Protecting yourself in a dog attack

I was recently asked what I would do if I were attacked by a dog. The question was not what should someone else do if they were attacked, but what would I do. Considering the recent death in San Francisco by Presa Canario I thought it an appropriate title for this article.

The first thing that people need to understand is that 99.99% of the dogs that attack and kill humans are dogs with weak nerves or extremely dominant dogs with no training. These are not trained dogs with solid temperaments that are killing people. But even so, I will address both kinds of dogs.

Keeping in mind that question asked “What would I do?”

I will start be saying that it only takes me a very few seconds to evaluate a dog as it approaches. I can tell from a dog’s body language and eye’s if it’s a sharp, nervous dog.

With sharp dogs simply facing the dog with a loud, deep-throated confident “NO!” will often be enough to stop the dog in its tracks. Most will turn and leave. The fact is these are not strong dogs that want to fight a human, they are weak dogs who show aggression, because they have learned that aggression makes people leave them alone. Dogs from this category that don’t turn and leave will stand off and bark. I would continue to stare at those dogs and give them a loud “NO, GET TO THE HOUSE!” Eventually they will slink off and leave, trying to act tough as they go.

Dogs like this are the ones who have the hair up on their back as they approach, they may (or may not) show a lot of teeth. Their body posture is not forward, they will stand with their feet apart like they are real close to “fight or flight” (which they are). If I can stop these dogs with my voice, I will pause and give direct eye contact for a second and then take a quick step toward the dog – yelling in a strong confident voice. The majority of them will bolt into flight.

These nervous dogs that don’t bolt will bark and circle as they try to get at you from behind. Simply turning and facing them with direct eye contact is going to prevent this. Very, very, very few dogs are going to do this, at least not to me anyway. Dogs sense strength and confidence in my body posture, eye contact and voice. For those dogs that don’t leave after a minute, I can slowly (and I mean slowly) back out of their territory. Which, depending on the dog, could possibly be quite some distance. I testified in court several years ago against a lady in Kansas whose Rots killed a 9 year old boy.

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