Science Says: Here's The Truth About Aggressive Dogs

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Public safety is important and, of course, some dogs can be dangerous, but come on now — it IS possible to protect public safety without taking sweet, well-trained dogs away from their owners for no reason. Let's be compassionate, listen to the science, and stop writing off entire breeds as inherently mean. They deserve better than that.

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Anthony Carboni: Is there really such thing as an aggressive breed of dog or just a dog that hasn't been trained? Anthony Carboni here for D News and I got a Pomeranian, little guy. He rules. I brought him on the show before and when people meet him they love him but they also add uh he must yap a lot or uh he bites pretty often doesn't he because that's sort of how people think of Pomeranians and while different breeds of dog do have their own unique quirks, you can't really say that a Pitbull is more likely to attack you than a Poodle. New research says that a dog's breed is just one minor indicator of how aggressive it's going to be. Aggression is very complex. It depends on things like training, the treatment of the dog by its owner, its environment, its situation.

The study by the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Science has found that about seven percent of owners said their dogs bark growl or bite strangers in their home. Five percent said aggressive behavior happened toward strangers on walks and three percent said that their dogs were actually aggressive towards family members, and that makes sense. Dogs are territorial. They're pack animals. So you figure they'd be more aggressive when protecting their home or their family. But what's interesting is that the dogs that showed aggression in one of those situations tended not to show aggression in any other. You'd think that a dog that would attack a member of its own family would also attack a stranger in public but that wasn't true. So the aggression was more about putting the dog into a specific situation.

Here's some other stuff they found. Dogs that went to puppy training classes were one and a half times less likely to be aggressive to strangers. They were more socialized at an early age. Dogs with owners under twenty five were twice as likely to be aggressive as dogs with owners over forty so older more mature owners make for more well behaved animals. Dogs who were trained using punishments and yelling were twice as likely to be aggressive to strangers and three times as likely to be aggressive to their owners, so tough love, not a good move dog wise.

Dogs that were adopted from shelters and rescues tended to be more aggressive than dogs from a breeder. Now all this shows that anger and aggressiveness in dogs has roots like it has in people. It comes from fear and anxiety. A dog handled appropriately is going to be a well behaved dog regardless of breed.

And finally, this one's really interesting. There is no difference in aggressive behavior between neutered and non neutered male dogs. Now that's interesting, because so many states in the U.S. and parts of the world have breed specific legislation, basically laws requiring that specific kind of dogs like Pit Bulls be banned entirely, or sterilized so they won't attack. Those laws are mostly built around misconceptions about breeds and around owners that train large dogs to be aggressive or angry because they think it'll somehow make the dog stronger or more protective of them and their property.

I have a lot of friends with Pitbulls and rescue dogs and they are the sweetest dogs in the world and it all comes down to how you treat them when they're a puppy. And if you wanna know more about that, Animalist News has an aggressive dog trainer who's gonna come in and show them tricks to take care of an aggressive dog, so check that out.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This video was produced by DNews. If you’re persuaded by the science and want to help communities implement more productive safety measures, sign this petition to ban breed-specific legislation at the federal level. Here's what the ASPCA has to say about it. And here is my favorite pit bull smile photo on the Internet. Thumbnail image via Thinkstock.


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