Self-Defence Against Dog Attacks

Dog attackA couple of articles on defence against dog attacks, applicable to not only people engaged in protest and resistance actions but also those living in areas where stray and/or feral dogs may present a real threat (i.e., remote towns and villages, including reservations).

How to Handle a Dog Attack

Imagine that you’re enjoying a run in the park or a bike ride through the neighborhood when, suddenly, an unfamiliar dog runs up to you, snarls, and primes himself to lunge. What should you do?  There’s a right way and a wrong way to handle a dog attack. Keep yourself safe by staying calm and taking some measures to diffuse the situation.

1.Warding Off an Attack

1. Do not panic. There’s some truth to the old adage that dogs and other animals can “sense fear”. If you become agitated and run or scream, you may make the dog feel more confident in his attack, or, worse, you may appear threatening to the dog. Neither of these is a good situation to be in.

2. Make yourself rigid and motionless. When a dog approaches, stand completely still with your hands at your sides, like a tree, and avert your eyes.[1] In many cases the dog will lose interest and walk away if you ignore him.

  • Do not wave your arms around or kick with your legs; the dog may perceive these actions as threatening.
  • Don’t make eye contact, since that could also cause the dog to lunge.
  • Stand sideways to the dog and keep him in your peripheral vision instead of facing him and making eye contact. This will signal to the dog that you are not a threat.
  • Don’t open your hands and arms up to a bite by extending them. Keep your fingers curled into fists to avoid getting them bitten. The dog may come quite close, even sniffing you, without actually biting.

3. Do not try to run away. Running away can awaken the dog’s prey instinct to chase and catch animals. He may pursue you vigorously even if his initial intent was just playful. Additionally, you won’t be able to outrun most dogs if you’re on foot. Even if you are on a bicycle, many dogs will be able to catch up to you.[2]

4. Distract the dog with another object. If the dog continues to threaten you, offer him something to chew on, such as your backpack or water bottle: anything but your arm or leg. This may distract him enough to give you time to escape.

  • You may want to carry treats or toys when traveling in areas known to be home to dangerous dogs. If approached by an angry dog, throw your treats or toy away from you. The dog may go after these instead of you.
Police_dog_attack 2

Military police working dog (MWD) Bary attacks Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Vollweiler during controlled aggression training exercises at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan)

2. Defending and Protecting Yourself

1. Face the dog and command, “back away.” If the dog continues to behave aggressively, and ignoring or pacifying him is no longer working, face him and sternly command him to leave.

  • Use a strong, deep, and confident commanding voice.
  • Continue to avoid making eye contact.
  • The dog may become discouraged or intimidated and leave.

2. Fight back against an attacking dog. If the dog starts biting you, you’ve got to defend yourself. Hit or kick the dog in the throat, nose, and the back of the head. This will stun the dog and give you time to get away.[3]

  • It’s okay to raise your voice at this point. Yell for help as you’re fighting back. Hopefully others will hear and come to your aid. However, avoid screaming as this may lead the dog to strengthen his attack.
  • If you have a stick or another weapon, you can (and should) use it to hit the dog. Don’t hit him over the top of the head, though; most dogs have very thick skulls, so this will only serve to make the dog angrier. If available, mace or pepper spray also work as a good defense against an attacking dog.
  • Fight as though your life depends on it, because it does. Dog attacks can be fatal. While you certainly don’t want to hurt a dog unnecessarily, you should use force as necessary if you are being seriously attacked.

3. Use your weight to your advantage. Bring your entire body weight to bear on the animal, specifically pushing down with the hard points of your knees or elbows. Dogs are vicious biters but cannot wrestle, so try to get an advantageous position and break their bones fairly quickly. Get on top of the animal and concentrate force on areas such as the throat or ribs while minding to keep your face out of clawing/biting range.

  • If you are looking for a more humane solution and can manage it, straddle the back of the dog with your partial body weight and apply forward pressure to the back of the neck to immobilize the dog until help comes.
Police_dog_attack 5

Denmark: police dogs attack soccer fans, 2011. This man is doing a good job of protecting his head and neck with his arms.

4. Protect your face, chest, and throat. If you fall to the ground during the attack, not only is it more difficult to fight off the angry dog, but vital areas on your torso, head, and neck become more vulnerable to attack. These are the most important spots on your body to protect because bites in these places will inflict the most damage and will have the greatest chance of killing you.

  • Protect your vitals[4] by rolling onto your stomach, tucking your knees in, and bringing your hands (balled in fists) up to your ears.
  • Resist the urge to scream or roll away, as these actions may further encourage the dog.[5]

5. Leave the area slowly and carefully. Once the dog loses interest in you, leave the scene of the attack slowly by backing away without sudden movements.[6]Staying calm and stationary can be a real test of your nerves in such a stressful situation, but it’s the best thing to do as long as the dog isn’t actually biting you.

3. Handling the Aftermath

1. Attend to any wounds. If you are bitten, be sure to take care of any wounds promptly, as even minor bites can cause infection. Perform basic first aid procedures for bites suffered from a dog attack:

  • Apply gentle pressure to stop minor bleeding. Use a clean cloth or sterile gauze pad. If bleeding is serious or if it won’t stop after several minutes of applying pressure, seek professional medical attention.
  • Wash the wound thoroughly. Use warm water and soap to gently cleanse the wound.
  • Dress the wound. Use a sterile band-aid (for very small cuts) or sterile bandages for larger lacerations.
  • Look closely for signs of infection, including redness, warmth, increasing tenderness, or oozing pus. See a doctor if any of these symptoms arise.

2. Call the authorities. It’s important to determine whether an attacking dog has rabies or a history of aggression. Call the authorities immediately after a dog attack so that the dog can be prevented from harming anyone else and be tested for diseases.

  • If the dog that attacked you was a stray, he may attack others, too. Removing him from the area is the best way to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
  • For dogs with owners nearby, how you handle the situation after the attack has been diffused is up to you. If you’ve been hurt, you may want to take legal action. Many states have laws holding owners responsible for the actions of their dogs.

3. See a medical professional promptly. If you were bitten by an unknown dog, a dog that was later found to have rabies, or a dog that appeared to be foaming at the mouth, it’s imperative that you see a doctor right away to get preventative treatment for the deadly disease rabies.

  • The rabies shot sequence, if it is necessary, should be started as soon as possible after the bite.
  • Most European countries are considered to be “rabies-free,” so a shot is not likely to be necessary in the event of an attack that takes place in Europe.
  • If you haven’t had a tetanus shot in the past 5 years, you may require additional preventative tetanus treatments.
  • In general, any significant wounds from a dog attack should be examined by a medical professional.


Police_dog_attack 3

Police dogs used to attack civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.

4. Taking Precautions Against Attacks

1. Look for warning signs. Most dogs are not aggressive, but, rather, just curious or defending what they perceive as their territory. Thus, to avoid unnecessary conflict, it is important to be able to tell if a dog is just playing or is being truly aggressive. While some breeds have been singled out as being particularly vicious, any mid-size and large dog breed can be dangerous,[7] so do not ignore warning signs because you think a certain breed is harmless or friendly. Watch for common signs of aggression (and non-aggression):[8]

  • Growling, snarling, and baring teeth are obvious displays of aggression and should be treated as such.
  • An angry dog may show the whites of his eyes, especially if these aren’t normally visible.
  • Pulled-back ears laying flat against the head are a telltale sign of aggression, whereas normal floppy or elevated ears usually signal a dog’s nonchalance.
  • If the dog approaches you with its body relaxed and with a sloping curve in its midsection, the dog is probably not going to attack.
  • A dog whose body is tense, straight and stiff (head, shoulders and hips aligned) could mean business.
  • A loping gait means the dog is playful and checking you out. An even, steady run means the dog may be dangerous.
Dogs on reserve 1

Feral dogs on Tsuu-T’ina reserve in Alberta. Photo by Todd Korol.

2. Avoid aggravating a dog. Most dog attacks are the result of insufficient containment of the dog, poor training, or taunting. Unfortunately, the world will never be rid of bad owners, so it is wise to be prepared. Common sense should tell you not to aggravate any kind of animal.

  • Never irritate a dog who’s eating or caring for her pups. Dogs are extra-protective during these times.
  • Avoid smiling at the dog. You may think you are putting on a friendly face with a big toothy smile, but an aggressive dog sees you baring your teeth for a fight.
  • Dogs that are chained or tethered to a stationary object for extended periods of time are more likely to be aggressive, so do not come within their reach.

3. Assume all unknown dogs are threats.  In general, the best policy when it comes to dog attacks is to do everything you can to avoid them in the first place. If you see a dog that may be dangerous, stay away.

  • Report any dangerous-looking dogs or possible strays in your neighborhood to the authorities.
  • Teach your children never to approach unfamiliar dogs until they are sure they are safe.
  • By giving all unknown dogs a wide berth until you find evidence that they are safe, you can avoid the majority of dangerous dog encounters.

Sources and Citations

How to Survive a Dog Attack


This photo shows the danger of attempting to run away from an attacking dog, and the height some dogs can jump. Bellevue police officer Jim Bartley gets pounced on by Leda, a Lavista Police Dog, during a routine joint training with handlers and military working dogs on 10 April 2007. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger)

by Margaret Eden, Force Necessary

Based on statistics obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year 4.7 million people suffer a dog attack in the United States. Of this number, 800,000 require medical attention, and 17 result in death. Despite leash laws and animal control programs, dogs roam free in city streets, suburbs, and rural and remote areas. Generally, dog attacks occur in average neighborhoods while people walk, jog or exercise their own dogs.

“I took my Huskies out on their leashes late one evening,” says Phil in Oklahoma. “We had only gone a block when a Golden Retriever charged out of the bushes and attacked my dogs. It wasn’t until I managed to separate the dogs that I felt blood trickling down my leg where the retriever had sunk his teeth into my thigh.”

Phil’s story is not unusual, according to Mark Minnerly, owner of The Dallas Dog Trainer, Dallas, Texas. “Dogs frequently attack other dogs who stray into their territory. If people get in the way, they get bit. Dogs are pack animals, territorial by nature.”

“Some dogs possess a stronger instinct than others,” says Minnerly. “The profile of killer dogs has changed over the last 15 years. Great Danes were responsible for the largest percentage of fatal attacks in 1979. In 1995 and 1996 Rottweilers killed 11 of 22 dog attack victims. However it’s important to remember that Rottweilers are owned in greater numbers these days.”

All dogs test the water during new encounters. They immediately try to access who you are, why you are there, and who’s in charge. If the person or dog under attack acts correctly, it may diffuse the situation.

How to avoid a dog attack

The best way to avoid an attack is to avoid a strange dog’s territory — but that’s not always possible. If a dog is charging at you, you must quickly determine what type of attack the dog has in mind.

“Dog aggression really takes two forms — defensive or offensive,” says Minnerly. “If a dog feels threatened, he growls and moves away from you hoping you’ll do the same.

“If he moves closer, it’s best to stand still, maintain good posture and keep your eye on him,” says Minnerly. “Try talking. Use a soothing tone. Call for the owner. Hopefully, he’ll call off his dog. Watch the dog closely. Pivot to face him, if necessary. Don’t shout or make threatening body movements. This might make the dog shift from defensive to offensive mode.”

If the encounter takes place in an open area, a steady gaze lets the dog know you feel confident and may discourage an attack. Usually, a fearful dog will back off after a few minutes. However, if the confrontation takes place in a confined space, you might want to stare at a point on the dog’s body rather than directly at his face. If a fearful dog feels cornered, a direct gaze may goad him to attack. If the dog operates off the herding instinct, he will want to chase you down and bite you on the heels or the buttocks. But generally they aren’t bold enough to bite you if you face them. Never let the dog get behind you.

Dog Attack guide

You can easily recognize an aggressive dog by its bark. It says, come on over here. I’m going to have you for lunch. An aggressive dog doesn’t try to scare you away. Instead, he dares you to do something. Often an aggressive dog will move in close and snarl in your face, teeth bared, or charge you in an attempt to make you run so he can give chase.

Most dog attacks take place when an unsupervised dog charges up to investigate a dog on a leash. “It’s a dog’s nature to investigate the new dog by sticking his nose in the new dog’s crotch,” says Minnerly. “Dogs instinctively attack the stomach because gut wounds nearly always prove fatal. It’s a lot like the way lions bring down prey in the wild. If you get in the way, the dog will bite you, too. The worst thing you can do during a dog attack is run,” says Minnerly. “If you run, the dog sees you as prey, and he’ll chase you down.”

“Dogs in the wild don’t usually present a problem,” says Minnerly. “Most are loners and go out of their way to avoid humans. They are looking for food, not trouble. They live on mice, rats and sometimes small or injured deer. If you encounter a wild dog accidentally, it usually runs away.”

On the other hand, dogs running in packs can prove extremely dangerous. “They feed off each other’s excitement,” says Minnerly. “They may attack larger prey than normal. They do things a lone dog would never try. Sometimes they attack pets or livestock.

“During a recession in Alaska in the ’70s, people moved away leaving their property and dogs behind,” says Minnerly, who lived in Alaska at the time.

“Dogs banded together in packs and roamed the streets searching for food. They’d come into your yard and eat your dog while he sat chained to a tree if you weren’t careful.”

What to do if things get nasty with a dog

If the unthinkable happens, and a vicious dog attacks you or someone you love, quickly search your environment for weapons to hold the dog at bay. If a bite is truly inevitable and you find no weapons at close range, use a shirt or jacket to wrap your weak-sided arm. Offer the protected arm to the dog as a distraction while you call for help or attempt to back to safety. Often in a frenzied attempt to get at you, an attacking dog will bite almost anything. A stick, a bag or a book may provide a valuable substitute for an arm or leg as you try to escape. It’s always a good idea to carry weapons such as mace, a knife or even a handgun. Real survivalists carry more than one weapon. Two knives, one carried on each side prepares you to survive an incapacitating wound to either your right or left side and allows you to fight on.

Police_dog_attack 4

A common tip in defence against dog attacks is to offer the dog a protected arm, or a bag etc, that the dog will latch onto, enabling you to use your free hand to strike the dog with a weapon if available.

If you carry a knife, cut the throat, stab the eyes or the face of the dog for the quickest reaction. Stabs to the body don’t always take effect in time to prevent the dog from biting you. Attacking the dog’s face, jaw muscles or throat will disable it quicker and may prevent serious injury to the person.

If you carry a small caliber gun, aim for the dog’s head/brain; a body shot may not bring the dog down immediately. If you carry a large caliber gun, aim for the body. The impact alone can significantly disrupt the attack. However, it takes time to draw a gun. Statistics indicate a person attacking you may run 19 feet before you can pull a gun from a holster and shoot. Many dogs run faster than the average human.

If serious attack becomes unavoidable and you are:


  •  search the immediate vicinity for weapons
  •  wrap your weaker arm in clothing and use it to distract the dog
  •  call for the owner
  •  back to safety


  • use mace or other spray to subdue the dog
  • use knife to stab jaw muscles, face, eyes or throat of dog
  • fire small caliber gun at dog’s head
  • fire large caliber gun at dog’s body

It’s important to know that dogs always follow the survival of the fittest principle unless extensively trained to do otherwise.

“I’ve had police officers down on the ground under attack by a criminal. When the policeman calls his dog for help, the dog attacks him,” says Minnerly, “because he’s on the bottom of the pile. It takes a lot of training to overcome a dog’s natural instinct.”

Posted on September 5, 2016, in State Security Forces and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Excellent helpful information, a must read! Thank you so much!

  2. to neutralize an attacking dog with a sharpened stick and jam into its mouth or grab its lower jaw and hold on.

  3. The dog’s nose is the most vulnerable area, like the wolf. Twice, I was walking down the street near my home when a large, vicious dog attacked me from their yard. I was passing on the sidewalk. They were not attached. Each time, I faced off as they charged toward me, full of anger and menace. I was ready, with my fists to smash them on the top of the nose when they were close enough. Each time, just before getting to me, they turned and ran off yelping with their tail between their legs. Amazing! Both incidents happened within a few days, within a few blocks of my home. Good thing I had done my warm-up exercises to be ready for such situations. Take care everyone!

  4. Bear spray and a knife works wonders for all animals involved

  5. Seriously mauled

    What stupid advice. I guess this was written by somebody never attacked. Cops do nothing. Animal control does nothing. I suggest after being brutally attacked by a GSD that you carry a big heavy stick always and pepper spray. Do your best to kill it. Then find the owner and a good attorney.

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