Dog Bite Protection: How to Protect Yourself From a Dog Attack
A news story broke on the evening news about a 93-year-old woman strolling through her neighborhood who was mauled by a dog that rushed out a door to attack her. Witnesses say the dog had been rescued a few months prior and seemed very mellow.
While my heart beats harder every time I hear about the latest dog mauling victim, I don't run to my computer and start typing death threats to the dog or the owner. No! That isn't going to solve this problem. Taking out a whole breed of animals isn't going to stop this problem!
There are always going to be dog bites. Take action and protect yourself. Expect the unexpected and arm yourself with these strategies of self defense.
10 Tips for Keeping Yourself Safe From an Attacking Dog
I'm including mail carriers in this article because they are on the front lines. They are the ones that are bravely approaching strange houses on a day-to-day basis that are most often the ones encountering barking dogs. My own mail carrier has been attacked five different times. They were all dogs she knew of and owners she had been delivering mail to for years.
These tips aren't meant to instigate an attack or provoke a dog to attack. These are strategies to use in the event a dog is about to attack you!
1. Carry a small spray bottle or plastic water bottle with you.
One time I went walking with one of my dogs on a hiking trail in the woods. I always bring a backpack including a bottles of water for me and the dog.
As we approached the top of the trail where it opens up to a water outlet, a pack of unleashed dogs approached us. The dogs were all very large weighing in over 100 pounds each. They ran up to us in a rambunctious manner. While I wasn't afraid of the dogs as they seemed quite friendly, my dog was terrified. The dogs started to surround and corner us as my dog yelped out in fear. I knew this could escalate to deadly and unsafe proportions if I didn't act quickly. The owners of these dogs were nowhere in sight. I pulled out my water bottle and squirted into the crowd. The dogs backed off and let us through the path without further confrontation.
While I didn't really think the dogs were a danger to us, dangerous behavior can strike suddenly and without warning. It's all about protecting yourself.
Using water is safe and unharmful. It doesn't hurt. This is one quick way of repelling dogs that you might be afraid of or that may seem unusually aggressive.
2. Shout firm commands to dogs that approach you.
Cane Corso Mastiffs are beautiful large dogs. One time, I took my border collie to the dog park for some exercise and socialization. My border collie isn't afraid of any other dog. She loves to play.
We were alone for a while until a man walked in to the park with three Cane Corsos. The fur on these dogs looked blue. They were so beautiful and really piqued my interest. I walked over to the man with his dogs and introduced my border collie. She happily ran off with them playing with the balls leftover from prior visitors.
We were the only two people and four dogs in the park at that moment. Until a well-known friend walked up the path with her pit bull. I love this pit bull. She is a mixed breed, very well groomed, and has an appealing personality. I made friends with this pit bull months before and she got along very well with my border collie.
Unfortunately, as the pit bull ran up to greet us, the three larger Cane Corsos took her down, biting her in the mouth, and leaving her bleeding. The attack was unprovoked to human eyes. In dog language, maybe they went in to protection mode or maybe they saw the pit bull as a threat. I'm not really sure what happened, but I can tell you what saved the pit bull from a worse fate.
Using my knowledge and experience from living on a farm and owning my own dogs, I went in to disciplinarian mode. I shouted firmly, but solidly, several commands that I had a hunch these dogs knew from their trained posture. The dogs retreated and sat down by their owner. Because the owner had never been in this situation, he actually had no idea what to do. This is further proof that education and knowledge goes along way for not just dog owners themselves, but for innocent people that can use these tips for self-defense.
What words were effective in this situation?
It took several tries, but the dogs did eventually listen. Otherwise, I'm afraid the outcome of the pit bull would have been more severe. The owner of the pit bull was very shaken up. Fortunately, the dog had a very minor cut on her bottom lip that healed up and she was back playing in the park in no time.
These commands worked in this situation because the Cane Corsos were trained. These may not work in all cases, especially for stray dogs.
3. Before the dog jumps on you, give it right back.
When dogs attack, they can strike any part of your body. Most commonly, they will go after one of two places. Bigger dogs will most likely strike for your face and neck. Smaller dogs will go after ankles and toes. Some dogs go after fingers. Learn to protect yourself against a charging dog.
A person that is walking down the street or jogging may not have much time to assess the situation at hand before a dog strikes. Here are some strategies for protecting your body as much as possible.
- Quickly judge the weight and height of the dog. If it's a mini dog, chances are the dog will be toward the back of the legs or feet. If it's a large dog, you have to react quickly in order to protect yourself.
- If the dog leaps or jumps up at you, go into action. Lift your knee as high as you can in front of you to keep the dog from reaching your face. Then cross your arms and cover your face. This will build strength in your arms so it won't be as easy for the dog to grab one arm.
- If possible, tuck yourself head under criss-cross arms and roll into a ball. Lay still. Fighting back will cause worse bites.
- If you feel comfortable with the dog's size and think you can take it on, it's ok to fight back. It's just when a dog is much larger and you don't have much of a chance, if you start fighting it, the wounds will be worse than if you stop moving.
- Dogs are prey driven. They fight until the prey stops moving. Think of yourself as a rabbit. It's no longer a challenge for a dog when the prey stops moving.
- No look, no touch, no talk. Don't look a dog in the eyes. Don't touch the dog or reach out your hand to pet him. Don't talk to the dog except if you are shouting firm commands at it. The attack isn't personal.
- If you have any loose article of clothing around your body such as a scarf or fabric belt tied at the waste, try to remove it from your clothing. People have been strangled by dogs that play tug-of-war with loose articles of clothing around a person's neck.
- Don't try to run away. Dogs will see this as a challenging prey drive and chase you until you are down.
- Don't be fooled by a wagging tail. This may not mean the dog is happy to see you.
- Don't think a dog is yawning because they are tired. This could be a sign of stress and impending danger.
Practice being in this situation before venturing out so that you will be comfortable using these techniques if you ever find yourself in this situation.
4. Carry a walking stick or cane.
People alone without any defense are most vulnerable to a dog attack, especially elderly victims. Carry a walking stick or cane with you when you go on walks. It's not proven that this technique is successful because I have heard of incidents where witnesses come to the defense of a victim with a baseball bat or stick and the dog just doesn't let go.
However, it gives that immediate block and few seconds in between what could be a devastating first bite.
5. Wear a whistle around your neck.
Many dogs retreat at the sound of loud noises. At the dog park here in town, many dog owners and trainers wear whistles around their necks in the event a fight breaks out. It has been a proven technique for stopping dogs before they get out of control.
6. Carry treats with you on your walk in the anticipation you will see a dog.
There's something to be said about milk bones. I've been in situations several times where dogs have jumped fences or over tables to get at me and the smell of a treat makes them forget why they were charging me in the first place.
7. Avoid walking by houses where a dog lives that you fear.
Dogs are territorial. Whether fenced in a back yard or in the comforts of a living room, I have heard of dogs leaping out of plate-glass windows to attack a passerby. I've also heard of dogs scaling fences to get at those they feel are endangering their territory. If possible, walk on the other side of the street of homes where dogs live, especially ones that you are afraid of.
There used to be a house in our neighborhood with multiple dogs. Those dogs acted ferociously anytime someone walked by the yard past the wrought-iron fence. I learned to walk across the street on the other side. The dogs never barked or moved. If I walked on their side of the street, the dogs went into guarding action. This is especially true for people walking small dogs.
My mail carrier had a dog bolt out of a front door and charge her in the street. We suspect it was because although she had delivered mail to this home many times in the past 10 years, she never had the occasion to walk up to the door. The first time she had to deliver a package, the dog bit her.
8. What not to do when approached by an aggressive dog.
Many dogs are less sensitive to pain than humans. Here are some suggestions about what not to do if you are ever approached by an aggressive dog.
- Don't start kicking the dog, because it may make the dog bite you harder.
- Don't use pepper spray. The dog most likely won't feel it anyway and you will most likely get some on you making it harder to defend yourself.
- Don't scream and run away. The dog will chase you down.
- Don't stick out your fingers to protect yourself. This will result in a possibly injury or amputation to your fingers.
- Don't pull away from the dog. If the dog is latched on to your leg, do not try to get your leg free by pulling. This will make the dog latch on tighter and injure you more.
As stated above, your best defense is to roll in a ball, criss cross your arms over your face and lay still. This is in the event the rest of the tips in here don't work first.
9. If you witness an attack, do what you can to help.
Maybe you are a witness to a dog attack and not the actual victim. What can you do to help the victim and to stop the dog from further damage?
What to Do If You Witnesses a Dog Attack:
- Dial 911 immediately to get help.
- Beating the dog with a fist or object isn't helpful, especially for a very large breed. This will make the dog latch on worse.
- Shouting commands at the dog as stated above can be effective. If the dog is trained, there is a good chance it will retreat.
- Spray the dog with water and see if that works because it's safe to the victim.
- If available, wear gloves. You don't want your fingers injured while trying to help the victim.
- Redirect the dog's attention with a toy, food, or a stick laying on the ground. Tell the dog to fetch. The dog may surprisingly let go and go after the fun toy.
- If the victim is elderly or a child, lay yourself over them. This is a very hard decision, but a determined one. An elderly person or child is much less likely to survive a brutal attack than a young person. Lay very still, don't move, don't scream, and eventually the dog will walk away when the challenge is over to take down it's prey.
10. Understanding why dogs attack will help you be safer in the long run.
Dogs attack seemingly unprovoked for many reasons. Here are a few that I think pet owners can benefit from as well.
1. Dogs attack when they sense someone is in their territory.
A dog's ability to understand that their property ends at the end of the driveway doesn't exist. All a dog knows is that it sees a person walking in front of their house. The house that they were brought there to protect. To a dog, that person is an intruder even if the person is on a sidewalk. Someone walking, running, or bicycling by can safely move across to the other side of the street if the dog seems to be a threat or starts barking loudly.
What can a homeowner do to prevent a dog from barging outside and attacking a person walking by their home? Such is the case of the 93-year-old elderly woman walking past a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood yesterday when the rescued dog suddenly escaped from the house and attacked. What can we learn from this incident? How did the dog get loose? How did the dog get out of the house? These are questions we can review in order to put proper pet management in place in our homes so this doesn't happen to anyone of us.
- Lock your doors to make sure they can't be pried open by dog noses.
- Secure areas with baby gates in your home. If the dog seems irritated by people walking by, don't allow this behavior to continue. Place the dog in another area of your home where the dog is less likely to develop territory aggression toward innocent people walking by.
- Make sure your dog is not kept by a window, especially one that is open. I've heard of dogs jumping through glass windows and charging through screened ones. This happened to my mail carrier and was extremely dangerous.
- Assign a room to your home for the dog. Many people love their pets to the point of spoiling them. A dog needs to know it's place in a family. A dog cannot be an Alpha Dog in a family. The dog needs to know you are in charge. So if that means moving the dog to another room which he likes less because he can no longer look out of the living room window at all the people on the street, then so be it. If that's what it takes to prevent another dog bite, it's not too difficult to arrange.
- Don't chain or kennel your dog without proper supervision, daily exercise, fresh water, and food. This is a deadly mistake I've seen time and time again. Pet owners chain up their dog in the back yard in the hot sun without a fresh bowl of water. The dog is kenneled all day outdoor without any supervision. Dogs are smart and very creative. Many dogs have escaped from kennels and ripped themselves from chains in order to free themselves. Don't underestimate your dog's potential.
2. Dogs develop fence aggression.
There are several homes in my neighborhood with four-foot chain link fences. The owners have smaller dogs. I took my German Shepherd around the block one day and was shocked when a little dog came around from behind the house to the fence line and started terrorizing my dog. My dog could have easily jumped the fence and devoured that dog, but luckily my dog is trained and polite. She didn't bark back or even allow the behavior of that dog to bother her.
Keep yourself safe by not getting too close to a fenced yard with dogs. Walk on the other side of the street if possible.
3. Dogs sense a threat.
Dogs can sense fear in humans as much as they can sniff out a shady character or bad intentions.
4. Dogs have a prey drive.
The reason innocent walkers, joggers, and bicyclists are often attacked is because dogs chase the motion. It's a challenge that's instilled in them to hunt.
Do you think you'll be better prepared next time you are out for a leisurely stroll?
Why do dogs attack innocent people walking or jogging in a neighborhood?
First, let's examine some possibilities of why dogs suddenly rush through homes or violently break off chains to go after innocent people doing nothing more than enjoying fresh air and exercising to better their health.
We live in a world with animals. Over the last century, world population has grown which has led to more homes filled with pets such as dogs. Also, neighborhoods are closer in proximity to one another than ever before.
An elderly woman was walking through a neighborhood near the airport where she liked to sit and watch the planes come in every day. A dog chained and neglected in a nearby back yard tore the chain off his post, hopped a chain-link fence and mauled the woman. A witness, an elderly man, came to the rescue of the woman trying to beat the dog off with his cane. The woman suffered terrible life-threatening lacerations to her face, neck and body. The dog was not a pit bull. It was a dog that had been neglected, abused, and left alone.
A jogger is on the path nearby her home when suddenly dogs escape their pens from separate back yards. They attack the jogger, relentlessly trying to pull flesh off of her and refuse to release their jaws without lethal force. These dogs were not pit bulls. These dogs were left in unclean pens, with no food or water, and got out because they were not supervised.
A man riding his bike through town to get a gallon of milk for his children for breakfast before school is suddenly chased down and ripped off of his bike by a dog weighing more than 100 pounds. The man has no fighting chance, being dragged in to the street and shredded by the dog, suffering numerous injuries that will take years to repair. This dog got out of his house and deliberately chased this man down. How did the dog escape?
This Is About learning From Mistakes and Preventing the Next Attack
I was reading countless news articles about dog maulings. Regardless if the attack was provoked by a pit bull or not, the comments included statements to indicate all pit bulls should be banned from earth and destroyed.
I'm not making excuses for a biting dog. Yelling at a computer screen shouting profanities after watching an innocent person get ripped to shreds by an aggressive dog doesn't help. Writing slanderous statements against the owners of biting dogs isn't helpful. Promoting death of certain breeds isn't going to stop dogs from biting.
A logical approach is to help be the change you want to see in the world. How do we make that happen? By changing not only the way we think, but the way we do things.
My hope and intention is after reading this article, many of us change the way we do things to better protect ourselves the next time we leave the house.
Dog Bites Happen to Everyday People and Trained Officers
"The officer, who was not carrying a catchpole, tried to fight off the dog and was injured in the process." An animal control officer sustained severe wounds after being called to a scene at a family's home for an aggressive dog. Our local dog officer offers great advice:
"Some people believe their dog only shows aggression toward other dogs. If a dog displays aggression toward other animals, it should be confined until a behaviorist is consulted, a trainer found and the behavior changed. Incidents of animal aggression should also be reported to an animal control officer."
(This statement was released after the tragic lethal dog mauling of an elderly man.)
Have you heard of the Dog Fright Law?
Connecticut recognizes a dog fright law. When a dog's actions cause a person to react in a manner that results in injury to that person. Demers v. Rosa 102 Conn.App. 497 (2007).
Why It's Important to Be Proactive
In this day and age when dog attacks are so aggressively talked about in the news, we can't ignore the fact that we can't sit back and wait for the next attack to have something to talk about. We need to be proactive and know how to react if it does happen.
I hope these tips have been helpful and will prove useful to someone who may benefit from them. We all have to do our part in this world. We each get one life. Pet owners must take responsibility for their pet and have in place proper management to prevent dog attacks. People must learn and utilize appropriate defense strategies to know how to protect themselves in case this situation strikes them.
We all have said, "Oh that will never happen to me," at one point or another. And that's exactly what dog attack victims have all said before too until it happened to them.
Don't surround yourself with victim mentality after an attack occurs. Arm yourself with the right knowledge to protect yourself from an attack before it happens.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.