Although approximately 60% of Americans think pet owners lead more satisfying lives than non-pet owners, a new study published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery found that 50% of dog bite injuries came from dogs belonging to an immediate family member.
In other words, having a family dog increases a person’s risk of being bitten by a dog.
The retrospective study was conducted by the Mayo Clinic, in collaboration with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, in the years 2007-2013; it involved 670 participants. The study found that pit bulls were the most likely breed to bite; that children, elderly, and postal carriers are the most frequent victims of dog bites; and that the most likely age to be bitten by a dog was five years old.
“More than 60% of the injuries we studied required an operation,” said Erin Garvey, MD, the lead author of the study, and a Mayo Clinic surgical resident. “While the majority of patients were able to go home the next day, the psychological effects of being bitten by a dog also need to be taken into account.”
Fortunately, there are several steps that pet owners can take to prevent their dogs from biting others.
First, it’s important not to leave children unsupervised around dogs, even well-behaved ones. Children haven’t yet learned that they need to respect a dog’s space, which makes it more likely that they may anger even a docile canine.
Second, pet owners have a responsibility to train and socialize their dogs. Leaving dogs alone for extended periods of time makes them more likely to develop behavioral issues, such as aggression. Playing with dogs, taking them for walks, and simply spending time with them can help prevent these problems.
Thirdly, understanding a pet’s body language, normal behavior, and temperament is vital. Dogs can’t talk, but they can communicate their feelings and intentions. If a pet owner understands that his or her dog isn’t happy, they can take steps to change the dog’s environment, thereby preventing bites and other behavioral issues.