How to deal with a dog attack

Dog attacks in the UK are an all-too-common occurrence. Petplan looks at how you can stop your dog being aggressive and why third-party insurance is vital.

Dog attacks occur due to several reasons. These include a lack of socialisation from an early age, a lack of training, dogs not being under control in public spaces, dogs wanting to defend their owner or territory, fear and/or pain.

Here are the practical steps you can take if you encounter a situation involving an aggressive dog, as well as an explanation of how third-party liability cover is a vital part of any dog insurance policy.

How can I ensure my dog doesn’t attack other dogs or people?

Ensure your dog is socialised from as early an age as possible through controlled contact with other animals and people, while also making sure they are exposed to a wide range of events, environments and situations. The younger you start to socialise a puppy, the easier it will be. This is because as dogs get older, they may become more cautious when faced with new experiences if adequate social exposure has not been provided.

Going to parks with your puppy is a great way for them to meet other people and dogs. Puppy parties (opportunities to socialise with other puppies usually run by local veterinary practices) and obedience classes also allow them to encounter others outside their immediate circle.

The more comfortable and confident your dog is around other dogs and people, the less likely they will grow up to be fearful. Fearful dogs may bite due to being anxious or defensive.

How can I spot the signs of aggression in dogs?

Understanding dog behaviour is one of your best weapons for preventing dog attacks. If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs, it’s essential you stop bad behaviour the second you notice it, to prevent an attack. Seek the guidance of an experienced dog behaviourist should you begin to see such behaviours developing.

Learn about body and tail language in dogs so that you can be aware of behaviour that signals a dog is about to attack. A dog wagging their tail doesn’t always mean they are happy, as dogs can also wag their tail when overstimulated, prior to attack.

Other possible signals include:

  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Showing their teeth
  • Ears pulled flat to their head or pricking up

What can I do when a dog is attacking other dogs?

Most importantly, try your best to stay calm and don’t put yourself in any unnecessary danger. If your dog bites another dog, or your dog is being attacked, both pets will be in survival mode. There is a chance of you getting hurt should you intervene at the wrong moment.

Make loud noises by shouting, or use a horn to scare the attacking dog. This also serves to draw the attention of passers-by, who may be able to help you.

Remember to use your own judgement, however, and to look after your own safety – or the safety of others such as bystanders and especially children – as a first priority.

What to do if a dog bites you

Serious dog bites can become infected, so always seek immediate medical help for a dog bite that has broken the skin. Clean it as soon as possible with fresh water, remove any debris and apply a sterile dressing until you can reach a hospital or NHS walk-in centre. You may need a tetanus shot if you are not up to date with your jabs.

It is advisable to carry a basic first aid kit on walks, but be sure you know how to use it. It may one day assist you, your dog, or another person.

After a dog attack, what action should you take?*

If your dog is threatened or injured, report it to the police and the council dog warden.

Make sure to get the details of the dog owner so that action can be taken against them if deemed necessary – ask for ID if appropriate. Check if they have pet insurance and with which company.

Take a photo of the attacking dog, the owner and, if you can, any injuries your dog has sustained. Sometimes, the injury may seem minor at the time but can turn out to be quite serious.

*This advice references the current law in England and Wales. The Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA), is different in Scotland

Your Petplan policy cover: what you should know

Does my Petplan policy cover me if my dog is attacked?

If your dog is injured in an attack by another dog, your Petplan dog insurance policy will cover you. Simply claim for the veterinary fees as normal. 

Petplan may take action against the owner of the other dog, on your behalf, if we feel the owner can be proved legally liable.

Does my Petplan policy cover me if my dog causes injury to another dog?

If your dog bites another dog, the situation is deemed as property damage – as the injured dog is legally the property of the owner. This is where our third-party liability cover would come into effect.

All Petplan’s dog policies automatically include third-party liability in addition to covering vet bills, complementary treatment, boarding fees and emergency repatriation.

If you are not covered by third-party liability, you may find yourself responsible for any veterinary fees and compensation if you are proven legally liable for a dog attack.

Should your dog cause injury to another dog, it is very important that you contact Petplan as soon as possible after the incident to explain what has occurred.

What else does third-party liability insurance cover me for?

Third-party liability cover means dog owners are covered if there is damage to property, if someone is injured, falls ill or is killed as a result of an incident involving your dog.

You will also be covered for compensation and costs awarded against you by a court, and the legal costs and expenses for defending a claim against you.

Examples of claims paid out by Petplan include an incident where an overprotective Border Collie chased a postman from his garden. Although the dog did not cause any actual injury, in his rush to escape from the garden the postman fell over a low wall, injuring his back. Damages for personal injury, loss of earnings and the legal fees of both the third party and the client amounted to £60,000.

In another case, an owner was walking his Rhodesian Ridgeback and in his excitement at seeing someone coming the other way, the dog jumped up at an elderly lady, knocking her to the ground and causing her to break her wrist and hip. Damages for that claim amounted to nearly £40,000.

Up to how much does our third-party insurance cover you?

Petplan’s third-party cover ranges from £1 million to £3 million per incident, depending on which policy you choose.

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