Published on by Matthew H. Nash – Licensed Insurance Agent
Millions of dog bites occur every year in the United States and worldwide. A dog bite can range from a quick pinch to a severe injury requiring medical attention to even death in some instances. Thankfully, dog-bite-related fatalities are rare.
We analyzed various studies and data to create a collection of dog bite statistics that covers a wide variety of topics related to dog bites. It includes an overview of the dog breeds that are most likely to bite or to cause a fatality, the most common demographics of dog bite victims, what dog has the strongest bite, how dog bite liability has grown over time, and tips on how to stop a dog from biting you to begin with.
General Dog Bite Statistics
There is no global tracking of dog bite incidents, but it is estimated that tens of millions of injuries from dog attacks occur each year around the world. Dog bites are the source of most animal bite injuries, with studies revealing that they account for 76-94% of such injuries. Dog bites also make up more than 50% of all animal-related injuries to people who are traveling.
Not all dog bites are severe enough to warrant medical attention, but some can lead to severe injury. Below are some general dog bite statistics for the United States that have been discovered through various studies. Other high-income countries, like Australia, Canada, and France, were found to have similar incidence and fatality rates.
- An estimated 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs annually in the United States.
- Of these, 885,000 people seek medical care for a dog bite.
- Thirty thousand people have reconstructive procedures due to a dog bite.
- Between 3% and 18% of people develop infections from a dog bite.
- Ten to 30 people die from being attacked and bitten by a dog.
Dog Breeds Most Likely to Bite
When we think of the type of dogs that bite, we usually think of bigger, more muscular dogs like pit bulls or rottweilers, but which dog breeds are actually the most likely to bite? Using data from a study on breed differences in canine aggression, we ranked dog breeds on how likely they are to be aggressive toward strangers, their owners, or other dogs. The rankings are based on the percentage of dogs of each breed in the study that received a maximum score of 4 for aggression due to snaps, bites, or attempts to bite the subject.
How do pit bulls rank against other dog breeds when it comes to showing aggression to strangers, owners, and other dogs? Check out these dog bite statistics by breed to see how they compare to other types of dogs.
Dog Breeds Most Likely to Bite a Stranger
Smaller dog breeds, like the dachshund and chihuahua, were found to show the most aggression toward strangers through snaps, bites, or attempts to bite. One-fifth of all of the dachshunds in the study received the maximum score for aggression, the most of any dog breed.
|Australian Cattle Dog||9.6|
|Jack Russell Terrier||7.7|
|Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier||4.2|
|English Springer Spaniel||3.5|
|Portuguese Water Dog||2.7|
|Bernese Mountain Dog||1.5|
Dog Breeds Most Likely to Bite Their Owner
Once again, smaller dog breeds were found to be the most aggressive, but this time against their owner. The beagle came out on top, with 7.9% of beagles in the study earning the highest aggression score. Dachshunds aren’t only aggressive toward strangers; they were also found to be the second most aggressive dog breed toward their owners.
|Jack Russell Terrier||3.8|
|English Springer Spaniel||3.5|
|Bernese Mountain Dog||3|
|Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier||1.9|
|Australian Cattle Dog||1.5|
|Portuguese Water Dog||0|
Dog Breeds Most Likely to Bite Another Dog
When it comes to dog aggression among certain breeds, we see an uptick in the percentage of each breed that earned the max score for aggression for snapping, biting, or attempting to bite another dog. All of the ones that made the top ten list had more than 15% of dogs in the breed earn a high score for aggression. Akitas were found to be the most aggressive toward other dogs, with 29.3% having earned the max score. The pit bull breed had 22% of dogs earn the max score for aggression, making pit bulls the second most aggressive dog breed toward other dogs.
|Breed||Dog Aggression Score|
|Jack Russell Terrier||21.8|
|Australian Cattle Dog||20.6|
|English Springer Spaniel||17.5|
|Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier||16.2|
|Portuguese Water Dog||6.7|
|Bernese Mountain Dog||4.5|
The Least Aggressive Dog Breed
What is the least aggressive dog breed when it comes to strangers, their owners, and other dogs? The greyhound breed was found at the bottom of all three ranked lists, with none of the greyhounds in the study earning a high aggression score toward strangers or other dogs. There was a very low percentage of greyhounds that showed aggression toward their owners, with just 1.6% having earned the max score.
Dog Breeds With the Strongest Bite
What dog has the strongest bite force? A study by the National Institute of Health analyzed the cranial size and shape of dogs with the strongest bite force to see what overlaps they could find. Results show that the bite force increases as size increases, which is a fair assumption. The effect the skull shape had on a dog’s bite force was found to be more significant in medium to large dogs. The skull shape of smaller dogs didn’t seem to have much effect on the force of their bite. According to the study, the following ten dog breeds were found to have the strongest bite force, measured in pounds per square inch (PSI).
The Kangal breed is the strongest dog breed in the world, so it came as no surprise that they were also found to have the strongest dog bite. These strong dogs were bred to be be guard dogs and have an impressive 743 pounds per square inch of force behind every bite. Pit bulls’ bite force may only rank 19th on the list of dogs with the strongest bite force, but the 235-pounds-per-square-inch bite force of pit bulls is the strongest of any dog in their size category.
Dog Breeds Most Likely to Cause Dog-Bite-Related Fatalities (DBRFs)
Even with the large number of people that are bitten by a dog each year and require medical care, only a small percentage of these result in a dog bite-related fatality (DBRF). Of the 4.5 million dog bites in the U.S. each year, an average of 35 of them are fatal.
Dog Breeds Most Commonly Involved in DBRFs
According to the data shared by the American Veterinary Medical Association on dog-bite-related fatalities over a period of 20 years, pit bulls are responsible for the most fatal dog attacks. A purebred or crossbreed pit bull was found to be responsible for 32% of the 238 DBRFs that occurred during this time period, nearly double that of rottweilers, which were responsible for the second most fatal dog attacks.
|Breed||Fatalities - Purebred||Fatalities - Crossbred||Total Fatalities|
Likelihood of Being Fatally Attacked by a Dog
What is the likelihood of being attacked and killed by a dog? Fatal dog attacks are fairly rare, with an average of 35 dog-bite-related fatalities occurring in the U.S. each year. Your odds of being killed by falling off a ladder or being struck by lightning are greater than the odds of a being killed by a dog. Here are some common occurrences that are more likely to kill you than a dog attack:
- Falling out of bed: 781 deaths per year
- Falling from a ladder: 438 deaths per year
- Being bitten or struck by other mammals besides dogs: 78 deaths per year
- Lawnmower accidents: 73 deaths per year
- Hornet, wasp, and bee stings: 65 deaths per year
- Being struck by lightning: 38 deaths per year
Dog Bite Demographics
In this section, we’ll take a look at the most common demographics of dog bite victims. This data was collected by the CDC and is based on nonfatal dog-bite-related injuries that were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments.
The Most Common Ages to Be Attacked by a Dog
Children have a higher risk of being bitten by a dog, especially those under the age of 14. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 made up 15.2% of all nonfatal dog-bite-related injuries treated at the emergency room, while children between the ages of 0-4 and 10-14 each made up just more than 13% of those treated. Not only are children more likely to be bitten by a dog, but they are also more likely to have serious injuries resulting from the bite due to their small size. The ages of adults being treated for dog bites at the emergency room spans from 20 to over 65, although older adults were less likely to be bitten than younger adults. The highest numbers of adult dog bite victims fell between the ages of 25 and 44.
The Most Common Gender to Be Attacked by a Dog
The gender that is more likely to be bitten by a dog are males, although not by much. A male patient was treated at the ER in 55.1% of dog bite cases, while a female patient was treated for a dog bite injury in 44.9% of the cases.
The Most Common Part of the Body to Be Bitten by a Dog
The most common part of the body for a dog bite is on the arm or hand, followed by a bite on the leg or foot and the head or neck area. Dog bites on the arm and hand account for nearly half of the nonfatal dog-bite-related injuries that were treated at the ER.
The Most Common Factors in Dog-Bite-Related Fatalities
Although fatal dog bites are rare, there are certain actions and factors that can provoke a dog to attack and led to a majority of the 466 dog-bite-related fatalities that occurred between 2000 and 2015. Four or more of the following preventable factors were present in 75.5% of the DBRFs that took place during this time:
- Absence of an able-bodied person to intervene: 86.9%
- Incidental or no familiar relationship of victims with dogs: 83.7%
- Owner failure to neuter dogs: 77.9%
- Compromised ability of victims to interact appropriately with dogs: 68.7%
- Dogs kept isolated from regular positive human interactions versus family dog: 70.4%
- Owners’ prior mismanagement of dogs: 39.3%
- Owners’ history of abuse or neglect of dogs: 20.6%
Dog Bite Liability
One aspect of being a dog owner is being held liable for your dog’s actions, especially if they injure or kill someone. Between 2013 and 2022, the number of dog bite claims made to insurance companies has remained steady while the average cost of a dog bite claim has risen dramatically, nearly doubling during this time. Let’s compare the cost of a dog bite claim in 2013 to the cost of a dog bite liability claim submitted to insurance companies a decade later in 2022.
Rising Cost of Dog Bite Claims
The total value of dog bite claims has increased by 134.9% since 2013, while the number of dog bite claims has only increased by 1.4% during this time. Due to this huge increase in value, the cost per claim has increased each year to the point where the average payout for a dog bite claim was 131.7% higher in 2022 than it was in 2013.
Dog Breeds Most Often Banned by Home Insurance Companies
Some insurance companies have banned certain dog breeds from being covered by homeowners’ insurance. They have blacklisted specific breeds based on several factors, one of which is the likelihood of that dog breed biting a person or another animal.
Pit bulls and rottweilers are the two most notorious dog breeds for being banned by insurance companies, and some places in the U.S. have even enacted breed-specific laws and regulations against them. Which dog breeds are a type of pit bull? Insurance companies define the following dog breeds as pit bulls: bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, or any combination of these breeds.
This is not to say that all home insurance providers ban dog breeds. There are some insurance companies that will cover banned breeds, which is why it remains important to check the conditions of insurance before signing any contracts.
The U.S. States With the Most Dog Bite Claims
There were 17,583 dog bite claims made to insurance companies in the United States in 2022, with more than half of the dog bite claims (9,393) coming from just the top 10 states. California topped the list with 1,954 dog bite claims, the highest of any state by a wide margin. Their number of claims was far greater than Texas, even though Texas has half a million more dogs than California.
The Highest Average Cost per Dog Bite Insurance Claim from States with Most Claims
Dog bite insurance claims have skyrocketed in 2022 compared to previous years. California, for example, went from an average cost per claim of $59,561 to $78,818. The U.S. state average dog bite claim per bite was $64,555.
Dog Bite Laws by State
Each of the states has its own set of dog bite statutes that govern dog bite liability, although they all fall within three categories: one-bite states, statutory strict liability states, and mixed dog bite law states. A one-bite law means that a dog owner is only held liable for injuries caused by a bite from their dog if they knew there was a possibility that their dog might bite. Statutory strict liability means that the dog owner is held liable if their dog bites someone, regardless of whether the owner knew the dog might bite. There are some exceptions to statutory strict liability, though, including cases where the victim:
- Provoked the dog
- Was trespassing
- Committed a crime against the dog owner
- Assumed the risk and consented to being bitten
- Was a canine professional treating the animal
- Was bitten by a dog that was assisting police or military during the incident
Several states have a mixed dog bite statute, incorporating the one-bite rule into their strict liability laws based on certain exceptions. For example, in Tennessee, the dog bite statute only applies if the bite occurred outside of the owner’s property (with some exceptions), and Oregon’s dog bite statute only covers medical bills for dog bite treatment and loss of income.
Preventing Dog Bites
While 4.5 million dog bites in the U.S. each year sounds like a lot, remember that dog bite prevention is possible in most cases. There are certain things one can do near a dog to prevent the situation from escalating to the point of being attacked and bitten by a dog. Dog owners also have a responsibility to ensure that their dog will not bite others by training and caring for them properly. Below is a list of steps that can be taken to avoid having a negative interaction with a dog and possibly getting bitten.
- Being a responsible dog owner is the first step to preventing dog bites. This entails choosing the best breed for your family, training it, giving it regular exercise, and spaying or neutering it to reduce aggression.
- Socializing a dog can help prevent it from biting a person or another dog. When a dog has been socialized, it will feel more comfortable in different situations and around different people. The easiest time to socialize a dog is when it’s a puppy. It’s also important to leash the dog in public so that you can control it.
- Keep your dog on a leash in public so that you can better control it if a situation arises.
- Avoid interacting with or petting a dog during certain scenarios that can put you at a higher risk of being bitten, which can include:
- When the dog is sleeping
- When the dog is eating
- If a dog is sick or injured
- If a dog is playing with a toy
- If the dog is barking or growling
- When a dog is being protective of its puppies
- If the dog is hiding or wants to be alone
- If a dog is without its owner
- If a dog’s owner does not give permission to pet their dog
- Reaching through or over a fence with a dog on the other side
We hope you’ll take what you learned here and apply it to any situation you may be in with a dog to ensure that it is a safe and comfortable atmosphere for everyone involved. It’s important to remember that a dog of any size, age, or breed can bite, not just the large and powerful ones!