Dogs are a man’s best friend. In the US, 36% of households have at least one four-legged member of the family. And for good reasons, pooches provide a sense of emotional well-being because of their unconditional love and companionship. Dog ownership has been so beneficial that it’s linked to better heart health and lower stress. But what happens when Fido bites?

Despite their protective and loyal nature, dogs can be unpredictable animals. Sudden movement or a loud noise can, for instance, can make your dog bark and set off an attack to unsuspecting kids or adults. And this is a natural instinct present in all domesticated dogs, no matter how trained they might be. After all, most dogs bite when they feel threatened. So what do you do when it happens?

What Happens When Your Dog Bites?

Dog owners often view their pets as members of their family. So when their dog misbehaves, they can overlook their bad behavior easily. But at the scene of a dog bite incident, it’s crucial that you take swift action to avoid liability. Keep the following tips in mind if your dog unexpectedly attacks someone:

Stay Calm

If you find yourself in the unpleasant situation of your pet biting someone, the first thing to do is stay calm. Keeping your cool can help calm your pet down and make the victim less likely to sue you for damages.

Call for Medical Help

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention report that one out of every five dog bites results in an injury that requires medical attention. Children are also more likely to get injured by dog bites than an adult. Check if the victim needs immediate and professional medical assistance. Look up the nearest urgent-care facility and dial 911 if necessary. While waiting for medical help to arrive, provide first aid through bandages and antiseptic skin cleanser.

Know the Cause

Dogs bite and attack for different reasons. Figuring out the cause of the attack can help prevent against further injury and keep your pet from biting anyone in the future. Some common causes of a dog bite include fear, protection, or getting provoked. Dogs may feel threatened by a trespasser and attack to defend himself. They could also bite in response to protecting their territory.

File a Police Report

Filing a police report demonstrates sincerity on your end in doing the right thing. The report will serve as an objective, third-party account of the incident that can keep the victim’s account of events as accurate as possible. The report should also explain what happened, the circumstances surrounding the incident, and who was involved so that the authorities can take proper action.

Exchange Contact Info

If your dog bites someone while you are walking them on the street or at home, make sure you regain control of your pet immediately. Exchange contact info with the victim as well as any witnesses at the scene of the incident. Make it a point to keep in touch with the victim until they have fully recovered from their injuries. Any attempts to conceal your identity could be interpreted as guilt. This could also result in a higher cost should the case go to court or result in an insurance settlement.

Provide Medical Records

Maintaining up-to-date records of your dog’s medical records is vital. During a dog bite incident, your pet’s medical records can help prove that your dog is in good health. Vaccination documents, for instance, could spare your dog from being released from your custody or discount concerns of the victim regarding communicable diseases. If you don’t have your pet’s records on-hand, obtain them from your vet as soon as possible.

Contact Your Insurance Company

Getting in touch with a policy adviser can help you determine whether to pay for the costs of the dog injury out of pocket or whether your insurance company covers it. Keeping your carrier in the loop can also help if the victim’s bite wound requires more serious attention. After all, your insurance company already knew about the incident beforehand.

Practicing Proper Pet Ownership

Owning a pet comes with great responsibility. Failing to take reasonable care to control your pet following your dog bite incident could prompt the victim to sue you for being negligent in handling your pet. Proving negligence depends on three factors:

  • The owner had the duty to take reasonable action to control their dog’s behavior;
  • The owner failed to meet that duty; and
  • The owner’s negligence directly led to the victim’s harm.

As a general rule, you have a responsibility to practice the duty of care. This means that you need to know what the risks of injury are so your dog doesn’t attack other people. Start by determining what triggered the bite then keeping your dog from getting into a similar situation. Work on training and socialization with your pet to temper their aggressive responses. The more committed you are to working with your dog, the easier it will be for him to reprogram his responses.