Study examines factors that contribute to dog aggression

Dog attacks can be serious and some communities are taking steps to reduce risks, including areas in West Virginia.

A study recently published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science finds specific factors can help indicate future aggression. Notably, researchers point to neutering and training methods playing a more prominent role in aggressive tendencies than breed type. The study will likely play a role in current debates on dog breed restrictions.

Many local ordinances across the country and here in West Virginia restrict and ban certain breeds in an attempt to increase the safety of residents. Communities in West Virginia that impose restrictions include the city of Barboursville, which restricts pit bull and wolf hybrids and Huntington, which restricts pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf hybrids.

More on the study

The published study was conducted in the United Kingdom and relied on data provided from surveys. The study reviewed aggression in a number of situations, including the presence of an unknown person in the owner's home and the presence of an unknown person in a location other than the home. Researchers with the study note that attendance at a puppy obedience class decreased the risk of aggression to unfamiliar people in both situations.

The use of punishment also played an important role. According to the study, owners that use negative reinforcement, including violent acts like hitting or kicking a dog in an attempt to promote good behavior, are more likely to raise a dog that will show aggression towards other people. This is in contrast to owners that use positive reinforcement, rewarding a dog for good behavior and gently correcting negative habits.

The authors of the study clarified that although these factors can play an important role in shaping the behavior of an animal, each individual animal has its own tendencies. The study calls for the use of general characteristics like owners and, to a lesser extent, breed, to assist in dealing with a larger population of pets. However, researchers report that these generalizations do not provide adequate guidance when attempting to determine an individual dog's risk of aggression.

Impact of the study

The study provides some valuable information that can help reduce the risk of raising an aggressive dog. Unfortunately, not all owners take proper precautions and some pets may have a disposition that increases the risk of aggressive tendencies. Whatever the cause for aggression, an aggressive act that leads to an injury should be taken seriously.

Dog bites can lead to serious and tragic consequences. Victims of these attacks may need medical intervention including stitches, surgical procedures and cosmetic surgery to return the bitten area to its previous appearance. Some victims may require counseling after the attack, particularly children. These interventions can be costly, but compensation is likely available.

Legal counsel can help

Victims of dog attacks are likely eligible to receive compensation to help cover the cost of medical expenses, rehabilitation and lost wages as well as potential pain and suffering awards. Dog owners, others responsible for the custody of the animal, landlords and property owners may all be liable for the injuries. Contact an experienced dog bite injury lawyer to discuss your case and work to better ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to.

Keywords: personal injury dog bite