Rugged man with scary dog

Characteristics of Vicious Dog Breed Owners

O'Hara Law Firm Feb. 21, 2017

Several studies over the past few decades have studied whether there are any common personality traits or characteristics for people who own vicious dogs. Of course, every dog owner is unique, but these studies found a statistically significant increased risk of certain types of behavior among owners of “high-risk” breeds of dogs for injuring people.

Higher Rate of Deviant Behavior Among Owners of Vicious Dog

A study published in 2006 in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence ( studied the association between ownership of high-risk dogs and criminal convictions. The study sampled 355 owners of dogs. The owners of vicious and/or high-risk dogs had significantly more criminal convictions than owners of licensed low-risk dogs. Pit bulls and dogs that had bitten, attacked or killed a person or animal were considered vicious.

A study published in the Journal of Forensic Science in 2009 found a similar result ( 869 college students completed an anonymous online questionnaire. The college students were divided into four groups: vicious dog owners, large dog owners, small dog owners and controls. The owners of vicious dogs admitted to more criminal behavior than owners of the other groups of dogs. A subsequent study in the same journal was published in 2011, titled, “Vicious Dogs Part 2: Criminal Thinking, Callousness, and Personality Styles of Their Owners.” 754 college students completed a questionnaire in the study. Vicious dog owners reported a higher amount of drug use, physical fighting and arrests than other dog owners.

These findings raise the debated question whether “vicious” dogs are high risk because of their breed or because of the owners that are attracted to them. Clearly, dogs are predisposed to behave in a certain manner in part to their genetic makeup. Labrador Retrievers are naturally good at retrieving balls and fowl. Bloodhounds are great trackers. However, these behaviors can be amplified by the owner. A dog that is naturally aggressive or protective will have an increased risk of biting if it is not properly socialized or trained.

If you have been injured by a dog, contact O'Hara Law Firm.