Although dogs generally really are man’s (and woman’s) best friend, they can still be dangerous. Too often we forget that are family pet has the potential to inflict serious injury on us, our children, our friends, or our neighbors. Thankfully, we can reduce these risks through proper training and socialization but it’s also useful to know what type of dogs bite the most, especially when considering which breed to bring into your home.
The Dangers of Dog Bites
Dog bites can range in severity from a small knick that tears the skin to a fatal mauling. While dogs should never bite people, the incidents most people are concerned with are the ones that do significant damage to the victim. They may be sent to the hospital, need reconstructive surgery, or worse.
The list below is based on data compiled from dog bite accounts reported in the press between 1982 and 2006 in the United States and Canada by Merritt Clifton, editor of Anima People, a non-profit website that promotes awareness of animal issues around the globe. Press reports focus on serious dog bites, so the statistics include only attacks that caused serious injuries requiring medical attention. Also, Clifton left out reports including dogs without a known breed. The statistics included a total of 2,209 incidents.
10. Labradors – 26 cases
Most of us would not think of Labradors as dangerous, yet they were involved in more than two dozen serious biting incidents. In one reported case, however, the attacking dog had rabies which might explain his aggressive behavior.
9. Presa Canario – 30 cases
These Mastiff-like dogs originated in the Canary Islands and have slowly been emerging in other parts of the world, although they are banned in Australia. The breed is considered rare which is important to mention when comparing its number of attacks with other breeds on the list. If they were as common as Labradors, for example, they may have ended up at a higher spot.
8. German Shepherd mixes and Boxers – 31 cases
Both of these powerful dogs are more common than the Presa Canario, plus they are often used for protection. Mixed versions of German Shepherds may also include other breeds with tendencies towards aggression.
7. Huskies and Pit Bull/Rottweiler mixes – 39 cases
Pit Bull/Rottweiler mixes can be a dangerous combination because the resulting dog is extremely powerful and usually large. If it attacks, it is going to do significant damage to the victim. Huskies do maintain a lot of their wolf-like ancestry which can make them difficult to control.
6. Akita – 48 cases
The Akita is powerful and that’s why its bites land so many of its victims in the hospital. Combine that power with a tendency towards territorial behavior, and you can see why some countries have banned the breed altogether. Interestingly, this dog is also not good with other dogs.
5. Chow – 49 cases
Chows who have been well-trained and well-socialized do not have a tendency towards aggression, but they can be a bit protective of their environment. Although they look like big teddy bears, this breed has been known to cause serious damage to humans as a result of bites.
4. German Shepherds – 63 cases
Higher in the list, we saw German Shepherd mixes so it’s not surprising that the purebred version should be closer to the top. Despite appearances, most German Shepherd attacks are a result of attack training and not an aggressive streak within the breed.
3. Wolf Hybrids – 71 cases
Although not technically a dog, wolf hybrids are a type of mixed breed animal often kept as a pet. As the name suggests, they are created by mating a wolf with some type of dog, usually Nordic breeds (including Huskies). While the number of these dogs kept as pets is relatively small, they are responsible for a significant number of serious attacks against humans.
2. Rottweilers – 409 cases
The Rottweiler accounts for about one-fifth of all the attacks included in the study. Part of their ranking has to do with the popularity of the dog but its use for protection plays a role. These dogs are powerful so their bite will do a lot more damage than a Labrador.
1. Pit Bulls – 1,110 cases
The top spot goes, of course, to the pit bull which has a reputation for being dangerous and aggressive. This breed accounted for almost half of all the serious dog attacks that showed up in the media during that 14 year period. While some people blame the breed itself, some pit bulls are loyal, well-behaved, and gentle. However, if they decide to attack, their bite is extremely powerful, and they do not let go easily thus making the situation dangerous.
Other Dog Bite Studies
While the list above is a good guideline regarding serious dog bites, Clifton’s study didn’t provide a definitive answer. Media coverage of dog attacks does not necessarily include every attack so certain dogs, such as the pit bull, may find themselves in the spotlight more often just because the phrase “pit bull attack” sells papers. The CDC conducted a similar media study of dog bite fatalities between 1979 and 1998. They found Pit Bulls and Rottweilers were responsible in more than half of those deaths. A 1991 study published in Pediatrics looked at the breeds responsible for dog bites in Denver County, Colorado specifically and found that Chows and German Shepherds were the most frequent culprits with the Akita and collies also being responsible for a few bites. Pit bulls did not appear in the study because they had already been banned from the county.
Clearly some of the same breeds keep topping the lists, but these dogs are also the ones most likely to cause serious damage from a bite so their attacks are also the ones most likely to be reported. Of course, if you’re a parent considering what breed to bring into your home you might feel more comfortable with a dog whose bite is weaker, such as the Labrador (125 pounds of force), instead of stronger like the Rottweiler (up to 328 pounds of force).
Any dog can bite if provoked. However, people ask what type of dogs bite the most because it’s clear that some breeds either bite more frequently or, at least, cause more damage from those bites than others. Based on the studies, pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Chows tend to opt the lists. That doesn’t mean these are bad breeds, but it does mean their owners need to take extra precautions to ensure they are socialized, trained, and properly contained so they do not become a threat to the people around them.