Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they’re not always friendly. Dogs bite, and not only does this not exactly help you make friends, but it may also expose you to liability in a dog bite lawsuit. Dog bite liability laws vary from state to state. For example, California dog owners are liable for all dog bites which either occur on public property or when the victim is lawfully on private property. You may be held liable for your dog biting someone in any state, so here’s what you can do to prevent your dog from biting people:
Recognize the causes of biting
Dogs can bite people for the following reasons:
- They are hungry;
- They are defending their own territory, or themselves;
- They are threatened or frightened;
- They get too excited while playing;
- They are in pain, or sick.
Pay attention to your dog to make sure none of the above scenarios apply to your dog. Try to prevent the above scenarios from occurring, and remove your dog from any situation in which it can bite someone when the above scenarios apply to your dog.
Pay attention to your dog’s mood
Dogs can bite when their mood is aggressive or frightened. Remove your dog from situations in which it can bite someone when your dog is behaving aggressively or in a frightened manner.
An aggressive dog will possess an erect tail and ears, with its back fur standing up and tense muscles. An aggressive dog will show its teeth and stare at whoever or whatever is bothering it.
A frightened dog will tuck its tail between its legs, cower, tense its body and pin its ears back. Frightened dogs are especially likely to bite when they feel cornered and unable to escape.
Keep watch and control of your dog
Your dog should always be kept on a leash by a responsible adult when leaving the home. A muzzle, harness or head halter should be used in public on dogs who are known to be prone to biting. Never leave a dog known for biting alone with children unsupervised, and keep dogs known for biting away from children in public.
Take your dog to the vet
Take your dog to a veterinarian if you notice it has a tendency towards biting. The biting tendency may be caused by an underlying condition, such as pain or brain dysfunction.
Hire a dog trainer
Hiring a professional dog trainer is perhaps the most important thing you can do if your dog is prone to biting. Certifications to look for in a dog trainer for this purpose include Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT), veterinary behaviorists (Dip ACVB) and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB or ACAAB).
Make sure your dog gets proper exercise
Make sure your dog gets to go on regular, long walks. If you can’t do this, hire a dog walker to do it for you. Burning off some of your dog’s energy with long walks can prevent your dog from biting someone after becoming too excited.
Keep your dog on your property
Always keep your dog on a leash when it is outside if your home’s fencing is inadequate to keep the dog contained.
Carry something the dog really likes when in public
This might be a favorite toy or treat. Pay attention to your dog, and if you sense your dog may be about to bite someone, distract your dog with the toy or treat.
Spay or neuter your dog
There is some evidence to suggest that spayed and neutered dogs bite at a lower rate than dogs who are not spayed or neutered. The National Canine Research Foundation says unneutered male dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs, and says female dogs who are in heat or nursing are also more likely to bite than spayed dogs.
Socialize your puppies
Expose your puppies to as much socialization and as many unique situations as you can. This will help your dog react less fearfully to people, animals and situations once they become adults.
Train your dog to be obedient
Train your dog to obey as many simple commands as possible, such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” etc. This way, if you notice your dog is acting aggressively or fearfully, you may be able to focus your dog’s attention on you with simple commands, taking their attention away from whatever they appeared likely to bite.
Use positive reinforcement instead of punishments
Training dogs via positive reinforcement is generally more effective than training dogs via punishment. An example of positive reinforcement would be giving your dog a doggy treat after it exhibits desirable behavior. A 2009 Journal of Applied Animal Behavior study found that training dogs via punishment makes them 25 percent more likely to respond aggressively than other dogs.