Study: Children at Risk of Being Bitten by Frightened Dogs

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
A new study out of England shows that most children know not to approach an angry dog, but don’t know that approaching a fearful dog could be just as risky.

The study, conducted by Dr. Sarah Rose and Grace Aldridge of the Staffordshire University, UK showed that children are at the highest risk of being bitten by a dog, and more awareness of the need to be careful with fearful dogs can help eliminate some of that risk.

They’ll present their findings later this year at the 2016 British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section annual conference in Ireland.

Related: Research Finds Fear and Anxiety Negatively Affect Dog’s Health and Lifespan

Looking to see how to reduce bite rates for children, with nearly 1200 admissions of children under 10 to hospitals from 2013-2014, they wondered if being able to understand a dog’s fearful emotions as well as angry emotions would prevent them from approaching dogs that may pose a risk.

To conduct the study, 57 children who were four and five-years old and 61 children who were six and seven-years old watched 15 different videos and 15 still images of real-life dog emotions. The videos only gave barking of the dogs, to allow the children to hear the emotion as they saw the dog.

Related: Preventing Dog Bites: Tips To Teach Children

After, the groups of children were asked questions like, “Would you play with this dog?” or “How do you think this dog is feeling?” and the answers revealed that children randomly and at chance recognized happy, angry and frightened dogs, though they did recognize angry dogs more consistently than they recognized happy dogs.

And while the children seemed to be less likely to approach a dog they knew to be angry, they did not seem to have any issue or difference of approachment to a happy dog compared to a frightened dog.

That they can somewhat adequately recognize emotion that a dog is displaying is a good thing, but the study shows that children also need to be taught about other emotions rather than just angry dogs. They didn’t seem to be aware of the danger that a frightened dog could inadvertently pose, and more awareness and education on the risks could really make a difference in not only bite rates, but dog bite prevention plights.

[Source: Science Daily]

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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