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Will a dog bite the same person twice?

This is an interesting question that many dog owners may wonder about. The answer is not completely straightforward and depends on several factors related to both the dog and the person who was bitten. In this article, we will explore the circumstances under which a dog may bite someone again after an initial bite incident. We will also discuss ways to reduce the risk of repeat bites through training and behavior modification. Understanding the psychology behind dog bites can help owners better manage their pets and create a safer environment.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

Before looking at whether dogs will bite the same person twice, it is important to understand why dogs bite in the first place. Dog bites generally fall into one of the following categories:

Fear-Based Biting

Dogs will sometimes bite out of fear or anxiety. This often occurs when the dog feels threatened or cornered and uses their teeth to defend themselves. Dogs may bite during veterinary exams, grooming, or handling by strangers if they are not accustomed to it. Fear biting often involves warning signs like growling, whimpering, tucked tail, and ears back.

Possessive Aggression

Some dogs will bite to guard resources like food, toys, beds, or attention from family members. This possessive aggression is rooted in anxiety over losing the item of value. Dogs may give warnings like growling or stiffening their body before resorting to biting.

Predatory Behavior

Dogs have a natural instinct to chase small fleeing objects as prey. This can translate to biting pets, small children, joggers, or bicyclists if the dog’s predatory drive is triggered. It is based on instinct rather than emotion.

Redirected Aggression

Sometimes a dog may bite someone who is not the source of their initial arousal. For example, if two dogs are fighting, owners trying to intervene may get redirected bites. The high emotional state leads the dog to lash out at whoever is closest.

Pain-Induced Biting

Dogs in pain from an injury or health condition may bite out of reflex. This is especially common in older arthritic dogs whose joints are sore. Biting is their way to communicate “you’re hurting me!”

Maternal Aggression

Female dogs with puppies will often demonstrate aggressive behavior to protect their litter. Their maternal instinct compels them to keep strangers or perceived threats away from the pups.

Factors That Increase Repeat Bite Risk

Now that we have explored the motivations behind dog bites, we can look at the factors that may make a repeat bite more likely:

Insufficient Training

Dogs with poor obedience skills, lack of socialization, or insufficient formal training are more prone to biting repeatedly. They do not have the behavioral control to inhibit the bite impulse.

Unaddressed Medical Issue

An underlying medical condition causing the dog pain or discomfort can lead to additional bites if not resolved through veterinary treatment.

High Prey Drive

Dogs selectively bred for high prey drive may continually bite joggers, cyclists, small pets, etc. due to instinct taking over in the presence of fleeing objects.

Abuse History

Dogs that have been abused in the past are more likely to bite out of learned fear responses. Rehabilitating abuse victims requires extensive counterconditioning and behavior modification.

Poor Socialization

Insufficient socialization and exposure to people and handling as a puppy can manifest as fear biting later in life. Dogs need controlled positive experiences to build confidence.


Some dogs are genetically prone to behaviors like fear, aggression, and reactivity that can precipitate biting. Behavioral genetics are complex but can influence temperament.

Learned Behavior

If a dog learns that biting leads to the outcome they want (person leaving, getting treat they resource guarded, etc.) they are more inclined to try it again in the future.

Lack of Proper Management

Dogs that are allowed to roam freely or are not properly confined/supervised when exhibiting warning signs are likely to bite again if conditions are right.

Does a Past Bite Predict Future Bites?

The big question remains – if a dog has bitten someone before, are they more likely to bite that person again in the future? The answer depends on the circumstances of the original bite and steps taken afterwards by the owner.

Some studies have looked at this question by evaluating hospital records of dog bite victims. Here are some of their findings:

Study Findings
Gershman et al. (1994) 6% of bite victims were bitten by the same dog more than once
Reisner et al. (2007) 0.33% of victims reported being bitten more than once by the same dog
Petridou et al. (2009) 4.4% of victims were bitten by the same dog on more than one occasion

The numbers above represent a minority of bite cases involving repeat bites by the same dog. While not extremely common, it clearly does happen in some scenarios.

The risks seem to be higher if:

  • The owner did not take steps to manage the biters behavior through training or confinement
  • The initial bite stemmed from prey drive, possessive aggression, or maternal protection – innate behaviors the dog is likely to show again under the right conditions
  • The victim continued to interact closely with the dog after the first bite

Conversely, the risks seem lower if:

  • The first bite was due to fear from lack of socialization and the owner socialized the dog after the incident
  • The dog received professional training to improve obedience and impulse control
  • A medical issue causing pain was treated by a vet following the first bite
  • Secure confinement protocols were put in place to prevent future biting opportunities

So while dogs do not universally bite the same person twice, the probability depends greatly on the situation and what actions the owner takes following the initial bite.

Reducing the Risk of Repeat Bites

If your dog has bitten someone before, here are some proactive steps you can take to minimize the chances it will happen again:

Seek Professional Help

Consult with a veterinary behaviorist to identify the cause of aggression and design an individualized training and counterconditioning program for your dog. Having expert guidance is key.

Obedience Training

Enroll your dog in high-quality group obedience classes. This allows them to practice commands around distractions and other dogs to improve focus and impulse control.

Proper Socialization

If your dog is fearful, arrange controlled positive exposures to new people, environments, and handling. Go slowly at their comfort level to build confidence.


Use baby gates, crates, leashes and muzzles to safely manage situations with high bite risk. Prevent opportunities for rehearsal of problem behaviors.

Reinforce Good Behavior

Reward and praise your dog for appropriate interactions with people to further shape friendly, tolerant behavior. Set them up for success.


Your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help lower your dog’s anxiety, reactivity or aggression in conjunction with behavior modification.

Environmental Enrichment

Reduce stress and frustration by providing interactive feeding toys, puzzle games, chews, and daily exercise to meet your dog’s mental and physical needs.

Monitor Body Language

Learn your dog’s subtle signals of discomfort like lip licking, yawning, shaking off, whale eye, and walking away. Intervene before warning signs escalate.

Living Safely with a Dog that Has Bitten

If your dog has a bite history, extra management is needed to ensure the safety of you, your family, and visitors. Here are some tips:

  • Keep your dog leashed, crated or gated any time guests are over. Provide a safe room your dog can be secured in if needed.
  • Muzzle train your dog to wear a basket style muzzle comfortably in case of emergencies or vet visits.
  • Post warning signs on your home’s exterior doors advising guests to knock before entering and not interact with your dog.
  • If your dog guards resources, give them their own set of toys/beds and pick items up when guests are over.
  • Massively reinforce ignoring people by diverting your dog’s attention to food rewards.
  • Avoid situations your dog has repeatedly shown aggression in, like around unfamiliar children.
  • Consider a permanent secure outdoor kennel run if your yard is not fenced.

Living with a bite history dog takes diligence. But being proactive and smart about management can keep everyone safe and happy. Don’t wait for another bite incident to act.

The Outlook for Dogs that Bite

The prognosis for dogs after a bite depends greatly on the owner’s vigilance and the steps they take to prevent recurrence. With professional treatment, behavior modification, training, and proper management techniques, many dogs that have bitten once do not repeat the behavior if their owners intervene appropriately. However, extreme aggression rooted in genetics generally has a poorer outlook despite best efforts at rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, some dogs with a bite history end up voluntarily relinquished by their owners or forced out of homes due to insurance policies or legal liability. While in some cases this may be appropriate, in many situations dogs can be successfully managed long-term and live a happy life. Owners should seek customized professional help before making the decision to re-home or euthanize a dog with bite history. With guidance, time, and dedication, positive change is often still possible.


While concerning, a dog biting someone once does not necessarily mean it will become a repeat offender. The probability of future bites depends on why the dog initially bit, their general temperament, what training and management steps the owner implements afterwards, and how carefully they supervise the dog going forward. If smart preventative actions are taken, most dogs that bite do not do so again. Under the right circumstances, even dogs with troubled histories can go on to become safe family pets.