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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Dogs’ Sociability, Owners’ Neuroticism and Attachment Style to Pets as Predictors of Dog Aggression

Department of Animal Science, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Groblje 3, 1230 Domžale, Slovenia
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Animals 2020, 10(2), 315; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020315
Received: 17 January 2020 / Revised: 13 February 2020 / Accepted: 14 February 2020 / Published: 18 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
It is widely known that psychological characteristics, for example personality traits, can facilitate the occurrence of aggressive behavior. Using the combination of two research methods—questionnaires and behavioral testing—we investigated the associations between a dog’s personality and its aggression towards humans and animals. Due to the close relationship and co-habitation of dogs and humans, we also looked at how the owner’s personality and the dog–human emotional bond, known as attachment style, play a role in dog aggression. Our results indicated that dogs which were aggressive towards humans were less sociable, and had owners who were less emotionally stable, more distant, and less clingy and controlling, compared to non-aggressive dogs. These results emphasize the importance of owner attachment to a dog for dog behavior, and may serve as a foundation for future research on psychosocial factors influencing dog aggression.
A dog’s aggressive behavior is influenced by external and internal factors, including its psychological profile. In this study, dogs’ and owners’ personalities and the owners’ attachment style to their dogs were identified and associated with owner-reported dog aggression towards humans and animals. Forty Slovenian owners participated with their dogs, of different breeds and aggression history, sorted into three groups (non-aggressive dogs, dogs aggressive towards humans, and dogs aggressive towards animals). The owners filled out three separate questionnaires that assessed dog aggression history towards different targets, owner’s personality and degree of insecure attachment styles to dogs; namely anxious and avoidant attachment. Dog personality was characterized using a standardized dog mentality assessment test, during which the dog was exposed to nine tasks, performed outside, and dogs were scored based on behaviors they exhibited. The results indicated that dogs which were aggressive towards humans were less sociable than non-aggressive dogs and this was associated with the higher neuroticism scores of their owners. We also found that dogs which were aggressive towards strangers had owners with lower scores for anxious attachment and that dogs which were aggressive towards owners had owners with higher scores for avoidant attachment. These results imply that the psychological profiles of both a dog and its owner influence dog aggression towards humans. View Full-Text
Keywords: dogs; dog owners; aggression; personality traits; attachment dogs; dog owners; aggression; personality traits; attachment
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Gobbo, E.; Zupan, M. Dogs’ Sociability, Owners’ Neuroticism and Attachment Style to Pets as Predictors of Dog Aggression. Animals 2020, 10, 315.

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