Tag Archives: dog bite prevention

YouTube videos help researchers study dog bites

dog-biting

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have turned to the popular video-sharing site YouTube to study the complex issue of dog bites.

Preventing dog bites is an increasingly important public health and political issue with implications for both human and animal health and welfare. However, it remains difficult for researchers to understand the circumstances leading up to dog bites, with most studies relying on evidence collected after bites happen, such as hospital records and victim interviews.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports researchers have, for the first time, used YouTube videos to directly observe and analyse dog bites in situ.

Lead author Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka said: “Online videos present us with an unexplored opportunity to observe dog bites first-hand, something which is just not possible using other methods. Making more use of this type of shared content for research could help us better understand how and why bites occur and contribute to the development of bite prevention strategies.”

Using search terms such as ‘dog bite’ and ‘dog attack’ the researchers sampled 143 videos that were uploaded to YouTube between January 2016 and March 2017. For each video the context of bites, bite severity, victim and dog characteristics were recorded. For 56 of these videos they were also able to analyse the details of human and dog behaviour leading up to the bite.

The researchers acknowledge that YouTube videos of dog bites are likely subject to some bias, with, for example, bites by small dogs perhaps perceived as ‘comical’ and therefore more likely to be uploaded online.

The findings reveal that despite this potential bias, the demographic characteristics of the victims and dogs seen in YouTube bite videos, such as breed type and victims’ sex and age, are consistent with those found in previous studies. Common dog breeds observed included Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, Pit bulls and Labrador Retrievers. Around 7 in 10 of the bite victims in the videos were male, while more than half of bites observed were to children and infants.

Although this small study did not allow an exploration of the causal relationship between human behaviour and dog bites, some behaviours that have been previously observed within the context of dog bites were observed here to precede a bite. For example, the researchers observed that tactile contact with a dog increased approximately 20 seconds before a bite, as did standing or leaning over a dog.

Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka added: “These findings could offer some valuable new insight for the development of bite prevention strategies. Prevention messages could emphasise the risk of leaning over a dog and simply advise avoiding contact with a dog when possible or in doubt.”

Future research plans to better understand people’s behaviour around dogs and their perceptions of dog bites include a series of interviews with dog owners, people who work around dogs and bite recipients.

The paper ‘Online videos indicate human and dog behaviour preceding dog bites and the context in which bites occur’ is published in Scientific Reports [doi:10.1038/s41598-018-25671-7]

Source:  University of Liverpool media release

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Dog Bites: A Multidisciplinary Perspective

There’s a new book out about the subject of dog bites, taking a multidisciplinary perspective.  I haven’t read it yet – but is positive to see a publication incorporating different views on the issue – all in one place.

Dog Bites is organized into nine sections titled Fundamental Principles, Perceptions of Dogs that Bite, Dog Bites and Risk, Investigative and Legal Issues, Health Issues, Handling the Aggressive Dog, Managing Future Risk, Prevention, and Concluding Comments.

Dog Bites A Multidisciplinary Perspective

The book’s description says:

The issue of dog bites and dog aggression directed at humans is frequently in the media. However, scientific research and evidence on the subject is scattered and sparse. Public and political opinions are often misinformed and out of proportion to the extent of the problem. Dog Bites brings together expert knowledge of the current situation, from a wide variety of disciplines, to provide information to the many people and professions affected by this issue. Subjects range from the practical, medical, behavioural, sociological, and theoretical, but the overall approach of the book is objective and integrative. Topics addressed include: the genetic basis of aggression; the public image of aggressive dogs; bite statistics; risk factors; the forensics and surgical aspects of dog bites; international legal perspectives; court evidence; first aid treatment; zoonotic disease potential; behavioural rehabilitation options; the risk to children; and a consideration of why some dogs kill. All contributors are academic or long-standing professional experts in their field, and they represent a wide spread of international expertise. This issue is an important one for pet owners, vets, animal shelters, and anyone who works with dogs, such as the police. This book will be a valuable resource for them, as well as for animal behaviourists, academic researchers, health professionals, dog breeders, and handlers.

I’m adding this one to my reading list!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Children are unaware of the risks of approaching frightened dogs

Children understand the risks of approaching an angry dog but they are unaware that they should show the same caution around frightened dogs says a study presented to the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section’s annual conference this week.

kid-scared-pet_s36fbl

Lead researcher Dr Sarah Rose of Staffordshire University said: “UK statistics show that young children are at the highest risk of being bitten by a dog with nearly 1200 admissions to hospital for under 10’s during 2013-2014. This study explored whether the explanation is that they are unable to accurately recognise a dog’s emotions when approaching one.”

Dr Rose and Grace Alridge (also of Staffordshire University) asked two groups of children aged 4 to 5 (57) and 6 to 7 years old (61) to watch 15 videos and look at 15 images showing real life behaviour of dogs.  Video clips were all between 6 and 11 seconds long and the only auditory information was the dog barking. The images and videos used had been watched by two veterinary nurses and two laypeople who had agreed on the emotion the dog was showing.

Both groups were asked questions relating to their intention to approach the dog (Would you play with this dog?) and what emotion they thought the dog was experiencing (How happy/angry/frightened do you think this dog is feeling?).

Analysis of the results showed that the children recognised happy, angry and frightened dogs in videos and images at above the level of chance. Furthermore, they recognised angry dogs more accurately than happy or frightened dogs.

However, although the children were less likely to approach an angry dog there was no difference in their inclination to approach a happy or frightened dog.

Dr Rose said: “Young children are relatively good at accurately identifying the emotion that a dog is displaying. However, children’s understanding of safety around dogs is lacking as they only demonstrated caution about approaching angry dogs. They appeared to be unaware that there might be problems approaching frightened dogs. This finding should help inform dog bite prevention campaigns.” 

Source:  The British Psychological Society media release

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Dog bite prevention – we may be on the wrong track

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have shown that educating pet owners about canine body language may not be sufficient to preventing dog bites.  They’ve published their research in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour.

Dog bite photo

At a time when data suggests dog bite incidents are increasing, the team at Liverpool interviewed victims of dog attacks to gain further understanding into their perceptions of the experience.

They found that in some cases there was no interaction with the dog before the bite occurred and therefore no opportunity to assess behaviour.  There was a common tendency for victims to blame themselves for the attack, rather than the animal, or in cases where the dog was not known to them, they blamed the dog’s owner.

Warning signs

Even those who felt knowledgeable about dogs, perceived that a bite “would not happen to them”, and so despite the warning signs would continue acting in the same manner, suggesting that education on body language was ineffective as a preventative measure.

My comment:  This particular part of the research resonates with me.  I’ve seen dog trainers, working with client’s dogs, be super-confident despite the feedback that both the owners and myself would be giving them.  And then, they’d do things with the dog – such as reaching for their collar – which would instigate a snap. 

Working with dogs is a privilege, but we should also be humble enough to treat each dog as an individual…

“Preventing the situation from arising at all may not always be feasible. Reducing the damage caused when a dog does bite, through careful pet dog selection and training, is something we should aim for.”  says Dr Carri Westgarth, a dog behaviour expert at the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health.

Raising awareness

The researchers highlight that there is not enough knowledge of how dog bites occur to know how to prevent them entirely. Raising awareness that ‘it could happen to you’ as often used in other campaigns such as drink-driving, will be required for successful dog bite prevention.

More work is also needed with dog breeders to supply dogs that are less likely to bite and that have inhibited bites that do less damage, moving away from a victim or owner ‘blame’ model to explain dog bite injury.

Source:  University of Liverpool media release

Going postal

Postal worker with dog

A mailman meets a boy and a huge dog. ‘Does your dog bite?’ asks the mailman. ‘No,’ replies the boy. And the dog bites the mailman’s leg. ‘You said he doesn’t bite!’ yells the mailman. ‘That’s not my dog,’ replies the boy.

Letter carriers and other delivery personnel regularly face a hazard when delivering to properties with untrained or unrestrained dogs.  Although there are many cartoons and jokes about dogs and postal workers, the issue is no laughing matter.

In the United States last year, nearly 5,900 letter carriers were bitten by dogs.  Letter carriers are encouraged to report homes with dogs that appear menacing and they may choose not to deliver to a property or even a neighbourhood if dogs are running loose.

Ken Snavely, Acting Postmaster of Los Angeles, says, Working with animal behavior experts, the Postal Service has developed tips to avoid dog attacks, and for dog owners, tips for practicing responsible pet ownership.’

These tips include:

How to be a Responsible Dog Owner

  • Obedience training can teach dogs proper behavior and help owners control their dogs in any situation.
  • Dogs can be protective of their territory and may interpret the actions of a letter carrier as a threat. Please take precautions when accepting mail in the presence of your pet.
  • When a letter carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door, in another room or on a leash.
  • Dogs that haven’t been properly socialized, receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of time frequently turn into biters.

The US Postal Service also keeps statistics on dog bites, with the City of Los Angeles topping the list of incidents.

Fiscal Year 2012 U.S. Postal Service Dog Attack City Ranking

Ranking City, State Attacks
1 Los Angeles, CA 69
2 San Antonio, TX and Seattle, WA 42
3 Chicago, IL 41
4 San Francisco, CA 38
5 Philadelphia, PA 34
6 Detroit, MI 33
7 St. Louis, MO 32
8 Baltimore, MD and Sacramento, CA 29
9 Houston, TX and Minneapolis, MN 27
10 Cleveland and Dayton, OH 26
11 Buffalo and Brooklyn, NY 24
12 Denver, CO 23
13 Dallas, TX and Tacoma, WA 21
14 Wichita, KS 20

Source:  US Postal Service media statement