What Makes A Dog Aggressive?
Dog lovers know that different breeds have completely different temperaments. Just like people, dog personalities vary which is why most home owners are drawn to specific breeds (we love Rottweilers). The down side of having a dog that is assumed to be aggressive is that if it shows any signs of barking, lunging, growling or biting at strangers - you may be asked to give it up, or worse yet it could be put to sleep.
Aggression in your dog is an especially important concern if you have kids, or live in an apartment where certain types of dogs are restricted. You can't change the opinion of the apartment leasing company or the stipulations of your lease, but research has shown that behavior like aggression that was thought to be breed specific is actually related to owners' behavior and proper training.
That could help the fight against breed-specific legislation which assumes that dogs like Rottweilers, German Shepard's, and pit bulls are naturally dangerous. According to a study we came across, the biggest factor in canine aggression isn't the breed, but the type of training an owner uses. The training you use will ultimately determine how your dog interacts with other humans. This includes both strangers and family members.
Researchers looked at canine aggression towards people in three contexts: strangers entering the house, strangers outside the house, and family members. They found that puppy classes using positive reinforcement methods limited aggressive behavior towards strangers. In contrast, punishment based training actually increased aggressive behavior - suggesting that bad behavior is actually a learned trait and not based on breed at all.
Interestingly, female owners are less likely to have behavior issues with the family pooch. The study also found that older dogs were more likely to show bad behavior, highlighting the need for training as early as possible to help prevent unwanted aggressive behavior regardless of breed. Neutered dogs also tended to be less aggressive. Researchers also found that dog owners over age 40 twice less likely to have aggression issues with their dogs, reporting less of the unwanted behavior in all situations, versus owners under age 25. That may be because older owners are spending more time with the dog, or taking more care to train.
Based on the research, we think the point is made that all breeds can be a good dog that is a safe family companion. It just takes the proper attention from you - the owner - and some good training early on to set the right attitude.