Are certain dog breeds more likely to bite than others?

To many, dogs are more than just pets – they’re family. An estimated 77 million dogs are living in American households today. But unfortunately, millions of dogs also mean millions of potentially dangerous bites. Each year, 4.5 million people suffer bites by dogs in the U.S., and one in every five will require medical attention. More alarmingly, children are the most common dog-bite victims.

The truth is, any dog is capable of biting if provoked, regardless of its breed or size. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it’s the dog’s individual history and behavior that determines whether it will bite, not its breed. However, a recent 2019 study examined how dog breed relates to bite frequency and severity to help families make informed decisions when choosing a dog type.

What were the findings?

The study looked at dog bites in children to determine which dogs bit the most and how severe the damage was from the specific breed’s bite. According to the data, the top dog breeds with the highest bite risk include:

  1. Unknown
  2. Pitbull
  3. Mixed breed
  4. German shepherd
  5. Terrier
  6. Rottweiler

“Unknown” was the top breed because it was often unknown what type of dog was involved in the incidents studied. Instead, the researchers used identifying factors such as the dog’s weight and head shape to help predict bite tendency. The dogs most likely to bite had short, wide heads and weighed between 66 and 100 pounds.

Pit bulls and mixed breeds had the highest relative risk of bites and the most severe average damage per bite. However, it’s essential to note that the researchers say that the circumstances that cause a dog to bite can vary and be influenced by the behavior of the child victim, the victim’s parents, and the dog’s owner. Other studies have shown that in most child dog bite cases, the child provoked the dog.

The bottom line

While certain breeds have a higher bite frequency and severity, it doesn’t necessarily mean your beloved pit bull is a threat to your family. But if you are considering adding a dog to your family or have a dog with a higher bite risk in your home, be sure your loved ones understand how to interact safely with your canine to prevent serious injuries.