Dog Bite Prevention Tips by Veterinary Behaviorist, Dr. Meredith Stepita

1. Dogs that behave as though they are shy, may actually be fearful and scared. They are most likely to become aggressive when they cannot escape or feel trapped in a situation, so avoid cornering the dog or overwhelming them by trying to pet them or be near them.

2. Listen to the dog: Dogs have a normal progression of aggression starting with barking, then growling, snarling, snapping and finally biting. If a dog is showing one of the early signs of aggression then remove them or yourself from the situation so that they do not feel the need to escalate to biting. Also, look for other stress signals such as a furrowed brow, muzzle licking, yawning, moving in slow motion, hypervigilance, panting, not accepting treats, etc.

3. So that your dog does not grow up to be a dog who bites, it’s important you socialize your dog starting as a puppy (less than 16 weeks of age) to inoculate them against fear, defensiveness and aggression later in life. Although socialization must occur throughout life for maintenance of social relationships, at less than 16 weeks of age puppies are in their sensitive period of socialization in which they are more likely to overcome mild fears and habituate to people, other animals, noises, objects, etc. Remember not to socialize puppies in places frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination or disease status such as dog parks or pet stores.

If you would like to schedule a private consultation with Dr. Meredith Stepita to discuss your pet’s behavior, please give us a call: (925) 937-5000

Meredith Steptita DVM, Dipl. ACVB


  1. Helen Marinakis says:

    Are dogs which sometimes express dominant behavior towards other dogs more likely to assert themselves by biting towards their human guardians compared to dogs that don’t?
    What is the second most important factor (after lack of socialization) that can be identified as a an increased risk towards dogs biting people ?

    • Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB says:

      Hi Helen,
      Thank you for the questions!
      1. We don’t have any scientific studies to suggest that dogs expressing dominance toward other dogs are more likely to bite humans than dogs that don’t. The only increase in biting of people I see clinically in dogs fighting with other dogs in the house (usually a hierarchical problem) is when the owners try to break up a fight and inadvertently are bitten- many times owners think the bite was accidental.
      2. Genetics also plays an important role in future behavior, including biting people.

      Please let us know if you have other questions. This is turning out to be an interesting discussion!