What Should I Do If I was Bitten by a German Shepherd?
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Dogs are the most popular pet in America by a substantial margin. In fact, of the U.S. households that own a pet, 63.4 million of them own dogs, which is tens of millions more than the next most popular pet, cats. One of the more popular dog breeds is the German Shepherd, and for good reason—according to the American Kennel Club, German Shepherds are loyal, courageous, and confident. However, German Shepherds are also large, muscular dogs, and their bites can have potentially devastating consequences for a victim.
WHY DO GERMAN SHEPHERDS ATTACK?
It is rare that a German Shepherd will bite for absolutely no reason. There is typically something that has provoked the dog to resort to biting. While these reasons are difficult to discern because dogs can’t communicate, it may be helpful to understand a few of the more common reasons that a German Shepherd might bite to avoid these situations.
The behavior that a German Shepherd exhibits is largely a result of its owners and the training they have given the dog. This can lead to biting in a couple of different ways. For one, some German Shepherds are bred to be attack dogs by irresponsible owners. These owners will train their dog to bite anyone who comes near them, and they can sometimes slip leashes and escape their property and bite unsuspecting victims. On the other hand, a German Shepherd who receives little or inadequate training may also bite due to a lack of proper socialization and structure.
German Shepherds have developed a reputation as being a dog breed that will attack suddenly and without warning, and this may be partly deserved. In the past, aggressive traits were passed down through bloodlines in German Shepherds to make them effective guard dogs. Through selective breeding and education of owners, this unwanted trait has largely been removed from purebred German Shepherds, but a dog who is intimidated or scared may still resort to biting instinctually.
Provocation by human behavior can also lead to biting. Depending on the surrounding circumstances and the specific dog, the exact sort of provocation that may lead to biting can vary. It could be a child or an adult taunting or poking at the dog, or even something as innocuous as jogging by a house with an improperly trained German Shepherd. The threshold to provoke a German Shepherd into biting may be lower inside the home of the owner, as the dog’s instinct to protect their owner and defend their turf may be heightened.
GERMAN SHEPHERD BITE STATISTICS
- Nearly five million people in the United States are bitten by a dog every year, and the most common victim is children who are bitten by a family pet.
- According to a study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, certain dog breeds bite more than others—German Shepherds are #4 on the list of breeds who are most likely to bite. However, this is behind “unknown” at #1 and “mixed breed” at #3.
- On a daily basis in America, over 1,000 Americans require hospitalization for a dog bite.
Read More: Dog Bite Statistics
GERMAN SHEPHERD BITE FORCE
The bite force of a given dog is the measurement of how much pressure the dog’s jaws can exert when they bite down on a given object. Measuring a dog’s bite force is important for several reasons. Bite force can be helpful in veterinary medicine when it comes to developing implants and screws to fix bone fractures, and it can even be helpful when developing and selecting toys for different breeds of dogs. However, the darker side to bite force comes into play when the thing the dog is biting is a human being.
Among dog breeds, German Shepherds have one of the strongest bite forces. Though it can be a bit difficult to measure given different locations in a dog’s mouth and jaw, most place the bite force of a typical German Shepherd at around 238 psi. To put this into perspective, the bite force of the average person is only 162 psi. This, combined with the sharpened points of a German Shepherd’s teeth, mean that their bites can do some serious damage.
GERMAN SHEPHERD BITES AND INJURIES
Before getting into the specifics of what sort of injuries a German Shepherd bit can cause, it may be helpful to understand the general categories, of which there are five.
This sort of bite is what a dog who feels nervous or timid might use to signal that they are uncomfortable. It is not meant to do any damage, and often will not even contact their target. If a dog begins to display this behavior, it is best to inform their owner and make sure to keep space between you and the dog.
Level 2—Skin Contact
This level of bite includes bites where the dog actually makes contact with their target but doesn’t do any real damage. These sorts of bites might occur when the dog is playing or if it is surprised and nips instinctively. If a dog has been a bit too rough, a victim might begin to notice small nicks and cuts. Again, if you notice that a dog has begun to bite in this way, it is important to notify their owner so that they can train or re-train them properly.
Level 3—Penetrative Bite
With bites at this level, the German Shepherd’s teeth will have fully penetrated the skin and may have gone in to a depth of up to half their canine teeth. Typically, level three bites will result in only puncture wounds and not lacerations. However, this does not lessen their severity—if you were bitten by a German Shepherd at this level, it is critical that they receive the proper training as soon as possible to ensure they don’t harm a potential victim.
Level 4—Serious Bite
Serious bites are exactly what they sound like. As opposed to a level 3 bite, the dog may have clamped down after biting and possibly shaken their head side to side, which can cause further damage. Certainly, at this point, the dog needs to receive immediate, specialist attention, and they should not be in contact with anyone. If the dog is taken outside, they should most likely be wearing a muzzle.
Level 5—Multiple Bites
At this stage, the bite has moved past the level of a bite and has gone on to become a full-fledged attack. If a dog is biting multiple times, it will likely continue to bite as much as possible and is probably looking to seriously maim or kill its victim. Sadly, it is possible that a dog who has gotten to a situation where it is biting a victim multiple times may face no other option but to be put down.
There is a wide variety of bites when it comes to German Shepherds. As a result, there is a wide range of injuries that victims can endure, all the way from minor scrapes to death. Some of the more commonly suffered injuries by victims are puncture wounds and lacerations. Puncture wounds can be relatively minor if the dog bites and can grow to jagged wounds if the dog clamps and shakes their head. These sorts of injuries may require extensive stitching and even surgery to fully address.
Aside from simple cuts and tears in the skin, however, dog bites can have more severe consequences for the victim. For one, any open wound is subject to becoming infected, and this risk may be magnified when it comes to dog bites because there is the additional factor of the bacteria that are present in the dog’s mouth. Bites that go deep enough can also cause nerve damage and result in anything from loss of sensation to a permanent loss of motion in your limb.
WHAT TO DO IF A GERMAN SHEPHERD ATTACKS
If you were bitten by a German Shepherd, the best way to protect yourself is to understand and follow a few simple, but potentially lifesaving, steps.
Dog bites can be terrifying and unsettling. However, the more you panic, the more agitated the dog will become. When you find yourself here, making slow and fluid movements is key.
While moving at a brisk but unpanicked pace, try to put a solid barrier between you and the dog. This can be a car, brick wall, or small building.
If the dog reaches you, use whatever you have to shield it from attacking. This could be a briefcase, a handbag or purse, or even a book. Remember, no piece of property is as important as your life—use whatever means you have at your disposal to protect yourself.
Seek Medical Attention
Once you have reached a place of safety, you should seek medical attention immediately to treat any wounds you may have received from the attack. A medical professional may treat any puncture wounds or lacerations, and in some cases, you may need a rabies shot. The hospital or doctor’s office should create a record of your injuries, which may be helpful if you decide to pursue a claim against the dog’s owner.
Document the Scene
Make sure you document the scene of the accident and any resulting medical bills or property damage. Take note of where the accident occurred, who the dog belonged to, whether the dog was exhibiting any strange behaviors, and how you were behaving before the dog attacked you.
Read More: Who’s to Blame in a Dog Bite Case?
File a Report
You should file an official report about the accident. The process for filing a report varies from region to region, but it is ultimately important to make sure that dangerous dogs are handled appropriately so they do not hurt other people or animals.
Read More: How to File a Dog Bite Report
Contact an Attorney
Finally, you may want to contact an experienced dog bite attorney. If you wish to pursue a claim to seek compensation for your injuries, an attorney may negotiate with insurance companies, gather evidence, and, if necessary, take your case to trial.
CONTACT THE ZINDA LAW GROUP DOG BITE ATTORNEYS TODAY
While the experience of being attacked by a German Shepherd can be terrifying, the process of trying to recover fair compensation for your injuries can potentially be equally as stressful. One way to combat this is to hire an experienced attorney who may be able to take the burden of handling your legal case off of your shoulders. At Zinda Law Group, we believe that accident victims shouldn’t have to worry about their ability to afford legal representation, which is why we offer a No Win, No Fee Guarantee—you don’t pay us anything unless we win your case for you.
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