A neighbor was warning me to stay away from a Pit Bull down the street because he was a “bad dog” who growled when he walked by. I tried to explain to him that there is no such thing as a “bad dog.” The dog was simply acting out of fear when he felt threatened, and this is often seen as aggressive behavior. But, it had nothing to do with his breed and had everything to do with his environment.
Are dogs aggressive because of their breed or is it due to the way they have been trained and their environment? Recent research in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science reported that a dog’s breed is only one minor indicator of how aggressive it is going to be. Depending factors are:
- Method of training
- Treatment of the dog by it’s owner
- The dog’s environment
- The dog’s situation at the time it was aggressive
- Whether the dog was socialized as a puppy
Discovery News (see video above) reported from this study that aggression is more about putting a dog into a specific situation than about the breed of the dog. Discovery News states, “Dogs that showed aggression in one of the following situations, didn‘t show it in another.”
- 7% of owners said their dog barks, growls, or bite strangers in their own home
- 5% said aggressive behaviors happens towards strangers on walks
- 3% said their dogs were aggressive towards family members
This isn’t the first study to report that dominance based dog training can have a negative effect on a dog’s behavior. But, in this study, Discovery News reported, ”Dogs who were trained using punishment (including choke collars and electric fences) and yelling were twice as likely to be aggressive to strangers and three times as likely to be aggressive to their owners. “They went on to say, ”Dogs that went to puppy classes were one and a half times less likely to be aggressive to strangers. They were better socialized at an early age.”
Author and psychology professor Stanely Coren went into more data analysis of the research in his Canine Corner article in Psychology Today. He noted the many positive effects of puppy socialization classes. ”According to the data such classes seem to impart a protective effect against aggression. Attending puppy classes on at least two occasions before the dog was 12 weeks of age was associated with a 1.4 times reduced risk of aggression toward unfamiliar people entering the house and a 1.6 times reduced risk of showing aggression to unfamiliar people out of the house.”
Also of note is that the research showed that there is no difference in aggressive behavior between neutered and non-neutered male dogs.
Do you find anything surprising about this research? Thanks for sharing your thoughts in a comment below.
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