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Why are some dogs more aggressive?

E. L. MacLean, L. R. Gesquiere, M. E. Gruen, B. L. Sherman, W. Lance Martin, C. S. Carter

Aggressive behaviour in dogs poses public health and animal welfare concerns; however, the biological mechanisms regulating dog aggression are not well understood.

This study investigated the relationship between the hormones endogenous plasma oxytocin and vasopressin, which have been linked to behaviour in other mammalian species, and aggression in domestic dogs.

For part 1 of the study, dogs with a history of aggression towards unfamiliar dogs while walking on a leash were compared to a matched control group with no history of aggression. Blood samples were taken to measure vasopressin and oxytocin levels before the experiments began. Dogs were then walked past one of three different stuffed dogs to measure their response before another blood sample was taken. For part 2 of the study, oxytocin and vasopressin concentrations were compared between assistance dogs and pet dogs when exposed to either a threatening stranger or an unfamiliar …

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