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The latest Hospital Episode Statistics released this week, has shown an increase in the number of people being admitted for dog bites in England. The figures correlate with data from the USA, where 70% of bites happen to children under the age of 10 – most being boys between the age of 5 to 9 years old.
Children are most frequently bitten when they come into contact with a dog’s food or possessions. The children are typically injured in the head and neck area, with a high percentage being bitten on the cheeks and lips, with the average length of wound being three inches. These are the analogous areas a dog would bite a puppy to scare them but when it comes to humans, it causes serious damage. In most cases, the bites are from a dog that hasn’t bitten before and is the family pet.
While certain dog breeds are stereotyped as being aggressive there is little published scientific data to support those stereotypes. Within any breed you can have major differences, especially if bred to be more aggressive towards other dogs or people. So, in a few generations you can have a dog that looks like, for example a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, but it may be very different. We know this thanks to the brilliant work conducted by Russian geneticist Dmitry Belyaev and his team. The scientist spent decades breeding the wild silver fox, selecting for reproduction only those foxes in each generation that showed the least fear of humans. After several generations of controlled breeding, a majority of the silver foxes no longer showed any fear of humans and often wagged their tails and licked their human caretakers to show affection. They also began to display spotted coats, floppy ears, curled tails, as well as other physical attributes often found in domesticated animals, thus confirming Belyaev’s hypothesis that both the behavioural and physical traits of domesticated animals could be traced to “a collection of genes that conferred a propensity to tameness – a genotype that the foxes perhaps shared with any species that could be domesticated.” Dmitry and his team also bred a line of foxes to be more aggressive – within about 10 to 20 generations there was a major change in behaviour. That’s why breed specific legislation is unlikely to be successful because populations of dogs can be bred very quickly to be more aggressive.
So can you predict dog aggression and how do you prevent it?
We’re running An Introduction to Dog Body Language workshop on 11th July exclusively for WTD clients. This will provide our clients an overview of the pre-emptive signs of aggression, predictors for this behaviour using scientific data and much more. To book onto this workshop visit doglistentest.wpengine.com/events