Any Dog Can Bite. Will Yours?


person walking dog on sidewalk

Our Animal Services Officers responded to 603 dog bites last year. When spring weather arrives and people and dogs are outside more, we usually see a spike in dog bites. You’re probably saying to yourself, “Ok, but my dog is amazing.” We think so too! But what we all need to know is that it’s not always the dog. Sometimes it’s the situation.

The most common dog bite scenarios we see

We asked our Animal Services Officers about the most common dog bite scenarios. Here are the top three and how to handle them.

Breaking up a dog fight.

  • A lot of bites happen when we use our hands to get our dog out of a fight.
  • Throw an object to startle the dogs or throw a blanket or jacket on top of them. They should stop fighting so you can grab your dog!

Walking, jogging, or biking past a dog.

  • Your dog may get nervous or startled when passing someone on the sidewalk. They may lash out and bite as a response.
  • Keep your dog on a short leash close to you and give extra room for people to pass. Even better, cross the street.

Kids who were bitten by a dog.

  • Children are more commonly bitten than adults, and are more likely to have a severe injury from a bite.
  • Teach your kids how to interact with dogs and don’t leave them alone with a dog.

A little prevention goes a long way in preventing dog bites

Read dogs’ body language

We’ve already talked about the importance of teaching kids how to be safe around dogs. But really, that goes for the whole family! Everyone should read their dog’s body language to know whether they should interact with it or not. You want to be left alone sometimes, right? Dogs do too! Whether it’s your dog or someone else’s, in general, if it’s tense, nervous, won’t look at you, or is walking away, leave it alone. Learn more about reading dog body language from the American Veterinary Medical Association. And you can check out our blog post about the body language dogs use to warn you they might bite!

Socialize your dog

Introduce your dog (preferably when they’re a puppy) to other people and animals. This helps your dog know how to feel comfortable in different scenarios, like taking walks, going to the dog park, or having company over. Training classes are a great way to do this, even for older dogs! It’s best to have the whole family attend classes so everyone is on the same page and is consistent.

Let’s all be good pet owners!

We love our fur babies. Let’s be good pet owners to help prevent bites, and help prevent rabies, should a bite occur.

  • Dogs must be on a leash if they’re not on your property.
  • Spay and neuter dogs, it helps prevent aggression and bites.
  • It’s state law that your dog needs a rabies vaccine before they’re five months old. And they need to be vaccinated again every 1-3 years.
  • If you take your dog to a dog park, they must have a dog park permit. And that requires a dog license, which is a state requirement for all dogs by the time they’re 5 months old. It’s not too late to get your 2023 dog permit! Check out our webpage for details and more tips on being a great pet owner.
  • Lastly, report all bites in Dane County to us! We’ll help you figure out the risk for rabies or other illnesses from the bite. If you live in Dane County, Wisconsin, call (608) 255-2345 and ask for Animal Services. Or you can report the bite online. Either way, one of our officers will be in touch with you about the bite.

This content is free for use with credit to Public Health Madison & Dane County .

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