But are biting dogs really as big a problem as we think they are? The book, Dogs Bite but balloons and slippers are more dangerous, by Janis Bradley, discusses the statistics and research involved in dog bites as well as many other significantly more dangerous causes of injury.
Reading this book will really give you a clear idea of the the real danger in this world, the hyped media reports, and misunderstanding of how much research in this area is extrapolated data based on such a small amount of information as to make much of the results sheer guess work!
I think that one of the most interesting issues in the area of dog bites is the humans fear reaction. Given that there are so many more and worse ways to be injured, why is it that being bitten by a dog gets so much attention. I believe that my neighbor said it best when he described the feeling as one of betrayal.
For a species that has been living closely with humans for at least 12 thousand years and possibly as much as 100 thousand years, it feels like a betrayal when that animal turns on you.This feeling of betrayal really is a primal emotion for us because people show so much outrage even when the animal that bit them was a complete stranger. Would we feel as betrayed if it had been a cat? Probably not.
The idea that dogs are “Disney” animals, bubbling over with love, loyalty, and heroism, makes it easy for us to feel a huge injustice when that animal seems to break that imaginary rule of “man’s best friend”. In reality, dogs are fallible just like humans, maybe even because of humans! They don’t always know right from wrong, and in a moment of panic, fear, or perceived need to defend, they might indeed bite.
Should we really take so much offense, suffer a feeling of betrayal, and hold that dog responsible for not knowing a humans sense of right and wrong? Certainly a dog that has shown a low bite threshold, needs to be managed and rehabilitated if possible, but how many people are there available to put that much time and effort into the retraining? And how much of a responsibility do we have as a society to rehabilitate dogs?
Darwinistically we have a responsibility to our own species before any other,but I believe that we, as a species, have gone above and beyond the “species first” mentality that characterizes natural selection. We have loyalty, honour, heroism, and compassion. All of those traits we so look for in our canine companions, lets first find them in ourselves before expecting them from our dog.