- Najja Parker The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Has your dog ever lashed out at someone or another doggie?
Hormones may be the cause, according to a new report.
Scientists from the University of Arizona recently conducted an experiment, published in Frontiers in Psychology, to determine how biology can affect aggression.
To do so, they examined pets of varying ages, breeds and sexes, whose owners reported struggles with leash hostility. Scientists also took a look at non-aggressive fur babies of the same sex, age and breed to serve as a comparison, measuring the hormone levels of all the dogs throughout the assessment.
They tested the animals by playing audio of barking behind a curtain, before pulling it back to reveal a dog model with a human.
The subjects were also exposed to everyday sounds and everyday objects, such as a yoga ball, trash bag and cardboard box.
After analyzing the results, they found that the ones that reacted aggressively had increased levels of vasopressin, a neurohypophysial hormone that has been associated with aggression in humans.
And when they compared the canines from the study with assistance dogs, which are trained to be non-aggressive, they discovered higher levels of oxytocin among the service pooches.
"Seeing high oxytocin levels in assistance dogs is completely consistent with their behavioral phenotype − that they're very, very friendly dogs that are not aggressive toward people or other dogs," co-author Evan MacLean said in a statement.
So, how do you keep your pup from lashing out?
Researchers suggest pet owners expose their four-legged friends to pleasant human interactions on a regular basis.
"Previous work shows dog-human friendly interactions can create a release in oxytocin in dogs,” MacLean said, “and when dogs interact with people, we see that their vasopressin levels go down over time."