Are Rescue Dogs More Likely To Bite?

The simple answer is no. When considering adopting a rescue dog from a shelter or rehoming a dog from a previous owner, one question most adopters ask is, “does this dog bite?” When dogs arrive at a shelter, they are given anywhere from 3-5 days to acclimate to their surroundings before they have a behavior assessment. Dogs receive a complete medical exam to ensure that aggressive behavior is not associated with pain or other medical problems. Most dogs that enter a shelter do not have any known history; therefore, it is crucial that each dog be assessed for any negative behaviors.

Behavior assessments are essential for gathering information and understanding the dog’s reactions in certain situations, and how they respond to different stimulation. Assessments are conducted by trained shelter staff or a certified dog trainer. The assessor will observe different behaviors in the dog during the evaluation and advise shelter staff and veterinarians of their findings. The reports can include any aggressive or harmful behavior but cannot predict what may happen post-assessment. Ultimately, it is up to the shelter staff and veterinarians to determine what happens to the dog after the assessment. There are no guarantees of the dog’s behavior.

Why do dogs bite?

It doesn’t matter if they are big or small; many different situations can cause a dog to bite. Some dogs bite from being provoked, abused, or perhaps as a reaction to a stressful situation. For example, they are scared, startled, feel threatened, or maybe they don’t feel well. Never approach a nursing dog with puppies. The mother’s instinct is to protect her puppies. If she feels threatened, she may bite. Some dogs have food aggression, and if you get close enough to their food, they may react by harming the person for being too close. Always be aware of a dog’s body language and any other warning signs so you can recognize a potential bite situation. If you are equipped with the correct information, you are much less likely to get bitten by a dog.

According to a study from the U. S. Center For Disease Control (CDC), approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur annually in the United States, creating a health risk to communities, with more than 800,000 of those bites resulting in medical care. Children doing everyday activities or interacting with a dog are the most likely victims of dog attacks. Here are some statistics.

  • According to National Canine Research Council, 81% of dog bites cause no injury at all, or only minor injuries that do not require any medical attention.
  • National Safety Council reports that you to have a 1 in 112,400 chance of dying from a dog bite. You are more at risk of dying from bee stings, choking, or heart disease than from a dog attack.
  • According to The Humane Society, most dog bites involve dogs who are not spayed or neutered.

It was reported that 25% of fatal dog attacks were inflicted by many different breeds of dogs who were chained, as written in the paperback Fatal Dog Attacks: The Stories Behind the Statistics.

According to, these eleven breeds have been known to bite the most often.

  • Chihuahua
  • English Bulldog
  • Bulldog
  • Pit Bull
  • German Shepherd
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Bull Terrier
  • Pekingese
  • Papillion

With the frequent occurrence of dogs attacking children, assessing the dog’s demeanor and educating children is essential to preventing bite incidents.

Some Things To Consider Before Adopting A Rescue Dog

Before bringing a dog into your home, consider a few things to avoid unwarranted attacks. It would be inappropriate to introduce an aggressive dog to a home where there are already other animals or children. It is imperative to know if a dog has a history of aggression. Consult your veterinarian or certified dog trainer to find the breed that best fits your needs. Spend time with the dog before adoption to see if you are a good fit for each other. One of the most important and loving things you can do to reduce aggressive tendencies is to spay or neuter your animal. Shelters will not adopt an animal who has not been spayed or neutered. If you are rehoming an animal, consider spaying or neutering your dog, especially if your vet or behaviorist suggests that their aggression may be sex-based.

Training and Environment Are Essential

Environment and training play a big part in how your dog will develop its behavior. Before adopting a dog, research the breed to see which ones are easier to train than others. Some dog breeds are known for retaliating to discipline. Human behaviors also impact the outcome of a dog’s behavior, such as inappropriate methods of punishment, deliberate teasing, poor training, or just lack of care.

When working with an aggressive dog, solicit the help of a professional dog trainer. Take time to learn about canine aggression and the signs. Ensure your dog gets enough exercise and has mental enrichment activities to stimulate them. Always keep calm around your pet and use positive reinforcement and reward-based training techniques. A muzzle may sometimes be necessary to protect you and those around you from being bit.

You may also seek the help of a certified dog behavioralist. Dog behaviorists are not your average dog trainer. They will be able to assess why your dog has aggressive tendencies. They can also help you develop a plan that will allow you to work with your dog on its issues. With the help of a professional dog trainer, it is possible to train a dog not to be aggressive.