Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Dogs are one of the most beloved and common pets to have. They give us security, comfort, and companionship. Many people do not view their dog simply as a pet but as a member of the family. Those of us that have this viewpoint even make emergency preparations for our dogs, with some even having bug-out bags for their pups.
However, just like people, not all dogs are cute and cuddly, and not all dog owners are willing to go the extra mile to take care of their dogs during an emergency. When the SHTF, there will be owners, pounds, and other places that will cut dogs loose, and it won’t take long for feral dogs to become a danger that people will have to contend with.
Just like any other animal fighting for its survival, a dog, even one that was once domesticated, will do anything to protect its own. It’s not just people or the elements that you will have to contend with but the real possibility of feral dogs. In this article, we will be addressing what to do to avoid a dog attack and how to survive one.
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Warning Signs of an Attack
When I was growing up I remember a time when we rescued a rather young golden lab. She didn’t appear to have been abused or mistreated and, as most dog owners say, “she was a sweetheart.” One day while I was in the backyard, the dog was hooked up to her chain watching me when a family friend walked up behind her. The dog turned, casually stood on her hind legs, and immediately started snapping her mouth at our friend.
Our family friend did not threaten the dog in any way, and the dog didn’t show any signs of aggression beforehand. To this day, I still don’t know what prompted the behavior.
There are times when a dog will act aggressively towards a person, or another animal, and this behavior will seem to come out of nowhere. But if you pay close attention to a dog, they will exhibit signs, sometimes subtle ones, that they are uncomfortable or feel threatened. If these signs are ignored then aggression will often follow.
Here are a few warning signs that should not be ignored:
- Showing teeth
- Lowered head and arched back
- Hair standing up
- Nervous eye movements
- The dog holding its ground with minimal movements
- Lowered tail (not between its legs)
- The dog running all out at you
Avoid a Fight
There are two options when encountering a feral dog. The first is to do everything possible to avoid a confrontation. Depending on the circumstances, there is a chance that a person can get away from the dog by putting an obstacle between them, getting to higher ground, or possibly running away if the running distance is short. Let’s start with some ways to avoid an attack.
Any movements that you need to make should be done smoothly and slowly. Fast, jerky movements could be seen as a threat, and the dog will react accordingly.
Avoid Eye Contact
Direct eye contact should be avoided as it too can be seen as a threatening response. This does not mean you should take your eyes off the dog though. Keep the dog in your field of vision by looking down at the ground towards its paws or just off to the side of it. This way you will still be able to see the dog if it makes a move.
Do Not Show Your Teeth
This can be a hard reaction to control because with people, showing our teeth through smiling is a non-threatening response. However, many animals show their teeth as an aggressive display. Avoid this confusion by keeping your pearly whites tucked away.
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Talk in a Calm or Authoritative Voice
This suggestion is twofold, and it entirely depends on how the dog reacts to you. Talking in a calm, soothing voice may help the dog feel at ease and see you as less of a threat. If this doesn’t work, trying a more authoritative voice by yelling “No!” might make the dog feel more submissive.
Give Them Food
One reason that a feral dog may be acting aggressively is that it is hungry. If you are carrying food, then they may smell that and simply want it. If the food is in a bag, reach into the bag slowly while talking in a calm voice, and throw the food away from you. When the dog shows more interest in the food over you, slowly back away and make your exit.
Back Away Slowly
If the dog is holding its ground and not advancing, it may just feel threatened and not want to attack. In this situation, it is best to keep talking calmly and to back away slowly. Do not turn your back to the dog until you have reached a safe distance, or you are out of sight. Also, do not turn and run away as this can trigger them into chase mode.
Sometimes there is nothing that can be done to keep a dog from attacking. They may just feel too threatened, hungry, or desperate. When the suggestions for avoiding an attack in the previous section fail, the only option left is to fight back.
A lot of people, including myself, have a soft spot for dogs, and we don’t want to hurt them. But when a dog is determined to attack, you must shut these feelings away and become just as determined to protect yourself.
It was stated earlier that running from a dog is generally not a good idea because the average dog is faster than most people. This mainly applies when there are no obstacles and the distance between the two of you is relatively short.
Running away can be a viable option if the dog is far enough away that you can run to a safe area before the dog reaches you or, and keep your fingers crossed, if you think you can move faster than the dog to get inside a building, vehicle, or another safe area.
Another way to create distance between you and an attacking dog is to gain the high ground by climbing on top of whatever you can. Just be sure that you choose high ground that the dog can’t get on top of as well.
Use a Barrier
If you can’t run or climb your way away from the dog, another option is to put a barrier between the two of you. Nowadays, lots of people carry backpacks and other types of bags that can be used as a target that the dog will hopefully attack first. Using a bag, trash can, or whatever is available as a temporary barrier can help to deflect an attack and give you a few more seconds to figure out your next move.
Stay Off The Ground
Like many four-legged animals, when a dog attacks, it will try to bring you down to their level where they will have a better chance of overpowering you. Unless you can stay on top of a dog, the last place you want to be is on your stomach or back on the ground. By doing everything you can to stay upright, you will keep the advantage.
Trigger The Gag Reflex
A person’s initial reaction is to pull away when they are bit by a dog. However, when an animal has a firm hold on you the act of trying to pull away can cause further damage. In the situation where a dog has your hand in their mouth try pushing your hand further into their mouth rather than trying to pull it out.
If your hand goes far enough in, you may be able to trigger their gag reflex. Another option is to grab ahold of their tongue or any soft tissue that you can. Doing any of this will be extremely uncomfortable for the dog and will hopefully cause it to release its grip.
Go For The Soft Spots
An attacking dog usually won’t bite over and over. They go for a firm hold on the leg or arm and try to bring you down. When this happens, hit the dog in their soft spots which are the same as humans. Go for the throat, ears, eyes, and underbelly.
Use a Weapon (less-lethal force)
There are far too many objects that can be used as a weapon to list what to use, hence anything can be used as a weapon. If you have something that can be used as a weapon before the attack, a non-lethal approach to using it would be hitting it on another surface to create a loud noise. Since a dog’s hearing is more sensitive than a person’s, loud noises can scare them off.
Since a weapon like a bat, pole, trash can lid, etc. is hard and easier to use than our body, it will allow a person to deliver a more meaningful impact. A non-lethal blow with an impact weapon may only require one strike to the dog’s head or body to detour it from attacking further.
Pepper spray, mace, and other animal sprays are another non-lethal approach to dealing with an aggressive animal. Just know that when these types of sprays are used, they are not always one hundred percent effective in detouring an animal, and there is a good chance that some of what was sprayed will come back at you.
* Warning: The following description may bother some readers, please skip this section if you are sensitive to this type of content. *
In an all-out attack, there may be only one way to end a dog fight, and that is with lethal force. If you have a knife or any other type of sharp tool, use it on the soft parts of the dog’s body to end the fight as quickly as possible. Areas to concentrate on are the eyes, throat, and the area just behind the shoulder where the heart and lungs are located.
In the absence of a sharp tool, use whatever blunt tool you can find, including your fists and feet, to beat the opponent until they are no longer a threat.
Lethal force may be needed at the beginning of the fight or before it even starts if you are facing off with a pack of dogs. A person will have a difficult time trying to fight off one dog, and when there is more than one, a person’s chances of walking away from an attack go down. If lethal force is used from the start to take one opponent out of the equation, the others may be scared off or unwilling to continue.
Note: Please keep in mind that the information listed below is largely dependent on the breed of the dog and therefore will vary depending on the type of dog you encounter.
Can people outrun dogs?
With a top speed of 45mph, the greyhound is credited with being the fastest dog breed. On the other hand, the average speed of most pet dogs is between 15-20mph. Unless you are Usain Bolt, who is the fastest person on record with a top speed of over 20mph, the average person is not going to be able to outrun most dogs.
How hard can a dog bite?
With an estimated bite force of around 500psi, Mastiffs are thought to have the strongest bite. You want to avoid a bite from any dog, but especially a mastiff.
How high can a dog jump?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest recorded jump by a dog is 75.5 inches ( 6.29ft) but many dogs can easily clear an obstacle that is a few feet off the ground.
Hopefully, you will never have to deal with a feral dog or any of its friends face to face, but if you do, please keep some of these suggestions in mind. They may help you walk away from an attack or even prevent one from happening in the first place.
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