Despite growing media attention, the risk of experiencing a significant dog bite has not increased significantly in recent years. It is estimated that roughly 2% of the American population is affected by significant dog bites annually, with certain breeds receiving most of the blame. But how dangerous are dogs, really? Is this a threat that needs to be addressed by the average citizen?
If we're just looking at the numbers, there are tens of millions of people that are affected by dog bites annually. Between 4 and 5 million of those people are located in the United States, with the majority of these dogs being the family pet of the victim or someone the victim knows. Half of the attacks occur on the property of the dog owner. Although the numbers are large, just 1% of all emergency room visitors are in there due to an animal bite - and that is including animals besides dogs. In recent years, the annual death rate due to dog bites has averaged around 26.
Causes of dog bites
When studying the topic of dog bites, it's important to delve into the reasons why they occur in the first place. Dogs aren't vicious, uncontrollable animals by nature - if they were, millions of people wouldn't currently have them as household pets. There must other causes for the bites, all of which are important for people to know about when protecting themselves from the risk of being bitten.
Disruption of food or water
Some dogs become aggressive by nature if their food or water is removed from them. In terms of evolution, this sort of instinct makes perfect sense - if they have food in front of them and it is being threatened, they needed to challenge the threatener to survive.
If a dog feels attacked, or its territory or "pack" (which often means the owner and family for modern-day domestic animals) is under threat, a dog might become aggressive. Even if a person isn't intentionally attacking them or their territory, the perception of an attack can trigger aggression in some dogs. When there is a perceived intruder, the reactions of dogs can often be unpredictable - which sometimes leads to bites.
Some dogs are "programmed" to become more aggressive when they are sick, injured, or elderly as a sort of defense mechanism. They are more likely to snap at people and are not going to welcome strangers kindly.
Additionally, dogs that are afraid will act defensively if someone doesn't respond to their fearful or insecure behavior. If the person isn't reacting to this behavior (as often happens, especially with those unfamiliar with dog behavior), the dog might perceive it as a threat.
Interfering in a fight
Although this is fairly predictable, a person stepping in between a dog and its prey (or the other end of a dog fight) is lucky if they step out of the situation without a bite. It is normal for a dog to bite the person or animal that is in between them and the person or thing they are attacking.
Although it is relatively safe to say, you shouldn't fear dogs, if you are harmed by one you should still seek legal advice. Domestic pets are the responsibility of their owners, and you should not have to fear being hurt.