The Center for Disease Control (CDC) approximates there are 4.7 million incidents of dog bites each year in the United States. Roughly eight-hundred-thousand of these bites result in medical treatment. According to a reliable source, one out of every sixty-nine Americans will suffer a dog bite.
While dog bites can be painful and may require medical care, the vast majority of dog bite incidents in the United States between 2005 and 2018 were non-lethal. During that same time period, though, nearly 500 Americans died from wounds associated with dog bites after being attacked.
Top 10 Fatal Dog Bite Statistics
The following is a list of the ten dog breeds statistically most likely to be involved in a fatal bite-incident. We’ll later take a look at the breeds that inflict the most non-lethal bites.
1. Pit Bull
With incredibly sharp teeth and vise-like jaws, the Pit Bull has earned a reputation as one tough customer. As it turns out, this reputation is an accurate one. Between 2005 and 2018, Pit Bulls were responsible for fully 66% of all dog bite related fatalities. While this number seems very high (and it is) remember that with a punishing two-hundred-thirty-five pounds per square inch of bite force, what a Pit Bull bites it will likely kill.
Fatalities: 311 = 66%
Bite Force: 235 PSI
Reputed to be descendants of the dog breed Roman Legions used to guard their camps, Rottweilers have always been known as fierce animals. It should come as no surprise, then, that this breed accounts for 10% of dog bite related deaths. When you combined the numbers for Pit Bulls with those for Rottweilers, these two breeds alone accounted for a whopping 76% of dog bite fatalities. Much like the Pit Bull, though, it should be taken into account that with a bite force of three-hundred-twenty-eight PSI, few people are likely to survive such an encounter.
Fatalities: 47 = 10%
Bite Force: 328 PSI
3. German Shepherd
It may come as something of a surprise that the German Shepherd features so high on our list. Intelligent and very trainable, this breed is a favorite among police departments and even Homeland Security. The Shepherd has a bite force of two-hundred-thirty-eight PSI, making it a dog to be reckoned with.
In the time period studied, German Shepherds accounted for 4.2% of dog bite fatalities. It should be noted, though, that due to the German Shepherd’s loyalty to its owners and/or its position with law-enforcement agencies, a number of these fatalities happened as a result of the dogs protecting the innocent.
Fatalities: 20 = 4.2%
Bite Force: 238 PSI
4. Mixed Breeds
Mixed-breed dogs were responsible for 4.2% of all dog bite related deaths between 2005 and 2018. While so broad a category is hard to define, this entry serves as a good reminder that pure-breed dogs (even the most reputedly vicious) have not cornered the market on dog-human violence.
Fatalities: 20 = 4.2%
Bite Force: ≈ 250 PSI
5. Mastiff / Bullmastiff
Bred in the nineteenth century for the purpose of guarding estates, the Bullmastiff is a large breed dog with a short snout. This breed of dog, with its incredible five-hundred-fifty-six PSI bite force, accounted for 3.6% of all reported lethal dog bite incidents.
Fatalities: 17 = 3.6%
Bite Force: 556 PSI
6. American Bulldog
Descended from the now-extinct Old Brittish Bulldog, the American Bulldog has a reputation for fierce loyalty to its owners. The American Bulldog accounted for 3.2% of dog bite related fatalities in the aforementioned time period. Like the German Shepherd though, one has to keep in mind the breed’s loyalty and naturally protective instincts. Some of the fatalities reported may very well have been committed as the Bulldog was trying to protect someone.
Fatalities: 15 = 3.2%
Bite Force: 305 PSI
Beautiful and majestic, Huskies can be as much wolf as they are a dog. They are one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs and with proper training, they can make great work dogs and pets. If neglected, or improperly trained though, a Husky can become unpredictable and, under the wrong circumstances, even violent. Between 2005 and 2018, Huskies accounted for 2.8% of fatalities resulting from a dog bite.
Fatalities: 13 = 2.8%
Bite Force: 320 PSI
8. Labrador Retriever
Perhaps the most surprising breed to be found on our list is the normally mild-mannered Labrador Retriever. A very popular pet, the Labrador was nonetheless responsible for nine human deaths as a result of dog bites in the aforementioned timeframe, which was 2.1% of all dog bite related fatalities.
Fatalities: 9 = 2.1%
Bite Force: 220 PSI
While not considered a naturally aggressive dog breed, the Boxer’s energy and hunt instinct can make for a potentially dangerous combination. The breed has developed a reputation for attacking children, which is one of the reasons it is commonly listed among the most dangerous dog breeds. In fact, Boxers were responsible for seven fatalities or 1.6% between 2005 and 2018.
Fatalities: 7 = 1.6%
Bite Force: 230 PSI
10. Doberman Pinscher
Developed in Germany around 1890, the Doberman Pinscher has developed something of an unfair reputation for being vicious. This may have something to do with the breed’s use by the police and military, though more likely it is a result of the breed’s confidence and appearance.
During the time period studied, Doberman Pinschers were responsible for only six human fatalities or 1.4% by dog bites. Every human life is significant and meaningful, of course. Keeping this in mind, however, six is a very low total for a fourteen-year period, and especially for a breed that is reputed to be among the most violent and aggressive.
Fatalities: 6 = 1.4%
Bite Force: 305 PSI
Top 5 Breeds Causing Non-Lethal Dog Bites
While the above list represents the dog breeds most likely to be involved in a lethal dog bite incident, the following are the dogs most likely to bite and not cause lethal or serious injury.
The smallest breed of dogs also happens to be the most likely to bite. Can you say “Napoleon Complex?”
Chihuahuas tend to be energetic to the point of aggressive. Many experts believe that Chihuahuas are not aggressive by nature, but that their behavior may be a result of the way their owners respond to them. Reported the breed most likely to bite a veterinarian, Chihuahuas top our list of non-lethal biters.
2. Jack Russell Terrier
While this breed can make for an excellent house pet, owners must be careful not to encourage a Jack Russell Terrier’s natural assertiveness. A Jack Russell that bites can turn into a pint-sized nightmare if the habit isn’t broken as a puppy.
As an assertive and territorial breed, Jack Russell Terriers will sometimes react badly to children. Anyone planning to have children should think twice before making a Jack Russell their pet.
3. Australian Shepherd
While the Australian Shepherd may not be aggressive per se, the breed’s energy and overwhelming instinct to herd certainly give it that impression. Most people who have owned an Australian Shepherd can attest to the fact that they are biters.
Like most herding dogs (and Chihuahuas and Jack Russell Terriers, for that matter), Australian Shepherds go for the heel. Mostly this is because the heel is a tender area within their bite-range. While this breed really just wants to keep you moving, the biting is not completely restricted to the heel and can be a real nuisance.
The Pekingese is not an aggressive dog by nature. Like the Jack Russell Terrier though, it has characteristics that, if left unchecked, may well result in aggressive behavior.
This breed is terribly jealous of its food and toys. Should you wander too close to either, you may well find yourself the recipient of a growl, snarl, or worse. Because of their possessive nature, Pekingese do not always respond well to children. For this reason, people who have or are planning to have children should think carefully before making a Pekingese their pet.
Rounding out our list of the biggest non-lethal biters is the Papillon. This breed, while not naturally aggressive, is wildly energetic. Add to this the breed’s assertive temperament and there is the chance for aggression. Papillons are sensitive to touch and may become irritable with children. For this reason, the Papillon is recommended only for homes without small children.
In referencing the above lists, remember that every dog is an individual. No matter the breed, any dog will bite given enough reason to and any breed of dog may become violent if mistreated.
Also, keep in mind that certain dog breeds get a bad name because of the efficiency of their bite, when in actuality they bite far less often than some of the less-powerful breeds. Many of the top biters on our non-lethal list are there only because they lack the jaw strength to inflict serious damage. In fact, gathering statistics on small-breed biting can be a real challenge, as the vast majority of the bites cause no real injury and are therefore unreported.
If all of this information has you looking askance at your neighbor’s Maltipoo, take comfort in the fact that eighty-one percent of all dog bites result in no serious injury or no injury at all. In fact, you have a far better statistical chance of being done-in by bees than you do being bitten by a dog. Did you hear that buzzing noise just now?