Blame the Deed, Not the Breed – Unless It’s a Dachshund?

As the owner of a Pit Bull-type dog, I often find myself in the position of defending my dog. Like so many others in my shoes, I repeat the mantra of “blame the deed, not the breed.” I remind people that studies show that aggression is not related to what a dog looks like. I can rattle off a list of examples of Pit Bull-type dogs who excel as therapy, police, search and rescue, agility, obedience and Frisbee dogs. I cite research that shows most dog bites are preventable and that when a dog does bite, it is almost always attributable to something a human did or did not do.

My dog Mayzie is worth all this effort to change minds and hearts but it is, at times, a tough, frustrating road.

So when I read about a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania that showed the top three most aggressive breeds were, in order, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Jack Russell Terriers, my first impulse was to feel vindicated.

And then I took a step back. How could I, in good conscience, maintain that breed had nothing to do with aggression in the case of Pit Bull-type dogs, and then nod along as the finger is pointed at these breeds?

It is true that small dogs – like all dogs – bite. In most cases, small dogs can’t cause the same type of damage that a large, powerful dog can so it’s easier to shrug off behaviors like jumping on people or resource guarding. After all, what harm can come of it? Or so it’s tempting to believe. The fact is that small dogs have caused enormous damage. For instance, in 2000, a Pomeranian mauled a baby to death in Los Angeles county.

But do small dogs really bite more often than big dogs? And if so, is it truly because of the breed or is it because of human failure? My money is on the humans and the very normal tendency to treat small dogs as tiny, harmless children.

A few months ago, I watched a news story about a woman who was outraged that her 3-pound Chihuahua had been declared dangerous after the dog nipped a postal worker. It was clear the dog’s owner felt the penalty was an overreaction and that the charges should be dropped because of the dog’s size. The media had a field day with the story, slanting coverage to portray the situation as comical. However, if the woman had instead owned a Mastiff or Rottweiler, the response in the media and in the public would likely have been very different.

The fact is, all dog owners, regardless of the size or breed of our pooches, have a responsibility to keep our dogs and others safe. We must teach them basic obedience and manners, and we must recognize and take seriously any behavioral problems that arise.

By the same token, we owners of larger, more powerful dogs must fight the urge to point to studies that paint other, smaller breeds as more aggressive than our own. We have a responsibility to advocate for all dogs. Tearing down another breed does nothing to advance our case. Instead, it once again shifts the blame to the dogs rather than focusing on the root of the problem – human irresponsibility.

Do you think you treat your dog a certain way because of their breed or size? How so?

Amber Carlton is a freelance blogger and business writer specializing in the pet industry. Owned by two dogs and two cats, she is affectionately (?) known as the crazy pet-lady amongst her friends and family. Connect with her at Comma Hound Copywriting, on Twitter or at Mayzie’s Dog Blog.

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