Disagreeable people pick aggressive dogs

A study carried out at the University of Leicester's School of Psychology has found that younger people who are disagreeable are more likely to prefer aggressive dogs.

However, no link was found between liking an aggressive dog and delinquent behaviour. Nor was there any support for the idea that liking an aggressive dog is an act of 'status display' or intended to attract romantic partners.

Dr Vincent Egan, a Chartered Psychologist, and his fellow researchers asked participants to complete personality tests and indicate their preference for different breeds of dog. These breeds had previously been ranked for their perceived aggressiveness by members of the public.

The research team found that the personality factors of low agreeableness and higher conscientiousness were related to a preference for aggressive dog breeds. Younger people were also more likely to prefer the aggressive breeds.

“A lot of human behaviour involves status display and dominance,” says Dr Egan, “and evolutionarily this helps with finding mates. Basic personality also influences a lot of our behaviour. By measuring both at the same time, we could see whether they each had an influence on liking aggressive dogs, or whether one was due to another.

"We were surprised mating effort did not have an influence here, but think it might be because we looked at a wider age range. A preference for a non-aggressive dog may also make a statement about a person; liking a pedigree Labrador or a clipped Poodle may be as much a statement as having a pit-bull with a studded collar.

"We were also surprised to find a small association between a preference for aggressive dogs and greater Conscientiousness (i.e. valuing and following rules). However, dogs also prefer rules and firm boundaries themselves. We speculate that cheap dog-training classes would be enjoyable and beneficial for both dog and owner."

The findings were published last week in the journal Anthrozoos.

At the Society’s Annual Conference in London last month Dr Lance Workman from Bath Spa University presented research exploring the connection between people’s personalities and the breeds of dog they choose.

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