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How to Protect Your Dog From Being Attacked

No matter how you decide to protect your dog, do it before taking your next walk.
No matter how you decide to protect your dog, do it before taking your next walk. | Source

This is a terrible subject and there are no easy answers or guaranteed solutions. Some dogs are submissive and seem to invite attack, so all I can do here is offer a few good things you might try in order to save your dog. Most of them work, most of the time, but if the attacker ignores your efforts you need to be willing to do more to save your dog.

This is what will work best:

Stick

If you prefer to carry a stick, it should be at least 30 inches (about 75 cm) in length. A stick is only going to be helpful when you are approached by the dog and have time to react—anyone who has seen their dog attacked by another knows that there is not always time for this to even work.

  • Stand in front of your dog and challenge the attacker.
  • Raise the stick up in a threatening manner (some dogs are afraid of being hit, some will see you as a taller force to overcome and be afraid of challenging you). Some walkers recommend you put the stick out in front of you to keep the dog at bay.
  • Use a firm training voice and tell the dog “NO”, “HOME”, “LEAVE IT”, or whatever else comes to mind.

I have seen some dog walkers carry larger sticks, like a hockey stick, and as long as the walker is able to use it correctly the larger stick may be helpful. Unfortunately a stick is kind of awkward when walking some dogs and when training others; it is likely to be left at home. It definitely will do no good if not carried.

Some writers have also suggested that you can use the stick to pry open the attackers jaws if he has bitten down on your dog. This is a terrible reason to carry a stick. Other methods are more effective, and by the time the dog decides to release his bite it may be too late for your smaller dog.

Collapsible Baton

In my opinion this is a lot better than carrying a stick. A baton is lighter, can be attached to a belt, even if in the hand is less trouble to carry every day, and when extended will do the job to keep a larger dog at bay. The police baton I carry is made up of a hard material that works as well as any hardwood.

A stick or baton work best if you lift it up or shove it in the face of the attacking dog and cause them to back down and walk away. If the dog goes right around you, and despite your best efforts attacks your dog, there are a few things you can do to separate the dogs. None of them are without risk since dogs that are on the attack often do not even know who or what they are biting.

  • Grab the dog by the tail and pull him towards you, lifting him at the same time so that his rear feet are no longer on the ground. (Some will turn around and bite.)
  • Grab the dog by the rear legs and lift him up. (Some will turn around and bite.)
  • If the dog is a very large breed and you do not have the strength to lift him up, pull his back legs apart so that he is off balance and falls to the ground. (Some dogs will just lie down and keep biting your dog.)

Do not try to reach into the middle of the fight and pull the dog back by his collar. That is almost definitely going to get you bitten. YOU CAN NOT HELP YOUR DOG IF YOUR ARE BLEEDING.

But what happens if the dog has clamped down on your dog and there is no way to get him to stop?

Using your stick or baton to hit the dog will not usually help. Some writers will recommend that you carry a bottle of water to spray in the dog´s face. Seriously? Many large dogs, especially if they have been trained to be pain resistant, will ignore this. I have also heard of many dog walkers recommending a vinegar and water mixture in a water bottle. A little better, but often not enough. If you have a small dog he might be dead before the attacker even bothers to respond to the vinegar hitting his eyes.

Not all dogs are going to give you an obvioius warning.
Not all dogs are going to give you an obvioius warning. | Source

Pepper Spray

If you want to carry a bottle of water, a spray bottle of water mixed with vinegar, or even a noise horn, those methods will help some of the time. If your small dog has an 80 pound dog on top of him, however, and his chest is being crushed, is “sometimes works” good enough for you?

Not for me.

I carry a can of strong pepper spray when I am out training dogs on the beach. If one of my students is attacked, especially if the dog jumps around me and latches onto my dog, I do not hesitate to give one or more sprays right in the dogs face.

Is it painful to the attacking dog? I have gotten the spray into my own eyes, so I am sure it is. Will it make the owner upset when his dog comes back home with red and swollen eyes? Probably. Those things do not matter to me. What matters is stopping the fight before my dog gets hurt.

If the state or country in which you live does not allow you to use pepper spray, there are several options but none of them good. You can make up your own spray but will have to use it in a spray bottle and it will not shoot out like with the commercial sprays (they shoot out a meter or more so allow you to stay back from the attacking dogs face).

There are several good brands of pepper spray that can be used against dogs. I carry a small can that I can clip to the outside of my pocket since you never know when you will need it.

You may only have one chance to stop a dog once he is attacking.
You may only have one chance to stop a dog once he is attacking. | Source

I have also read others suggesting you carry a small backpack, full of clothes or a thick towel. If the dog starts to go for your dog you can shove it between them and the attacker will latch onto the pack instead of your hands. That is a good suggestion for when it works.

I am not much in favor of an air horn. It might work, but if the attacking dog is a Fila, and able to take down a jaguar, air is not much of a deterrent. I think even less of a flashlight, which on a bright beach would have little to no effect.

You may not remember all you need to know at the time of the attack. If you recall anything, however, I want to urge you not to scream and make things even worse. A big dog attacking your smaller pet is a horrible thing to watch. Try to stay calm at the moment when your dog is depending on your actions.

Stay calm and protect your dog before this happens.
Stay calm and protect your dog before this happens. | Source

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If your dog has been attacked, what did you use to protect him? 1 comment

Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 3 weeks ago from Mississauga, ON

Dr. Mark,

My dog is more likely to attack others :-)

But you have given some great suggestions. I usually carry water spray bottle and have sprayed water directly at the dog's face on two occasions and on both the occasions it was my dog.

Regards,

Suhail

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