However, for the dog owner, this presents real, legal risk. While a dog can't be held responsible for what it does, the owners can. If you own a dog, and you know there is a risk your dog may bite someone, and ignore that risk, you are legally and financially responsible should that dog bite someone. You can be sued for personal injury based on that dog bite, whether it is someone stopping by briefly for work purposes, such as a postal worker, or a visitor, like the child of a family.
Here's what you can do to reduce the chances of a dog bite and the potential lawsuit that comes with it.
Socialize Your Dog
Above all else, if you want to take your dog out for walks or have visitors come over and interact with your dog without fear of attack, you must get your dog acclimated to people. This gets you the best results if you get the dog as a puppy and have that puppy grow up with frequent, positive interactions with people. On the flip side, mistreating a dog as a puppy or not socializing the dog at all can lead to a more mistrustful, potentially hostile dog.
However, even if a dog hasn't been adequately socialized as a puppy, it's still possible to achieve this with adult dogs. It will take more time and effort, and better results may be achieved with some professional help. Even adult dogs can, with proper training and conditioning, eventually be socialized.
Observe Leash Discipline
This should go without saying, as outdoor areas and any public space a dog may enter are required, by law, to have that dog leashed. If your dog is not leashed, it is under less control. If it is under less control, it takes longer—if it is even at all possible—to bring the animal under control when it acts out.
For example, even on your own property, if a gate or some other barrier does not confine a dog, it must be leashed if it is outside. There was one incident where a dog on a porch got startled by the loud noise of a car backfiring as it started up. The dog was so surprised by the noise that it ran off the porch, in an agitated state, saw a man walking past the home on his way to a basketball game, and bit his thigh, not letting go.
Finally, and perhaps most important, supervise your dog's interactions with children. Children may not yet know how to interact with a dog safely and may unintentionally harm or threaten the dog by pulling the tail, ears, or other parts.
The dog, feeling threatened, will naturally retaliate. This is why it is always important to supervise children carefully and prepare to intervene if it looks like they may be agitating your dog.