Is that dog Dangerous?

With recent discussion about a dangerous dog and breed-specific dog ordinances in Plainville, I thought we would review some misconceptions about how we identify dog breeds.

Numerous breeds such as German Shepard Dogs, Rottweilers and the category of “Pit Bull” (including American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Bull Dogs and more) typically carry a negative prejudice. It is important to note, the term “Pit Bull” is not a breed, but a term used to describe many breeds typically recognized visually by a well-defined, square looking head and a muscular, athletic physique. But just how good are we at determining breed just by looking at a dog?

A study completed (Voith VL, Ingram E, Mitsouras K, et al) and published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science in 2009 found people could only visually identify dog breeds correctly 1 in 4 times. (1) Another group at the University of Florida ran the DNA profiles for 100 mixed breed dogs and determined their heritage via a canine DNA database. They then had almost 6,000 self-proclaimed “dog experts” consisting of groomers, veterinarians, veterinary staff, shelter employees etc, name the animal’s breed. Dogs were identified correctly 27% of the time and 6 of the dogs were never correctly identified!

Beyond breed identification, there a few other pieces of mis-information floating around out there that cast a negative light on certain breeds and affect the way we treat those breeds or any dog that resembles them. Stay tuned next week for breed “fact” debunking!

Voith VL, Ingram E, Mitsouras K, et al. Comparison of adoption agency breed identification and DNA breed identification of dogs.J Appl Anim Welf Sci 2009;12:253-262

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