Dog Bite Statistics (How Likely Are You to Get Bit?)

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

Dogs are man’s best friend, and our lives are filled with reminders of this fact: adorable pictures and videos on the internet, wagging tails when we get home, and slobbery kisses for no reason whatsoever.

All of this makes it easy to ignore the fact that dogs used to be lethal, efficient killers before we domesticated them.

Unfortunately, under the wrong circumstances, they can revert to that primal state, causing untold damage. Dog bites can be devastating attacks, requiring hours of reconstructive surgery to fix. In some tragic cases, dogs who bite also kill.

Every dog is capable of biting, but that doesn’t mean that all dogs are equally high-risk. In this article, we’ll look at which breeds bite the most, as well as examine a few statistics that will present dog biting in a whole new light.

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Dogs That Bite the Most

The statistics from this section have all been pulled from a landmark 2019 survey that looked at dog bites from 1970 to 2019. There are a few caveats worth mentioning before we get to the list, though.

The bites mentioned in the study were serious enough to require an emergency room visit, so the list will be skewed toward larger breeds. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they bite more, just that the bites will be more severe when they do happen.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any reliable statistics about the breeds involved with dog bites that don’t require medical attention.

For the purposes of this article, we’re looking only at the breeds named in that study. However, it’s important to note that the breed that was far and away responsible for the most attacks was “unknown” — a reminder of how nebulous all stats like this can be.

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1. Pit Bulls

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Credit: Ivanova N, Shutterstock

Many statistics involving dog attacks are foggy at best; that’s why, even though Pit Bulls top this list, this information should be taken with a grain of salt.

For one thing, “Pit Bull” is often a catch-all term for any dog with a boxy head. It could refer to American Staffordshire Terriers, American Bulldogs, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Bullies, the American Pit Bull Terrier, or some other random breed entirely.

While the fact that these dogs are often implicated in biting incidents can’t be ignored, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the frequency of aggressive incidents may be due to a mix of the breed’s popularity, its propensity for being mistreated by its owners, and reporting biases.


2. Mixed Breeds

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Credit: Kev Gregory, Shutterstock

Again, this could mean just about anything, but it most likely means that people are notoriously bad at identifying the dogs responsible for attacks.

It’s also a sign that mutts are more popular than purebreds, which is a fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

In fact, you could make a compelling argument that Pit Bulls should be included in the mixed breed statistics rather than singled out, given that many attacks attributed to the breed are actually the work of a different type of dog entirely.


3. German Shepherds

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Image: Pxfuel

German Shepherds have long been near the top of dog-bite lists; however, as with the two breeds above, this may have little to do with any sort of qualities inherent in the dogs themselves.

The breed is commonly used as a guard dog, which means that aggressive behavior is often encouraged.

Also, the study made no distinction as to when or how the bites occurred, so we have no idea what the bite victims were doing when the attacks happened; it’s likely, though, that at least some of the bites attributed to this breed happened in the course of the animal’s watchdog duty.


4. Jack Russell Terriers

Jack Russell Terrier
Image: Pexels

The Jack Russell Terrier is our first wild card on this list. Many smaller dogs, like Chihuahuas and Dachshunds, are notorious biters, but they typically can’t do enough damage to send a victim to the E.R.

Studies have shown that Jack Russells are one of the most aggressive breeds toward humans, and many of their attacks have targeted small children, especially infants.

This may be due to their breeding as rat-hunting dogs, but it could also be a symptom of owners not taking aggression seriously when it comes from smaller dogs. Regardless, it’s clear that Jack Russell owners should be every bit as vigilant about socializing their dogs as owners of larger breeds.


5. Rottweilers

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Image: Public Domain Pictures

Like German Shepherds, Rottweilers are often used as guard dogs, a fact that may skew the data on them.

Also, the data may make it seem as if Rottweilers are more likely to bite than they are. The breed fares well on temperament tests, which indicates that they aren’t prone to violence; however, given their massive size and strength, any violence that they do perpetrate is likely to be extreme.


6. Labrador Retrievers

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This may surprise some people, given this breed’s reputation for being loving and gentle. Their ranking here is almost certainly due more to the breed’s popularity than it is to their propensity to bite.

Labradors almost always top the charts as the most popular dog breed, and their sheer numbers mean that they’ll be well-represented in a study like this.

However, their reputation for gentleness is well-earned, and it seems unreasonable for anyone to fear them more than any other breed.


7. Golden Retrievers

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Image: Rotadler102, Wikimedia Commons

Golden Retrievers are also extremely common, as they’re usually among the top three most popular breeds. It seems likely that their appearance on this list is due to that as much as anything else.


8. Chow Chows

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Image by Marius Kristensen from Pixabay

Chow Chows don’t have the same built-in excuse that Labradors and Golden Retrievers do, as they’re nowhere near as common as those breeds.

These dogs are notoriously aloof and tend to be fiercely loyal to their families — and equally suspicious of outsiders. As a result, it seems likely that owners of Chow Chows should worry less about the safety of their families and more about the safety of their guests.


9. Cocker Spaniels

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The only other small dog on this list, Cocker Spaniels have an unwelcome distinction: While they’re less likely to bite than many of the other breeds shown here, their bites are much more likely to be severe.

It’s unknown why these dogs tend to go to such extreme lengths when lashing out, but it’s clear that any warning signs from these pups should be taken seriously.


10. Border Collie

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Border Collies have been shown to be one of the most impulsive dog breeds on the planet, which means that they may have more difficulty restraining their aggressive tendencies when they feel threatened.

However, it is extremely rare for Border Collies to attack without first showing warning signs, so it’s important to watch their behavioral cues for any signs that they might be about to snap.

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Quick Facts About Dog Bites

1. There are around 7 million reported dog bites in the United States each year.

The key word in that sentence is “reported.” The real number is undoubtedly higher, but it can be difficult to determine what constitutes a “bite.” Is a playful nip from a teething puppy a bite, or should the numbers be limited to bites that are accompanied by signs of aggression?

Regardless of how you report them, it’s clear that dogs should be treated with respect and that further education is necessary in order to show the public how to behave around these animals.

2. Of those 4.7 million bites, only .01% are serious enough to require emergency medical attention.

The data clearly shows that most dog bites aren’t serious, which indicates that most instances of biting are done by dogs seeking to warn people rather than injure them.

That’s not to say that you should ignore the risks of serious bites altogether. However, it would be equally erroneous to assume that every dog is a ticking time bomb.

3. You have a 1 in 112,400 chance of dying from a dog attack.

To put that in perspective, you’re much more likely to die from an attack by a wasp, bee, or hornet.

Given how popular dogs are versus how rare stinging insect attacks are, it would seem that a strong fear of dying from a dog attack would be quite unreasonable.

4. Up to 76% of all dog attacks are caused by unaltered males.

If you want to protect yourself from your dog, one of the best things that you can do is get them spayed or neutered. Most incidents of aggression involve unaltered dogs of both sexes, but males are particularly prone to violence against humans.

Getting your pet fixed has other advantages as well, such as:

  • Lowering their risk of certain cancers
  • Reducing the instances of unwanted behaviors like marking
  • Extending their lifespan by as much as 26.3%
  • Reducing veterinary costs
  • Reducing the number of unwanted animals in shelters

5. Chained or tethered dogs are 8 times more likely to attack than unchained dogs.

It’s unclear why this is, as it could mean that chaining leads to aggressive behaviors. However, it could also mean that people are more likely to chain already-aggressive animals or that chained animals are more likely to be abused and neglected.

As far as we’re aware, there haven’t been any studies proving that chaining a dog increases their aggressiveness, but many trainers and animal-rights organizations argue that this is the case.

One thing is clear, though: Chaining your dog makes it much more likely that they’ll bite you.

dog biting
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6. Multiple factors are involved in over 80% of all dog attacks.

Many people try to reduce a dog attack down to a single identifiable cause; commonly-cited factors include the dog’s breed, the owner’s handling of the dog, or misbehavior on the part of the victim.

However, according to one study, four or more factors are involved in 80.5% of all dog attacks. That means that dog-on-human violence is often the product of several complex events occurring simultaneously.

This is a key argument against breed-specific legislation; in fact, the study found “no evidence that one kind of dog is more likely to injure a human being than another.”

7. Unsupervised children are the most at-risk group for dog bites.

According to one study, children are the most at-risk group for dog bites, with the culprit usually being the family dog. What’s worse, any dog that bites is likely to bite again — with the second attack being more brutal than the first.

Approximately 68% of all dog bite injuries to children happened to kids under 5 years old, with 3-year-olds being the most likely to be injured. The offending dogs can be from any breed, and the attacks were often provoked by the child acting aggressively around the dog or accidentally injuring it.

8. Boys are more likely to be bitten than girls.

For children under the age of 14, boys are significantly more likely to be bitten than girls. This discrepancy disappears after the age of 14, however.

It’s not known for sure why this is, but it’s likely that young boys are encouraged to play more aggressively with dogs than girls. Also, it could be possible that households with boys are more likely to own dogs, but again, there’s not enough data to draw any concrete conclusions.

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9. Dog bites account for more than 1/3 of all homeowner’s liability payouts.

In 2017, insurers paid out more than $530 million to victims of dog bites, a number that was 15% higher than the previous year.

This is due more to increased medical costs than an increased risk of suffering a dog bite, but it’s worth noting the financial impact of having a poorly-trained or socialized dog in or around your house.

10. Around 4% of all dog-related fatalities involved animals that were not kept as family pets.

Most fatalities involved “resident dogs,” which are dogs that are kept near a property but are often deprived of positive human interactions. The vast majority of these animals are kept chained or tethered.

It should be noted that even these dogs are unlikely to attack or kill, but the data indicates they’re more likely to respond with extreme aggression when they feel threatened.

The lack of positive human interaction may also make it difficult for them to correctly interpret behavioral cues from people.

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How to Protect Yourself Against the Risk of Dog Bites

If you live with or around dogs, it will likely be impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of a dog bite. However, there are certain things that you can do to protect yourself.

If possible, try to limit your interactions with strange or untrustworthy dogs to instances where there are other people around. One of the biggest factors in serious dog attacks is the lack of other people around to stop the violence.

Carry protective equipment with you if you expect to encounter strange or off-leash dogs. This can include pepper spray, a cane, or other protective gear.

If your dog is the one with a propensity for violence, seek out a behavioralist immediately. They can give you advice on how to deal with your dog; solutions involve medication, muzzling, socialization, or in certain cases, re-homing or euthanasia.

Decreasing Your Chances of a Dog Bite Attack

There are a variety of strategies that you can use to decrease your chances of suffering a dog bite attack. Most of them amount to avoidance, education, and medical intervention.

Avoiding unfamiliar or aggressive dogs is the best way to prevent being attacked by them. These dogs are often unpredictable by nature, so you shouldn’t expect to be able to manage them.

It’s important to educate yourself and your children on how to behave around dogs, including being able to recognize the signs of an impending attack. You should be able to recognize known trigger points as well, such as resource or territory guarding.

Finally, medical intervention may be necessary. Having your dog spayed or neutered is essential, but some dogs may also require medication for aggressive tendencies.

What to Do If You Encounter a Dog Ready to Bite

Despite your best efforts, you may not always be able to avoid violent dogs. If you encounter a dog that you suspect is ready to attack, there are a few things that you can do to maximize your chances of escaping with minimal harm.

First, respect their space. That means not approaching strange dogs, especially if they’re chained. Also, don’t stare, as that’s a violation of their personal space — one they may meet with violence.

Stand completely still, and try to make yourself as boring and non-threatening as possible. In fact, you should yawn as well; this signals to the dog that you’re not a threat. Once the dog loses interest, remove yourself from the situation as slowly and calmly as possible.

If these strategies don’t work and you’re attacked, the most important thing to do is protect your hands and face. Turn your back and stand completely upright; this protects all the vital parts of your body. If you get knocked over, curl into a ball and cover the back of your neck.

If possible, put something between you and the dog, and try to cover their face with whatever you have available — a shirt, blanket, or jacket are all good options.

Try to hit the dog as well. This is to show them that you’re not worth messing with. If it works and they retreat, don’t run away — this only exposes you to further attack. Instead, back away slowly, keeping obstacles between you and the dog if possible.

Once you’re safely removed from the situation, seek medical attention and report the offending animal.

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Conclusion

Dog bites are an unfortunate fact of dog ownership; every dog can bite, and unfortunately, some dogs do. However, by educating yourself on the issue, you can have a better idea of what causes dogs to attack, as well as how to reduce the likelihood of canine violence.

These statistics aren’t just valuable for personal protection. They can also be used to form sensible public policy, so the risk of dog attacks can be lowered without putting the animals in harm’s way.


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