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What To Do With A Dog That Bites Their Owner? 5 Steps

What To Do With A Dog That Bites Their Owner

Although more than 50% of dog-bite victims are strangers to the canine…

The other half includes dog parents being bitten by their own pooch.

So, when the latter happens…

What are the best things to do?

Continue reading to discover:

  • 5 crucial steps to treat a dog bite (first-aid).
  • 5 practical actions to take when a dog bites their owner.
  • 3 simple things to consider instead of getting rid of your dog if they bite someone.
  • And much, much more…

Why would a dog bite its owner?

A dog would bite its owner due to feeling threatened. The person might’ve startled or provoked the dog. As a reflex, the canine will bite to protect themself from potential danger. Other reasons include feeling pain, being fearful, and having experienced trauma and abuse.

What to do with a dog that bites their owner?

When a dog bites their owner, they should be separated from each other. The canine should be put in another room. After that, assess the bite and apply the necessary first aid. Then, carefully reapproach the dog. In the long run, the dog and parent should build their relationship back up.

What to do with a dog that bites their owner – 5 steps

Before we start…

You must know that a canine won’t bite without any reason.

Moreover, there are many types of aggression behind it. According to ASPCA, they are:

Type of aggressionDefinition
Protective Due to perceiving potential threat against another family member (human or fellow dog).
TerritorialApproaching their den or intruding on their territory.
PossessiveAlso called resource guarding. Where dogs secure their possession from others.
Fear and defenseThe fight in the so-called fight-or-flight response. It’s usually the dog’s last choice whenever they feel frightened.
RedirectedTheir anger is directed to something or someone else. But you intervened.
Pain-elicitedIllness and injury make dogs more reactive and aggressive.
Frustration-elicitedExcitement is cut short, hence dog is riled up without anything to turn to. 

Now, that’s not to say I’m passing the buck to the victim…

I’m trying to tell you to be more understanding of both sides.

And to avoid hurting more individuals…

#1: Separate the dog from their parent

Separate The Dog From Their Owner If They Bite Them

When Fido bites their owner…

Everyone will be reactive. That’s why the two should be secured away from each other.


The whole situation can escalate.

So doing this will give everyone a chance to calm down.

But, a little warning…

It can be impossible to transfer the dog somewhere else

It’s best not to approach the pooch right away after they bit their parent. 

Plus, I know it’ll be hard to even carry them to another room or to their crate.

So, leave the room where the incident happened instead. But ensure these things before doing so:

  • Remove sharp objects that might hurt the dog.
  • There’s nothing in the room that the pup might destroy (ex. pillows).

#2: Assess the whole situation while the dog is in another room

After being safely separated from the dog…

One must assess the whole incident before proceeding.

That said, here’s a set of questions that’ll help everyone evaluate everything better.

Wound assessment

  1. How many bites are there?
  2. Where were they bitten?
  3. Did the bite break the skin?

Note: For the following, it’s best to take mental remember them for a while. After wound assessment, proceed to apply first aid (instructions below).

Regardless, prepare to answer the following questions. 

Environmental assessment

  1. Where did the bite happen? Ex. In the living room, outside while on a walk, etc.
  2. Are there other dogs around?
  3. Are there other people nearby?
  4. What was going on before the bite? Ex. Your dog is sleeping.

Incident assessment

  1. Did the dog back away after the bite? Or the person had to pull themself away?
  2. Did another person interfere? 
  3. After getting away, did the dog try to bite the victim again?

Motive and health assessment

  1. Was the dog sick? Or have currently gotten an injury?
  2. Was the pup showing behavioral changes way long before the bite (1 week)?
  3. Are the dog’s vaccines up to date?

Apply first aid to the bite

According to doctors, here’s how to treat it:

Step 1: Wash the wound

First, put it under warm running tap water. Do so for at least 5 minutes.

Then, use mild soap over the wound to clean it further.

After that, continue washing it under running water for 5 more minutes.

Step 2: Put pressure over the wound to slow the bleeding

Use a clean and dry cloth to stop the bleeding. Wipe over the wound carefully. And put light pressure over it.

Note: Don’t touch the exposed parts of the wound with a dirty hand.

Step 3: Apply an antibiotic cream

Put a reasonable amount of antibiotic cream to the wound. 

Note: Refer to the specific instructions on the cream. And use a clean hand in applying the cream.

Step 4: Use a sterile bandage to wrap the wound

Watch this video to see how to properly do this step:

Step 5: Keep the bandage on and seek a doctor’s help

Although most dog bites can be minor, meaning the wound is only shallow…

It’s best to go to the hospital and be assessed by a professional.

Moreover, for deep and large wounds, the victim must get stitches.

Most of all, the bitten person will need a tetanus shot as advised by a doctor.

#3: Carefully reapproach the dog after the bite

Now that everyone has calmed down…

And first aid has been applied.

It’s time to take a look at the pup to see if they’ve chilled out. And if they have, carefully reapproach them.

“How will I know if the dog is ready for reapproaching?”

You must observe the pooch for any signs of fear and aggression. According to vets, those are:

  • Yawning.
  • Growling.
  • Flattened ears.
  • Licking their lips.
  • Snapping at you.
  • Cowered posture.
  • Avoiding direct eye contact.
  • Tucking their tail under their body.

So if the pooch shows even just one of those I mentioned above…

Best to leave them alone for a while. They need the space. 

And don’t worry. You can always try again later. 

“Okay, but what should I do if the dog has calmed down?”

Now that Fido is chill after biting their dog parent…

You can finally approach them, but with caution.

Use a calm voice when trying to be close to them. Also, avoid making direct eye contact.

Then, you must not be too hasty with your movements. 

Warning: Even if the dog seemed cool at first, they might go back to being aggressive once you approach them. So be careful all the time.

And if the pooch isn’t reacting negatively…

You can try to get them out of the room you left them in. 

#4: Bring the dog to the vet

Bring The Dog To The Vet

After finally getting the dog to calm down and reapproaching them…

It’s time to figure out the cause of their sudden aggression. And the best way to do so is to bring them to the vet.

Again, dogs don’t just snap without reason.

Now, remember those group of questions that needed to be set aside for a while? I’m talking about the different kinds of assessments:

  1. Environmental.
  2. Incident.
  3. Motive and health.

That said, when the pooch is brought to the doctor…

Keep the answers to those questions in mind. The vet might ask the same ones.

With that, the story is straight, and the information is on-point.

#5: Consult a dog behaviorist

As I mentioned, the dog won’t get aggressive without reason.

With that, the vet would rule out the cause of the sudden aggression. 

If it’s a pain-elicited type, then they’ll cure the illness or injury.

But if it’s another kind, then it’s a behavioral issue.

That’s why the vet will suggest a dog behaviorist. 

“What will that do?”

According to AKC, a behaviorist will help the dog owner manage their pooch. 

From curbing unwanted behaviors to enhancing those that are desirable. And the next step is to…

Improve the dog’s basic obedience through training

The behaviorist shouldn’t do all the work here.

The dog parent will need to participate as well. 

Both have to be hands-on and dedicated to improving the canine’s basic obedience. 

So, when the pup’s official training for the day is done…

Correcting their behavior isn’t over yet. 

Once Fido gets home, the parent must practice:

Positive reinforcement training

As a child, you’ll enjoy little rewards from grown-ups.

For example, they gave you a lollipop after staying still in the doctor’s office. And it made you happy. So much that you looked forward to every appointment after that.

Well, positive reinforcement training works the same way in dogs…

The goal is to reward them for the good behavior that they’re showing. A few ways to do so are:

  • Praising them.
  • Giving them treats.

Now, here’s…

How to properly use positive reinforcement training in dogs

First, ensure proper timing. Know when to give the reward and when not to.

And the best time would be immediately after the desired behavior. Any delays can confuse the dog. And they’ll relate the reward to another action.

Another key is consistency.

That means:

If the canine will be rewarded for the good practice…

Do it every time they show the right behavior.

And after a few “good boy/girl!” and munches…

Fido will remember and practice the behavior more. 

People also ask:

Should you punish your dog for biting?

You shouldn’t punish your dog for biting. If you do, it’ll only make things worse for both of you.

For one, your canine is likely to respond. They might not hesitate to bite you or someone again. 

I understand that it’s a stressful situation. And you might be feeling a lot…

Regardless, it’s best to remain calm. 

Because apart from getting back at you…

Your dog could also feel these toward you if you punish them for biting:

That said, avoid any forms of punishment. Whether verbal or physical. They’re unacceptable.

Fact: VCA Hospitals consider eye contact as a mild form of punishment. That’s because it’s intimidating for dogs. 

Moreover, it’s illegal to hit a dog in some states in the US. And a few other countries like Canada, Australia, and the UK.

Continue reading: 13 Reasons Why You Should NEVER Hit Your Dog (Check #7)

Should I get rid of my dog if he bites me?

You shouldn’t necessarily get rid of your dog when he bites you.

I know you feel scared and disappointed after all that…

But you must consider your pup’s well-being too. And as I said, they don’t just bite without reason.

Moreover, this could also be a reflection of their training capacity and needs.

So even though Fido has hurt you (and might’ve cost you some money, too)…

Give them another chance while remaining vigilant. 

Fact: Research says undesirable behaviors are the leading cause of death in puppies. That was a report based in the UK with a 29.7% mortality rate for pups under 3 years old.

That said, here’s how I suggest you build your relationship with your pooch back up:

#1: Socialize them

Socialization is key to having a well-behaved dog. 

A study tells us all about the benefits of it:

  • Being well-adjusted to any situation.
  • Displaying fewer undesirable behaviors.
  • Fewer bouts of aggression and fearfulness.

And what counts as socialization is when your dog gets exposed to:

  • Strangers.
  • New places and situations.
  • Different types of people (kids, adults, and elderlies).

Moreover, experts recommend dog parents start socializing their pooch at an early age. 

The same research suggests beginning it after a few days of birth. 

That’s why you shouldn’t separate a puppy from their litter. Doing so will take away their first chance to socialize.

“But my dog is an adult already. Is it too late?”

No, not at all. 

You’d just have to expose your dog to as many distinct situations as possible.

Introduce them to new people of different ages. Bring them to various places.

However, you’ll have to be watchful of them. And follow tip #3 under this section along with this one.

And it’s also best to consult the vet and behaviorist for advice. 

#2: Keep their vaccinations current

Ensure that your pup’s vaccinations are up to date. Especially rabies.

The frequency of rabies vaccine will depend on your state’s law, though. But according to vets, Fido must get it every year or every 3 years.

#3: Warn other people of your dog’s history

As I suggested, you must expose your dog to different places and situations. Doing so will improve their socialization skills.

And, in the long run, that’ll also reduce unwanted behaviors.

But since your pooch has a biting history, you need to disclose that to everyone who comes near them. Or anyone Fido approaches.

Moreover, be vigilant if your pup shows signs of stress or anxiety. Those are:

  • Panting.
  • Whining.
  • Yawning.
  • Whale eyes.
  • Drooling too much.
  • Ears pinned back to their head.

If they exhibit any of those signs, instantly remove your dog from the situation. As well as kindly tell people to give Fido some space.