Dogs may be a man’s best friend, but they can also be a significant danger to children. Every year humans suffer an estimated 4.5 million dog bites, more than half of these against children. Around 2 dozen people are fatally mauled each year as well, and again, most of them are children. Before starting we want to clarify a few things:
- We are a safety organization, not a dog advocacy organization. Professional research and the serious mauling that we track every day show some breeds to be more dangerous than others. It is our job to report this.
- This does not mean these breeds will attack or that they are “bad dogs,” and it is not our intent to bash any particular breed nor their owners. It means they are statistically more likely to bite and/or pose a greater danger if they do attack.
- The overall likelihood of a serious attack is not a probable event for any dog. Most dogs, no matter what breed, are very loving and loyal. But at the same time, the overall odds of a child drowning are not high either, but this doesn’t mean that water suddenly ceases to be dangerous just because most kids don’t drown. Most kids won’t be seriously mauled by a dog, but when they are, these breeds tend to be responsible more than any other.
- Here is what we suggest parents should do with this information: Avoid these breeds when choosing a pet, and show greater caution when your kids are around them. We are not suggesting you must get rid of a loyal dog if you already have one. It’s your dog and your children, and you are responsible for weighing the risks.
Pit Bull Terrier
Pit bulls have a well-earned reputation as being the most dangerous dog breed of all. They have such a tendency towards aggression that many cities and municipalities have even taken the drastic step of banning them altogether – making the ownership of a pit bull illegal. Pit bulls are also the serial killers of the canine world, in that more than any other breed, their attacks can be as senseless and unprovoked as they are violent. We know of many cases of pit bulls jumping fences to hunt down and kill kids walking down the street, or getting out and fatally mauling children who are playing in their own yards. Such senseless killings are rarely seen in other dog breeds. Some of these attacks may be coming from dogs that have been trained to be aggressive, and may not be an issue for other pit bulls. Never the less, when children are senselessly attacked, it’s usually a pit bull doing the biting.
If you Google ‘Pit Bull Attacks’ you’ll find dozens of stories of people being mauled. One study found that over a 3 year period, pit bulls killed 52 Americans. (Week, 2010) You can do the math; with an average of 2 dozen or so fatal mailings’ each year among all dog breeds, pit bulls do more than their share of killing. We would suggest against keeping pit bulls in a home with kids, and just as importantly, never under any circumstances let a child interact with a neighbor/family member’s pit bull without constant adult supervision. These dogs can be extremely territorial, and it’s often children outside the home who are most at risk.
Although their owners tend to be a devoted bunch, we would list Rottweilers right alongside pit bulls as the most dangerous dogs to be around children. During one year, 3 children in my preschool class were mauled by dogs – all of them Rottweilers. Thankfully, the most seriously injured only required stitches and facial surgery. In our time tracking fatal mailings of children for safety purposes, it’s been our observation that Rottweilers seem to come up as the culprits almost as often as Pit Bulls. So although statistically they may not be the most deadly dog, they are certainly dangerous and at least run a respectable second.
This one is a surprise to many people, but some studies have pegged German Shepherds as being responsible for the most attacks on children of any breed. In any given year, they usually rank among the top 3. German Shepherds usually aren’t as deadly as Pit Bulls or Rottweilers, and thus, their attacks often receive less public attention. Yet they are a big dog and their bites can still be quite vicious, even deadly.
These dogs were originally bred to be warehouse watchdogs and were also used in police work, and have also been used for dog fighting by some. So they tend to be aggressive and extremely territorial, which can mean trouble if a child does something that the dog perceives as intrusive. Although American versions of the Doberman breed may have been diluted so that their aggressive tendencies are less pronounced, we would still recommend going with a different breed when choosing a family pet.