Make Sure Your Choice Of Dog Is Right For Your Family Which Will Save A Dogs Life



There are around 83,000,000 dogs owned in the United States and most are friendly,  calm,  and always ready to play or go for a walk.  But just as there are objects around the house like knives,  scissors,  nails,   that are usually safe but can cause injuries at times,  so can dogs cause harm under certain circumstances.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year.  Though 80% of these bites are usually minor and do not require medical attention,  the remaining 20% very greatly in their severity,  with some causing permanent scarring and sometimes even death.  Children make up more than half of the victims of dog bites (59%) and according to the CDC the individuals who require treatment after these bites are predominantly children aged 5 to 9 years old.

There has been a number of studies that suggest that some dog breeds are more prone to harm people than others,  although there is still much debate about these conclusions.  Given the fact that we are often dealing with the safety of young children in the household,  it is important that as much data as possible should be gathered.

Now there is a research team headed by Dr. Garth Essig,  an otolaryngologist  ( also known as an ear,  nose,  and throat doctor,  or ENT) at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.  He states that “We wanted to provide families with facts and figures to help them determine the risk to their children.  With that data it is hoped that families will better be able to determine the risk to children in the household by certain types of dogs.  Then they will be able to get the dog best suited for their family,

The researchers recognized that the risks provided by any type of dog have two components.  The first is the frequency or probability that a dog will bite,  while the second is the amount of damage that is caused by the dog’s biting.  The focus of the study was to target bites to the head and neck of children because these can have the greatest consequences  ( an example would be the loss of an eye or permanent disfigurement).

Therefore there were two parts to the research.  Bite risk by breed was accessed using a meta-analysis based upon a literature search for studies reporting dog bites broken down by breeds from 1970 to the present.  The researchers required a minimum of 40 reported bites in each published report.  Forty-three studies met the criteria and from these,  the relative bite percentage was tabulated and averaged for each recorded breed.

The second part was to assess bite severity,  the researchers reviewed 15 years of dog-related facial trauma cases in the two hospitals involved.  Specifically they looked at the wound size,  the amount of tissue tearing,  bone fractures,  and other injuries severe enough to warrant consultation by facial trauma and reconstructive surgeons.  This was important because,  as the researchers point out,  “the bite statistics describe a broad range of injuries and these statistics may be misleading because minor bites were recorded the same way as a mauling.”  Because of this they created a bite severity scale based on the degree of injury and treatment required.

Combining the severity and frequency of biting data,  indicated that pit bulls (usually defined as the “pit bull-type” dogs including American Pit Bull terriers,  Staffordshire Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers) and mixed breed dogs had the highest relative bite damage risk.  These were followed by German Shepherds,  Jack Russel Terriers,  and Rottweilers.

Dr.  Essig recognized that there was a major problem with these data  “because mixed breed dogs account for a significant portion of dog bites,  and we often didn’t know what type of dog was involved in these incidents,  we looked at additional factors that may help predict bite tendency when breed is unkown  like weight and head shape.

The head shape measures looked at the ratio of the maximum skull width compared to the maximum skull length and were used to characterize dogs of known and unknown breeds in order to organize them into three groups:  brachycephalic,  mesocphalic,  and dolichocephalic.  Specifically dolichocephalic dogs have longer heads,  like the Afgan hound and the greyhound,  where the length of the skull is greater than the width.  Brachycphalic dogs have shorter heads and flatter faces,  such as the pug,  bulldog and some pit bulls,  where the width of the skull is greater than the length.  Mesocephalic dogs have heads that are more balanced since the measurement of the skull width and length is almost equal.  These include dogs such as the Golden retrievers,  Labrador retrievers,  Siberian Huskies,  and others.

When the researchers looked at bite severity and frequency and compared it to the measures of the dog’s size and head shape,  they found that the highest risk was presented by larger,  brachycephalic dogs with wide and short heads who weighed between 66 and 100 pounds.

These results are instructive,  but since there are two variables involved (like the bite frequency and bite severity) the conclusions are not straight-forward.  As the authors note,  “Although caution should be taken with breeds found to have an increased risk of biting and high average tissue damage,  it is also important to note breeds like the Great Dane,  who although have the lowest relative risk of biting,  are seen to have the highest average bite damage.”

The researchers conclude with a cautious comment:  “There is no perfect way to mitigate the risk of a dog bite and unfortunately all dogs have the potential for harm,  but it’s important to recognize the increased potential for damage with various types of dogs and that most are preventable injuries.”

A final note.  Just be careful when picking your dog.  Take into account the ages of your children,  how often they will be around the dog,  how often your away from your home and the dog,  will the dog be just a pet or a member of the family,  and other considerations.  By picking the right dog you’ll have a great friend at home without having to return the dog to the shelter and maybe death.  Doing this will mean having a happier dog and reduce the risk.


The benefits of a dog growing up with it’s family is well known.  But there could be danger when a dog shows fear and is scarred. This should be pointed out in every family especially with children.

It has been shown that children under the age of 10 are most at risk of being bitten by a dog.  Besides the injuries due to bites there can be troubling psychological side-effects such as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Children  sometimes may be at greater risk of being bitten by a dog because they don’t recognize a dog’s emotions and can’t interpret their warning behavior.  Many children may know little about how to behave around dogs and risk bites more often than adults.

When how to prevent dog bites has been studied by researchers,  they found that children can be taught to recognize a dog’s emotional state more accurately and to remember safety rules,  like not approaching a dog when they are eating or when for the first time in a dog’s own backyard to not approach it right away and without the owner being present.  But research has shown that knowing this didn’t make children more likely to behave safely around dogs.  So what was missing was the dog’s fear factor.

The latest research could prove key to preventing bites.  More than 100 children between the ages of four and six were shown images and video clips of dogs being happy,  frightened and angry in behavior.  They were asked what emotion they thought the dog was feeling and to associate what action such as “play,  pat,  cuddle,  brush or sit next to the dog they would do with each clip.

Although most of the children said they wouldn’t approach an angry dog,  they were as likely to say that they would approach a frightened dog as they would a happy one.  This desire to approach frightened dogs and cuddle them could explain why children are at a high risk of being bitten.

The dogs were classified as fearful when they held their head low,  dropped their tail and tuck it between their legs.  Some wrinkled their nose and curled their lips to show their teeth.  Dogs doing this are likely to react aggressively if approached,  especially if they feel threatened by the approach.  Children may approach a frightened dog with the best of intentions,  but the dog may perceive their advance as a threat and respond aggressively which will put the child at risk.  Recognizing when a dog is scared and behaving in protect mode is key to preventing a bite.

Among young children,  dog bites commonly follow positive interaction initiated by the child,  such as a hug.  This could include a well-intended approach to a dog showing signs of fear.  It’s vital to teach children to be cautious about approaching dogs that look scared.  To a child they may think dogs experience emotions in a way similar to themselves,  and would find physical comfort reassuring.

This finding is especially important,  as children are most commonly bitten by a dog that is known to them and while under supervision of an adult.  Educating parents about the risks of approaching frightened dogs – and the importance of teaching their children about them – could prevent a bite from happening.

Parents do want to teach their children to be kind to animals – especially the family dog – but the research suggests that it is even more important to teach them to recognize that the way a dog experiences emotions and may behave differently to a child’s own experiences.  Teaching this could improve the well-being of dog’s and help keep our children safe.


Now that dog bites has been covered we need to cover what medical problems could result from them.  Not only can dog bites cause injury but they can also spread germs that cause infections.  Statistics has shown that nearly 1 in 5 people bitten by a dog require medical attention.

Over 36% of households in the United States own at least one dog.  Dog bites can become infected,  putting the victim of the bite at risk of illness or in rare cases even death.



When in contact with someone else’s dog always ask if it’s okay to pet the dog.

Remain motionless (“be still like a tree”) when an unfamiliar dog approaches you.

If a dog knocks you over,  curl into a ball with your head tucked and hands over your ears and neck.

Warn any adult in the neighborhood about any stray dog or dogs behaving strangely.

Do Not:

Allow the dog to see and sniff you first.  What do you do if an unfamiliar dog approaches you and you do not want to interact with it.

Stop!  Stay still and be calm.

Do not panic or make a loud noise.

Avoid direct eye contact with the dog.

Say “No” or “Go Home” in a firm low voice.

Stand with the side of your body facing the dog.  Facing a dog directly can appear to be a threat to the dog.  Instead,  keep your body turned partially or completely to the side.

Raise your hands slowly up to your neck with the elbows in.

Wait for the dog to pass or slowly back away.



Put your purse,  backpack,  jacket,  or bag between you and the dog.

If the dog actually knocks you down,  curl into a ball with your head tucked in and your hands over your ears and neck.


When you can get away and into a safe place,  immediately wash wounds with soap and water.  Find medical help,  especially:


Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.

Apply in antibiotic cream.

Cover the wound with a clean bandage.

Go to the hospital if the wound becomes red,  painful,  warm,  or swollen;  if you develop a fever;  or if there was strange behavior by the dog.


Apply pressure with a clean,  dry cloth to stop the bleeding.  If you can’t stop the bleeding or you feel faint or weak,  call 911 or your emergency medical services immediately.

Go to the hospital if the wound is serious (massive bleeding,  loss of function,  extreme pain,  muscle or bone exposure, etc.).

If you don’t know if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies or if it’s been more than 5 years since your last tetanus shot and the bite is deep.


Since anyone who is bitten by a dog is at risk of getting rabies,  you should consider contacting your local animal control agency or police department to report the incident,  especially:

If you don’t know if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies.

If the dog appears sick or is acting strangely.

When possible,  contact the owner and ensure the animal has a current rabies vaccination.  You will need the rabies vaccine license number,  name of the veterinarian who gave the vaccine,  and the owner’s name,  address,  and phone number.


Dog bites can spread germs from dogs to people,  up to 18% of dog bites become infected with bacteria.  Over 60 different kinds of bacteria have been found in a dog’s mouth,  but only a handful of these germs can make you sick.  Bites from dogs can cause the following disease:

Rabies is one of the most serious diseases people can get from dog bites.  Although rabies from a dog in the United States is rare,  it is still a risk.  Rabies is a virus that affects the brain and is almost always fatal once the symptoms appear.  The rabies virus is most commonly spread through the bite and saliva of the infected animal.  The disease is prevented by vaccinating the dog.  People who are bitten by a dog should speak with a healthcare provider to see if rabies vaccination is necessary.

Capnocytophaga bacteria live in the mouths of people,  dogs,  and cats.  These bacteria do not make dogs or cats sick.  Capnocytophaga rarely can spread to people through bites, scratches,  or close contact from a dog or cat and cause illness.  Most people who have contact with dogs or cats do not become sick,  but those with a weakened immune system are at greater risk of becoming sick because it’s harder for their bodies to fight infections.

PasteurellaExternal is a type of bacteria seen in over half of infected dog bites.  Pasteurella commonly causes a painful,  red infection at the site of the bite,  but can cause a more serious disease in people with a weakened immune system.  There may also be swollen glands,  swelling in the joints, and difficulty moving.

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)  is a type of staph infection that is resistant to a certain group of antibiotics.  Dogs and other animals can carry MRSA without showing any symptoms,  but the bacteria can cause skin,  lung,  and urinary tract infections in people.  In some people,  MRSA can spread to the bloodstream by a type of bacteria called Clostridium tetani.  This toxin causes rigid paralysis in people and could be a problem in deep bite wounds.

By knowing and understanding the risks of dog bites and how to protect yourself,  you will reduce the likelihood of getting sick or injured.


When defining a dangerous dog we must first define  ” dangerous ”  in conversation,  and using it in a legal context.   The law has very specific definitions for ” dangerous dog ”  but it varies depending which city,  state and county you live in.


There are places where certain breeds of a dog are considered dangerous under their law and seek to ban them.   In the United States,  there are only a few places that consider every  ” pit bull ” for example to be dangerous.  When a dog of any breed is trained to attack people or animals,  or is kept as a guard dog on non-residential properties,  it will also be deemed dangerous.

But most cities and states in the U.S. classify a dog as dangerous only as a result of that individual animals actions.  For example,  an unprovoked attack that causes injury,  or a behavior that poses an unacceptable risk can also be classified as dangerous in some places,  but not in others.


When describing a ” dangerous dog ” it becomes more hazy when you look at what really constitutes an ” unprovoked ”  attack.  Just what exactly is considered a ” threat ”  worthy of a danger label?

While this has been discussed before it can not be over emphasized the importance of recognizing some of these signs of a warning from a dog.   An experienced dog owner realizes that the silent dog with lowered head,  showing the whites of his eyes and stiffly wagging his tail literally shouts his warning to keep away or risk a bite.   If you continue to approach this dog it will provoke an attack.   But children or uninformed adults could instead interpret the wagging as an invitation to approach and consider the resulting bite  ” unprovoked. ”   They might stare at the dog,  pick up it’s toy,  wear some kind of clothing or outfit that scares the dog — all these things that seem innocent to people but are indeed justifiable provocation to defend itself or even attack in the eyes of the dog.

Sometimes even a friendly dog can still be defined as dangerous.   An overly playful dog that jumps up on a toddler or elderly person can pose a threat of knocking them down and causing injury.   Always remember that dogs are pack animals,  where even well adjusted family pets can act with uncharacteristic aggression if caught up in the pack  ( mob ) mentality of multiple dogs.


It would be so much easier to simply identify at-risk dogs by their breed or other means,  and then ban them.   But there is no single factor to point out this information.

Dog bites — and the even more thankfully rare fatal dog attacks — always are a result of both the past and present events that can include many factors.   Some of these factors include the dog’s genetics,  learned behaviors,  socialization or the lack of,  canine function,  health and size of the dog,  reproductive status,  individual personality,  environment,  owner responsibility,  victim behavior,  victim size and physical condition and popularity of the breed.


You wouldn’t think this would be a problem but the more popular the dog breed,  the more contact it will probably have with greater numbers of people,  increasing the potential for problems — as well as poor breeding which is typical of increased demand for that breed.   An interesting fact is that breeds responsible for dog bite fatalities have varied over time,  in direct relationship to how popular the breed was at the time.

As we see in the press and media today the breed that gets singled out most is the ” pit bull. ”   But between 1975 and 1980,  in one notable survey,  the breeds most often associated with deadly attacks were the German shepherd,  ” husky – type ” dogs,  St.  Bernard,  bull terrier,  and Great Danes.


All dogs have the potential to bite.  Well – socialized,  emotionally and physically healthy dogs know how to  ” threaten ” and protect themselves without risk to themselves or others.

To put this in perspective.   A comprehensive special report looking at dog bite and fatality statistics between  1979  and  1998  was published in JAVMA,  Vol 217,  No.  6,  September 15,  2000.   What’s striking is that it reveals that since  1975,  dogs from more than 30 breeds have been responsible for fatal attacks on people,  including the Labrador Retriever,  Dachshund,  and Yorkshire Terrier.


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