Dog bites dog: Who’s to blame?

My mutt was walking off leash at the park with me last week. The back of the park borders some backyards, which is where we were walking when a toy poodle came bounding out from one of the yards. It left its yard and ran right up to Ace, barking. Ace was busy looking for a stick, and the dog startled him. Both dogs were friendly, so there were no issues. I pulled Ace along on our walk, and a man came out and got his dog after unsuccessful coaxing from the door.

But this situation could’ve gone a lot differently had it been two different dogs. It made me think about who is to blame when a dog bites another dog. If my bigger dog had felt threatened and bit this little dog, would it be my fault?

Both dogs were off leash, neither were 100 percent under control, and the smaller dog was the one provoking the bigger dog. Let’s say the little dog bit my dog on the leg, enough to draw blood. But then my dog bit back, hurting the little dog more severely or even killing it. My dog would be the one labeled a dangerous dog, when the smaller dog was the one who attacked in the first place, unprovoked.

I guess the moral of the story is you can only be responsible for your own dog. I can’t control the fact that some idiot leaves his poodle alone without a leash in a nonfenced yard. But I can control my dog’s response, and if I can’t trust him 100 percent, then he shouldn’t be off leash for his own safety as well as others’. The same is true for possessive dogs at dog parks. They just shouldn’t be off leash.

I worry about that little dog, because who knows what kind of trouble it could get itself into. It shows no fear, and not all big dogs are gentle like my mutt.

15 thoughts on “Dog bites dog: Who’s to blame?”

  1. OOOH how appropo! I had the same thing happen just this morning only I had my four labs on a leash and a little mop came charging down the driveway at them.. Had my dogs been attacked and bit back, even though I had them on lead would they be at fault since obviously they were not “under control” It poses a very interesting question!

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  2. Very good post. My dog got nipped yesterday at agility training. It was both of our faults though. Dogs too close. Lots of energy. And mine wasn’t hurt at all (he just yelped) with his thick fur. So the rest of the time we just paid special attention to that dog and they even got really close to each other throughout class and did fine.

    I hate when dogs are labeled as dangerous just for reacting naturally especially when provoked. *sigh*

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  3. Ahh at the moment this one drives me nuts… I am trying so hard with Chels, walking & socialising as she will be a massive girl one day.

    One of the biggest hassles for me is small dogs running at her from unfenced yards… not an owner in sight … I doubt Chels will ever bite anything except through a fear response & I’m thinking a nip from a scared Dane could damage.

    Ironically we have no trouble at the beach, where although dogs are off leash owners put them on as they pass each other and stop to talk. Its in suburbia where the problems for me are.

    I guess it comes down to us all being responsible for our own dogs, accidents do happen and its up to us to minimise the risk, both to our dogs and others.

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  4. My yorkie was running with me a the park, he was on a retractable leash, but it was locked. Since, we were running we got closer to an american bulldog that was on a leash,but not a harness. My dog got closer becasue we were headed in that directions, but didn’t bark and the bulldog grabbed him like a rag doll. The bulldog grabbed my yorkie by the back of the neck and pinned him on the floor and started to shake him in the air.

    After the bulldog released my dog the owner said that she was aware the bulldog was not good with other dogs, they had just rescued him and they didn’t know his background. Later, she said that I should be more aware next time, I do agree, but you never expect such an agressive dog at a park. He was not provoked by my dog, he just happened to come in his reach, beacuse of the size of the walk way.

    My yorkie had surgery today because he had 4 big punctures and his right leg is not responding. His insureance expired 14 days ago, and she want to pay half the cost deducting her medical expenses. Without proof she claims that my dog bit her when she tried to break them apart. My dog was scared and actually bit me in the car, but he didn’t even break the skin?

    Is the bulldogs owner responsible for more then half the cost? or what is a reasonable amount if we have paid 2500 so far and I missed work to take him to the vet?

    Please Advise.

    1. 50/50 end of story. The other dogs owner did their due diligence by having their dog on a real leash.

      I agree retractable leashes are terrible training tools, they are great for unintentionally encouraging pulling, and provide only idea of control since they are more often then not at length.

  5. Lindsay Stordahl

    I know in my area (Fargo, ND) there is no law against dogs who bite other dogs. If the dog bites a person there is a liability but not if it bites other dogs. I am no expert on this and it might be different in your area.

    From what you said about the situation, it sounds like you are both at fault. Flexi leashes are so dangerous because you can’t “reel” your dog in fast enough if another dog approaches. You should’ve pulled your dog away and the owner of the bulldog also should have pulled the dog away since she knew the dog was aggressive.

    I don’t believe the bulldog’s owner is responsible for anything. Hopefully she is a good person and recognizes that the incident was half her fault and will help you pay for the care of your Yorkie anyway. Did you swap info with her?

    Anyway, for more advice, speak to a law enforcement person (maybe animal control?) or a lawyer. But again, my experience is they do pretty much nothing in dog on dog cases.

  6. Lindsay Stordahl

    Since the bulldog has a history of aggression, though, that should work in your favor if you want to prove it wasn’t your fault.

  7. Yesterday, I was running my olde english bulldog up a backwoods road very isolated like I always do. I was in my car as my dog ran behind us. Someone was also on there way down the hill with their golden retriever. I noticed my dog got startled so I stopped the car as my dog was trying to get his dog. I never saw my dog bite his dog successfully. As my friend tried to grab my dog the man kicked my dog as hard as he could and then we were able to get control of my dog. I wasn’t offended by the fact that he kicked my dog. None of the dogs were on a leash. Both dogs walked away unharmed (no blood or yelping).
    My friend went back recently only to find this rude person there again. Unfortunately, my friend got yelled at for something he had no responsibility for. This person claims they spent $250 at the vet for stitches. He insisted my friend was at fault knowing that he isn’t even the owner of the dog and my dog wasn’t even there the second time they met.
    Who’s to blame and who should pay the bills?

  8. Lindsay Stordahl

    I am sorry this situation happened to you.

    I do hate it when people run their dogs by having the dog chase the car. I know some very good people who do this and it bothers me. It is dangerous.

    I’d say you are both to blame. Both dogs were unleashed and not under control, especially your dog because you were in your car and would not be able to get out fast enough to stop your dog. In most areas there are leash laws.

    Also in most areas, there is no one legally at fault unless the dog bites a human. Since the other owner can’t prove your dog bit his dog, then you don’t owe him anything. If you want to be nice and pay part of the vet bills, go ahead. It is very possible that the dog was bitten and you just didn’t see it, especially because goldens have long hair.

  9. Thanks for the reply. He was very aggressive and I think he was exagerating because $250 doesn’t get you much at the vet except for a check up.

  10. Shane Tommerdahl

    When I was young my parents had a tea cup poodle along with a couple of doberman pinchers. Any way they took the poodle with to visit my grandparents. When they let him out of the car they expected him to run to the house. But there was a shepard on the other side of the street that he ran to instead. Barking and growling. The shepard grabbed him shook him and killed him in a matter of seconds. My parents were very upset but did not blame the other dog or the other dogs owner. They realized that it was their fault for not having Tiker on a leash. It was a hard lesson for all of us.

  11. Lindsay Stordahl

    I’m sorry about your parents’ poodle. But that is a good example. Thank you for sharing that. If my dog ran over and got attacked by another dog because I didn’t have him under control, I wouldn’t blame the other owner or dog either.

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