To best understand this article in the context of the literature on growling, snarling, snapping, and biting behavior (incidence and correlates), please see National Canine Research Council’s complete analysis here.
National Canine Research Council Summary and Analysis:
This study is included as it is a current example of epidemiological methodology applied to analysis of dog bites reported to authorities. The scope of this study is fairly typical of reported dog bite studies over the years in that it is specific to a particular U.S. municipality, Bay County, Florida (some are even specific to particular health care facilities). Cause of bite, dog’s restraint status, and familiarity with victim were all collected in addition to demographic data. The researchers also analyzed the source of reporting (e.g., hospitals, veterinary clinics, animal control).
During the study period, 2009-2010, 799 dog bite reports were generated, the majority of which (54.8%) came from human hospitals or clinics. The rate at which an agency was regarded as the primary reporting source varied with the victim’s age and the location of the bite; health care practitioners reported 75% of bites to children 5 years old and under but only 53.6% for children over 5. However, the first person or agency to report the bite was deemed as the source, so it is possible that any given source reported at a higher rate but were not the first to do so.
Incidence rate was calculated with respect to victim age, gender, and familiarity with the dog and the findings were fairly typical: boys aged 6-14 had the highest incidence with 434 bites per 100,000, while persons 45 and older had a much lower rate of 155.6 bites per 100,000. Familiar dogs (defined as “the family dog” or “a dog belonging to a known acquaintance”) accounted for 55% of all reported bites; 33% were the victim’s own dog and 22% were owned by an acquaintance. In 41% of the incidents the dog was unknown to the victim. Females were 1.5 times more likely than males to be bitten by the family dog while males were bitten more frequently by acquaintance or unfamiliar dogs.
The setting of the dog bite was analyzed and included factors such as property (owner’s property or elsewhere), and restraint (penned, leashed, or chained). Most dog bites (53%) occurred on the owner’s property. The second most frequent setting was unrestrained dogs off the owner’s property (32%). Bites that occurred on the owner’s property were more often than not from restrained dogs.
The final variable considered was the underlying cause of the dog bite. However, the reporting protocol for collecting this information was not clear and whether from animal control investigator interviews, medical facility data, or other sources, this information collection was almost certainly not standardized. It is often difficult and time consuming for even a behavior specialist to ascertain the triggering stimulus for a dog bite, so this is probably the most questionable data in the study. Bites were categorized as: separating a dog fight, protective bites involving the owner’s property, protective bites outside of owner’s property, being chased and bitten, behavior management issue, or other. It is unclear what is meant by “inappropriate behaviour management,” but this was, nevertheless, the most common cause for reported bites (26%). The majority of these bites occurred on the owner’s property.