Dogs are commonly referred to as “man’s best friend”, as they are often a loved and important part of any family. Dogs are still fundamentally animals, and as animals, they still have primal instincts and animal responses, including occasionally violent ones.
Many states, such as Massachusetts, hold a dog’s owner strictly liable if they bite someone. This means if the victim sues the owner, all they have to prove in order to prevail in their case is that the defendant does, in fact, own the dog and that they were bit. So long as they did not provoke or antagonize the dog, they will be awarded monetary damages for their pain and suffering and medical bills.
In a recent question and answer session on wfmj.com, The Humane Society of the United States stated that you cannot be absolutely sure your dog will not bite someone, but you can significantly reduce the risk. One step that prevents dog bites and provides other health benefits is to spade or neuter your dog. This not only prevents any unexpected puppies, but reports also show that spayed or neutered dogs are three times less likely to bite another dog or person.
Most of the other measures discussed in the report are behavioral in nature. This means that it is important for an owner to socialize and train their dog. Dogs that have had repeated exposure to different people are less likely to be nervous or defensive when meeting strangers, which is commonly when dog bites occur.
Furthermore, it is important to train your dog as to what behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not. Dogs may often be excited or hyped up by games of tug of war and wrestling, which can sometimes transfer into hostility around other people. By all means have a playful dog, but it is important not to teach your dog to dominate or attack when playing, because that often translates into aggression.
Finally, the report strongly suggests that a dog’s owner err on the side of caution. If you are nervous your dog may respond to a stranger or guest with aggression, keep them in a separate room, or contact a professional dog trainer who may be able to modify the dog’s behavior.
Ultimately, a large part of the responsibility of owning a dog is being potentially responsible under the law for their actions. To reduce liability and avoid potential litigation, it is in a dog owner’s best interests to follow at least a few of these practices in order to limit the risk that their pet harms someone.