In the battle for a dog's behavior, a new study says you have more to say than the dog's genes.
According to Joaquín Pérez-Guisado, the main author of the study and a researcher from the UCO, some of the factors that cause aggressiveness in dogs are: first-time dog ownership; failure to subject the dog to basic obedience training; spoiling or pampering the dog; not using physical punishment when it is required; buying a dog as a present, as a guard dog or on impulse; spaying female dogs; leaving the dog with a constant supply of food, or spending very little time with the dog in general and on its walks.
"Failure to observe all of these modifiable factors will encourage this type of aggressiveness and would conform to what we would colloquially call 'giving our dog a bad education'", Pérez-Guisado explains to SINC.
The study, which has recently been published in the Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances, is based on the following fact: approximately 40% of dominance aggression in dogs is associated with a lack of authority on the part of the owners who have never performed basic obedience training with their pets or who have only carried out the bare minimum of training.
Pity more parents don't follow similar guidelines. Aside from the spaying, every one of those factors could be applied to the raising of children. I especially like the phrase "physical punishment when it is required", as opposed to the knee-jerk reaction some have with regard to human children that such connotes some inherent barbarism. We, like the dogs, are social physical beings, and like every other such species, we will sometimes discipline each other effectively with violence. Our lingual abilities are to be used liberally no doubt. But still, sometimes words just won't achieve the understanding of your authority, or the necessary urgency of getting out of the street. Nothing on the order of an inquisition is needed, but technically violence nonetheless, if nothing more than a quick, painless slap on the hand. It's a pity that corporal punishment is so often depicted as a form of abuse carried out by sadists. Used properly and in a structured way, it helps prevent situations like that from ever coming to fruition. That was my experience as a difficult child, as well as an adult who's dealt with my share.
But back to the dogs.
According to Pérez-Guisado, certain breeds, male sex, a small size, or an age of between 5-7 years old are "the dog-dependent factors associated with greater dominance aggression". Nevertheless, these factors have "minimal effect" on whether the dog behaves aggressively. Factors linked to the owner's actions are more influential.
So it isn't just my imagination that those little yappy things pretending to be dogs are indeed annoying. Who decided it was useful to have a 5 pound dog in the first place? Hell, I've never had a 5 pound cat. If my cat can kill and eat it, it's not a dog.
And if it misbehaves? Gee, this sounds familiar:
To correct the animal's behaviour, the owner should handle it appropriately and "re-establish dominance over the dog", the researcher adds. In terms of physical punishment, Pérez-Guisado points out that "this method cannot be used with all dogs given the danger involved, although it could be used to re-establish dominance over puppies or small and easy-to-control dogs". However, "it should never be used as justification for treating a dog brutally, since physical punishment should be used more as a way to frighten and demonstrate the dominance we have over the dog than to inflict great suffering on the animal", the vet states.
Human version: Pop a three year old once in a while, don't spank your teens. If it's coming to that, you've already lost control of the situation. Your pop psychology for the day.