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Dog Bite Statistics

Dogs Playing on BeachAccording to the CDC, more than 4.7 million dog-bite incidents occur in the United States every year. Of those 4.7 million attacks, 800,000 of these Americans will seek medical attention — half of these are children — and 386,000 of these Americans will need emergency medical treatment.

These are scary statistics. But scary becomes a lot less so when you’re armed with the right information. From the top breeds to be wary of, to accounting for your own behavior around animals, to why dogs actually bite in the first place, we’re giving you an arsenal of info in this article so you can bite back in the dog-bite debate.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

Before we start profiling dogs, or analyzing your behavior around them, let’s talk about the question everyone should first be asking: Why does a dog bite?

Dogs bite as a reaction to a stressful situation. They may bite because they’re scared or threatened. They may bite to protect themselves, their puppies, or their owners. They may bite if they’re not feeling well or if they’re startled, and they may also nip or bite during play (which is why rough play should be avoided to ensure you don’t overly excite your animal).

Keep these triggers in mind anytime you’re around a canine; your awareness of their mental state will help you recognize a potential bite situation more quickly.

Be Mindful of Breeds, but Not Fearful

You’ve likely heard of the Pit Bull breed, touted as the breed most responsible for dog bites. But you can dismantle much of your fear of them with our Pit Bull Facts article. Unfortunately, Pit Bulls do account for the majority of reported fatal attacks in the United States, followed by Rottweilers. While there’s no denying that one should be more vigilant around a large dog than say, a Cocker Spaniel, there’s also no denying that an animal is part product of its environment: Studies confirm that while Pit Bulls may be considered a higher-risk dog, most of their owners themselves are higher-risk people, thus creating a recipe for a dog-bite disaster. Truth is: Any dog can and — if the conditions are right — will bite, no matter how well-bred, well-trained, or well-loved they may be. The key is being both aware of breed tendencies and general stressors, but not afraid (fear feeds aggression).

How to Protect Yourself Against the Risk of Dog Bites

Dog liability insurance is a special policy that you can get to insure yourself in case you have what a landlord or other important person in your life might consider a “dangerous dog breed”. If you have one of these dogs, you most certainly know it as some people are probably a little scared of your pup. It is unlikely that they need to be, but better safe than sorry in case a situation ever were to arise where your dog were to bite someone as you would merely file a claim and it would cover the cost of the situation. In many cases we have heard of dogs lives being saved by the ability to cover these sorts of incidents by proactively seeking insurance rather than reacting after a bad situation occurs. Better safe than sorry, right?

Did you know that one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims (in dollars) result from dog bites or injuries related to dog actions and the average cost of such an injury results in an average cost per claim of $32,072?1


InsureMyCanine logoIf you are interested in protecting yourself with dog liability insurance, visit our partner at InsureMyCanine.com to learn more and get a free quote.

Decreasing your Chances of a Dog Bite Attack

While we’re not absolving the canine completely of its own responsibility in a dog-bite situation, there are always two sides to a story — even a bad one. When it comes to your side, there are more than two things that you can do to decrease your chances of an attack.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Dog

There are a few key things to consider before bringing a new dog into your home, especially if you already have other animals, and especially if you have children. Below are a few factors that, if considered, can help decrease your chances of an unwarranted attack before an animal ever walks through your front door.

  • Dogs with a history of aggression are not appropriate for a home with children. Period.
  • Before choosing a dog, research and consult with a professional (a trusted vet or dog trainer would be an excellent resource) to find the best breed for your needs.
  • Proper socialization and training for your pup is key.
  • Spend time with your prospective pet before adopting to ascertain aggressive tendencies.
  • Spay or neuter your animal to reduce aggressive tendencies before bringing them home.

Preventing Dog Bites

Just like people, there are always good pets that snap. Even though the dog never displayed any aggressive attitudes, even though you didn’t provoke him to attack, there are still those unaccountable instances that no-one can explain or rationalize. However, more often than not, this isn’t the case. That’s why, when dealing with any dog, you should maintain confident, but cautious body-language.

Below are a few things you can do to make sure your attitude doesn’t trigger an attack.

  • Don’t approach an unfamiliar animal.
  • If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain motionless. Do not run or scream. Avoid direct eye contact.
  • Don’t disturb a dog while they’re eating, sleeping, or taking care of their puppies.
  • Allow a dog to sniff and smell you before you attempt to pet it. Afterward scratch the animal under the chin, not on the head.
  • Report strays or dogs displaying strange behavior to your local animal control.
  • If attacked, roll into a ball and remain motionless. Again, avoid eye contact and remain calm.

Other Dog-Bite Statistics

  • Approximately 92 percent of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, of which, 94 percent were not neutered.
  • Approximately 25 percent of fatal dog attacks involved dogs that were chained.
  • Every year, the insurance industry pays over $1 billion in dog-bite claims.
  • Approximately 71 percent of dog bites occur on the extremities (arms, hands, legs and feet).
  • Approximately 75 percent of dog bites occur on the victim’s property, and most victims know the dog responsible for the attack.

Sources: CDC Dog-Bite-Related Fatalities in the United States; ASPCA Dog Bite Prevention

Dog Bite Statistics Infographic

Dog Bite Statistics Infographic

Dog Bite Prevention Tips

Source: [1] Insurance Information Institute

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About Sara Logan Wilson
Sara is a writer for Canine Journal. She adores dogs and recently adopted a rescue pup named Beamer. Whole she may be adjusting to life with another being to care for, she needed no time to adjust to all the extra love.
  • Drema Fowler

    As we sit here, a toddler was mauled over the weekend by pit mixes, a couple months back a family pit bull attack and killed a 3 day old infant simply from crying, do you hear of retrievers, or even Rottweilers, doing this damage? These dogs are dangerous.

  • Did you know that home owner liability claims are only 2.7% of total claims? How it is stated makes all the difference. That bites correlated to population is 0.005% Did you know there were 66,000 unintended accidental deaths and 19,900,000 medical consulted injuries? With 77.8 million dogs in the US I would have to say pretty good safety record compared to humans.

  • Insurance industry does not support that claim of 1 billion. I know of no study that shows definitely about the type of dog involved in bites. Dog bite claims accounted for 0.005 percent of the population. Three time more likely to be hurt on a bicycle. Please don’t misrepresent this issue.

    • Thank you for your comment. We sourced all of our resources in the article. We did not come up with these numbers on our own. We are sorry if you feel we are misrepresenting the issue. We are all huge dog lovers here at Canine Journal and we want pet parents to know the facts about dog bites. That is all we tried to do with this article.

      • Then provide the facts not just posting a poorly written article that accepts Insurance company statements without putting them in context. The statement one third of homeowner liability claims is true but disingenuous. My stats are from the Insurance Industry Institute.

  • kimboley

    There is a web site, by Allstate insurance, if you enter your zip code, or any zip code, it will tell you what the most expensive and the most common claims for that area are. Dog bites, barely made the list, of the more than 10 zip codes I entered. They are far from being 1/3 of liability claims, as far as Allstate claims. I think the insurance companies are just looking for a way to save money. Here is the link, check it out yourselves. https://www.allstate.com/anon/commoncostlyclaims/#

  • kimboley

    And does anybody wonder why dog bite claims are like the third highest liability claim to a home owner? Opportunity. Look at how many times a person interacts with a dog each day. Each interaction is an opportunity for something to happen and the dog to bite. A child may interact with the dog 25 to 50 times a day. They may only ride their bike once or twice a day. The housekeeper may only come over 2 times a week, limiting her opportunity to slip and break her leg. Considering the overwhelming numbers of opportunities that there are for a dog bite to happen, I think the actual number of bites is pretty darn low.

    • Consider that in the same time period there were 19,900,000 unintended accidents in the home that required medical attention. compared to 16,500 dog bite claims.

      Source Insurance Industry Institute

  • Ophiuchus Oversoul

    I don’t think its unfair. If a pit bull or rottie bites it can and often does result in serious expensive physical damage. If a german shepard or collie bites it’s usually just a bite that needs a few stitches and the dog backs off. The insurance company will have to pay a lot more money out if the victim ends up in ICU vs just a visit to the ER for some stitches.

    • kimboley

      Children go to the emergency room for injuries from bicycles and poisoning more often than they do from dog bites. I don’t see the insurance companies restricting bikes or poisons kept in the home. How about a mandatory education class in you want to be insured and own a dog. Any dog can bite. Yes, the bigger ones can do more damage, so the owners need to be more responsible and more educated. Education is the only way to prevent most of the dog bites that happen on the owner’s property and could have been prevented with some education.

    • Megan

      As someone who trains Belgian Malinios for personal protection work, I beg to differ. German shepherds, Malinois and Collies can and do inflict serious damage. I know of at least one person requiring 10+ stitches from a well placed Chihuahua bite. The breed doesn’t dictate the severity of the bite, the attitude and intention of the dog does. It depends if it is a “warning nip” or if the dog means serious business.

      • Ophiuchus Oversoul

        Right well pit bulls have a tendency to not give warning bites, they are either all in or all out. I have a relative who works at a children’s hospital in the ER and from her mouth I have been told “every serious life threatening bite case we get is by a pit bull”. She has no reason to lie, so I have no reason to not believe her. My own job puts me at risk of dog bite and the only time I have been genuinely concerned about a biting dog (nip vs a genuine attack) was with pit type dogs. I have a lot of personal experience with dogs and when a dog is ‘serious’ there is no mistaking the body language or energy they are giving off.

        • Kim B

          There is a reason she doesn’t know that it’s a “pit bull” because the facts are that even professionals can’t identify a dog as a pit bull breed type simply by looking at it. So, she’s not lying; she just doesn’t know the facts. And, unfortunately, she is spreading untruths out of ignorance.

    • Most of the cost of claim is lawsuits.

    • Kim B

      So not true

      • Ophiuchus Oversoul

        Well my children’s hospital nurse, niece, and plastic surgeon’s father in law would really disagree with you because of their real life experiences with dog bites.

  • Baruch BenAvrohom

    It’s perfectly fair. It’s based on accurate statistical analyses of recorded attacks and fatalities instead of emotion-based but factually-unsubstantiated opinions and anecdotal examples.

    • Show me the accurate statistical analysis you quote.

    • Kim B

      There are minimal accurate stats of recorded dog bites and/or attacks per PROFESSIONAL organizations. There ARE, however, many, many organizations who have performed accurate and fair studies that PROVE that “dogs of targeted breeds (such as Bull Terriers, American Stafordshire Terriers, Staffordshie Bull Terriers, Rottweilers & Dobermans) are statistically NO MORE LIKELY to show inappropriate aggressive behavior.” REF: 1) Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2008) 3: 97:103; “Is there a Difference…..Regarding Aggressive Behaviour?” (2008) 3:134-140; Dr. Esther Schalke

    • Kim B

      Spit out your stats….oh, yeah, you have no “accurate statistical analyses”, I have several to dispute your comment.

  • Thanks for sharing the information Kim! We will take a look at it! 🙂

  • Kim B

    “Studies confirm that while Pit Bulls may be considered a higher-risk dog, most of their owners themselves are higher-risk people, thus creating a recipe for a dog-bite disaster.” Please provide info on these “studies”. I believe, based on facts (myself and several hundred other people I know who are owners), that this statement is false. It is ridiculous and it perpetuates myths about this breed type. The “pit bull” might be considered “higher-risk” by people who believe everything they read in the media (ignorant) and who don’t know how to properly act and/or approach dogs, but that doesn’t make it true. I enjoy your website, but I am extremely disappointed when I read statements like this one. Oh, and by the way, most of the pit bull breed owners are not “high risk” (whatever the hell that means).

    • Hi Kim, so glad that you enjoy our website and thank you for your comment! Attached are the sources where the “high risk” information comes from. We did not make this up, it is information we found so we chose to share with our readers. I believe by “high risk” the author means that pitbull owners are more likely to have a criminal background and may display antisocial behaviors. However this isn’t true 100% of the time. We love pitbulls and think they’re great dogs. 🙂


      • Kim B

        Thank you for your response. I do appreciate it. However, I firmly stand by my belief that the statistics are ridiculous and I believe it is irresponsible to make the statements I referred to in my original post. The first study cited is dated 2009 and is based on: “A total of 869 college students completed an anonymous online questionnaire assessing type of dog owned, criminal behaviors, attitudes towards animal abuse, psychopathy, and personality.” Really?! Not very inidicative of the real and “complete” world we live in and definitely not based on our knowledge now in 2016. Do you really think it’s fair to say most pit bull owners are “high risk” based on a survey of 869 college students (or most anybody’s opinions in 2009?) I think it’s safe to say that most pit bull owners are definitely not college students, do not have criminal backgrounds, and are not anti-social! I didn’t bother checking the other cited studies and I did not pay to read the entire first cited study. Please dig deeper; research real-life pit bull rescuers, read their blogs, talk to them personally; research the lives of some of the surviving fight and/or bait dogs, from rescue to where they are today; read social media sites of owners, rescuers, foster families, forever owners. Again, I stand by my objections; I respectfully disagree with the statements and the information (and lack thereof) cited.

        • Thank you for respectfully sharing your thoughts. This article was originally written in 2013 and the author who wrote this article uses the word “studies” so there could be some articles that she looked at that I did not give you. She no longer writes for us and to be honest, it’s difficult to remember your sources as a writer after 3 years have passed 😉 .

          Along with the 869 college student study you mentioned, there’s another study of 355 people that I’m aware of, which is one of the resources linked. Granted, both of these studies are now dated 2009 and 2006 so it wouldn’t hurt for some new information to come out on this subject. As you mentioned, I’m sure things have changed since 2009 and 2006, whether it’s more or less “high risk” people owning pitbulls, I’m unsure. Like you said, we’d need to dig in again on research for this, however, we do not conduct our own studies.

          I’m sorry you see a “lack” of information in our article, but we stand by what is written for the time being. Although you yourself are not a “high risk” owner nor are the people you know there may be a large population of “high risk” pitbull owners. And to note, in the studies a traffic citation may be considered a “high risk” person.

          I mean no disrespect by my statements and appreciate your honest feedback.

          • Kim B

            Thank you, Kimberly. I mean no disrespect either. I am simply urging and encouraging serious review/editing of comments regarding pitties. I believe your publication means well from what I’ve seen, but that’s not enough. I am just asking for deeper, newer research (I know you don’t do your own studies!). But, thorough research of current events, owners, and the animals themselves will elimate statements that are out-dated or simply not indicitive of the majority. And it doesn’t take days and days to do that research. That’s all I ask. I think that’s fair. Thanks for your time and patience. I really do appreciate it!!

            • Wayne Frederick

              Just came across this site after reading an article about a pit bull attack on a small child. I read your posts. You blew right past the fact that the article wasn’t about Pit Bulls and instead zeroed in on just that small part. Your comments come across loud and clear as the typical response from folks such as yourself. It yells out “I’m a Pit Bull owner and my friends own Pit Bulls. We say they’re fine. Everyone else is wrong.” You question the author, her work, and the validity of statistical results and polls from multiple legitimate sources, yet only offer anecdotal evidence in your response. By that I mean you want everyone to simply believe and trust that, because you and your “several hundred other friends” own Pit Bulls and have never had a problem, that the breed is just fine. There is overwhelming evidence supporting the arguments that Pit Bull breeds are high risk, and widely considered one of the most dangerous breeds. This comes from highly reputable sources such as the CDC, the AMVA, the APPA, to name a few. I trust those sources far more than I trust your naive and denial-based arguments.

              Now, to be fair, Pit Bull breeds aren’t the only high risk, dangerous dogs out there. Rottweilers, Presa Canarios, Dobermans and German Shepherds are also dangerous. I wouldn’t own them any more than I’d own a Pit Bull. I certainly wouldn’t allow them around my children or grandchildren. If I see that someone in my neighborhood has one of these breeds I guarantee you I’m watching them like a hawk.

              Lastly, I do agree 100% with you that the media has grossly over-covered the stories about Pit Bulls, and also that people who only rely on the media for information about high risk and/or dangerous breeds are behaving ignorantly.

              • There were 16,550 bite claims last year, 33,169 gun related deaths and 33,000 deaths from poison, but which one do we regulate?

              • You’re entitled to your opinion but not your own facts. For example CDC has this to say. The very scientists who have authored studies trying to determine a link between breed and aggressiveness oppose breed discrimination and BSL. In many of the CDC studies, the scientists cautioned against using their incomplete data on attacks to make knee-jerk legislative or policy decisions based solely on breed. They pointed to the lack of reliable data on bites per breed (the “numerator problem”) and the absence of a reliable count of dogs per breed (the “denominator problem”).

                Dog bite statistics are not really statistics, and they do not give an accurate picture of dogs that bite. Invariably the numbers will show that dogs from popular large breeds are a problem. This should be expected, because big dogs can physically do more damage if they do bite, and any popular breed has more individuals that could bite. Dogs from small breeds also bite and are capable of causing severe injury. There are several reasons why it is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds.

              • Kim B

                No, I’m not not saying I am right and everyone else is wrong! And, no, not all of my friends own pit bulls…actually, only one of them does. I am saying to research the facts. The facts are pit bull type dogs are no more dangerous than any other dog. Fact: they are mis-identified over 90% of the time because it is FACT that correct visual ID is impossible. I could go on and on with the FACTS. Like, I am not saying it’s okay to believe me. My dog has been attacked by a “pit bull” and my kid has 9 stitches in her face because of a “pit bull”; I’ve got a 2-inch scar on my mouth from a poodle bite. You should watch ANY dog like a hawk that is around your kids or grand kids. THAT is the point you are unfortunately missing.

                • Wayne Frederick

                  I didn’t miss that point at all. But we’re not talking about ALL dogs, are we? We’re talking about Pit Bulls. Stay on topic. If you’re going to claim everyone research the facts then you need to do the same. It is NOT a fact that Pit Bulls are no more dangerous than any other dog. That’s a ridiculous statement. They’re considered dangerous dogs for a reason, and the reasons are real and valid. I can’t help that you either don’t get that or won’t get it. The final word is yours but I’m moving on.

                  • Shelly

                    Well Wayne, since according to you only the breeds you listed are dangerous, you are seriously ok with your children or grandchildren being around any other breed of dog unsupervised? You would be ok with them approaching and petting an unknown random dog on the street as long as it’s any other breed? Common sense should tell you to “watch them like a hawk” no matter what type of dog it is. Of course, like what many anti-pit bull people will say on any subject regarding pit bulls, you’ll say that all that matters is the likelihood of death occurring. It doesn’t matter if they just get bit and need stitches. It didn’t matter the black lab that lived next door to me when I was a kid tore off the lower lip of a little boy trying to pet him on the other side of the neighbor’s backyard gate, he just needed reconstructive surgery, no biggie! And if that were to happen to your child or grandchild, I guarantee you’d be the first to sue. I mean if we are basing danger off of just fatalities, explain to me why it is so common place then to euthanize most dogs for biting people.

          • Insurance Company Institute shows 16,500 dog bite claims in the same period where your quoted study states 4.5 million without a source. Please don’t just post click bait articles. If as you state you don’t conduct your own studies perhaps you could at least verify what you do post. I am not trying to attack you specifically but there are so many articles like this one that keep getting repeated when they are at best questionable. It is only because I love my dog. The extensive studies that have been done all state that it should be on a dog by dog basis.

            Not condemning an entire breed and their owners. AKC CDC VETS

      • Neither science nor statistics support policies that discriminate based on breed or physical appearance. What the Humane Society states: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/breed-specific-legislation/fact_sheets/breed-specific-legislation-no-basis-in-science.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

      • 754 college students? I will stick with CDC, Humane Society and AMVA. While I may agree the some bites are attributable to bad owners not everyone that has a dog that bites is a criminal and or deviant behavior as your links suggest.

        • We agree with you, “not everyone that has a dog that bites is a criminal and or deviant behavior”. We know that there are great pet parents out there as well as not so great pet parents. As stated in our previous comment, we merely found this information and decided to share it with our readers.

  • Amy Robinson

    So it’s important to pet a dog only when the dog shows he wants it, normally by resting his head on your hand, brushing it with the side of his head, or turning sideways to show you his body; a gesture of trust and acceptance. Also, pit bull stats are whack because there are so many more of them, estimates vary from 3 to 6 million in the US compared with about 800,000 German shepherds. Good article Sara.

    • Shayesmom

      There are about 3.5 million registered German Shepherds in the U.S. That doesn’t include the unregistered or mixed Shepherds. http://mygermanshepherd.org/global-gsd-population-how-many-gsds-are-there-in-the-world/

      • Second favorite according to AKC I would think more like 4.5 and a fine dog. Just for perspective 3 x more likely to be injured on a bicycle than bit by a dog.

        • Gary Johnson

          Wow! Dog bite injuries equal almost 1/3 of total bicycle injuries. I didn’t realize the numbers were that high. Glad you put it in perspective!

          • Not what I said. Do you have a valid point?

    • Gary Johnson

      It looks as if your ‘stats’ are a little whack there Amy!

  • anonymous

    I work in insurance and I know people who have had their homeowner's insurance canceled because their dog bit someone, who then filed a claim.  I also know that certain insurance companies will refuse to sell homeowner's insurance to people who own certain breeds of dogs (usually pit bulls, rottweilers, etc), which I think is totally unfair.

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