Aggressive dog? How agreeable is the owner?

Research from the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology  has revealed that young people who are more disagreeable are likely to own an aggressive dog.

‘Agreeableness’ means being less concerned with the needs or well-being of others.  Such people may be suspicious, unfriendly and competitive as well.

Participants were given personality tests and  indicated their preference for different types of dogs  . The dogs were independently rated according to how aggressive people perceived them to be. Bull terriers were rated as most aggressive, followed by boxers; retrievers and cocker spaniels were seen as least aggressive.

The study’s results also show a small effect suggesting that those who liked aggressive dogs showed signs of conscientiousness – being careful, reliable and thoughtful about their actions.

Whilst this finding (about conscientiousness) contradicts a long-held perception that owners of aggressive dogs are always irresponsible, Dr Vincent Egan, the study’s lead researcher suggests caution before reading too much into the conclusion:

“These results with Conscientiousness were unexpected, but the effect is a small one, and needs to be repeated in a different group of people. Studies of this kind tend to only look at a restricted age ranges, which may exaggerate findings which do not occur across the entire lifespan, so we believe a stereotype is always true, whereas it may only be true under certain conditions. Our study employed a broader age range.”

Dr Egan’s study has been published in the journal Anthrozoos.

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