Tips on Surviving a Dog Attack

With all the stories of dog bites in the news plus any personal experience you may have had of being lunged at or chased when walking or jogging by a house, have you ever wondered what you should do in case you ARE ever attacked by a dog? As a veterinarian and animal behaviorist, I deal with aggressive dogs on a daily basis and have rarely been bitten. Here are some tips that can help you:

  1. First, if a dog charges you, stay calm and stand still! That can be easier said than done, but here’s why it’s important: Most dogs that charge are doing so either because they are fearful and have learned that offense is their best defense, or they have just been rewarded for excited charging by the reaction of the people. Owners may shout “No! No!” which the dog, in his highly aroused state, hears as “go! go!” or the people the dog is barking at go away, which teaches the dog that barking works. The dogs generally aren’t thinking about biting; they’re just highly aroused and reacting to the situation. They are in a self-reinforcing loop. When they get close to you, if you scream and flail your arms this may cause them to be more highly aroused and to react more aggressively. I have had dogs, who have severely bitten others, charge at me snapping wildly and then stop after several seconds because they fail to get the reaction they expected. The reason others had been bitten severely is that they were frightened such that they yelled and tried to hit the dog or run away.
  2. Face sideways and avoid staring at the dog. Staring can scare the dog into becoming more protective of himself or his property or can be seen as a direct threat. Also keep your arms folded and against you so you won’t accidentally wave them around.
  3. Avoid running away because you will trigger a chase response. Even the most playful friendly dog will tend to chase someone they run up to. And if it’s exciting enough, the dog may even grab you as if you were a toy or prey.
  4. If you’re worried the dog will bite, try to put something between you and the dog, such as the backpack you’re carrying or your bulky purse. Use this as a shield to just block him from getting closer to you. This diffuses his attack and confuses him. Do not try to hit the dog with item.
  5. Once the dog has calmed down you can back away. Do not turn your back on these dogs; fearful dogs will bite you when you’re not looking.

Learn how to recognize fearful body language in dogs. Download the free poster here.

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