Dog Behaviors

Why Are Dogs More Prone to Bite Nervous People?

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by Paul Conwall

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There’s a reason why dogs are often considered man’s best friend. They’re loyal, loving, and, frequently, very protective of their owners. However, dogs can also be quite unpredictable, especially when it comes to strangers. 

It’s a common scenario: you’re out on a walk with your dog, and you see someone approaching who looks nervous. You brace yourself, thinking your dog might bark or lunge at the person. But why is this? Apparently, it has something to do with your stressful demeanor, experts say.

This post will explore why dogs are more prone to bite nervous people.

Finding A Common Pattern

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Researchers from the University of Liverpool undertook a study to see if canines could indeed detect fear and be provoked into attacking by a person’s frightened response.

In a study of 1,200 homes, 1 in 4 of the participants admitted that their dogs had bitten them in the past and that the incident had resulted in hospital confinement.

The study’s results also imply that a person is less likely to have been bitten if they are less tense, agitated, and melancholy.

Although men were more likely than women to be bitten by a dog, the researchers noticed a pattern among these dog bite victims. It appears that the majority of them were truly anxious or frightened around the dog. The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health published the findings.

The experts discovered that more than half of the respondents who reported having been bitten by a dog were first-timers. On the other hand, about 44% involved dog bites and encounters that occurred when the person was a child.

The researchers also administered a quick personality test to the victims to gauge their emotional stability. Participants who scored lower on the researchers’ assessment tended to be more neurotic.

The experts indicated that the canines who attacked the people may have interpreted anxiety and trepidation as dangerous behavior. These feelings are so intensely aroused that the dogs respond by becoming aggressive.

The results suggest that human conduct and behavior should be considered risk factors in effective dog bite prevention strategies.

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However, since the poll did not account for the dogs’ breed, age, or gender, the experts suggested that additional research may be required.

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These findings revealed a pattern: individuals who felt more anxiety or trepidation were bitten more frequently than their calmer counterparts. According to the experts, it is also conceivable that people of different personality types behave in various ways with dogs

While there may be other risks at play between a nervous person and a dog, the study isn’t sure about the direct connection between dog bites and anxious people. Dogs may find certain human behaviors threatening and stressful and respond with aggression.

What’s the Connection Between Personality and Dog Bite?

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This is the first study to relate the victims’ personalities to dog attacks. Low emotional stability, also known as neuroticism, is linked to temperamental traits like insecurity, fear, self-consciousness, and anxiety. 

But why are dog bites associated with this psychological trait? Numerous mental and physical health issues are associated with neuroticism. These include dependence on drugs and/or alcohol, anxiety problems, heart conditions, asthma, and irritable bowel syndrome.

The researchers also hypothesized that these people may be more likely than others to experience dog bites due to some unidentified pattern of behavior. However, they also note the possibility that additional factors are at play; for instance, worried people may be more prone to owning anxious dogs. 

Can Dogs Sense A Person’s Anxiety Or Nervousness?

There are reasons to think that dogs can smell fear and can sense your nervousness.

The levels of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress-related hormones rise in our bodies when we are anxious or stressed out, causing various hormonal changes. Some individuals think that dogs can detect these changes before they do.

Service dogs are taught to smell the physical symptoms of anxiety to predict impending anxiety episodes.

What to Do If You Get Bitten By A Dog

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If a dog has bitten you, you should visit the doctor immediately for a more accurate diagnosis because dog bites can result in illness.

To prevent future infection, clean the wound with running water first, followed by hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol if it is a shallow scrape or gash. Then, place a bandage over the area and apply a topical antibiotic.

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If there is only a little scrape or gash, then it’s enough to just clean the wound with soap and water as part of first aid treatment before bandaging it.

However, if the bite mark is too large and the bleeding won’t stop, gently place a towel on it and apply pressure. 

Allow the wound to bleed without hesitation. Wait five minutes unless you’ve lost a lot of blood, it’s gushing out violently, or the wound is in your head or neck. The wound will be cleaned when the blood drains from it.

Avoid rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or Mercurochrome for puncture wounds. This can slow healing. Puncture wounds do not typically require bandaging, but if you must, carefully clean the wound first. 

Check to see if you can use direct pressure to halt the bleeding after five minutes. Call for emergency assistance if it doesn’t stop.

If it does cease, wash the wound for five minutes with mild soap and running water. Try to keep the affected region elevated until you arrive at the hospital. 

The doctor may also need to administer tetanus and anti-rabies vaccinations and perform stitches to seal your wound. You will also be administered antibiotic treatments and must take them for at least seven to 14 days.

Recognize how dogs communicate through their body language and that most dogs exhibit certain warning signs before biting. These include snapping, growling, raising the fur, stiffening the body, and quick tail wagging. As a dog owner and in interacting with any dog, be mindful of these.

Usually, just by glancing at a dog, you can determine if it is about to attack. A dog will also stiffen his body, open his eyes wider, and pin back his ears, in addition to the obvious snarl and showing of the fangs. He’ll raise the fur on his back as well.

If the dog that bit you was unknown and a stray, you should always report the event to animal control.

How to Deal with a Biting Dog

A dog may bite for various reasons, but dog aggression is one of the main. Dogs are often possessive because they can be territorial. This habit can be changed in pets that have been tamed. However, it’s best to avoid the violent dog if you’re unfamiliar with it.

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Another reason a dog might bite is if it is hurt, uncomfortable, or in pain. If you don’t know how to handle dogs in this situation, call animal control if the dog is a stray or request a house visit from your veterinarian if it’s your pet.

It’s easy to feel excited when you see a dog because they are adorable and frequently obliging. However, a dog has a speedy turn-on mechanism when it comes to strangers.

Even if you don’t own a dog of your own, it’s still crucial that you and the other people in your life, especially kids, understand how to behave around dogs and when to approach one.

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  • Never try to pet or approach a dog you don’t know without first getting the owner’s consent. If the dog’s owner isn’t there, stay away from the animal.
  • When a dog is eating, sleeping, or tending to puppies, you should never approach it. In these circumstances, dogs tend to be more protective and easily startled.
  • Avoid approaching, touching, or attempting to move a dog that is hurt. Instead, seek assistance from a veterinarian or animal control.
  • Never, under any circumstances, leave a young child or an infant alone with a dog.
  • Allow the dog to approach you when you first meet a dog. Squat or angle yourself to one side. Before you put it, let it smell your hand first.
  • Avoid giving an unfamiliar dog “hugs and kisses” or putting your face close to it.
  • When a dog has you in its corner, be still and avoid making eye contact. Never yell or run. Back away gradually when the dog turns away from you.
  • If a dog knocks you over, curl yourself into a fetal posture on your side and shield your face and head. Stay very still, calm, and collected.

Final Thoughts

Both dogs and people commonly experience some anxiety when meeting new people.

Therefore, the best advice is to remain cool, project welcoming body language, and speak quietly if you come into contact with a new dog for the first time, such as while hiking on a trail.

And if you are unable to do either of those things, at the very least, refrain from touching unfamiliar dogs.

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