A Profile on Breed Profiling: Why a Breed Ban Is Not The Answer - McCann Professional Dog Trainers

A Profile on Breed Profiling: Why a Breed Ban Is Not The Answer

Today we are going to take on the controversial topic of a breed ban. We are bringing it forward because it is crucial that we collectively come up with a solution to this problem. It's imperative that we find our solution based on fact and not 'media hype' or 'fear mongering'. Recently, Montreal tried to pass a breed ban against Pit Bulls following a devastating attack

(as of the publishing of this post, they have suspended the bill pending review). Is this a serious situation that involves public safety? Yes! Is the public as a whole now safer due to the banning of a breed? Not a chance and the statistics and facts are in place to prove that this "solution" does not work. In 2005, Ontario passed a similar breed ban and as of 2016, dog bites have actually increased. This tells us we are off track when it comes to fixing this problem.

Graph Before we get into specific statistics, I'd like to address this statement: "any big dog could be very dangerous, if mistreated or trained to be violent." This quote was taken from a Global News article. As much as this is true, I would venture a giant step further and suggest that any dog can be dangerous if not trained or well managed. It is not just about abusing them or training them to be violent. If a dog is not taught good bite inhibition from puppyhood, they can be a bite risk. If a dog is mismanaged or a handler is not capable of dealing with the dog they have at the end of the leash, they can be a bite risk. If a dog is good-tempered or poor-tempered, it can be a bite risk. If a dog is overwhelmed or startled from sleep, it can be a bite risk. If a dog is allowed too much freedom to wander, it can be a bite risk. You may be starting to see my point. ALL DOGS ARE A BITE RISK... PERIOD!

My point is that any dog can and will bite given the right set of circumstances. The real relevance when it comes to breed type is the severity of the bite and the amount of damage done. Obviously a German Shepherd Dog will do more damage than a Chihuahua when biting. Statistics can be quite skewed by population and numbers. For example, Huskies are near the top of the list for number of reported dog bites. Where do you think the majority of those bites occur? They are directly proportionate to the location. Northern parts of the country, where husky numbers increase exponentially would experience far higher incidents of bites by this breed. Should they be banned in entirety based on this? If you replaced their population in the North with Pomeranians, what do you think would happen to the statistics?

Unfortunately, just as the example about huskies illustrates, the statistics don't always give a clear or accurate picture of the situation. Large dog bites are higher in number than those of small dogs, but those statistics are skewed because often small dog bites go unreported. Dogs are no more dangerous today than they were hundreds or even thousands of years ago. They bite for the same reasons now, the difference is how we perceive dogs and how their roles have changed in our lives. They are no longer outside in the yard or on the farm. They are in our homes and part of our daily activity. Statistics show that 61% of dog bites happen in the home or a familiar place. Of those, 77% of bites to children under 10 years of age are to the face. This tells us that we are not reading our own dogs well enough to keep them and our kids safe. We are putting ourselves and our families at risk by assuming that our dogs will endure any manner of treatment and will take it with the good and lovable response that the Disney movies would have you believe. We expect dogs to endure extraordinary situations and often, our trust is based on falsity of breed type. We assume that we are safe with the family Lab or Toy Poodle. After all, if they were a danger, they would be banned too, wouldn't they?!? There are giant holes in the logic.

The other obvious skew in the statistics is misidentification of a dog. DNA testing can now easily prove the makeup of a dog, however this is not required after a bite report. Instead, it is up to the owner, human involved or authority receiving the report to include breed information. In the case of pure breeds, it is easier to identify, however not always 100% accurate. In the case of mixed breeds, the best guess is all we can rely on.

Breed profiling is not only a poor solution to this problem, it is also a dangerous one. By insinuating that people are safe with any dog just because of its breed, everyone, including the dog, is put at risk. A Retriever can bite and do damage too. Just because they don't have the bad reputation preceding them doesn't mean that they can't pose a bite risk. The solution includes dangerous dog legislation, not breed bans. Education of the public and of children especially is key in the formula working towards public safety around dogs. Just an hour of safety training in elementary schools has proven to be effective education.

Public Education Instead of a Breed Ban

Education of the public including leash laws, registration and general safety would go a long way. Knowing some basics about how and when to approach a dog, how to read basic body language and just abolishing the myth that only certain breeds will bite. If everyone knew some basics about reading body language, dog bites could be drastically reduced. For example, a wagging tail doesn't always mean a friendly dog, but the majority of people, dog owners included, assume that it does.

Education of Children In Place of a Breed Ban

According to the 'For Kids Sake' website the odds that a dog bite victim will be a child are 3:1. One of the highest reasons for a child to visit the emergency room is a dog bite. This is second only to baseball injuries. Unsupervised children are the most critical factor in fatal dog attacks. Over 88% of child fatalities occurred when a child less than 2 years old was left unsupervised. It's absolutely atrocious to think that any parent would trust a child to be alone with any dog, even the most trusted family pet. Seeing that it happens tells us that there is a huge laps in education and understanding of the risks associated with kids and dogs.

We all love our dogs and want nothing more than to think they are safe and trustworthy in any situation. I've caught myself thinking "my dog would never bite" many times over my lifetime. It's how we work as humans. We love blindly and with our full hearts and minds. The best we can do is train, manage and take due precautions to keep ourselves, our families and our dogs safe. In the end, breed has little to do with it and we need to acknowledge that first if we are to have any chance of leaving dog bites and fatalities behind us.

Visit the Ministry of the Attorney General's website for more information on the Ontario Dog Owner's Liability act. Contact your local MPP to voice your concerns about breed specific legislature and the lack of progress with regards to dog bites.

Hi! I'm Shannon Viljasoo and I joined the McCann team in 1999 while training Quincey, my wonderful and spirited Rottweiler, to have good listening skills. I'm the Director of Online Training and Content for McCann Professional Dog Trainers and I enjoy writing about dogs and dog training for the McCann blog. I currently share my life with 2 Tollers (Reggie & Ned) and I love helping people develop the best possible relationship with their 4-legged family members.

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