If you find yourself to be more anxious than the average person in San Marcos, are you more likely to sustain injuries as a result of a dog bite? According to a recent report from CBS News, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health contends that “people with an emotionally anxious personality appear to be the likeliest recipients of dog bites.” Moreover, those people also tend to be the least likely to report a dog attack, suggesting that dog bite numbers could be higher than many statistics suggest.
Anxiousness and Likelihood of a Dog Bite Injury
Can dogs really discern when a person is anxious? The authors of the study sought to control for other factors that could play a part in determining the likelihood of a dog bite injury. For instance, in studying almost 700 people in nearly 400 households, the researchers looked at:
- Victim’s age at the time of the dog bite;
- Victim’s relationship to the dog (i.e., whether the dog lived in the same household, lived in the household of a friend, or belonged to a stranger); and
- Whether the victim sought medical attention after the dog attack.
But that information was not the only data that helped the authors of the study to report that personal anxiety could play a significant factor in determining whether a person is more likely than not to be bitten by a dog in a given circumstance. In addition to the factors listed above, those 700 people filled out a personality test that had 10 different questions designed to elucidate “the so-called Big Five personality traits,” or “extroversion, conscientiousness, openness to new experiences, agreeableness, and emotional stability.” Here is what they found:
- Males are twice as likely as females to be bitten by a dog;
- Around 44% of dog bites occur in childhood;
- Approximately 55% of dog bites occurred when the victim did not know the dog; and
- Victims with lower emotional stability are more likely to be bitten.
According to one of the authors of the study, “Our findings suggest that the less anxious, irritable and depressed a person is, the less likely they are to have been bitten.” While the study is only one assessment, it suggests a new line of inquiry for determining dog bite risks.
Dog Bite Prevention: Safety Tips
Whether you are anxious or not, the ASPCA provides some helpful safety tips for avoiding dog bites:
- Know the signs of an aggressive dog, which can include ears that are up and forward, puffed up fur on her back, a tail standing straight up and sometimes even wagging, teeth baring, growling, lunging, and barking;
- Be able to recognize the difference between the scared dog and an aggressive dog, since scared dogs are less likely to attack without further contact;
- Do not approach any dog when it is sleeping, eating, chewing (on anything) or caring for puppies;
- Do not approach any dog that shows signs of being aggressive or scared;
- Prohibit children from petting unfamiliar dogs without getting the permission of the dog’s owner;
- Teach your child to approach a new dog by letting the dog sniff a closed fist and then petting the dog first on the top of its head;
- Never try to pet a dog that is behind a fence or in a car;
- Do not approach a dog that is off-leash and alone;
- If a dog knocks you to the ground, curl up in a ball and interlock your fingers behind your neck to protect your neck and ears; and
- Do not attempt to outrun a dog.
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(image courtesy of Duffy Brooks)