Critter Culture
What To Do If Your Dog Bites Someone

What To Do If Your Dog Bites Someone

Critter Culture Staff



It's estimated that 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog each year in the United States. While most dogs live their life as harmless family pets, even the most well-trained canine is still an animal and has the potential to bite someone.

It's important to always keep a close eye on your dog's body language, especially in high-stress or unfamiliar situations. Unfortunately, accidents do happen. If your dog is triggered to bite, both you and the victim will have a variety of emotions. But what should you do if you find yourself in a dog bite situation?


Get your dog under control

Beautiful Hungarian Vizsla puppy and its owner during obedience training outdoors. Sit command side view. AndreaObzerova/ Getty Images

The most important step is to stop the bite and remove your dog from the situation. Put your dog inside the house or behind a closed door, where they cannot harm the person further. If you're far from home, secure your dog to a fence or tree where they cannot come loose.

If your dog will not let go of the victim, sometimes lifting them by the back legs is enough to startle them to let go. You must react quickly to help the victim and avoid significant harm from your dog's very sharp teeth.


Help the bite victim

A pair of hikers with backpacks in the woods. The woman bruised her leg, felt pain and sat down on a stone. Camping, travel, hiking. Valerii Apetroaiei/ Getty Images

Immediately apologize and offer first aid to the victim. Dogs are notorious for putting questionable things into their mouths, so it's vital to always clean a fresh wound with warm soap and water to avoid harmful bacteria.

Depending on the severity of the bite, call an ambulance if necessary or offer to drive the victim to urgent care. Any animal bite should be seen by a medical professional, as it can become infected quickly.


Exchange information with the victim

White dogs outside in the park with their owners, two women who are sitting on the bench. Kosijerphotography/ Getty Images

Give the victim your contact information, just like you would after a car accident. Make sure to have the contact information of any witnesses as well.

It's also important to have a copy of your dog's medical records. Proof of your dog's up-to-date rabies vaccine may provide the victim with some comfort.


Report the dog bite to your local authorities

Black man sitting on city staircase texting on cell phone Peter Griffith/ Getty Images

If the victim seeks medical attention, the doctor is often required by law to report the bite to the health department due to rabies. It's better for the owner to report the dog bite to animal control first. It may be scary to tell the authorities about your dog, but it's a better look that the owner reports the bite. This makes you look like you're taking responsibility for your animal, which may grant your dog's fate some leniency, depending on the severity of the bite and the circumstances.


Report the bite to your homeowners' or renters' insurance

Woman working at home with dog The Good Brigade/ Getty Images

This is the policy that is most likely to cover you for a dog bite. Reach out to them immediately to notify them of the situation; find out about any necessary steps you need to take next. They may also have helpful suggestions on what you should do next to protect yourself.


Contact a local attorney

Well dressed senior man walking a dog while using a phone in the city Pekic/ Getty Images

The law on dog bites varies by location. Some states may consider the attack a form of battery, which could give you a criminal record. Without legal representation, you could receive a heavy fine or even jail time.

Some victims may be upset enough to file a lawsuit against you or demand your dog be euthanized. To best protect yourself and your pet, it's important to contact an attorney about the incident as soon as possible.


Offer to pay the victim's medical expenses

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It's always a good idea to take responsibility by offering to pay the victim's medical expenses. This may soften the victim so they do not file a lawsuit against you or demand your dog be destroyed. Additionally, if the victim does decide to file a lawsuit, this may lessen the damages they are entitled to.


Check in on the victim a few days later

A woman is spending time with her friend outdoors Fly View Productions/ Getty Images

Reach out to see how the bite victim is doing. Apologize again for your dog's behavior and assure them of the actions you're taking to prevent this from happening to anyone else in the future. Expressing your sympathy and kindness may help the victim forgive the incident and avoid a lengthy court process.


Schedule a vet check for your dog

Veterinarian doing a check-up on a Corgi in clinic Ron Levine/ Getty Images

If this aggression comes on suddenly, there could be an underlying reason. Have a veterinarian assess your dog for any illness or pain that may have caused them to bite. If the vet doesn't find any health issues, then a canine behaviorist may be the next step.


Enroll your dog in training with a professional

Happy man training dogs at the park and giving them treats andresr/ Getty Images

The best way to prevent future dog bites is with proper training. Work with a trainer on behavior modification to figure out what triggered your dog to bite and how to prevent this in the future.

There are dog behaviorists who specialize in aggressive or reactive dogs. They can assist in making sure your dog is safe to bring around people in the future. There is always a risk your dog will bite again, and it's your responsibility to do whatever you can to prevent this.



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