Dachshund, the most aggressive dog breedSeems the smallest dogs ranked the highest when it came to human aggression, the top three being the Dachshund, then the Chihuahua and third, the Jack Russell Terrier.

The is the findings recently published by the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science from a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.

Dachshunds, originally bred to hunt badgers, do not have a fearsome reputation due to their size, but research found that one in five dachshunds have bitten or tried to bite strangers, and a similar number have attacked other dogs; one in 12 have snapped at their owners. This put them on top of the list of 33 breeds which were rated for their aggression, after academics analyzed the behavior of thousands of dogs.

Following closely on the heels of the Dachshund is the Chihuahua, a dog noted as the smallest breed of dog. Then the feisty Jack Russell.

Dr James Serpell, one of the researchers, said smaller breeds might be more genetically predisposed towards aggressive behaviour than larger dogs.

“Reported levels of aggression in some cases are concerning, with rates of bites or bite attempts rising as high as 20 per cent toward strangers and 30 per cent toward unfamiliar dogs,” he added.

Until now, research into canine aggression has almost exclusively involved analysis of dog bite statistics. But the researchers said these were potentially misleading as most bites were not reported. Big dogs might have acquired a reputation for being aggressive because their bites were more likely to require medical attention. (Telegraph)

The study conducted by Deborah Duffy, Yuying Hsu and James Serpell at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, considered one of the most extensive of its kind and is the first to report replicated findings of breed differences in aggression, collected basic and behavior-related dog data from two separate groups.

The first group, consisting of members of 11 American Kennel Club recognized national breed clubs, such as The Labrador Retriever Club and The English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association and the second involved an online survey both reached similar conclusions.

Chihuahuas and Dachshunds scored higher than average for aggression directed to both humans and dogs, putting them towards the top of the list.

Akitas and Pit Bull Terriers, which have “bad boy” reputations, mostly scored high for dog-directed aggression. When they did injure humans, however, the injuries tended to be more severe than those inflicted by the scrappy, smaller dogs.

“Small size very likely plays a large role in the development of fear-based aggression among some breeds,” Duffy explained. “Smaller dogs may feel more threatened by other dogs and people — a perception that may be well founded.”

Other breeds with a greater tendency to bite humans included Jack Russell Terriers, Australian Cattle Dogs, American Cocker Spaniels and Beagles.

On the “least aggressive” end of the spectrum were Basset Hounds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Brittany Spaniels, Greyhounds and Whippets. Interestingly enough, several of these dogs also rated low for “watchdog behavior” and “territorial defense” behaviors, suggesting that they tend to be lovable family pets, but are less vigilant watchdogs than Chihuahuas and Dachshunds. (Discovery Channel)

Below is a list showing how dogs from the online sample fared. The percentages in the middle four columns refer to the “snaps, bites or attempts to bite” responses. The last 2 columns are the averages, average of all and average of aggression against people. I ranked this chart based on the human aggression percentages but you can easily see the ranking based on the overall averages.

Breed # of Dogs Human – Stranger Owners Other Dogs Dog Rivalry Ave All Ave People
Dachshund 68 21% 6% 18% 7% 10% 14%
Chihuahua 56 16% 5% 18% 4% 9% 11%
Beagle 63 8% 8% 10% 6% 6% 8%
Jack Russell Terrier 78 8% 4% 22% 9% 9% 6%
Australian Cattle Dog 136 10% 1% 21% 4% 7% 6%
Cocker Spaniel 107 5% 6% 7% 4% 4% 6%
Border Collie 163 8% 2% 13% 4% 5% 5%
Pit Bull 132 7% 2% 22% 8% 8% 5%
Great Dane 53 6% 2% 25% 6% 8% 4%
English Springer Spaniel 57 4% 4% 18% 7% 7% 4%
Shetland Sheepdog 57 4% 4% 4% 4% 3% 4%
Airedale Terrier 66 5% 2% 9% 3% 4% 4%
Bichon Frise 65 5% 2% 5% 3% 3% 4%
Doberman Pinscher 144 6% 1% 11% 3% 4% 4%
Rottweiler 210 5% 1% 8% 1% 3% 3%
Boxer 70 6% 0% 16% 4% 5% 3%
German Shepherd 292 4% 2% 16% 4% 5% 3%
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier 216 4% 2% 16% 4% 5% 3%
Akita 99 3% 3% 1% 5% 2% 3%
Collie 132 2% 2% 7% 2% 3% 2%
Bernese Mntn Dog 67 1% 3% 4% 1% 2% 2%
Mastiff (English) 126 2% 1% 6% 4% 3% 2%
Portuguese Water Dog 75 3% 0% 7% 3% 3% 2%
Havanese 73 3% 0% 4% 1% 2% 2%
Golden Retriever 181 1% 1% 7% 2% 2% 1%
Siberian Husky 54 0% 2% 6% 2% 2% 1%
Brittany Spaniel 66 0% 2% 5% 2% 2% 1%
Whippet 59 0% 2% 3% 2% 1% 1%
Greyhound 62 2% 0% 2% 0% 1% 1%
Poodle 169 1% 0% 8% 1% 2% 1%
Rhodesian Ridgeback 69 1% 0% 6% 1% 2% 1%
Labrador Retriever 349 1% 0% 2% 1% 1% 1%

One thing you will notice is that many of the breeds have a higher percentage of dog-dog aggression. For dogs, being territorial, this is not a great surprise. I would have to say the most important percentages are those that show aggression toward people; Humans/Stranger and Owners.

Now keep in mind that this information is to be used only as a reference and there are also contributing and genetic factors.

As in humans, behavioral patterns in dogs seem to arise from a combination of environmental influences and genetics. The DNA component is supported in a separate study published this week in the journal Genetics.

Paul Jones, a Mars Veterinary genetics researcher at the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition, and his co-author identified locations in a dog’s DNA that contain genes believed to contribute to behavior, trainability and longevity, as well as body and skull shape, weight, fur color and length.

“By applying this research approach, we may be able to decipher how genes contribute to physical or behavioral traits that affect many breeds,” said Jones, who indicated future applications might include tailor-made foods and medicines, along with specific recommendations to individuals about what would be the “most lifestyle-appropriate pet for an owner.”

Duffy countered that “just because there is a genetic component to behavior does not necessarily mean that it is predestined.”

“Anyone looking to bring a dog into their home should find out as much as possible about the individual dog’s history and temperament,” she advised. “Certainly some breeds are better with children than others on average. However, it wouldn’t make sense to pass up a well-socialized, well-trained, non-aggressive Rottweiler for an atypically aggressive Labrador Retriever.”

Regarding the study, I do believe that some breeds can be more predisposed toward certain traits than others which is why when people choose dog breeds, even mixes of breeds, they look at the traits that specific breeds are known for. I also believe that much behavior also goes back to training and socialization. So as far as this study goes, I don’t discount it, but I do believe people need to take the results with a ‘grain of salt’ as the saying goes.

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