Earlier today, a new study from Maddies Fund was released about how perceptions of dog handlers affected how people viewed an individual dog's behavior.
In the study, people were show pictures of 3 dogs and asked to rate them on a 6 point Likert scale their perceived friendliness, adoptability, approachability, intelligence, aggressiveness and difficulty to train.
People were also shown the same three dogs with different human handlers -- one with a rough looking adult male, one with a young boy and one with an elderly woman.
Not surprisingly, the results showed that people viewed the pit bull less favorably than they viewed the Labrador Retriever and the Border Collie -- giving it lower scores for friendliness, adoptability, approachability and intelligence -- and higher scores for aggressiveness and difficulty to train.
However, the scores for the pit bull jumped considerably when shown with the young boy and the elderly woman. From the study:
"The elderly woman and male child activated positive handler stereotypes, motivating participants to perceive the pit bull type dog as friendlier, more adoptable, more approachable and less aggressive while the rough male reinforced the dog's negative stereotype. These results suggest that a handler can serve as a primer for perceptions about a dog's characteristics."
The study results probably won't surprise most people much, but it does reinforce that overwhelmingly when people discuss ideas about restricting particular breeds of dogs, they are often talking about laws in place that target the types of people they PERCEIVE to be the typical owners of those types of dogs -- not necessarily the dogs themselves. This is why those that advocate for such laws are inclined to try to convince people that 'pit bulls' are the dog of choice for 'paraplegic drug dealers' and "gangbanger wannabe's." It's very much about racism and stereotyping owners, and not focusing on the dogs, and the reality that most commonly owned by respected members of society.
This is one reason that education at programs that focus on the REAL owners of pit bulls and showing the dogs as family members, are so effective in counter-acting this blatant, and incorrect, stereotyping.
While it should be about judging the dogs for what they are, I'm actually fine with people basing their predisposition off of the owners as well -- as long as they use the real owners and not the ones rooted in their fear-mongering imagination.
Here's the link to the info graphic posted below (you can click to enlarge):