Humans are “lumpers”. We to want to find commonalities in groups to determine whether they fall in the dangerous column or the not dangerous column. We are animals to. This can lead to the often confusing “Correlation versus Causation” question and humans often get this wrong. What seems to be true, isn’t.
If we look at the “breed types” that tend to be responsible for level 5 and 6 bite cases (severe bites and fatalities), there appears to be commonalities. Those breed types are showing up a lot. But to say that there are behavioral traits common to those “breed types”, that contributed to the severity and outcome of those cases, would be inaccurate.
Instead, we have to look to the environments in which these incidents occurred and the learned history of the dog responsible, to understand the purpose or goal of the behavior and what provoked it. Of course genetics is always in play. Some dogs fall toward the severe side of aggression potential genetically, more than others. It is a quantitative trait and this can occur in any breed.
Today’s “bad ass” dog-du-jour happens to be the Pitbull or bully breed type. The type of person who acquires these dogs tends to create environments that may include long term stress, barrier frustration and repeated practicing of bad behaviors until an opportunity arises and the dog takes it. In a sense, the ”perfect storm” has been created.
Breed traits such as size, musculature and jaw configuration can contribute to the severity and outcome of these cases, as does the vulnerability of the victim, but to link extreme aggression to a behavioral trait in these types of cases, would be inaccurate most of the time. There are always exceptions.
Scenario: You have two puppies from a breeder of working line German shepherds. The breeder selectively breeds for high working drive in his dogs. Let’s assume that both puppies are quantitatively normal for that breed and line.
Owner A takes one puppy home and turns the puppy into a great search-and-rescue dog or a great performance dog by channeling the working drive in healthy and appropriate ways (good arousal).
Owner B takes home the other puppy, isolates it, abuses it, frustrates it and confines it until one day it kills someone because of extreme conditions that exist in its environment (bad arousal). The dog’s individual genetics and structure may contribute to the severity of the event, but did not cause it. The environment did.