Researchers from the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences have investigated the occurrence of dog aggression towards people with a survey of UK dog owners.
The 4,000 responses revealed:
- aggression towards unfamiliar people was reported more commonly by owners than aggression to family members
- 7 per cent of owners responded that their dog barked, lunged, growled or actually bit when people came to the house
- 5 per cent of owners said that these things happened when out on walks
- 3 per cent of owners reported aggression towards family members
The study highlighted that the majority of dogs showing aggression do so in just one type of situation. This indicates that the tendency to categorise dogs as either generally ‘safe’ or ‘vicious’ is a misconception, and that most dogs show aggression as a learnt response to particular situations. (A lot of trainers working in animal shelters probably already knew this.)
The research also highlighted that although general characteristics, such as breed type, are significant risk factors across large populations they explain only a small amount of the overall difference between aggressive and non-aggressive dogs. Therefore, it is not appropriate to evaluate the risk of aggressive behaviour in an individual dog using characteristics such as breed type.
That’s another black mark for supporters of breed specific legislation!
The results of this research have been published in the journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science.