Common Causes of Dog Bites

Dog Bites & Injuries | February 16, 2024

Dog bites are a significant public health issue, but you will be hard-pressed to find any comprehensive study of dog bites in the US. One recent study does tackle the subject of dog bites and examines data from a recent 10-year timeframe. This data shows that the overwhelming majority of dog bite incidents occur by accident and at home. But why do these incidents happen in the first place? It goes deeper than simply saying a dog was aggressive or in the wrong.

Dog Bites Can Occur Due to a Variety of Reasons

The reality is that almost all dog bites are preventable. Some of the most common reasons that dogs bite individuals include the following:


  • Aggression. Dogs may display aggressive behaviors due to fear, territorial protection, or competition over resources such as food or attention. This can lead to biting if the dog feels threatened or needs to assert dominance.
  • Protective instincts. Dogs naturally protect their puppies, owners, or personal belongings. If they perceive a person or another animal as a threat to their protective domain, they might bite to safeguard what they value.
  • Illness or pain. When dogs are unwell or in pain, their tolerance for interaction decreases. A dog that might normally be gentle could react by biting if someone touches a sore spot or if they feel particularly vulnerable due to illness.
  • Playfulness. During play, dogs may unintentionally bite. Biting can occur if play becomes too rough or the dog becomes overly excited. Dogs need to learn bite inhibition during play to prevent accidents.
  • Fear. Dogs can bite when they are afraid or suddenly startled. A fearful dog might see biting as a defense mechanism if they cannot escape the situation that is causing them fear.
  • Startled or provoked. A dog might bite if suddenly disturbed while sleeping or if they’re provoked through teasing or threatening gestures. Such bites often occur as a reflex or defensive action.
  • Resource guarding. Dogs may bite to protect their food, toys, or any object they consider valuable. This behavior stems from the instinct to guard resources from perceived threats or competitors.

Unfortunately, dog bites can lead to puncture wounds, infections, and significant scarring and disfigurement. It should be noted that individuals can sustain other types of injuries associated with a dog’s behavior, sometimes in conjunction with a bite. For example, a dog could run into a person and trip them, leading to fall injuries.

Can Dog Bite Victims Recover Compensation?

Dog bite injury victims may be able to recover compensation by filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner. California operates under what is known as a “strict liability” dog bite law, meaning it may not be necessary to prove that the dog owner was negligent. We encourage you to speak to a dog bite injury lawyer in Sacramento who can walk you through the process and help you understand the best route to securing maximum compensation for your losses. The compensation available through a successful claim can help pay for medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses arising due to the incident.