How to Prevent Dog Bites

Four Methods:Interacting with Other People's DogsTeaching Children to Avoid BitesTeaching Your Dog Not to BiteAvoiding High-Risk Situations with Your Dog

Each year in the U.S. alone, dogs bite an estimated 4.5 million people. The majority of dog bite victims are children and senior citizens. About 800,000 of these people need medical attention as the result of the bite or attack. Of these, about 15-20 die from their injuries.[1] It is very important for children and adults learn how to prevent a dog bite from happening in the first place. Dog owners are also responsible for doing everything they can to prevent their dog from biting humans and other animals.

Method 1
Interacting with Other People's Dogs

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    Introduce yourself to dogs. Most dogs you encounter will not be aggressive or want to bite you. A safe way to introduce yourself to a dog (with the owner’s permission) is to allow the dog to investigate you before you touch them. They will do this by smelling your hand.[2]
    • Try holding your hand in a cup to introduce yourself to smaller dogs.
    • Hold your hand in a relaxed manner in front of a large dog, like a loose fist exposing the back of your hand first.
    • Do NOT reach over their head to pet them upon first introduction. They may see that motion as a threat and bite.
    • Dogs are naturally curious and may want to sniff you or approach you slowly. This is usually not threatening behavior. But, if you don't allow a dog to investigate you before you try to touch it, it may bite in self-defense.
    • Never surprise a dog and touch it when it is not expecting it.
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    Learn the warning signs of biting. One important step to prevent dog bites is to learn the "language" of dogs. Dogs that are tense, afraid or anxious are more likely to bite. These dogs will exhibit these characteristics:[3]
    • A stiff tail
    • An erect tail slowly wagging back and forth
    • Ears flattened back
    • Tense body
    • Yawning
    • Flicking of tongue
    • Licking lips
    • Staring
    • Growling
    • Baring teeth
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    Get away, but don't run. If you encounter a dog that appears to be tense, do not stare at the dog’s eyes. Slowly back away to a place of safety, putting a sturdy barrier between you and the dog.
    • An anxious dog may consider eye contact to be a threat.
    • Whatever happens, do not run. Dogs have a natural instinct to chase their prey. By running, you can can trigger this instinct.[4]
    • If a dog attack appears immanent, don't move. Stand very still. Tell the dog, "no, go home" in firm voice. Don't shout, as this may make the dog more anxious.
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    Avoid the bite of an attacking dog. If a dog charges you and appears as though it will attack, do what you can to stay away from its teeth.
    • Try to put something in its path: your backpack, purse, or a jacket. Let it bite that instead of you.[5]
    • If you get knocked down, curl into a tight ball with your head tucked in and arms around your head, neck and ears. This will make it harder for the dog to bite you in a place that will do serious harm.[6]

Method 2
Teaching Children to Avoid Bites

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    Tell children to seek an adult. Children should be taught the basics of how to interact with dogs. But, there are also some other things you can teach your child to avoid dog bites. First and foremost, tell children to talk to adults about dogs they don't know.
    • Instruct children to tell an adult if they see a dog running loose in the area.
    • Teach them never to touch a dog without an adult’s permission. Ideally this would be the owner, who will know if the dog is safe around children or strangers.[7]
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    Teach children to respect a dog's territory. You should tell your child not go near a dog chained or tied up in a yard, behind a fence, or in a car.
    • Dogs may see these areas as their territory and they may defend this territory aggressively.[8]
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    Do not let your child hug a dog. Hugging a dog is a common way that children get bitten, especially in the face.[9]
    • A hug from a child puts the child’s face right near the dog’s mouth. If a dog feels threatened and it can do serious harm to your child.
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    Teach children to play gently with dogs. Playing rough can elicit a rough response from a dog or get it overly excited. It may forget it’s manners and bite.
    • Tell you child never to hit a dog.[10]
    • Children should never try to take a dogs toys or tease a dog. These can both provoke biting.[11]
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    Instruct your child to avoid startling a dog. Even a non-aggressive dog may bite if it is startled or perceives sudden threat. In particular, teach children not to touch or bother dogs that are:[12]
    • Sleeping
    • Eating
    • Chewing on a rawhide or bone
    • You should also tell children to be especially be careful around a mother dog with her puppies. She may think the child is a threat to her pups.

Method 3
Teaching Your Dog Not to Bite

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    Begin socializing your dog early. If you own a dog, you have a special responsibility for preventing bites. Dogs that feel uncomfortable or threatened around new people or other dogs are more likely to bite.
    • Ideally, you should start socializing your dog between three and 12 weeks of age.[13]
    • Introduce your dog to other people and animals first in a familiar environment like your home. Then, bring the dog out into new environments. This will ease your dog's fears and improve his behavior around others.
    • Get your dog accustomed to eating around people. Most bites occur when someone tries to pet a dog that is eating. If your dog is still a puppy, you can teach it to respond calmly to distractions while it is eating. Push its head away from the bowl in a friendly and unchallenging way. Temporarily take the bowl. Push or rub the dog, then give it a treat.[14] This will socialize the dog to people being around it while it is eating, reducing the risk of a biting.
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    Teach your dog basic commands. Training your dog to sit, stay, and drop his toys on command will teach your dog discipline. A well disciplined dog is easier to keep out of trouble.[15]
    • Give your dog a treat when it does one of the behaviors you want to teach it. Pair the treat with a voice command. Eventually, the dog will learn to associate the command with the behavior.
    • Teach your dog to come to you on command. This can be very useful for removing a dog from a dangerous situation.
    • Have your dog sit and wait before placing its food dish down. This is a good exercise to reinforce daily the idea that humans are allowed pick up the dog's food dish.
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    Play non-aggressive games with your dog. Play games that don't encourage biting. Games like "fetch" will allow your dog to enjoy playing without teaching bad habits.[16]
    • Games like tug-of-war can strengthen a dog's instinct to bite. Such games can make a dog feel that biting is acceptable behavior.
    • The same is true if you allow your puppy to nip your hands. That behavior can mean trouble when the puppy gets bigger. When it does nip say “no bite” and give it an appropriate chew toy instead.
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    Teach puppies that biting is unwelcome. One good way to stop biting behavior is to communicate in ways that are similar to how the mother dog or littermates might.
    • If your puppy nips at you, squeal or yip. This will usually surprise the pup and make it back off.[17]
    • If dog persists in nipping at you, grab the loose skin on the pup’s neck and give a very small shake while saying "no." Then, turn your back on the puppy. Most puppies will get the idea that biting will cause you to stop playing. Once they understand this, they soon will stop that behavior.[18]
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    Be a loving and responsible owner. While it's important to discipline your dog, do not discipline him by hitting him or by other violent means. Give your dog plenty of attention and make sure he knows that people are his best friends.
    • Neglected or abused dogs are much more likely to bite people than dogs that know a loving home.

Method 4
Avoiding High-Risk Situations with Your Dog

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    Keep your dog healthy and vaccinated. Make sure your dog has all the required shots, and schedule regular veterinary exams. A sick dog is a dangerous and potentially deadly dog, no matter how gentle or well-trained it normally is.
    • As a dog ages, pain from arthritis or chronic health conditions can make them grumpy and more prone to biting. Keeping these conditions under control can prevent some of these behavioral changes.[19]
    • A vet can also let you know if you need to be more gentle with your dog as it ages.
    • Keeping your dog up-to-date on its vaccinations will also reduce the risk that it might transmit a disease if it does bite.
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    Keep your dog on a leash when out and about. A leash is the most effective bite-prevention device available. Without a leash, you don't have control over your dog.[20]
    • If you know your dog gets nervous around strange people and animals, consider also using a soft muzzle or a head halter on walks. This can prevent aggressive behavior such as barking and nipping.
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    Keep your dog away from trouble situations. As a pet owner, you know your dog's personality and dislikes, and you are in the best position to keep it out of trouble. Avoiding situations where a dog may bite is an effective means of prevention.
    • If you know that dog doesn't interact well with other dogs, don't bring him to the neighborhood dog park. If your dog gets aggressive around delivery men, keep your dog in another room when you answer the door.[21]
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    Split up dog fights carefully. If your dog gets in a fight with another, you'll want to act fast but cautiously to avoid injury. If possible, try not to touch the dogs at all.
    • Spraying the dogs with a water hose might work.[22]
    • If the fight is not too serious, human breath spray (Listerine or Binaca) is disgusting to most dogs, but not harmful. A spray of it may cause both dogs to flee.
    • If you have to touch the dogs, grab them by the hind legs to pull them apart. Don't touch them near their collars, heads or shoulders.[23]
    • If both dogs seem to want to keep fighting, try to drag one through a doorway or gate, and use the door/gate to separate them, or tug on a leash. Using a barrier to get between the dogs (like a chair or a baby gate) may also work, depending upon the size and strength of the dogs. [24]
    • If it is a fight between two large and powerful dogs it is best to wait for appropriate help.
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    Muzzle an injured dog before moving it. A dog in pain may lash out.[25] If you need to move an injured dog, you can make a makeshift muzzle out of a long piece of gauze or a leash. Wrap it securely around the dog’s muzzle.
    • One person (preferably the owner) should handle the dog’s head, securely holding the muzzle. Another can lift the dog's body.
    • Wear a heavy coat or jacket and thick gloves to further prevent bite injuries. Covering a dog's head with a coat or shirt might also help prevent bites.


  • When walking your dog, make sure you keep your dog on a leash and stay clear of unknown dogs. Try to anticipate problems if you see another dog ahead. Even if your dog is friendly, that doesn't mean everyone else's is.
  • If you leave your dog in the yard alone, make sure the yard is securely fenced and is escape-proof.
  • Understand that just about any dog can inflict a serious bite. Small dogs injure plenty of people. A larger dog, though, can inflict more damage or even a lethal bite.
  • If a dog is scared, there is a chance that it might bite so remain calm.
  • If your dog is on a leash and an approaching dog isn't, or vice versa, be wary. When dogs feel restrained or at a disadvantage they will be more likely to bite.


  • If your dog bites someone, you may be liable for monetary damages. This may be true even if there is no serious injury. You may also have your homeowners insurance canceled or have insurance denied. Depending on the severity of the bite, your dog could be considered a nuisance and might even be euthanized. This is especially true if it is not the first time your dog has bitten someone.

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Categories: Dog Obedience