Most of the dog bite stories that we post involve Pit bulls and Rottweilers. These dog breeds have a reputation for being aggressive. Yet, many owners claim that these breeds of dogs are simply misunderstood. British researchers tried to answer the question, “What role does breed play in dog attacks?”
Scientists at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences passed out 15,000 questionnaires to dog owners—4,000 were returned. The questionnaires asked about pet behavior and aggression toward people.
Owner Reported Aggression Was Relatively Rare
Owners were more likely to report dog aggression toward unfamiliar people than to familiar family members. In many cases, the dogs were showing territorial behavior. Seven percent of dog owners reported that their pet had barked, lunged, growled or bitten unfamiliar visitors to their home. In comparison, five percent reported these types of aggressive behaviors while the dog was being walked. Only three percent of owners reported dog aggression toward family members.
The scientists looked at the dog breed and other factors that might influence aggression. The results may surprise you.
- Training – Dogs that attended obedience training as puppies were one and a half times less likely to be aggressive to strangers.
- Negative Reinforcement – Dogs that were punished for aggressive behavior were twice as likely to show aggression to strangers and three times as likely to show aggression to family members.
- Early History – Dogs obtained from a shelter or animal rescue were more likely to be aggressive than dogs bought from a breeder.
But, Neutering May Not
- Neutering – It is commonly believed that neutering reduces a dog’s aggressive tendency. However, the study found no significant difference in aggression risk between neutered and non-neutered male dogs.
- Dog gender – The gender of the dog did make a difference. Neutered male dogs were twice as likely to show aggressive behavior as neutered female dogs.
Owners Are a Major Factor
- Owner age – Dogs owned by people under age 25 were twice as likely to be aggressive as dogs owned by people over 40.
The study was published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
Owners are responsible for making sure that their dogs don’t harm others. If you are bitten by a dog in Georgia, you can hold the owner accountable. To learn more, we invite you to browse our selection of articles. We also welcome you to contact us with any additional questions—we’re standing by to help!