Cuddling with your pet is usually a good way to unwind after a particularly challenging day. However, a new study indicates that you might want to think twice before getting too close to your dog when you’re feeling anxious as it could make them more likely to bite.
Most studies on dog bites focus on more serious attacks that require hospital treatment, but researchers in the United Kingdom wanted to get a better look at typical bites, including frequency and what makes dogs turn against their supposed best friends.
Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the team looked at data from 385 households (694 people total), which detailed dog ownership, history of bites, demographics, overall health and personality types. Personalities were determined from a short survey known as the Ten Item Personality Inventory.
About one-fourth of the participants reported being bitten at some point in their life, however only one-third of needed medical treatment. People who owned multiple dogs were three times more likely to receive a dog bite, but you can put those fears at ease—most bites don’t come from pets.
People are typically bitten by dogs they’ve never met before, meaning you don’t have to be wary in the company of your pooch.
Also at an increased risk of suffering from dog bite are males, who were shown to be 1.81 times more likely to be nipped than females. The researchers don’t know why this occurs, but hypothesize that personality could play a role.
“Reporting being less emotionally stable was associated with an increased frequency of dog bites and so was being male,” they write. Their findings also indicated that people whose were more calm, as determined by their personality assessment, were less likely to suffer from a dog’s wrath.
Prior research in children from 2003 revealed that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder increased the risk of bites, and the authors of this paper said that being nervous or anxious could explain an increase in bite risk. However, this was just one possible explanation. There’s also the possibility that calm owners have calm dogs and vice versa.
So why do dogs bite? In 2007, researchers looked into the issue and found that many attacks are unprovoked. However, that doesn’t mean we can just blame the animal. Dogs often lash out when they’re feeling jealous or defensive of their personal space. And, another big reason, that many can relate to: dogs hate being disturbed while eating.
Despite the very small dangers, owning a pet is still good for your health. People with pets have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and fat levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.