Ever wondered what makes your pet aggressive when leashed. Scientists have an answer | more lifestyle | Hindustan Times
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Ever wondered what makes your pet aggressive when leashed. Scientists have an answer

Dogs with what is known as “leash aggression” may bark, growl or lunge at other dogs during walks, setting the scene for a tense and potentially dangerous interaction.

more lifestyle Updated: Oct 01, 2017 14:34 IST
Researchers looked specifically at oxytocin and vasopressin - hormones that are also found in humans - and found that they may play an important role in shaping dogs’ social behaviour.
Researchers looked specifically at oxytocin and vasopressin - hormones that are also found in humans - and found that they may play an important role in shaping dogs’ social behaviour.(Shutterstock)

Scientists have identified the hormones that make some dogs aggressive when they are leashed, paving the way for therapies to prevent pets from attacking passing animals or people. For some dog owners, a leisurely walk can turn stressful the moment their canine companion sees another pup walking by.

Dogs with what is known as “leash aggression” may bark, growl or lunge at other dogs during walks, setting the scene for a tense and potentially dangerous interaction. Although a number of studies have looked at the role of testosterone and serotonin in aggression in dogs and other mammals, those hormones may be only part of the story, say scientists who investigated why some dogs lash out on the leash while others do not.

Researchers looked specifically at oxytocin and vasopressin - hormones that are also found in humans - and found that they may play an important role in shaping dogs’ social behaviour. Better understanding the biology behind canine aggression could help with the development of interventions, said Evan MacLean, assistant professor at University of Arizona in the US.

Oxytocin, which is significant in childbirth and nursing, is sometimes called the “love hormone,” as its levels in humans have been shown to increase when we hug or kiss a loved one. Vasopressin is a closely related hormone involved in water retention in the body.

In contrast to oxytocin, it has been linked to aggression in humans, with previous research suggesting that people with chronic aggression problems have high levels of vasopressin. For the study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers recruited pet dogs of varying ages, breeds and sexes, whose owners reported struggles with leash aggression.