How to Protect Your Dog From Being Attacked
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.
Carry a 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 attacker's jaws if he has bitten down on your dog. This is a terrible reason to carry a stick, but it could save your dog. That said, 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.
Use a 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 it is less trouble to carry in your hand most of the time), 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 works 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 CANNOT HELP YOUR DOG IF YOU 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.
Use 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 dog's 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).
Carry a Backpack or Thick Towel
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.
Two Methods I Find Unhelpful: Air Horns and Flashlights
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.
Before deciding on any of the methods above, check your local legislation about carrying a weapon and harming another person's dog.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
My Bijon Chitzsu was recently killed by a larger off-leash dog. My dog was on leash which was attached to a collar. The dog appeared suddenly, and I had little time to react. My dog pulled herself out of her collar, ran into the woods, was chased, and killed. I feel terrible that I didn’t have time to pick her up. What else could I have done?
I am sorry for your loss. I am not sure there was anything else you could have done since your dog slipped out of the collar and ran into the woods. In the future, when you are using a harness, the best thing to do is hold on to your dog and spray the loose dog with pepper spray in the face.
A friendly dog will run off quickly. A more aggressive dog will need more, but in my experience, it does work.Helpful 26
After many loose dog attacks, I now carry a pointed stick on walks with my two timid greyhounds. I've had people scold me for carrying a "weapon." What should I tell them?
Tell them that you are in fear for your life because of loose and dangerous dogs. If they still complain, tell them to call the police. If they continue to harass you, call the police. You have the right to protect yourself!
I have also been verbally attacked by irresponsible owners of dogs allowed to run without a leash. I put a list of reasons on why I am willing to defend myself, and a few other ideas on how to deal with these people here: https://pethelpful.com/pet-ownership/angry-owners-...Helpful 20
I have an epileptic dog, 10 years old. Almost all the bigger dogs want to harm him, I think they can feel he is sick. What can I do to protect my epileptic dog from my other dogs? These dogs do not even pay attention to me, then go straight for him.
Some dogs seem to give off a submissive signal and invite attacks from other dogs. I used to work with a Pitbull who was like that and although he could fight he was abused by a larger female dog in the household and always seemed to be nervous.
The best solution to working with a submissive dog is walking around prepared. You want to practice avoidance but that does not always work. Carrying a strong pepper spray that is safe on dogs almost always makes them back off.Helpful 8
I have a relatively small, but pretty fast Border Collie. If she were attacked, would it be best to let her run from the attacking dog? I think she would choose to run instead of fighting or rolling over, and I usually walk her in a large park with which she is very familiar.
Many aggressive dogs have a high prey drive. If your dog runs away, they will chase, and if they catch her they will most likely try to kill her. I prefer to stand between my dog and any other one that is being aggressive. (Only do this if you have a collapsible baton or stick, and know how to use it.)Helpful 11
© 2016 Dr Mark