While scientists have been studying dog behavior for decades, there is very limited scientific evidence dealing with the factors and causes that play into a dog bite.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool explain in a 2018 study that gathering evidence and information about dog bites has proven difficult for scientists. “Dog bites cannot be studied experimentally as exposing a volunteer to a bite or provoking a dog to bite would be unethical. As bite incidents are relatively rare, collecting data through real-time observations is not feasible. Therefore, dog bite data is gathered through general population surveys … veterinary caseloads … hospital admissions … and interviews with dog bite victims.”
Since understanding the human-dog interactions that happen before, during and after an instance of dog aggression are essential to the prevention of dog bites, scientists have had to become resourceful.
And that is where YouTube comes in.
By searching the terms “dog bites” and “dog attack,” the researchers were able to access 100s of videos that document instances of dog aggression. This offered the researches the perfect opportunity to gather more evidence and information about the factors that lead to dog bites.
Owczarczak-Garstecka et al. explain, “YouTube provides a chance to observe the interactions leading to a bite directly, in a naturalistic context. This is important as bite education strategies are often structured around the ladder of aggression. This theory proposes that dog behaviours before a bite escalate gradually (in the time immediately before the bite or over the years), with some behaviours (like lip licking or head turning), being shown earlier in time than other behaviours,” such as growling or baring the teeth.
Although YouTube videos have limitations on their usefulness—due to the inability to truly assess the severity of a bite, and that the angle in which a video was recorded can limit visibility—they have proven to be a valuable resource in the scientific development of more effective bite education strategies. These YouTube videos allow scientists to watch the human-dog interactions that result in a dog bite in their entirety in a naturalistic setting. This enables them to watch the dog behaviors leading up to, during and after the bite occurs, so they can better understand how a dog communicates fear, stress and aggression, and what humans do to escalate the situation into a dog bite.
Now that scientists can see the dog behaviors that surround a dog bite event, they can begin to dig deeper into the role that humans play. ScienceDaily explains, “Future research plans to better understand people's behaviour around dogs and their perceptions of dog bites include a series of interviews with dog owners, people who work around dogs and bite recipients.” This way they can create a comprehensive understanding of dog aggression behaviors that can help to prevent dog bites.
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