In another study buttressing the belief that people tend to get dogs that match their personalities, British researchers say they concluded that disagreeable people prefer to own aggressive dogs.
The study, by a research team from the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology, was based on personality tests, filled out by participants.
Participating humans, we mean.
For the dogs, researchers seemed to mostly fall back on old stereotypes.
Researchers say they found that younger people and people with low levels of agreeableness were more likely to prefer dog breeds that were rated more aggressive. As examples of those breeds, they cited bull terriers or boxers.
Here’s where I’m going to have to be disagreeable. While I’m certain a trained psychologist with a clipboard and a questionnaire can confirm disagreeability in humans, I have my doubts about their labeling dogs aggressive, epecially if, as it seems, that is based entirely on perceptions, which are often misperceptions, about breeds.
Did the scientists actually meet any disagreeable people and their aggressive dogs? (Perhaps it was wisest not to.) Or did they just work from a checklist of allegedly aggressive dogs — Rottweilers? Akitas? Pit bulls? Dobermans. German shepherds?
I don’t dispute the conclusion the study reached; it seems somewhat obvious. I just question what they base the label of “aggressive” dog on. If it’s solely breed, and perceptions of breeds, that’s not science; it’s stereotyping.
And you’ve got to wonder too — assuming there is a connection between disagreeable people and aggressive dogs, whether dogs belonging to disagreeable people started out that way, or became aggressive while living disagreeable people?
Humans generally make dogs aggressive — sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally. An aggressive dog usually has a disagreeable human behind it. (Check out some of the comments we’ve received from supporters of dogfighting for proof of that.)
According to the scientists, disagreeable people are typically less concerned about others’ well-being and may be suspicious, unfriendly and competitive.
The study, published in the June edition of the journal Anthrozoos, found no link between liking an aggressive breed of dog and delinquent behavior, or that having an aggressive type of dog is a “status display,” lead researcher Vincent Egan said in a university news release:
“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.”
If one is relying on “dogs perceived as aggressive” to build their database, isn’t one making some assumptions oneself?
(Photos: We don’t think Rush Limbaugh has a dog, so we went on Google and picked him out a Chihuahua. No slur to Chihuahuas is intended)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 31st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggressive, animals, behavior, breeds, disagreeable, dog owners, dogs, humans, match, misperceptions, perceptions, personality, pets, pyschologists, reflect, research, study, university of leicester
Leashed dogs are likely to act more aggressively. Dogs, researchers ascertained, like to sniff other dogs, especially those of the opposite sex.
But here’s one fascinating finding that I think is worth much more research: Dogs being walked by men are four times more likely to threaten and bite other dogs.
That’s pretty stunning, and merits further investigation — into dog, into man, but even moreso into dogs’ abilities to read our emotions, better even, perhaps, than we can read our own.
The study, to be published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, found that the sex of the owner had the biggest effect on whether or not a dog will threaten or bite another dog.
“We propose that the occurrence of threat and biting in dogs on a walk may have some connection with aggressive tendencies and/or impulsivity in people,” Petr Rezac and his team at Mendel University wrote.
They add: “Dogs are able to perceive subtle messages of threat emitted by another dog. Simultaneously, dogs are unusually skilled at reading human social and communicative behavior.”
Rezac is an associate professor in the Department of Animal Morphology, Physiology and Genetics. He and his colleagues studied close to 2,000 dog-dog interactions on owner-led walks held in the city of Brno, according to Discovery News.
What they observed the most, as you might expect, was sniffing and peeing. And most of the researchers’ conclusions are already known by anyone with a dog:
Males sniff females more often, males and females prefer play with each other than with members of their own sex, adult males mark the most, puppies play together more than twice as often as adults, dogs prefer to play with similarly sized individuals and dogs tend to be more aggressive when restrained by a leash.
(Scientists, meanwhile, according to my own observations, are prone to sniffing, scratching their heads and marking their turf. They don’t have time to play, and tend to be aggressive when their funding is threatened. They should almost always be leashed.)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in the process of trying to figure dogs out, man learned a thing or two about his own self?
I think much helpful-to-humans information is there, inside dogs, but it mostly goes untapped — because we speak different languages, because we don’t often look for it, and for reasons of focus. Scientists, like detectives building a case against a suspect, sometimes develop tunnel vision, to the extent that bigger, broader potential revelations, and sometimes ethics and boundaries, go ignored.
The Czech study, for example, leads me to wonder whether, in addition to studying the dogs, scientists might want to pay closer attention to those dog walkers, and all the baggage and pent-up hostilities they may be carrying around — whether they have those emotions on a leash, or too tight a leash, or no leash at all.
I don’t think it’s a Czech thing. And, in my experience, it’s not a gender thing. Generally, I’ve found that the most tightly wound pet owners — male or female — have the most unpredictable dogs.
Dogs, in large part, mirror their owners.
But their powers go far beyond mere reflection. Let’s go back to those pent-up hostilities. Sometimes they are undectable to psychiatrists. Sometimes they are undectable to the person they are pent-up in. Yet dogs have the power to sense them, and sometimes to calm them.
I’m not saying dogs know more than scientists — or am I? — only that dogs sense and know things we don’t. If only we could figure out a non-intrusive and polite way to ask the dogs to share with us all the things they have the power to sense — things that, even with all our scientific instruments, we humans can’t.
Maybe then — leashed or unleashed, male or female, dog or human — we could all just get along.
(Photo: By John Woestendiek)
(PS: The dogs pictured above were playing, not fighting)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggressive, animal behavior, animals, behavior, communication, conclusions, czech republic, dog, dog walking, dogs, females, findings, gender, hostile, humans, inside dogs, insights, leashed, leashes, males, mendel university, mirror, observation, peeing, perception, petr rezac, pets, playing, reading, reflect, reflection, research, science, scientists, sense, sensing, sex, sniffing, study, walker, walking