When a person hears about a dog attack, he or she might have a specific notion about what the situation looked like. Based on preconceived ideas about these incidents, people might generally imagine that the attack involved an aggressive breed, such as a pit bull or Rottweiler.
While certain breeds might have a predisposition toward aggressive behavior, a recently released study indicated that a dog's breed is only one of many factors that can influence whether or not a specific animal will bite. According to the study publishing in "Applied Animal Behaviour Science," the dog owner also has significant influence over their animal's behavioral tendencies.
This study looked at a number of factors that can determine whether or not a dog will attack an innocent bystander. Researchers identified the following as potential sources of aggression:
- Owner's age: Younger owners tend to have more aggressive dogs
- Training: If the owner brought the dog to puppy classes, aggression is less likely
- Gender: Male dogs tend to be more aggressive than females
- Situation: Whether a dog is at home or out on the street can inform if they will act aggressively toward people or other animals
- Origin: Animals from shelters might be more aggressive than those purchased from a breeder
- Health: Some dogs may have a tendency to be aggressive when they are ill or in pain
Although some of these non-breed factors may be easy to spot, others may not be so clear when dealing with an unfamiliar dog. Unfortunately, bystanders can unknowingly be put at great risk.
The researchers indicated that dogs have a general tendency to attack when they are anxious or fearful. Although a dog may feel defensive, it's an owners responsibility to protect other people from being attacked. If a dog has a history of being aggressive around unfamiliar people or in unfamiliar settings, it's probably not advisable to put them in this situation.
Certainly, some factors contributing to aggression are outside the control of owners, but people can still be held liable for what their pets do. In the unfortunate event of an attack, victims may benefit from knowing how Tennessee’s state or local laws apply to responsible dog ownership.