German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. Regal, intelligent, and loyal, these dogs make wonderful companions and working dogs. However, their large size, strong jaw, and protective nature also mean that German Shepherds can inflict severe bites when provoked.
While any dog is capable of biting, German Shepherds pose a higher risk of serious injury than small dogs. Their bites should always be treated as a medical emergency. Proper wound care is essential to prevent complications like infection. Additionally, understanding what provokes German Shepherds to bite can help prevent attacks.
Background on German Shepherd Bites
With their origins as herding dogs in Germany in the late 1800s, German Shepherds were bred to have strong jaws and a willingness to use them when necessary. Their bite force ranges from 238 to 750 pounds of pressure.
While German Shepherds rank as the third most likely breed to bite or inflict injury, most incidents occur when dogs feel threatened. Their protective nature and loyalty mean they may bite to defend their family or property. Children face the highest risk of being bitten due to improper interactions.
Treating Bite Wounds
All dog bites require medical treatment, but prompt care is especially crucial for deep puncture wounds inflicted by German Shepherds. Their long, sharp teeth can cause deeper trauma than small dogs. Without proper care, dangerous complications can develop.
Seeking Immediate Care
Dog bite victims should go to the emergency room or urgent care clinic as soon as possible. Medical evaluation is the first step, even before wound cleaning. Tetanus immunization status and potential allergies to medications like antibiotics need to be verified.
In severe cases, intravenous antibiotics and hospitalization may be required. Consulting a plastic surgeon is also recommended for wounds on the face or if skin grafts are needed.
Before getting to a clinic, stop any bleeding by applying firm pressure with a clean, folded cloth. Elevating the wound above heart level can also slow bleeding. Wrap the cloth snugly but avoid restricting blood flow.
Reducing Infection Risk
Infection is a top concern with puncture wounds. Gently flush the injury with warm water to remove dirt and debris. Mild soap can be used but avoid harsh cleansers. Do not scrub. Pat dry with a clean towel.
Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a sterile bandage. Wrap snugly enough to protect the wound but not cut off circulation. Change dressings twice a day.
Watch for increasing pain, swelling, redness and pus as signs of infection. Call your doctor immediately if these occur.
Wound Care After Treatment
Follow all instructions from your healthcare provider for cleaning, changing dressings, and monitoring the wound. Take all antibiotics as prescribed.
Return immediately if you experience increased pain, foul odor, fever or other issues. Avoid getting stitches and bandages wet.
Report any signs of infection or if the wound reopens. Your doctor may take samples for culture to identify the bacteria causing infection.
Preventing German Shepherd Bite Injuries
While German Shepherd bites can cause severe trauma, most incidents can be avoided by understanding what provokes dogs to bite and taking preventive measures.
German Shepherd Behavior
German Shepherds are not inherently aggressive but will bite to defend themselves, their family and their territory. Their protective instinct is strong. They may bite when feeling threatened or cornered.
Never approach a German Shepherd without the owner present. Ask the owner before petting or interacting. Avoid prolonged staring at the dog as this can be seen as challenging behavior.
Children and Dog Safety
Children face the highest risk of dog bites due to improper interactions. Never leave babies or young children alone with a dog. Teach kids how to properly approach and pet dogs. Play wrestling with a dog can elicit a bite.
Instruct children to avoid disturbing a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies. Also have kids avoid approaching dogs they don’t know.
Signs of Aggression
Learn to recognize signs of fear, anxiety or aggression in dogs like German Shepherds to avoid bites. Indicators include flattened ears, bared teeth, stiff tail, growling and fixed staring.
Back away slowly if a dog exhibits these postures. Do not turn and run away as this can trigger chase and attack behavior. Report any aggressive dogs to local authorities.
Secure Dogs Properly
Ensure fences and gates are secure so German Shepherds cannot escape and bite passersby. When in public, keep dogs leashed and under control at all times. Muzzle dogs that show aggression when needed.
Leave dogs at home when expecting utility workers, mail carriers and other service providers. Crate or confine dogs when workers are present.
Early socialization helps prevent fear-based aggression. Safely expose German Shepherd puppies to a wide range of people, places, sounds and experiences. Ongoing training reinforces proper manners.
Avoid using overly harsh punishment or discipline methods that my cause mistrust. Consult a trainer for help with behavioral issues.
Recovering After a German Shepherd Attack
Even with caution, German Shepherd bites can still happen unexpectedly. Seeking compensation for your injuries and other damages may be possible.
Who is Liable?
Most states, including Illinois, follow strict liability statutes for dog bites. This means the dog’s owner is responsible for all damages, regardless of whether the dog has bitten before.
However, negligence on the part of the victim, like trespassing or provoking the dog, can impact liability. An attorney can advise on your right to seek compensation.
Documenting Your Injuries
Keep complete records related to your dog bite injuries. This includes medical bills, receipts, pharmacy costs and documents related to lost wages if you miss work. Photograph visible wounds from multiple angles and stages of healing.
Also document any long-term impacts like scarring or loss of range of motion. An attorney can help compile evidence to demonstrate the extent of your suffering.
Consulting an Attorney
An experienced dog bite lawyer can handle communications with insurance companies while you focus on recovery. An attorney can also file a lawsuit if needed to recover full and fair compensation.
They will determine all liable parties and work to prove the economic and non-economic damages the German Shepherd bite has caused.
Frequently Asked Questions
How serious are German Shepherd bites compared to other breeds?
With a bite force up to 750 pounds of pressure, German Shepherds can inflict much more serious wounds than small dogs like Chihuahuas. However, they inflict fewer fatalities than pit bulls and Rottweilers according to data. Still, their long teeth result in deeper puncture wounds that require immediate care.
What steps should I take after being bitten by a German Shepherd?
Seek medical care right away, even before attempting to clean the wound yourself. Controlling bleeding and wrapping the injury are okay initial steps, but always get evaluated by a doctor promptly. Follow all their recommendations for wound care and monitoring to avoid complications.
Can I still interact with my friend’s German Shepherd after being bitten?
If you were bitten by a German Shepherd you were familiar with, caution is still needed for future interactions. The dog may be exhibiting fear or anxiety that needs to be addressed through training by an expert. For your own comfort and safety, avoid interacting with that German Shepherd until behavioral issues are resolved.
How do I prevent my German Shepherd from biting?
Early socialization to people and other animals is key. Ongoing positive reinforcement training can curb dominant tendencies. Never use overly harsh discipline that can cause mistrust. Supervise children and teach them safe interactions. Muzzle dogs when needed and keep leashed in public. Separate from guests if showing aggression.
Who pays my medical bills after a German Shepherd bite?
In most states, including Illinois, the legal owner of the German Shepherd that bit you is liable for all medical expenses and other costs related to injuries, time off work, pain and suffering. Homeowners or renters insurance policies often cover dog bite claims up to policy limits.
While German Shepherd bites can be severe, most incidents can be prevented through proper handling, training and containment of dogs. All dog bites require immediate medical care to avoid complications like infection. Understanding dog behaviors and warning signs of aggression allows people to interact safely with German Shepherds. Victims of bites should document injuries thoroughly and consult an attorney regarding compensation if warranted. With reasonable care, German Shepherds can make wonderful companions instead of posing risks.
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