A person about to hit a dachshund while the dog is snarling at them

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Dogs are considered man’s best friend, which makes it surprising when a dog suddenly becomes aggressive and bites someone. Dog bites can lead to serious injuries, and in some cases, emotional trauma. But determining who’s at fault for the dog bite – the victim or the dog owner – depends on whether or not the victim provoked the dog.

By law, provocation is any action from a person that elicits a radical change in the dog’s behavior. This principle determines who is at fault when a victim seeks compensation for medical expenses and damages after a bite. Here are the guidelines for what is considered provoking a dog:

Examples of Provocation

When a dog feels anxious or threatened by a situation, they are instinctively driven to one of two actions: fight or flight. If the dog has the ability to escape a situation, it will generally do so, as this is the safest of the two options. If the dog feels trapped, it may show signs of aggression, such as snarling or getting low to the ground. These behaviors are meant as a warning. If the individual threatening the dog does not cease their behavior, then the dog will generally attack.

Examples of provoking behavior include:

  • Hitting the dog
  • Trapping the dog in a small space
  • Startling the dog
  • Stepping on its tail
  • Pulling on its tail, ears, legs, or fur

Unintentional Provocation

Another action which may be considered provocation is making threatening gestures to the dog’s owner. For example, the plaintiff and the defendant were in a heated argument in the defendant’s house. The plaintiff made a swift movement towards the defendant as if to hit him. The defendant’s dog, who was lying down, suddenly jumps up and bites the plaintiff. In this case, the dog is reacting off of his natural pack instincts. Since the plaintiff made a threatening advance towards the defendant, the dog reacted protectively, which is normal behavior for a dog.

Actions such as startling a dog or stepping on its tail are sometimes unintentional. Despite this, these actions are still considered provoking and can result in the plaintiff being deemed partially responsible for the dog bite.

Non-Provoking Actions

Dog owners have the responsibility of knowing the personality of their pets, as well as training them to behave in public or around guests. If a dog owner knows that their dog is nervous by nature, they are responsible for keeping the dog away from environments where an incident is likely to occur. The following actions are not considered provoking under normal circumstances:

  • Walking towards a dog
  • Carrying a package and walking towards the dog and the owner
  • Addressing the owner
  • Being seated then rising and facing the dog
  • Reaching to pet a dog
  • Playing with a dog and patting him
  • Feeding a dog
  • Helping to transport an injured dog
  • Extending a hand or arm over a fence

If a dog owner knows that their dog is generally nervous in certain situations, it is their responsibility to make anyone approaching the dog aware of the fact. This gives that individual time to change their behavior to help keep the dog more at ease.

If you or a loved one has been bitten or attacked by a dog, do not let a negligent owner try to claim that you provoked the dog; contact the personal injury attorneys at Hernandez Law Group. Juan Hernandez is part of the 2% of Texas attorneys who is board-certified to practice personal injury law. Our vast experience in the courtroom can help you claim the compensation you deserve for medical expenses and other damages resulting from a dog bite. Call us today for a free consultation.