dobies and 2 Rotts. All very protective but pretty much no signs of agressive behavior... but I realized the potential was always there.

Have had no bad experiences with Pitts... but they just scare me.

On other hand, my brother has a little Boston Bulldog/terrier that is INSANE!! He doesn't bite but his behavior is just sacry!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 10:03AM
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I asked my daughter that question once, because she was a vet tech, and after that had her own grooming business. Her answers surprised me too. Cockers were right up toward the top, and her list also included mini schnauzers.

I have had two dog bites in my life......one by my own mini schnauzer when I got between him and his potential 'victim' a gentle rhodesian ridgeback five times his size, and once by a friend's rat terrier. Both were nasty wounds and both were dogs I loved/liked. Just their wiring over-rode their training. I was once attacked by a German Shepard when I was a mail carrier, but honestly she could have done me major damage, but didn't. Just guarding her territory onto which I interloped by attempting to put mail in the box.

I had the usual can of mace all mail carriers carry and even though I am a dog lover, pull it out and aimed. It was a very cold winter day and the stream of mace just ran down my arm instead of reaching the target. I had to pull out a roll of magazines from my bag and used it defensively to put between myself and the dog each time she jumped up toward me. The owner ran out of the house screaming "don't you dare hurt my little Ringo!" Little? LOL. Of course she never asked me if I were injured.

The next day, I cut a wide swath around her house when I saw Ringo unrestrained and sitting on the porch. She immediately called the postmaster and reported me. He informed her there would be no further deliveries to her house unless she restrained her dog. So, she did. She chained him to the mailbox post.

It's not the dog............it's the people who own them. LOL.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 11:32AM
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I'm also a retired mail carrier, Calliope. I bet we could write a book about dogs and their owners. I never had an owner to say 'don't you dare hurt my little ----', but they would usually say oh he/she won't bite, when they were chomping at the bit to have my leg for lunch! I was never bitten while on the job, but had several very close calls, mostly GSDs. The only dog that ever really bit me was a long-haired collie when I was a child. Still to this day I am not crazy about collies.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 3:12PM
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Oh my goodness I'll never forget hearing our wonderful (now retired) mail carrier, Chloe, screaming one day moments after she dropped our mail off. Next door neighbor's Rotti had broken thru the front door and ran after her, taking her down from behind so she never had a chance to defend herself. The dog was standing over her, for a second I thought it was a child because it was right around the time the kids get out of school. It only lasted a few moments but he chewed on her arm pretty good. As soon as the owner called him, he dropped her arm, and ran right back home. Same dog threatened DH at the fence when he would go into our garage, and he even jumped the fence when I was holding my infant nephew.

Genius owner used to beat him to make him behave. Funny they had to get rid of him when their insurer dropped them.

However I also got to witness a pit attack and nearly kill my sweet poodle, so I am NOT a fan of pitts, nothing can convince me they are of any use. Sorry pit lovers there is too much evidence of the severity of attacks and what breed commits them...Add in rottis, presa canarios, etc, in general the fighting breeds and I have a group I could live without for sure.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 4:33PM
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Back to another postal story...yes....most of us who carried mail have many, lol. This one also concerns a GSD. Part of my route was mounted, and that meant I used a postal truck much like the UPS trucks one sees today. I left the back door open in supper because no, we did not have airconditioning and it was just plain hot. I had stopped to put mail in a box, and heard a commotion back in the cargo area, looked up and saw a huge silvery GSD had hopped into the truck with me. I expected to eaten alive, but it just came to the seat area and rode along. At the end of that road, it jumped out and headed back from whence we came. This continued for months from that day forth. The dog jumped on at the beginning of the route, and exited at the end. Of course I started carrying a bag of dog cookies for it. One day the routine stopped as abruptly as it started. It was fun when it lasted, and the pooch just simply took advantage of my truck to go bye-bye. Good dog and another reason I think a dog's bad points are mostly owner induced.

And another postal memory was a city carrier named Norm. I think he set the record for returning to the post office with ripped up trousers. He didn't think it was funny, and I suppose it got expensive for him, but the rest of us cracked up. He was a dog magnet, still sitting here laughing. I suppose he was afraid of them and put off a lot of bad vibes, but he was like the Pied Piper and they followed him wherever he went.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 1:07PM
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I work with a lot of Animal Control people and they definitely agree that most pit bulls are not agressive or dangerous to them. German Shepherd dogs are much more dangerous if cornered or scared. But in my experience as a vet over the years, and having been bit dozens of times, just about any breed can bite if scared enough. Fear agression is hard to deal with at a veterinary hospital as many dogs are rightly terrified once indoors. However, 98% of them are not tempted to bite.

I have my own nervousness based on previous experiences and even though I have been attacked by several pit bulls, those were indeed dramatic exceptions and 99% or more are extremely friendly to people they don't know, almost exceptionally so. The breeds that give me more pause are not chows (they are easy to spot if agressive as they growl or are openly aggressive), certainly not dobermans (almost never seen a doberman that was not super friendly)... but German Shepherds, male Rottweilers and Saint Bernards are the ones I approach the most cautiously. The latter two are very hard to read sometimes and rarely give one a warning before latching on suddenly (not to mention the potential damage they can do). GSDs are more obviously fearful and that's when they are scary... they at least give one some idea of what to expect. I had a friend of mine (another vet) have half is face ripped off by a rottweiler with absolutely no warning. Can be scary sometimes to be stuck in a room with a huge male Rotty, particularly with clueless owners.

But the dogs I have been bit the most by, by far, are chihuahuas, easily the most common dog one finds at the pounds here in southern California (taking over the pit bull in popularity years ago). But I have to also say they are one of my favorite dogs (I have three). Perhaps I am more careless around such tiny dogs and they bite fast! Thankfully the damage they do is relatively minor (no one loses half their face to a chihuahua).

The problem with dogs on the loose is often when they are in groups of two or more. A 'nice' dog can sometimes change their behavior pattern when there is a 'pack mentality'. I would certainly avoid a pack of pit bulls on the street.

And how a dog reacts to another animal/pet has nothing to do with how it acts towards us. I would trust most pit bulls I come across, but I would very nervous of one I did not know well around another dog, a cat or some other animal. Huskies, for example, though sometimes a squirrely breed, are generally not very dangerous dogs... but they are commonly very dangerous to other smaller dogs, and cats in particular. Dog-animal interactions and Dog-people interactions are like comparing apples to oranges.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 3:00PM
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Given a choice between facing a pit bull or a German Shepherd, I'd face the pit bull *almost* every time;
as someone said above about Rotties, the males of any breed are likelier to be more territorial & aggressive unless its a female with puppies.

When I was a young girl & such things were still pretty safe, I had a paper route.

The first time I came to this one house on a dead-end road before daylight on Sunday morning & 2 white German Shepheds materialized & slaughtered the newspaper, it scared the bejeebers out of me!

turns out the homeowners got up very very early & would let the dogs out at around 4 AM;
it was a dead-end street, & nobody but me ever had seen that the dogs were loose.

I worked out a deal with the dogs;
I'd toss out 2 papers, & they'd catch them & kill them.
While the dogs were distracted with their "prey", I'd very quietly drop the 3rd paper onto the sidewalk.

Those dogs were very smart;
after a very few Sundays, they'd crouch & wait for me to throw the papers.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 4:08PM
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I dont agree with any biases regarding breeds. People can base their biases on experience only, and since those experiences are based on exposure to a limited number of dogs. It is unfair to blame specific breeds for specific behaviors especially since 99.9% of all problems with regard to dogs is owner driven due to neglect, abuse or just plain not understanding canine behavior.
I also dont agree with biases regarding sexes, I have met both female and male that are equally agressive (puppies or no). I believe in determinining a dogs demeanor on that specific dog, not the sex of the dog or the breed.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 7:37PM
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Well, the only puncture inflicting painful bite I ever got carrying mail..........was by a very large marmalade tabby cat, sitting on the porch under the mail box. I reached down to pet him and he glommed on to me like a leg-hold trap. The house owner denied it was his. The postmaster blew it off. I guess I asked for that one. LOL.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 9:16PM
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I have treated now tens of thousands of dogs over the last 26 years and cannot help but form a few biases as there seems to be a trend... but that is indeed only my experiences (though I have to say most vets I talk to and have worked with feel quite similarly.. and the same goes for a lot of veteran animal control officers).

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 10:58AM
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I have my biases too both as to what dogs are most prone to aggression, and what dogs regardless of their aggressive tendencies are dangerous, even if only because of size. I think care and training go a long way toward preventing unfortunate consequences, but also think a certain amount of it is hard-wired.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 11:37AM
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"a certain amount of it is hard-wired."

Well, of course it is;
dogs are different breeds today because people selected for certain traits when mating the dogs' ancestors.

Pointers point, Border Collies herd, German Shepherds patrol the perimeter because they are indeed wired that way.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 3:30PM
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Mazer, I find your bias statement confusing. It makes sense only if you mean bad behavior. And bad behavior is almost certainly caused by people. Whether on purpose or because they have no idea how to handle a dog.

The differences in breeds was done to get the various built in characteristics. Those characteristics come with accompanying tendencies.

Herding dogs herd, hunting dogs hunt, and so forth.

To add to that, different dogs have different personalities. Two German Shepherds will have two entirely different reactions to the same stimuli. Some GSD's make wonderful police dogs and some do not. Of those who do not, some are too passive and others are too aggressive.

When I worked for the vet, the breed that was the most apt to bite was the cocker spaniel. That is the only breed to have been successful in biting me---twice, six years apart and in two different cities. Not nips---that happened several times---I mean premeditated attacks, successful even when I was expecting that reaction.

And the German bred GSD that flunked out of the police K-9 academy for being too aggressive, who would not let the family maid in the house unless penned, and who chased a painter up the ladder turned out to be quite friendly with me.

That shows dogs are individuals, but bias does have merit.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 1:57AM
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Wow,based on my recent experience with a German Shepard I may have to agree!
I went to a friend's house and they own one that is a bit older (8?).Anyways,they said the dog has trouble accepting new people so the idea was for me to give him some treats.

Long story short,he bit me once on the arm,it wasn't that bad.Then he calmed down and we thought things were okay and he lunged over his owner and ripped into my shoulder tearing my dress and skin.
I have a nasty looking scar now.
I have always loved dogs,but I'm a little weary of them now especially if they are big.Of course it wasn't the dog's fault as much as his owner.He should have known his dog well enough to know that he couldn't handle meeting someone new (he has bit others before).

I have met a few pit bulls and while I know they have a reputation,I have never had one act aggressively towards me.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 4:08AM
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two words--breeding and training!e I've long held the opinion that NO ONE should be allowed to indiscriminately breed animals of any kind. They need to be educated--and maybe licensed. I hear all too often someone say that they've just got (fill in breed of your choice) and they want to breed it a few times to make back the cost. I think many of these agressive dogs were puppy mill or homebred (is that a word?) dogs.

That said, I've never met an agressive dobie, GS, or Rotty. THere are big dogs aplenty at the local greenway, and they are all very mannerly. The potential trouble makers are the little ones. My thought is that too many small dog owners go with "oh it's cute and cuddly" and never bother to properly train their pet. Having been the recipient of a nasty bite from a 10 lb cat, believe me when I say small is not necessarily less painful.

I've got another breed to add to the caution list--Shar Pei. My friend's unneutered mini shar pei tried to eat me every time I visited. Only dog that I've never been able to make friends with.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 10:47PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Pit bulls are bred to be tractable around their human handlers. They have also been selectively bred to fight with other dogs and go after small prey, which can include small children.

I agree with lzrddr that these dogs as a breed do not generally pose a threat to adult humans, but they are not trustworthy around other animals and small kids.

I, personally, know 4 people whose non-aggressive dogs were attacked and severely injured, two killed, by pit bulls. One swore up and down that her adopted pit was a "sweet" dog from a misunderstood breed (and in her company I'm sure the dog was sweet.) She owned this dog for about a year I believe. Then one day when she was at work, her pit bull demolished the crate housing her elderly, infirmed beagle and killed him.

You just can't sell me on the safety of a dog breed that was specifically bred for the purpose of fighting.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 10:31AM
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Spedigrees, I agree. The issue is, pit owners cry foul that the breed is unfairly branded killers. Their most frequent complaint is that other breeds bite at least as often as pits, which is true.

What they don't understand/accept, is that the other breeds may bite, but they don't KILL nearly as often. Here is some chilling data;

The combination of pit bulls, rottweilers, presa canarios, and their mixes:

80% of attacks that induce bodily harm
70% of attacks to children
83% of attack to adults
69% of attacks that result in fatalities
75% that result in maiming

I especially hate to see on the news that some fool's helpless infant/child/neighbor's child was killed by their pit that was seen as sweet and trustworthy. What a sickening statistic. And it RARELY happens by less violent/fighting breeds. Common sense is lacking here....

Here is a link that might be useful: Dog attack deaths and maimings by breed

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 11:02AM
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I will always remember the two Presa Canarios that killed a woman in San Francisco as she was unlocking her apartment door. The was a next door neighbor and shared a hallway with the dogs' owner. I think the couple that owned the dogs sent to jail but I can't really remember. I know they fought to keep their dogs but the dogs were euthanized.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 10:17PM
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I have a most wonderful little Iggy/terrier mix sometimes referred to as a lurcher. He is a very small one. Lurchers are dogs used in Ireland to hunt small game..... and they not only locate small animals but do the kill. I don't hesitate when people or other dogs come to the door to just open it up and tell them to come in. He is very friendly with other dogs and humans. However, I know as small as he is, he is a sight hound with some in-bred instincts.

A friend came over this summer to visit. She didn't shut the door behind her to the porch where I had a brooder box of young chicks under a heat lamp until they were old enough to go out to the chicken coop. My husband happened in on the scene shortly thereafter. My gentle little dog was in the brooder box with the chicks and so enthralled in what he saw as his job he could not be called off, but had to be lifted out leaving four of the chicks mauled and dead. I couldn't even get angry at him because he was doing exactly what his line had been bred to do and that is to kill small game. I suspect that one could train a dog like that to control this tendency but I would never trust a dog like that alone in a house with something like a kitten or bird no matter how much I love him or how well I trained him.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 11:15PM
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Calliope has given an example of prey drive. Predation is not aggression. Theoretically there are two types of aggression - competition over resouces or self defense. Fear aggression is a type of self defense; it's the dog's perception of a threat.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 8:17AM
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