Dog Aggression: An International Perspective
Dog bites can pose a significant risk to both humans and dogs. While dogs may react to frightening situations and hurt people by biting them, they may also be hurt themselves through punishment by their human companions. In more severe cases, the dogs may even be euthanized by authorities. In general, aggressive behavior is “one of the main reasons that dogs are given away, abandoned, or euthanized.” Of course, there are regional differences in both the prevalence of dog bites and also how authorities deal with dog bite incidents. Researchers are trying to understand dog aggression on an epidemiological level, looking at the patterns, causes, and health effects of dog bites beyond just local data.
This paper was written by participants in a workshop/conference in Brazil tasked with looking at the epidemiological aspects of dog bites worldwide. Their goal was to develop public policy frameworks to deal with the problem. Their findings point to trends that may not be surprising but are still interesting. The authors claim the highest risk of dog aggression occurs in the “owner’s” home and, to a lesser extent, on the street. Additionally, they noted that dog bite incidents generally occurred during interactions with the dog or through provocation from children. In one study they claim that “most dog bites that occurred in public places involve nonowners, adults, men and were believed by the person bitten to be intentional, involving no active interaction between the dog and the victim before the bite.”
This stands in sharp contrast to another study that we recently covered, at least in terms of the reactions of the dog bite victims based on gender. Their review of different dog breeds and sizes was illuminating, finding that “aggressiveness toward people significantly increased when the dog size decreased and that breeds classified as potentially dangerous did not display aggressiveness more often than the others.” Although this information flies in the face of conventional wisdom, the researchers were careful to note that while “smaller dogs are more likely to bite, larger dogs are more apt to produce serious injury or death.” Perhaps most interestingly, they found that “a high percentage of aggressive dogs were homebred, acquired from professional breeders, or from a pet shop.”
The study, which is available in full via the link below, offers advocates a broad range of statistics and information that will be useful in dog advocacy and for understanding why and how dog aggression sometimes occurs.