Factors That Determine Whether a Dog Will Bite

It unfortunately is common for dogs to direct their aggression against people, by biting them. Two percent of the population of the USA is bitten by dogs every year. (See Statistics.)

There is much in the scientific literature of animal behavior that sheds light on the causes of dog attacks. As you review the literature, it is interesting to note that a dog owner is directly responsible for the presence or absence of most factors that determine whether a dog will bite.

A report by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions, entitled A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention, refers to five factors commonly associated with dog bites:

  • Breed and “parents” of the attacking dog: this refers to aggression as a type of behavior that has been bred into certain breeds of dogs, and characteristics of the “sire” and “bitch” that produce an individual dog.
  • Socialization of the dog: how the dog has been desensitized to stimuli, especially stimuli produced by children. Poor socialization results in less inhibition to bite and engage in other undesirable behavior.
  • Training of the dog: the nature, degree and quality of training. A dog that has been trained to threaten people is an obvious danger, but so is a dog that has been poorly trained or not trained at all.
  • Health of the dog: whether the dog was sick or injured. When a dog is sick or injured, or in pain, biting can result for a number of reasons.
  • Behavior of the victim: this includes any behavior (i.e., a baby rolling over on a bed), not just provocation (i.e., hitting the dog).