Is Your Dog Likely to Put the Bite on You?

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy flickr
Having been a dog owner all my life, I’d feel lost without a four-legged friend or two by my side.  Dogs are great to have around.  They come when you call them (for the most part), they let you know when intruders approach and they are always happy to see you.  In short, they’re perfect companions.  I even bring my two dogs with me to the office.  But lest we forget that dogs are only tamed wolves, all dog owners must remember their furry friends have a dark side and a wicked set of canine teeth to match.  What I’m talking about is the fact that all dogs can and sometimes do bite.  Whether the cause is fear or anger, the outcome can be dire.  Especially if the target of their ire is another person.  Dog bites have become so prevalent that legislation has been enacted to address the consequences. 

How often do dogs bite people? – Serious dog bites occur more frequently than you might think.  The CDC reported that more than 4.5 million dog bites occur on average each and every year. With more than 90 million dogs in this country, it should come as no surprise that somewhere someone gets bitten by a dog roughly every 75 seconds.  While the majority of the bites require no medical care, more than 1,000 people report to the ER for dog bites each day in the US.    

Just as there are more than one kind of dog, there’s more than one kind of dog bite.  

Veterinarian Dr. Ian Dunbar created an official dog bite scale that helps categorize their severity. 

Level 1 – A dog shows aggressive behavior without biting.
Level 2 – A dog puts his teeth on a person but doesn’t bite down hard enough to break the skin.
Level 3 – A dog produces 1-4 punctures from a single bite with no deep lacerations.
Level 4 – A dog produces 1-4 puncture wounds from a single bite with at least 1 deep laceration.
Level 5 - A dog produces multiple bites while inflicting at least two Level 4 bites or a multiple attack where the dog inflicts at least one Level 4 bite in each attack.
Level 6 – The victim dies.

While it may sound gruesome to classify dog bites in such a manner, when it comes time for both treatment and punishment, having a clear cut way to determine how severe a bite was can make all the difference in determining whether a dog needs to be euthanized.  The good news is that 99% of all dog bites are Level 1 & 2, requiring further training of the dog.  Level 3 and higher can involve the police, not to mention litigation soon after the incident. It can also mean the destruction of the offending dog.

Image courtesy needpix
Which breeds are more prone to biting?  When it comes to severe injuries and even death, bigger more aggressive breeds are the usual culprits.  Breeds like Dobermans, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Bull Mastiffs and Pit Bulls lead the league when it comes to inflicting serious damage.  Nearly two thirds of all fatal dog attacks between 2005 and 2017 were caused by Pit Bulls. In more than 80% of fatal dog attacks the dog was neither spayed nor neutered.  In terms of monetary damages, more than $675 million was paid out to dog bite victims by insurance companies in 2018 alone. 

What would happen if your dog were to bite somebody? No matter how even tempered your dog is, any dog can bite if they feel threatened.  The threat could come from someone or something invading their territory or it could come from someone teasing them or it could just be that your dog is having a bad day.  I once had one my dog snap at me when I accidentally stepped on her tail.  The trick to avoiding bad behavior in a dog is prevention.  That means doing things like always making sure there is a barrier like a door or a gate between dog and intruder.  It means always keeping your dog on a leash when away from home.  If your dog is more than normally aggressive around people or other dogs, it wouldn’t hurt to use a muzzle as well as a leash. Last but not least, it means never leaving your dog alone with a stranger, especially if the stranger is a child. 

Image courtesy needpix
Were your dog to bite or seriously maul someone, the consequences to you as well as your dog could be severe.   Being in a litigious society, dog owners are always at risk of being sued if their dog bites someone, even if the injury is minor.  Therefore, the first thing you should do were your dog to bite is to go out of your way to make sure that you are concerned about the victim’s welfare.  Even if your dog inflicted little more than a scratch, being nice to the victim could mean the difference between having them shrug off the incident as opposed to securing an attorney.  If the injury is more severe, first do what you need to make sure the injury is treated promptly, even if it means taking the victim to the ER.  If a dog bite is serious enough to require an ambulance, expect the police to be notified.  After seeking the appropriate level of medical attention for a dog bite, you should next contact your insurance agent to inform him or her about the incident.

While a dog bite can be a traumatic occurrence for everyone involved, it needn’t be a catastrophe. Taking the right steps can help you minimize the collateral damage that can result from an incident involving your dog.  Not only could it save your dog’s life, it could also keep a litigation lawyer from trying to put the bite on you.

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. Smaller dogs can also inflict a nasty bite. I had a friend whose Pomeranian was a renown ankle biter.

  2. Dog bites are no joke. When I jog in the morning, I have to keep an eye out for dogs that the owner let out to do their morning business. Often a dog let out on their own will threaten to attack (or attack) someone walking or jogging on the sidewalk in front of their house. If the jogger gets bitten, the owner is on the hook for the liability! yeaks!


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