Your dog is your responsibility. That means if it bites someone, you may incur damages. Even if you think your dog is friendly, you should understand the risks of dog bites and ways to help prevent them. Under the right circumstances, any dog might bite, regardless of breed. A majority of states hold pet owners liable if a dog causes injury. For example, if your dog scratches or trips someone, you may be held responsible for any injury or property damage the dog causes. This can be costly for pet owners. State Farm® alone paid $157 million dollars for 3,185 dog bite and injury claims in 2020.
Preventing dog bites
Here are a few measures that may help reduce the risk of a dog bite:
- Spay or neuter your pet. This procedure may help reduce your dog's aggressive behaviors. Consult with your veterinarian on the right time to spay or neuter your dog.
- Socialize early. Introduce your puppy to situations and people as early as possible. Early socialization makes for a more relaxed adult dog. But watch for signs of stress during socialization, as it's a leading cause of aggression.
- Hire a professional. If your dog displays aggressive behavior, a trainer may be able to curb the problem and help the animal overcome stressors.
- Know your dog's stressors so you can learn to avoid them. For example, if your dog growls at children, keep them and the dog separated. Understanding your dog’s body language will let you know when they might be ready to be petted.
- Walk your dog regularly. This will keep your pet physically and mentally healthy and provide stimulation.
- Use the right leash or harness for dog walks. Even if your dog is perfectly well behaved without a leash, other dogs may react aggressively to an unleashed dog.
- Schedule regular vet visits. A sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
- Always be alert. If someone approaches you, ask them to wait before petting the dog. This might allow your dog to get comfortable with the new person.
- If you see a dog who seems threatening, avoid eye contact, remain calm and do not run (it will only encourage them to chase you). Instead, back away slowly.
- If a dog is eating, sleeping or taking care of their puppies, leave them alone.
- Before you pet a dog, let them sniff you. If they seem amenable to more contact, scratch them under their chin instead of the top of their head.
- If you see a dog who is acting strange or appears to be a stray, call your local animal control.
- When playing, avoid touching your dog’s mouth or head. Teach them a command like “No!” to stop aggressive play — and when they listen, give them a treat.
Dealing with dog bites
If your dog bites someone, follow these steps:
- Control the dog and separate it from the victim.
- Seek medical attention for the victim if necessary. Ask the doctor if a tetanus shot or antibiotics are needed, and make sure they know about underlying health conditions the victim has.
- Exchange contact information with the victim.
- Decide who will contact animal control and the police.
- Provide the victim with proof of your dog's rabies vaccination.
- Follow all protocol stipulated in the legal process, such as quarantining your dog and seeing a dog behaviorist.
And remember, your dog is an integral member of the family. Don’t forget to insure them like family. Learn about pet insurance to help protect your dog against the unexpected.