Most serious dog bites take place in the home, U of C study finds

A University of Calgary study of over 2,000 dog bites found that children and seniors are the most likely to be seriously bit.

Children and seniors are most likely to be bit

A University of Calgary study of dog bites found that most serious bites occur in the home, with the most likely victims children and seniors. (CBC News)

University of Calgary researchers studying over 2,000 dog bite incidents in the city over a five year period discovered the most serious bites happen in the home, with the victims most often being children and seniors. 

University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Science Associate Professor Dr. Sylvia Checkley co-authored the study. 

She spoke to The Homestretch Wednesday.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: What prompted you to do this study?

A. This is a really important issue because of the human injury involved and also for animal welfare as well.

Q: And what did you discover?

A. We found that serious bites were more likely to occur in the home and the victims were more likely children and adults over 60 years of age.

Q: How would you classify a serious bite?

A. The City of Calgary used the standardised Dunbar scale, where a serious bite is involved. The way we scaled it involves two punctures of the skin.

Dr. Sylvia Checkley co-authored a study on dog bites in Calgary. (CBC Calgary)

Q: What did you think about those results that the majority the victims are children and seniors?

A. The idea that  children are more commonly victims is very well known and probably associated with a number of things: they're not gauging the dog's temperament well or understanding what the dog is telling them.

Older adults is a little bit different. It has been mentioned before, but not found in all research so that is something that we're really interested in and want to look into more.

Q: Are certain breeds more prone to biting?

A. Our research did not show that. We didn't look at individual breeds, because a lot of dogs are crossbred so we  characterized them into the different breed groups as defined by the Canadian Kennel Club.

And there was no one breed group more likely to cause bites.

Q: Just how serious were some of these injuries that you saw come up?

A. Some of them were quite serious and caused hospitalization. We did include the less serious forms of aggression as well in our studies so snarling, snapping — and those are really important warning signs that indicate that the the owner probably needs to take some further training and look at behaviour modification.

Q: When you talk about training and behaviour modification, what might that look like?

A.  That is a really key part of our results. Socialization of puppies and new dogs is critical. Basic obedience training and then more training with dogs that are showing issues, so with a certified trainer

Q: What should we understand about dog behaviour that maybe we we take for granted?

A. We really need to understand when the dog is feeling scared or threatened. We need to understand if the dog is actually feeling sick or painful. There's a lot of circumstances like that —  they may be protecting their food, or they might feel cornered.

Q: Have you ever been bitten by one of your dogs?

A. Not by my own dog.

Q: What's your key takeaway for dog owners as a result of this study?

A. The key things are that training is really important socialization of new dogs and puppies. It is also important to report these these dog bites to the City of Calgary so that we can analyze and understand what's happening.

With files from The Homestretch


Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email:


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