ArticlePDF Available

Behavioral assessment of child-directed canine aggression



To characterize behavioral circumstances of bites to children by dogs presented to a veterinary behavior clinic. Retrospective case series examining medical records of dogs presenting by referral to a university veterinary hospital for aggression and which had bitten a child <18 years old. Behavioral data included age of victim, familiarity with dog, and circumstances of bites. Records of bites to 111 children were examined. Children <6 years old were most commonly bitten in association with resource guarding (44%), whereas older children were most commonly bitten in association with territory guarding (23%). Similarly, food guarding was the most common circumstance for bites to familiar children (42%) and territory guarding for bites to unfamiliar children (53%). Behavioral screening of the 103 dogs examined revealed resource guarding (61%) and discipline measures (59%) as the most common stimuli for aggression. Anxiety screens revealed abnormalities in 77% of dogs. Potential contributory medical conditions were identified/suspected in 50% of dogs. When history before presentation was known, 66% of dogs had never previously bitten a child, and 19% had never bitten any human. Most dogs (93%) were neutered, and 66% of owners had taken their dogs to obedience training classes. Most children were bitten by dogs with no history of biting children. There is a high rate of behavioral abnormalities (aggression and anxiety) in this canine population. Common calming measures (neutering, training) were not routinely effective deterrents.
Behavioral assessment of child-directed canine aggression
Ilana R Reisner, Frances S Shofer, Michael L Nance
Injury Prevention 2007;13:348–351. doi: 10.1136/ip.2007.015396
Objective: To characterize behavioral circumstances of bites to
children by dogs presented to a veterinary behavior clinic.
Methods: Retrospective case series examining medical records
of dogs presenting by referral to a university veterinary hospital
for aggression and which had bitten a child ,18 years old.
Behavioral data included age of victim, familiarity with dog,
and circumstances of bites.
Results: Records of bites to 111 children were examined.
Children ,6 years old were most commonly bitten in
association with resource guarding (44%), whereas older
children were most commonly bitten in association with territory
guarding (23%). Similarly, food guarding was the most
common circumstance for bites to familiar children (42%) and
territory guarding for bites to unfamiliar children (53%).
Behavioral screening of the 103 dogs examined revealed
resource guarding (61%) and discipline measures (59%) as the
most common stimuli for aggression. Anxiety screens revealed
abnormalities in 77% of dogs. Potential contributory medical
conditions were identified/suspected in 50% of dogs. When
history before presentation was known, 66% of dogs had never
previously bitten a child, and 19% had never bitten any human.
Most dogs (93%) were neutered, and 66% of owners had taken
their dogs to obedience training classes.
Conclusions: Most children were bitten by dogs with no history
of biting children. There is a high rate of behavioral
abnormalities (aggression and anxiety) in this canine popula-
tion. Common calming measures (neutering, training) were not
routinely effective deterrents.
ost dog bites reported to public health authorities are
inflicted on children.
Whereas there are a number of
studies reporting the epidemiologic characteristics of
dog bite injury, information about the behavior of the dog or
bite victim is limited.
Veterinary behavioral medicine is a recently recognized
specialty in veterinary medicine.
Data obtained in a veterinary
behavior clinic can help pediatricians, parents, and other care
givers to better understand the behavioral aspects of child-
directed canine aggression, which, in turn, should lead to more
effective prevention measures.
The records of dogs presenting to the Behavior Clinic of the
Matthew J Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of
Pennsylvania (MJR-VHUP) for human-directed aggression
from January 2002 to December 2005 were reviewed retro-
spectively. All cases in which the dog had bitten a child under
the age of 18 years were included. However, bitten children for
whom age or the circumstances of the bite were unknown were
A questionnaire, which included information about the dog,
the owners’ family, description of aggressive incidents as well
as screening questions for aggressive and anxious behaviors
exhibited by the dog, was completed by each dog owner at the
time of the initial appointment. In addition to completed
questionnaires and aggression and anxiety screens, each
medical record included referring veterinary examination and
laboratory results as well as physical examination and
laboratory findings conducted at the time of the veterinary
behavior consultation.
Bite occurrences were categorized by familiarity of the victim
with the dog and by circumstances surrounding the event.
Familiar children included members of the family and/or
household, or frequent visitors who were not household
members. Unfamiliar children did not live in the household
and were either unknown to the dog or were infrequent visitors
to the home. Circumstances of bites to familiar children
included resource guarding or food guarding, benign (non-
aversive) interaction, aversive but non-painful interaction,
aversive and painful interaction, or interaction while the dog
was resting or sleeping. Circumstances of bites to unfamiliar
children were categorized relative to the dog’s perceived
territory (house, yard, and surrounding area), and as either
interactive or non-interactive.
Statistical analysis
Data are presented using frequencies and percentages. To
compare children in different age groups by biting circum-
stances, the Fisher exact test was used. Where applicable, data
are presented as differences with 95% CI. Statistical significance
was defined as p,0.05. All analyses were performed using SAS
V.9.1 (SAS Institute, Cary, North Carolina, USA).
A total of 145 children under the age of 18 years were bitten. Of
these, 111 met inclusion criteria. Thirty four children (31%)
were younger than 6 years old, and 77 (69%) were 6–17 years
old. Half were boys and half were girls.
Familiar children were most commonly bitten in relation to
food or resource guarding (n = 29; 26%) and ‘‘benign’’
interactions (n = 20; 18%) such as petting, hugging, bending
over, or speaking to the dog. Presence in or entering the dog’s
territory was the most common situation in which unfamiliar
children were bitten, regardless of whether the child was
(n = 10; 9%) or was not (n = 21; 19%) actively interacting with
the dog. Unfamiliar children were also bitten away from the
dog’s home or yard, regardless of interaction (n = 4; 4%) or lack
of interaction (n = 5; 5%).
Table 1 summarizes the circumstances of the biting episode
relative to both age of the child and familiarity with the dog.
Children ,6 years old were significantly more likely than older
children to be bitten in relation to food guarding or other
resource-associated aggression (44% vs 18%, difference = 26%,
95% CI 4 to 45%, p = 0.009) or in aversive, potentially pain-
eliciting interactions such as stepping or falling on the dog
(18% vs 0%; difference = 18%, 95% CI 7 to 35%, p = 0.0006). No
differences were noted between girls and boys in any of these
stimulus categories.
A total of 103 dogs had bitten a child under the age of 18 years.
Three quarters of the dogs were male (n = 77; 75%), and all but
four males and three females had been neutered. Forty one
breeds were represented. English Springer Spaniels and
German Shepherd Dogs each comprised 9% of pure-bred dogs
(7% of all dogs), followed by 5% each of Labrador Retrievers,
Golden Retrievers, and American Cocker Spaniels (4% of all
dogs). The total number of times a dog had bitten (historically)
was known for 98 dogs. Nineteen (19%) presented for the
single bite incident involving a child, and had never previously
bitten a person of any age. The remaining 79 (81%) dogs had
bitten at least one person (the same child, or a different child or
adult) more than once (two bites, 15%; three bites, 18%; four
bites, 13%; five bites, 9%; more than five bites, 24%). When the
historical details of bites before the current bite were known,
66% (n = 48) of dogs had never previously bitten a child. Forty
four dogs (45%) had bitten a child who was a member of the
family or household, and 65% had bitten either child or adult
members of the family or household. Thirty five (35%) dogs had
bitten only unfamiliar children. In some cases, histories were
largely unknown because of age at acquisition.
Aggression screens completed by the owner of each dog
revealed that the most common circumstance associated with
aggression historically, to either adults or children, was
resource guarding (61%) (table 2). Similarly, dog anxiety
screening demonstrated common abnormal or reactive beha-
vioral tendencies (table 2).
Table 1 Circumstances of aggression to 111 children by dogs presented to a veterinary behavior service
Category Stimulus description
,6 years
(n = 34)
6–17 years
(n = 77) p Value
Aggression to familiar children
Resource guarding Approaching, reaching for or touching dog while dog is near or
eating/chewing food, bone or toy
15 (44) 14 (18) 0.009
Benign (non-aversive) Petting, hugging, kissing, bending over, reaching, speaking 5 (15) 15 (19) NS
Resting Waking dog; interacting while dog is resting; approaching while
dog is resting/lying down; lying beside recumbent dog;
pushing/pulling dog off furniture
1 (3) 8 (10) NS
Aversive, painful Stepping on dog; pulling on hair or body; falling on to dog;
trimming nails; punishment by hitting or use of leash correction
6 (18) 0 (0) 0.0006
Aversive, non-painful Restraint/pulling by collar; grooming, toweling feet; bathing;
lifting; verbally scolding
0 (0) 5 (6) NS
Aggression to unfamiliar children
Territorial, non-interactive In/on dog’s territory, including house, yard, area surrounding home,
car; child does not interact
3 (9)* 18 (23) NS
Territorial, interactive In/on dog’s territory, including house, yard, area surrounding home,
car; child interacts, eg, by speaking to dog, petting, reaching,
attempting to feed, removing objects, restraining
2 (6)* 8 (10) NS
Not territorial, interactive Not on dog’s territory; child interacts, eg, by speaking to dog, petting,
reaching, attempting to feed, removing objects, restraining
0 (0) 4 (5) NS
Not territorial, non-interactive Not on dog’s territory; child does not interact 1 (3) 4 (5) NS
Aggression - other 2 (6) 7 (9)
Values are number (%). Columns may add up to more than total because children could have been bitten in more than one context (one child in ,6-year-old group; six
children in 6–17-year-old group).
*Total N = 33; cirumstances of territorial bite were unknown for one child.
Comparison was not performed because bite circumstances varied.
Table 2 Responses to canine aggression and anxiety screens by owners of 103 dogs
presented to a veterinary behavior clinic with a history of biting children
Stimulus category
or anxious)
(not aggressive
or anxious)
does not
Aggression screen
Remove dog food, special food, toys (resource guarding) 48 (61) 31 (39) 24
Punish (verbally scold, correct with leash, hit) 24 (59) 17 (41) 62
Disturb while sleeping or resting; push or pull off furniture 38 (49) 40 (51)25
Reach over or toward dog 34 (38) 56 (62) 13
Bathe, groom, or towel 21 (26) 59 (74) 23
Anxiety screen
Anxiety related to separation from owner(s) while owner is
34 (35) 62 (65)
Anxiety related to separation from owner(s) while owner is
present but inaccessible
49 (51) 47 (49)
Anxiety or fear related to thunderstorms/fireworks 47 (50) 47 (50)
Any anxiety (either separation or storm/noise-related
anxiety, or both)
78 (77) 23 (23)
Values are number (%) or number. Aggression was directed to children, adults, or both. ‘‘Situation does not apply’’
refers to situations or provocations that do not occur for the particular dog. For example, resource guarding cannot be
assessed if owners have not attempted to remove food or toys. In the aggression screen, positive responses refer to
growling, baring teeth, lunging, snapping, or biting a person in response to the listed stimulus. In the anxiety screen,
positive responses refer to trembling, panting, pacing, vocalization, destructiveness, urination, or defecation. Anxiety
screen rows may not add up to 103 because of missing values.
Behavioral assessment of child-directed canine aggression 349
On the basis of clinical assessment, fear-related aggression
was the most common primary behavioral diagnosis in the dogs
(n = 90; 87%), followed by resource guarding (n = 53; 51%),
territorial defense (n = 52; 51%), social conflict (n = 40; 39%),
and pain (n = 14; 14%). Additional diagnoses included general-
ized anxiety (n = 64; 62%), inappropriate or excessive atten-
tion-seeking behavior (n = 36; 35%), and clinically significant
noise or thunderstorm fear (n = 30; 29%) and separation
anxiety (n = 18; 17%).
On the basis of physical examination, laboratory findings,
and observation, a medical problem was identified or suspected
in 51 (50%) dogs. Orthopedic (n = 18; 20% of all dogs
examined) and dermatologic (n = 18; 20%) conditions were
most commonly identified. Other medical problems included
dermal or epidermal masses and ophthalmologic, metabolic
(eg, renal and hepatic), endocrinologic, and infectious (eg,
Borrelia burgdorferi) disease.
Most owners (66%) had taken their dogs through formal
obedience training classes. Twenty one families had no prior
experience, as adults, with dog ownership; however, prior
experience or its lack had no significant association with biting.
In this study, we describe the circumstances surrounding bites
to children by dogs evaluated for aggressive behavior at a
university-based veterinary behavior service. Although the
epidemiology of bitten children has been reported in a number
of studies, there have been few studies on the circumstances of
aggression, or behavioral or medical information about the
biting dogs themselves. This is the first study to examine the
behavioral aspects of child-directed canine aggression from the
point of view of a veterinary behavioral assessment.
Although 66% of the evaluated dogs had no prior history of
biting children, behavioral abnormalities were universally
present in this canine population. Historically, although 19%
of dogs had never bitten before presentation, a history of
aggressive behavior other than biting (eg, baring teeth) was
common. Furthermore, although some types of human-
directed aggression tend to be observed only in behaviorally
mature dogs (starting at 1–3 years of age),
aggression related
to food or pain may be seen in juvenile dogs.
Thus, aggression
even in a puppy, and even in the absence of biting, should raise
concern and consideration should be given to referral for
behavioral evaluation of the dog.
Anxiety screening identified abnormalities in 77% of animals.
Historical evidence of fearful or anxious behavior in response to
loud noises and thunderstorms or separation from the owner
may signal a predisposition to biting in threatening situations
related to anxiety or fear.
Dogs that react with anxiety to
threatening stimuli may be more likely to react aggressively to
children, who, particularly when very young, are at risk because
of their high-pitched voices, sudden movements, and inap-
propriate interactions.
Medical conditions were identified or suspected in 50% of the
dogs evaluated. There were a number of dogs with orthopedic,
dermatologic, and other disease both at the time of consultation
and historically. These associated medical or painful conditions
may have increased the risk of aggression. However, because of
the lack of a well-animal clinic for comparison of presented
dogs, it was not possible to determine whether this was higher,
lower, or as expected in the patient population. Because disease
and pain can increase irritability in dogs,
even if a causal
relationship is not confirmed, their presence should be an
indication to separate the dog from young children until the
disease has been treated or the pain reduced.
Previous reports of dog bites to children have made safety
recommendations, such as neutering male dogs,
obedience training,
and avoiding specific breeds.
prevalence of males (75%) in our study is similar to other
Almost all dogs, both male and female, were neutered.
Although our data did not include age at neutering or whether
the surgery occurred before or after the appearance of
aggressive behavior, it is apparent that neutering does not
guarantee a reduction of aggression in dogs. It is interesting to
note that the predominant canine behavioral diagnosis, fear-
related aggression, lacks sexual dimorphism,
and therefore
neither sex should be over-represented. However, even male-
associated aggression such as territorial defense is unlikely to
be eliminated by neutering.
Regardless of neuter status,
parents seeking a pet dog might be advised to seek a female.
Two-thirds of the dogs in this study had been taken to training
classes by their owners. It is not known whether owners had
made specific efforts to train or socialize dogs to be comfortable
with children. Although the success of obedience training for
individual dogs was not measured, the results of this study
suggest that obedience training, like neutering, will not ensure
prevention of future bites to children. However, the efficacy of
obedience training in reducing aggression was not specifically
measured. Cohort studies would be needed to evaluate whether
training (or neutering) reduces biting behavior. With the
exception of the English Springer Spaniel, the breeds included
in our study ranked high in American Kennel Club breed
registrations and appear to reflect breed popularity. Because the
total number of English Springer Spaniels in our study was
small, and the study was performed at a referral hospital with a
highly selected group of patients, it is safest to conclude that
any breed of dog is capable of biting a child.
The findings for younger children were not unexpected. Food
or resource guarding is a common behavior problem in dogs
and was noted in almost two thirds of the dogs in this study.
To be safe, children of any age should not be permitted near the
dog whenever food (including human food) is present.
The meaning of ‘‘provocation’’ has been inconsistent in the
literature and should be interpreted with caution.
The mere
presence of a parent, who may underestimate the risk of bites
to young children,
may not be sufficient to prevent bites.
Although it is natural to assume that hitting and other pain-
inducing interactions can elicit aggression, parents and dog
owners may be less vigilant when a child simply approaches or
pets a dog. Similarly, for unfamiliar children, walking or cycling
near a dog’s home may be provocative enough when dogs are
tethered outdoors or are not securely fenced.
Our study focuses on children bitten by pet dogs evaluated in
a secondary and tertiary care veterinary behavior clinic with a
history of aggression to children. We recognize the limitations
of a retrospective case series study at a referral center. Our
patients are a highly selected group of dogs, and the ability to
Key points
Children are at risk of dog bite in association with
resource guarding by the dog or pain-causing interac-
tions. Unfamiliar children are at risk of dog bite while in
the dog’s home, yard, or perceived territory, regardless
of whether or not they are interacting with the dog.
All dogs evaluated for human-directed aggression in our
study had a behavior and/or medical abnormality.
Episodes of aggression were not limited to specific dog
breeds, gender, neuter status, or history of training.
The risk of biting may be increased in the presence of
pain or disease in the pet.
350 Reisner, Shofer, Nance
draw generalizable inferences from them is limited. We also
acknowledge the limitations of a retrospective study of self-
report and self-assessment (of their pets) by dog owners
seeking help for problem behavior. However, we do attempt to
better characterize this common clinical problem from the
unique perspective of the canine behavioral analysis.
We thank Ms Alison Seward and Ms Jenny O’Connor, CVT, for their
assistance in data collection.
Authors’ affiliations
Ilana R Reisner, Frances S Shofer, Department of Clinical Studies, School
of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Michael L Nance, Department of Surgery, The Children’s Hospital of
Philadelphia, PA, USA
Competing interests: None.
Correspondence to: Dr I R Reisner, Department of Clinical Studies, School
of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3900 Delancey St,
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010, USA;
Accepted 26 June 2007
1 Mathews JR, Lattal KA. A behavioral analysis of dog bites to children. J Dev
Behav Pediatr 1994;15:44–52.
2 Gershman KA, Sacks JJ, Wright JC. Which dogs bite? A case-control study of
risk factors. Pediatrics 1994;93:913–17.
3 Kahn A, Bauche P, Lamoureux J. Child victims of dog bites treated in emergency
departments: a prospective survey. Eur J Pediatr 2003;162:254–8.
4 Avner JR, Baker MD. Dog bites in urban children. Pediatrics 1991;88:55–7.
5 European College of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine. Companion animal. (accessed 20 Jul 2007).
6 American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
(accessed 20 Jul 2007).
7 Reisner IR. Differential diagnosis and management of human-directed
aggression in dogs. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2003;33:303–20.
8 Borchelt PL, Voith VL. Aggressive behavior in dogs and cats. Compend Contin
Educ Pract Vet 1985;7:949–57.
9 Overall KL. Medical differentials with potential behavioral manifestations. Vet
Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2003;33:213–29.
10 Mertens PA. Canine aggression. In: Horwitz D, Mills D, Heath S, eds. BSAVA
Manual of canine and feline behavioural medicine. Gloucester: British Small
Animal Veterinary Association, 2002:195–215.
11 Pryor P. Animal behavior case of the month: an English Cocker Spaniel was
examined because of growling and snapping at people and dogs. J Am Vet Med
Assoc 2003;223:954–6.
12 Bandow JH. Will breed-specific legislation reduce dog bites? Can Vet J
13 Presutti RJ. Prevention and treatment of dog bites. Am Fam Physician
14 Reisner I. National survey of owner-directed aggression in English Springer
Spaniels. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:1594–603.
15 Guy NC, Luescher UA, Dohoo SE, et al. A case series of biting dogs:
characteristics of the dogs, their behaviour, and their victims. Appl Anim Behav
Sci 2001;74:43–57.
16 Gandhi RR, Liebman MA, Stafford BL, et al. Dog bite injuries in children: a
preliminary survey. Am Surg 1999;65:863–4.
17 Patrick GR, O’Rourke KM. Dog and cat bites: epidemiologic analyses suggest
different treatment strategies. Public Health Rep 1998;113:252–7.
18 Bernardo LM, Gardner MJ, Rosenfield RL, et al. A comparison of dog bite injuries
in younger and older children treated in a pediatric emergency department.
Pediatr Emerg Care 2002;18:247–9.
19 Lauer EA, White WC, Lauer BA. Dog bites: a neglected problem in accident
prevention. Am J Dis Child 1982;136:202–4.
20 Villar RG, Connick M, Barton LL, et al. Parent and pediatrician knowledge,
attitudes, and practices regarding pet-associated hazards. Arch Pediatr Adolesc
Med 1998;152:1035–7.
21 Chun Y-T. Dog bites in children less than 4 years old. Pediatrics
22 Sacks JJ, Sattin RW, Bonzo SE. Dog bite-related fatalities from 1979 through
1988. JAMA 1989;262:1489–92.
Webcast: International Forum on Quality and Safety in Health Care
Plenary sessions at this years International Forum on Quality and Safety in Health Care were
filmed and broadcast live over the internet. The sessions are still available to view free, on demand
and at your own convenience at Each session is accompanied by a
panel discussion.
The webcast includes the following, in either English or Spanish translation:
Donald M Berwick: Can health care ever be safe?
Richard Smith: What the quality movement can learn from other social movements
Lucian Leape and Linda Kenney: When things go wrong: communicating about adverse events
John Prooi and Harry Molendijk: Partnering for patient safety
Behavioral assessment of child-directed canine aggression 351
... The risk factors leading to dog attacks on children as described above are documented in the Czech Republic [11,47] as well as worldwide [3,8,28,31,48,49]; however, it is unclear whether parents are aware of the data and to what extent they refer to them when their children come into contact with dogs. Additionally, dog ownership may be an advantage when it comes to adults recognising dog cues [21], but whether dog owners are more adept at recognising dangerous situations remains unknown. ...
... One explanation for why this situation was rated as potentially dangerous regardless of dog type might be that common sense generally dictates that one should not initiate contact with or approach a feeding dog. Some respondents might have, at some time in their past, heard of or witnessed a dog attack that was initiated by a person touching a dog's bowl [49]. ...
... Sexi is a fixed effect of the ith Sex (i = men or women); Agej is a fixed effect of the jth Age (j = 21-30; 31-40;[41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50]; Dog ownerk is a fixed effect of the kth Dog owner (k = yes or no); Nb of childrenl is a fixed effect of the lth Nb of children (l = one, two, three, four); Dog typem is a fixed effect of the mth Dog type (m = 'Labrador', 'Pit Bull', 'Russell').The effect of the type of situation was tested by the following model:1 ℎwhere Sexi, Agej, Dog ownerk, Nb of childrenl, and Dog typem are defined in the model above, and Type of situationn is a fixed effect of nth class of situations (n = 'next to a toy', 'touching a toy', 'hugging', 'staring into dog eyes', and 'touching a bowl').Least-squares means of analysed effects (LSMEANS) in the presented model were estimated on the logit scale and subsequently back-transformed to the original scale (probability) using the following inverse link function: ...
Full-text available
Dog attacks on children are a widespread problem, which can occur when parents fail to realize a potentially dangerous interaction between a dog and a child. The aim of the study was to evaluate the ability of parents to identify dangerous situations from several everyday child–dog interactions and to determine whether the participants connected these situations to a particular breed of dog. Five sets of photographs depicting potentially dangerous interactions from everyday situations between children and three dogs (one of each breed) were presented via an online survey to parents of children no more than 6 years old. Data from 207 respondents were analysed using proc GLIMMIX in SAS program, version 9.3. The probability of risk assessment varied according to dog breed (p < 0.001) as well as to the depicted situation (p < 0.001). Results indicated that Labrador Retriever was considered the least likely of the three dogs to be involved in a dangerous dog-child interaction (with 49% predicting a dangerous interaction), followed by Parson Russell Terrier (63.2%) and American Pit Bull Terrier (65%). Participants considered one particular dog-child interaction named ‘touching a bowl’ a dangerous interaction at a high rate (77.9%) when compared with the other presented situations, which were assessed as dangerous at rates of 48.4% to 56.5%. The breed of dog seems to be an influential factor when assessing a potentially dangerous outcome from a dog-child interaction. Contrary to our hypothesis, interactions involving the small dog (Russell Terrier) were rated more critically, similarly to those of the Pit Bull Terrier. These results suggest that even popular family dog breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, should be treated with more caution.
... hitting [2]. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) claims that "the majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable," yet the number of reported, annual dog bites has been rather consistent for over a decade [1,4]. ...
... Traditional preventative treatments, like basic training and neutering, have not been found to consistently decrease behaviors related to canine anxiety and aggression in every case [2]. Current treatments include pharmacologic intervention and behavior modification (scientifically supported training methods such as positive reinforcement) [9]. ...
... There are numerous dog bite prevention programs that teach children how to interact with unfamiliar dogs [13,[79][80][81] or recognize potential risk factors with a family dog [82,83]; fewer programs address how to recognize and interpret specific dog body language including dogs' behavioral responses and their stress signals [74]. Yet, an understanding of species-specific signaling and stress signs are critical in supporting positive human/dog interactions, especially in a home with young children [83][84][85]. ...
Full-text available
Dog aggression directed towards people is a leading reason for relinquishment and a major public health hazard. In response to the threat of dog aggression and dog bites, breed-specific legislation has been introduced in numerous cities within the United States and countries throughout the world. There is limited evidence, however, to suggest that such laws are effective. This study explored, through an online, anonymous, cross-sectional survey, US residents’ views about the bite risk of common dog breeds, breed-specific legislation, and alternative options for improved public safety. A total of 586 surveys were completed by adult US residents, 48.8% female and 48.6% male. Approximately half of the respondents reported feeling that dog bites are a serious public health issue. Although 70% of respondents were opposed to a breed ban, only 56% felt that banning specific breeds creates an animal welfare issue. Females were less likely to support a ban or agree that specific breed bans improve public safety. When participants were asked to indicate their support of several alternatives to breed-specific legislation, the most frequently endorsed options included public education about animal welfare and animal behavior, and stricter leash laws. Further research pertaining to the most effective public education dissemination methods is warranted.
... This corresponds to other research showing that, in most dog bite incidents, the dog is owned by a family member, and children are most commonly bitten in the home 47,48 . Reisner et al., 49 reported that 42% of the bite cases occurred in circumstances where the dog was familiar with the child, and the authors attributed these to bites in response to food guarding. We found that biting accidents in adults were more likely to occur for when a chained dog had escaped, or when a dog was near their owner's property. ...
Full-text available
Most animal bites in humans are caused by domestic dogs, making dog bite-related injuries a serious public health and safety concern globally. However, till date there is no comprehensive research regarding the occurrence of dog bites, and incidence of exposure to rabies post-exposure prophylaxis in Poland. Thus, the main goal of the study was to examine incidents of dog bites in humans and the potential risk of rabies in Poland between 1994-2018. Our results showed that the mean annual dog bite incidence rate in Poland was 13 people per 100000 inhabitants, with ~5000 people vaccinated annually post exposure. Children were more likely to be bitten than adults, and males were more likely than females. People were more likely to be bitten by mongrels followed by German Shepherds. However, most of the bite incidents included dogs that were free-ranging or stray, highlighting the di culty in regulating the vaccination status of the dog and consequently the likelihood of people meeting a rabid animal. Therefore, we recommend increasing stray dog captureefforts to decrease the incidence of dog bites and potential exposure to rabies. Furthermore, o cial reporting of all cases of dog bites by associated stakeholders involved in data collection would be effective.
... 5,6 The need for secondary prevention is supported by studies showing that dogs who bite frequently have a history of dog aggression to either humans or animals. [7][8][9][10][11] However this requires appropriate authorities becoming aware of incidents of dog aggression for enactment. ...
Associated Guideline:
... Moreover, the investigation of the "breed" effect poses important issues considering that the breed identification by victims, official authorities and even specialists working in the animal field is notoriously faulty (REESE & VERTALKA, 2020). Previous studies investigated the context of the biting episodes, which includes inappropriate physical contacts, resource guarding, social agonistic and play interactions, pain-discomfort conditions, a state of emotional tension-fear-anxiety of the animal (OVERALL & LOVE, 2001;REISNER et al., 2007;CASEY et al., 2014;POLO et al., 2015;OWCZARCZAK-GARSTECKA et al., 2018;BARRIOS et al., 2021). It was also found also that owner attitude, attachment style and personality traits are related to dog bites (GOBBO & ZUPAN, 2020;POWELL et al., 2020). ...
Full-text available
Dog bite is one of the major public health problems involving people worldwide. Although, several studies have investigated this phenomenon in different countries, little information about the incidence of dog bite episodes in Italy is available. We analysed data about dog biting events between 2010 and 2019 provided by the CRIUV, the Regional Reference Centre for Veterinary Urban Hygiene in the largest city of Southern Italy, namely. Naples. We observed severe and profound inconsistencies in the data collection that reveal structural and significant weaknesses of the current data collection system. Given the multifactorial nature of dog bite, we highlight the need to improve the gathering of all the information related to the factors affecting the occurrence of biting episodes for an accurate assessment of the biting phenomenon.
... Constant supervision is also simply not always possible, and depends on the ratio of children and adults, the environment they are in, socioeconomic factors, and the capability of the supervisor who may not be a parent. 100 Given the predominance of attacks by dogs who are not owned by the victim or their immediate family, and dogs natural tendencies for resource guarding, territorial or predatory aggression, 31 redirection toward owner-directed safety information is likely required. Non-aversive dog training is a strategy promoted by dog-advocates, and is further supported by studies demonstrating the negative impact of aversive training techniques on dog welfare. ...
Background The prevention of dog bites is an increasingly important public health topic, as the incidence of serious injury continues to rise. Objectives To evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to prevent dog bites and aggression. Methods Online databases were searched (PubMed, Cochrane Library, Embase and Google Scholar), using the search terms: dog/s, canine, canis, kuri, bite/s, bitten, aggression, attack, death, fatal, mortality, injury/ies, prevention, intervention , for studies between 1960 and 2021. All study designs were considered. Outcomes of interest were the incidence of dog bites or dog aggression. Non-English studies, and those without full-text access were excluded. Results Forty-three studies met the review criteria, including 15 observational and 27 interventional studies. Fifteen studies investigating dog-control legislation, including leash laws, stray dog control and infringements indicated this can reduce dog bite rates. Breed-specific legislation had less of an effect. Six studies investigating sterilisation, showed while this may reduce dog bites through a reduction in the dog population, the effect on dog aggression was unclear. An alcohol reduction programme showed a significant reduction in dog bite rates in one study. Seven studies assessing educational approaches found that intensive adult-directed education may be effective, with one study showing child-directed education was not effective. Eight studies on dog training (two police-dog related), and six evaluating dog medication or diet were generally low quality and inconclusive. Conclusions Multiple strategies including effective engagement with indigenous communities and organisations will be required to reduce dog-bites and other incidents involving dog aggression. This review provides some evidence that legislated dog control strategies reduce dog bite rates. Available evidence suggests greater restrictions should be made for all dogs, rather than based on breed alone. Due to a burden of child injury, protection of children should be a focus of legislation and further investigations. Prevention strategies in children require redirection away from a focus on child-directed education and future research should investigate the effectiveness of engineering barriers and reporting strategies.
... The main physiological changes are increases in blood pressure, changes in cortisol levels, body temperature, increases in heart rate and blood glucose levels. In terms of behavioral changes, activation takes place at this time of the sympathetic adrenal medullary axis and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal cortex axis [30,[45][46][47]. ...
Full-text available
Aggression as a behavior is not always desirable, often ends in abandonment and/or euthanasia. However, it is possible to prevent the occurrence of unwanted aggression in domestic dogs. Aggression is not a fully understood phenomenon. In recent years, many studies have focused on the influence of diet and physiology (including the endocrine system) on the emergence of behavioral disorders. In particular, the emphasis was put on nutritional additives such as fatty acids, amino acids, and probiotics. In addition, the possibility of using neurocognition in the observation of abnormal behavior in dogs has also been discussed, which may allow for a more detailed determination of the basis of aggressive behavior in dogs. In this review, the concepts related to aggression and its potential causes have been gathered. In addition, the possible influence of diet and hormones on aggression in dogs has been discussed, as well as the application of neurocognition in the possibility of its diagnosis
... This led to the definition of a dog bite as a multifactorial phenomenon, whose expression is regulated by genetic, physiological, developmental, environmental and social factors [4]. According to the clinical and behavioral assessments of biting dogs, the attacks toward humans are most commonly caused by fear and anxiety (77%) [11][12][13][14], suggesting that dogs' emotions and their relationship to humans are crucial components of the biting phenomenon. Recent studies have demonstrated, indeed, that dogs are able to interpret human emotional states and regulate their behavior accordingly [15][16][17][18]. ...
Full-text available
Dog biting events pose severe public health and animal welfare concerns. They result in several consequences for both humans (including physical and psychological trauma) and the dog involved in the biting episode (abandonment, relocation to shelter and euthanasia). Although numerous epidemiological studies have analyzed the different factors influencing the occurrence of such events, to date the role of emotions in the expression of predatory attacks toward humans has been scarcely investigated. This paper focuses on the influence of emotional states on triggering predatory attacks in dogs, particularly in some breeds whose aggression causes severe consequences to human victims. We suggest that a comprehensive analysis of the dog bite phenomenon should consider the emotional state of biting dogs in order to collect reliable and realistic data about bite episodes.
Full-text available
Introduction Dog bites are one of the leading causes of non-fatal emergency room visits in children. These injuries not only cause physical harm but can lead to long-term psychological stress. This study evaluated the current literature related to pediatric dog bite injuries to identify research gaps which should be prioritized to improve a major public health concern. Methods We performed a keyword search of PubMed, Scopus, and OVID Medline databases (January 1980– March 2020) for all published studies focused on dog bite injuries in the pediatric population (≤18 years of age) using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Results Out of 1859 abstracts screened, 43 studies involving 86 880 patients were included. Twenty-nine studies were retrospective chart reviews characterizing the epidemiology of dog bites and their associated treatment outcomes; six were prospective cohort studies; two were cross-sectional studies; and six were experimental studies. Synthesized results demonstrate that children <9 years of age suffer the greatest burden of injuries, with children <6 years of age at higher risk of more severe injuries involving the head, neck, and face. Conclusion Studies analyzing the prevention or psychosocial consequences of dog bites injuries are needed.
Full-text available
As a result of a perceived increase in pit bull injuries, all children who presented to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia during 1989 for evaluation of dog bite injuries were prospectively studied. Epidemiologic information was collected from parents, either at the time of visit or by phone on the following day. A total of 168 children were enrolled; the mean age was 8 years. Males outnumbered females 1.5:1. Most (61%) injuries occurred in or around the home and involved dogs known to the patient (77%). Types of injuries included abrasions (33%), punctures (29%), and lacerations (38%). Thirteen bites had associated complications; nine developed infection. Twelve (7%) children required admission to the hospital. More than 12 different purebreeds or cross-breeds were identified as perpetrators, including German shepherds (n = 35), pit bulls (n = 33), rottweilers (n = 9), and Dobermans (n = 7). Most (54%) animals were contained (ie, leashed, fenced, in-house) at the time of injury. Fewer (46%) were provoked prior to biting. Significantly more pit bull injuries (94% vs 43%, P less than .001) were the consequence of unprovoked attacks and involved freely roaming animals (67% vs 41%, P less than .01). Children aged 5 or younger were more likely to provoke animals prior to injury than were older children (69% vs 36%, P less than .001). It is recommended that families with young children be the target of pet safety education and that measures be sought that would lead to early identification of a potentially dangerous dog and restrict ownership.
Full-text available
Dog bites cause an estimated 585,000 injuries resulting in the need for medical attention yearly and children are the most frequent victims. This study sought to determine dog-specific factors independently associated with a dog biting a nonhousehold member. A matched case-control design comprising 178 pairs of dogs was used. Cases were selected from dogs reported to Denver Animal Control in 1991 for a first-bite episode of a nonhousehold member in which the victim received medical treatment. Controls were neighborhood-matched dogs with no history of biting a nonhousehold member, selected by modified random-digit dialing based on the first five digits of the case dog owner's phone number. Case and control dog owners were interviewed by telephone. Children aged 12 years and younger were the victims in 51% of cases. Compared with controls, biting dogs were more likely to be German Shepherd (adjusted odds ratio (ORa) = 16.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.8 to 71.4) or Chow Chow (ORa = 4.0, 95% CI 1.2 to 13.7) predominant breeds, male (ORa = 6.2, 95% CI 2.5 to 15.1), unneutered (ORa = 2.6, 95% CI 1.1 to 6.3), residing in a house with > or = 1 children (ORa = 3.5, 95% CI 1.6 to 7.5), and chained while in the yard (ORa = 2.8, 95% CI 1.0 to 8.1). Pediatricians should advise parents that failure to neuter a dog and selection of male dogs and certain breeds such as German Shepherd and Chow Chow may increase the risk of their dog biting a nonhousehold member, who often may be a child. The potential preventability of this frequent public health problem deserves further attention.
Boundaries between behavioral conditions and medical differentials are likely to blur more rather than less as we learn more about genomic, cellular, and subcellular effects on common conditions. These changes should lead to better treatment but may also require a paradigm shift in how we view behavioral conditions and the mechanisms that contribute to them.
The characteristics of 227 biting dogs, their homes, and their victims were gathered in a detailed telephone survey of general veterinary clientele in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. All of the dogs had bitten either someone living in the same household, or someone who was a frequent visitor and was well known to the dog. There were 117 male and 110 female dogs included in this case series. Significantly more female dogs were neutered (P=0.03), 58% of the dogs were purebred, and the most commonly reported breed was the Labrador Retriever (n=15). The mean number of people living in each home was 3.13 (S.D.±0.08). Aggression which would traditionally be defined as dominant or possessive had been demonstrated by 75.6% of the dogs in at least one of 17 specific situations outlined in the questionnaire. Dogs with a history of this type of aggression were significantly older (P=0.02) and of lower body weight (P
By combining data from the National Center for Health Statistics and computerized searching of news stories, we identified 157 dog bite-related fatalities that occurred in the United States from 1979 through 1988. Of the 157 deaths, 70% occurred among children who were less than 10 years of age. The death rate for neonates was almost 370 times that of adults who were 30 to 49 years of age. Pit bull breeds were involved in 42 (41.6%) of 101 deaths where dog breed was reported, almost three times more than German shepherds, the next most commonly reported breed. The proportion of deaths attributable to pit bulls increased from 20% in 1979 and 1980 to 62% in 1987 and 1988. Pit bull attacks were almost twice as likely to be caused by strays as attacks by other breeds. Extrapolated estimates suggest 183 to 204 dog bite-related fatalities from 1979 through 1988. To prevent such deaths, we recommend stronger animal control laws, public education regarding dog bites, and more responsible dog ownership. Parents and physicians should be aware that infants left alone with a dog may be at risk of death.
Few situations are more anxiety provoking than that of a small child being attacked by a dog. On occasion dogs have been known to save human lives. Conversely, dogs have actually been known to kill (references 1 and 2; Chicago Sun-Times, March 31, 1980). Unfortunately, the incidence of dog bites has increased in recent years, and more than 1 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year.3-5 In addition, children are the most frequent victims.1,4-8 With the rising crime rate, more citizens are buying or even renting large and sometimes vicious dogs to protect their family or property. (Chicago Sun-Times, March 31, 1980, and reference 5).
• Dog bites are a common but neglected pediatric problem. To clarify the epidemiology of dog bites and to learn if parents would welcome counseling aimed at preventing bites, 455 families (960 children) in a Denver pediatric practice were surveyed. One hundred ninety-four children (20.2%) had been bitten at least once, with the majority of bites occurring before the child was aged 5 years. Forty-three percent of the bites prompted a visit to a physician and 16.5% received sutures. German shepherds were responsible for 17% of the incidents, more than expected relative to their popularity as pets. The dogs usually were owned by a neighbor (40.2%) or the victim's family (31%). Approximately half of the bites were believed to be unprovoked. Seventy-seven percent of the parents believed that dog bite prevention warranted discussion with their physician. Dog bites are an important pediatric problem, and parents should be counseled accordingly during well-child visits. (Am J Dis Child 1982;136:202-204)
Approximately one million dog bites occur yearly in the United States, and 60% to 70% of these are to children. Although the majority of dog bites are not serious, some are disfiguring or, on rare occasions, fatal. Bites are disruptive and stressful but also are preventable. This paper reviews the epidemiology of dog bites, examines the conditions under which bites occur, and discusses behavioral factors related to the dog and to the child that determine whether a bite will occur. Dog bites then are compared with other childhood injuries, and strategies for intervening both before and after a dog bite occurs are discussed.
So how do we deal with biting dogs? To start with, we must remind ourselves that biting is a natural activity of all dogs, and that there is potential for injury. All dog owners must understand this and must be made aware that they are fully responsible for the actions of their dogs. I am not convinced that this is universally understood by dog owners, nor am I satisfied that every dog owner takes the necessary steps to train and socialize their dog. Owners need to be encouraged to actively work at inhibiting biting behaviour when dogs are young. As well, all dogs should be socialized to accept children, regardless of whether or not there are children living with the dog. Adults without dogs need to learn that dogs don't understand "people's rights," and that dogs should not be expected to act differently with different people. Adults also need to understand that young children should never be left alone with a dog (or a cat) without supervision, and that all children should be taught how to behave around dogs, particulary around dogs they don't know. So long as we have dogs living with us there will be people who get bitten. The most effective way to prevent bites is to encourage dog owners to become knowledgeable about their animals and to train and socialize them so that they can become good dog neighbours. Many municipalities already have by-laws that deal with animal bites, and in Ontario the Dog Owners Liability Act has proven to be effective in confining, restraining or disposing of biting or attacking dogs judged to be a definite threat to public health and safety, and when evidence warrants, there is always Section #221 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Most legislation deals with bites after the fact. If we want to prevent all bites, there is only one sure way and that is to ban all dogs. That is of course as unrealistic as trying to prevent bites by enacting breed specific legislation.