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“Man’s best friend.” More likely than not, that phrase creates a picture in your mind of a loyal and obedient dog, sitting patiently at its master’s side, waiting for his next command. And for the most part that is usually true. However, as much as we believe we have domesticated this animal to the extent of creating an ever-docile member of the family, they still have within them the innate behavior to protect their territory, fight for food, attack if threatened and eliminate their competition when a possible mate is nearby. Many different scenarios could take place that would put you face to face with an attacking dog. In an instant you may find yourself on the receiving end of powerful biting jaws that could severely injure or even kill you. However, with a little knowledge on your side, you can come out of a potential canine attack without serious harm, or even end the attack before it even begins.

Try to be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially when walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods. Dogs are very territorial and may feel threatened when an unknown visitor enters their domain. If possible, avoid the animal by walking far out of the dog’s territorial zone. This may mean crossing over to another street, cutting a path through a nearby park or backtracking entirely and opting for a new route. However, in a tight or crowded environment, you may not always have the time to alter your intended path when you unexpectedly come upon a dog. If not, try to get the dog’s attention by making sounds. Try to whistle, sing or speak in a non-threatening manner to make your presence known to the animal. A dog surprised by an unknown person in their territory will only spell trouble for you.

Be Calm & Confident

If avoidance is not an option and the dog approaches, your perceived outward appearance may mean the difference between getting home safely and getting a nasty and painful bite. First and foremost, stop moving. Remain motionless as the dog comes near you. Do not give the animal any signs that it might perceive as threatening. Don’t wave your arms or kick your legs, and never run away. Running will trigger the dog’s innate instinct to chase prey. You can’t outrun a dog. Don’t even try.

Stand sideways to the dog, and don’t make eye contact. Looking directly at the animal creates a confrontational situation and may cause the animal to lunge. Additionally, looking down is also a big no-no. This can be perceived as being weak, in which the dog will try to enforce its dominance over you. Always try to appear bigger, stand up straight and try to exude confidence at all times. When it seems the dog has lost interest in you, back away slowly while facing the animal. Never turn your back; this could result in a surprise attack on you!

As you try to exhibit your own proper body language, you must also learn to decipher the animal’s state of mind using its outward visible clues. There is a fine line between a dog being curious by “checking you out” and protecting its territory and attacking. Know the warning signs in advance to help you determine the difference. Growling, snarling and baring teeth are very obvious signs of an aggressive animal. An angry dog may show the whites of its eyes when in an attacking state.

The dog’s ears will offer additional clues. If they are pulled back and flat against the head, beware: This dog means business. Droopy or elevated ears usually reveal a more nonchalant and relaxed animal. Upon approach, an attacking dog will be very rigid, tense and straight, while a more playful animal will run at you with a sloped, curved midsection. A non-wagging tale is not always an accurate sign of an aggressive dog. Some breeds may not wag their tales until they get within a few feet of a person, giving you the wrong idea about the dog’s true intent.

Create A Protective Shield

If an aggressive dog does attack, you must minimize the potential damage from its teeth and powerful jaws by using nearby items to create a barrier between you and the oncoming beast. If you happen to be walking down a city street at the time of an attack, there are several items that can be used as a shield. A trashcan can be held between you and the animal to provide a wide barrier; or you can use just the lid alone. Grabbing and maneuvering an unchained bicycle can also keep the animal at bay while you call for help. Anything that blocks the animal’s chomping jaws will work in a pinch until help arrives. A purse or backpack will also make a great instant barrier. If you are left out in the open and have no other choice, remove your jacket or shirt and wrap it around your weaker arm. This will give the animal a target and hopefully minimize the bite damage that the animal will try to inflict on you. Don’t let the dog drag you to the ground because you will be even more vulnerable to serious injuries.

Use Unarmed Offensive Moves

A physical attack may be inevitable and you must fight back to protect yourself from critical injuries and possibly death. Obviously, the jaws and biting teeth are the primary weapons of any dog. If the animal latches onto your leg or arm, use your free limbs to either kick the dog’s face area or strike at its eyes, nose or throat repeatedly, all while yelling and calling for help to anyone nearby. Keep in mind, dogs have very thick skulls, so punching the head directly will be useless and may only agitate the animal further. If possible, use your weight against the dog. Depending on your physical size and the breed itself, you may be able to overcome the animal by dropping your body weight down on the animal and focusing your knees and elbows against the dog’s throat and midsection.

Carry/Find A Weapon

Having a weapon in hand can be a great game changer when a dog attack occurs. If you always carry some form of weapon on you for self-defense purposes, then you instantly have a great advantage. However, makeshift weapons picked up “on the fly” will also work just as well. Concealed weapons such as an expandable baton or a long knife work well against an attacking canine. The blunt, hard impact of the baton against the animal’s neck or body may cause it to turn tail and leave the scene. Additionally, the straight stabbing motions of a knife may keep the animal at bay until help arrives. If the dog bites and doesn’t let go, the knife can cut or poke the attacking animal enough to cause it to release and run away.

A gun may seem like the ultimate weapon, but when you are under stress, getting your weapon drawn and scoring a clean shot is not an easy task. If unarmed initially, grabbing a long stick or tree branch makes a great prodding weapon, and it also allows you to create space between you and the dog until help arrives. A thick stick or a beer bottle, broken or intact, will also make a great improvised offensive weapon.

Minimize The Damage

Unfortunately, you may not end up on the winning end of the dog attack, so you need to know how to keep your injuries to an absolute minimum. If the animal has your arm or leg in its mouth, don’t try to pull away or shake your limb loose. This will only increase the dog’s intent to stay locked onto you, and it will make your injuries worse by pulling the puncture wounds back and forth, creating a larger injury. If you’re taken down by the animal, or if you fall down accidentally, protect your vital areas (torso, head, neck, throat) by rolling onto your stomach, tucking in your knees and protecting your ears with your hands (ball up your fists first!). You may get bit around your body, but your vital areas will be protected. Screaming or trying to get away by rolling or getting up will only encourage the animal to continue its assault and cause further bodily damage to you.

The most important rule to always remember is that you can take the dog out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the dog! Natural instincts that have been reinforced over thousands and thousands of years are lying just under the surface of your family pet’s calm and friendly demeanor. Yours, like all other dogs out in the world, can revert back to their primitive, non-domesticated nature in the blink of an eye. It’s only your knowledge and insight about a dog’s attack characteristics and mentality, coupled with your own common sense, that can help you survive when a charging dog has its eyes, teeth and chomping jaws set on you!

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