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Dogs Bite Anxious People More

03 February 2018

If you regularly feel anxious, you might be the ideal candidate for a dog bite.

Dr Carri Westgarth, co-author of the research from the University of Liverpool, notes it is unclear whether anxious behaviour increases the risk, if being bitten increases emotional instability, or whether calmer owners were more likely to have calm dogs.

Another pattern they found was that people who were less emotionally stable and more anxious were also more likely to get bitten. "It is essential that previously assumed risk factors are reassessed as this study has revealed that prior beliefs, such as bites typically being from familiar dogs, are contested", said Carri Westgarth, researcher at the University of Liverpool in the UK.

More than half of respondents reported that they had been bitten by a dog they did not know and one in four respondents said they had been bitten before. The researchers also acknowledge only households in one county in England were included so the findings may not apply to the rest of the UK.

Because showing anxiety significantly raises the risk of suffering a dog bite.

'Much more research into the possible association with personality is now required, especially in order to understand if and how this knowledge could be used in dog bite prevention. Of these bites (301 in total), a third required some degree of medical treatment, while a single bite led to a hospital admission. For each drop in a one to seven scale measuring neuroticism (seven being the most stable), the associated risk of a lifetime bite rose by 33 per cent.

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This study suggests that the real burden of dog bites is considerably larger than those estimated from hospital records. That figure is much higher than official estimates, and is almost three times higher than an oft-cited figure of 7.5 bites per 1000 in the UK.

"The only official statistics that we record in the United Kingdom about dog bites are hospital admissions for being bitten or struck by a dog", said Westgarth.

Most surprising, though, was an apparent link between dog bites and respondents who scored lowest for emotional stability on the personality test.

The Kennel Club said dog behaviour was often driven by the way humans behaved themselves when in the presence of animals. About 44 percent of bites occurred in childhood (when participants were younger than 16 years old), and 55 percent of bites were inflicted by dogs that the victim had never met before the incident.

"Our findings suggest that the less anxious, irritable and depressed a person is, the less likely they are to have been bitten", Westgarth said.

Individuals scoring higher in emotional stability had a lower risk of having ever been bitten.

Dogs Bite Anxious People More