One major question that people have about dogs is whether they are born to be aggressive. Certain breeds have gained a reputation for being aggressive and attacking others — both people and animals — but that doesn’t mean every dog is bad.
Regardless of the breed that a person has in the home, research has shown that early training is key to preventing aggression. Some dogs do get a bad reputation based on a few bad seeds. For example, pit bulls, Dobermans, and Rottweilers are known to be fairly aggressive dogs. Other dogs, like Labradors and corgis, have the reputation of being fun and entertaining for their families.
The reality is that any one of these dogs can be a great family dog. It comes down to how they are trained. To further study this, a researcher at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences formed a study in which she sent out 15,000 questionnaires to owners of dogs. In the questionnaires of the people who responded, she examined owner responses as well as the traits of the breeds in question.
Interestingly, dogs that were living with owners under the age of 25 were around twice as likely to become aggressive with other animals compared to dogs that lived with owners who were over the age of 40. Another important point is that dogs that went to puppy training school were around 50 percent less likely to become aggressive to people who were strangers.
Aggression is fairly difficult to define, but that is the first thing that has to be done to determine which kinds of dogs are aggressive and if aggression runs genetically in certain breeds. Barking, for example, is something that many people consider aggressive. This is not necessarily aggressive, however.
Aggression is complex, meaning that it is situation dependent and dependent on the dog’s background and the background of the people who own it. Dogs who came from rescue centers were more likely to become aggressive compared to those purchased as puppies from breeders. Additionally, owners who use negative reinforcement end up with a dog that is around three times as likely to lunge at people in the family.
It’s impossible to say that aggression does not get passed down in certain breeds, but a dog’s behaviors are definitely influenced by external factors. Dog owners are responsible for making sure their animals don’t attack others. If they do, then they are held strictly liable.