Biting hot dogs

In a new study, published in Scientific Reports, the authors find a correlation between rates of dogs biting humans and temperature as well as UV irradiation levels. That is, as the title suggests (“The risk of being bitten by a dog is higher on hot, sunny, and smoggy days“), dogs are more likely to bite humans on hot and sunny days.

I do not find the study or the findings convincing. This is not to say that I do not find the study relevant or even well-done. The authors outline the theoretical reasons why being bitten by a dog should be a function or weather characteristics and control for regional and calendar variables in their models. That being said, I have two concerns.

First, I am becoming more skeptical towards studies interested in how temperature shape (human) behaviour. Simply put, I do not find a lot of the evidence out there convincing. For example, in a new review and meta-analysis, Lynott et al. (2023) find that “there was no reliable effect of temperature on the behavioural outcome measured”. In other words, at least when looking at humans, there seems to be no reliable effects of temperature on prosocial and antisocial behaviour. I have no reason to expect that the literature on temperature and animals will show more reliable effects, and I find it sensible to remain skeptical towards most of these individual studies until we see further replications of the findings.

Second, I do not find the research design convincing. My biggest concern is that there is a lot of variables we cannot control for in the study that can just as easily explain the findings. For example, when are we more likely to see a lot of people outside? On hot and sunny days. Without data on the number of people being in contact with dogs, I find the correlates of dog bites uninformative. That is, we need data on potential dog bite situations to make any reliable conclusions about the correlates of weather conditions and dog bites.

Again, the authors present good theoretical reasons for why dogs are more likely to bite on hot and sunny days, but I am not convinced that the results provide convincing evidence that the risk of being bitten by a dog is higher on hot and sunny days.