Ask the dog trainer: what to do if bitten by a dog?

Dear Kendal,
I am shaken. Our neighbor was walking his dog Oliver, and my 4 year old niece Alexis was petting him when she suddenly started crying. I rushed over and when I picked her up I saw that Oliver had pinched her arm. I was so freaked out that I grabbed her and ran to the bathroom where I washed the cuts with soap and water. We live in an area with a lot of dogs, some of which are not friendly, as this incident reminded me so well. What should I do if it happens again? I’m worried!

Dear Betty,
It seems to me that you acted admirably in a moment of crisis. You kept Alexis safe and made sure the punctures were cleaned and cared for. These are all good steps to take after a bite.
If you or someone you know is bitten again, here are some tips on what to do next and what to expect.
Make sure you get to safety as calmly and quickly as possible. If the dog is off leash and chasing you, fight back and find higher ground. I’ve climbed over car hoods, jumped fences, and once found myself climbing an old oak tree covered in poison ivy. Ideally, you can calmly back up to your car or retreat inside a gate. If the dog is on a leash, walk away until the owner controls the dog.
Once you are safe and the dog is secure, it is important to do a physical inspection. In the heat of the moment, you may not have noticed being bitten. Check your hands, arms, torso and legs for injuries. Check everyone who was with you at the time, including the owner if present. Be through. Feel, look and investigate. Although rabies is not common in the United States, secondary infections can occur, so note any abrasions, scrapes, and cuts as well as puncture wounds.
If the wounds affect the face, groin or joint spaces, or are deep, it is advisable to go to the nearest hospital where you can receive medical attention. When you arrive, you will need to complete a form detailing the address where you were bitten, the names of the owners and a description of the dog. If owners can provide proof of rabies vaccination, bring that too. Authorities will contact the owners and conduct their own investigation, but any information you can provide will help your doctor make crucial decisions about your care.
Once admitted, a doctor will examine your wounds, irrigate them with saline solution, and bandage them loosely. Puncture wounds are usually left to drain and heal on their own without the use of stitches. You may be given pain medication, a list of symptoms to watch out for such as pus, redness, and swelling, and sent home to rest.
Unless the dog that bit you is a stray or has not been vaccinated against rabies, you will not need a series of rabies shots. If your doctor feels this is a necessary precaution to keep you safe, rest assured that they are not as painful as they used to be and are delivered into your biceps instead of your abdomen.
Expect a call the next day from Animal Control to discuss the nature of the injuries. Personally, I find our local animal control center to be professional, friendly and respectful, and commend them for their hard work in keeping us safe. They will take notes and contact you if more information is needed.
Alexis is lucky to have such a brave and resourceful aunt. Unfortunately, dog bites are common, but hopefully this information will help you feel more prepared should another emergency arise.
Kendall and Chandler Brown are owners of Custom K-9 Service Dogs, a dog training business serving Minden/Gardnerville, Carson and Reno. For more information, visit or email

Comments are closed.