Woman Warns Against Hanging "Beware of Dog" Signs for This Legal Reason


Jul. 18 2023, Updated 3:11 p.m. ET

A “Beware of Dog” sign on someone’s property usually indicates there is an aggressive dog on the premises. People also use the sign as a theft deterrent or even as a joke if their “ferocious dog” is a little Shih Tzu. But does having a “Beware of Dog” sign protect you from liability, or make it worse?

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A TikTok creator's video on the matter is going viral, with many shocked to hear her cautioning against these signs. Keep reading for the full story.

A dog stands behind a fence that has a beware of dog sign.
Source: iStock
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Woman warns against using “Beware of Dog” signs.

TikTok creator and dog mom Kay Guzman posted a “Beware of Dog” signs warning video to the social media platform on July 2, 2023. In the video, she explains that the signs may actually open you up to more liability than protect you from it.

“So just a heads up to anyone out there who has a ‘beware of dog’ sign,” Guzman said in the video. “If you put a sign up on your property that says ‘beware of dog,’ that means you know that your dog is potentially aggressive, potentially could attack somebody, and therefore it could make you liable for anything that happens.”

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Guzman said she learned of the possible liability issues with “Beware of Dog” signs from family members who are in law enforcement. She was considering putting up a sign up to protect her home from break-ins, not because her dog was a possible danger to others.

She said her family warned her against having a sign and explained: “You will be basically admitting that your dog is aggressive and not safe, and therefore people have grounds to come after you if your dog attacks them.”

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“If you’re thinking of getting a ‘beware of dog’ sign, or you already have a ‘beware of dog’ sign, get rid of it,” Guzman said. “If you’re nervous about people coming into your house, get a security camera. Better yet, get private property signs. Let the dog being aggressive be a surprise to somebody.”

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Does a “Beware of Dog” sign make you more liable?

So is there any truth to Guzman’s claims? Does having a “Beware of Dog” sign open you up to more liability? We looked into the matter, and truthfully, the issue is a bit ambiguous.

According to the Wisconsin law firm Pasternak & Zirgibel, in a dog bite liability lawsuit, it could be argued that having a “Beware of Dog” sign meant you are aware of your dog’s aggressive nature yet failed to do anything to restrain the dog. On the other hand, it could also be argued that the bite victim who chose to ignore the sign accepted the potential risk.

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If you think having a “Beware of Dog” sign may help protect you from liability claims, think again. Most dog bite statutes say that dog parents are liable for “any and all damages” suffered by the person who was bitten by their dog, per information from Bottlinger Law LLC. The exception is if the person is a trespasser on your property.

An aggressive Doberman barking.
Source: Getty Images
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If your dog is aggressive, having a sign can still be a mitigating factor that lessens liability lawsuits by warning others of the danger your dog poses. Also, if your dog has bitten someone before, you may be required by state law to post a “Beware of Dog” sign to warn others, Bottlinger Law states in a blog post. Making sure your dog is securely confined can also help prevent liability matters, according to Bottlinger Law.

What alternatives are there to “Beware of Dog” signs?

Because the liability matter is unclear with “Beware of Dog” signs, attorneys with Pasternak & Zirgibel suggest different signs that may better serve your needs. A “Dog on the Premises” sign is a more neutral way of alerting visitors that you have a dog. According to Pasternak & Zirgibel, a “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” sign can warn unknown individuals that they are illegally trespassing, so if your dog bites them, you may be less liable.

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