Own An Aggressive Dog? Then You Must Be A Disagreeable Person
May 23, 2012

Own An Aggressive Dog? Then You Must Be A Disagreeable Person

Brett Smith for RedOrbit.com

Do dogs resemble their owners? A new study seems to confirm at least part of that conventional wisdom.

People considered disagreeable prefer disagreeable or aggressive dogs, according to researchers at the University of Leicester's School of Psychology in the U.K.

The study, which was published in the journal Anthrozoos, surveyed 235 people in the U.K. and North America, who took personality tests and ranked a range of popular dogs according to their disposition. Respondents also recalled actions that led to or could have led to an arrest or disciplinary action.

The study found that, “persons lower in Agreeableness, higher in Neuroticism and Conscientiousness, and of younger age actively preferred a dog perceived as aggressive.”

People who preferred aggressive dogs tended to be less interested in the well-being of others, more suspicious, unfriendly and competitive, the authors of the study said.

"This type of study is important, as it shows assumptions are not the whole picture. It is assumed owners of aggressive dogs (or dogs perceived as aggressive) are antisocial show-offs. But we did not find persons who expressed a preference for aggressive dogs had committed more delinquent acts, or reported showing off more,” said Vincent Egan, a clinical psychologist and lead author of the study.

Although less agreeable people seemed to prefer aggressive pets, there was no evidence that this group had a marked increase of delinquency. The aggressive-dog group also did not score higher than other participants on a measure of sexual competitiveness, or “mating effort.”

"We were surprised mating effort did not have an influence here, but think it might be because we looked at a wider age range,” Egan said.

Surprisingly, the survey showed that a small percentage of those who liked aggressive dogs actually showed signs of conscientiousness - being careful, reliable, and thoughtful about their actions. This contradicts a common perception of aggressive dog owners.

"We were surprised to find a small association between a preference for aggressive dogs and greater Conscientiousness,” Egan said.

”However, dogs also prefer rules and firm boundaries themselves. We speculate that cheap dog-training classes would be enjoyable and beneficial for both dog and owner.”

“Studies of this kind tend to only look at a restricted age ranges, which may exaggerate findings which do not occur across the entire lifespan, so we believe a stereotype is always true, whereas it may only be true under certain conditions. Our study employed a broader age range.”

Aggressive dogs have been a public safety issue over the years with a few municipalities enacting breed-specific legislation in response to a number of incidents involving pit bulls, including local governments in Denver, Miami, and Ontario, Canada.

These actions range from banning the ownership of pit bull-type dogs to restrictions and conditions on their owners. These regulations often establish a legal presumption that a pit bull-type dog is a "dangerous" or "vicious" dog. In response to these restrictions, some state-level governments in the United States have prohibited or restricted the ability of municipal governments within those states to enact breed-specific legislation.