Fatal Dog Bites Share Common Factors

imagesThe Journal of the American Veterinary Association has released the most comprehensive study to date regarding fatal dog bites and the common factors that link them. The authors of the study found that there were some significant errors reported by the media in certain stories, so rather than relying on a potentially biased media source, their findings are based on investigative reports from interviews with animal control agencies, investigators, and homicide detectives.

Interestingly, the breeds of the dogs involved in fatal attacks could only be identified in 18% of the cases. Often times, the media's report of the dog's breed conflicted with animal control reports. Within that 18%, twenty different breeds were identified, which correlates with previous studies that have found that no single breed of dog is more likely to attack than another. The results of these studies make it clear that the solution to preventing future dog attacks is better management and husbandry practices, and not banning specific breeds.

The findings from this study are intriguing, although not entirely surprising. Here are the various factors they found to be commonplace in fatal dog attacks:

#1: There is no able-bodied person present to intervene (87.1%)

This common factor is why I persistently beg parents not to leave their infants or young children alone with a dog under any circumstances. It only takes a split second for a tragedy to occur, and this staggering statistic shows just how vital it is for an able-bodied person to be present in case of an incident between a dog and a child, or any person who is unable to defend themselves against an attack.

#2: The victim has no prior relationship with the dog (85.2%)

This factor serves as an important reminder that we need to be particularly careful with dogs when there is a new person around them, especially if the dog has a history of fear or aggression. The statistic shows that the majority of fatal dog bites occur when the victim does not have a relationship with the dog, so it's important that you manage your dog's environment so that he is not set up for failure and you don't put a guest in a position to get bitten. On the other hand, it's also vital to be careful when you're interacting with unfamiliar dogs.

#3: The dog is not spayed or neutered (84.4%)

There are many reasons why spaying and neutering is important, but this might be the top one. In almost 85 percent of cases, the dogs responsible for fatal attacks on humans were unaltered. Be a smart, responsible owner and spay or neuter your dogs, or properly manage your dog if you prefer not to have them altered. In the United States especially, spaying and neutering is often attributed to responsible ownership, and therefore some of the unaltered dogs that fatally attacked people were likely subjected to irresponsible ownership. In some cases, a dog being unaltered may have actually caused the aggressive behavior, and in others it was simply correlated with an owner's irresponsibility.

#4: The victim is unable to manage their interactions with the dog (77.4%)

Usually due to the victim's age, or as a result of their physical or mental health state, they are compromised in some way. Teaching children how to safely interact with dogs is imperative for preventing fatal attacks, but it's also in the hands of parents and guardians to monitor all interactions between dogs and people who are physically or mentally compromised in any way. Check out our friends with Family Paws Parent Education or American Humane's Pet Meets Baby campaign to learn more about protecting your child from a dog attack.

#5: The dog is not kept as a family pet (76.2%)

We've all seen a "backyard dog"--the dog who barks incessantly at all hours of the day and night and who has minimal interaction with people or other animals. Dogs who live in this way are much more prone to aggressive behavior since they live most of their life without any positive social interaction. This is why chaining and tethering is such a bad idea--it breeds the pent-up frustration that is often a precursor to aggression.

#6: The owner has mismanaged the dog in the past (37.5%) or has abused or neglected the dog (21.1%)

Abuse, neglect, or general poor ownership are all factors that can contribute to aggression and violent behavior in dogs. Dogs who are starved or who suffer physical abuse or mental intimidation can seemingly "snap," even though the frustration has been building long before an attack ever happens. If you suspect a dog you know of suffering from abuse or neglect, contact your local authorities.

Read the full analysis of the study.


tweet it post it Share It Plus It Print It

69 thoughts on “Fatal Dog Bites Share Common Factors

  1. Karen Kocsis

    I disagree EMPHATICALLY with the comment on spay and neuter!!! I understand why the push is to spay or neuter BUT doing this before the dog reaches maturity affects their growth and health. Now that has been proven. Although I do agree (weakly0 that sometimes this is best for the situation the dog is going to.

    I have for 35 - 40 years 'done' dogs. 95% of my dogs were whole. I have bred very little and never had a mistake litter. My involvement includes: Obedience training and competition, conformation, stockdog trials,volunteering with local humane society, conformation showing (pretty dog contests), tracking, dope search dog (trained with police trainer), etc... I have had primarily Australian Shepherds and Border Collies.

    Truth be told I love many breeds. Because of this, the obedience involvement allowed me to be involved with many breeds and learn first hand their personalities. I will tell you from this experience it is for the most part the PEOPLE and the dog's living situation that is SO IMPORTANT. Secondly it is HOW THE DOG IS BRED. Purebred or mixed breed alike inherit their parents traits. I have seen this over and over both with mixed and purebred.

    I truly wish people had to take a test and be educated BEFORE owning a dog. It would help them so much!!! Plus have a knowledgable person help them pick a dog or puppy suitable for them be it from a breeder or pound. I have helped many and all have been successful! Of course I also helped them after the purchase with training and problem solving..

    Just an FYI for those reading this that have spayed or neutered dogs...

    The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) Now offers classes in all venues for altered dogs. They recognized that this would encourage people to fix their dogs and still be able to train and compete with them. The Conformation dogs have to be purebred Aussies but any other venue they offer the dog can even be a mixed breed and compete! It's awesome!! (Of course to work stock they must be a herding breed but they allow all the herding breeds to compete.)

  2. Jeanne

    There is no doubt then any dog can bite on any given day. However; if they are loved and treated as family as they should be, that chance decreases a lot.

    Always remember: if our dog doesn't like you, we probably don't either! 😉

  3. Erica

    Interesting read. When I was pregnant with my first child, Sara I used a book called Tell Your Dog You're Pregnant: An essential guide for dog owners who are expecting a baby. It was really helpful and came with a CD of sounds. Max (my fur child!) took some time to get used to the sounds but the book helped on how to do it. It gave me advice on what changes will occur and how to prepare my Max for them. It also talked about the causes for aggression and why it might occur and how to avoid it. It is written by a vet behaviorist too so it cover health issues as well. Maybe that will help someone else! http://www.babyandpet.com

  4. christina

    thanks for all the info now those that talk about pitbull and pit bull mix attacks the only reason that you here about them and rott attacks is again the media well i did a lot of reading in news papers in all types of states and some of there major citys online and found there dog attacks that were made by terriers shepards golden retrivers black labs most fatal some so seaver in the attack it was touch and go for the victims there was even a chihuahua who attacked a sleeping baby on the couch so dont tell me the media reports all dog attacks they dont only what makes news and ratings if you do a study look in the local news papers and you will find all breeds of dogs can attack for no reason attacks are not breed bound the media just has us thinking it is. i have raised pitbulls and rottwilers all my life not once has one of my babys ever growled or showed aggression towards any person or animal its not the dog its the owner i know people who fed there pits and rotte gun powder and chained them up and had kids in the neighbor hood come by and tease them to make them mean also seen people beat there dogs to make them mean and then what happens the dog gets loose and a attack follows its the HUMANS WHO MAKE DOGS MEAN dogs are not born that way or turn out that way dogs are made that way by HUMANS.

  5. Margatet

    Thank you for your article it was very informative
    These people whi get a dog then throw it outside
    In the backyard never spend time teaching it or
    Talking to it then wonder why it barks all the time
    And tears up stuff or does not listen to the owner.
    Well people how would you like it? Or to get beaten
    On a daily basis or starved ?
    These idiots should be kept a record of so they
    Are not allowed to get another dog And then another
    And so on. These people are usually abusers of
    Women And children.
    Its time our court system takes a stand and give
    Idiots serious time And serious fines to ley tje public

  6. Margatet

    Thank you for your article it was very informative
    These people whi get a dog then throw it outside
    In the backyard never spend time teaching it or
    Talking to it then wonder why it barks all the time
    And tears up stuff or does not listen to the owner.
    Well people how would you like it? Or to get beaten
    On a daily basis or starved ?
    These idiots should be kept a record of so they
    Are not allowed to get another dog And then another
    And so on. These people are usually abusers of
    Women And children.
    Its time our court system takes a stand and give These
    Idiots serious time And serious fines to let the public
    Know that this will not be acceptable period.

  7. Kent

    I think what you have come out with is very true, but there are so many things wrong with the courts and fines in both the USA & England. England has targeted the normal people and not the ones that need to be sorted out by the law and the courts here in England are killing hundreds of thousands of dogs as they don't look right to them which is very wrong, these are intelligent animals which have been helping man for many many years and they are being Treated this way.
    Wrong wrong wrong this government in England don't know what they are doing, I wish they stop and look at what they are doing and start to hear what people are saying about this.
    And start to talk with them to understand what they are doing is wrong and start to do things right, this goes to both the US and UK governments.

    Well done for putting this on the web Victoria

  8. carla

    I believe a dog attack can happen with any breed certain breeds are more highlighted than others when the incident occurs. Any dog can feel threatened at any time and it is good animal ownership that can reduce this from happening. If you wish to take on a dog then research what breed of dog you want that would fit your lifestyle where you live how much time you have, and what family you have. ie high energy dogs need to have the time and space to exercise frequently where as other breeds are happy to snug up on your lap for most of the day. Common sense plays a big part in being responsible for a dog, I have never left either of my dogs with my babies or anyone else's child unsupervised that's something you just don't do no matter how dopey or soft your dog is it takes 10 seconds for a young toddler to grab a dogs face and the dog react.
    by training you dog and making sure they have plenty of healthy social time will help them create a positive healthy life but training shouldn't only be for the puppy years basic household family training should occur every day.
    and best of all know your pet and understand them.

  9. Pingback: Why Train a Dog to Attack?

  10. Bronwyn Noblr

    Whenever I hear about an "animal attack," the first thing I think is, "What did the person do to the dog?"

  11. Joanna McGinn

    Items 1 and 2 are blatant LIES. SImply NOT true and not based on news reports. 2/3 of all Pit attacks are by 'family pet Pits. There has been someone there .... often sitting next to the victim when the Pit turned and attacked with a sudden nanosecond surprise after even years of being the tail wagging, tongue lagging, goofy dog. There is no 'set time' for 'dangerous' to happen. Ten years of tracking Pit attacks has them from the Pit being 5 months to 10 years.

    Items 4.5. and 6 are also blatant lies. The primary Pit attackers ARE family Pets, with lots of interaction and living with the family of the victim. They are the 'pets' of people who have had them before and supposedly 'known' them. They are NOT neglected or abused... that is actually a very very rare happenstance.

    The woman is Ann Murray whose pet Pit attacked her and ripped off both arms... loved, treated well until the day it 'went Pit.
    The man's beloved Pit went after him and killed him... he wasn't so lucky and Ann.

  12. Joanna McGinn

    Here are the 'triggers' that will have a Pit Bull attack... from the words of the owners. So be sure to NEVER EVER DO THE FOLLOWING:

    being an animal control officer, being a mail carrier, being a gas worker,

    being a landscaper, being a police officer, being a public works employee

    being in a wheelchair, being pregnant , borrowing a blender, breaking the ice out of a water bowl , being an animal control officer, being a mail carrier

    disciplining your dog, driving a vehicle, dropping a glass, falling down, feeding the dog, getting neutered, getting off a bus, getting the mail,

    getting the newspaper, handing someone a phone, hanging decorations

    having a dog on your lap, having a seizure, having a smoke, hearing an argument, hearing thunder , holding a clipboard, holding a mailbag

    holding a stuffed animal, hopping off a couch, jumping on a trampoline, letting your dog out, mowing your lawn, opening a car door, opening your front door, playing in your backyard, playing in your front yard, playing on a playground, playing on a swing set, playing with a tennis ball, reaching for your purse, reading a bible , remodeling your home, running from bees,

    saving a family from a fire , seeing a cat run up tree, seeing a dog inside a house, seeing a horse, seeing a squirrel run up tree, seeing a leashed dog,

    seeing an unleashed dog, sitting on a bed, sitting on your spouse's lap, showing your spouse affection, sitting in a stroller, sitting in a tire swing,

    sitting in a wagon, sitting on your porch, slipping on ice, smelling "baby formula" , standing in your backyard, standing in your garage, stepping on an ant pile, the act of bicycling, the act of driving, the act of gardening, the act of sex, the act of jogging, the act of sleeping, the sound of clapping

    the sound of screaming, taking out the trash, walking on a beach, walking down a path, walking down a road, walking down a sidewalk, walking a snack sized dog, undergoing dialysis , unloading bags from a car, watching TV, waiting for a bus, wearing a ponytail, watering plants, riding a scooter, eating ice cream, celebrating a birthday, high temperature in summer, going near a lawnmower, mowing the lawn...forgetting to have the neighbors feed/look after the dogs in case you are suddenly incapacitated or hospitalized, having a birthday party, being at a birthday party, arguing with a brother and/or his girlfriend...Playing in the sprinklers...looking at Pit while in obedience class, being on one’s menses/period, horseplay in the living room,....Wearing perfume, wearing scented deodorant, Wearing a bright colored skull cap. A Pit Bull could mistake your head for a ball. (Has happened ).inadvertently startled it by reaching for the leash for a walk, Walking to your car in a parking lot.... Seeing a horse....Walking to work....fireworks in neighborhood... watering plants in back yard.


  13. Pandora

    That's right, foamer. You know more than a well respected expert who has absolutely no reason to lie. All that hate & hysteria that you carry around with you must be exhausting. Go back to dbo with your crackpot theories & fictional statistics.

  14. Wendy

    Gee, can't wait to read the "DogsBite" lemmings scrambling to spout off on this one.
    I swear they must have teams monitoring every single article mentioning dogs to they can send out an SOS telling their cohorts to get to it quickly and throw their cut-and-paste misinformation in to the mix.

  15. John Claytor

    Nature intended animals to have re-productive organs, we are animals as well as soon as Victoria has her privates mutilated, I will be the first to congratulate her on her proactive leadership, being a responsible owner of an animal has lots of factors, cutting off their body parts is not one of them, we just have to disagree on this one...

  16. Sandy Klocinski

    Um where are you getting this information? Joanna, even dogsbite lists the percentage of dbfs and as being by family pets as less than half, and that isn't taking into account whether they live or ever come inside, which would severely lower that percentage. Are you just going by what's most publicized? Sensationalism greatly scews what is publicized.

  17. Sandy Klocinski

    OK, this stuff is definitely just completely made up. 90 percent of this has absolutely no correlation with human aggression in dogs. The only thing I see that is sort of correct is that man dogs react differently toward people in uniform, be it a postal worker, police officer, construction worker, or what have you.

  18. Sandy Klocinski

    One study found that of what you call 'family pets' that killed, 76% were resident dogs that were lived 'isolated from human interaction.' That is not a family pet. That's a neglected dog owned by a family or persons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Episode 837 – Beyond the Operant

Obedience training has long been the accepted path to teaching dogs’ manners, but the concept of obedience might be doing dogs a...

Episode 836 – Free Work and Adolescent Dogs

What is Free Work and how do dogs benefit? Dog behaviour expert Sarah Fisher joins Holly and Victoria to discuss how Free Work is...

Episode 835 - Major Biden and the Emotional Sink

After a second ‘nipping’ incident in the White House, Victoria is joined by Veterinary Behaviorist Sarah Heath to discuss why...

find a vspdt trainer
Schedule a consultation via skype or phone