Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dog Attack!

When I was about 7 years old, I was walking my dog one day when we encountered a dog fight in progress. There must have been 4 or 5 other dogs already fighting, and for some crazy reason my dog wanted to join the fun. Afraid that my dog was going to get hurt, I dove into the fray to rescue my pooch (ah, the misguided courage of a 7-year-old). The next thing I remember was waking up under an oxygen tent, being cared for by a doctor. My body was torn to shreds, and it would take some time to heal.

It would be understandable for me to hate dogs after that incident, but on the contrary, I have always loved dogs. However, that was the day I decided that I would never again be some dog's lunch. On a few occasions since my first adventure in the middle of that dog fight, I have been attacked by dogs. Twice while jogging alone I've had large shepherd-type dogs rush me with foul intent. I've been chased on my bicycle a couple times. And once while my wife and I were walking our young pooch, we were attacked by two dogs at the same time. On each occasion, I took action to prevent damage to myself, or to my wife and our dog in that last incident.

So it happens. Even though there are laws governing the restraint of domestic dogs (leash laws, or yard enclosure laws), dogs sometimes get out on the loose, and they aren't always warm and fuzzy and friendly. Someday you might find yourself facing the gnashing teeth of a threatening canine, so it's good to know what to do.

The first strategy is to avoid aggressive dogs, if possible. If you know there are aggressive dogs in a particular neighborhood, don't go there.

Another strategy, if you can't avoid dogs, is to feed them. Carry some dog treats in a pocket, and toss one or two toward the dog if it approaches you.

But when the situation gets nasty you have to take other steps:
  • Never turn your back on a threatening dog. If the animal tries to circle around behind you, keep turning to face him. If you are threatened by more than one dog and they attempt a coordinated surround-and-attack strategy, you're going to have to choose one dog to make an example of. I recommend taking out the most aggressive one first. Be quick about it, because as soon as you focus your attention on one of the dogs, the others might rush you. So work with exceptional violence to take one dog out of action and then immediately be ready to take out the next one. 
When we were rushed by two dogs, I immediately kicked the lead animal in the throat, dropping him like a hay bale, and then I prepared to take out the second dog. That dog saw what happened to his buddy, thought better of it, and whimpered back inside the open gate to the safety of his yard. 
  • Don't run. Running from a dog will encourage and trigger an aggressive attack. It's impossible to out-run a dog for any distance, but if you can scramble into an open vehicle or climb a tree before the dog can reach you, go for it. But if you can't reach safety within a few steps, don't run. 
I once spent an hour on top of a car while waiting for the dog's owner (the uncle of a friend of mine whom I'd gone to visit) to come home and put the aggressive doberman in the house.
  • Stop right where you are, face the animal and slowly back away. Sometimes a dog will rush out and snarl, bark and growl without completing the attack. It might be that the dog thinks you have violated his space, and if you are willing to leave slowly by backing away, he might let you. 
It's worth a try to talk to the dog, giving orders to "go home" or "sit" in a commanding voice. If the dog has been trained at all, it might obey you. Some dogs, however, might have been trained to obey commands in a foreign language. But the very sound of your voice giving a strict order might make the animal stop and reconsider. You might luck out and it will obey you. Like I said, it's worth a try.
  • Avoid making direct eye contact and showing your teeth because that might be perceived by the dog as a challenge, and might provoke an attack. Even though you are facing the dog and watching his every move, focus your eyes a bit to one side of his eyes.
  • Never lose your feet. That means don't fall down. Once you're on the ground, you are lunch. If you stumble, get back on your feet as fast as possible. 
  • Start yelling to arouse the attention of the dog's owner. 
  • Carry defensive weapons (and be prepared to use them) such as pepper spray, a walking stick that can be used to fend off an attack, a short stick or umbrella that can be used as a club or to jam down the dog's throat.
I've used my bicycle pump as a club, when being chased during a bike ride. You can't always speed away, especially if you're riding uphill. Get off the bike before the dog drags you off it, keep the bike between you and the animal, and keep facing the threat. Eventually, the dog might tire of this game and head back home, but don't turn your back on him. Keep him in sight as you climb back on the bike and resume the ride.
  • Take action. 
If the dog is going to take a bite, it's better to offer it something other than your flesh. A coat, a hat, an umbrella, a stick, a bike tire pump, whatever you can shove in the dog's mouth will be better than letting him bite you. If he grabs your arm, rather than try to rip it out of his mouth (thereby getting your arm torn up), shove it farther down the dog's throat. This will cause him to choke and release you.

If you have a coat, remove it and wrap it around your arm. Then present your arm as the target for the dog to focus on. Once he has your protected arm in his jaws, shove it as deep into his mouth as you can and use your other hand and your feet to attack the dog. Punch him in the nose (or whack him hard on the nose with your club), claw out his eyes, punch and kick him in the ribs.

If you can grab the dog by his nose and lower jaw, you can use a quick sideways jerking motion in opposite directions to dislocate the dog's jaw.

If the dog in question is a pit bull, there may be nothing short of death (preferably the dog's death, not yours) that will cause it to release you from its jaws. Nasty as that might sound, it might be your only solution, so be prepared with some means of causing the death of an attacking dog. A knife will do nicely. If the dog has part of you in his jaws, and it's your life or his death, focus all your attention on getting the job done as quickly as possible.

If you are totally without weapons, use your fingers to claw into the animal's eyes or gonads. Rip them out, if necessary. This is an ugly scene to even contemplate, so get it over with as quickly as possible.

After the incident you might need medical attention, including rabies treatment. If possible get information about who owns the dog, because you're going to need this to take steps to receive compensation for your suffering. Call 9-1-1 and have the animal control people take action to prevent this dog from attacking others. This is assuming the dog has survived his encounter with you.

Remember, I am a dog lover. But I love myself even more.


  1. A dog about a block away from me is always barking at me, I wave my arms like a wild man and bark and howl at it, I've made that dog so paranoid that it won't get within fifty feet of me.

    I like dogs, but I live with cats.

  2. today i was walking/jogging my german shephard like evey other hundred times ive done so in the same area and a freakin pittbull came out and rushed up on us out of nowhere... his hackles were up, he was growling or barking but he kept a stance, i had some pepperoni sticks and was tossing them away from me, he would go smell them and then come right back at us. i started screaming as loud as i could but noone would come and help... finally a gardner came with his blower machine and the dog still would leave me alone... then a man walking his dog caught the pitbulls attention and he ran after him, as soon as that happened i ran as fast as i could to get away. once i got home i called animal control. it was so beyond scary. my german shepard stood right between the pittbull and i and he wouldnt allow him to come any closer than my dogs leash would allow.... still scary. i cant believe someone would allow that type of dog or any type of dog out without being behind a gate or on a leash.