An article on the psychological characteristic of vicious dog owners has just appeared online in the compelling academic publication, The Journal of Forensic Sciences, finding that those who who own dangerous dogs are more likely to endorse antisocial and psychopathic character traits and more likely to report criminal behaviour.
The study was led by psychologist Laurie Ragatz who collected data from 869 college students who completed an anonymous online questionnaire assessing type of dog owned, criminal behaviors, attitudes towards animal abuse, psychopathy, and personality.
It’s only a correlational study but the introduction has a nice summary of the research findings as well as a previous study on the same topic:
Each year, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs, of which 386,000 are seriously injured and over 200 die. Several dog breeds have been labeled “vicious” or of “high-risk” for aggression. To date, only one empirical study has examined the characteristics of persons who choose to own their high-risk dogs. Barnes et al. reports that owners of Akitas, Chow-Chows, Dobermans, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Wolf-mixes endorsed approximately 10 times more criminal convictions than owners of nonvicious dogs. Further, vicious dog owners reported more crimes involving aggression, children, alcohol, and domestic violence than owners of nonvicious dogs.
The current research sought to replicate and extend these findings with a college sample. The present study compared nondog owners and owners of vicious, large, and small dogs on engagement in criminal behavior, general personality traits (i.e., impulsive sensation seeking, neuroticism-anxiety, aggression-hostility, activity, and sociability), psychopathy, and attitude towards animal maltreatment.
…As hypothesized, a significant difference in criminal behavior was found based on dog ownership type. Owners of vicious dogs were significantly more likely to admit to violent criminal behavior, compared to large dog owners, small dog owners, and controls. The vicious dog owner sample also engaged in more types (i.e., violent, property, drug, and status) of criminal behavior compared to all other participant groups.
Personality traits were examined and vicious dog owners were significantly higher than controls on impulsive sensation seeking. Examining psychopathic traits, owners of high-risk dogs endorsed significantly more characteristics of primary psychopathy (e.g., carelessness, selfishness, and manipulative tendencies) than small dog owners.
Comparing owners of vicious dogs to other groups, no significant differences were found regarding secondary psychopathy (e.g., impulsiveness or self-defeating behaviors) or attitudes towards animal maltreatment.
Among the college sample, the vicious dogs were predominantly male and weighed 68 pounds. The owners had more self-reported overall criminal behaviors as well as violent criminal behavior. They endorsed significantly more sensation seeking and primary psychopathic traits.