If you own a dog, you likely only know it as a beloved companion that wouldn't hurt a fly. Most domesticated dogs are spoiled members of the family with nothing but loyalty and love to give. However, a dog's temperament can vary wildly based on its personality, socialization, and training.
Unfortunately, dog bites and attacks do occur. They can range from friendly nips to full-on aggressive attacks that leave lasting injuries.
In severe cases, dog attacks can lead to hospitalization or even death.
There are roughly 900 million dogs in the world as of 2023. About 10 percent of that global figure resides in the United States as pets. Attacks are bound to happen, but just how common are they?
Whether you're considering owning a dog or you already have a pack of furry friends to watch over, understanding the risks is paramount. All dogs are different, but the facts don't lie.
Here are some crucial dog bite statistics you need to know.
General Facts About Dog Ownership and Canine Populations
As mentioned earlier, there are roughly 900 million dogs on the planet. Interestingly enough, that's a steep rise compared to almost a decade ago!
In 2012, there were only about 512 million. Most attribute the increase in dog populations to the growing rate of adoption.
More and more people choose to keep dogs as pets, leading to a significant boom in birth rates among breeders.
All that said, only a tiny fraction of the dogs to exist today are part of a family. Between 75 and 85 percent of the global figure are strays or feral dogs. The rest are lucky enough to live in the lap of luxury as pets.
China, the United States, and India are home to the most dogs. As a result, those countries also have the most recorded bites.
How Many People Get Bit Every Year?
It's hard to get an exact figure on yearly dog bites. Many instances go unreported. This is especially true in countries with poor animal control services.
The most recent survey pulled data from several decades of reports. It stated that between 4.5 and 4.7 million people in the United States alone get bitten by a dog every year.
However, that figure only reflects reported instances in the U.S. Many countries lack a robust reporting system.
According to the World Health Organization, dog bites are responsible for tens of millions of injuries a year around the globe!
Dog Bites by Age
Many factors contribute to dog bite risks. Generally, the most vulnerable are those who don't know how to behave around canines. Unfortunately, that means children are most likely to get bitten.
Estimates say that children under the age of 12 make up most reported dog bite cases.
One study noted that American kids have a 50 percent chance of getting bitten by a dog before adulthood.
While every situation is different, bites to younger kids tend to come from a family's dog or one in the neighborhood.
They often occur due to a lack of supervision and agitation.
On the other hand, older kids are more likely to experience bites from unknown dogs.
Adults can suffer from bites and attacks as well. Next to kids, senior citizens are the second-highest age group for dog bites.
While attacks can occur anywhere, they're most likely in low and middle-income areas.
Dogs are surprisingly responsive to human emotions. Body language and verbalization play a significant role in controlling and calming aggressive dogs.
According to a study in the United Kingdom, anxious or fearful people are 22 percent more likely to get bitten. Surprisingly, men are 81 percent more likely to experience a bite than women.
There are some interesting trends worth noting when it comes to the type of people that get bitten. Dogs are notoriously territorial.
From large Pit Bulls to tiny Chihuahuas, canines want to keep their homes safe at all times.
For this reason, those who work jobs that require visits to dwellings are at the highest risk. Postal carriers have it the worst. According to the United States Postal Service, around 5,803 workers were bitten in 2019!
Meter readers, delivery people, and landscapers have high bite figures as well.
Dog Attacks by State - US
Which state has the most bites? Again, recording these figures is difficult. There's a good chance that many go unreported.
The easiest way to get an understanding of how prevalent attacks are in each state, we have to look at insurance figures.
By looking at state insurance claims, we can say that most bites occur in California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Illinois.
Coincidentally, those states also happen to be the most populous. California reported roughly 2,396 bites. Meanwhile, Illinois only had about 854 bite-related claims.
If you're wondering how much those bites cost insurance companies, buckle up! In 2019, home insurance companies paid over $796.8 million to cover bites and dog-related injuries.
In 2020, that figure rose to $854 million. It's no surprise why dogs are often deemed liabilities to insurance companies, hotels, and apartments.
Dog Attacks by Breed
Let's look at some statistics covering breeds.
Breed-specific data can be a point of contention among dog owners. It's a controversial topic that continues to make headlines. Unfortunately, we cannot overlook facts and hard data.
According to a study on dog bite injuries to the face, the types of dogs that are most likely to cause harm fit this criteria:
The breed that fits this figure most is the Pit Bull, Rottweiler, and American Bulldog. One study that used dog bite data from 1970 to today found that the top six dog breeds to bite humans were:
The data aligns with other studies that report Pit Bulls as the most dangerous dog breed by a large margin. They're reportedly responsible for 284 fatal dog attacks between 2005 and 2017.
For some perspective, the second most hazardous breed is the Rottweiler. In that same time frame, Rottweilers were responsible for 45 fatal attacks.
Pit Bulls and other related dogs have a pretty bad reputation for being aggressive. It's why so many municipalities have laws against owning Pit Bulls.
However, it's crucial to think about how overall aggressiveness and size come into play. Pit Bulls are muscular dogs with powerful jaws that can do a lot of damage.
The same goes for other medium and large breeds.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, no single breed stands out as the most dangerous in the world.
Despite the statistics, breed alone is not a reliable predictor of dangerous behavior. It might come as a surprise to most, but smaller dogs are more likely to exhibit signs of aggression than bigger ones!
A dog bite study by the University of Pennsylvania shows that Dachshunds and Chihuahuas are the most aggressive breed.
In fact, there are six dog breeds above the Pit Bull in this study. Ther are:
The issue with aggressiveness and dog bite statistics is that small dogs don't do much damage.
Take, for example, the Dachshund.
Dachshunds are small dogs with tiny jaws. They bite owners, strangers, and other dogs more frequently.
But because those bites don't hurt or cause serious injury, they're often overlooked.
However, bigger breeds like the Greyhound have the means to cause grave injuries.
While they're considered the least aggressive dog breeds, according to the survey we discussed earlier, they tend to be more feared than smaller pups.
It's an interesting dichotomy that only goes to show how the breed alone can't determine aggressiveness.
Canine aggressiveness is a complex topic that often leads to heated discussions among vets, animal experts, and legislators.
Despite the nuances involved, there's no denying that certain breeds are more apt to cause serious injuries than others.
As a result, many locations have strict bans on the types of dogs you can own.
Some municipalities are more strict than others. Ukraine, for example, has a ban list with 80 different breeds on it! Others have a blanket breed on anything deemed "aggressive."
For example, you might encounter unclear ban lists for apartments and HOA-run communities.
The most commonly banned dogs are American Pit Bulls, American Staffordshire Terrier, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers.
Unfortunately, most countries and states have bans on Pit Bulls. Change is brewing as some jurisdictions are creating laws that prohibit breed discrimination. However, they still exist in most large cities.
Dog Bite Severity Statistics
Earlier, we mentioned that upwards of 4.7 million bites occur in the United States every year. But how many of those bites warrant medical attention.
Believe it or not, one in five are pretty severe. Dogs cause about 26 percent of all animal-related injuries.
Just under 900,000 need medical attention. Around 340,000 require an emergency room visit. Meanwhile, a little over 9,000 require extended hospital stays.
Unfortunately, kids a decent amount of those hospitalizations are children. Over 31,000 of the annual emergency room visits were for kids between the ages of five and nine.
Dog Attack Fatalities
So, what about fatalities?
The goods news is that fatality figures aren't as widespread. They're relatively low in the United States. Between 30 and 50 deaths occur in the U.S. each year.
Sadly, approximately 26 percent of those fatalities are children below the age of two.
Deaths related to dog attacks are far lower than the tens of thousands of annual dog-related deaths around the world.
Figures for worldwide deaths are scarce. One report states that there are around 35,000 annual fatalities a year. However, the World Health Organization estimates a lot more.
The biggest reason for dog-related deaths outside of the United States? For most cases, it's rabies.
Rabies is largely eradicated in the United States thanks to vaccinations and improved pet healthcare. Only one to three deaths from rabies are reported in the U.S. every year.
Most of those cases don't even come from dogs! You're more likely to get rabies from bats and raccoons than dogs.
Other countries, however, aren't so lucky. The World Health Organization estimates that about 60,000 people die from rabies resulting from dog bites.
It's more common in countries without access to vaccinations and proper veterinary care.
Common Causes for Dog Bites
Bites can occur out of nowhere. Even the most well-trained dog can turn aggressive under the right circumstances.
As pet owners, humans do a lot to mold their dogs and treat them right. But at the end of the day, dogs are animals with instinctive urges.
Data from the National Canine Research Council shows that many common factors contribute to dog attacks.
All of them are preventable with planning and training.
In 89.9 percent of attacks, no other person was around to intervene. The victim is usually on their own, leaving very little room to take action and put a stop to the attack.
Unfortunately, about 83.7 of attacks occurred at random. In those cases, the victim had no relationship with the dog whatsoever.
They were total strangers or unwitting passerby's that just happened to trigger the dog.
- In roughly 77.9 percent of cases, the dog wasn't neutered or spayed.
Neutering and spaying are known to decrease aggressive tendencies and instinctive urges to attack. This figure only shows how a simple detail makes all the difference.
Another surprising figure is how often the physical ability of the victim was compromised.
- 68.7 percent of bite victims weren't capable of fending the dog off due to disabilities or mobility.
This figure is a good representation of how often dogs bite young kids and senior citizens.
In 70.4 percent of bite cases, the dog was more of a resident than a family pet. What does that mean? Generally, it describes a dog that's used for practical purposes rather than companionship.
For example, it could be a dog tied up outside as a guard animal. Those dogs are more likely to bite than those who are loved members of the family.
Finally, there are the statistics that involve care and neglect. It's a known fact that abused dogs are more likely to exhibit signs of aggression.
The study shows that 39.3 percent of bites happened due to mismanagement of the dog. Meanwhile, 20.6 resulted from direct abuse or neglect.
Dog behavior is unpredictable. If you encounter a random dog on a sidewalk, there's no way to tell if it's a victim of animal abuse, a trained fighting dog, or just a gentle canine.
Always exercise caution when you're around dogs you don't know. It doesn't take much to trigger a pup on the verge of a mental break.
One false move could result in a vicious attack that causes serious injuries. If you have a pup for yourself, make sure you treat it with care and fulfill all its needs. Otherwise, you could end up as one of these statistics.