It is an axiom of human psychology that choice of association both defines and describes a person. Recent research in Britain gives heft to the old maxim that dog owners resemble their dogs, finding that disagreeable people prefer aggressive dogs.
The same study showed a correlation between those who liked aggressive dogs and being conscientious. The convergent psychology behind that lies in an awareness of boundaries and rules.
“A lot of human behaviour involves status display and dominance.” ~ Vincent Egan
Youths in gangs commonly own aggressive dogs, for companionship and socialization with friends. These dog owners also feel that their choice of aggressive dog enhances their image of toughness and power.
More generally, the popularity of dogs as pets is accounted for by dog’s innate empathy. Dogs pick up on their owner’s psychic vibe, by paying attention to nuances of behavior. That’s the flip side of a dog owner identifying with a particular breed of dog based upon his or her self-image, or the image the owner would like to project.
Vincent Egan & Jason MacKenzie, “Does personality, delinquency, or mating effort necessarily dictate a preference for an aggressive dog?,” Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 25(2): 161-170 (June 2012).
Jennifer Maher & Harriet Pierpoint, “Friends, status symbols and weapons: the use of dogs by youth groups and youth gangs,” Crime, Law and Social Change 55(5): 405-420 (2011).