In recent years in the UK, there has been a rise in the number of people – particularly young people – with aggressive dogs. This has been linked with the rise in gang culture.
These dogs, often referred to as ‘status dogs’, are encouraged by their owners to learn/adopt aggressive behaviour, and are used as ‘weapons’ in fights or as ‘tough-looking’ status symbol.
As a consequence, some of these dogs also exhibit dangerous behaviour towards other people, which poses a threat to family members and the general public.
Young owners can form very strong bonds and attachments to their status dogs, while at the same time, ignoring their dog’s basic need for safety and care. Despite their controlling behaviour by placing these dogs in such dangerous situations, these owners often have very little control over their dog’s actions in social interactions.
A number of charities in the UK are offering educational programmes for young people outlining the importance of responsible pet ownership and tools for healthier interactions with their dogs. Some animal welfare charities also offer free neutering services and advice on health care. In addition, several police authorities in the UK (eg the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Status Dog Unit) have set up units to work with relevant partners to address this problem, promote responsible dog ownership and keep the public safe.