barking dog, dog biteThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 4.5 million victims suffer injuries from dog bites in the United States every year. While dog attacks happen approximately every 75 seconds, some are more severe than others and about 1,000 victims require emergency medical care to treat dog bite injuries each day. In 2015 alone, over 28,000 dog bite victims underwent some type of reconstructive surgery as a result of their injuries. In many of these cases, the attacks could have been prevented. To help dog owners and other individuals who interact with dogs better evaluate dog bite behaviors, Dr. Ian Dunbar developed a bite levels system.

Dog Bite Levels: What They Might Indicate

There are six levels to Dr. Dunbar’s System.

  • Level 1: The first level is characterized by a display of aggressive or obnoxious pre-bite behavior that does not result in the dog’s teeth making contact with the victim.
  • Level 2: With a level 2 attack, the dog snaps at the victim and its teeth actually make contact with the skin. This bite is highly inhibited, however, with any skin nicks being less than one-tenth of an inch in depth.
  • Level 3: A level 3 attack results in a single bite with one to four puncture wounds that are less than half the depth of the length of the dog’s teeth.
  • Level 4: When any of the puncture wounds from a single bite are deeper than half the length of the dog’s canine teeth, the attack is characterized as a level 4. Punctures may be accompanied by bruising or lacerations from the dog shaking its head back and forth.
  • Level 5: When a multiple bite incident occurs that results in at least two level 4 bites or there are multiple attacks that include at least one level 4, it is referred to as a level 5 attack.
  • Level 6: When the dog attack results in the victim losing his or her life, it is characterized as a level 6 attack.

According to Dunbar, more than 99 percent of dog bite incidents in the U.S. are characterized as level 1 or level 2 attacks. While prognosis is very good for dogs who bite at these lower levels, if the proper training and intervention techniques are not implemented, even these small bites can lead to more serious attacks that result in severe injuries or even death in the future.

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