dog biting roommate

What to Do If Your Roommate’s Dog Bites You

dog biting roommate

What to do when your roommate’s dog bites you

  1. If roommate does not take it seriously, say you will call animal control.
  2. Look at pet clauses in the lease and get landlord involved if needed.
  3. Make roommate pay for damages and go to court if needed
  4. Learn how to train your roommate’s dog, so it does not bite and teach your roommate how to do it.

Dogs bite people for one of several reasons. It’s important to understand the differences, because the answers are not the same:

  • A dog may mouth a person with their teeth as a love bite
  • They may also nip quite hard in a conditioned reaction
  • Finally, they may attack with their teeth if they perceive a threat

This article is about a roommate’s dog’s conditioned, responsive nipping. I recommend finding somewhere else to stay if your roommate’s dog is being aggressive towards you. That’s because dogs don’t brush their teeth and their bites can turn out quite unpleasant.

The most common reason for this problem is the roommate allows the behavior, and the dog thinks that is what it should do. In that case, you have to tweak your roommate’s attitude first, and then the dog’s along these lines.


How to Get Your Roommate to Discipline Their Dog, Even If They Don’t Want To

dog sitting

This includes even if your roommate doesn’t want to. It can be a sensitive subject telling your roommate to discipline their dog, almost like telling a parent to discipline their children.

If the dog has tried in the past to bite others as well as you, it may have other bad behavior problems because your roommate has not disciplined it properly.

Maybe the dog tries to eat food off other people’s plates, barks too much and is bad to guests when they come over.

Dogs are pack animals, and either your roommate is in charge, you are, or the dog. It needs to be you or your roommate, and it must not be the dog.

Some owners don’t want to discipline their dog, so their dog usually gets out of control and runs the household.


Learn how to train the dog correctly

dog training

The first thing is to learn how dog training works; this means you can get your roommate’s dog to behave better, and are setting an example to show that proper training does make things better with their dog.

It needs to be seen as training and not just discipline, as that will win your roommate over more. They probably won’t have a problem with you doing positive reinforcement with their dog, but may do with you disciplining it.

You can even do fun training games for the dog, also known as ‘treat and train.’

Also, just being negative all the time with the dog can make things worse. Training involves treats and rewards for learning things, not just being firm with it.

It will help your relationship with the dog, but if your roommate doesn’t do it as well, they will have the same problems with their dog and it won’t last. So they need to do it as well.

If you do have a problem with the dog, positive things are the best thing to do. For example, it will be easier to distract it with food than discipline it.


Don’t get involved with the dog until you know about how to handle it

small aggressive dog

Make sure you don’t do any training until you know what you are doing; definitely read the training part of this guide first. Also, make sure you give it space, especially if it provides any of the warning signs it could bite which are listed below.

An experienced dog trainer will use voice control with a dog they don’t yet know and try not to touch it, or even use their hands.

Interacting with an out of control dog can be dangerous. Until you are sure, you have understood training techniques, best to stay away from it, even if your roommate wants you to play with it.

If it is an older dog, it will take longer to train than a puppy. Also, if your roommate is abusing it, then it’s even harder.


Tell Your Roommate That You Will Have to Call Animal Control

animal control van

Wikipedia, Lakewood Police Animal Control & Protection van. Author: Xnatedawgx

This is not a fun thing to do, especially if your roommate is an unpleasant person. Your justification though is that your roommate’s dog could bite a small child or someone else’s pet. This time it was you, what if next time it is someone else, or the dog bites a part of someone’s body that causes even more damage if hurt.

By not reporting it and being part of the household, you could be seen as legally complicit.

It is also a risk with other people coming around, and they could get hurt. This could also cause legal problems, especially if you brought or invited them over.

With an out of control dog, they will eventually cause damage that will cause you or your roommate to have to pay a vets bill, medical bill, and possibly other damages. Animal control may also be called by others when this happens.


If animal control wants to take the dog, your roommate can still try to stop them

Your roommate can always go to an attorney, who can say in court that the dog is not vicious or dangerous. Reasons, where a dog cannot be declared dangerous, are around the area of it is defending or protecting a person from an unjustified attack or assault.

So are if you were:

  • Committing willful trespass, or something else bad on the property.
  • Being nasty to the dog such as teasing, tormenting, abusing, or assaulting it.
  • Committing a crime.


Maybe Your Lease Does Not Allow Aggressive Dogs, Tell That to Your Roommate

lease agreement

This can be in the lease to protect other residents in the building. If other residents are scared, they could call the building management and other authorities. Building managements tend not to want any risk or liability, so they are usually quick to evict the trouble maker.

If you are both on the lease, that could be you as well though, so make sure you communicate well with the management so they understand what is going on.


Signs Your Roommate Is Not Going to Behave Properly About the Incident

It’s easy to be influenced by a person you are roommates with, as you are both living in the same place and bubble.

Just so you know, in case they manage to pull you into their delusion, these are the things your roommate should do after their dog bites you.

  • Say sorry
  • Be sorry
  • Take responsibility for sorting it out
  • Not blame others, the dog is their responsibility
  • Try to make it up to you (not just because they don’t want to report the dog to animal control or the building management)
  • To limit the risk, make sure they separate the dog from you and others as much as possible.


Make Sure You Don’t Do Anything Where Your Roommate Can Blame You


Your roommate may say that you did something which provoked their dog to bite you, or that meant it had no choice than to bite it.

Such as if you were playing with it badly by pulling its ears, taking away a resource such as its bone and so on.

Maybe you did do these things, and so if you want to interact with the dog, it’s best first to learn the dog handling information below.

If your roommate is a liar and you did not do anything at all wrong, the best defense is to learn dog behavior such as in the latter part of this article.

Then your roommate cannot claim you did something wrong due to your ignorance. Also you will know if they are wrong when saying something should not be done when in truth, it should.

If the dog is a danger, best to stay away from it and not get involved with it as much as possible.


How to Get Help From the Landlord

What the landlord is liable for

The landlord may not be immediately liable if your roommate’s dog has bitten you, but they do have to act responsibly once they find out about it.

With most States, the landlord is liable if they knew the dog had bitten someone or is dangerous; the law even expects the landlord to be aware if there is a dangerous dog in their property.

Some other States, such as Montana do not hold the landlord liable.

However, a landlord is taking a bit risk if they don’t sort things out once you tell them!

The landlord may not be legally liable if they do not have the power to remove the dog but will be responsible if they did have the right and never used it.


What the landlord should do next

The landlord should speak to you as soon as you report it to them and do the following:

  • Advise you to get the bite medically seen to and call animal control if you think you should.
  • Say that you should take notes of witnesses if there are any, how you were hurt for if you want to call the police, make an insurance claim, or take legal action.
  • Ask you what you want to be done with the dog, whether you want it taken out of the property, or you believe it’s a problem caused by something which has now been solved so it won’t happen again.

If your landlord doesn’t do these things, maybe use this guide to advise them of what they should be doing.

After speaking to you, the landlord should talk to your roommate. They may claim that you did something bad to the dog which is why it had to defend itself.

Finally, the landlord should see if there are witnesses they can speak to who have seen anything with the dog or this incident. They also need to ask if you did anything that could provoke your roommate’s dog.

Also, ask the witnesses if they believe the dog could be a risk to others in the building or the witness themselves. In many States, landlords have a legal responsibility to the safety of the community as a whole, as well as their tenants.


The landlord removing the dog

If you want the dog removed, or even if you don’t, the landlord may ask you to put what you want in writing, and this is an acceptable thing for them to request.

The landlord will also need to look at the lease and the laws in the area, I recommend you do the same if things do not turn out as you hoped.


If the landlord does not have the power to remove the dog

This can happen if your roommate moved in when there was a different landlord, so your current landlord acquired the property with your roommate and their dog already there.

Your landlord may try to evict your roommate because their dog might be a danger to others in the building or your other roommates, but they may not succeed.

A good lease will have a pet addendum that requires your roommate to get rid of their dog if things like this happen, but your lease may not have this in.


Steps the landlord should take if they cannot remove your roommate’s dog

They should put up a ‘Beware of the dog’ and other warning signs which are of course no use to you.

Other measures include fencing the yard and getting your roommate to keep the dog inside. All of which are no use to you.


Medical Costs From the Dog Bite

medical bills

Don’t underestimate the medical costs though; you should get the bite checked out immediately, and all the associated costs can add up.

Getting the bite checked out, antibiotics if needed, and other things can add up to make things expensive.

Make sure you keep notes of what is going on and make it clear to your roommate that you expect them to pay for the costs their dog biting you has caused.

If you don’t make it clear with your roommate from the beginning that you expect them to pay these costs, they may think they will not have to, which makes it harder later on if you need them to pay up.

Best if they pay you as you acquire the costs because lots of smaller costs are less painful to pay, than one significant amount one later on. Also, like with people owing money, they may not pay up.


Don’t Look After the Dog for Your Roommate

Your roommate may expect you to look after their dog for them at certain times, even just for short periods.

If the dog is not easily controllable and well behaved, don’t do this as you could be liable if it bites someone else.

This is because you will be the keeper and controller of the dog at that time.


Taking Your Roommate to Court for Damages

Your roommate is liable for the harm done by their dog. If you sued your roommate, a good lawyer who does personal injury and dog bite work should be able to get you compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering such as physical and emotional trauma.
  • Wages for missed work and lost income from the attack.
  • Expenses such as medical ones.

You can take them to civil court where you will need to:

  • Prove it happened because your roommate was negligent, and so their dog bit you.
  • Prove your roommate knew their dog had a tendency to bite; some States make this simple by having a one bite rule.
  • In some States it’s easier because they have dog bite liability laws. So you don’t have to prove your roommate was careless, or the dog’s history such as the dog has done things before, and your roommate did not sort things out, to make sure it would not happen again.

To help your case, document your injuries, and take pictures, get witness information if there is any, get medical attention and keep the medical records and bills.

Also, report the situation to animal control as they can be another way to prove what is going on.

Your roommate can claim you were provoking their dog, and other things which would make them innocent.

You might get the judgment but it does not mean your roommate will pay up.

Some personal liability insurance policies don’t include injuries to members of the same household.

Your roommate may have to sell things to raise the money to pay you. If they refuse to pay up, and you have to use bailiffs, your roommate may not have anything that a bailiff can seize. Also, is it worth the aggravation to get bailiffs involved?

A judge may also order that your roommate’s dog is euthanized.

If you were seriously injured, then your roommate could face criminal charges if they knew their dog was dangerous and recklessly ignored the risk.


Learn to Read the Dog’s Communications

dog emotions body language

If your roommate’s dog starts to growl, it could be because they are feeling uncomfortable and wants you to stop doing what you are doing. Below are the signs your roommate’s dog might be about to bite you.

Other signs to look out for are if the dog:

  • Growling, showing teeth, or snarling which is doing both of these things at the same time
  • A guttural bark
  • Snaps its jaws shut
  • Lunges forward or charges at you, even if you are not touching it
  • Mouthing stuff like it is trying to control or pressurize you
  • Attempting to ‘muzzle punch,’ like it is going to punch you with its nose
  • Is very still and rigid
  • A nip that does not leave a mark

With any of these things, you back off from the dog.

Some people stop their dog from growling. However, all they are doing is stopping the dog from saying when it is in a state where it thinks it should bite, if things go further or continue.

If the dog is doing this a lot, and your roommate will not sort it out, or let you do so, it’s time to move out, your health and well being comes first.


Things You Need to Know to Be Able to Handle Your Roommate’s Biting Dog

How to Figure Out Whether You Are Dealing with Aggression or a Reaction


A dog is being aggressive when it physically attacks, or is clearly intending to do so. This process passes through several phases:

  • If your roommate’s dog is planning to attack you, then it will display signs of arousal first. Its ears point forwards, but its mouth remains closed as it stares intensely at you.

It leans its body forwards and tenses its muscles. You may notice the tail held high and moving slowly. Dog fights are usually over turf. If you back away slowly you should be able to diffuse the situation.

  • However, if you do not succeed, then the dog will hold direct eye contact as it shows the whites of its eyes, and growls aggressively while showing its teeth. You should be able to diffuse this set-piece by looking away, blinking several times, and holding your ground calmly

If you are experiencing this situation, then your roommate’s dog is being aggressive towards you. Three is a crowd in a situation like this. One of you has to go. In reality, this means you or the dog.



  • Reactive dogs are not aggressive as such. However, they can over-respond to situations that act as triggers.
  • Your roommate’s dog being scared is hardly every scared in this condition. It’s far more likely to be down to poor socialization, a genetic factor, or a combination of the two.
  • You also need to appreciate that you are the trigger, and ‘unlearn’ the habit that is causing the dog to have this reaction.


Discover How Reactive Dog Behaviors Develops in Stages

Canine behavioral science based on detailed research reveals that conditioned dog reactions follow a process that owners can correct with training.

  • This process is a continuous sequence of events with several checkpoints that must be met for it to continue.
  • Not all dogs behave the same way when, for example, you take away your slippers they are chewing.
  • Most will take a laid back approach, although they may pull and tug them as you lift them off the ground.
  • However, a few will display an over-the-top response during which they cross over to an unsafe, aggressive mode.
  • Therefore, it’s essential to understand the dog is attacking the behavior stressing it, not the person exhibiting it.

Therefore, you have to modify your behavior, and your roommate has to retrain their dog to stop it biting. If you work on this together, then your relationship should grow.

Stage 1:The dog is calm and relaxed Stage 2. The dog becomes tense and alert
Stage 3: The dog becomes aggressiveStage 4: The dog attacks the trigger person

Key Stages in Conditioned Canine Reactions


Find the Triggers That Cause the Dog’s Reactions

Your roommate’s biting dog is behaving quite normally according to its world view. At the most basic level, it is an animal fighting for survival, not self-actualization we humans yearn for. If you can iron the problem away, the dog might still become a wonderful pet.

  • Reactivity develops out of feelings of frustration. When a dog pulls on a leash, it is stressed because it cannot rush at whatever it wants to chase
  • It may start yapping during your favorite television program because it wants your attention. If you give it, the problem goes away for the moment
  • However, if you don’t manage the reaction the frustration continues to build in the dog’s mind, and this can spill over to reactive aggression when your roommate’s dog gives you another nip
  • Never assume a dog – or a human for that matter – ‘will outgrow the phase’. You and your roommate will have to modify the dog’s behavior by re-training the animal.


Correct the Dogs Behavior through Modification Training

This is actually no big deal, although your roommate will have to help because they are the ‘leader of the pack’. I’ll assume you agree there is a problem and want to fix it together.

However, if that’s not the case then it could be time for you to move out. That’s because if your roommate and you fall out then you know whose side the dog will take.


Where Do You Start With Training Your Roommate’s Dog?

  • Behavior shaping is simple in theory, although there is more it than two words. It’s a matter of giving the animal positive feedback when it does what you want, and withholding positive attention when it misbehaves.
  • This is somewhat different from ignoring the dog when it stays within your rules, but coming down on it in a rage when it misbehaves. Dogs are sentient creatures meaning they have emotions and thoughts.
  • Did it ever strike you when your roommate’s dog bit you it was craving for attention/ and frustrated because it was not getting any love?


You Have to Start with Educating Your Roommate First

Dog psychologists call non-aggressive nipping and biting ‘mouthing’ I guess that’s because it’s a form of body language communication. Dogs can’t speak words like humans, but they express themselves clearly with their bodies.

You need to explain to your roommate how this works so you and they are on the same page.

After that, you can work together to iron the problem out like you do with the creases on your shirt when doing the laundry. This is my suggestion what to do if your roommate’s dog keeps biting you: Try it, and you may be pleasantly surprised.


Now Modify the Dog’s Behavior With Love

happy dog
  • Teach the Roommate’s Dog to Be Gentle
  • Dogs are touchy-feely creatures and they love playing games. When the dog was young – even a puppy perhaps – it may have sucked and chewed your roommate’s fingers, the way a puppy stimulates its mother’s milk.
  • If they did not discourage this, then they may have allowed this behavior to embed as a habit. Therefore, you have to help the animal to unlearn what became a pattern of reaction.
  • If you play your cards right, you could strengthen your relationship with your roommate as you tackle this challenge together. That way, when your roommate’s dog no longer bites you, you can celebrate together.
  • The days when your roommate’s dog bit you could become distant memories then, after you teach the dog to be gentle with its mouth. This would have been part of the learning curve if it had been part of a dog pack.
  • The alpha male or female would have shouldered it aside, pushed it to the ground and given it a solid nip that sad ‘ouch that hurt and you stop that right now’.
  • However, if your roommate brought his pet home as a young puppy, he may not have understood he had to teach the dog to socialize.  This may have been how biting became entrenched, and why you have the problem now.
  • You have to re-shape the behavior by rewarding good conduct, and withholding affection when the animal misbehaves. Dogs are sensitive creatures. They are always watching out for clues to what their humans expect.
  • Next time you and your roommate play with the dog, allow the animal to mouth your hands as a form of interaction which is what it is. If he nips you, cry out in pain. If it continues, your roommate should firmly say ‘bad dog’ or ‘you messed up there’.
  • However, if it nips you again, then withhold affection by stopping the game while you and your roommate do something else. Dogs are tribal creatures. Excluding them from your pack tells then they are out of line.
  • If you think about it, that’s probably how you also behave, when your roommate makes you angry and you retire to your room to sulk. It probably won’t take too long to have your needs respected provided you allow give and take.
  • If your roommate and you are willing to invest time and love in this challenge, you should notice the ‘love-bites’ becoming gentler as the three of you move into a gentler relationship. However, there is still more you have to do.

Please try not to hit a dog even if you are angry. It’s a nasty way to take your frustration out on them. Moreover, if you take it too far you could trigger an aggressive reaction. A dog will do what you want if you take time to explain it in a way they understand.


Teach the Dog Other Ways to Use Their Teeth

happy dog with bone
  • Dog love chewing things because this cleans their teeth, and strengthens their gums and jaw muscles. Therefore, it’s a natural thing they are unlikely to stop
  • Give them tasty, crunchy food twice a day, and a bone once a week that’s the right size for their mouth if you have a suitable place in the apartment
  • If you don’t, or maybe just because you love dogs, purchase a few nice, chewy toys from the pet store
  • Keep a tasty chew toy with you in your pocket when you are in the apartment. If your roommate’s dog mouths you or bites you, pop it in their mouth
  • Avoid playing contact games with the dog because this can trigger a reactive bite. Teach them to fetch and carry a ball instead

Discuss progress with your roommate as you go along. Make sure they still support the dog re-training and continue to give it their best shot. See this as an opportunity to understand each other better and form a stronger bond.


Learn to Speak to Your Roommate’s Dog With Your Hands

Dogs communicate with body language, and that’s how they react to people. They may rush towards one person, but cower away from another.

You could send the wrong signals and your roommate’s dog could bite you again accidentally. However, if you remember these things then your problem might be permanently solved:

  • Spend quality time with the dog, especially the two of you together. Explain to your roommate how this encourages bonding so their pet becomes more responsive to their needs
  • However, don’t wave your toes and fingers at the dog’s face, or slap his sides to encourage rough play. This could send the wrong signal and invite a playful bite
  • Also, be careful about jerking your hands away if the animal nips you. That’s because they could interpret this as an invitation to jump up
  • Don’t ever respond to a mouthing with a slap, a kick or another aggressive reaction. This could make the dog so scared of you it defends with a counterattack.

Dogs descended from wild animals we only partly tamed, but they do make wonderful companions when we understand their needs.

If you follow my advice as one dog lover to another, your dog biting problems could be over forever. You will also have bonded more with you roommate because you cracked the problem together. All a dog needs is unconditional love and a happy home and a happy home is what roommate’s need too.


If You Decide to Ship Out, What’s the End Game?

moving home
  • If you signed a joint lease you have to negoate your way out
  • However, this many not be easy if your roommate can’t see the problem
  • Speak to your roommate first and explain why it is a problem to them
  • Try to negotiate a commitment to retrain the dog during a set period
  • If this doesn’t work, write to the landlord and tell them you can’t go on
  • You are are scared your roommate’s dog will bite you again
  • This could you a serious infection and expensive medical bills
  • This is a long shot because the landlord may evict your roommate’s dog
  • Your relationship with your roommate will hit rock bottom
  • Therefore, you will still want to ship out but the goodwill is gone

Therefore, it may make sense to try sweet reasonabless instead. Try to arrange ending your lease with the landlord and moving out. Sure, you may lose some money in the process but you will gain valuable experiemce in return,

Writer: Richard Farrell

richard ferrell writer