Most anyone who has a dog will tell you that their beloved pooch knows when they’re sad and is there to comfort them and also picks up on their fear and nervousness. Dogs are great at sensing all sorts of cues about how people are feeling.
It shouldn’t be surprising then that one study found that people who are generally anxious and insecure are more likely to be bitten by a dog. The study, conducted by researchers at England’s University of Liverpool, surveyed people in the town of Cheshire about their experience with dog bites. Part of the survey included giving respondents a brief personality test.
The purpose of the personality test was to look at people’s degree of “neuroticism” and determine how that might impact their likelihood of being bitten. Psychology Today describes neuroticism as a “tendency towards anxiety, self-doubt, depression, shyness, and other similar negative feelings.” A person’s level of neuroticism can be determined by asking questions that deal with sadness, anger, irritability, vulnerability, self-consciousness and worry.
The British study found that the respondents who showed traits of neuroticism were 22 percent more likely to have been victims of a dog bite. That’s not surprising, given that dogs can sense insecurity and anxiety. They can literally smell it. These feelings can cause people to emit pheromones or odor molecules.
If a person is feeling anxious, that anxiety can transmit to a nearby dog — even one who doesn’t know them. It can cause them to be on guard, growl, and even lash out and bite.
Even if a person is highly neurotic, that doesn’t mean that they’re at fault for a dog bite. Dog owners have a responsibility to do everything reasonably possible to keep their pets from harming someone. That means keeping them on a leash when walking them and in a fenced-in backyard where they can’t escape.
However, we’ve all seen people who walk their dogs off-leash, which endangers not just other people and dogs but the off-leash dog itself. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog and required medical treatment, it may be wise to find out what your options are for seeking compensation to cover your expenses and other damages and hold the responsible person(s) accountable in court.