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Dog Bites and Liability: How to Protect Yourself

Dog bites are a serious and growing problem in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.5 million people suffer dog bites every year. More than 885,000 — half of them children — suffer serious injury that requires medical attention and some 31,000 require reconstructive surgery. While laws vary from state to state, dog owners are legally responsible for injuries their dog causes — and that may include reimbursing the injured person for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites account for one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims. The best way to protect yourself from liability is to prevent your dog from biting anyone in the first place. Basic obedience and early socialization are key, say professional trainers. Dogs should be trained to obey the basic commands of ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘no’ and ‘come’. While it is best to start when the dog is a puppy, no dog is too old to learn obedience skills. Group training classes are an ideal venue for training, since they also provide an opportunity for socialization. Other ways to socialize your dog is early introduction to lots of different people and other dogs in a variety of settings. Other ways to prevent dog bites, suggest Best Friends trainers, include:
  • Follow leash laws. Don’t let your dog run free, except at the dog park or other appropriate setting.
  • Have your dog spayed or neutered. Studies show that dogs are three times more likely to bite if they are NOT neutered.
  • Play non-aggressive games with your dog, such as “go fetch.” Playing aggressive games like “tug-of-war” can encourage inappropriate behavior.
  • Socialize your dog so it knows how to act with other people and animals.
  • NEVER leave a dog alone with an infant or young child.
If your dog demonstrates any aggressive behaviors: don’t wait for a dog bit to happen. Seek professional advice from an animal behaviorists or qualified trainer right away. To find a professional trainer near you, go to the Our Locations page.