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Dogs are often called “man’s best friend” for good reason – they can be loyal, loving companions. However, any dog is capable of biting, and certain breeds are more likely to be involved in attacks than others. Understanding dog bite statistics by breed can help you stay safe around dogs and make informed choices if you‘re looking to add a canine to your family.
Overview of Dog Bite Statistics
Every year in the United States, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs.
While many bites are relatively minor, an estimated 800,000 seek medical care for their injuries.
Between 2005 and 2017, pit bulls killed 284 Americans, rottweilers killed 105, and all other dog breeds combined only killed 111.
This means pit bulls and rottweilers accounted for 76% of all dog bite fatalities, despite making up just 6% of the total U.S. dog population.
Children are the most common victims of fatal dog attacks. From 2005 to 2017, family dogs inflicted 54% of all fatal attacks, with 64% involving pit bulls.
Male dogs are 6.2 times more likely to bite than female dogs. Unneutered male dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered males.Certain states also appear to have higher rates of fatal dog attacks. Between 2005-2017, California and Texas had the most fatalities, with 48 and 47 deaths respectively.
Breeds Most Likely to Bite
While any breed can bite, some have been implicated in attacks more frequently than others:
Pit bulls and pit bull mixes are by far the most likely breed to bite or attack. They were responsible for 22.5% of bites across various studies, followed by mixed breed dogs at 21.2%.From 2005 to 2017, pit bulls killed 284 Americans, a rate over 7 times higher than rottweilers and 22 times higher than all other dog breeds combined.Even when socialized and trained properly, pit bulls are naturally more aggressive than other breeds. They have a much stronger bite force and sharper teeth than average dogs.
Known for their strength and guarding instincts, rottweilers accounted for over 105 fatal attacks in the U.S. from 2005-2017. They have a bite force of 328 psi, which is strong enough to crush bones.Rottweilers were responsible for 14% of fatal dog attacks from 1979-1996. However, from 2011-2017 this number dropped to just 7% as pit bull attacks rose.
Used commonly as police and military dogs, German shepherds are intelligent, athletic, and strong. They were involved in 17.8% of attacks across various studies.With a bite force of 238 psi, German shepherds can do serious damage if they attack. However, fatalities are rarer compared to pit bulls and rottweilers.
Wolf-dog hybrids are a controversial crossbreed between a wolf and a dog. With wolf-like instincts but lack of fear towards humans, they can be unpredictable and dangerous.Wolf hybrids were responsible for 14 deaths in the U.S. from 1979-1998, a number that has likely risen since.
Breeds Least Likely to Bite
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some breeds have gentler dispositions and lower incident rates:
Labrador retrievers are the most popular dog breed in the U.S. due to their friendly, gentle nature. They were involved in just 3.3% of attacks across various studies.Labs have a soft bite and calm demeanor, making them ill-suited for guarding and aggression. Their temperament contributes to low bite rates.
Similar to labs, golden retrievers have even-tempers and were bred as hunting dogs. They accounted for less than 3% of bite incidents across multiple reports.Goldens have a bite force of just 200 psi – one of the weakest in dog breeds. Their docile nature makes bites very uncommon.
Standard, miniature, and toy poodles are all known for their intelligence, ease of training, and cheerful disposition. They have minimal involvement in bite incidents across various studies and breeds.Poodles were bred as companion dogs, not for aggression. As a result, attacks are rare even from poorly socialized individuals.
While any dog is capable of biting, pit bulls and rottweilers are consistently implicated in more attacks than other breeds. Their strength, genetics, and temperament contribute to high rates of aggression.However, proper socialization and training can minimize the risk with any breed. Supervision is especially important when dogs interact with children. Understanding breed-specific risks can help you make wise choices to prevent dog attacks.