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 a dog attack and keep from getting bitten or mauled 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 avoid serious injury.

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

Leashed Dogs

Try to maintain a safe distance when you pass a dog being walked on a leash. No matter its size, the dog might snap at you if it becomes excited, is startled, is super protective of its owner, or feels frightened.

If the dog is being walked on an extremely long leash, alert the owner to rein in the dog before you pass. This can prevent a tripping hazard as well as allow the owner to better control the dog in the event that it tries to lunge forward.

If you want to approach the dog, ask the owner's permission first—whether the dog is on a leash or in a yard. Also, look for a color-coded warning on the dog's collar or leash.

The use of special tags can alert you to a dog's temperament and whether it may be safe to approach. The tag might say "No Dogs" when the dog is not good around other dogs, for instance. "Caution," "Nervous," "Do Not Feed," "Blind," "Deaf," and "Working" are additional warnings.

Prevent a Dog Attack

Be aware of dogs that are 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 visual signs of aggression such as:

  • Growling
  • Raised fur
  • Rigid body posture
  • Snapping

A fearful dog that may attack due to anxiety might show behaviors such as lip licking, yawning repeatedly, turning its head to avoid meeting your gaze, cowering, tucking its tail between its legs, and showing the whites of its eyes.

Never approach a dog that is barking, growling, snarling, sleeping, eating, or nursing its pups. A wagging tail doesn't always mean a dog is friendly; it could be a sign that it is anxious and its next move may be an attack.

What You Can Do

Do not stare a dog in the eyes as this is a sign of aggression between dogs. Instead, look away to show that you do not want to do battle. Turning sideways allows you to present less of a threat to a dog that is approaching aggressively.

Don't run. The dog will chase and you can't outrun a dog since some breeds can charge faster than an Olympic sprinter. Stand still, slowly withdraw, or maintain a constant yet slow pace out of the dog's territory.

If you can, put an object such as a tree, post, or bench between you and the dog. Speak softly and gently to calm the dog. Tell it, "Good dog. It's okay. Go home."

If local law allows, pepper spray may be a good self-defense option when charged by a dog. A taser or stun stick might also work, but the dog must be dangerously close in order to use them. Learn the weapons laws in the community you are walking in before using these options.

If a Dog Attacks

If you are charged by a 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

Employing the following tactics can help to dissuade dogs that might chase you:

  • Milkbone decoys: Carry dog treats to toss to a dog that always chases you on foot or bike.
  • Small pebbles: Yell and toss small pebbles at dogs that follow you.
  • 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 the can hard. The rattling noise may scare off the dog.
  • Sharp whistle: A safety whistle can help stop a chasing dog. Wear it on a cord around your neck or attached to the shoulder strap of your pack. This will keep it handy for sounding an alarm for any threat or medical emergency.
  • Ultrasonic whistle: This is like a safety whistle but won't irritate human ears. It works by repelling the animal away from the whistle's waves of sound.
4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lowrey S. Why do dogs bite? Understanding the reasons why dogs react. American Kennel Club. Published April 01, 2021.

  2. ASPCA. Aggression.

  3. Averett N. 5 animals that could beat you in a race. Runner's World. Published December 05, 2017.

  4. Atheeb M, Ethaeb A, Salman M. Repellent of the stray animals. IOP Conf Ser: Earth Environ Sci. 2021;735:012084. doi:10.1088/1755-1315/735/1/012084

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.