All dog breeds have the potential to be gentle or dangerous, but some types are more likely to attack than others. The chances of dying in a dog attack are low — less than 1 in 100,000. Compare that to the probability of dying in a fall, about 1 in 100, and you’ll see how unlikely it is. Still, it’s essential to know the facts about dog aggression.
Pit bulls are the dog breed responsible for the most bite hospitalizations and deaths. This fact has led to problems even for good-natured pit bulls. Shelters are often full of this breed because many people refuse to adopt them.
According to the nonprofit DogBites.org, 65.6% of dog attack deaths in the U.S. from 2005 to 2017 were caused by pit bulls. The majority of those attacks killed household members, not strangers or visitors.
What makes pit bulls more dangerous than other dogs? It’s not because they are fundamentally bad dogs. However, it’s also not entirely down to bad modern-day owners.
Pit bulls descend from English bull-baiting dogs. Bull-baiting dogs were bred as part of a cruel sport in which handlers trained canines to attack bulls, instigating fights. Many dogs died. Since then, unethical people have used pit bulls for entertainment through dogfighting, which is now a felony in the United States.
Because people used pit bulls for these purposes, some individuals chose the most aggressive and volatile puppies for breeding. Those choices created dogs with dangerous instincts. Even pit bulls who are sweethearts have the classic “hold and shake” instinct. Unlike other canines, which typically bite and then let go, pit bulls who bite keep their jaws clamped shut as long as possible while shaking their prey. The hold and shake style of biting leads to extensive tissue damage in victims.
Of course, not all pit bulls were bred for fighting. Some were always bred for companionship. Additionally, many dogs we call pit bulls are actually mutts with only partial pit bull ancestry.
To be as careful as possible when choosing a pet, think about your lifestyle and family situation. If you don’t have the time or ability to socialize a dog carefully, you may want to adopt an adult dog or a breed known for docility.
It would be unfair and unrealistic to suggest that pit bulls are the only dangerous dogs. As mentioned above, 65.6% of dog attacks from 2005 to 2017 involved pit bulls. This means that 34.4% did not. The rest of the attacks were perpetrated mainly by Rottweilers, German shepherds, and mixed-breed dogs.
The numbers show that pit bulls are the source of most dog bite hospitalizations and deaths. A mix of nature and nurture is responsible. On the bright side, most pit bulls don’t bite. If you’re concerned about the possibility of dog attacks, do further research or ask a veterinarian for advice.