July 6, 2008

"Friendly, feisty breeds identified"

I've said it a million times: if editors and columnists and politicians really cared about keeping children and others safe around dogs, they'd lose the "good breed, bad breed" mindset and listen to the real experts. Easier said than done, though, when news like this turns up:
This week at Discovery News you can learn about the world's most and least aggressive dogs [...]
Little dogs -- think Chihuahuas and Dachshunds -- tend to be feisty, while certain breeds, like Golden and Labrador Retrievers, are as mellow as their reputations suggest, found a new study that identified the most and least aggressive common dog breeds.
A study! How totally conclusive and, well, scientific! Breed A is "mellow" and breed B is "aggressive," so a parent's responsibility is clearly defined: get one of the "least aggressive" breeds to keep the kids safe. Look — there's even a list.
On the "least aggressive" end of the spectrum were Basset Hounds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Brittany Spaniels, Greyhounds and Whippets. Interestingly enough, several of these dogs also rated low for "watchdog behavior" and "territorial defense" behaviors, suggesting that they tend to be lovable family pets, but are less vigilant watchdogs than Chihuahuas and Dachshunds.
"They tend to be lovable family pets." Forget socialization, training, parental supervision — it's not as if dogs are individuals, for heaven's sake! The important thing, the big, neon, take-home message, is that aggressive breeds have been identified. Whew! Glad that's done.

Buried at the end of the article:
Duffy countered that "just because there is a genetic component to behavior does not necessarily mean that it is predestined."

"Anyone looking to bring a dog into their home should find out as much as possible about the individual dog's history and temperament," she advised. "Certainly some breeds are better with children than others on average. However, it wouldn't make sense to pass up a well-socialized, well-trained, non-aggressive Rottweiler for an atypically aggressive Labrador Retriever."
I know some ACOs that would collapse in hysterical laughter at that "atypical," but whatever. The most important quote of the whole article is the one getting the least attention, and children will continue to pay the price.

[One more thing. I'm inclined to think that the distinction between "good" and "bad" companion dogs has less to do with breed and more to do with how close certain dogs are to working or purpose-bred lines. The best dog for a typical family should probably be as far from working lines as possible.

This is one reason I'm not at all opposed to John Q Public's breeding his friendly, healthy Golden to the friendly, healthy collie next door. Throw the pedigrees away and breed for healthy, friendly and laid-back, if good pets are what you're after. Don't depend on working-dog people or show-dog people to provide the best companion dogs. Don't let politicians limit dog breeding to the folks whose dogs can run a hundred miles a day for days on end and the folks whose dogs can't walk around the block on a sunny day without collapsing. Those dogs aren't for everybody — and John Q Public knows it.]


Anonymous said...

oh please.. owner reported data?
That's about as good as Clifton Merrit (or is it Merritt Clifton; darned if I can ever remember) use of newspaper articles.

Teh stupid.. it BURNS!!!!!!!! (as they say on the blogs..)


Caveat said...

Is there some reason that Legacy Media are unable to find readily availalbe, credible information about dogs? Have they tried Google?

These stupid lists have to go. A friend was doing one for Reader's Digest and wanted to know which 'breeds' I would recommend for kids.

None of 'em, if the kids aren't in school yet and they came first. Otherwise, a manageable dog that has been socialized to kids (and the kids socialized to dogs of course) and trained to obey simple commands (kids too) is the safest 'breed' you can get.

It's pretty funny, in a dark way, that the Lab retriever is the lead biter in Canada and the lead killer is the husky type (not necessarily the Sibe, of course).

Caveat said...

PS According to the Canadian Hospital Injury reporting system (CHIRRP), the number one biter is the GSD, closely followed by the Am Cocker, then the Golden retriever.

The Lab is the lead biter according to the Canada Safety Council.

Are those bad breeds? Nope. Just popular and more likely to be owned by twits who get their info from media, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Oh God.. I HATE that question - "How are they with kids?".

I usually get all snappy and reply "I don't know, how are your kids with dogs?". How the hell can you generalize that? Have you MET some kids? Better yet, have you met some PARENTS?

There's the monster child - the eye poking, tail yankng, dog teasing brat who is a walking dog bite waiting to happen. There are the parents who think it's kyooooot when the toddler climbs on the sleeping family dog and grabs its tail. God, climb on me when *I* am sleeping and I'd bite...

Ugh. Just ugh.

Yes, some dogs bite - but if as many kids got bitten as DESERVED to be bitten, the streets would run with blood. That they don't is testament to how really truly good most dogs are.