Is Breed To Blame For Dog Aggression?

LWA via Getty Images

LWA via Getty Images

There is much controversy when it comes to the topic  of dog aggression and specific breeds.   Arin Greenwood from The Huffington Post  did an article about a  recent study done in Britain that takes a look at this subject.  According to the article it has more to do with educating the owner of the dog and not a specific breed as being more aggressive.

Dog breed is not a good predictor of aggression. This is according to a recent study out of the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences, for which researchers surveyed U.K. dog owners to find out potential risk factors for dogs showing aggression toward humans in three contexts: With family members, and around strangers both inside and outside of the house.

The researchers of “Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors,” published in December in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, surveyed over 14,000 dog owners in the U.K., collecting just under 4,000 responses.

About three percent of the responding dog owners reported aggression — defined as “barking, lunging, growling or biting” — toward family members. About seven percent reported aggression toward strangers coming into the house, and five percent reported aggression toward strangers out of the house.

Older dog owners (the humans being older, rather than the dogs) reported less aggression toward family members and toward strangers entering the house, while older dogs were more likely to be aggressive outside of the home. Spayed female dogs were less aggressive in all three categories.

Dogs purchased from breeders were less aggressive than those gotten from pet shops or rescue groups. Attending puppy class correlated with less aggression toward strangers both inside and outside the whole — but attending a training class for four or more weeks was related to more aggression toward family members. (Remember: the researchers found correlations here, not causation, which means it’s possible that dogs were going to obedience class for a long time because of their aggressive tendencies.)

Most dogs did in the study not show aggression in more than one context. The researchers took this to mean that aggression is not an innate quality.

“It is important for dog owners and members of the public to be aware that any dog is capable of showing aggression, even where it has not done so in other situations,” wrote the researchers in their re

port. “Equally, a dog which has shown aggression in one situation may not necessarily be ‘dangerous’ when in other contexts, an important factor in assessment of animals, for example in re-homing centres.”

The study did find that some dog breeds were more likely to be reported as aggressive: hounds and dogs classified in the Kennel Club’s “utility group” — something of a catch-all category for dogs “having been selectively bred to perform a specific function not included in the sporting and working categories,” according to the KC’s website, and including miniature schnauzers, Boston terriers, poodles and Dalmatians. “Gundogs,” as well as golden retrievers, terriers, setters and a host of other breeds had reduced aggression risks. None of the factors examined — training, breed, age, etc. — were dispositive, the study concluded, and “other factors specific to the characteristics and experience of individual dogs are likely to explain remaining variance.”

Here’s how lead researcher Rachel Casey put it in a blog post, straightforwardly titled “Dog aggression has little to do with breed, so test the owners“…

Read the rest of the article here.



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