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Aggression between dogs: what can the vet do to help solve the problem?
  1. E. A. McBride, BSc, PhD, CertCons, FRSA
  1. School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ
  1. e-mail: amcb{at}

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DOG-RELATED injuries can have costly outcomes: physical injury, psychological damage and financial costs, including NHS and veterinary bills. There may be court proceedings and an owner may acquire a criminal record due to their dog's behaviour.

Injuries to human beings are the main focus of attention: Defra (2012) estimated 210,000 ‘attacks’ on people each year in England. Dog-on-dog aggression is common, but given less attention. A survey carried out by Casey and others (2012), summarised on page 127 of this issue of Veterinary Record, indicated that 22 per cent of 3897 owners had dogs that displayed ‘aggressive’ behaviours (barking, lunging, growling or biting) towards unfamiliar dogs. Such behaviour alone may be sufficient cause for a criminal case under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, with potential consequences, which may include the implementation of control orders, the accused dog being seized and destroyed and a criminal record for the owner. Yet, Casey and colleagues found that ‘[weak] concordance between dog- and human-directed aggression suggested most dogs were not showing aggression in multiple contexts’. This supports the view of many who work with dogs: that inter-dog aggression is not indicative of dog-human aggression.

People tend to seek simple answers to complex problems; legislation intended to control a dog's ‘dangerousness’ is one example. The lack of evidence for ‘dangerous breeds’ …

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