Jittery postal workers who tentatively approach homes worried they could be bitten by the resident dog, may be inviting an attack, a new study suggests.
In fact, adopting a unflappable self-confident swagger could be the best way to avoid a nasty nip.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool discovered that people of an anxious disposition are far more likely to be bitten by dogs than people with more relaxed demeanours.
It is the first study to suggest that people’s personalities can influence dog attacks.
For the research, 700 people in England were rated on their emotional stability on a scale of one to seven and then questioned about whether they had been bitten.
Researchers found that every point increase in score between 1 and 7 was associated with a 23 percent decrease in the likelihood of a bite.
Dr Carri Westgarth, of the Department of Epidemiology & Population Health, at Liverpool University, said: “Reporting being less emotionally stable was associated with an increased frequency of dog bites.
“Neuroticism is well known to be linked to public health behaviours and outcomes perhaps then this aspect of personality may be linked to performing behaviours that provoke dog bites.
“Dog bite prevention schemes may need to target particular behaviours around dogs by different personality types.”
There are 8.5 million dogs in the UK and more than 6500 people require hospital treatment for dog bite injuries every year in England.
Latest figures show there have been 14,500 dog attacks on postmen and women over the past five years, an average of seven attacks a day.
The Kennel Club said dog behaviour was often driven by the way humans behaved themselves when in the presence of animals.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary “How dogs react to people is often determined by how people themselves react to dogs, so it is important that people recognise the best ways to interact with dogs and that owners always keep their pets under control and consider that not everyone may feel comfortable being around dogs or know how to interact with them.
“Dog bite incidents can occur for a variety of reasons and while these incidents are relatively rare considering how large the UK dog population is, it is important to remember that any dog is capable of biting just as any dog is capable of being a well-adjusted member of society.
“It is therefore important that all dogs are properly trained and socialised from an early age to reduce the risk of bad behaviour, including biting.”
The survey found that one in four respondents said they had been bitten before, with men almost twice as likely to have been bitten as women.
People who owned several dogs were more than three times as likely to have been bitten as those who didn’t own dogs, and more than half of respondents said they had been bitten by a dog they didn’t know.
Hospital records show the rate of dog bites is 740 per 100,000 of the population, but the survey responses indicate a rate of 1873 per 100,000 – nearly three times the official figure, suggesting dog bites are far more common than previously thought.
One in three (33%) dog bites required treatment, but only a small proportion (0.6%) required hospital treatment.
The research was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.