Years ago, while hiking along the Schuykill River in Philadelphia, I was approached by a family of four: two yuppie parents and their two young children. They stopped to pet JP, who was freely giving their kids lots of kisses and loving. When asked what type of dog JP was, I stated he was a pit bull (after all, I take all opportunities I can to educate people about the good pit bulls out there). Their response: the parents quickly whisked their kids up into their arms and walked away — despite the fact that their kids were making out with JP for the previous seven minutes!
As a pit bull lover, I have a very low tolerance for breed stereotypes. Everyone assumes pit bulls are vicious and aggressive, but many factors play into this negative stereotype: socioeconomic factors, lack of training, lack of environmental enrichment, and lack of puppy socialization. The classic situation is when people stake their dogs down to the backyard with a few feet of running room. I hate to break it to people, but if you staked any dog to a backyard with no social interaction, you’ll make it aggressive (and territorial to that area!).
I’ve seen all different types of breeds of dogs rehabilitated (a special shout out to Best Friend’s Animal Society, who was one of the main rescue organizations who re-homed most of Michael Vick’s pit bulls), and with the right training, it’s often possible. That said, I have a "one strike and you’re out" rule when it comes to vicious dogs.
As a veterinarian, people often ask if I’ve been mauled by dogs. Thankfully, I’ve never been bitten by a dog (aside from my old childhood dog) … only mauled by cats (a fractious cat is more dangerous than even the largest Rottweiler).
So, without further ado, the top 10 breeds of dogs that I muzzle when they come into my ER … and you’ll see that the pit bull isn’t usually on my top 10!
1) German shepherd
3) Chow chow
4) Miniature Dachshund
5) Miniature pinscher
8) Belgian Malinois
9) Siberian husky
Thankfully, some of these breeds often give us a heads up — some type of small warning like a growl, glare, or lift of the lip prior to attacking. Take a Rottweiler: they’ll always give you an eye glare and a general growl prior to attacking, unlike those German shepherds, who don’t (hence, the automatic muzzle for those guys!). As for small dogs, people are often surprised that they hit the top 10 list. While the damage is less severe, these little fellows are more likely to attack … after all, they often have Napoleon complex.
As a pet owner, please do us a favor. If you know your dog is aggressive, please warn your veterinary staff, as we appreciate the heads up. If your dog does require a "party hat," don’t be offended — it’s safer for all involved! Finally, if possible, just say yes to drugs — the sedative type. Sedating an aggressive dog or cat with an oral medication before a veterinary visit often takes "the edge" off, allowing a less stressful visit for all involved. Talk to your veterinarian about this if needed.
Any other breeds you think deserve topping this list?
Dr. Justine Lee