Monday, February 27, 2017

Pit bull myths: "They never start a fight but they always finish it"

One of the most obviously bogus pit bull myths is the old story that pit bulls never start a fight, but always finish it.

Let's correct the record here: pit bulls always start the fight. And they will always finish it too, so long as the victim is unable, unwilling or unequipped to fight back effectively. But not being known for high intelligence, pit bulls sometimes pick a hard target.

The following video is an interesting study. Spoiler: The owners manage to break up the fight before any serious lasting damage is done.

The pit bull clearly wanted to fight the big dog, an American Akita, but didn't seem willing to tackle him head on, and kept trying to go outside his field of vision to bite him. The Akita is not looking for a fight, but also does not suffer fools gladly. He keeps warning the pit bull away with growls, bluff charges and air snaps. Finally, in jumping on the Akitas back to bite him, the pit bull transitions from nuisance to threat, and the Akita goes all in, knocking the pit bull down, dragging it around by the scruff of the neck, putting it on it's back and roughing it up.

We've seen far worse outcomes than this for pit bulls that attack, e.g. livestock guardian breeds. Unfortunately, pit bulls rarely attack American Akitas, Kangals, or 160 pound Great Pyrenees, apparently preferring much softer targets. Had the intended victim in the video link above been the typical chihuahua, shih-tzu, yorkie or mini-poodle, it's likely that the poor little dog on the receiving end would be dead, or nearly so.

The behavior of a breed designed to kill dogs for sport will be very different from a breed designed to, say, point, herd, retrieve, or guard. The very real, hard-wired genetic differences are not something that should be dismissed out of hand. You ignore DNA at your own peril.

For more info, check out the informative article below about dog language and signals, and how pit bulls differ from other dogs in this regard - starting fights even when we don't think they're starting them.

Language of dogs, normal and psychopathic

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Current risk assessment: Serious attacks and fatalities, 5/2012 through end of 2016

After publishing the final figures for 2016, we decided to look at all breeds which have accounted for 5 or more fatalities total since 1982, and looking at their stats just over the past 5 years. (since May 2012)

The reasons for this are simple. The current data represents a collection of attacks going back to 1982, and we are interested in more current trends; the past 5 years or so provide a quick look. When we concentrate on the more recent data, we can spot trends which might be hidden in the larger collection.

Here is the quick summary:

Here is a pie chart:

Clearly, there are dangerous dogs and then there are dangerous dogs. The relative risk varies widely, even among the power breeds.

It should come as no surprise that pit bulls pose a bigger problem than ever before, with over 13 times as many fatalities as their closest competitor. It's really no contest.

On the other hand, Wolf Hybrids, which had accounted for 19 deaths over previous years, appear to be much less of an issue now. We're guessing that the fad is less popular these days.

Labs appear to be something of an outlier here; though good sized, capable dogs, they are known as especially good natured. "easy" dogs; being the most popular breed in North America is likely the most significant factor driving their appearance on this list at all.

At any rate, the full reports from which the differentials were derived can be found here (2012) and here (2016)

Dog attack report - 2016 final

The final year end tally has been completed by Animals 24-7 for their ongoing record of serious dog attacks in North America and Canada.

The report covers serious dog attacks on humans, with breed identification where possible, from Sept 1982 through the end of 2016.

Below is a list of breeds responsible for human deaths during 2016. It should come as no surprise that pit bulls outnumber all other breeds combined. and are directly followed in the order by pit bull mixes. Lab mixes make a rare appearance this year.

To add some further insights to the risk matrix as a function of breed, here is a breed chart of the numbers of disfiguring or maiming attacks on humans during 2016:

The full report from Animals 24-7 is available here