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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

Due to a lack of information, people are insecure and are angered against dogs. Therefore inform yourself before you make a judgement. The topic “list dogs” (often mistakenly called “fighting dogs”) unfortunately split the nation.The opinions about it differ strongly. On the one hand they are feared, on the other hand they are especially appreciated. But how are list dogs defined in general and who determines which breed counts as a list dog? Does it even make sense to put certain dog breeds on a list of dangers? 

Definition list dog versus “fighting dog“

The term “fighting dog” comes from a time (unfortunately partly still today) when dogs were used for animal fights (against conspecifics, bears etc.). According to this, “fighting dog” originally did not designate a certain breed of dog, but a certain field of application of the dog. A big misbelief is therefore the equation of the two terms. A list dog is not automatically an “fighting dog”. Spoiler: It says nothing about whether the dog has an increased “fighting or aggression potential” or not. List dogs are dogs that are on the list for dangerous dogs and therefore stricter laws apply to them. 

Legal situation  

The government determines which breeds are listed in the animal husbandry act. However, each federal state in austria can decide on its own which requirements are directed to the owner and which breeds are considered list dogs. You can find information about the federal states on the following website: https://www.oesterreich.gv.at/themen/freizeit_und_strassenverkehr/haustiere/1/2.html

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Born to fight? Does a breed list make sense?

In a way, this question has a philosophical character. Can living beings even be born “evil”? What is “evil”? Hasn’t it rather to do with education, experience and general environmental factors?  To assume that a dog of a certain breed is dangerous from birth is a rather false fallacy. Therefore, classifying a “list dog” as dangerous does not mean that this dog will become conspicuous in the course of its life. On the other hand, you can ultimately not exclude that a “non-list dog” may become “aggressive” towards other dogs or humans. The question that arises from this is the following: Does it make any sense at all to differentiate dogs according to their breeds?

Of course, it can be said that some breeds on the list, differ significantly from other breeds in their physical appearance and strength and can therefore cause more “harm” than small dogs. Per se, however, to say that those breeds are “more dangerous” and generally more aggressive is definitely wrong. In the meantime, the university of veterinary medicine Vienna, by proxy of the ministry of social affairs 05/2019, has also been able to prove in a study that a breed-specific dangerousness cannot be scientifically proven. Also the bite statistics do not agree with the breeds of the list dogs. 

What would now make sense?

Rather the other end of the leash is required. In a first step, you should be aware that several factors (environment, education, experience, „genetics“) play a role in the behaviour. Also the behaviour of the mother dog can have an influence. If she has learned in her dog’s life to defend herself only through “aggressive behaviour”, this behaviour can also be projected onto the puppies.

If a dog has learned not to get further with appeasement signals, it must go one step further on the so-called escalation scale to be taken seriously. That is why it is so important to understand the body language of the dogs, to socialize dogs well and to educate people.

This is the only way to prevent biting incidents. Every owner of a dog (regardless of breed) must be aware of his/her duties and responsibilities towards his/her protégé, other people and animals. Here it is important to pay attention to the individual needs of the dog and to take them seriously. If a dog shows conspicuous behaviour, there is usually a reason. This reason has to be investigated and this is where the owner comes into play again. The good news is that what has been learned can be “replaced” by alternative behaviour. A “problem dog” can learn to get further with friendly behaviour than with aggressive behaviour. If you need help with this, you can contact a qualified trainer.  

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No, so-called list dogs are not fighting machines that have inherited a certain “fighting gene” from birth. Several factors play a decisive role in the development of a certain behaviour. Nevertheless, there are currently certain laws in austria which every owner of one of these breeds must adhere to.