COLUMBUS, Ohio (ABC4 News) – Researchers at Ohio State University are looking beyond the breed of a dog to determine which canines might pose a higher threat of attacking people.

According to their study, nearly five million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. And while certain breeds are known to bite more frequently or cause more severe injuries, in 60 percent of the cases, the breed was not known.

“Because we often didn’t know what type of dog was involved in these incidents, we looked at things like weight and head shape,” said Dr. Garth Essig, an otolaryngologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and lead author of the study. “We wanted to provide families with data to help them determine the risk to their children and inform them on which types of dogs do well in households with kids.”  

Researchers examined 15 years of emergency room visits for dog bites at two emergency departments and more than 45 years of data from different dog bite studies.

They found injuries from pitbulls were both the most frequent and most severe, followed by mixed-breed dogs and German shepherds.

When the study examined physical characteristics, they found that dogs over 66 pounds and those with more of a square head shape that is wider than it is long, like that of a chow chow or pug, were more likely to bite and cause serious damage.

Experts say in order to lower children’s risk of being bitten, they want parents to teach their children how to safely interact with dogs.

“People often think that leaning forward and reaching out their hand for the dog to smell is the right thing to do, but in reality that can actually be threatening to the dog,” said Meghan Herron, associate professor of veterinary clinical services at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Instead, ask the dog owner for permission to pet their dog, then turn to the side, crouch down on your knees, pat your leg and let the dog come to you.”

Researchers hope the data will better guide parents when considering adding a dog to their family.

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