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Dr. Ps Dog Training

Inaccurate Rottweiler Statistics
Reveal Solution: People & Dogs
Need Training To Prevent Future
Dog Attacks

by Kay Chirichigno (
Copyright © 2000

Researchers say people are mostly to blame for the 27 deaths from dog attacks that occurred in 1997 and 1998 citing a common failure to train dogs correctly and ignorance of how to behave around them. Despite inaccurate statistics, the solution is people--parents and kids--and dogs need training to prevent future dog attacks.

Rottweilers have become America's deadliest dog breed, surpassing pit bulls, according to a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The researchers say dogs are not to blame. Rottweiler owners strongly agree that people are to blame, but question the accuracy of the study's numbers concerning the Rottweiler breed.

During 1997 and 1998 Pit bulls were involved in 21 mauling deaths according to the study. During 1997 and 1998, the Pit bull breed was responsible for the most fatal attacks over any other according to the study. It is completely unfair to make a comparison between Pit bulls and Rottweilers as Pit bulls have been targeted and banned from many of our communities reducing their numbers to an unbalanced ratio between Rottweilers and Pit bulls.

"The most important factors missing were the amount of Rottweilers registered during that period of time and the fact that Pit bulls have been banned all over the country. How could a fair comparison be made?" questions Grace Acosta, Rottweiler breeder licensed by AKC and President of the Gulfstream Rottweiler Club. She points out that between 1991 and 1998 the Rottweiler jumped in popularity to number two over all. To be fair to the Rottweiler breed the study fails to give the number of Rottweilers registered with AKC.

In comparison, the numbers don't add up. During 1999 the American Kennel Club registered 41,776 Rottweilers compared to 0 Pit Bulls, because Pit Bulls are not a registered breed.

"The Rottweiler was not bred to be a pet. Surprised? Don't be. Most dogs weren't bred to be pets. People that desire these dogs for pets must work at teaching their dogs the rules of society, then these frightening statistics will go away," says Pete Dettori, Rottweiler owner, trainer, and writer for Canine Workshop.

Between 1991 and 1998, thirty-three fatal attacks involved Rottweilers according to the study.

Nashville Attorney and longtime Rottweiler owner Michael J. Love says he, "has never encountered any problem with the breed. I have never seen any behavior with the Rottweiler that is different than other dogs. However, they are generally far more athletic."

"It would be interesting to see further research on those deaths to see how many were abused dogs, unsupervised, and untrained or at least only shown violence. Personally, I have only had great experiences with both breeds and my only death-fear has been of being kissed or licked to death, "says Sheyrena Boswell, Neenah, Wisconsin.

Dog bite fatality rates are less than one in 10 million according to the study. Over all in 1997 and 1998 there were 27 dog attack deaths including 19 children.

"Where are the parents when these attacks occur? People get these dogs for the wrong reason. Most of them don't know anything about the breed. They don't realize how big & powerful they can be. I own three Rottweilers & they have never bitten anybody. They were raised with children. It's all in the way they are raised. If any dog is abused, they will eventually bite. The parents of these victims should have better supervision over their children. Most of the kids are latchkey children. No supervision at home until the parents get home from work," says Quinn Webb, Orlando, Florida.

Pit bulls still have the lead in fatal attacks at 66 mauling deaths between 1979 and 1998 involving at least one pit bull according to the study. Rottweilers were recorded for 37 mauling deaths mostly during the 1990s. German shepherds followed with 17, Huskies at 15, Malamutes at 12, and Doberman pinschers with nine.

During the past 20 years, annually the number of fatal attacks has not differentiated much, according to the study, yet attacks have climbed on an over all basis.

"The Rottweiler as well as any other breed of dog is not to blame here. This falls on the responsible shoulders of the owner. However, a dog is going to be a dog in any given situation. If they are provoked into a defense situation, that is just what they are going to do. I have seen on my local news where Rottweilers as well as other breeds have attacked children. If a parent knows there is a Rottweiler, Pit bull, or even a mix breed dog near where a child is playing, why are these children left unattended? A child is going to be a child. To them it is all in the fun of playing to pull a dogs tail, ears, hair, just as they would do to 'Lil Susie in school."

"My property is well posted with Beware of Dog signs, not Bad Dog signs--I don't consider Tequila a bad dog. I also have No Trespassing signs posted as well. Therefore, if a person read the sign and chooses to come through my gates, this is poor judgment on their part," says Patty Johns, Hilliard, Florida.

The researchers say the numbers point out the following: 1) a growing public ignorance of how to behave around dogs; 2) extensive mistreatment of dogs; and 3) adults not instructing their children to stay away from unfamiliar dogs. The study stresses this is a people problem, not a dog problem. The number one rule parents need to teach their children is never to approach an unfamiliar dog, because not all dogs are friendly. If a child wishes to pet a dog, the child must be taught to ask permission from the dog's owner first.

"Rottweilers can live in harmony with children, as long as all parties are taught mutual respect. Children need to learn that all dogs need to be respected. Dogs that are eating or sleeping are never to be disturbed. Dogs should never be subjected to abusive behavior, including ear pulling, eye poking, blowing in the face, etc. If any dog is abused enough, it will eventually defend itself if it feels as though it has no alternative. A Rottweiler is normally a very tolerant dog, but all animals have their limits as to how much nonsense they will take before they issue a correction. It is the responsibility of the dog owner to protect the dog from the misbehavior of children, and it is the children's parents responsibility to teach them proper dog etiquette."

"When properly bred, exercised and trained with positive reinforcement, Rottweilers are extremely loving, calm, stable companion dogs. People have created this situation, and it is up to people to take responsibility for the situation and change it. They also don't understand the strength of an 85 lb. one-year-old puppy," says Tonia Ellsworth, aerobics instructor and Rottweiler owner, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"Obviously, a dog that weighs over 100 lbs. and has defensive instincts needs to be trained and monitored properly. This kind of dog needs training starting immediately upon arriving at home. Positive reinforcement works extremely well with this breed, as it is a very intelligent breed of dog that wants to work with its human. I recommend any owner to thoroughly research the breed, understand how large it will grow to be, and commit to taking the puppy to puppy-kindergarten classes, as well as at least two more basic obedience classes. This breed needs a lot of mental stimulation. It needs to have a job to be happy and well-adjusted."

"Rottweilers also need a lot of exercise and safe space to play. All owners should have access to a large, fenced yard. The fence should be a privacy fence. The fence should be high and wooden, so that the dog has less of a chance of escaping, and less of a chance of neighborhood kids being able to stick hands, sticks, etc., through the fence to torment the dog. Rottweilers should never be chained in a yard. This scenario leads to disaster, as the dog becomes more aggressive the longer it is chained. Neighborhood kids can come and taunt a chained dog and the dog has no place to retreat to. A fenced yard is the only way to go. A Rottweiler should never be allowed to roam the neighborhood. If any dog thinks someone is invading his territory, he may bite. If a Rottweiler bites, the person may be literally scarred for life. Worst-case scenario is when more than one Rottweiler is allowed to roam the streets. This is just asking for a dog bite to occur."

"The Rottweiler breed is not more vicious or more aggressive than the Chihuahua breed or any other Terrier breed. The difference between these is the size of the animal. A bite from a Chihuahua can be treated with a Band-Aid, but a bite from a Rottweiler usually needs medical treatment. I always compare it with a lion and a cat, both felines. Which animal would you like to fight?" says Acosta.

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