Vicious dogs: the antisocial behaviors and psychological characteristics of owners

J Forensic Sci. 2009 May;54(3):699-703. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2009.01001.x. Epub 2009 Mar 3.


Each year, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs. Of those bitten each year, 386,000 are seriously injured and some killed. Consequently, many insurance companies refuse to issue homeowners insurance to owners of specific breeds of dogs considered "vicious" or high risk of causing injury. This study examined whether vicious dog owners were different on antisocial behaviors and personality dimensions. A total of 869 college students completed an anonymous online questionnaire assessing type of dog owned, criminal behaviors, attitudes towards animal abuse, psychopathy, and personality. The sample was divided into four groups: vicious dog owners, large dog owners, small dog owners, and controls. Findings revealed vicious dog owners reported significantly more criminal behaviors than other dog owners. Vicious dog owners were higher in sensation seeking and primary psychopathy. Study results suggest that vicious dog ownership may be a simple marker of broader social deviance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Dogs*
  • Exploratory Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires