Human-directed dog aggression

Dog aggression has major public health and animal welfare implications.

Human-directed dog aggression is responsible for considerable worldwide morbidity and a small, but none the less tragic, annual mortality rate. 

The number of people injured by dogs annually is difficult to quantify, with at least two thirds of incidents thought to go unreported, and multiple potential biases affecting which bites are reported to authorities or presented for medical treatment. 

Annual admissions for NHS care in England attributed to being bitten or struck by a dog have risen over the past decade.1 During the decade to 2008 there was an average 2.2 deaths registered annually in England and Wales attributed to dog bites or strikes.2Even where no physical injury has occurred, the psychological impact of dog aggression can be profound and long-lived. 

In addition to these public health issues, human-directed dog aggression carries implications for the welfare of dogs. Aggression may result in confinement, relinquishment or abandonment of dogs and often results in euthanasia, either directly or because dogs labelled as aggressive are difficult to re-home.

 

Our research

We conducted a systematic review of the evidence relating to risk factors for human-directed dog aggression. Our aim was to provide a robust review, identifying the current evidence for the role of potential risk factors for aggressive dog-human interactions, with a view to informing on potential preventative strategies and identifying areas for future research.

Our study group consists of an interdisciplinary team with members from behavioural, epidemiological, veterinary and medical backgrounds. In addition to the expertise within the group, we established a panel of experts who provided specialist input into the development of appropriate research protocols and identification of further sources of data.

 

1.Hospital Episode Statistics, http://www.hesonline.nhs.uk/

2.Mortality Statistics: Cause (Series DH2), http://www.statistics.gov.uk/