Your dog is your best friend—until it bites. Even typically docile dogs may bite when they are frightened or when defending their puppies, owners, or food. Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2013, says the Insurance Information Institute.
The best way to protect yourself from a dog bite claim is to prevent your dog from biting anyone in the first place. The most dangerous dogs are those that fall victim to human shortcomings such as poor training, irresponsible ownership, and breeding practices that foster viciousness. Positive reinforcement training methods can lower the likelihood that a dog will bite. The following are some tips on being a responsible dog owner:
If you are thinking about getting a dog, consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household and neighborhood.
Before making a dog a part of your family, spend time with it. See how it gets acquainted with the entire family. Use caution when bringing a dog into a home with an infant or toddler. A dog with a history of aggression is inappropriate in a household with children.
If you do have children, be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful of or apprehensive about a dog. If they are, delay acquiring a dog. Never leave infants or your children alone with any dog.
Socialize your dog so it knows how to act with other people and animals. Taking it on walks and to dog parks is a great way to do that.
Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
Keep your dog from aggressive situations. Play non-aggressive games such as “go fetch.” Playing aggressive games like “tug-of-war” can encourage inappropriate behavior.
Allow your dog to gradually get accustomed to new surroundings or situations.
Take caution when meeting or passing by a dog you don’t know. Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.
Immediately seek professional advice from veterinarians or animal behaviorists if your dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors despite taking steps to prevent these behaviors.