My family is afraid of the Rottweiler attack statistics
(South Boston, MA)
I want to adopt a 1 yr Rottweiler who I've been getting to know at the animal shelter I volunteer at. She's so lovable, affectionate, great with dogs and people. She's been around a baby too and was very sweet.
My brother and cousin wouldn't want her around their kids because of the statistics they've read on this website http://www.dogsbite.org/reports/dogsbite-report-us-dog-bite-fatalities-2006-2008.pdf. Out of the 88 fatalities in the last 3 yrs 12 were from Rotties & 55 were from Pits. I've read a lot of info on the breed and recited phrases from this site but they think this site is biased.
How should I convince them that this dog is good with kids and others? I read they are good family dogs but they are protective. How can I reassure them that the dog is not dangerous if it has proper training and exercise? Rottweilers have always been my favorite breed and I am pissed my family is giving me an ultimatum.
Thanks for your help.
This is something that lovers of Rottweilers, Pitbulls and other similar breeds come up against all the time. It's depressing, infuriating, heartbreaking and a whole lot more, but unfortunately the media and irresponsible owners/breeders have managed to paint a very inaccurate picture of these breeds.
I'm not sure it's possible to change someone elses' mind about something like this with words, they actually have to be involved with the dogs themselves and to approach the situation with an open mind rather than believe what 'they' say. Not everyone is able to overcome their ignorance or biases in this way (and I don't mean this in an insulting way, ignorance is basically lack of knowledge of a subject, and if someone hasn't every owned, raised or been around these dogs they are basically ignorant of their behavior, qualities etc.)
Dog bite statistics aren't nearly as 'clear-cut' as they seem and there are a whole host of variables that can make the figures open to all sorts of misrepresentation and misinterpretation. Obviously if someone is to be truly attacked by a dog the size of a Rottweiler, or with the strength of a Pitbull, he/she is going to be much more seriously injured than if they had been attacked by a chihuahau, schnauzer or a mixed breed of average size. So the number of fatalities arising from this type of situation is definitely going to be higher if the breed is big and strong.
When you move away from fatalities and look at dog bites in general, you will probably realize that people have a different attitude to some breeds and basically 'read into' their behavior what they expect to see. I've seen, heard and experienced this personally myself way too many times to not realize it's a true phenomena and sadly way too common.
Many small and tiny breeds are MUCH more aggressive than the larger ones, but they're not taken seriously. If a tiny dog like a Yorkie for example, is barking, growling, throwing himself at visitors and nipping at their ankles and legs (this happens A LOT) people don't really feel threatened. They feel irritated. A few bites or scratches aren't a big deal and it's easy to contain or remove the dog. However this is still a dog bite or 'attack', just not reported.
If a Rottweiler or Pitbull was to do the same thing, the media would be all over it and the poor dog would be euthanized. Totally unacceptable in my mind.
Of course, NO dog should be behaving this way, big or small, and I would never expect, or allow, my Rotties to do that. They've been trained properly, raised with love, and are mentally and physically sound so it wouldn't ever occur to them, but I wanted to make an example here. No members of any one breed can be painted as aggressive, bad, evil, dangerous or whatever just because of the actions of a few.
Also the situations behind the dog bite statistics are also not shown. Generally if you look into the actual incident the motivation can be seen. Perhaps the dog has been bred by someone with no knowledge or understanding of the breed, simply out for money, and the parents of the dog are unsound genetically or due to mistreatment. Perhaps the dog has been chained up all day; or left alone and has never been trained or socialized; or is afraid of people because it's been treated harshly or cruelly; or was being teased or frightened by the person they bit.... the list goes on and on.
There ARE of course, dangerous Rottweilers. Dogs who are unsound or unfit either due to genetics or lack of care, or poor handling etc. etc. There are many other dogs of different breeds in the same boat, and it's very sad. However, a well-bred Rottie who has been socialized, trained and loved is not a dangerous dog - but a loving, loyal, courageous and goofy pet. However they are a guardian breed, and are very intelligent and intuitive, they need an owner that is both loving and firm and that can help them feel confident that their 'person' is in charge. They're so smart that if they think their owner is clueless, they may try to take charge themselves - and that's not what you want.
In my mind Rottweiler owners have a responsibility to the breed and should work extra-hard to make sure their dogs are well-behaved, well-socialized and represent their breed positively. There are way more bad owners than there are bad dogs, and that's what needs to be dealt with.
As you work in rescue and have been around this dog for some time you should by now have an accurate 'feel' for her temperament. Perhaps you could arrange to take her home for a 'trial period' to see how she adjusts? You would need probably up to a month to get a true picture of how she fits into your family, as dogs with an unsettled background can take longer to feel 'at home'.
Obviously it's a very personal decision what you do, but if it were me I would go with my own instincts and knowledge and not allow other peoples' fears and insecurities to override my own beliefs. If this situation works out well for you perhaps your family will be given the chance to meet, spend time with and actually interact with a Rottweiler and learn for themselves that these dogs aren't the evil they are portrayed to be, far from it. As a parent I know that we want to keep our children safe and to protect them in every way possible and your familys' concerns are understandable, given their lack of experience with the breed, but are not realistic in this situation, perhaps you can help them to see that.
And as far as being 'biased' is concerned, I'm afraid I may be guilty as charged there :o) However, my feelings, advice and information is based on many, many years spent living with, loving and taking care of Rottweilers (and actually a few Pitbulls that have crossed my path over the years too. Another breed that are great dogs and totally misunderstood, because people generally don't understand or take into account breed characteristics and get caught up in the 'hype' surrounding them). I do know what I'm talking about... I'm not relying on someone elses' opinions to form my own.
Apologies for such a ridiculously long essay! Hope this helps, and I wish you the very best of luck with whatever you decide and I hope this girl finds a great home even if you decide it's not for you right now.