Photos by: Grisha Bruev / Bigstock
You know that dog breed bans were put in place to protect people from bites and attacks? New research from Norway says nurture plays a bigger role than nature.
The gloves were off, the gauntlet was thrown and the proverbial pistols were drawn. Yes, the gentle people of Norway seem ready to do battle against each other as to what an aggressive dog does.
The head-butting first began with a decision by the Norwegian authorities to ban the ownership of six dog breeds deemed dangerous: Pitbulls, American Staffordshire Clareds, Fila Brasileros, Tosa Inu, Dogo Argentino and Czechoslovakian Wolfhounds. While cases of humans being killed by a dog have been rare (and do not include any of the aforementioned breeds), the decision still applies.
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But this widespread arbitrariness of an entire breed has infuriated the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) who are challenging the notion that any one breed of dog is more dangerous than another. Their case centers on the notion that breeding plays a much larger role in canine behavior than nature does, and according to NTNU Ph.D. Annie Müller-Gabrielsen: “A dog’s behavior is more the result of treatment and training than breeding.”
Gabrielsen’s opposition to bans and belief that training should be the determining factor in whether it is a safe breed has support from the Norwegian Kennel Club, special interest groups and other dog owners.
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But it doesn’t end there. Apparently surrounding debate The best The method of training is now under scrutiny with two opposing camps (reward vs. penalty) at odds over the right approach. Gabrielsen’s letter refers to the aggressive way each side defends its own style of teaching (so dogs aren’t the only alphas in Norway!) and personally challenges the need for corporal punishment. Instead, she cites the tried-and-true reward approach that stems from the research of behavioral psychologists B. F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov – a name that comes to mind every time my dog drools over a treat!
The upside is that she’s seeing the tide turn away from her physical teaching method–which she feels may be rooted in biology: a wolf pack follows a strong, unmistakable leader. So some owners decide they need to be aggressive. It is also likely a move from a more traditional approach used in Germany and the military discipline where dogs were trained for a different role than that of a family pet. But these days, Norwegians want more loving and happy family members than hunting or guard dogs.
But let’s go back to the prohibition of specific breeds. At the end of the day, Gabrielsen feels the goal of both approaches is to end up with a dog who can be trusted — no matter the breed. This is a battle determined to win.