Have you ever felt threatened by a strange dog? Perhaps you were out on a walk and someone’s pet escaped from the yard. Or maybe you’ve been to a friends house, only to be greeted with a poorly trained and territorial animal. If you live in the city, there’s good chance you’ve encountered one of the millions of stray dogs that roam the United States.
That last category is probably the most dangerous for the average person, and the statistics bear that out. Every year, 850,000 people in the US seek out medical attention for a dog bite, and along with the number of stray dogs, it’s a growing epidemic.
If so many people are bitten bad enough to go to the hospital every year, there’s a reasonably high chance of it happening to you someday. It’s not just something you hear about on the news, or from a friend of a friend. It’s something the average person should be prepared for, no matter where they live.
Fortunately though, the number of fatalities is extremely low, at around 20-30 per year. It seems most dogs, even if they’re feral, aren’t interested in killing humans. They’re usually timid, tired and hungry, and are more interested in defending themselves than making you lunch. Most dog attacks are probably due to nothing more than a misunderstanding between themselves and the humans around them. Sometimes they misread our gestures, or if they’re truly feral, they think they can extend their territory the streets and sidewalks.
Whatever the case may be, there’s a few simple strategies you can use to ward off a dog attack. Even if you don’t have any weapons, you stand a very good chance of staying alive. Before you do anything though, you should start by trying to scare the animal away. Here’s what you should try first.
1. If you’re approached by an aggressive dog, stay calm and stand your ground. Don’t run, or turn your back in any way. Doing so will trigger the dog’s predatory instinct. They will most likely chase you, and they’ll definitely outrun you. In addition, dogs have an amazing ability to perceive moving objects, much more so than we can. In fact, they can recognize a moving object better than a stationary object. All in all, you should keep your movement to a minimum.
2. Shout at the dog. Tell him to leave. Even the most feral of dogs exist because of us. They’re descended from thousands of years of human domestication, and they still have a primal understanding of human gestures. Many of the stray dogs you run into used to belong to human homes, and they recognize human commands. So long as you’re standing your ground, ordering the dog to leave is worth a shot.
3. If he’s not going to budge, then you’ll have to prepare to defend your space. Look for anything you can use to put between yourself and the dog. You could use a cane, umbrella, jacket, or belt. Any lengthy and durable object will do. Holding this item in front of you can actually disarm the dog’s aggression. Again, it goes back to the dog thinking he needs to defend himself. Standing your ground and holding a large object in front of you clearly shows that you’re taking a defensive stance as well, and have no ill intent towards him.
4. If that doesn’t work, then be prepared to use that object to protect yourself. Hold it in front of you at around neck level. The face and neck are very common places for a dog to lunge toward. Holding the object at this level means the dog will most likely go for that instead of you. And keep your hands tightly clenched to protect your fingers.
5. From there you want to use this object as a decoy. You probably don’t want to use the item as a weapon just yet. If you strike and miss, you’ll likely be opening yourself up for the dog’s bite. Heck ,even if you do hit the dog, you probably won’t even phase him. Instead, you want the dog to bite down on the object first so you can make your next move. Or if you’re using an article of clothing, you might be able to throw it over his head to temporarily blind him.
6. While he’s distracted by this object, you have one of two choices to make, and not a lot of time. You can let him keep it. Most dogs will be completely satisfied with taking the item from you. They’ll be busy tearing it to shreds and you can slowly back away from the animal. Or you can prepare yourself to grapple and fight the dog. If that’s the case, you’ll need to recognize some of the dog’s strengths and weaknesses.
7. Almost all of the dog’s lethality lies in his hind legs and his jaws. Both are used in conjunction whenever a canine is trying to take down prey. On most dogs, the jaws are perfectly capable of severing fingers and some arteries. The hind legs give them all of their speed. Disabling both of these is crucial to your survival. If you want to stay alive, but don’t want to hurt or kill the animal, there’s several maneuvers you can try. I’m going to describe the one I’m most familiar with.
8. You’ll need to place the dog in a headlock. I’ve done this myself with aggressive and out of control dogs, and it’s easy to do without hurting them. Once you get the dog into this position you have a lot of control, and the amount of strength you apply determines the amount of damage you do (or don’t do).
First, you want his snout on top of your elbow, and your bicep and forearm hugging his neck. Hold tight until the back of his head is pressed into your chest, and your hand is touching your shoulder. Here you can feel his windpipe, and adjust your grip if you don’t want to hurt him.
Now you’ll want to use your other hand to reach over his torso and grab under his belly, and pick him up. Even if you’re not strong enough to pick the dog up, all you need to do is get his hind legs off the ground. In this position the dog has no leverage. So long as you hold tight, the dog can’t squirm out, and can’t turn his head enough to bite. It’s possible to hold this position almost indefinitely, and killing or severely hurting the dog isn’t necessary.
9. If there’s no way to incapacitate the dog, then be prepared to get injured. You still stand a good chance of winning, but you’re probably not coming away from this injury free. If you no longer have anything to put between yourself and the dog, you’re going to have to let the dog latch on somewhere. Preferably the forearm, where the dog isn’t as likely to reach an artery, and unlike the leg, you won’t lose your balance. Fortunately, you’ll still have another arm to fight with.
10. Wherever he bites, he’s probably going to hang on for dear life. Whatever you do, don’t pull any part of your body out of the dog’s mouth. You’ll do more damage than the bite itself.
11. Rather than going through a graphic description of what to do, I’ll just list some of the weaker points on the dogs body. Hind legs, ribs, eyes, and windpipe. Pressure points include the armpit, behind the collar bone, and behind the jawbone.
So there you have it. Hopefully it won’t escalate to that point, but it’s certainly a possibility. Just to do everything you can to end the situation peacefully. Much like dangerous humans, dangerous dogs aren’t likely to go down without hurting you first. If you can avoid fighting the dog, then that should be your priority above all else. And if you haven’t already, check out Tess Pennington’s article on how to identify a dog that’s ready to strike.