Every dog owner struggles with this fear. What do you do if your dog bites someone? That’s always a possibility. In a world where some people don’t know how to treat unknown dogs, and in a world where dog training isn’t intuitive for new dog owners, it’s always a looming threat. Dogs can react aggressively when put into a stressful situation. The best thing to do is be prepared for what happens if your dog bites someone.
Why Does a Dog Bite People?
Dogs bite when they feel threatened. This is a natural instinct that they cannot always help. Here are some triggering behaviors that may cause a dog to bite:
- Self-defense. If a dog feels like they or their pack is being threatened, they may bite.
- Running from a dog during play time or running from an unknown dog. This could trigger their prey instinct, and they could bite.
- Startling a sleeping or injured dog. Children especially need to be careful around sleeping dogs. Dogs should be left to sleep safely without the threat of someone sneaking up on them.
- Dogs with past trauma who have lived in threatening environments may bite if they perceive a new situation as being scary, no matter how safe it may actually be.
- Sick dogs are more likely to bite. They are in pain, and moving them or startling them could trigger a bite response.
Rest assured that despite all these possible triggers, there are ways to discourage this unwanted and potentially dangerous instinctual reaction.
Working with Your Dog
As your dog’s owner, it’s imperative that you take responsibility for your dog’s behavior. A dog is a dog, and no matter how much you trust your dog, their bad behaviors fall on you. This is especially true if your dog bites people and animals outside of your household.
The first thing to do is have your dog go through basic obedience training. Then, continue this training at home throughout your dog’s life. Constant reinforcement leads to lifelong skills. Additionally, you should socialize your dog as much as possible with people and pets outside of your household. Exposing your dog to various stimuli helps them understand what is “normal” behavior for people and other animals. Once they learn what normal is, they are less likely to react negatively when something unexpected happens.
When out with your pet, keep them on a short leash. If your dog is particularly fearful or anxious, you should not put them in situations which trigger their stress response. Exposure to triggering environments/sounds/people should be done gradually and in a controlled way.
How You Should Interact with Other Dogs
Never, ever approach an unfamiliar dog without first asking the owner for permission. Then, allow the dog to come and sniff you. Do not try to pet it before it has smelled you. And no, please don’t jam your fist in their face to smell it. Allow them to come to you first.
If you are cornered by a dog, do not make eye contact and do not run away. Doing so may trigger their prey response, and dogs are fast. You won’t likely outrun them.
Lastly, never leave small children alone with dogs. Babies and children are unpredictable and could startle a dog.
What to Do if a Bite Occurs
- If your dog bites you or someone else, move them to another room or place them in their crate.
- Wash the wound with soap and warm water.
- Be understanding to the person who was bit. Remember that your words could be used against you later if legal action is taken.
- Get medical attention. If the bite is very bad and bleeding will not easily stop, call an ambulance.
- Exchange information with the victim.
- Call your vet and ask for your dog’s current medical records.
- Call local authorities for guidance.
- Call you home or renter’s insurance providers if the bite took place in your home or on your property.
Be Aware of Legal Consequences
You will need to research local laws for dog bites. The laws can vary greatly depending on where you live. It’s likely you’ll have to prove that your dog has an updated rabies vaccine, and authorities may require that you quarantine your dog for a period of time.
Dogs with a history of biting people may be considered dangerous. You will have to comply with local laws if this is the case.
Will My Dog Be Put Down?
Dogs who are considered dangerous and have a history of risky behaviors may be euthanized. Dog owners may also face criminal charges as well. Why? Again, owners are responsible for their dogs. A good dog owner doesn’t continually put their dog in stressful situations that trigger a bite response. A good dog owner respects their dog’s limitations and works with them regularly to modify the behavior using positive reinforcement.
Dog bites are scary, but if you work hard to train your dog, there is less risk that they will cause harm to others.