Why Do Dogs Bite?
Thu, September 29, 2022

Why Do Dogs Bite?


Dogs can be seen anywhere, so it is necessary for people to protect themselves from being bitten, said Jenna Stregowski, RVT, of The Spruce Pets, a website that publishes pet-related content. Some dogs are friendlier than others, but canines of various breeds or sizes are capable of biting people. Owners should learn why dogs bite people, as well as implement measures to stop their pet from attacking someone and jeopardizing their safety.

Studies On Dog Bites

Amy Wake and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate sent a questionnaire to 1,800 adults aged 16 years and above who had made claims to the American Compensation Corporation (ACC) in 2002 due to dog bites. Moderate injury was reported by 84% of respondents, 12% reported minor bites (little/no blood drawn), 2.4% reported having severe bites (requiring hospitalization), and three had severe bites (requiring surgery and lengthy rehabilitation).

45% were bitten on the legs, 35% were bitten on their hands, and 22% on their arms. 5.3% of respondents also reported being bitten on the buttocks, 4.3% on the face, 3.9% on the torso. 72% reported psychological effects from their bites. 46% reported minor effects (slightly shaking after being bitten), 14% reported moderate effects (up to one month), and 11% said that being bitten led to severe long-term psychological effects. 0.6% of respondents reported very severe psychological effects that required counseling.

With regard to the relationships between the respondents and owners of the dogs that bit the former, 36.2% of respondents said they were bitten by a stranger’s dog and 18.9% said they were attacked by their own dog. 14% said the bite was caused by their friend’s dog, 11% said other (client’s dog), 10% said it was their neighbor’s.

5.1% of respondents said they were bitten by a dog that was owned by a family member not living with them while 4.2% said the dog was owned by a family member living with them. 0.6% said it was their flatmate’s dog. The most common locations for dog bites were public streets or walkways (26%), the respondent’s home (21%), a stranger’s property (14%), or a friend’s property (12%). Other locations included the following: a family member’s property (12%), parks (4%), a neighbor’s property (4%). The bites also took place in other private properties (8%) and public areas (6%). The research showed data on factors as to why dog bites occur, enabling individuals to minimize their risk of personal injury as well as for legislators to enforce laws to safeguard the general public.

Carri Westgarth, Megan Brooke, and Robert M. Christley of BMJ Journals, a leading general medical journal, conducted a cross-sectional study of a community of 1,280 households in Cheshire, UK. The authors surveyed 694 respondents in 385 households. 24.78% had been bitten by a dog on at least one occasion and only 1.87% were bitten in the last 12 months.

Of those who were bitten, 57.6% said they had only been bitten once. Only 33.1% of the bites described required any medical treatment. If medical treatment is sought, it took place in A&E (58.9%), general practitioner (30.3%), walk-in center (7.1%), hospital admission (1.8%), and police station (1.8%). Dog bite prevention measures may need to be aimed at particular behaviors around dogs by different victim personality types, the authors noted. In the future, risk factors must be assessed to formulate effective and well-informed dog policies.



Why Do Dogs Bite In the First Place?

Dogs often bite people because they feel threatened in some way. Biting is their natural instinct. Even in domestic dogs, this natural instinct is still present. Therefore, it is important for individuals who interact with a dog to understand what may trigger a dog’s aggression.

Stregowski stated that a dog may bite to defend itself, a member of its pack, or its territory. It may also bite because a mother dog is fiercely protecting her puppies. Startling a dog by waking it up or suddenly approaching it from behind may prompt it to bite. It can also bite if you run away from your dog— even during play as your pet may think it’s part of the fun. Running away can also trigger herding behavior.

A dog in a fearful situation may bite any person who approaches it. Some examples include abuse or being abandoned by the side of the road. However, fearful situations may be something as ordinary as a loud noise. Injury and illnesses can also cause your dog to bite. If your dog is in pain or feeling unwell, it may not want to be approached by its owner or its favorite people.



How to Prevent Dog Bites and Interact With Dogs Safely

Socialize your dog and allow it to interact with children, people with disabilities, and the elderly under calm, positive circumstances. You can also expose your dog to different situations such as loud noises, other noises, large machines, bicycles, or anything that might make your dog fearful. You can start this training when your dog is still young, but be sure to keep the experiences positive.

If you think your dog tends to exhibit fearful or aggressive behaviors, warn people not to approach your dog unless the situation is strictly controlled. If necessary, use a muzzle to prevent it from biting people. Pay close attention to your dog and know when a situation may lead to aggression. If you are unable to control the situation or your pet’s behavior, you will have to remove it before the situation escalates. 

When interacting with dogs, never approach or touch an unfamiliar pet canine without asking the owner’s permission. Don’t go near the dog if the owner is not present. Let the dog come to you if ever you meet an unknown dog. If you want to pet it, let it sniff your hand first by crouching down or turning to the side. Avoid approaching a dog that is eating, sleeping, or nursing its puppies as they are more likely to be easily startled or protective.  

If a dog corners you, stay still and avoid eye contact. Don’t run or scream. Slowly back away if the canine no longer pays attention to you. If you are knocked over, fall to your side in a fetal position. Be sure to cover your head and face and remain still and calm.

Dogs are friendly and cute animals, but they can also bite depending on the circumstance. Owners should be aware of what causes dogs to bite, as well as exercise caution when handling them.