Aggressive Training Breeds Aggressive Dogs

Photo: Jessie Hodge

Photo: Jessie Hodge

A new study out of the UK sought to find the key factors that contribute to dog aggression. While breed-specific legislation and other discriminatory practices focus on the belief that a dog's breed is the primary factor that causes a dog to be aggressive, the results of this study point otherwise. Check out the top 5 common factors found by the researchers, listed below.

The most important thing we can take away from this study is that with responsible ownership and humane training, we can reduce what seems to be a dog aggression epidemic.

Factor #1: Training Methods Used

This study is a huge victory for proponents of science-based, force-free positive training methods. The researchers found that dogs trained using punishment and aversive training methods were twice as likely to be aggressive towards strangers and three times as likely to be aggressive towards family members.

Aggressive training methods create fearful, insecure dogs who often cease to use warning signs before biting, and cope with their fear and insecurity with aggression. A confident dog trained using positive methods does not feel the need to react aggressively. This study exemplifies why it is critical that dog owners, regardless of their dog's breed, behavioral problems, or past history, choose positive methods over punitive methods.

Factor #2: Age of the Owner

The study showed that dogs owned by people under the age of 25 were almost twice as likely to be aggressive than those owned by people over 40.

Factor #3: Dog Gender

According to this study, neutered males were twice as likely to be aggressive as spayed females. Interestingly, the researchers found no significant difference in the risk of aggression between neutered and non-neutered males.

Factor #4: Early Training

Dogs who attended puppy classes when they were young were about one and a half times less likely to show aggression towards strangers. This factor may be twofold: first, that owners who took their puppies to puppy classes are more likely to be overall responsible dog owners, and second, that these dogs received socialization from a young age.

Factor #5: Origin of the Dog

Dogs that were bought from a breeder were much less likely to be aggressive than dogs obtained from shelters or rescues, pet stores, or Internet sites. Although this is a sad statistic for those of us who love our rescue dogs, it's important to be aware that when you adopt a shelter dog, you're taking on a dog with a potentially unknown history, so you have to be prepared to use positive training methods to reverse the damage that may have been done by a previous owner.

Purchasing a puppy from a pet store or an Internet site is never a good idea. Most of these sources obtain their puppies from puppy mills or backyard breeders, where puppies are bred for profit rather than for ideal health and temperament.

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