When a dog attacks, it can change your life in Washington forever. Canines and the damage they inflict must be assessed for your benefit, and the prevention of future bites. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers provides an official dog bite scale for this purpose.

An attack does not necessarily involve skin contact, and this is considered level one aggressive or obnoxious behavior. This dog probably just needs training. If the dog’s teeth graze your skin, whether they leave no marks or you have slight scratches, this is level two, and also can be addressed with professional training. More than 99 percent of incidents are either a level one or two on the scale.

If you sustain a level three bite, you may have as many as four punctures measuring as deep as halfway up the dog’s canine teeth. Pulling away could result in some deep scratches, as well. The owner should know that the treatment, rigorous bite-inhibition training, could be dangerous and ineffectual.

When one or more of the dog’s canine teeth sink more than halfway into your skin, it is a level four bite. You may experience bruising, as well as lacerations from the dog bearing down and shaking its head. An adult dog that displays this type of hard bite is unlikely to be rehabilitated through training. It will probably bite again, and the owner may need to have the dog euthanized. If the owner does decide to keep the dog, experts recommend that he or she signs a form accepting responsibility for keeping the dog restrained and muzzled around people. Other safety precautions are also necessary to ensure that children and anyone else besides the adult owner are not allowed near the dog.

Levels five and six leave a victim either severely injured or dead. This dog should be euthanized, both as a safety precaution, and for the dog’s sake, since only solitary confinement would be allowable.

You should report any dog bite incident beyond level two to the owner, animal control and law enforcement. This information should not take the place of legal or medical advice.