Preventing Dog Bites Inside & Outside the Home

Even the most docile and well-behaved dog will bite in the right circumstances.


However, because dogs are highly social animals, they also tend to be good communicators. They will often provide clues they might be stressed or otherwise ready to bite. By paying close attention and reading their body language, you will better understand how a dog might be feeling in a particular moment – so you can stop a situation from escalating and prevent a bite from occurring in the first place.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

Dogs might bite you when startled, threatened, overstimulated, or when being protective. They may bite because they lack proper socialization or training, or they might engage in what's known as resource guarding – such as when they snarl if you try to grab their favorite toy or a bone away from them. They may nip at you out of instinct, especially amid loud noises and commotion, or if suddenly awoken from sleep. Dogs might also snap when hungry, injured, or in pain.


Perhaps one of the most common reasons dogs bite is when they feel scared or threatened in some way. And dog bites don’t just happen to strangers – dogs may bite whomever is closest (usually you or a family member) when in an uncomfortable or threatening situation.


Preventing Dog Bites in the Home

To prevent dog bites requires a combination of responsible pet ownership, education, and awareness of your dog and it’s particular communication style. The following key strategies can minimize the risk of dog bites in your home.


Proper Training & Socialization

Begin young! Introduce your dog while still a puppy to a variety of settings, people, and other animals to help socialize them, so they aren’t overly fearful or anxious when they get older. Even older dogs can be socialized, with patience and consistent effort. Remember to focus on introducing your dog to just one new thing at a time so they’re not overwhelmed. It’s also important you remain calm and relaxed during socialization and training since dogs are incredibly adept at picking up on human emotions and body language. Calming aids may also help older dogs who already have a fear response associated with certain stimuli. And, as always, the key to any dog training you undertake is to be consistent


Supervise Children

It’s important to always supervise interactions between children and dogs. Teach your children not to roughhouse with the dog – and how to watch for and respect a dog’s body language. If you can’t always supervise, use pet or baby gates to separate dogs and children, while still allowing the dog(s) to see and hear what’s going on. 


Create Safe Spaces

Your dog needs a safe space to retreat to when feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just needing to rest undisturbed. This is especially critical in households with children. To create a safe, cozy spot for your furry friend:


  • Select a quiet, low-traffic location – E.g., avoid busy hallways or near the front door.
  • Use a crate or bed – It’s important the area has positive associations for your dog. If using a crate as your dog’s safe space, don’t use it for punishment. An out-of-the-way bed, doggy sofa, or other comfortable furniture will do.
  • Make it inviting – Add bedding or clothing with your scent on it. Put a few favorite toys or chewies there, too. Make sure the area is not too hot or not too cold.
  • Keep fresh water nearby – Your dog should have easy access to water near their safe space.


Dog Body Language

Pay attention to the signs! If your dog seems uncomfortable in the moment, don’t force it to interact with other humans or other dogs. Listen to what your dog is trying to tell you.


Signs of Stress & Fear in Dogs

The ideal situation would be for the family dog to simply leave a room when stressed. If this is not possible – such as when the dog is (lovingly) held in place by you or a family member – it’s critical to identify signs indicating your dog is anxious or afraid, which can be precursors to dog bites.


Here are the tell-tale signs a dog is stressed:

  • Tense, stiffened body
  • Flattened ears
  • Trembling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Cowering, backing away, tucked tail
  • Growling, bared teeth, lunging


The cowering and tucked tail are an attempt to make themselves look smaller, appear harmless, so whatever is threatening the dog will go away. Growling and the baring of teeth uses the opposite tactic to achieve the same result: it’s typically an aggressive bluff designed to scare the threat away.


Here are more difficult-to-decipher signs your dog is stressed and why they may be engaging in the behavior:




Whale eye is commonly seen when dogs are hugged or kissed, which many dogs aren’t comfortable with. It also occurs when they’re protecting food or a toy. Look for other signs of discomfort, such as tensing up, to indicate whether the whale eye indicates stress.


If your dog is showing signs of stress, it’s an indicator they need calming and reassurance – not further stimulation. If you’re approaching a dog you believe may be stressed or fearful, stop and calmly walk away.


This video can help you identify common dog body language and what it means:


Preventing Dog Bites Outside the Home

You can create a safer environment for yourself, your family, and those around you by remaining alert to the possibility of dog bites outside the home – and acting quickly to prevent it.


Leash & Control

Always keep your dog on a leash or harness when in public places, unless you’re in a specially designated off-leash area. Keeping your dog on leash for neighborhood walks allows you to quickly control your dog should they become aggressive or fearful. Be sure you only approach leashed dogs. Get help from a dog trainer, if needed. Become familiar with applicable leash laws and regulations for your area.


Proper Greetings

Before greeting a dog, ask its owner if you can pet it. An owner may not want you to pet their dog for a variety of reasons, including the dog might be a service animal, in training, aggressive, sick, or just not into being petted by strangers.


If the owner indicates you may proceed, then ask the dog for its consent by taking the following steps:


  1. Let the dog approach you.
  2. Crouch and hold out your hand so the dog can sniff it.
  3. If the dog moves toward your hand, nudges or leans into you, or otherwise indicates it welcomes the touch, pet the dog for a few seconds and stop. Safe places to touch typically include the chest area, under the chin, or behind the ears. Most dogs do not like to be petted on top of the head – especially since it involves moving your hand to an area the dog can’t see.\If the dog indicates it wants more, then pet some more. But stop occasionally to allow the dog to indicate whether it wants you to continue or not.
  4. If the dog indicates it wants more, then pet some more. But stop occasionally to allow the dog to indicate whether it wants you to continue or not.
  5. The moment the dog turns away, or otherwise indicates it’s done or no longer wants to be petted, stop petting the dog.


The most important part of greeting a dog? Respecting whether they want to be petted or not. If you receive anything other than an exuberant yes – don’t pet the dog! Stick to verbal praise instead. And remember, it’s not so much what you say as how you say it to communicate your positive intention to the dog you’re talking to.


Be Aware of Surroundings

Pay attention to the environment when you’re outside with your dog. You should especially take note of people, animals, cars, etc. around you. If you notice anything with the potential to agitate your dog, take steps to avoid it.


Regular Vet Care

Regular veterinary care for your pets is essential. Dogs may be prone to bite when ill or in pain. Also, having a dog spayed or neutered can reduce aggressive tendencies – in both male and female dogs.


Dog Bite Concerns? Pet Liability Insurance Can Help

Approximately 1 in 5 dog bite victims require medical attention. Are you prepared if your dog bites someone? Or if you’re sued for their medical bills or associated expenses?


At Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, we’re in the business of protecting you, your loved ones, your home, and your assets. For households with dogs, we offer animal liability coverage, which protects you should your beloved pet bite someone.


Restrictions apply, so contact your Florida Peninsula agent for more details about adding this coverage to your homeowners policy. And, if you’re not yet insured by Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, find out how easy it can be by getting your quote with us now. 

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