And the breed most likely to bite is….

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According to the Kennel Club, the number one breed in the UK is the Labrador.  This friendly, lovable breed has long been a family favourite.

However, with evidence suggesting most dog bites are from the family pet that’s had no previous history of biting, it follows that Britain’s most popular breed is also responsible for the highest number of canine attack personal injury claims, because there are more of them.  Other breeds that were highlighted in the report included German Shepherds, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Border Collies.

This data comes from a report published by pet insurers Animal Friends.  The company found that almost a third of incidents involved delivery workers and postal staff.

In fact, Royal Mail revealed that in 2014, there were over 2,600 attacks on their staff, with Nottinghamshire recording the highest number of incidents.  Royal Mail postal workers deliver to over 29 million addresses across the country.  With nearly 10 million dogs in UK households, it follows that there’s going to be a greater risk for delivery men and women if a dog feels threatened, stressed or anxious at the approach of a stranger, or perceives his territory is under threat.

The report found that men were more likely to be bitten than women.  This could be due to males appearing to be more physically threatening to a dog, due their height, size, posture, facial expression[s] and movements as well as their deeper voices, compared to females.

According to the Hospital Episode Statistics, the number of dog bites increase in the summer months.  The data from the Animal Friends report supports this, with dog attacks on postal workers increasing by 10 per cent during the summer holidays.  It’s believed that this is because children and dogs are more likely to be out in the garden playing thanks to the fairer weather and longer days.

The most common injuries noted in the claims were finger amputations, scarring and nerve damage.

While this report doesn’t show Labradors in the best light, in January 2016 the Jack Russell Terrier came under fire.  Liverpool Police released figures that revealed Jack Russells were responsible for more bites in the city than any other breed.

While hospital admissions for injuries caused by dogs are up 76 per cent in the last ten years, the actual number of dog bites requiring hospital treatment is relatively low compared to the approximate 10 million dogs living in British households.  UK Hospital Episode Statistics 2014-2015 showed that:

  • Over 4,100 people were admitted for a dog bite
  • 70% of bites where to children aged under 10 years
  • Boys aged between 5 to 9 years were most likely to be bitten
  • Bites often occurred when the human attempted contact or to take something off the dog as it ate – or – was in possession of an item
  • Children are typically bitten in the head & neck area
  • A high percentage of these bites are on the child’s cheeks and / or lips
  • Most bites were from the family dog, where there was no history of biting

In my line of work, I have come across extremely docile Rottweilers and reactive Chihuahuas, so it’s important to remember that any dog is capable of biting.  That’s because aggression is a normal animal behaviour, however, it can become a real problem when the aggressive behaviours are ‘out of context’ and / or inappropiate.

David Ryan, a certified clinical behaviourist, says: “Any dog has the ability to use aggression, but it’s always dependent upon what they believe is happening to them.  When a dog uses aggression it’s almost invariably because it thinks that it’s under some form of threat.  For example, the threat could be to its personal safety, to take away something (or someone) it values highly, or by preventing it from doing something it really wants to do, which causes frustration.  Aggression can be used to control or reduce this challenge.  Theoretically every single dog, if pushed far enough, can and will use aggression.”

So, dog bites often occur due to a complete breakdown in communication between dog and human, where there is mismanagement and / or a lack of dog–handling knowledge.  Misreading the early warning signs that a dog is uncomfortable with any interactions can often lead to an escalation in behaviour, which may result in a dog bite if the stressor doesn’t go away or stop.  Click here to read more about ‘stress in dog’s’. 

With the changes in UK Dog Law over the last two years, it’s important that any responsible pet parent is aware that they can be liable for prosecution, let alone a heavy insurance claim, if their dog attacks or intimidates when it’s on their own property, which includes the garden, inside the home or car, as well as in a public place.  Click here to read the Kennel Club’s guide to UK Dog Law.

If you’re concerned about your pet’s behaviour, particularly towards strangers or the post man, then do seek help from a certified trainer.

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