Poll Results: Has Your Pet Ever Hurt You?

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Recently we asked pet lovers this question – Has your dog ever hurt you?

The question came up when Dr. Debra told us about a woman who said her dog pulled the leash so forcefully that it injured her shoulder. The more we discussed this letter, the more we began how common it was for people to actually be injured by their dogs.

We think these types of safety issues need to be considered by all dog owners and by anyone who is thinking about getting a dog. That's why we want to talk about them today - not to scare you, but to educate you. The more we know about these common injuries, the more prepared we are to prevent them.

So, has your dog ever hurt you? What we learned from our poll is that these types of injuries happen more often than you might think - 91% of dog owners who responded to our poll have been hurt by their dogs at some time! That's a pretty amazing statistic.

The most common danger reported in the poll is falling. Dogs get under your feet causing you to trip or fall - which becomes even more dangerous when it occurs near stairs. When dogs are placed on a leash they can pull and knock you off balance, causing a fall. Over 49% of dog lovers said their dog had either tripped them or caused them to fall.

Approximately 18% report being bitten by their dog, which a much higher number than we would have expected. Another 15% of dog owners were injured when their dogs tugged and pulled on their leash. Other injuries were also reported (see below).

So, what can you do to prevent dog-related injuries? Here are some tips.

Tips to Prevent Being Injured by a Dog

  • When you get a dog, leash train him. This will help prevent unnecessary pulling and tugging. We have some great articles on this subject – Leash Training Your Dog and Teaching Your Dog to Heel.

  • Make sure your dog knows who is "top dog." Obedience Train Your Dog. This will help with a variety of problems – especially related to biting.

  • Crate train your dog. Providing your dog with a safe place to sleep provides him with comfort and also keeps him from laying in areas that can cause you trip and fall.

  • Watch where you walk. Make sure your dog is not underfoot. Be extra careful when you are taking the stairs. Some pets will lie on the stairs or race you up or down. Both can knock you off balance and cause you to fall. It is a good habit to always hold the banister when ascending or descending the stairs.

  • Use a seatbelt to restrain your dog during car rides. Many injuries can occur to dogs and their owners while riding in the car. We have seen cases where dogs actually create accidents by jumping on their owner's lap while he is driving, preventing the driver from making a quick avoidance turn.

  • When your dog is injured, be VERY careful when you approach him.. Pain and fear can cause the nicest of dogs to lash out and bite – even the gentle hand that feeds them. Keep a muzzle with your first aid kit. Here's a great article on the subject – How to Approach and Injured Dog.

  • Never break up a dogfight.

  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. Dogs that have excess, unreleased energy are more likely to jerk, run or get under your feet. Read more about "Exercising Your Dog".
  • These dog lovers told us about severe bites, car accidents and other injuries Here are their stories.

    Stories from Dog Lovers Whose Dogs Have Hurt Them

  • Lisa wrote, "In all my years of owning pets I never had a pet harm me in anyway. With that said my 2 year old GSD at 90 lbs has done a number on me. On day as he tried to pass me he hit my knee from the side and knocked me to the ground. It was only a sprain but put me out of work for 3 weeks. After being neutered, a small friendly dog came sniffing in parts he did not want anyone to be near. As he was standing on his hind legs, he was holding onto my arm afraid what would happen. He never bit, but he did pierce my arm. Most recently, he tripped me on my deck, I fell, and worrying about hurting my knee again, but instead broke the arch of my foot. Again out of work 6 weeks, then light duty for 3. We have him in training, and does wonderful until we bring him home. He just does not know how big and strong he is. Sometimes he wants to sit on my lap, something he never wanted to do as a puppy, but now that he is full grown he thinks it is a good idea. With all the bumps and bruises I wouldn't trade him in for a small or gently dog. He is a lot of fun and has such personality he makes us laugh. My favorite is when he acts like a 4 year having a temper, laying on the floor whining, rolling around on his back because he did not get to go to work with my husband. I try to record it but I am never quick enough."

  • Becky wrote, "My chiuahua lab mix, pixie, *who pretty much looks like a ten pound lab* has a tendency of stopping when were going up the stairs to go back into my apartment and she trips me up and a few times i have fallen UP the stairs. but its usually my fault because ''m looking at something else. she also likes to get under my feet in the kitchen hoping for scraps which causes me to fall into the counter. My other baby, daisy a 98 pound lab/boxer mix, is very loving and likes to curl up on the couch with me, but she has to jump up to give mommy kisses first before she settles down and that often results in a lot of scratches. i actually have a very deep one that i got just this morning for that same exact scenario, and she always knows when she's hurt me but i make sure she knows that its ok. that its not her fault. my babies have never hurt me on purpose and i love them all the same. B. *FL*        

  • Susan wrote "while trying to break up a fight with 3 dogs on 1...I tried to break it up and stuck my hand in the middle trying to put my arm around the one that started it so I could pull her off...she is a younger dog fighting with my older dog and it was yelping so pitiful and the other 2 just joined in.....I got bitten on my hand which required a tetanus shot and antibiotics...now 3 weeks later it is finally healing....it was all my fault I shouldn't have put my hand in there....then I've tripped over one of my younger dogs I rescued a few years ago, he's always right by my feet everywhere I go....
                    
  • Roberta wrote, "My St Bernard (as a pup) knocked me down a flight of stairs. She did not mean to but when she went by me her body took my leg and me right down with her. She has trained me well now I always hang on to the rail for dear life."
                    
  • Karrie wrote, "My German Shepherd use to pull on my shoulder so bad that I couldn't stand to take her for walks anymore. We had been through several obedience classes and did very well. BUT!!!! when walking down the street, it was more like dragging me behind for walks. I swore that as being an obedience instructor and in the obedience ring that I would never ever use a training device such as a harness or haltie, BUT!!!! this dog needed something or else I would require shoulder surgery because of her. So I broke down and bought a haltie and swear by them now. In my obedience classes I sell at least 6 halties per 2 month training session now and people love them. Karma never leaves the house without the haltie on when we go for our walks. This dog has two obedience titles, and still pulls like crazy without the haltie, but in the ring you would never know that she is a tugger."
                    
  • Patricia Ramage wrote, "My mother broke her nose while walking her two dogs (a Lab and Siberian Husky). They saw something they were interested in and ran. She stumbled over the curb and went down.
            
    When my Greyhounds get excited & wag their tails, it's like getting whipped with a strap. They will bite when we are playing. they like to use their front teeth and do a pinching type of biting. My male will use his front paws to scratch my back when he wants something. Sometimes he's does it hard enough to leave claw-like bruising."
            
  • Maggie M. wrote, "My dog is 3 and 1/2 years old and he has never harmed a soul. Charlie, my loving Australian Shepherd, is so friendly, he won't even growl at a little kid if they pull his "stump." I don't think Charlie even played ruff with his brothers and sisters when he was young. But, you can sure tell Charlie is a loving dog. He may be large in size, but he also has a huge heart to love with."
  • Darlin McDaniel wrote, "My own dog has never hurt me, but I'm a pet sitter and some of my clients' dogs have inadvertently hurt me. It's usually when I try to walk two dogs at the same time and they separate when we're going out the door. My thumb was sprained once in '04 and has never completed healed since. My upper arm was severely bruised from being slammed into the edge of a door about two months ago and there's still a darkened place on my skin. Fortunately, I've not been hurt badly enough to require professional treatment. Knock on wood! XD"
                    
  • Penny Pombert wrote, "My dog dislocated my shoulder once when he was in a hurry to get to the park, same park he drug me into a wet ditch to meet another dog."        
            
  • DNPombert wrote, "My puppy sometimes thinks he should wake me up early and so he stands on my chest. Wouldn't be a problem but he weighs 65 lbs!"
                    
  • Mona wrote, "My Chihuahua has repeatedly scratched my legs till they bleed by simply jumping off my lap to chase one of the cats or to bark at the doors or windows...of course the cats (4 of them) have all done the same thing or have jumped down from the cat tower onto me and brought blood. Of course, nothing intentional by any of them."
                    
  • Marcy wrote, "We jokingly call our dog a speed bump. He lays on the floor right near us when we're working around the house. Many times, as I go to step over him, he lifts up his head or starts to get up and I have to catch myself from falling."
                    
  • Michelle Dean wrote, "I was playing one night with my shepherd labx one night. We were playing with one of her stuffed toys and she accidentally lacerated my eye with her claw. I spent most of the night in emergency and had to have eye surgery the following day. Fortunately my eyesight has not been altered, but I did have blurry vision for several months and have developed a great deal of scar tissue under my eyelid."        
            
  • Jan wrote, "Beathoven was another stray and is the love of our little family. He is a Flat Coated Retriever but doesn't know it! He has no papers and an abundance of love. As his personality is stronger than mine, Jasmine the cat and I are his pets! Jazzie had only one litter of kits and B-man helped "birth" them and raise them! Now at 11 years he is no longer a threat to me, but has broken my ankle and my arm, but I didn't care because he was more fun than a barrel of monkeys! This guy has the best disposition and is now so mannerly even our pastor is impressed! The Lord may take him soon but he goes with the love of all who have met him."
                    
  • Maureen Longstaff wrote, "The Mother dog was tangled up in her puppy son's neck chain, he was only weeks old she only over a year, both Pomeranians, he was choking to death literally, and she was loosing blood flow in her leg, I was trying helplessly to free them both, before the pup passed out, I couldn't do anything as her leg was twisted many times in it, she was biting at me out of sheer panic, my husband was able to come to the rescue, he snapped the chain with plyers and freed them both, just in time for the pup to catch his breath. I still have the pup 14years and 4 months on. Unfortunatly his Mum took Cushings disease just over a year ago and had to be put to sleep, she was 14years and 4 months. So all turned out for good in the end and God blessed me with many happy years with Dougal's Mum Elle."
                    
  • KC wrote, "We were rough-housing and my beagle pulled on my hand and accidently broke the skin with his teeth."
                    
  • Julie wrote, "When coming home form walking my two dogs - German shorthair and Australian Cattle dog mix, the neighbor's cat was on my front porch - jumped down and the dogs went racing after the cat - the leashes were wrapped around my wrist which resulted in a broken wrist. I have also been bitten trying to break up a fight - no intentional bites to me."
            
  • Joanne wrote, "I wrote that my dog had never hurt me although he did bite me very soon after I adopted him. He was beside himself with fear and, I guess, a lot of other baggage he carried as a result of being abused. However, once he came to know and trust me, and I've established training, limit setting and affection into his world, he has never been aggressive since - so, I don't count the little bite during our first weeks together. Now, my dog is my constant companion and friend just as he was meant to be."
                    
  • Cheryl wrote, "Most of us seem to have been bitten by accident; while playing or breaking up a fight. And a lot of us have suffered from bloody noses by coming into contact with a dog head. Mine also occasionally pokes me in the eye with his nose while trying to give me kisses! It's long and sharp and he seems to have awful depth perception!"
                    
  • Mark4Java wrote, "I've found that most injuries and accidents come from the dog not being trained properly. However that doesn't excuse bad behavior. I wouldn't trade any of the accidents or falls for anything in the world. However if my dog every bit me that would only occur once. They would be taught whatever they had to be not to have that happen again. Most dogs are friendly like mine are by nature. Mistakes happen. But that doesn't excuse me from teaching them right and wrong."
                    
  • Gail wrote, "My companion is a very active Shih Tzu named Sweetie Pie. We play a lot together and her favorite game is "chase the ball". Once when I was bending over to retreive her ball, for another throw, she launched herself in the air and collided with my nose ! I received a bloody nose but learned to be much more careful in the future..."
                    
  • Sharon Slater wrote, "My 8 month old, and 100 pound Labrador accidently bit my finger while playing. She has tripped me only trying to stay close to me as she follows me everywhere. Sometimes she pulls when walking if she see's another human or animal, as she seems to love everyone. Gosh, and she hasn't stopped growing. Vet says she will be huge."
                    
  • Paula V. Sorte, "My male Bouvier pulled me down on frozen lawn while chasing a small dog while on his walk and I fractured 3 right upper anterior ribs. Another of my Large male Bouviers caused me to slip on stairs while letting him out to pee during the night and shattered my 5th metatarsal so badly that it required surgery. Other than that the are darlings and I love them all to 'pieces'."        
            
  • Christine wrote, "Alright - so our dogs through their enthusiasm or poor training sometimes harm us... now let's see the poll that our dogs fill out about how often their humans accidentally hurt them."        

  • Loretta McNitt wrote, "I have a Morkie pup ( 7 1/2 ) months old. She weighs 10 lbs and as wild as a march hare. For some reason or another she does not like my hands or arms and she constantly bites them leaving scars. I don't know what her problem is with hands, but she certainly has one. I am the only one she will do this to, probably because I am the only one that caters to her and she feels she is the alpha one over me. I am hoping one of these days she'll straighten up."
                    
  • Lisa wrote, "When my lab was 4 or 5 months old I had her favorite ball in my hand playing fetch with her in the house. I was sitting down ready to throw & she jumped at my face & bit my lower lip had to go to the emergency room but all was fine. I had to fill out a dog bite form for the county & everything & I even explained to them it wasn't her fault it was all mine. I had the ball too close to my face."
                    
  • Elisa wrote, "My old, blind fox terrier jumped up to get a treat from me and broke my nose so badly I required surgery. I said to the surgeon, "I'll bet you've never heard of this happening before", and he told me he gets a call about this kind of injury several times a year."        
            
  • Sylvia wrote, "My two dogs have gotten into a fight a couple of times, always over a raw hide and I take partial fault for it. Anyway, one time, when they got into a scuffle I did the mistake of getting in between them, and got bitten on my hand. However, it did not even break the skin. I am convinced that none of my dogs would ever bite me intentionally."
                    
  • Chris wrote, "My son has a four year old Jack Russell mix that we took in as a stray when he was 4-6 months old. He has a food aggression problem, and is very jealous of anyone showing me attention. He is fed in his "own room" away from our Boxer and Griffon. That solved the food problem, but... The next door neighbor's 3 Pit Bull Terriers are escape artists and frequently come to my bedroom window to bark at our 3 dogs. The first time this happened I looked out the window to see who/what had him upset. At the same time, DiDi (the Boxer) jumped on the bed behind him and he turned and bit me in the face! I am scarred. This was my first of four bites from him! I have a knee replacement and must be medicated for any small injury which could cause an infection... Three bites I can clearly take blame for putting myself in harms way during an undone situation, One bite I must claim is a "psycho" bite as I did nothing to be the bitten victim. I believe he should be put down, but I can't bring myself to take my smartest, most loyal, most affectionate, family "dog-child" to Death Row! I constantly pray he will Not Bite someone who is looking for a law suit! How do you make that finite decision?? ! ?? Two years ago our Giant Malamute/Timberwolf hybrid and the Fat Jack were walking through the woods, on leash, and split a tree when they both saw a squirrel... my face found the tree, and I ended up with a broken nose, LOL! On one walk with BeeGee (the Malamute/Timberwolf) she decided to change direction to chase a cat, I ended up with a torn rotator cuff... OUCH! September of 2007 someone poisoned our "Gentle Giant" as we had a neighbor who was bound and determined to prove that we should not own a "WILD Wolf" In her 12 years of life, she was NEVER anything less than the very best pet we have ever loved! Non-Dog, Ignorant people were only afraid of her size and appearance."
                    
  • Sylvia B wrote, "The year I picked up my beloved Zak (Wolfhound English Sheep Dog X) I had him trained and enjoying an offleash field with another dog. He ran around like crazy, came up behind me (didn't see him) and clipped me in the knee. The end result was a some ligament damage and a full leg cast. Now that I'm training my new puppy I know that when time comes to enjoy the offleash fields to always keep my eye on her so she doesn't surprise me from behind."        
            
  • Douglas wrote, Surprised that there is no "Scratched me" category. Every once in a while, "my wife or I get scratched in the face from an errant paw, usually early in the morning when our pug/boston mix is trying to go under the covers. Also, she likes to greet us and everyone else by standing up and touching with her paws, and if she is excited, sometimes this can result in deep scratches (in the summertime, of course). A few times while playing, she has inadvertently bitten me, but it has never been intentional. Her jaws are so strong, and her teeth so sharp, that she could bite my hand off if she wanted, but she would not hurt a fly (unless it was a stuffed toy fly with a squeaker in it). We play the "tug of war" game quite often, and my hands are usually touching her mouth, and she is very careful not to bite me. The few times that she has accidently bitten or scratched me, she realizes as soon as it has happened, and gets very worried. I can tell that if I ever were in any serious accident or trouble, she would sense something was wrong and would do anything an everything to aid in my rescue."        
            
  • Lisa S. wrote, "I have two dogs and they love to be right under my feet so I tend to trip a lot so as to avoid stepping on them. My black lab/dalmatian is very strong and has hurt my elbow many times during games of tug of war. Occasionally she will catch my hand as well when she is trying to get a better 'grip' on the rope."        
            
  • Linda wrote, "My papillon is so small, she hasn't managed to cause any harm, although there have been those "almost trips" a couple times. My married son has two labs -- my "granddoggers" -- which are beautiful. But they weigh "a ton" compared to my little Papi. When they jump up to greet me, I sometimes get bruises on my arms and body where they've clawed at me, to show their affection, I'm sure. I have to be careful that my head is always above theirs, or I might get "loved to death"."        
            
  • Gill wrote, "3 weeks after her arrival in October my then 10 week old 2.3 kg yorkie needed to be taken downstairs to be put out to wee at 3.30AM as she was too tiny to manage the stairs and in the dark. Traversing the sitting room towards the back door I hit my previously broken shin, (May), at the spot on the stool I had forgotten to put away, and upended myself breaking my thigh and hip. Mikki was ok fortunately I did not land on her. But since she has been very upset at the sight of ambulence men in green, thinking they are going to take my mum away again. She is now 5 and half years old. She has had her own events too. Like taking off six months later and swimming at the international Showjumping ground at Hickstead. Fortunately the vet on duty got her back to life as Mikki drowned in the process of getting her out from where she trapped herself in brambles at the side of the lake. I had the whit to carry her upside down by her hind legs to get the water to drain out of her lungs and encourage the blood to go to her brain - vet reckonned this was best thing I could have done - she gave her an injection to get her heart goin again and the Firstaid center had fortunately an oxygen mask small enough to fit her. She is now a star celebrity."
                    
  • Marguerite wrote, "My malinois had an upset stomach and got sick on the third step from the top and I didn't see it, slipped on it and came down 4 steps and broke my foot. My boxer has 3 times sprained my finger. But I still love my animals. They would never hurt on purpose and are always forgiven."
                    
  • S. Escobar wrote, "Aggressive dog: I have a 6 yr. old poodle who strongly dislikes men (probably had an incident which I don't know about as a puppy) so I am very careful with him. He also does not accept strange people (men OR women) in the house and will sneak up and bite legs or ankles if given the chance. What I have done is make sure anyone in my home for the first time has a dog biscuit and if he is around ( I try for him NOT to be loose but dogs are great escape artists) or if I have the opportunity and enough confidence with the person, I bring him in to the room on a leash, I ask the person to toss a biscuit to him ( he LOVES biscuits). Believe it or not, after once or twice he will accept that person perfectly - you may want to try that approach ( always keep him on a leash until you're SURE he understands that they're OK). I want him to be protective but I also want him to know that not everyone means us harm. S. Ohio".
            
  • Andrea wrote, "We adopted one of the craziest dogs in the world last summer. She must be put on a chain when taken outside; otherwise, she will run (despite all the training, she can jump a 4 foot fence and run like the wind). When I wasn't paying attention, she ran up behind me so the chain hit the back of my legs at about 60 miles an hour; knocked me off my feet. I still have scars although it happened almost 5 months ago. Our Annie weighs 75 pounds, is supposed to be Lab/Poodle mix but I think she's part Wolfhound. Indoors, she is the most loving lap dog you've ever seen; outside, she is a wild child! She plays big sister to our mini Dachshund puppy and nurse to our 11 year old arthritic Lab - sweet, sweet, sweet. She also counter surfs for anything edible (or not!) and shares her bounty with the Doxie. We wouldn't have her any other way!"
                    
  • Cheryl Koczat wrote, "While breaking up a fight between 2 of my dogs, I was bitten. While not paying attention, I've tripped over my smaller dog and have fallen....all of these incidents were MY fault...the dogs didn't mean any harm to me."



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