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Behavioural characteristics associated with dog bites to children presenting to an urban trauma centre
  1. Ilana R Reisner1,2,
  2. Michael L Nance3,
  3. Jason S Zeller3,
  4. Eileen M Houseknecht3,
  5. Nancy Kassam-Adams4,
  6. Douglas J Wiebe5
  1. 1Department of Clinical Studies, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  3. 3Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  4. 4Center for Injury Research and Prevention, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  5. 5Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ilana R Reisner, Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3900 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010, USA; reisner{at}


Children are the most frequent victims of dog bites presenting to hospital emergency departments (ED), but there are gaps in understanding of the circumstances of such bites. The objective of this study was to characterise the behavioural circumstances of dog bites by interviewing children ≤17 years (or parent proxies for children ≤6 years) presenting with dog bite injuries to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia about the bite incident, its setting and associated interactions. Of 203 children enrolled, 51% were <7 years old and 55% were male. 72% of children knew the biting dog. Most bites to younger children occurred during positive interactions, initiated by the child, with stationary, familiar dogs, indoors. Most older bitten children had been active (eg, outdoors), unfamiliar with the dog and not interacting. Whereas face bites predominated (70%) in the younger group (<7 years), bites to extremities predominated (72%) in the older group. Recognition of the two distinctive behavioural and circumstantial subgroups of dog bites that emerged can lead to more effective prevention strategies.

  • Bites
  • dog bites
  • behaviour
  • child
  • adolescent
  • aggression

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Institutional Review Board, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.