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It's true: Jerks like aggressive dogs, study says

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What sort of dog you have speaks volumes about you. Could Paris Hilton have anything other than her little purse pet? No way. It's the canine equivalent of who she is as a person and the qualities she wants to project. And now, a study conducted at the University of Leicester's school of psychology has thrown new light on the link between dogs and the personalities of their owners: People who are jerks like mean dogs.

Vincent Egan, the study's lead researcher, doesn't actually call them jerks, of course. In the scientific language they are instead referred to as people with low agreeableness. Such folks are, in Dr. Egan's words, "less concerned with the needs of others" and "quicker to become hostile."

The study found that such people showed a marked preference for aggressive dogs. But contrary to stereotypical thinking, researchers did not find any link between liking an aggressive dog and delinquent behaviour, or having an aggressive dog as a status symbol for show-offs.

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"This type of study is important, as it shows assumptions are not the whole picture. It is assumed owners of aggressive dogs (or dogs perceived as aggressive) are antisocial show-offs. But we did not find persons who expressed a preference for aggressive dogs had committed more delinquent acts, or reported showing off more," Dr. Egan said in a release.

Research participants filled out personality tests and indicated their preference for different kinds of dogs. As well, researchers independently rated various dogs according to how aggressive they are seen to be. The most aggressive rated dog? Bull terriers, followed by boxers. And the least aggressive? Cocker spaniels.

When comparing the personality tests with participants stated preferences, researchers found a link between low agreeableness and a preference for aggressive breeds.

Interestingly, researchers also found that conscientious people might also have a leaning toward aggressive dog breeds. Even though the effect was a "small one" and calls for further study, researchers nevertheless suggested a doggy date idea for consciousness people and their pets.

"We were surprised to find a small association between a preference for aggressive dogs and greater conscientiousness (i.e., valuing and following rules). However, dogs also prefer rules and firm boundaries themselves. We speculate that cheap dog-training classes would be enjoyable and beneficial for both dog and owner," Dr. Egan said.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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