The saying “Barking dogs seldom bite” is just a general rule, and it hardly shines with relevancy. If you don’t want to get bitten, the best practice is to not reach out to pet the dog that’s not known to you, or let it sniff your hand.

Most often, dogs tend to be gentle, friendly and absolutely love being around kids. But, there are certain breeds of dog that loathe being approached at, and pose high risk of biting. So what are those dog breeds? And, are there any physical traits to look out for?

A study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, which assesses the risks of dog bite injuries in children and severity of the bite by breed, size and head structure reveals that pit bulls and other mixed breed dogs are most likely to bite children and inflict serious injuries. The same goes for heavier dogs with wider mouths and short heads.

 Researchers found pit bulls and mixed breed dogs have the highest risk of biting and cause the most damage per bite. Dogs with wide and short heads weighing between 66 and 100 pounds pose just about the same risk.
Researchers found pit bulls and mixed breed dogs have the highest risk of biting children and cause the most damage per bite. Dogs with wide and short heads weighing between 66 and 100 pounds pose just about the same risk.

“The purpose of this study was to evaluate dog bites in children, and we specifically looked at how breed relates to bite frequency and bite severity,” said Garth Essig, lead author of the study in a news release. “Because mixed breed dogs account for a significant portion of dog bites, and we often didn’t know what type of dog was involved in these incidents, we looked at additional factors that may help predict bite tendency when breed is unknown like weight and head shape.”

For the study, the team assessed 15 years-worth of dog-related facial trauma cases from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the University of Virginia Health System, and did an extensive literature search for dog bite papers from 1970 to date to investigate relative risk of biting from a certain breed. They also consolidated those data with the hospital data to determine risk of biting, the severity of injuries and created a damage severity scale.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of nearly 5 million victims of dog bite in the United State each year, 20 percent of them require medical attention. And those who need treatment after dog bites are primarily children between the ages of 5 to 9.  Also while most cases of dog bites and injuries come from certain breeds of dogs, the study says the offending dog could not be identified in sixty percent of the cases.

“Young children are especially vulnerable to dog bites because they may not notice subtle signs that a dog may bite,” said Dr. Charles Elmaraghy, the study co-author.  “We see everything from simple lacerations to injuries in which there’s significant tissue loss that needs grafting or other reconstructive surgery.”

Well, the actual point of this research is to highlight a significant public health issue and provide families with young children with information that can help them decide which dog to own. Because there are many conjunctures which may predispose the dogs to bite and it may be also influenced by breeds and how the victim, parents and dog owner behave towards the dogs.

“Children imitate their parents,” said Meghan Herron, an associate professor at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “Be a model for your child and avoid any confrontational or risky interactions that might trigger a fear or fear aggression response if the child were to mimic it. This includes harsh reprimands, smacking, pushing off of furniture and forcibly taking away an item.”

5 warning signs a dog is about to bite you:

Signs a dog is showing fear based aggression.
Signs a dog is showing fear based aggression. 
  1. The dog suddenly stiffens its whole body with tail lowered or tucked between the legs.
  2. The dog lowers its head with its ears back and wrinkles between the eyebrows
  3. The dog rushes towards you with raised hackles.
  4. The dog stands in a block like stance as if it’s ready to pounce.
  5. The dog growls, snaps, or shows its teeth

Well, these are just the main signs a dog may bite. Not all dogs give a warning before they bite.

5 tips for dog owners to avoid (their children) being bitten or attacked by dogs:

  1. Don’t let your children approach the dog when it’s resting. Provide and encourage resting in a place where children don’t usually run and play.
  2. Try giving as much as attention as possible attention while your child interacts with the dog. If you fail to do so, maintain a physical barrier between them like baby gate or crate for the dog. Bites do occur even when an adult is in the room, and this is especially important for toddlers whose behaviors are usually unpredictable.
  3. Advice your children to stay clear from dog crates, beds and other resting places that are designated for the dog. Even if the dog happens to lie on the couch, try to delineate the dog space vs. child space by putting a towel or blanket down.
  4. Don’t let your children approach, or interact with dogs while they are eating. If you can, provide a peaceful place for your dog to eat away from where children run and play. Flavored chews and rawhides should only be given when children are not around.
  5. If your dog takes one of your kid’s toys or snacks, do not let them retrieve the items themselves.
Study Looks Beyond Breed to Assess Dog Bite Risk to Children

Source: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center