How to Avoid a Dog Attack

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?

It is good to have a plan in mind for how you will react if you are charged by a dog. It can happen anywhere, no matter what the leash laws are for the neighborhood, park, or trail. The dog may have escaped from his yard or leash and may not have an owner nearby to call him back. This can be a problem whether you are walking solo, with others, or with a dog.

How to Avoid a Dog Attack

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

  1. 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 what the size of dog, they might snap at you as you pass by if they are excited or frightened.
  2. 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 contol a lunge by the dog.
  3. If you want to approach a dog, ask the dog owner's permission, whether the dog is on a leash or in a yard.
  4. Look for a color-coded warning dog collar or leash. This is a growing trend that spells out if a dog should not 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.
  5. Never approach a dog that is barking, growling, snarling, sleeping, eating, or nursing her pups.
  6. 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.
  1. Know the signs a dog may attack. These include obvious signs of aggression such as growling, snapping, raised fur, and rigid body posture. But 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.
  2. Do not stare the dog in the eyes, 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.
  3. Turn sideways so you are presenting less of a threat to a dog who is approaching aggressively.
  4. Don't run—the dog will chase and you can't outrun a dog, they can charge faster than an Olympic sprinter
  5. Put an object such as a tree, post, or bench between you and the dog.
  6. Stand still, slowly withdraw, or maintain a constant slow pace out of the dog's territory.
  1. Speak softly and gently to calm the dog, "Good dog, it's OK, go home."
  2. Pepper spray, stun stick, or taser: 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 when you use them. Learn the weapons laws in the community you are walking in and obey them; otherwise, it may be you who is going to jail.
  3. If you are charged by the dog, get something between you and the dog's mouth—an umbrella, pack, jacket, or stick
  4. If you are attacked by the dog, curl up in a ball and protect your face, neck, and head.

Additional Suggestions for Dogs That Chase or Follow You

Walkers, runners, and cyclists suggest these tactics to dissuade dogs who might chase 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Milkbone Decoys: Carry dog treats to toss to a dog who always chases you on foot or bike.
  • Small Pebbles: Yell and toss small pebbles at dogs who follow you.
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