What to Do When a Dog Bites

What to do when a dog bites? This is an important question for everyone, and especially those of us with children. We all need to know what to do when a dog bites.

Consider the Type of Dog

The first thing to think about is the type of dog involved. There’s a huge difference between the playful nip that a puppy gives (because that’s how puppies play) and a full-grown adult dog taking an aggressive bite out of your leg.


If the dog is a puppy, know that nipping is a growth stage. Just like human children, young dogs explore their world by putting everything in their mouths. Within the puppies own dog family, nipping and light biting is part and parcel of puppy play. If the dog is yours, it’s important to teach the puppy that biting is not an approved way of playing with human beings. The puppy needs to start learning that as early as possible because, as the dog grows, even a playful nip can cause a serious injury to a human being.

Known Adult Dogs

A dog bite from an adult dog can be a lot more serious. If the dog is known to you, you should be aware of its vaccination history. If the dog is up to date on vaccinations then this isn’t a worry. If you know the dog well your main concern at this moment should be to wonder why it happened at all. If you or a child were provoking or teasing the dog, stop immediately. This should end the situation. If the bite happened unexpectedly and out of the blue, get to safety as soon as possible.

Unknown Adult Dogs

What if the dog is unknown to you? It’s important to know what to do when a dog bites in this situation. If you can’t find the owner, you should assume the dog is not up to date on vaccinations. If it’s impossible to catch the dog, you may need to go ahead with a rabies vaccination. Animal Control does not recommend that you try to catch an unknown dog yourself unless it is clearly simple and safe to do so.

Consider the Type of Bite

In addition to knowing the dog, you should also consider the type of bite before you take your next step. If the bite is superficial, just run it under some water and then apply a hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean it. Bandage it and go about your day.

If the wound is bleeding you need to assess how serious it is. If there’s a lot of blood, any forceful gushing, or puncture to the head or neck you should call 911 immediately. Otherwise, go ahead and let it bleed for a little bit. This flow of blood will cleanse a small puncture. You can then stop the bleeding with pressure and rinse it with running water and a mild soap before bandaging it up. If you can’t stop the bleeding, call emergency services.

Consider What Legal Action to Take

The last thing to consider about what to do when a dog bites is whether you should get legal help. A dog bite lawyer should be able to give you more information about this. In general, people will seek out dog bite lawyers when a bite is particularly serious, when a dog is known to have bitten before and the owner has done nothing about it, or if the dog has not been properly vaccinated.

If you have nothing more than a nip that did not break the skin, or a superficial gash, it is unlikely that you will be successful in a major lawsuit. You may still want to get a court to rule the dog dangerous and have it put down if the bite was unprovoked or otherwise suspicious.

Knowing what to do when a dog bites is crucial to keeping you and your family safe. Attorneys who deal with dog bites will typically also deal with other types of personal injury law, such as elder abuse or car accidents. Consider the dog, consider the bite, and then consider whether you want to find a lawyer and take it further.

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