Research Suggests Dogs More Likely to Bite Neurotic People

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
New research from the University of Liverpool backs what many already have thought–acting anxious around dogs makes you more prone to getting bitten.

Researchers from the University of Liverpoo l have published a study that suggests those who are anxious, nervous and irritable are more likely to be bitten by dogs.

Dr. Carri Westgarth led the study and said that they found the more stable a person was emotionally, based on a survey, the less likely that person was to be bitten by a dog.

The research team gave nearly 700 people in England a survey in which they were asked if they owned a dog, whether anyone in the house had been bitten, how severe the bite was if so, and whether the victim knew the dog that had bitten them.

Related: US Postal Service Says Dog Bite Numbers Are on the Rise

The researchers used Ten Item Personality Inventories (TIPI) to measure emotional stability and neuroticism, and the rating scale gave the most stable people scores of seven. The survey participants who labeled themselves calmer or emotionally stable also less often reported they were bitten by a dog, leading researchers to believe there is an association between the emotional stability of a person and his/her being prone to be bitten.

Dr. Westgarth believes the findings suggest that when looking to prevent dog bites, people may also need to target their own individual behaviors, particularly those with specific personality types. The study didn’t look at variables like gender/age/breed of the dog, and because it was observational, can’t make concrete conclusions about anxious people being the actual cause of dog bites, but the researchers do believe that there may be behaviors that the anxious people exhibit that may in turn trigger dogs to bite.

The study found that men were nearly twice as likely to be bitten than women were, and more so from unfamiliar dogs.

Dr. Westgarth suggests that there are many unknowns relating to the reasons why, but that they have found an association in nervous/anxious people and dog bites, believes a sensible recommendation to anyone is to act calmly around dogs, even if nervous.

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Additionally, she suggests that choosing dogs from parents who have good temperments is important, as aggression is believed to be inherited. As well, make sure dogs are socialized well so that they are not anxious themselves, and in turn react anxiously.

Most importantly, back away from a dog who looks worried or wants to back away from you. Forcing ourselves on dogs often results in very preventable bites.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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