Friday Firesmith – How Not To Get Attacked By A Dog

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Let’s say you are a two hundred pound man in reasonable health and under the age of thirty, but over the age of twenty. Another man in a bar walks up to you and tells you he’s going to kill you. You haven’t any military training and don’t have a weapon, but this guy weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet. No problem, right?

Now suppose this one hundred pound guy is a German Shepherd, which isn’t by far the worst dog you could be facing right now. The bad thing is an untrained man getting into an all-out fight with an untrained dog in a situation where the man is going to have to win quickly because it isn’t doing you a bit of good to win after five or ten minutes of intense fighting and then bleed out, which trust me, if you get into an all-out fight with a hundred pound dog, you are going to bleed a lot. This may come to a shock to you but dogs bite. They bite hard and often if they’re fighting. And the human body isn’t built to be bit.

But let’s minimized the damage, shall we?

Never run from a dog. They run at least, at the very minimum, twice as fast, as you. A Greyhound can go from zero to forty-five in two strides. You can’t do that in a car. If you run from a dog and that dog catches you then the dog will grab you by your leg and twist as he pulls you in a direction different from that direction you were going before you got dog bit. At the point of bite, the teeth are going to sink into your flesh and tear it, but even worse than that, the momentum and mass of your body is being used by the dog to maximize the damage. If you are to win this fight, or survive it, you have to stay upright.

Do. Not. Run.

Likely, you are somewhere the dog simple wants you to leave. It doesn’t really matter because most of the dogs you see aren’t going to do more than make noise, but hey, if you leave all is well. Back away slowly. Speak softly to the dog and avoid eye contact. If you can lay your hands on something that you can use as a club, do it, but do not leave yourself exposed by reaching too soon. If the dog keeps pressing keep backing away. Watch the dog’s body posture because it will tell you everything.

When a dog charges you can run and get bit. You can stand your ground and that works better than 99% of the time. Or, if you really feel like the standing your ground might not work, try this, and there’s a couple of conditions to this, by the way. The first is if you are afraid of the dog nothing you do is going to intimidate him. I’m not afraid of dogs and I’ve done this to many a charging dog, just to see it work. Drop to one knee, stick out your left hand, and say very loudly and very strongly, “COME HERE!” The dog sees you as a threat and he doesn’t want to do anything you want him to do and you just told him to come. So he has to stop. Brakes smoke and suddenly, he’s confused, wait, I was, no, he said, hold on…Worse, if you do this and that look on his face makes you laugh he realizes he’s been had and that really screws up his head.

Oh, and if it doesn’t work?

Your leg muscle is the most potent weapon you own. When the dog gets close enough bring your knee off the ground and forward. I caught a dog under his chin with this and it damn nearly broke my knee. It did knock him silly. I kicked him twice in the ribs with my good leg and that stopped the attack. If you get into a fight with a dog remember they are morale based creatures. If you score a point, no matter how small, press the attack. Don’t get cocky. Let the dog retreat if you can, but do not allow him to regroup and attack again.

If a dog is running at you and it stops, and looks back, relax. When a dog looks back it is looking for back-up and it believes it needs back-up if it looks for it. Most dogs are more afraid of you than you are of them, and if you show no fear that puts them off. Most dogs see humans are friends and bringers of food and pettings. Most dogs are merely saying something they think needs to be said, and if you charge a dog most of them will run. If they don’t…?

Look for a club, did I mention that? Kicking at an attacking dog uses the best of what you have but it also might cause the dog to become attached to your leg. If you go down to the ground you have trouble you have not known. In that case, keep your face away from the dog’s face, and try to use your legs against him. If you have to, and this is something you do when all else had failed and you think you may be truly screwed, ram your hand down his throat. You might lose the hand if the dog is big but when a dog has you on the ground you’re about half done. Remember to get that club.

If you think that soft talking the dog isn’t helping, and you have a stick, or a bat, or something, yes, a club, then scream. Draw attention to yourself. Yell “NO!” at the dog because most people teach as dog that word. Take the stick and bang it on the ground in front of you, a foot or so, and let the dog start thinking that is your strike range. Wait until it comes close enough and charge at it, aim at the head, and scream. The dog will realize you’ve tricked him and that causes confusion. Keep backing away from the dog but …DO…NOT…RUN.

If this is a trained police dog then lie on the ground and be still. The cops will come rescue you from the dog. A trained dog can and will beat a trained human being. If you are armed you may consider shooting the dog but the law enforcement officers who trained and love the dog will take umbrage at this. Firing at the unarmed dog, fierce as he may be, will cause cops to shoot you dead. If there are dog people around they will shoot you too. If there are cop people around, hell, they’ll shoot you too, and send their dogs to eat what’s left. Trained dogs are a sign you should lie down and reconsider your recent actions and those in your immediate future. I wouldn’t run from them either, by the way.

Most dog attacks are dogs telling strangers they are too close. Respect a canines personal space and you have little to worry about. Respect the space they share with their humans. Look at how a dog is standing. Is the hair on his back standing up? Ears back or up? Watch how he moves; is he standing still and barking or is he moving back and forth like a shark? Are you close to children the dog might think you are a threat to for some reason? Everything you need to know about a dog he will tell you by how he holds his body.

Sometimes you have to be a fast reader.

Most dogs are, or were at one point, a pet. They like being touched and petted but do not put your face, or let your kids put their faces, near the business end of a strange dog unless you know dogs in general well and that dog in particular well. Respect their space. They will be more than happy to let you in as soon as you show them you’re okay. This might take .00001 seconds for most dogs.

Treat a strange dog with respect. Treat that dog with kindness. Treat that dog as the long lost friend he or she just might be. Open your heart open to the possibility of family, forever, and you will have done 99.999999% of all you need to do to prevent a dog attack.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

20 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – How Not To Get Attacked By A Dog”

  1. I wish everyone taught their children common sense rules about dogs, cats too. I’ve seen too many toddlers and small kids who had no idea how to behave around animals because their parents passed on the duh gene. It might actually save them from being bitten one day, it would certainly save the animals from being punished from just trying to get the nasty little buggers out of their faces.

    • My parents used the “your behavior gets you what you asked for” rule. I got bit on the face by a dog and my mother asked me why my face was that close to a dog.

      You don’t want to encourage a dog to bite but you do want to discourage behavior that leads to a dog feeling as if biting is the only way to get some space.

      Every time I have been bitten by a dog it has been my fault.

      • I got bit one time by a dog when I was ten where it was absolutely not my fault. Actually the dog didn’t get me so much as my clothes, a warning shot.
        It was my grandmother’s neighbors GSD. It knew her and was very protective of her, I guess she thought I was standing too close to her(my grandmother), actually I think she was jealous of me. I was allowed to go into my grandmother’s house while she had to watch through the screen door. That is probably the meanest dog I’ve ever seen, I love dogs, always have. We have always had a dog, my folks taught me how to act around dogs. I never teased that dog or anything of the sort, I just really think that dog was jealous.

  2. I have always been curious about something, and maybe you can answer it.

    In the 60s I worked in a factory that shared an alley with another factory. The second place had a German Shepherd running free in the alley as a guard. One day some jokers in my factory sent a new guy out into the alley to collect trash, knowing that the dog would come running. The report was that the dog came fast, and lept in the air from a distance, headed for chewing on the new guy, a very streetwise fellow, who slugged it right in the nose, in the air, dropping the dog out cold.

    1/ Do you think this story is true (I only heard about it second hand, from the people who sent him out).

    2/ If possibly true, is this a trick worth remembering for a similar emergency, or was he just lucky?

  3. 1/ Do you think this story is true (I only heard about it second hand, from the people who sent him out).

    I doubt it. Hitting a dog on the nose like you would a person would hurt the dog, perhaps discourage it, but knock it out? I do not think that is very likely.

    2/ If possibly true, is this a trick worth remembering for a similar emergency, or was he just lucky?

    If a dog is intent on attacking you the nose isn’t a bad place to start the fight. Hitting a dog’s head with your fist might break your hand before it hurts the dog, if the dog is large enough.

    But remember this thing about getting into a fistfight with a dog; they are incredibly fast and they are incredibly quick. Whatever you do, it will have to work faster than what the dog is doing because what the dog is doing will work.

    It’s asinine to set someone up like this. A GSD is totally capable of killing an adult human being.

  4. When I was in Kindergarten My Wonderful Mother [non-ironic] was late picking me up so I decided to walk home. I passed a house with 2 dobermans. One started after me. I ran like crazy and when the dog got close I smacked him with my metal Peanuts(R) lunchbox across the snout. He got the message.

  5. i love the paragraph about police dogs haha. i’ve had several fellow officers get bit by dogs, mostly because they can’t read them. you did forget one small piece of advice-dogs can sense fear. i find talking to strange dogs-no matter what the size-in a soft voice and letting them come up to me/sniff me works like a charm 99% of the time

    • I’m not a dog owner, but I work in different homes every day and encounter a LOT of dogs. Also lots in the neighborhood walking by in the evenings.

      I was taught two important things about meeting stranger’s pet dogs. 1) Always ASK first if it’s ok to approach/pet the dog. Most of the time it’s ok, but not always. And 2) Before trying to pet a dog on the head, reach out your hand, palm side down, and hold it still and let the dog sniff the top of your hand. (They sense an open palm coming at them, trying to touch their head or face as a threat.)

      I’ve met hundreds of dogs over the years, and have only been bitten once, after I petted him and then turned my back. The owner had told me to not worry, he never bites.

  6. A mean looking dog was rushing toward me once and I just slowly turned around and crossed my arms so as to not have any hanging apendages. Soon as I did this he slowed down and then sort of investigated me in a bored way, sniffed, wagged and walked away. Is this a good strategy or was I just lucky?

    • By not reacting to him you more or less called his bluff.

      Most dogs won’t attack, are not actually looking to attack, and you acted as if you weren’t aggressive or afraid.

      I think your brain wins this one and luck had little to do with it.

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