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Effects of gender and parental status on knowledge and attitudes of dog owners regarding dog aggression toward children

Ilana R. Reisner DVM, PhD, DACVB1 and Frances S. Shofer PhD2
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Abstract

Objective—To assess the effects of gender and parental status of dog owners on knowledge of and attitudes toward factors associated with dog aggression directed toward children.

Design—Prevalence survey.

Population—804 dog owners.

Procedures—A questionnaire was distributed to owners of all dogs examined at a university veterinary hospital between January and April 2007. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with 37 statements regarding dog behavior and safety practices for dog-child interactions. Responses were compared between women and men and between parents and nonparents.

Results—Of 804 questionnaires that were completed, 421 (52%) were completed by parents and 598 (74%) were completed by women. There was a general lack of knowledge regarding dog behavior and safety practices for dog-child interactions. Women were more knowledgeable than men, regardless of parental status. Mothers were more knowledgeable than fathers and female nonparents regarding interactions with young children and had greater awareness than female nonparents and males (regardless of parental status) regarding interactions with infants and toddlers.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that dog owners frequently had only limited knowledge of dog behavior and often were unaware of factors that increased the risk of dog bites to children. The veterinary examination presents an important opportunity for education of dog owners regarding dog behavior, including body language, social signals, resource-guarding, and self-defense, and the risks of dog bites to infants and young children.

Contributor Notes

Presented in part at the Annual Scientific Symposium of Animal Behavior, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, Washington, DC, July 2007.

Address correspondence to Dr. Reisner.