How Do I Protect Myself Against an Aggressive Dog?
We don’t usually expect a threat from creatures rightfully dubbed a man’s best friend. Unfortunately, the statistics of dog attacks are mind-boggling.
See, most dogs are docile, but they’re animals, have animal instincts, and can sometimes display unpredictable & erratic behavior. If they’re not trained properly to be sociable around other people and animals, they can be extremely aggressive and unfriendly; even the friendliest-looking pooch can attack you.
So, how do you protect yourself in case you experience dog aggression? In this guide, I’ll share some practical safety tips to employ if attacked by a dog.
But before I share these tips, let’s first look at some common reasons a dog would attack you.
Why a Dog Would Attack You
Understanding why dogs sometimes act in a dangerous way or in high-risk circumstances that lead to a dog attack is important to help us learn how to avoid these horrendous incidents. It’s far more important than what legislators do- banning certain dog breeds.
A dog will attack you for different reasons, but it’s mostly a response to something- they don’t simply pick on you. For example, a dog may attack to defend its territory or bite when frightened or surprised.
Here’re the more common reasons why your dog might attack you:
As for the specific red flag dog triggers for an attack, the biggest one is usually any sort of fear. Most aggression from dogs is fear-based.
Dogs usually bite out of fear; a scared dog might bite out of self-defense. And this is why you should never approach a dog showing signs of fear.
Usually, if a dog is trying to run away, they’re badly frightened, but if you corner it and has nowhere to run, it will lash out in what it perceives as self-defense. Even if you’re not trying to hurt them, dogs will get provoked by an action you do.
Of course, you can’t do much about a fearful dog other than be careful and observant. Try not to push your luck by petting or approaching the fearful dog.
Protectiveness/ Territorial Behavior
Most dogs are territorial and usually guard something they highly value. They could also be defending their “property,” such as a resting place, bed, dog bowl, or toy.
What looks like protectiveness is often resource guarding, which is usually a huge spectrum of behaviors, and it’s not good. Once your dog learns to defend, they’re likely to become more aggressive, even to the owner.
Certain diseases, such as rabies, are a huge contributor to aggressiveness in dogs. An injured dog becomes aggressive and will attack anything in sight. It’ll lash out, even when you intended to relieve the animal of the pain. Veterinarians have this happen all the time.
So, if you see an injured dog, don’t approach it; be cautious if it’s your dog. Dogs in pain are usually the most vulnerable and can be extremely aggressive to protect themselves.
A dog will also lash at you if they perceive you as a threat. Generally, most dogs will generalize any stranger as being a threat. If you’ve also harmed them in the past, they may perceive you as a threat and will want to attack you.
For example, if you’re in a shelter and are interested in a dog huddled in a corner in a tight ball, shivering, and avoiding eye contact, approaching the dog right away isn’t a good idea. Instead, you’d want to sit at a distance and let the dog come close to you. You may flip a few treats but don’t make direct eye contact. Instead, allow the dog to investigate and determine whether you’re a threat.
For most parts, a dog won’t attack unless they perceive you as a threat and have no other alternative.
A dog in prey mode is exceptionally dangerous because even if it’s likely not to eat you, something has piqued its brain to chase/ “kill.” And this is why you should never run from an aggressive dog- they’ll ALWAYS chase you. It’s instinctual.
Defense mode is the least dangerous reason a dog can chase you. It wants to get away from you and prevent you from chasing it, so it tries to get away with the least damage or contact.
Some dogs are generally aggressive and hostile. They’re also known as crazy dogs and generally leave a trail of destruction on their way. However, it would help to mention that most dogs are naturally docile and unlikely to attack people without provocations. But certain breeds and individual dogs are prone to these erratic behaviors.
Some dogs will develop such behaviors from bad training. Some irresponsible owners will use their dogs to fill their flaws or ambitions. Bad training is wrong and can turn even the nicest dogs into aggressive and dangerous ones.
How to Know If a Dog Will Attack
There’s no “surefire” way to know whether a dog will attack because every dog is different. However, most dog attacks aren’t “out of nowhere” either.
So, anyone wanting a dog or living in an area prone to dog attacks should learn to read dogs. Dogs usually communicate and send us signals, and their attacks usually have a bit of a precursor.
Of course, this also depends on why they’re biting. For example, if they view you as prey, they won’t warm or show any signs. They will strike on a whim, won’t warn, and intend to kill.
You must also look at the entire dog rather than a single part only. For example, a dog showing teeth can be a threat or pacifier; you can know about this when you look at the entire dog and not only the teeth alone.
That said, I’ll list some of the common signs that a dog will display when it’s about to attack or bite:
Growling and Snapping
Growling and snapping is probably one of the most obvious signs that a dog is about to bite or attack. In a dog’s world, growling is a war signal.
When a dog growls or snaps, it lets you know it’s unhappy and uncomfortable. If a dog growls at you when you approach them, giving them some space is best.
Dogs will bark for many reasons, including asking for food, asking for a treat, wanting to play, or even wanting to know how you’re. However, they may also bark to signal a warning, like “back off, or I bite.”
So, always look at the dog when barking, and try to understand what they’re communicating.
Staring without Blinking, Body Stiffening
If a dog stares at you without blinking and with the entire body stiffened, it’s a bad sign. In particular, if the muscles on the shoulder and neck start to stiffen, you should back away ASAP.
Again, you must look at the entire dog; sometimes, they may stare you in the eyes wanting to understand your visual sign better, which translates to trust and desire.
Wagging the Tail
Wagging the tail in slow motion and with a rigid tail held up might signify war. Biters, especially, love to communicate through the wagging of their tails.
Tail wagging gives the opponent a visual sign, but more importantly, it helps the dog spread hormones they secrete from under the tail.
Other signs may indicate a dog is about to attack, including licking their lips, yawning, slanting backward, and lowering their bodies.
So, yes, don’t set a dog up for failure. Know to read the signs. They’ll always tell you and show through a signal. There’s nothing like the dog just snapping or suddenly turning on me.
Practical Tips for Protecting Yourself Against a Dog Attack
Never Run Away
The biggest mistake I see many people do when facing an aggressive dog is running away. Trying to run away is likely not to help.
First, you’re unlikely to outrun a dog. Dogs are much faster than human beings.
But more importantly, running triggers a dog’s prey instincts to chase and catch. You’ll encourage a dog’s aggressiveness by running because it perceives you as prey.
Assert Your Dominance
If confronted by an aggressive dog, you must remain calm, even when you’ve bouts of anxiety and fear.
I believe winning against an aggressive dog is similar to physiological warfare. Don’t stress out more than the dog does.
So, if you remain calm and in control without looking away, it’ll send a strong message to the dog that you’re not fearful. It’ll slow the dog down and mess up its plans. In a dog’s world, the one who looks away first or seems fearful is the beta. You need to be an alpha in the situation and make them believe you intend to hurt or kill the dog.
The next step is to walk away. If you’re not under an attack, you could slowly walk away from the dog or what they perceive as its territory. However, while walking away, never make rapid movements, turn your back or look away.
Show the dog you’re minding your business and like you don’t care about it being there. Remember, a dog attacking you is also a risk for the dog, so in most cases, they will feel they don’t have to attack.
Avoid Staring Competitions
While backing off, you must never look directly into their eyes. Looking directly at the dog is usually a sign of aggression and may incite the dog to lunge at you.
Instead, stand sideways, maintaining peripheral vision.
Command, Be Loud, and Stand on your Ground
Now, assuming all the countermeasures against the dog doesn’t seem to work, and backing off doesn’t help, you need to step up your game and go on the offense.
As I mentioned, most dog attacks have a bit of a precursor. The dog will stiffen, lower their head, stare, and display teeth. This is your window to respond tit-for-tat.
Be big, and be loud. Deepen your voice, add more gravel, and put more testosterone into your words. Spread your arms to look big, puff up your chest, and put a leg forward as you get closer.
Most dogs also have similar command training and are familiar with certain words. For example, common words in a dog’s dictionary are stop, bad boy, bad dog, & no. If you use those words on some dogs, it’ll halt them in their tracks.
Pick a Rock or Stick
In addition to yelling at the aggressive dog, you could also point at it and pick something. Most dogs, especially those aggressively territorial, will reconsider if they see you pick a rock or stick. This works for other animals, too, and they seem to understand that you might throw a rock defensively.
If the dog keeps on lunging towards you, use pepper spray, that’s if you’ve it in your possession. Pepper spray is multi-sensory and harsh. It’ll blind the dogs, stop them in their tracks, and doesn’t typically cause lasting harm.
A steady stream of pepper spray guided to the face of the dog will cause physical reactions in the dog’s eyes. Now, between the pain, copious tears, and simply inability to see through, the dog becomes grossly disoriented and backs away.
The only drawback of pepper spray is you’re likely to get some on yourself, and if the wind picks it up right, you’ll get drops on your face.
If everything fails and the dog starts advancing toward you, be prepared for a fight. A lethal and well-aimed kick on vital parts such as the underbelly, throat, or eye sockets will fend off even the most aggressive dogs.
However, you need to have all the confidence and not be afraid to hurt the dog. Avoid a kick that only hurts the dog just enough or without causing permanent damage, as it makes the dog madder and fights harder. Instead, be hard on the dog to reconsider its decision to attack you.
One attack that works for most dog attacks is raising your arm shoulder high and away from your face. When the dog jumps for the kill, use your knee to hit it hard on the exposed parts.
The good thing with this tip is that it allows you to use the dog’s momentum to your advantage.
Act Quickly/ Fighting Techniques (Kill/Maim)
Often, what we’ve listed above is all it takes to prevent an attack from an aggressive dog. However, you’ll get a surprise attack, and in such situations, where you/your dog/another person is getting attacked by a dog, you’ve a decision to make.
I love dogs, but between my life/those I care about and a dog’s life, I would choose the former. So, for me, fighting an aggressive dog is usually inevitable, and I wouldn’t think twice about beating the shit out of one.
The good thing is in a 1v1 situation, most adults can fight against a dog. Of course, it depends on the size, but if you think it’s something you can take, let your animal instincts go wild and kill it. Coming out of a dogfight unscathed is rare, but you’ll live to tell a story.
That said, here’re some fighting techniques to employ against a vicious dog when push comes to shove:
Protect your Neck
Protecting your neck is the first thing to do in a 1v1 situation against a dog. Canines, including dogs, generally kill things by clamping on their victim’s neck and shaking violently.
If neck clamping doesn’t break your neck, it will stun you enough to squeeze your life out through suffocation. So, never fall in a fetal position unless you want to get eaten up.
Sacrifice your Arm
A rule of thumb when attacked by a vicious dog is you should sacrifice your arm. If you’ve time, you could take off any clothes on you, preferably your sweatshirt, and wrap them around your arm.
Next, hold the wrapped arm in front of you. The dog will jump and bite down the arm. Don’t try to pull away; that’s when damage is done. Instead, push your arm inside the dog’s mouth. It sounds counter-intuitive, but most canine’s grip is one way. A dog has immense pulling power but little pushing strength. It’s why the dog’s teeth are angled backward.
So, push your arm in the mouth arm, and push the free arm behind & against the neck. The result should be a broken neck.
Another technique to fend off a biting dog is wrapping your arm around the throat and getting a solid headlock. Squeeze hard and choke the dog out.
Pop the Eyes
Once a dog goes for your arm, you could poke their eyes as hard as possible depending on how it’s attacking.
If you’ve keys, like car or house keys, reach them with your free hands, and stab the sucker’s eyes out.
Pull the Front Legs
Depending on how the dog attacks you, grabbing and pulling the dog’s front legs away from each other and outward, like a human spreading arm, will break and decapacitate the dog.
Dog muscles aren’t designed to stretch that way, and pulling the legs apart tears the ribcage muscles and drives the shards into the heart.
While at it, you must turn your upper body as much as possible and keep the face and throat from the dog.
Generally, there’s no one-size-fits-all method to protect yourself against a dog attack. For example, shouting and acting dominant can stop an opportunistic territorial dog attack but may razz up a trapped dog.
The key thing is to read the whole dog and its behavior and learn why it’s attacking you. From there, determine a method to shut down its aggressiveness.