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Last Modified: January 4, 2023

10 Ways to Respond to or Avoid a Dog Attack

Published on January 16, 2013 • Last updated January 4, 2023 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Children & Accidents, Dog Bites & Attacks

Aggressive dog baring teethHave you ever experienced an overly aggressive salesperson manning a kiosk at the mall? In many ways, a vicious dog is not so different:  they trail on your heels without regard to whether or not you’re actually paying them any attention, they make a lot of noise, and they’re weighing their alternative next moves based on your response.  As with a particularly assertive salesperson, a certain protocol virtually guarantees that you will come out without a scratch (or a $90 shaving set, as the case may be).  More often than not, confidence, subtlety, and know-how are all you need to get out of a dangerous situation.

Ed Frawley, head of Leerburg dog training agency, explains that many combative dogs behave aggressively because they are insecure:  they attempt to threaten you because you are making them feel threatened.  This may come as a surprise, since many people can attest to some experience of being growled at without any deliberate provocation on their part.  This is because dogs have their own code of etiquette that is, in many ways, incomprehensible to humans.  You cannot put yourself in a dog’s shoes—dogs don’t wear shoes (or, if they do, they are more likely to be in a pink purse than attacking you).  To get into the mind of a potential attack dog, read more:

1. Don’t smile

Veterinarian Debbye Turner, an expert in animal psychology in her own right, urges us not to smile at dogs.  Why?  This flies in the face of human courtesy!  However, while this behavior in primates translates to submission or goodwill, a dog curling its lips over its teeth is a thrown gauntlet.  The attitude of respect is illustrated by a sideways stance sans eye contact.

 2. Stay put

As most people who are even remotely acquainted with dogs know, they are naturally geared toward chasing things, be they balls, Frisbees, or mailmen.  To dogs, running away is an invitation to engage…or an admission of guilt.  If you want to prove to a dog that you are nothing to worry about, don’t move.

 3. Don’t fight

While not all dog bites come from breeds that can cause serious damage (dachshunds are the most aggressive), taking on a creature with long, pointed teeth and which has probably been bred for speed is not your best option.  Your goal is to make your furry adversary lose interest, not to provoke them.

 4. Atten-hut!

The opposite of fighting is, of course, blending in with fence posts.  Standing still indicates confidence and communicates to a dog that you aren’t trying to put anything over on them.  The proper posture to assume in the presence of a growling canine is ramrod-straight, arms down the sides, and hands clenched to protect the fingers.

 5. Back away slowly

When it appears as though the dog’s owner isn’t coming for his monster, or when the dog seems to be getting bored, DO NOT RUN AWAY.  A slow, steady pace is to be maintained as you exit the territory, again, to show that you are not a threat.

6. Speak softly

Dogs understand that a human using a loud voice is establishing dominance.  That’s how they’ve been trained since time immemorial.  You can sacrifice the dominant position if it means avoiding a dog bite or worse; use soothing tones to attest to your pure intent.

7. …and carry a big stick

As with humans, not all dogs act reasonably.  In the event that one approaches you in spite of your efforts to be unimposing, an elongated object like a stick or bar should be used to gag the dog.  Under NO circumstances should you attempt to pull away; they will just bite down harder or pull things away that you probably want to keep.

8. Feed, don’t flail

Do not wave your arms or try to ward them off.  That’s a battle you can’t win.  Instead, offer—don’t swing!—a jacket, backpack, or umbrella if the dog seems intent on wrapping his jaws around something.

9.  If knocked over, curl into a ball

The less surface area that is exposed, the better.  Curling into fetal position with hands over the back of your head is the best way to accomplish this.  If occasion permits, you might even consider lying on top of the attacking animal to crush them with your weight when all else fails.

 10.  In defense of another, grab the scruff

Our final tidbit comes from Bob Conklin, K-9 trainer.  Mr. Conklin tells us that when someone else is being attacked by a dog, the right way to help is to take the dog firmly by the scruff of the neck.  This prevents them from swinging their head around and biting the hand that restrains them.  If this doesn’t cause the dog to let go, and you can attempt this without danger, grasping the dog’s throat also helps (for reasons that should be obvious enough).

There is legal recourse for those who have experienced the horror of a dog bite or attack.  Dog owners are obligated to ensure that their animals are trained and contained; and dog bite victims are entitled to compensation for their ordeal should they renege on that responsibility.  To learn more about your rights following a dog attack in the state of Utah, visit this website for a free booklet on relevant laws and useful advice, compliments of personal injury attorneys Good Guys Injury Law.

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