Aggressive Dogs and Breed Bans
Studies Show Improper Training Causes Aggressive Canine Behavior
May 5, 2009 Joy Butler
The controversy concerning aggressive dogs and breed bans rages. Some say there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners. Others call for dangerous breed bans, claiming that some breeds are, by nature, aggressive and no amount of training can change it. For years the hot debate has been mainly a matter of opinion but recent studies and cases may shed some light on the controversy.
University of Cordoba Study
According to the results of a study carried out at University of Cordoba in Spain, the owner, rather than coincidence of breed, has more influence over the dog
During the UCO study, veterinarian Joaquín Pérez-Guisado led researchers in observing 711 adult dogs, both male and female, purebred and cross bred, including some breeds considered aggressive such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, German Shepherd, and Rottweiler, as well as breeds considered gentler such as the Labrador Retriever, Dalmatian, and Irish Setter.
The researchers found that certain breeds, smaller males between ages 5 and 7 showed greater tendencies toward aggression but found sufficient evidence to conclude that proper handling and training are more influential.
According to the study, factors associated with aggressiveness in dogs were: First time dog ownership Lack of obedience training Pampering Spayed females Constant supply of food Lack of attention Lack of appropriate physical punishment Dogs bought on impulse Dogs given as presents Dogs for guard work
However, according to Pérez-Guisado, outside of medical causes, ”dogs that are trained properly do not normally retain aggressive dominance behaviour.”
University of Pennsylvania Study
Another recent veterinary study conducted at University of Pennsylvania found that most aggressive pets trained by confrontational or aversive methods continue to be aggressive.
In the University of Pennsylvania study, the veterinary team authored a 30 item survey for dog owners who were seeking help with their pet’s aggressiveness problems. Questions included queries such as who trained the dog, what methods were used, and their results.
Many dog enthusiasts believe that canine aggression comes from the dog’s drive for pack position and they promote some of the popular confrontational or aversion methods of training such as shaking, jerking, staring down, growling at, or alpha rolling. In the study, these methods were reported to have been unsuccessful in changing the dog’s behavior and may have caused more aggressiveness. The veterinary team also observed in the study that using neutral or positive methods like exercise and rewards seemed to curb aggressiveness. Aggressive Dogs Rehabilitated
Well known dog behavior specialist, Cesar Millan, has rehabilitated many aggressive dogs. He claims that he rehabilitates dogs with his whisperer methods and then trains dog owners. He believes the best formula for humans to establish the pack leader role in their dog’s eyes is exercise, discipline, and then affection. Rather than conditioning the dog to commands, Millan teaches the owner how to give a dog boundaries and limitations using a calm, assertive energy. He says that anger, aggressiveness, and abuse will not establish the owner as pack leader.
Dr. Frank McMillan, staff veterinarian at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, designed a special rehabilitation curriculum for the "worst of the worst” Michael Vick pit bulls. The dogs who many said could never be rehabilitated and should be put down, made tremendous progress and many are now doing well in adoptive homes.
These studies and cases show strong evidence that the owner, rather than the breed, is more influential over the dog’s behavior. Perhaps breed bans would not solve the problem of dog aggressiveness but only bring about the erroneous training of other breeds.
Francis Battista, cofounder of Best Friends, sums it up, "…you don’t ban cars because of reckless drivers.”