The number of dog attacks recorded by the police in England and Wales has risen by more than a third in the past five years, as per a BBC investigation.
Last year, there were nearly 22,000 cases of out-of-control dogs causing injury. In 2018, there were just over 16,000. The UK's dog population is estimated to have risen by only 15% in that time. Police say they've seen more reports of dangerous dogs as a result of specific work by specialist officers.
The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) says forces across the UK have been focusing on attacks. The BBC's findings are based on 37 responses to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made to all 43 police forces.
There is a disturbing trend of an emerging breed attacking and even killing humans, the American Bully. Where I live, I know of one of these dogs ripping a man's stomach open and biting another on the neck, narrowly missing his main artery. The attacks went unreported, but the dog was eventually put to sleep.
August 2022 - A 34-year-old man, a dog trainer, was mauled to death in a park in Fareham, Hampshire.
July 2022 - A 43-year-old woman was killed by a Bully XL at her home, with her boyfriend receiving life-changing injuries during the attack.
May 2022 - A 62-year-old man was attacked by his daughter-in-law's American Bully in Wrexham. He suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the scene.
March 2022 - A 17-month-old child dies in the hospital after being attacked by an American Bully in St. Helens, Merseyside.
December 2021 - A fifty-year-old owner of a dog rescue home is killed by a Bully XL in Dundee.
Any Dog Has the Potential to Attack a Human.
I must stress that any breed of dog has the potential to attack humans. Also, all breeds can be fantastic, loving, amazing friends - even the American Bully. Back in the '90s, I trained one of the first Pit Bull terriers in the UK. His name was Red. He was super clever. I could teach him anything. He had great obedience, was great at agility, and was affectionate. But his power and strength struck me. I knew I had to keep a handle on his behavior - I didn't want him to get too hyped up by playing a tug-of-war game.
Pit Bull terriers are now subject to the Dangerous Dogs Act. Effectively, they're a banned breed. But I know there are many breeds out there that have the potential to be as dangerous - if not more so - than the Pit Bull. The Pit Bull terrier was ultimately banned because of the type of owners who were taking them on - owners who had the dogs for themselves - not for the love of dogs. These owners didn't understand just how dangerous a powerful dog can potentially be - owners with little or no experience.
Some Pit Owners were criminals who gained a small and dangerous amount of knowledge - How to train their dogs to do the same sort of work as a police dog - attacking a human on command. They didn't realize they were creating monsters they couldn't control - the same monsters they'd have on the floor with their children or walking around the playground. Of course, it all went badly wrong. We can't blame the breed for that.
Today, very much the same thing is happening with the American Bully. Only the situation is much worse and on a greater scale. It's a situation that will lead to an increasing number of fatal dog attacks. A YouTube channel called 'UK Bully Report' features what are called "Bully Meet up" - Ad Hoc Bully dog shows held in local parks close to children’s play areas.
The "meet-ups" are an area of concern. As an expert in dog training and handling, I notice that the majority of the dogs aren't listening to their handlers. They're allowed to pull hard on a chain lead, with some struggling to stop the dog from pulling them in any direction it wants to go. In my opinion, the attitude of the handlers and breeders at these events is all wrong. They appear to be inexperienced, using the wrong type of leads and collars, and more concerned about how their dogs look than their overall temperament. In many cases, it's all about how the dog makes them look. They even do one of the most dangerous activitities with their animal and that is playing a tug-of-war.
The Dangerous Games Many Owners Play with their Dogs
Encouraging dogs to play a tug-of-war game is risky and can be very dangerous, especially with a large dog like an American Bully. It's a game that can be used to teach a dog to bite a human, similar to how the police would start with a new dog. I discourage my clients from doing this, no matter the breed.
At their core, all dogs are the same, a discovery made about ten years ago by a Swedish geneticist, Erik Axellsson. His research confirmed that the DNA of all dogs is 99.9 percent the same as that of a gray wolf. The DNA is so close it means every dog is the same species as the gray wolf. It's only that 0.1 percent that evolved over thousands of years that has led to the vast array of different dog types we see today.
Incredibly, that tiny bit of DNA has also given dogs the ability to read humans emotionally at a level that's unmatched by any other animal. They are born with an ability to understand human body language in a way their closest relative, the wolf, cannot. In fact, they understand humans in a way that even our closest ancestor, the chimpanzee, cannot.
The relationship between dogs and humans has made canines the most successful mammal on the planet. But this also means dogs need and seek guidance from humans. They feel safe, confident, and happy when we are fit guardians. But if this leadership is lacking, undesirable wolf-like behaviors soon surface. The wolf in every dog is never very far away.
Some dog owners don't like to think about this. Man seems to have an inherent fear of wolves. We are taught from a young age that a wolf might stalk you in the woods as you stroll to Granny's house. If I were to breed a miniature poodle and a wolf, the result would be a litter of Powos, and here in the UK, they'd all be subject to the Dangerous Dogs Act.
The Monster in Your Lounge !!!
Now imagine a family with children taking on an American Bully XL to live in their family home. It's a dog with size and strength that is no match, even for a pack of wolves, yet is far more intelligent than its ancestor. Like all dogs, it will sit in the home and work out the weaknesses and strengths of every family member. It will know everybody's emotional state and even their health status. However, unless the owners of this new dog have been around a lot of dogs and worked with them, they won't be able to read the dog in the same way it's able to check them out.
It sounds like a horror film scene - a super powerful, highly intelligent animal sitting on the family's sofa - reading them like a book with the ability to kill anyone of them with just one bite. The family is oblivious to the dangers and thinks they understand the dog and know what it is thinking and feeling. This is a real scenario happening right now somewhere in the UK with an American Bully XL. This is why we will see another death at the jaws of an American Bully.
I read dogs almost as well as they can read me. In the past, I've had to tell potential clients the uncomfortable truths about their dog. The fact that their dog could potentially bite them or a stranger. Some don't see or believe what I'm telling them, and sadly, my prediction comes true.
MPs will, I am sure, call for the Dangerous Dogs Act to be strengthened, and for the American Bully to be added to the list of dangerous dogs. But I don't think banning a breed is the answer. I firmly believe we should toughen up legislation around the ownership of ALL breeds. I would also like to see the dog license reintroduced, with owners being vetted - a home inspection - and possibly a simple online exam before owning a dog. We also need to educate dog owners - far too many simply don't understand the potential for things to go very wrong - with any dog.
Far too many don't understand their own dog. I've lost count of the times I've heard people shout, "It's OK, he's friendly" when their dog is out of control in the park. My vast experience with over a thousand dogs often tells me otherwise.
In my experience, 99.9 percent of dog owners cannot handle a dog when things go wrong. When things go bad with a Bichon, it will not make headlines.
A mistake with a dog like a Bully will always be nasty.