PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Whether pit bull, Akita, poodle or Yorkie, it turns out breed is not a good predictor of aggression in dogs.

The research, done by the Bristol University in the U.K. and published in the latest issue of the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, used 4,000 questionnaires that asked dog owners questions about their pet’s aggression – whether towards family, towards strangers entering the home or in unfamiliar settings outside the home.

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While just three-percent reported aggression towards family members, nearly seven percent said their dog became aggressive – barking, lunging, growling and even biting – when meeting strangers. Five-percent also reported aggression in certain situations while meeting people out on walks.

Additionally, most dogs seemed to show aggression in just one of these situations, leading researchers to believe aggression is largely a “learnt behavior” in response to particular situations.

In other words, blame the owner, not the dog.

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Finally, while gun dogs (such as Labradors and pointer breeds) were slightly less likely to be aggressive towards strangers entering the home and dogs in the Hound and Utility group slightly more likely to be aggressive towards family, other factors, the researchers say, were more important. Attendance at puppy obedience classes, the age of the dog, the sex of the dog and whether the animal was spayed/neutered were significant. Older dogs were typically more aggressive toward unfamiliar people entering the house, and spayed females were less aggressive in all three categories. Dogs that attended training classes were also less likely to be aggressive.

The research essentially reaffirms what people who own and love dogs from breeds frequently stereotyped “aggressive” already know: that “it would be inappropriate to make assumptions about an individual animal’s risk of aggression to people based on characteristics such as breed.”

To read more on the study, click here.

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