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Your Possibility and The Increased Risk of Being Bit by a Dog

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Many dog bites go unreported finds study

New study hints at an intriguing possibility about who gets dog bit the most and why.


According to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, your personality and sex may increase your risk of being bitten by a dog. This information comes from a cross-sectional study of a community of 1,280 households in Cheshire, UK, that surveyed 694 respondents in 385 households. The data collected in the survey included factors such as dog ownership and bite history, demographics, health and personality.

The purpose of this study was to update and determine more accurately, the incidence rate of dog bites and possibly identify causation factors. In the UK, there is an estimated 6,743 hospital admissions for 'dog bites and strikes' per year, and approximately 9,500 for dog bites in the U.S.

What the study found was that out of the 694 respondents to the survey:

--Almost 25% reported having been bitten by a dog at some point during their lifetime.

--Of the nearly 25% bitten, only a third of the bites described required further medical treatment with 0.6% requiring hospital admission.

--The population incidence of dog bites was approximately 18.7 out of every 1000 people.

--Men were almost twice as likely to have been bitten in their lifetime than women.

--Current owners of multiple dogs were 3.3 times more likely to report having been bitten than people not currently owning a dog.

--About 55% of the time, the dog bite came from a dog the bitten had never met before the incident.

--People who scored higher in emotional stability had a lower risk of having ever been bitten by a dog.

The authors of the study concluded that the number of dog bites is considerably larger than those estimated from hospital records; however, most bites presumably do not require medical treatment. Furthermore, victim personality-such as being neurotic-might account for why some are bitten and others not, but requires further investigation.

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The key point of this article is that many news stories will fixate on being male and mental is what will increase the likelihood that you will be bitten by a dog, over being female and less anxiety prone. It makes entertainment fodder, but does dogs a disservice. A closer read of the research will show that the authors acknowledge that there are several limitations to this study, and that causation factors are varied and complex when it comes to what was going on in the mind of a dog (and the person bitten) just before a bite happened.

The important point here is to follow common sense and apply the following tips from the ASPCA on understanding dog body language to avoid a dog bite injury from occurring with yourself and your children.

ASPCA Tips on Dog Body Language

Understanding dog body language is a key way to help avoid being bitten. Know the signs that dogs give to indicate that they're feeling anxious, afraid, threatened or aggressive.

An aggressive dog may try to make herself look bigger. Her ears may be up and forward, the fur on her back and tail may stand on end or puff out, and her tail may be straight up-it may even wag. She may have a stiff, straight-legged stance and be moving toward or staring directly at what she thinks is an approaching threat. She may also bare her teeth, growl, lunge or bark. Continued approach toward a dog showing this body language could result in a bite.

An anxious or scared dog may try to make herself look smaller. She may shrink to the ground in a crouch, lower her head, repeatedly lick her lips, put her tail between her legs, flatten her ears back and yawn. She may look away to avoid direct eye contact. She may stay very still or roll on her back and expose her stomach. Alternatively, she may try to turn away or slowly move away from what she thinks is an approaching threat. If she can't retreat, she may feel she has no other alternative but to defensively growl, snarl or even bite.

A conflicted dog can show a mixture of the aforementioned body postures. Remember to avoid any dog showing any of signs of fear, aggression or anxiety-no matter what else the dog is doing. It's important to realize that a wagging tail or a crouching body doesn't always mean friendliness.

For more pooch related info, here is a reminder of a Puppy Warning for Pet Owners and how you can tell if Sparky is Not Eating Right.


Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health Published Online First: 01 February 2018
"How many people have been bitten by dogs? A cross-sectional survey of prevalence, incidence and factors associated with dog bites in a UK community" Westgarth C, Brooke M, Christley RM.

SSPCA "Dog Bite Prevention"

Image Source: Pixabay