Big Dog or Little Dog: Whose Bite is Worse Than Their Bark?

Two news articles caught our attention at The Animal Medical Center last week regarding the type of dogs involved in bite injuries to humans. The articles seem to tell different stories, or do they?

Would you believe that “tiny” dogs were responsible for a record number of reported bites in New York City, according to a recent NY Post article? Surprisingly, the leader of the pack was the chihuahua.

The infamous pit bull came in second on reported bites in NYC, and are the vast majority of dogs in NYC shelters, according to MSNBC.com.

It’s important to remember that “any dog — any size — can bite.” Some dogs, unaware of their actual size, may bite out of instinct, fear or surprise.

Small dogs may not have developed the social skills required for interactions with strangers, perhaps because their owners may not realize all dogs — even small ones — require some form of obedience training. Living and working in New York City, I see small dogs tagging along with their owners — whether it’s shopping, running errands (eg: dry cleaners, bank) or even to lunch. Often these little creatures are poking their heads out of a tote bag or being carried in the owner’s arms. Consequently, it’s not unusual for passersby to reach out and want to pet these adorable dogs. Perhaps fearful of their touch or surprised by it, many of these small dogs resort to biting as a way to protect themselves.

Based on New York City data, pit bulls were ranked second with reported human bites. Moreover, many municipalities are becoming increasingly concerned about the risks associated with pit bulls.

Research has shown that dogs who have been neutered and had some form of obedience training are less likely to bite. Unfortunately, it is a widely recognized that pit bull owners may be less likely to neuter and obedience-train their dog.

While pit bulls are all too common in New York City shelters, San Francisco has been successful in reducing the number of pit bulls in their shelters.Thanks to a “sterilization law” passed in 2005, San Francisco has reported 26% fewer pit bulls have been impounded and 40% fewer have been euthanized. No doubt, the reported number of bite injuries related to the pit bull has dramatically been reduced, too.

I’m happy to report that the ASPCA in New York City is taking action to help reduce the pit bull population. The program, coined “Operation Pit,” offers free spays and neuter surgeries for pit bulls. These surgeries have both health and reproductive benefits in dogs.

The Animal Medical Center applauds The ASPCA on this effort and recognizes this as a call-to-action for pit bull owners. Please take advantage of Operation Pit, along with any obedience training opportunities you can find. Let’s work together to get the pit bulls out of the shelters, trained, neutered and into loving homes…and off the top of the New York City biter list.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

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One Response to Big Dog or Little Dog: Whose Bite is Worse Than Their Bark?

  1. [...] For their safety, and that of their family members, small dogs need obedience training as much as large dogs do. Small dogs like Kimba, who are frequently out in public have a greater opportunity for social interaction with strangers. These dogs need impeccable manners regarding biting behaviors and must be well socialized through obedience training. [...]

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