Breed Stereotype

November 2012 by Lisa Gunter

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

New research by Lisa Gunter provides insights on how shelters might increase Pit Bull adoptions. Her abstract is below; click here to view the poster.

Previous research has indicated that dog breed stereotypes exist and that the appearance of a human handler alongside a dog can affect perceptions of the dog's temperament. The present study looked at participants' perceptions of a Pit Bull-type dog in comparison to a Labrador Retriever and Border Collie, and whether the addition of a rough adult male, elderly woman or male child influences the dog's perceived characteristics of approachability, aggressiveness, intelligence, friendliness, trainability or adoptability.The results indicated that participants viewed the Pit Bull least favorably in all six characteristics when evaluated with the other breeds, confirming the presence of a negative stereotype.

The appearance of a handler alongside the Pit Bull influenced participants' impressions of the dog on characteristics of aggressiveness, friendliness, approachability and adoptability. When comparing impressions of the Pit Bull alone versus alongside a handler, perceived intelligence improved across all three conditions. Additionally, perceptions of friendliness and adoptability increased while aggressiveness decreased in both the elderly woman and male child conditions, and the perception of friendliness decreased with the presence of the rough male. These findings demonstrate how the appearance of a human handler in photographs can influence our perceptions of Pit Bulls and suggest possibilities for the use of human handlers to positively affect the perceived qualities of Pit Bulls among the general population and particularly those who are considering adoping a dog.

Lisa Gunter

Lisa is a Certified Behavior Consultant Canine - Knowledge Assessed and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed.

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