People’s perception of aggressive behaviour in dogs may be varied. People may perceive aggressive behaviour in dogs by recognising specific types of communicative signals such as, biting, snapping, baring teeth, growling, snarling, lunging, and barking which have been often described as dog aggression in the literature (Reisner, 2003; Horwitz, 2012). People also may recognise overt signs, e.g. baring teeth, snarling, snapping, nipping, growling, biting (Mills and Mills, 2003; Mills and Westgarth, 2017), or staring (Shepherd. 2009) more easily than subtle signs, e. g. yawning, shaking, circling (Aloff, 2005; Shepherd. 2009). The difference in people’s perception of aggressive behaviour in dogs may be influenced by their individual culture (described in Chapter 1, 1.2.1), therefore in order to build a consistent assessment of HDAB, it is important to identify how people perceive aggressive behaviour in dogs.
When we assess a dog’s communication signals, the recognition of both visual signals (it is referred as “body language”) and auditory signals is important (Yeon, 2007; Taylor et al, 2014; Mills et al, 2014). Dog visual signals include facial expression, body posture, movement, and state of arousal (Mills et al, 2013).
Moreover, it is necessary to understand the context of the behaviour (circumstances) in order to understand the communication signals fully (Mills et al, 2013). However, some people do not pay attention to all communication signals but pay attention to only the obvious parts of signalling such as vocalization and facial expression, or movement and state of arousal to determine dog aggression. Therefore, it is essential to clarify whether people attention all the body regions in the context of HDAB.
2. Perception towards causes of HDAB
There are key elements which define aggressive behaviour; motivation, emotion, and context (Mills et al, 2014; Mills, 2017; Mills and Westgarth, 2017, described in the Chapter 1, see 1.3) and these three elements facilitate our understanding causes of HDAB.
However, as the popular media study in Chapter 2 described, people’s perception of HDAB may be influenced by media information which is available e.g. delivered only in certain forms of dog’s aggression and providing limited information describing a dog’s emotion. People may label a dog’s aggressive behaviour in circumstances without appropriate observation (not objectively) and it may lead to misunderstand the cause of the behaviour (Mills et al, 2014). For example, if an owner makes her dog move away from the sofa where the dog is lying, and the dog responds by growling at the owner, the owner may consider the dog to be challenging her (i.e. ‘dominance’), when in reality the dog is displaying aggressive behaviour caused by frustration over losing his space. In the popular media study, “dominance” was described as the most frequent label of motivation for aggressive behaviour in common circumstances. Therefore, as hypothesised, people’s perception of the potential causes of HDAB may be limited by a lack of consideration for the potential states of the dog’s motivation and emotion. Considering the many causes of aggressive behaviour, it is important to identify whether people recognise the various potential causes of the behaviour in different circumstances.
3. Perception of motivation and emotion
This measurement item examined how people visually assess dog’s motivation and emotion through communication signals using photos of HDAB. Previous studies revealed that people perceived dog’s secondary emotion such as jealous, guilty (Morris et al, 2008; Hecht et al, 2012), but perceived difficulty for subtle signs (Mariti, 2012). The initial survey of popular media in Chapter 2 also found that the potential emotions of fear or anxiety, and dominance or territorial, as commonly introduced forms of aggression (as the previous paragraph described), while no other emotions, were explained. As hypothesised, people’s perception of motivation and emotion may thus be limited resulting in them finding it difficult to recognise subtle signs.
Motivation and emotion are essential evidence to infer aggressive behaviour (Mills et al, 2013; Mills et al, 2014; Mills and Westgarth, 2017). Therefore, it is crucial to identify how people perceive them and whether they recognise subtle signs, in order to assess dog’s motivation and emotion appropriately.
4. The important elements of the prevention of HDAB
Not only people’s knowledge, but also people’s attitude (thoughts) for the prevention of HDAB may affect their perception of HDAB. When people consider that learning to recognise a dog’s communication signalling, or understanding that the reason why dogs develop the aggressive behaviour is important, they may perceive dog signalling of HDAB carefully and objectively. On the other hand, people who consider that skills for controlling the dog is the most important to prevent HDAB may react to the dog subjectively. As hypothesised, people place more importance on learning to recognise a dog’s communication signalling, or understanding the reasons why dogs develop the aggressive behaviour than obtaining skills for controlling the dog.
5. The priority methods for the modification of HDAB
People’s priority method for the modification of HDAB may also affect their perception of HDAB. People who prioritize the method of keeping well communication with their dogs, e.g. the method that does not cause stress to the dog or the method that does not damage the relationship, may be more thoughtful for their dogs from a perspective to increase welfare. This is in contrast to the point of view of people who prioritize the method that makes the dog obey commands easily or resolve the aggressive behaviour quickly. These differing attentions and concerns to their dogs may affect owners’ perception of HDAB. As hypothesised, people prioritize the method which maintains good communication with their dogs and may perceive dog’s behaviour carefully.
As hypothesised, cultural factors of dog management, e.g. individualism or collectivism, attitude towards aggression or HDAB which showed the differences between English and Japanese language respondents in Chapter 3, and level of training experience which may affect people’s knowledge of dog’s behaviour (Peachy, 1993; Jagoe and Serpell,1996) may affect people’s perception of HDAB. Similarly, the differences of “General culture” (demographics), e.g. nationality, ethnic group, and country of residence which also indicated the differences of English and Japanese language respondents (described in Chapter 3) considered to affect people’s perception of HDAB.
The aim of this chapter was to determine how people perceive HDAB and what cultural factors influence people’s perception of HDAB, as well as the relationship between them.