Summer weather is here, bringing Austin residents outdoors to enjoy the parks, waterways, and outdoor seating at popular cafes. Unfortunately, the increase in the use of public outdoor spaces increases the likelihood of interactions with aggressive dogs.
Dog aggression in Austin has been higher in recent years, as young dogs born during the Covid crisis had fewer opportunities to be properly socialized. Young children are especially at risk of dog aggression, due to their smaller size, greater likelihood of approaching strange animals, and lack of experience with unknown dogs.
This year, more than ever, it is important to understand and teach children how to recognize signs of aggression and avoid dog bites. It is also important to know what to do in case of a dog bite, and when to contact an Austin dog bite attorney.
Common Warning Signs of Dog Bites
While some dangerous dogs may react without provocation, most dogs will adopt consistent attitudes and behaviors that let you know the dog is uncomfortable and may become aggressive. In fact, even if the warning signs are brief, dogs will almost always signal before they attack. Even if you know a dog well, always be alert for the following signs of aggression:
- The dog becomes very still and has a rigid posture
- The dog gives a guttural, threatening bark
- The dog lunges or charges
- The dog growls
- The dog shows their teeth
- The dog snarls (a combination of growling while showing teeth)
- The dog snaps or nips
- The dog mouths (uses their mouth or teeth to control or dominate without actually biting)
- The dog “punches” with their muzzle
These are all signs that the dog is agitated and may bite. A dog may perform all of these actions, or only some. They may not happen in sequence, or may happen simultaneously. When a dog displays some or all of these behaviors, it is crucial to recognize the danger and react appropriately.
How to Respond to Signs of Aggression in Dogs
When a dog is acting aggressively, your instinct may be to pull back, run away, or strike at the dog. However, these are all likely to increase aggression and make the situation worse. Here is the best way to respond to an aggressive dog:
- Remain calm and still. Do not turn your back on the dog, and do not run. If you turn and run, it increases the chances that the dog will instinctively chase and bite you.
- Back away slowly. Remaining calm, back away from the dog with slow, controlled movements
- Avoid eye contact. Staring an aggressive dog in the eyes is a form of challenge. While it is important to watch the dog and understand their mood and behavior, avert your face slightly and avoid direct eye contact.
- Do not smile. Like eye contact, showing your teeth to an aggressive dog is another form of challenge.
- Use a soft, calm tone of voice. Do not raise your voice, or yell or scream. Talk to the dog in a calming tone.
- Do not pull away if bitten. This can be extremely difficult, but if a dog mouths or bites you, do not pull or jerk away. Pulling back starts a “tug of war” that increases the severity of an injury. Instead, remain calm and, if possible, put something between yourself and the dog.
Remaining calm and backing away from a dog that is showing signs of aggression is an important skill, and parents should make sure to teach their children how to behave safely in the presence of dogs.
What to Do After a Dog Bite in Austin Texas
A dog bite can cause a number of different medical and legal consequences, and should always be reported. If a person has been attacked by a dog and requires medical attention, always call 911. If there has been a dog attack that does not require medical attention, Austin residents should call 311 to report it. Unincorporated Travis County residents should call 512-974-2000. Dog bite victims should complete an Animal Bite Report as soon as possible.
Dog owners in Texas are responsible for taking proper care of their pets, vaccinating them, and restraining them appropriately when in public. Austin and Travis County require pet owners to keep their dogs restrained at all times, unless in designated off-leash areas.
Texas follows the “one-bite rule”, which holds pet owners accountable for the aggressive behavior of their dog if the dog has ever bitten anyone in the past, and the owner is aware of it. In the case of a lawsuit, the “one-bite” rule lowers the standard for proving negligence, putting more responsibility on the pet owner for the health and safety of others.
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, you may be able to bring a personal injury case against the pet owner, allowing you to recover for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. If a dog attacks and injures your dog, you may be able to recover for property damage and other expenses.
In any dog bite incident that requires significant medical (or veterinary) expenses, it is a good idea to discuss your case with an Austin dog bite attorney. A qualified dog bite lawyer in Texas can help explain your rights and recover from the attack.
If you or a loved one have been bitten by a dog or other type of pet in Texas, contact the law offices of Aaron Allison. Family-owned since 1978, we have decades of experience fighting negligence and personal injury cases for the people of Austin, and understand the complexity of dog bite cases in Texas. Book a free consultation now.