Dog Attacks are Common in Cities: How to Protect Yourself

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

Now that the weather is getting warmer, a lot more people are running or walking outdoors.  We hear about at least one case on the news every week: a person walking or jogging passes by a loose dog, and he or she gets attacked with dire, sometimes fatal consequences.   I didn’t really think about dog attacks that much, until one day recently, I was walking our dog Miller at a park trail when I spotted two unleashed dogs a distance away.  The dogs then ran toward us, and started aggressively barking at us. I stood my ground because running away only causes dogs to chase and attack you. Miller usually ignores other dogs, unless they get close to him.  They were about to “gang up” on him when a bicyclist ran his bike close to the dogs to distract them whereupon they started chasing him instead. I do carry a taser for protection but I was grateful I did not have to use it. I waved my thanks and kept walking.

In a collapse, dogs that are let go will turn feral.

I had read a book a while ago that described a collapse scenario and one of the after effects was owners who could no longer feed their animals let them loose.  The dogs turned feral and started traveling in packs, attacking anyone they come across.  Animals in the wild tend to avoid humans, but dogs do not fear humans.  If they turn wild and starving, anyone will become prey.   Animal Control in the surrounding areas of Houston is already understaffed, even in a “normal” times.  The problem will only get worse in a disaster.

Dog attacks can happen anytime

A dog attack can happen anytime you’re outdoors – there are stray dogs running around, and enough irresponsible owners who let their dogs out unleashed, or leave their gates open.  Sure, there are laws against this, but it doesn’t help you on the spot when an attack is imminent.  Most of the time, the dogs are harmless and just want to sniff near you, but what if you run into a vicious dog?

How to avoid getting hurt in a dog attack

  • Stay calm. This is the first thing to remember. Staying calm also projects to the dog you are not threatening it, but do not feel like you are threatened. The dog is already agitated and if you show fear this only aggravates them further.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with the dog.
  • Know the signs of an agitated dog:  intense stare with whites of the eyes visible, stiff body and tail, ears pulled back, furrowed brow, backing away and a low growl.
  • Keep and protect your space. Don’t turn your back to dog, and do not run away – the dog will only chase you. If you have a stick, umbrella or cane, place it in front of you to make your space larger.
  • If the dog is about to lunge, give the dog something to bite.  Try and get something between you and the dog such as a jacket or coat, a long sleeve or even a shoe. If the dog manages to pull this off you, he may get distracted long enough for you to get away.
  • Many of my fellow dog walkers also carry pepper spray or stun guns in case a larger dog or pack of dogs attack them. Make sure you know how to properly use your pepper spray or stun gun and your protection is within easy reach.
  • If you are being attacked, protect your face, neck or throat and chest. It’ll be painful either way, but a forearm bite would be better than getting bitten in the neck. Don’t yank your limb away, you may cause further tearing.   Try and hit the dog with your free hand or kick with your legs.
  • If you are bitten, wash the wound with soap and water.   Put antibiotic ointment on the wound and cover with a sterile bandage.  Keep the wound elevated.  See a doctor for medical care.  The doctor may give you tetanus shot and a course of antibiotics. If the dog’s health condition is unknown, the doctor may give you the rabies vaccine.  Report the incident to your local animal control agency or police.


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  1. I’ve grown up around dogs all of my life, my mom was a dog breeder; I’ve seen a few vicious dogs and I’ll say that 99% it’s caused by an owner’s abuse. I will disagree with the eye contact thing though, in my experience we’ve always stared the dog down instead of looking away, the dogs realized it was a fight they wouldn’t win and walked away. That may not be true for everyone, it’s just what works for me. Also, I might suggest to also carry a firearm in addition to the tazer/pepper spray, if the dog is able to get through your non lethal defense, it would be nice to have another option especially if they’re already biting you. Good article, one threat I hadn’t given much threat to, and also one that could happen to you without any sort of collapse at all. Thanks as always for the great site.

    1. Hi Pierce, Good to hear from someone who is very comfortable around dogs. I agree a lot of dogs behavior issues are due to owners’ abuse or irresponsibility. It’s sad, but unfortunately affects other people. Thanks for the comment!

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