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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

What to do when the dog has bitten? What consequences do you as the owner have to expect if your dog has injured another dog or even another person? What do you do if you yourself become a victim of a dog bite?

A dog bite is a painful and problematic matter, which is enormously stressful for all involved. How can I protect myself or prevent a bite in an emergency? Can I recognize it in advance by the body language of the dog?  

Bite wounds and their consequences

Dogs have enormous bite power and sharp canines and fangs, they can inflict very painful to life-threatening wounds in case of a bite. The size of the bite wound naturally depends on the size of the dog.

However, even bites from smaller dogs can cause serious medical problems, as bacteria in the dog’s mouth can transmit various pathogens (such as rabies). Such wounds also become inflamed quickly and often lead to persistent infections that need to be treated with medication.

Apart from the possibility of transmitting pathogens, larger wounds in particular must be professionally cleaned, treated and possibly sutured. In the case of injuries to tendons, joints, bones, etc., operations may even have to be performed. In most cases, however, these are skin abrasions or light bruises. 

The consequences are also not limited to physical and aesthetic effects (scarring etc.). No matter whether a human or animal has been bitten, the psyche can also suffer enormously after such a traumatic experience (anxiety disorder, changes in character, etc.).

Dog bite – legally seen

Besides the above mentioned physical and psychological consequences of a dog bite, possible legal consequences cannot be excluded. Especially if your own dog has bitten or otherwise injured another person. However, it always depends on the circumstances how the bite incident occurred. The legal situation is to be judged individually.

If a person has been bitten and the police has not already been informed, this will be done at the latest in the hospital/doctor’s visit. This does not even have to be a bite injury, in case of a scratch or the like a criminal complaint is always automatically filed, because legally it is a bodily injury. Claims for damages for pain and suffering should also be reckoned with.

If your dog has bitten another dog, this falls (in austria) under property damage. Here, for example, your liability insurance would intervene.

If it should turn out in further investigation that the duties of care (prohibition of alcohol, dog handling license, general legal situation) of the owner, which are given according to the animal protection law, were not kept by the owner, further measures (removal of the animal, various requirements of the veterinary office, euthanasia in particularly bad cases…) can be initiated. 

After a bite wound, a confirmation of a current rabies vaccination of the dog is always required. If the dog has not been vaccinated, a blood test or a titer determination is arranged and the dog is sent into quarantine during this time (10 days). The first examination must take place immediately after the bite incident, the last examination after the 10 days. During this observation period the dog must not be abandoned or even killed. 

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What to do after a dog bite?

  • First and foremost, it is important to get away from the dog that bit to avoid further injuries. 
  • Exchange contact details with the dog owner to be in contact for further steps. If necessary, ask witnesses for contact details.
  • If someone is injured, go to the doctor or vet as soon as possible.
  • If your dog has bitten, report it to the police and follow further instructions (visit to the vet for rabies testing, etc.).

If your dog has bitten, reflect on the situation to find out the cause. Your dog has now made the experience of biting to succeed. Here it is advisable to consult a certified dog trainer to avoid such incidents in the future.  

First aid

  • Is the bitten dog responsive? Talk to him calmly and give him security.
  • Caution: in shock and pain, your own dog may bite you.
  • Stilling heavily bleeding wounds. Press firmly with a cloth or, in an emergency, with your finger for a few minutes or apply a pressure bandage.
  • Off to the veterinarian! (also for smaller wounds)

Dog Bite Prevention

Pay attention to the dog’s warning signals: On the basis the body language of the dog you can read off so much. If the dog begins to growl, pull up his lips, fleece his teeth, put on his ears, buff his fur or retreat, you should keep your distance and stay calm. 

Recognize dog language and take it seriously: We often overlook small signals and unfortunately some dogs are forbidden to express their discomfort by growling. The escalation levels show that sooner or later the only thing left for the dog to do is bite when all other communication attempts have failed.

Pay attention to your own body language: Some movements could be perceived by the dog as a threat, such as leaning over when greeting or looking directly into the dog’s eyes. Loud screaming also appears threatening to some dogs.

Don´t separate dogs that are fighting: This is sometimes one of the most common reasons for a bite incident. In the heat of the moment, your darling won’t notice who he is actually biting. 

Children should never play with dogs unsupervised: Even during the course of what may initially seem like a harmless game, a dog’s mood can change quickly and it can suddenly feel threatened. In general it is recommended to train children in handling dogs in advance.

Do not disturb when eating or reach into the bowl: Here it can come to the defense of resources. Some dogs also react quite harshly if you try to take their toys away from them. This is basically a natural behaviour, if the dog has not learned that it is not bad to give things away. 

Slowly approaching strangers: Fast movements or direct approach can be considered dangerous for some dogs. Even if dogs feel oppressed, scared or under stress, the danger of biting is increased.

Never touch strange dogs without being asked: This is not only extremely impolite, it can also become a danger. 

Caution also with mother animals and their puppies: A mother dog defends her puppies. Some mother animals feel it as threatening if someone approaches its puppies.

Do not overlook behavioral changes: A dog can also bite out of pain. If you or a member of the same species touch a painful spot, the dog may react with a bite. If your dog shows a change in its behavior, you should have this clarified by a veterinarian to avoid severe pain. 

Be careful: Most accidents are caused by known dogs (family dog, from friends, etc.) through carelessness. 


Bite wounds are not to be trifled with. Apart from the severe pain, the possible risk of infection or extensive surgery, the psyche of the victim can also suffer. In addition, a bite incident is a bodily injury, or damage to property, if another dog was bitten.