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Preconceptions about dog breeds, attacks may not always hold true

When traveling down the sidewalk, California residents might regularly encounter dogs out for a walk with their owners. For many people, it might be a natural to size-up the oncoming dog. As a result of this process, certain conclusions about the dog's relative friendliness might be drawn without even meeting the pooch.

One of the first things people notice is the dog's breed. If an unfamiliar animal is identified as a pit bull or some other breed with a reputation for being aggressive, people might automatically take precautions. However, a study recently released in Applied Animal Behavior points out that a dog's breed might not even be the best indicator of aggressiveness.

In fact, the researchers involved in this study point out that it might be more important to take a look at the dog’s owner, as opposed to the animal itself. Owners can do a lot to shape the behavior of their dogs, especially if the animals are raised by the same person from a young age.

Shaping a dog's behavior starts when it’s a puppy, so owners can reduce aggressiveness by taking the dog to training classes to expose the animal to unfamiliar dogs and people, in addition to teaching obedience. Along the same line of thought, the study revealed that dogs purchased from a breeder and raised to adulthood have a lower propensity for aggression than shelter animals.

Beyond training, dogs will not always act the same in new situations. Namely, a dog might be perfectly friendly and docile at home, but in an unfamiliar setting, it might feel defensive. When dogs feel threatened or anxious about a new situation, they might be inclined to attack.

An innocent bystander won't be able to gather all of this information simply by looking at a dog, which is all the more reason for owners to exercise caution. If a person knows that his or her dog might be likely to attack in a certain scenario, the animal probably shouldn't be put in that situation around other people.

Source: Health Day News, "What makes an aggressive dog, and how you can spot one," Dennis Thompson, Feb. 28, 2014

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