What to Do if Your Dog Bites You

Image of a dog baring its teeth and being aggressive, looking like its going to bite someone

Did your dog just bit you or someone else in your family? There are many reasons that your dog may bite you.

You can start training your dog to behave, but first, you should consider taking your dog to the vet to make sure that there is nothing medically wrong with your dog that could be causing them to lash out.

Behavioral training can easily be done at your house, or you can find a professional dog trainer to help. Below you’ll find what to do if your dog bites you.

Why Do Dogs Bite People?

There are many reasons that your dog may bite you.

Sometimes there is a medical issue that may be causing your dog to bite.

Sometimes it’s a behavioral issue.

And sometimes it can just be because your dog hasn’t had the proper training yet.

Your Dog is Afraid

Photo of a scared dog as someone tries to pet it for article on what to do if your dog bites you

Some dogs who are in a situation where they’re afraid may bite whoever approaches them or is near them. This situation may be something as severe as being abandoned or abused, or it may be toward something that they perceive as abnormal such as a loud noise from fireworks or thunderstorms.

Your Dog May not Like Children

Some dogs will only attack small children. They may have had a traumatic experience with a child in the past, or they don’t know why this person is so loud and active.

Some children have not been properly trained on how to gently approach a dog and to be easy when petting them. If your dog does not like kids and has bitten them in the past, keep your dog away when any children are around and unsupervised.

Your Dog Has Been Startled

If your dog has been startled or suddenly woken up from a deep sleep, they may bite. As dogs start to get older, they may not be able to hear you approach them, and when you go to wake them, you startle them, and they bite you.

Your Dog Has Food Aggression

Some dogs do not like to share their food. These dogs may get very aggressive and even bite you or another dog if they think that you’re going to take their food from them.

It’s best to start training your dog at a young age that it is okay for people to reach into their food bowl and take food from them while they’re eating.

Your Dog Is in Pain

If your dog recently had an accident and is hurt, they may bite you. For example, if a dog is hit by a car and has a broken leg or bruising as a result of this accident, they will bite when you touch this area. This is their way of telling you that something hurts and to stop touching that area.

Dogs can also bite if they have an upset stomach, GI pain, or back pain. They will usually bite when you touch their stomach or pick them up.

Usually gently touching your dog you can figure out where they are experiencing pain. If this pain does not go away after a day or two, it would be best to see your vet. They can determine what the issue is and start your dog on medication to decrease the pain if necessary.

Your Dog Is Sick

If your dog is sick, they may lash out by biting you.

Some diseases affect the endocrine and nervous system causing them to act aggressively towards people who they normally love. If this aggressive behavior has suddenly started, it would be best to at least let your vet check your dog out and run blood work to make sure that there is nothing medically wrong with your dog.

Diseases such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease can cause a dog to feel bad and attack a person with no warning.

Your Dog Has Territorial Instincts

Some dogs are very territorial and will bite people who come into their house. Dogs who stay at home all day may bite new people who come into their house because they do not feel that they should be there.

Most dogs have a pack mentality and will fight to defend their den or another member of their family. Mother dogs will also bite to protect their puppies too.

Your Dog Has a Strong Prey Drive

Some dogs have a very strong prey drive and are easily provoked to attack.

Your dog may be aiming to attack one of their toys and miss and bite you instead. This can be an accidental bite that your dog did not mean. If this happens a lot, it is best to change activities to something that they are not able to bite at you. Instead of playing tug of war with the rope toy, play fetch instead.

This will help fulfill your dog’s prey drive while decreasing the accidental bite of people out of the way. You can also combine this with training. Make your dog sit and wait for you to throw the toy before letting them go get it.

If your dog has a lot of energy and easily gets distracted and acts aggressively because of their prey drive, it may be best to consider professional dog training or agility. This helps decrease the extra energy and gives them something to focus their drive toward. Agility is a great sport for many of the herding breeds but can be done by any breed of dog.

Your Dog Is Very Possessive

Image of a brown dachshund dog biting a toy and looking possessive and aggressive

Some dogs may be very possessive over a certain toy. When you try to take it away from them, they may bite you. This is not an accident or a spontaneous reaction, but it is your dog responding to you with defensiveness and dominance. This is one type of possessive behavior.

If not corrected early on, it can turn into aggression. You should always be able to take away any toy or treat from your dog without them attacking you.

What to Do if Your Dog Bites You: Steps to Take After Your Dog Bites You or Someone Else

  • Remain calm: The important thing to do is just to remain calm and not do something you would regret, like retaliating against your dog.
  • Isolate your dog: Put your dog in their crate or another room. This will give your dog a chance to calm down and for you to treat the bite wound. After a dog bite your adrenaline will also be high. By giving your dog time away from you will also allow your adrenaline level to return to normal and you can think more clearly.
  • Clean and treat the wound: Clean the bite wound with soap and water. Dog’s mouths can carry a lot of bacteria that can be transferred into the wound. After it is clean, apply triple antibiotic cream or other medicated ointment to the wound to help prevent infection.
  • See your doctor: If the wound is deep or very large, you may need to go to your doctor for stitches and antibiotics to help prevent infection.
  • Check rabies status: Make sure that your dog is up to date on his rabies vaccine. If your dog has a bitten a person, they may have to be in quarantine for rabies observation for up to 14 days. This would all depend on your local laws.
  • Share contact information: If your dog bit another person, share your contact information with this person in case they need to contact you concerning the dog bite. Many times, when your dog bites someone else, a police report has to be filled.
  • Start training: If your dog has bitten you, it would be best to first start to figure out what triggered these attacks. Once you have identified a cause, you can start behavioral training so that these attacks do not keep happening.

Dog Training to Prevent Future Biting

Image of a blonde woman training a large black dog in a park on a cool day

There are many things that you can do to train your dog to not bite. At first, you need to figure out what is causing your dog to bite and teach them that this is not acceptable behavior.

Socialize Your Dog

Image of a dog training class where people are outdoors with their dogs socializing them

When your dog is a puppy, it is best to start socializing your dog around different people and in a different setting. This will help get them used to different types of people coming into their house and decrease the chance that they may bite you or someone else.

Spay or Neuter Your Dog

Intact male and female dogs tend to be more aggressive. These dogs will be more protective of their house, food, and family. This can make them lash out and attack you or someone else.

Removing their testicles and ovaries decrease the hormones circulating in their body. This usually makes them a calmer dog. If your dog has a history of being aggressive, talk to your vet about having them spayed or neutered.

Work on Obedience Training

Image of a man with a dog walking obediently beside him on a beach boardwalk

It’s best to start obedience training when your dog is young. However, you can still teach an older dog to obey. You will need more patience and more time to teach an older dog.

Once they have learned to obey your commands, you can easily keep them from biting you or other people.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Image of a person giving a dog a treat for positive reinforcement to teach the dog not to bite

All dogs love treats. When teaching your dog, use positive reinforcement. This will help you easily deescalate any situation if they start to occur.

Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Body Language

Most dogs will give you a sign indicating that they’re about to bite you. These dogs may crouch lower to the ground, or their hair on their back will stand up to indicate that they are about to bite.

Do Not Stop your dog from Growling

Growing is your dog’s way of telling you that they do not like what you are doing. This is usually the pre-warning before the bite.

It’s best not to scold your dog for growing. Dogs who do not give this warning are more dangerous and harder to predict that they’re going to bite than dogs that growl before biting. Use their growling as a sign to help you figure out what is causing them to be upset and bite you or someone else.

Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, no matter how much training you give your dog, they still will continue to bite you and other people. If your dog training is not working, it may be best to seek help from a professional dog trainer.

You can first start with your vet. They can make sure that there is nothing medically wrong with your dog and give you some basic training tips. If this does not help, you may need to look for a veterinary behaviorist or a professional dog trainer.

What NOT to Do If Your Dog Bites You

If your dog has bitten you, do not get angry and lash out at your dog. This will just make the situation worse. Remain calm, and after you and your dog have taken time away from each other, then you can address the situation.

Dog Biting Can Be Improved

In many cases, dog biting can be improved. With a little training, your dog can easily learn that biting behaviors should be avoided.

By knowing what provokes your dog to bite will also help you avoid these situations. While working on training your dog not to bite, make sure to not leave your dog alone with a person who doesn’t know the indications that your dog shows when they’re about to bite.

What to Do if a Dog Doesn’t Respond to Training

In serious cases of a dog biting, it may be required that you rehome your dog or, in very extreme cases, your dog may even have to be euthanatized. Usually, everyone tries to avoid this situation and will try everything possible to exhaust all options before resorting to this. Some dogs, no matter what, cannot be trained to not attack people.

Discuss your thoughts and feelings with your vet and see what their recommendations are for your dog.

Final Thoughts

If your dog has bitten you, there are many training tips and tricks that you can do to help decrease the chances that they bite you or someone else again. Training can take a long time and a lot of patience.

If you start your dog off with training when they are very young, this will help decrease the likelihood that they will bite. Having a dog that is easy to predict will help decrease and prevent them from biting you or someone else.

Hopefully this gives you a good idea as to what to do if your dog bites you. If it’s a recurring problem, seek advice from your veterinarian or a professional trainer.