His bark is worse than his bite: perceptions and rationalization of canine aggressive behavior

Orritt, Rachel and Gross, Harriet and Hogue, Todd (2015) His bark is worse than his bite: perceptions and rationalization of canine aggressive behavior. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 3 (2). pp. 1-20. ISSN .

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Item Type:Article
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Abstract

Qualitative methods are increasingly used to investigate the complexities of the dog-human
relationship. In order to inform a larger study of human dog interaction, a focus group study
was carried out to address the question ‘How is aggressive behavior in dogs perceived and
rationalized by people who have experience of dog behavior?’ Six focus groups, including three
‘non-professional’ groups (two groups of dog owners and one group of amateur trainers) and
three ‘professional’ groups (a behaviorist group, veterinary group and academic group) were
carried out, involving participants who were recruited opportunistically. The focus group
transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings indicated that participants who do
not work with dogs in a professional capacity are largely defensive of dogs when discussing
aggressive behavior. However, these participants also discussed factors that make a dog ‘risky’
and how responsible owners manage that risk and the characteristics of ‘dangerous dogs’. For
the professional groups, aggressive behavior in dogs presents a barrier to everyday work. They
considered working with the owners of dogs showing aggressive behavior and battling
anthropogenic stereotypes and misconceptions to be part of the professional challenge.
Professionals also contributed views on the nature of ‘dangerous dogs’ and demonstrated
awareness of how perceptions could be distorted by the media and propagation of stereotypes.
This research highlights the variability of perceptions about canine aggressive behavior.
Findings can inform the critical interpretation of quantitative results, and offer a foundation for
quantitative study of human directed aggressive behavior in dogs.

Keywords:dog aggression, perceptions, thematic analysis, dog bites, aggressive behavior, NotOAChecked
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
C Biological Sciences > C810 Applied Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:19566
Deposited On:12 Nov 2015 16:03

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