How to Handle Dog Attacks

Two dogs fighting.

Animal Attacks on the Rise

Pandemic lockdowns have led to a sharp increase in pet adoptions. And, with so many of us spending more time outdoors, it’s no wonder that dog bites are on the rise. While leash law are intended to prevent dangerous, and even deadly, encounters, dog owners don’t always comply.

Anyone who has faced off with an unleashed dog can attest to how nerve-wracking that experience can be. We should all be able to move freely around our neighborhoods or places of business without having to worry about being bitten by an animal. But, when a dog is unleashed and unsupervised, there is no way to predict what it will do—and there is no breed of dog that won’t bite.

Safety First

So, what should you do if you are taken by surprise by an unleashed dog? The first thing is to look around for a potential owner. Call out to anyone nearby to see if they know whose dog it is. With any luck, the owner will come and restrain the dog and you can be on your way.

But, if no owner is present, and there is nobody to help you, following these tips can minimize the danger:

  1. Don’t run.
    • Stay as calm as possible, and avoid any sudden movements.
    • Back away, slowly. Always face the animal, but avoid eye contact, as an aggressive dog will read this as a threat.
    • Don’t smile—a defensive dog may interpret this as bearing your teeth.
  2. If you end up on the ground, curl yourself up in a fetal position.
    • Cover your head with your arms
    • Make fists to protect your fingers
  3. Speak in a gentle, soothing voice. Don’t escalate the dog’s fear.
  4. If the dog does bite, don’t pull away. Instead, try to wedge something in-between you and the dog, like a backpack or a purse.
  5. Avoid hitting the dog, as this will encourage more aggression.
  6. Don’t try to catch or hold onto the dog—it could be rabid.

Once the animal has left, you can assess the damage and begin treatment.

Kinds of Wounds


often the case with puppies. Or, a frightened dog might simply nip at you to let you know they mean business. If your wound is small and near the surface, simply clean it with running water followed by hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. An antibiotic ointment and bandage should be sufficient until you see a doctor.

Puncture Wounds

Deeper wounds require more attention. Letting a deeper wound bleed out for about 5 minutes can help cleanse it. But call 911 in any of the following apply:

  • You’re losing too much blood
  • The blood is gushing with force
  • The wound is on your head or neck.

After 5 minutes of bleeding, apply pressure to the wound. If the blood is still flowing, call 911. Otherwise, wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes.

After any bite, even a minor one, get medical help. Dogs have bacteria in their mouths that can cause serious infections, including tetanus.

Reporting the Bite

If possible, take photos of the dog, your wounds, and the scene. Take notes about the incident while it’s fresh in your memory. Try to remember the timeline of events.

File a report with animal control right away. This is a crucial first step in ensuring a dangerous animal is properly secured. Moreover, the investigation that ensues may turn up a missing owner.

If the owner is found or known, they might be quite friendly and apologetic. That’s always helpful, but it’s no reason to deny yourself compensation for current and future medical problems arising from their dog’s attack.

In Maryland, if the victim was not trespassing, attempting to commit a crime, or provoking the dog—the owner is responsible for any injuries caused by an attack. Maryland has a statute of limitations of 3 years for dog bite lawsuits. Your case is always strongest when you move quickly.

If you or someone you love has suffered from a dog bite in the past 3 years, and you know the identity of the dog’s owner, call me for the legal support you need to collect the damages you deserve. Call 301-589-4597 or email me at for a free initial consultation today.