May 9, 2023

Dog Bite Prevention: Avoid Dog Bites and Liability Risks with These Tips

Caitlin Sacasas

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A dog with family

Dog bites and dog bite lawsuits have become a troubling trend over the past few years. Despite the number of dog bite claims decreasing 2.2% from 2021 to 2022, the average cost for a dog-bite-related injury claim grew by 31.7% to $64,555 in that same period. 

Understanding how to prevent dog bites from happening protects you, your dog, and those around you. It also protects you from dog-related liability damage, and changes or nonrenewal to your insurance policy. 


Dog Bite Statistics 

Insurers paid more than $1 billion dollars in damages for injury claims related to dogs in 2022, according to Triple-I. Since 2013, the average claim cost for these types of injuries has increased by more than 130%, due to significantly higher medical costs and ballooning settlement and jury award payouts. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association notes about 1 in 5 people who get bitten require medical care. More than 50% of these dog-related injuries happen to children. 

While dog bite laws vary from state to state, in some states, owners are liable for any injuries their dogs cause. In other jurisdictions, attacks may be prosecuted as criminal misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the facts of the case. 

Not all homeowners’ policies cover dog bite claims. Those that do provide coverage often include sublimits or exclusions. If the cost of the claim exceeds these limits, or is subject to an exclusion, the homeowner may be responsible for paying all or part of the claim out of their own pocket. 

Some insurers exclude certain breeds, such as pitbulls and rottweilers, which are considered potentially aggressive. And an insurer will often refuse to insure a dog that has a history of biting or other aggressive behavior. 

As a homeowner, you can take steps to mitigate the risk of your dog being involved in a dog bite claim. This includes providing the dog with a secure space or kennel, fencing, socialization, behavioral and dog handling training, and securing your dog around guests, utility workers, contractors, and other visitors to your property.

You should also always closely watch your dog when he or she is around children to ensure that you can quickly remove the dog (or child) from the situation if the dog begins to show signs of stress or aggression.


Featured Resource: Reducing the Risk of Dog Bites. Download the Free Report


Dog Bite Prevention 

The environment in which a dog is in can set them (and you) up for success or failure. Preventing dog bites requires a plan, support, and education. Here are a few ways to do that: 


Understand Why Dogs Bite 

Understanding what causes a dog to bite someone can help you stop it from happening in the first place. The AMVA notes dogs react to stressful situations, such as: 

  • Feeling like it needs to defend itself, you, or its territory 
  • Being scared or feeling threatened 
  • Provoking a dog. This can include children who don’t intend to provoke a dog, but can be too rough or insistent by accident 
  • Unsupervised time with kids 
  • Roughly waking or scaring a sleeping dog 
  • Pain or not feeling well, especially when poked or treated roughly 
  • Overexcitement or overstimulation, especially if paired with wrestling or rough play with humans or other dogs 


Your dog’s demeanor can affect the level of stress these situations may cause. But regardless of your dog’s personality or breed, all dogs should feel safe. If you notice your dog has its tail between its legs, is acting increasingly fearful or agitated, or has a history of poor behavior in these moments, then it’s time to remove your dog to a calmer space. 


Socialize Young, and Keep Training Going 

Introducing your puppy at a young age to other people and animals helps them learn the proper behaviors early. It also makes them feel more comfortable and safer around new people and pets. 

Similarly, keep up with their training, even as they age. Maintaining a consistent routine and expected behaviors ensure your dog stays calm and responsive as they get older. 


Educate Your Family on Safe Dog Activities 

Teaching your children and educating yourself on proper dog interactions will help keep everyone safe. Some examples include: 

  • Always approach a dog calmly, or let the dog come to you. Never run up to a dog .
  • Ask permission before approaching or petting someone else’s dog. Let them sniff your hand before you pet them. 
  • Dogs should always be on a leash when in outdoor or public spaces.
  • Learn how to read a dog’s body language and how to act in response.
  • Have a designated safe space for your dog that is theirs to relax in, such as a gated off area, dog bed, or kennel. 
  • Young children should always be supervised with dogs and animals. 
  • Teach respect and care for dogs. Never pull on a dog’s tail, ears, or legs, ride on your pet, startle them while sleeping, or taunt them with food or toys. 
  • Keep your dog happy and healthy with proper exercise. Dogs with enough exercise have less pent-up energy, and can help mitigate aggressive behavior.
  • Post a sign alerting others there is a dog on the premises and can be mindful of how they approach.


Save These Tips: Reducing the Risks of Dog Bites [Free PDF]


Keep Your Dog Up to Date on Vaccinations and Records 

In the event something bad does happen, your dog should be up to date on rabies and other vaccinations and routine checkups, as required by law. 

This may help reduce the risk of even more severe injury complications, as well as protecting your dog’s health. 


Take Proactive Action Correcting Aggressive Dog Behavior 

If your dog shows any sides of aggression, even if no biting occurs, consider hiring a professional trainer certified in animal behavioral change. This may reduce the chances of a dog bite happening in the first place. This can improve your dog’s happiness and safety, and the safety of those around them. 

Even if your dog does not act aggressively, but has intense reactions or anxiety, it may be worth considering professional intervention before a bite occurs. Intense reactions (such as aggressive barking and growling at postal or delivery workers) or severe anxiety and fear may lead to aggression later. 


What to Do if a Dog Bite Occurs 

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, clean the dog bite wound as soon as possible with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin and bandage the wound. Keep an eye on the wound for infection. 

If the dog has an owner, and the owner is present, ask for their contact info and proof of vaccination for rabies. You can also request their veterinarian info to check rabies records. 

Lastly, talk with your doctor or go to the emergency room, depending on the severity of the bite. If the dog was a stray, unvaccinated, or unknown, see your doctor immediately for care. 

If it’s your dog who bit someone, follow these steps: 

  • Restrain, remove, and confine your dog 
  • Make sure the person is okay, that they clean and bandage the bite, and you have given them proof of rabies vaccination 
  • Call 911 if needed 
  • Report the dog bite and your dog’s behavior to your veterinarian and as local laws require 
  • To prevent further issues, seek your vet’s advice and behavioral training for your dog to correct issues in your dog’s behavior and your own 


If you are a Vault customer, we are always here to help. Our Claims team is standing by and ready to assist 24/7. They can be reached at 1-844-388-LOSS (5677) or . 


Featured Resource: Reducing the Risk of Dog Bites. Download the Free Report


While Vault believes the information provided in this article to be accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information provided. Vault is not responsible for, and does not adopt, endorse or approve any third-party webpages, or their content, that may be hyperlinked from this page. Nothing on this page alters any terms or conditions of an insurance policy and is not intended to be taken as legal, medical, or other professional advice. You should seek out a qualified professional who can assess you, and your dog’s, unique situation 

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