Disagreeable people 'prefer aggressive dogs'

Aggressive dog Psychologists say there is evidence backing the theory that owners match their dogs

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"Less agreeable" people are more likely to prefer dogs associated with aggression, according to psychologists.

A study at the University of Leicester compared human personality type with the breed of dog they would choose.

Dogs with a reputation for aggression were more popular with people who were "less concerned with the needs of others and quicker to become hostile".

Researchers say the results support the idea that dogs are likely to match their owners.

The study took a range of popular dogs and ranked them according to their reputations for being more or less aggressive.

At one end of the scale was a Staffordshire bull terrier and the other was a cocker spaniel.

'Unfriendly'

These were then matched against the preferences of 235 people who had taken standard psychological personality tests.

This found that the strongest predictor for choosing a dog associated with aggression was to have a personality which was "lower in agreeableness".

Start Quote

People have a choice about which dog they get - so if you actively choose something, it says something about you”

End Quote Dr Vincent Egan University of Leicester

This meant they were more likely to have traits such as being less interested in the well-being of others, being more suspicious, unfriendly and competitive.

"People have a choice about which dog they get - so if you actively choose something, it says something about you," said forensic psychologist, Vincent Egan, who headed the study.

"People don't have to get a 'weapon dog'," says Dr Egan.

A dog of any breed can be aggressive or well behaved - depending on how well or badly they are trained and treated, he said.

"Any dog that is socialised properly will behave well."

Status symbols

The study was able to test the theory that different types of personality were drawn to breeds of dog with a particular public image.

Dr Egan said by using a representative sample of people it was possible to get beyond generalisations about the types of dog owned by the "thug in the park".

There were also other signs of a link between preferring aggressive dogs and being a more "conscientious" personality, with traits associated with discipline and following rules.

The study did not find a connection between preferring aggressive dogs and any greater likelihood of having carried out "delinquent" acts.

And there was little evidence to support assumptions about aggressive dogs being linked to displays of status or "strutting" behaviour.

While status in dog ownership is going to be influenced by the surroundings - and that having a labrador in the countryside might be as much a status symbol as a pit bull terrier in the inner city - all of these choices say something about an individual, said Dr Egan.

"People can break out of a cultural stereotype," he said. "They can be an urban tough guy and still get a dandie dinmont," he added, referring to the non-fearsome breed of small terrier.

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