Before your next encounter with a dog, click here to learn more about canine aggression and what actions may provoke an attack.

What actions typically promote aggression in dogs?



Snarling dogWashington dog bite laws follow the rules for strict liability. This means that if you were bitten by a dog, the dog’s owner is liable for any damages the canine caused. However, there are two exceptions to this law:

  1. The owner might not be liable if you were unlawfully trespassing at the time of the attack.
  2. The owner may not be held responsible if the attack was provoked.

Unfortunately, “provoked” is a subjective term, and can mean different things to different people.  Although what constitutes provocation is not defined in the statute, a general definition is any action or circumstance, deliberate or otherwise, that promotes a reasonably justified aggressive reaction.

Actions That May Qualify as Provocation

As a defense against liability for his dog’s actions, an owner will likely claim that you provoked the attack. Any of the following actions could be construed as povocation:

  • Bullying. Calling a dog names, yelling at him, pretending to steal his property, or general bullying can be considered provocation if your actions caused a defensive response.
  • Rough-housing. Although some dogs are extremely careful when wrestling with their owners, rough-housing with strangers can quickly turn from fun to fight. If you instigated the wrestling but were injured as a result of it, the dog’s owner could successfully argue that your injuries were your own fault.
  • Hurting. It’s easy to see that the effects of a dog’s bite are nowhere near equal to the effects of a gentle slap on the dog’s rear end or an accidental tail pull. However, if the owner can prove that you caused any degree of harm to the animal before he bit you, he may have a case for provocation.
  • Screaming. Dogs are extremely sensitive to noise. Consequently, if you raise your voice or startle a dog, he may justifiably retaliate, and his owner may be able to show that you provoked him into being aggressive.
  • Staring. You should never begin a staring contest with an animal. Holding a gaze is a sign that you wish to challenge him. As a result, if he becomes aggressive, his owner can claim it was justified because you challenged him.

You can prevent an attack by paying attention and actively refraining from any sort of provocation. However, whether you provoked the canine or he attacked without cause, as the victim, you may be entitled to injury compensation. For more information on how to pursue a dog bite claim, contact our office by filling out our convenient contact form, or by calling us directly at 1.800.636.3676 to schedule your FREE case evaluation.