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Does breed determine aggression?

People commonly believe Pit bulls and Rottweilers are naturally aggressive, dangerous and something to be feared. However, Bristol University School of Veterinary Sciences conducted a study in 2014 that found breed does not predispose dogs to aggressive behavior. In fact, the school concluded the owners' behaviors were a much better indicator for predicting aggression in a dog.

Owners who provided negative reinforcement as their training mechanism were more likely to have dogs that were aggressive to strangers and lunged at family members. Dogs who came from shelters were also more likely to be aggressive than dogs from a breeder. Additionally, owner's under the age of 25 were twice as likely to have an aggressive dog. While breed may determine a dog's overall temperament (quiet, playful, shy, etc.), it bears no weight when it comes to aggressiveness.

What are the warning signs?

Aggression is difficult to predict because it is complex and depends on the history of both the dog and the owner, as well as a given situation. A dog can become aggressive for many reasons, such as protecting territory or a family member, if they become scared, feel trapped or are in pain, among other factors. Some behaviors they may exhibit if the source of aggravation is not removed are as follows:

  • Being completely still.
  • Barking with a deep and threatening sound.
  • Lunging without contact.
  • Growling.
  • Showing teeth.
  • Snarling, which is a tooth bared growl.
  • Bites ranging from quick nips to fast and furious in rapid succession.

How can I prevent bites?

Every situation is different. If you notice your dog exhibit any of the behaviors above when a particular person is around, you can work around the trigger by avoiding contact between the two. However, if the dog's aggression is unpredictable and sporadic, you may want to work with your veterinarian or a behavior specialist. 

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