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Dog bite prevention

The City of Rochester is committed to reducing dog bites by removing barriers in access to resources for pet owners (e.g., pet supplies, veterinary care, sterilization, obedience training) and providing information that can help people avoid a negative encounter with a dog. By following the tips below, dog owners can reduce the likelihood that their dog will be involved with a bite. There are also tips for parents, children, and people in occupations involving home visits to minimize chances of being bitten. 

The City also maintains a Dangerous Dog Ordinance to regulate dog ownership and to hold dog owners responsible for unjustified harm or damage caused by their pets. The ordinance appropriately focuses on the behavior of the dog and all the circumstances surrounding that behavior. Violations of this ordinance may result in the issuance of citations carrying financial penalties. Alternatively, a victim of an attack or threat of an attack may commence a dangerous dog proceeding by consulting a private attorney. Such City Court proceedings provide the court with a variety of options for disposition from which the judge selects those that suit the needs of the particular case. Those possible dispositions include a monetary penalty not to exceed $1,000; specific leash, muzzle, and confinement requirements; posting "Dangerous Dog on Premises" signs; obtaining liability insurance or surety bonds covering any damage or injury that may be caused by such a dog; consultation with a behaviorist; obedience training; spaying or neutering; and microchipping. There is even a misdemeanor charge carrying a financial and/or imprisonment penalty for some cases involving physical injury. Humane euthanasia of the dog is the alternative disposition to a confinement order as outlined above. All dog owners are strongly encouraged to read the ordinance.   

What can you do to prevent your dog from biting? 

dog bite prevention tips
  • Provide obedience training
  • Socialize with other people and animals
  • Provide proper food, water, shelter
  • Provide exercise - a tired dog is a happy dog
  • Provide enrichment - give your dog toys and puzzle feeders
  • Play with your dog, but train the dog to release on command
  • Provide attention and affection; dogs are social animals
  • Avoid or minimize chaining or tethering - dogs often develop aggressive behaviors when isolated outside for long periods
  • Obey leash laws
  • Spay or neuter your dog
  • Never leave children alone with a dog 

Why do dogs bite?

  • Excitement/play
  • Possessive/protective
  • Fear
  • Accidental
  • Attention
  • Sick or injured 

What do you do when you see a loose dog?

  •  Avoid the dog  
  •  Do not attempt to catch it
  •  If a dog can be secured safely in the yard, do so
  •  Do not tease or taunt  
  •  Inform an adult
  •  If an owner is present, request that the owner secure the dog  
  •  If the dog remains unsecured, call 911

What about leashed dogs?

  • Do not approach unfamiliar dogs
  • Do not assume the dog is playful or friendly
  • Do not extend an open hand
  • Allow a wide berth when walking, bicycling, rollerblading by dog
  • The owner may say “She doesn’t bite,” but all dogs can bite

Service visits/visiting an unfamiliar house or dwelling

  • Announce arrival or call ahead if possible
  • Look for signs of a dog (e.g., bowl, toys, etc.)
  • Jiggle fence, shake keys, whistle
  • If a dog is present, ensure it is secured before entering the home
  • Inquire about the dog before entering the home

Do’s and Don’ts when approached by unfamiliar dogs

  • Stand still; don’t run away; Walk slowly away from the dog
  • Avert your gaze; don’t look directly in the eyes
  • Use firm, confident commands
  • Offer a bag, purse, hat, or other objects to a dog instead of a body
  • If there is no object to use, offer a weak arm instead of the dominant arm; do not pull away!
  • If knocked over, assume the fetal position on your knees, cover your face and neck
  • Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult
  • Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or with pups
  • If bitten, tell an adult, wash with soap and water, and seek medical attention (call 911 for emergencies, 311 for non-emergencies)

Female dog with puppies

  • Do not attempt to pet mother dog with puppies
  • Do not attempt to grab or pet puppies

Interpreting dog postures

  • Dogs use a variety of body postures to communicate
  • Understanding and recognizing those postures can help in avoiding encounters resulting in bites