How to Avoid a Dog Attack and Prevent Bites

Dog Snarling

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One of the scariest encounters you can have on a walk is being charged by an aggressive dog. How can you avoid dog attack and keep from getting bitten or mauled by a dog while walking or jogging?

Tips to Avoid a Dog Attack

Dog attacks can happen anywhere. It's smart to think ahead and know what you might do in the event of an attack.

Plan ahead so you know how you will react if you are charged by a dog. Being prepared may help you to avoid serious injury.

Use these tips to reduce your risks in a variety of situations.

Leashed Dogs

Try to maintain a safe distance between you and the dog when you pass by a dog being walked on a leash. No matter the size of the dog, they might snap at you as you pass by if they are excited or frightened. If the dog is being walked on a very long leash, alert the owner to rein in the dog before you pass by. This can prevent a tripping hazard as well as allow the owner to control the dog in the case they lunge forward.

If you want to approach a dog, ask the dog owner's permission, whether the dog is on a leash or in a yard. Look for a color-coded warning dog collar or leash. The use of special tags is a growing trend that alerts you to a dog's temperament and whether they should be approached. It may say "No Dogs" (when a dog is not good around other dogs), "Caution," "Nervous," "Do Not Feed," "Blind," "Deaf," "Working," etc.

Prevent a Dog Attack

Never approach a dog that is barking, growling, snarling, sleeping, eating, or nursing her pups. Be aware of dogs a block or more ahead of you in your path. Be prepared to change your route or turn around to avoid unleashed dogs.

Signs of an Impending Attack

Know the signs a dog may attack. These include obvious signs of aggression such as:

  • Growling
  • Raised fur
  • Rigid body posture
  • Snapping

A fearful dog who may attack due to anxiety may show behaviors such as lip licking, yawning repeatedly, turning his head to avoid meeting your gaze, cowering, tucking his tail between his legs, and showing the whites of his eyes. A wagging tail doesn't always mean a dog is friendly, it could be a sign he is anxious and his next move may be an attack.

What You Can Do

Do not stare the dog in the eyes as that is a sign of aggression between dogs. Dogs will look away to show that they are backing down. You should look away from the dog to show you do not want to do battle. Turn sideways so you are presenting less of a threat to a dog who is approaching aggressively.

Don't run. The dog will chase and you can't outrun a dog; they can charge faster than an Olympic sprinter. Instead, stand still, slowly withdraw, or maintain a constant slow pace out of the dog's territory. Put an object such as a tree, post, or bench between you and the dog. Speak softly and gently to calm the dog, "Good dog, it's OK, go home."

If local law allows, use pepper spray when charged by the dog. Pedestrian issues reporter John Z. Wetmore suggests not just spritzing them, but giving them a full dousing to stop the charge. A taser or stun stick may also work, but the dog may be dangerously close in order to use them. Learn the weapons laws in the community you are walking in and obey them.

If a Dog Attacks

If you are charged by the dog, get something between you and the dog's mouth—an umbrella, pack, jacket, or stick. If you are attacked by the dog, curl up in a ball, and protect your face, neck, and head.

For Dogs That Chase or Follow You

Walkers, runners, and cyclists suggest the following tactics to dissuade dogs who might chase you:

  • Milkbone decoys: Carry dog treats to toss to a dog who always chases you on foot or bike.
  • Rocks in a can: Carry small rocks in a can with a lid (or something else that rattles loudly). When approached by a dog, shake it hard. The rattling noise may scare off the dog.
  • Sharp whistle: Cyclists recommend a safety whistle to stop a chasing dog. Buy a hiking whistle/rape whistle to wear on a cord around your neck or the shoulder strap of your pack. This will keep it handy for sounding an alarm for any threat or medical emergency.
  • Small pebbles: Yell and toss small pebbles at dogs who follow you.
  • Ultrasonic whistle: You may find an ultrasonic whistle to use as a dog deterrent. This works much like a safety whistle but won't irritate humans, just dogs.
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