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Shoo! How to Survive a Dog Attack

The CDC documents just under 5 million dog bites annually in the United States. Over 800,000 of dog bite victims annually will require medical attention, nearly 400,000 of those victims are children. Up to as many as 34 people have died annually as a result of a dog bite. Even with the laws today about leashing your dog, there are still plenty of dogs that run free no matter where you live.

Though you can be attacked by a dog on any day, think of what will happen to dogs when SHTF? Many dogs will be left behind when their owners die or when their owners leave in a panic in an attempt to save themselves and their children. Other dogs, who may have been strays but were being fed at least occasionally by the kindness of strangers, will now be left to find their own food.

What You Need to Know

Upon initial confrontation, all dogs want to know three things, who you are, why you are in their space, and who is in charge. Knowing how to act when confronted by a dog may be the one thing that can prevent the dog from attacking you or at least minimize your injuries.

There are two positions an aggressive dog can take, offense or defense. A dog that feels threatened will growl and bark while moving away from you. If this is happening, he is hoping you will also move away. A dog that is tense with their ears flat against their head is definitely not happy with you.

Dogs will bite for many reasons, but typically they bite in reaction to stress or because they feel threatened or cornered, and scared. A dog that isn’t feeling well or is surprised can bite. Dogs bite to protect themselves, their owners, or their puppies.

One of the risks associated with dog bites is rabies. Cases of domestic dogs with rabies have greatly diminished since the 1970’s, rabies is far more common now in cats and in wildlife, primarily raccoons. In a post-SHTF scenario however, domestic dogs will have far more contact with wildlife which could in fact make rabies once again prevalent in dogs and thus a more serious risk for humans.

Dogs and Bugging Out

Your dog can be a very important part of your survival group if you need to bug out following a SHTF or other disaster. In most cases, you will prepare a BOB for your dog which will either be carried by him or by you depending on the size and stamina level of your dog. Your dog’s BOB should include enough food and water to feed him for several days, a strong nylon leash and collar, and a pet first aid kit. Before deciding to take your pet with you when you bug out, carefully consider any possible consequences.

Make sure you are certain that you can keep your dog under control during a bug out situation. This may be especially difficult if you are bugging out in an urban situation, where there will be more people and an increased number of other dogs and animals around. You will need to be certain that your dog will not attack unless you order them to. If you aren’t certain of this, you may want to consider muzzling your dog while traveling. Keep in mind that in an urban situation, there may also be broken glass and other debris littering the ground that could be dangerous to your dog.

Even if you don’t own a dog or are not planning to take your dog with you when you bug out, you need to be on alert for aggressive dogs in the area. The number of dogs in an urban area will be especially high. Dogs left behind or whose owners have died will be scared, confused, and hungry. They will be even more aggressive than when times are normal.

Tips for Dealing with a Strange Dog That Approaches You

  • Stand still and stand up straight, keeping your eyes on the dog at all times.
  • Remain calm. Try firmly telling the dog to sit or stay. Slowly step backwards away from the dog.
  • Talk in a gentle, soothing voice. Turn to stay facing the dog if he circles you. Do not let him get behind you. Do not shout.
  • Limit your body movements and keep your arms down at your sides.
  • In a closed space, never make a dog feel cornered! Gaze at a spot on the dog’s body but not in their eyes.
  • A dog that appears aggressive is NOT trying to scare you away. They are issuing a challenge for you to come closer or run away so they can chase you down.
  • Smiling at a dog and baring your teeth can actually be seen as aggression by the dog.
  • Typically, wild dogs by themselves will shy away from humans, they are simply looking for food. But in a SHTF scenario, wild dogs may form packs and roam the streets. Packs of dogs become more dangerous and in a SHTF scenario, the prey they normally would feast on will be dwindling due to hungry humans hunting in large numbers.
  • Keep in mind that many dogs can run faster than you. Pull your gun and prepare to shoot as soon as you become aware of a strange dog in the area. The average person can run nearly 20 feet in the time it takes to pull your holstered gun and fire. Dogs run faster than people!
  • Always carry several weapon options including your firearm, pepper spray, a baton, or even a small stick.

Dangerous Dog Breeds

First and foremost, any breed of dog, regardless of size, can be dangerous. Never assume that a dog is NOT a threat because of its breed or size. The most dangerous breeds of dogs changes frequently, but these are the current breeds commonly thought to be the most dangerous:

  • German Shepherds
  • Pit Bulls
  • Wolf Hybrids
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Rottweilers
  • Presa Canarios
  • Bull Mastiffs
  • Akitas

If a Dog Attack is Inevitable

If your attempts to calm the dog are not working and the dog is bent on attacking you, then you will need to be prepared to defend yourself. This is especially true for a dog that is clearly very hungry. Look for any kind of weapon to put between the dog and you. In a frenzied attack, a dog will bite just about anything. Items you can try include a stick, backpack, book, rake, baseball bat, your knife, etc. Pretty much anything you can put between you and the dog will work, including your purse or a trash can lid.

If you have nothing else, wrap one arm with a jacket or shirt to protect yourself and hold that arm up as you signal for help or retreat. Target the throat, face, or eyes of a dog with your EDC knife for maximum impact. The best way to try to disable a dog quickly and prevent a serious bite or injury to yourself or a victim being attacked by a dog is to attack the throat, face, or jaw muscles. If you carry a gun as part of your EDC, aim for the head or face when firing a smaller caliber gun. Only aim for the dog’s body if you carry a larger caliber gun.

Try to avoid ending up on the ground with the dog. You have the advantage while you remain standing. If you do end up on the ground, protect your throat and face by covering your head with your arms. Roll as quick as you can back and forth along the ground. This should result in throwing the dog off of you and give you time to get to your feet.

If the dog continues to hang on even after you’ve rolled several times, aim for an eye socket with whatever you have, your thumb or any object will suffice. Depending on how confident you are in the strength of your hands, you can also put both hands around the dog’s neck and attempt to cut off blood flow to the brain. If you choose to try this, do not let up until you are positive the dog is dead or it could re-energize and continue attacking you.

Dogs in a Pack

Dogs in a pack are absolutely more dangerous and aggressive than a lone dog. You will need to have some different strategies. Look for a place that is high ground, such as a parked vehicle, low tree branch, or the roof of a low shed. Whenever possible, travel in a group and make sure each person is armed and prepared to fight if a pack of dogs attacks. Try to identify the alpha dog in the pack and target him first. This will send a strong message to the rest of the pack and may be enough to send them running.

Additional Tips to Remember

  • Throwing things at a pack for abandoned dogs who once used to be pets can be interpreted as an aggressive move and the dogs may attack.
  • If the pack of dogs has its eye on food either from your stockpile or prey that has run through your area, do not get between the dogs and the food.
  • Screaming and high-pitched noises are interpreted as prey behavior.
  • Yawning and blinking slowly is interpreted as sign of calmness by dogs.
  • Raising your arms or shooing at the dogs will be interpreted as aggression.
  • Children and elderly can be seen as the weaker members of a group and may be targeted by a pack so keep them in the center of your group or get them to safety first.

Regardless of the type of dog, the best method for surviving a dog attack is prevention. In a post-SHTF scenario, try to avoid places where you have seen wild or feral dogs. Stay close to camp or inside your home once it gets dusk and avoid going out at night if you can help it as that’s when feral dogs are more likely to be out. Avoid any areas where trash has accumulated or is being stored.

It is possible to survive a dog attack if you stay alert and follow the precautions outlined for you above. Above all, stay calm, don’t scream, and signal for help if you can do so safely. If possible back away slowly until the dog no longer seems interested or until you can get inside or get on top of a vehicle or into a tree. If an attack seems inevitable, do what you can to minimize your injuries and prepare to fight the dogs with whatever resources you have.

Have you ever been the victim of a dog attack? Share how you survived in the comments below.

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About Megan Stewart

Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart.
For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of six grandsons, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.

4 comments

  1. I once had a situation, probably 15 years ago, with a dog where I prevented further damage by getting the entire dog off the ground. It was not a huge dog, maybe only 60-70 lb so getting it off the ground was not hard. Somehow my neighbor’s dog got out about dusk while they weren’t home. I really liked my neighbor and I knew how much he loved that dog, but the dog just didn’t like anybody else. As I was pulling into my driveway, I discovered the dog darting in & out among traffic in front of the house, and I knew it would be just a few seconds before someone would hit the dog. So I got out, stopped the traffic, and knowing the dog was confused and scared, and basically “fed” the dog my left arm, which the dog gladly chomped down on. At that moment, I scooped up the rest of the dog with my other arm, and kept my arm pressed far back into the jaw to keep it from biting down any further. I carried the dog back up to my neighbor’s deck, fashioned a leash from my belt, and left the dog on their deck. At home, I called and left a message on their answering machine about what happened with their dog and why my belt was on the dog’s collar. The bites I received from the dog weren’t all that bad, two teeth had penetrated from one side to the other of my hand, but they healed up ok. I wouldn’t do this with a dog I didn’t know, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this be a good way of doing it. Had this been a different dog with a different temperament, it could have gone very badly. But I figured that the majority of the strength of the dog’s bite was derived from the dog having strong footing on the ground and being able to employ its “4-wheel drive” to tear while biting, so getting off the ground means it has no traction and a reduced ability to tear. Since then, I have learned a lot about hand-to-hand fighting and techniques, but I would love to learn a bit more about “hand-to-paw” to be able to deal with dogs with a worse attitude than my neighbor’s.

  2. Sandra Palmberg

    I was walking to work early one morning when I noticed a neighborhood dog following me. A large male German shepherd, he had always been in the company of his master, but now he was loose. I am a small woman and at that hour (5am) was alone on the street. I knew he was stalking me, steadily creeping closer. I had no weapon and I could not outrun him. He was about 8 feet from me, crouched to spring, ears flat, growling. I was going to die! What I did next was perhaps wrong, but I figured I had nothing to lose. I turned to face him, looked him straight in the eye, raised my arms over my head, screamed bloody murder, and dove for his head. What happened next would have been comical to observe had I was not involved. The dog did a backflip and took off running in the opposite direction. Later I spoke with his owner who promised to keep him tied up better. The dog never bothered me again.

  3. I always carry pepper spray in my hand when I’m walking. Pepper sprayed an aggressive dog right in the eyes who tried to attack me. The animal didn’t know what to do. When it started to run yelping, I just kept spraying. never saw that animal again in my neighborhood.

  4. About 10 yrs ago while living in NE Ohio and working a second job late at night, I arrived at home around midnight and got out of my car. What appeared to be a large grey dog (slightly smaller but also meaner than a German shepherd) cornered me and started snapping at me. So as not to provoke him further, I slowly reached for my cell phone out of my pocket to call the police and have them get Animal Control to catch a vicious dog that was snapping at me, the “dog” suddenly bolted and ran away apparently frightened. I told them about the incident, the dog’s description and how the dog ran when I produced my cell phone (a little black object). Trying to quell a chuckle, the dispatcher that answered the phone told me that it wasn’t a dog, but a coyote that they (the police) had had a previous encounter with. The coyote had apparently cornered a cop in much the same way that it had cornered me. The cop apparently had either pulled out a pepper spray or a taser and dealt with the animal with it and the animal apparently had learned a lesson about messing with humans armed w/ “little black objects”. Long story short, I wasn’t bitten and consequently didn’t need those aweful rabies shots, PTL!

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