Children may be most vulnerable to dog bites when they're left alone, a new study finds, and the guilty party may most often be the family dog.
Researchers from the University of Colorado, Denver looked at data on 537 children up to age 18 who were treated at Children's Hospital in Denver for dog bites to the face from 2003 to 2008. Children 5 and under were the most frequent victims of dog bites, accounting for 68% of cases. The children knew almost all of the dogs that attacked them: About half were family pets, about 15% belonged to a neighbor, about 13% to a friend, and about 10% to a relative. The most common breeds involved in the attacks were mixed breeds, followed by Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers and German shepherds. (Pit bulls are banned in Denver.)
According to the study's authors, "Familiar dogs may be allowed more time with children and with less supervision, key circumstances that may precipitate attacks."
In a little more than half the cases (53.2%) the attacks were provoked, either by petting or playing with the dog too forcefully, surprising the animal, or falling or stepping on it, the study found.