Personally, I think how people feel about certain dog breeds comes down to personal experience. I have owned dogs for years, have volunteered at a shelter and at the SPCA in New Zealand. My personal experiences that make me most take note of a dog (or dog behaviour) while out on a walk... mostly come from experiences that have happened to my dogs and myself... while out walking. When you're in the shelter/pound/boarding kennel situation, you don't often get the true measure of an animal, because chances are the animal is going to be under more than usual amounts of stress than at other times in its life.
Dogs (unfortunately) are too often pegged for being 'aggresive animals' when if given a chance in more normal circumstances, would be quiet and settled individuals.
Most of what a dog will become, is determined by what happens to it in the first few weeks (and months) of life. Socialisation (in all areas) is critical to having a well balanced, people/animal friendly dog.
So... back to experiences being paramount to how we view certain breeds. My only experiences of dog aggression (ever) have been when I've been walking my dogs. My first dog, was humongous (Mastiff/Great Dane X) and wasn't approached by any dog in an aggressive way, ever.
My subsequent dogs have all been Labs, or Lab/Huntaway crosses. I've had two Chocolate Labs physically attacked. (both times mine were on leads, the other dogs were not) The first Lab was attacked by a German Shepherd that ran out of its property as we walked past on the footpath.
The second Lab, (one of my current dogs) was attacked by a Staffordshire/Lab X. (Strong in the chest like the staffy, but taller) This attack happened whilst I was attending dog club and the other dog was (supposed) to be doing an 'off the lead recall'.
This same dog (Chocolate Lab) was also attacked by a German Shepherd roaming in the off-lead dog exercise park (there was no owner present)... we had tried to get away from him for a good half hour before he closed in. I had been on the phone to Animal Control for that one because no matter what I did, we couldn't get loose of him, he just circled and circled. I had no vehicle and it was evening, there was nobody close by.
My latest encounter with dog aggression was the neighbours dog across the road--an American Red Nosed Pitbull. Her owner walked out of the gate to speak with another neighbour of mine and his Pitbull rushed out and attacked my neighbour's Boarder Collie... which was on the other side of the road, this was without provocation, the Collie was on his own property.
So, does this teach me that all of the above breeds are menacing? No. Does it teach me to be wary of these breeds in particular? Yes, I think so... not because society tells me this, but because I have had personal experience with a number of dogs from these breeds and I think I would be stupid not to heed it.
Unfortunately there isn't an addendum on the signage saying :"Please take advantage of this area ONLY if you're sure you have good recall with your dogs."
I tend to only walk my guys in areas with known dogs now, or at times when there aren't many around. (Usually we go to the river behind my house but circumstances have changed recently so we don't spend much time there.)
*Note: (Should have said this in my previous post, sorry. O_O ) Both of my dogs made full recoveries (after each incident) and had very little damage. *phew* (It probably actually damaged me more... I lost confidence in walking them on each occasion for quite some time after the event.)
My cousin had pit bulls years ago. They were very aggressive guard dogs, but she claimed they had never harmed anyone, and they were friendly when she was around. I always had the impression if I pulled up to her house with them outside, and her gone, they would attack.
Really I wish more people would take more of an active interest in training and socializing their dogs. I am really sorry that those instances happened to you Flakenoir, and I am glad your dogs only sustained minor injuries. Dog fights are almost always more scary than serious, fortunately.
I wished I liked off-lead dog parks more than I do, and my dislike is simply because irresponsible people don't have control of their animals (and are incapable of reading their dogs). It is true that Pit Bull type dogs can be dog reactive (which is a different behavior from human reactiveness), but there are very few that actively search for a fight. Normally, they approach a dog very tightly and the other dog's reaction leads to the fight. Very few dogs are comfortable with another dog who is not comfortable with them. (As for the pit who attacked the collie, I suspect he was already worked up against the fence. Barrier aggression can lead to dogs reacting in a way they wouldn't under normal circumstances. I also volunteer at a shelter, and they have stacked old fashion kennels. Dogs from the upper level have had a toe bitten off from people not paying attention while putting them in by dogs who were not dog aggressive but super reactive from barking at a barrier all day. I am not excusing the pit's behavior, nor its owners, just explaining.)
It is important to remember that each of these experiences was a different breed of dog (you can't really determine a mixed breed's ancestry visually) but all of them were being irresponsibly handled. So really, the negative association should be with dumb ass owners and those individual dogs. I know how traumatic experiences can be, though. I have never been afraid of labs, for example, but I won't own one. I'll pet them and interact with them, but I'm not a huge fan. Partly it is because I don't love gun dogs personality wise and partly because I've been attacked by one.
I'm glad, at least, that your have taken away caution versus unreasonable fear from your situations.
I wish I could say you were right about the Pit and Collie, but in this case, the Pit had been sunning herself alongside her Lab companion inside their front yard while the neighbours had been talking... it wasn't until the gate was opened and the neighbour had passed through that she got up and ran out across the road to the Collie.
She ("Girl" the Pit) is walked (on lead) regularly--is in fact more of a pet, than a yard dog, but has often shown aggression to other animals.
Back when I was a paper boy, it was the little dogs that were the most aggressive and the owners seemed unable to control them as well as the bigger dogs.
I used to work for Fedex and didn't like any barking, aggressive looking or sounding dogs. A cocker spaniel on my route was the most consistently menacing dog, but I'd rather face a dog like that than a rott or doberman. Fair or not, a few breeds have more of a reputation as being dangerous - "tear you up" as opposed to "bite your ankle." That's the exception rather than the rule, I know, but it only takes an occasional newspaper headline to keep it reenforced in everyone's minds.