As you’re out minding your own business and you’re suddenly approached by a dog, it can be a dice roll. The dog could be friendly. The dog could be ready to attack. The dog could be traveling with other dogs who are ready to attack.

And then there’s the possibility of rabies. You may be terrified no matter the situation. If there’s no owner around to corral the dog and the situation looks like it’s about to go left, what do you do? Scream? Run? Cry? Talk to it down? Attack first?

People who have a fear of dogs will typically react with fear, whether the dog is aggressive or not. But in a situation where the dog is being hostile, there are a few things you need to know. In the event of an attack, you need to be able to think quickly on your feet.

  1. Stay Calm but Assertive

    In some cases, an aggressive dog is trying to sense whether you’re a threat; most sense fear when they approach. As they read your body language, there are several cues you can give them to show you do not want to engage. No sudden movements!

    Slowly shift sideways so you’re not squared up face-to-face, signaling a confrontation. Be still and calm until you can assess if the dog has lost its interest. You can also make yourself look larger by extending your arms upwards, or by using a large object (e.g. umbrella) to establish a boundary. Do not be the aggressor, do not yell, do not lunge.

  2. Avoid Eye Contact

    Looking an aggressive animal in the eye is a big no-no, as the dog will perceive it as a challenge. The same holds true for smiling. But looking down at  your feet is a sign of submission, and may cause the dog to try to dominate you. Simply keep the dog in your peripheral or, in an extreme case, look at its feet or ears.

  3. Walk, Don’t Run

    Whatever you do, don’t run because that will trigger their prey-chasing instincts. You don’t want to try to outrun a mean dog. Slowly back away, and either walk in the opposite direction or find a safe place to climb, especially if you are outnumbered.

  4. Protect Your Body and Face

    dog biting mantpsdave via Pixabay

    If physically attacked, keep your forearms facing outwards so that your arteries are shielded. Curl your body inwards, tucking your knees to your stomach so that the organs are protected. Ball your hands into a fist to protect your fingers, and cover your ears with them.

    If possible, wrap a jacket around your arms or use another object as a shield like a purse or trash can lid.

  5. Bait/Distract It

    By bait that doesn’t mean dangling your finger. If an aggressive dog should grab a hold of you, try giving it your shoe, hat, jacket, or bag. Wriggling out of your sleeve to give up your sweatshirt can fool it and distract it long enough to buy you some escape time.

  6. Fight Back

    The worse case scenario: engagement. Wrapping a shirt or jacket on its head can disorient a violent dog. Should you wind up in a wild fight, you can kick or punch the dog in several vulnerable areas. Go for the “armpit” or ribs to weaken it.

    Lifting its hind legs will outmaneuver it. You can also punch one in the snout, but be careful about teeth. If you’re able to get your hands on a stick, rock, or other object, use it! Do not try to shake or pull yourself out of a firm bite. Doing so will cause the dog to clamp down harder, and you run the risk of tearing your flesh or bleeding out.

These are a few telltale signs that a dog is being aggressive:

  • Growling and showing its teeth
  • Tail is held high and stiff along with a tense body
  • Head is lined up with the body; ears may be laying back
  • It lunges for you

Dogs may bite or become aggressive for a number of reasons including fear, feeling threatened, having puppies nearby, or being in heat. What’s important is to remain calm in order to avoid a physical fight at all costs.

If you are injured by a dog, clean the wound as best you can and seek immediate medical attention. Do not run the risk of treating it at home as it can become infected.

Have you ever encountered an aggressive dog that wanted to attack? How do you avoid a physical fight with a hostile dog?