A new study has pointed out that the gene behind the aggressive nature of dogs can actually be bred out of them.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, a program being implemented in Holland after a Rottweiler killed a woman suggests that aggression can be bred out of dogs, a victory for nature.
The Dutch scheme, designed to prevent badly behaved dogs from reproducing, appears to be changing the character of the animals, making them easier-going, giving a boost to the nature side of the debate.
"The dogs born into this program are much better behaved. There is a strong genetic element to aggression and it is possible that this is being bred out," said Joanne van der Borg, who researched the program at Wageningen University.
Under the scheme, pedigree rottweilers have to pass a "docility" test to measure how fast they turn nasty. Any dogs that fail are refused pedigree certificates and owners are asked not to breed from them.
Borg questioned more than 800 rottweiler owners about their pets' behaviour.
The results showed that about 16 per cent of the non-pedigree dogs were aggressive to strangers while just 7per cent of the pedigree group were.
Such changes after only eight years imply that it should be possible to reduce aggression further.
Proponents of the system claim it has created two distinct rottweiler populations in Holland, with 7000 dogs that have passed the test and a similar number that have failed.
According to Ian McLean, president of the Queensland Rottweiler Association, the biggest influence on a rottweiler's behaviour was its environment.
"There's a lot of rubbish spoken about rottweilers. They're not born aggressive, but they are stubborn and headstrong," he said.
"If I take my dogs to a park or a beach or anywhere in public, the public is absolutely safe. But it's a different story in my backyard. In most cases when people get bitten, it's more about the dog protecting property than being aggressive," he added.