Dog bite Edit

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"Dog Bite" redirects here. For the song, see Dog Bite (song).

Dog bites or dog attacks are attacks on humans by feral or domestic dogs. With the close association of dogs and humans in daily life (largely as pets), dog bites – with injuries from very minor to significant – are extremely common.

There is considerable debate on whether or not certain breeds of dogs are inherently more prone to commit attacks causing serious injury (i.e., so driven by instinct and breeding that, under certain circumstances, they are exceedingly likely to attempt or commit dangerous attacks). Regardless of the breed of the dog, it is recognized that the risk of dangerous dog attacks can be greatly increased by human actions (such as neglect or fight training) or inactions (as carelessness in confinement and control).

Significant dog bites affect tens of million of people globally each year.[1] It is estimated that two percent of the US population, from 4.5–4.7 million people, are bitten by dogs each year.[2] Most bites occur in children.[3] In the 1980s and 1990s the US averaged 17 fatalities per year, while in the 2000s this has increased to 26.[4] 77% of dog bites are from the pet of family or friends, and 50% of attacks occur on the dog owner's property.[4] Animal bites, most of which are from dogs, are the reason for 1% of visits to an emergency department in the United States.[3]

Attacks on the serious end of the spectrum have become the focus of increasing media and public attention in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.[5]


Health effects Edit

A person bitten by an animal potentially carrying parvovirus or rabies virus should consult a medical care. An animal bite may also cause serious bacterial infections of soft tissues or bone (osteomyelitis) which can become life-threatening if untreated.

Rabies results in the death of approximately 55,000 people a year, with most of the causes due to dog bites.[1]

Capnocytophaga canimorsus transmission (a gram-negative bacterium) following a dog bite can cause overwhelming sepsis in asplenic patients, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. Empiric treatment for this bacteria following a dog bite, consisting of a third-generation cephalosporins early in the infection, should be instituted in these patient populations, or following deep bites or dog bites to the hand.

Causes Edit

Human behavior[edit] Edit

Many human behaviors (especially by people unfamiliar with dogs) may factor into bite situations. The majority of dogs will not respond to all or even any of these behaviors with aggression, however, some will. These behaviors include:

  • Challenging for food or water. For example, removing food from a dog, or appearing to intervene between a dog and its food. Even when inadvertent, this may trigger aggressive behavior in some animals.
  • Attacking (or perceived attacking) a dog or its companions, or encroaching on its territory. Dogs are pack hunters; they often have an instinct to defend themselves and those they consider their "pack" (which could be other dogs, humans, cats, or even other animals), and to defend their territory, which may include areas they consider "theirs" or belonging to their family. Any dog is unpredictable in the presence of an intruder, especially but not always a burglar.
  • Sickness or injury. A sick or injured dog, or an older animal, like people, may become "cranky" or over-reactive, and may develop a tendency to become "snappish".
  • Failure to recognize insecurity or fear. Like humans, dogs that feel insecure may ultimately turn and defend themselves against perceived threat. It is common for people to not recognize signs of fear or insecurity, and to approach, triggering a defensive reaction.
  • Intervention when dogs fight. When dogs fight, a human stepping in between, or seeking to restrain one of them without due care, may be badly bitten as well.
  • Threatening body language. Especially including direct staring (an act of aggression/perceived as threatening by dogs) or a person not known to the dog moving their face very close to the animal's own snout (may be perceived as a challenge, threatening, or imposing). Staring is more dangerous when on the same visual level as the dog (such as small children), or when the human is unfamiliar.
  • Prey behaviors. Dogs retain many of the predatory instincts of wolves, including the chasing of prey. Running away from a dog or behaving in a manner suggesting weakness may trigger predatory behaviors such as chasing or excited attack. For example, the instinct to jerk one's hands upwards away from an inquisitive dog may elicit a strong impulse to grab and hold.
  • Ignoring warning signs. Trained attack dogs may act against an intruder without warning.

Note that attacks may be triggered by behaviors that are perceived as an attack, for example, a sudden unexpected approach or touch by a stranger, or inadvertently stepping on any portion of the dog's anatomy, such as a paw or tail, or startling a sleeping dog unexpectedly. In particular, the territory that a dog recognizes as its own may not coincide with the property lines that its owner and the legal authorities recognize, such as a portion of a neighbor's backyard.

Dog behavior Edit

Many adoption agencies test for aggressive behavior in dogs, and euthanize an animal that shows certain types of aggression. Alternatively, aggression can often be addressed with appropriate corrective training. Sources of aggression include:

  • Fear and self-defense. Like humans, dogs react when fearful, and may feel driven to attack out of self-defense, even when not in fact being "attacked". Speed of movement, noises, objects or specific gestures such as raising an arm or standing up may elicit a reaction. Many rescued dogs have been abused, and in some dogs, specific fears of men, women, skin coloring, and other features that recall past abusers, are not uncommon. A dog that feels cornered or without recourse may attack the human who is threatening or attacking it. A dog may also perceive a hand reached out toward its head as an attempt to gain control of the dog's neck via the collar, which if done to a wary dog by a stranger can easily provoke a bite.
  • Territoriality and possessions. See above. Aggressive possessiveness is considered a very important type of aggression to test for, since it is most associated with bites, especially bites to children.[6]
  • Predatory instincts. In isolation, predatory behaviors are rarely the cause of an attack on a human. Predatory aggression is more commonly involved as a contributing factor for example in attacks by multiple dogs; a "pack kill instinct" may arise if multiple dogs are involved in an attack.[7]
  • Pain or sickness. See above. As with fear, pain can incite a dog to attack. The canonical example of sickness-induced attack is the virulent behavior caused byrabies.
  • Redirected aggression. A dog that is already excited/aroused by an aggressive instinct from one source, may use an available target to release its aggression, if the "target" does something to evoke this response from the dog (e.g. shouting & staring at the dog for barking at the mailman).

Training and aggression Edit

In a domestic situation, canine aggression is normally suppressed[citation needed]. Exceptions are if the dog is trained to attack, feels threatened, or is provoked. It is important to remember that dogs are predators by nature, instinct is something that never completely disappears, and that predatory behavior against other animals (such as chasing other animals) may train a dog or a pack of dogs to attack humans. It is possible to acclimate a dog to common human situations in order to avoid adverse reactions by a pet. Dog experts[who?] advocate removal of a dog's food, startling a dog, and performing sudden movements in a controlled setting to teach the dog who its leader is, to defuse aggressive impulses in common situations. This also allows better animal care since owners may now remove an article directly from a dog's mouth or transport a wounded pet to seek medical attention[citation needed].

Small children are especially prone to being misunderstood by dogs, in part because their size and movements can be similar to prey.[8] Also, young children may unintentionally provoke a dog (pulling on ears or tails is common, as is surprising a sleeping dog) because of their inexperience[citation needed]. To avoid potential conflicts, even reliably well-behaved children and dogs should never be allowed to interact in the absence of an adult who knows and understands the dog's personality and trained cues.

Dogs with strong chase instincts, (e.g. collies, shepherds), may fail to recognize a person as a being not to be herded[citation needed]. They may fixate on a specific aspect of the person, such as a fast-moving, brightly colored shoe, as a prey object[citation needed]. This is probably the cause for the majority of non-aggressive dogs chasing cyclists and runners. In these cases, if the individual stops, the dog often loses interest since the movement has stopped. This is not always the case, and aggressive or territorial dogs might take the opportunity to attack.

Additionally, most dogs that bark at strangers, particularly when not on "their" territory, will flee if the stranger challenges it, though this is not recommended behaviour as challenging the dog is just as likely to evoke a bite[citation needed]. Mailmen, being the classic example, provoke a strong territorial response because they come back day after day to the dog's territory. In the dog's mind they are constantly intruding on their territory and that sets up a learned behavior.

Unsupervised children Edit

This is arguably the most critical factor in fatal dog attacks on children, who because of their small size are usually not able to withstand an attack until help arrives. Many adults survived severe dog attacks simply by virtue of the fact that they were able to sustain and fend the dogs off to some degree until assistance arrived, although the elderly and disabled are particularly vulnerable.

Children often engage in behavior that will trigger a dog attack. For example, approaching a chained dog, trying to hug or kiss an unfamiliar animal, trying to pull its tail or engaging in other behavior that the dog may feel is threatening. Behavior such as this on the part of children may invoke either an aggressive territorial response from the dog or an aggressive defensive behavior from the dog.

The age group with the second-highest amount of fatalities due to a dog attack are 2-year-old children. Over 88% of these fatalities occurred when the 2-year-old child was left unsupervised with a dog(s) or the child wandered off to the location of the dog.

Breeds Edit

Pit bull, muzzled

With respect to bites, no one breed causes most of them.[3] A 2015 literature review concluded that "breed is a poor sole predictor of dog bites".[9] In the United States pit bull-type are the most frequently identified breeds in cases of severe bites with Rottweiler dogs also being common.[3][9] This is partly attributed to their size and the fact that they are more frequently owned by people involved in crime.[9]

When dogs are near humans with whom they are familiar, they normally become less aggressive. However, it should not be assumed that because a dog has been with humans, it will not attack anybody – even a family member. Caution needs to be taken when approaching new dogs for the first time.[10]

A study based on recent data from 2000–2009, published in 2013, compared media accounts with reports available from animal control officials, determined that, of their sample of 256 dog bite related fatalities, breed could only be validly determined in 45 cases, and the attacks in these 45 cases were dispersed among 20 different breeds and 2 known mixes. For a further set of 401 dogs in media accounts of dog bite related fatality, reported breed differed between different media accounts of the same attack 31% of the time, factoring in animal control accounts produced disagreement on breed for 40% of attacks.[11]

A 2000 study by the US by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports of 327 people killed by dogs "pit bull terrier" or mixes thereof were reportedly involved in 76 cases. The breed with the next-highest number of attributed fatalities was the Rottweiler and mixes thereof, with 44 fatalities.[2]

Human-dog interaction Edit

See also: Anthrozoology

Despite domestication, dogs, like their ancestors wolves, remain cunning, swift, agile, strong, territorial and voracious—even small ones have large, sharp teeth and claws and powerful muscles in their jaws and legs and can inflict serious injuries. The lacerations even from inadvertent dog scratches, let alone deliberate or reckless bites, are easily infected (most commonly by Capnocytophaga ochracea or Pasteurella multocida). Medium-to-large dogs can knock people down with the usual effects of falls from other causes.

Should affection or mutual respect not exist (as with feral dogs), should a dog be deliberately starved (dogs are usually as resourceful as any large predators in getting food), should a dog be conditioned to become an attacker, or should someone intrude upon a dog's territory and pose a threat, then the natural tendencies of a predator manifest themselves in a dog attack in which the dog uses its predatory abilities to defend itself. Extrication from such an attack is difficult because of the dog's power and agility. Flight from a dog attack by running is usually impossible.

Education for adults and children, animal training, selective breeding for temperament, and society's intolerance for dangerous animals combine to reduce the incidence of attacks and accidents involving humans and dogs. However, improperly managed confrontations can lead to severe injury from even the most well-tempered dog.

Stiffened front legs and a raised ridge of hair along the spine can be signs of an imminent attack (as well as of interest, or anxiety and the start of the dog's "fight or flight" mechanism). A wagging tail often is an attempt to communicate excitement, though a tail held high over the back can signal the dog becoming aroused – either for what humans see as for positive or negative reasons. Dogs also have far superior hearing and olfactory senses than humans, as well as having the advantage of reading the body language of other humans and animals.

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