How Should You Act Around An Aggressive Dog?
There's almost as much chance that you'll be attacked by an aggressive dog as a person.
According to the Centers For Disease Control, more than 4 million people per year are bitten by dogs, with a handful (varies by year, but 12 to 36 per year) being fatal. It is, therefore, the case that dogs don't pose the same fatal danger as violent humans but are still significantly dangerous.
How do I handle an aggressive dog, you ask?
There are a few things to look for in a dog's behavior. There are also some things you should do and some things you should not do when dealing with an aggressive dog. We'll give you some common scenarios where you might encounter an aggressive dog and run through what you should do.
Do You Run From An Aggressive Dog?
Suppose you're out for a walk on your own, or perhaps a bike ride or a jog. A loose dog - no leash, not confined in a yard by a fence - on the opposite side of the street starts to act aggressively as you get closer. What do you do?
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Don't try to outrun an aggressive dog. You actually want to stop and proceed slowly instead. If you're running already (again, say you're jogging) or riding a bicycle, you might be tempted to think you'll be able to outrun the dog, but you might be surprised on that front. Medium to large breeds can achieve speeds upward of 40 miles per hour; only a small number of humans can achieve speeds of 20 miles per hour or more.
The other reason why you don't want to run is that you can end up triggering a dog's predatory instinct. Not all dogs will, of course, but it may induce them to chase.
The first thing to do when encountering an aggressive dog is remain calm. There are several reasons why dogs become aggressive, but one of the hard and fast rules to act by when encountering an aggressive dog is not to escalate the situation, fleeing being one of the behaviors that can do. Stop or slow down, try to give the dog a wide berth and slowly get away from the animal.
The most common reasons a dog will get aggressive in this situation are due to fear of people or for territorial reasons. In the case of the former, quickly trying to flee can result in engaging the predatory instinct or a "fear nip" if close by, as they may try to quickly bite the threat and run away. In either case, giving the dog a wide berth proceeding cautiously can keep from inducing the animal from attacking.
An Aggressive Dog Charges While Barking
A "false charge" is where an animal charges just up to another critter, stopping just short of impact; it's a common aggressive dog behavior. Often they will bark or growl while doing so and it can be very intimidating.
What should you do?
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At this point, the dog has clearly gone beyond mere growling or barking and is converging on biting. Depending on the dog in question (how big it is, how aggressive is it acting, etc.) a person might think that drawing one's firearm and shooting the animal may be necessary, let alone merely justified.
However, the thing about a false charge is that it's usually just for show. It doesn't mean the dog isn't aggressive, it also doesn't mean they're not dangerous. It's also true that you won't necessarily know in the moment whether the dog is really about to attack or is just trying to display dominance, a common reason why dogs exhibit this behavior.
Drawing and firing at a charging dog is a seriously gray area. Justified shootings require a reasonable threat to life and limb, which - depending on circumstances - may be hard to prove.
A common suggestion for dealing with wild animals is to act like an animal that they don't want any part of - in essence, act like you're a bigger threat than you actually are. This is absolutely NOT what you should do with an aggressive dog
An aggressive dog is already agitated. If you act agitated yourself, that will just trigger them further and lead to a possible bite if not full on dog attack.
The first, best thing to do with an aggressive dog is to remain calm. Dogs feed off reactions and emotions, and an already agitated canine is likely to get even more agitated if you do. Therefore, remain calm. Speak in a calm but loud voice and don't make any sudden movements. Once the dog sees that you aren't an active threat and understands that you aren't going to escalate the situation, it will be less likely to press the matter further.
When a dog charges, it's often motivated by a response to a perceived threat, infringing on their territory or by wanting to establish dominance. If you try to engage the dog, it can escalate matters and turn a mere aggressive show into an overtly aggressive act, ie biting. However, if you establish that you aren't a threat (but aren't necessarily going anywhere) the dog will be less likely to actually bite. You must still remain calm, as dogs can sense fear or agitation and will react to them
An Aggressive Dog Attacks Yours
One of the most typical ways people get bit is when they try to intervene when two dogs fight. What should you do if you're walking your dog or when you're at home and another dog - say a stray, or another leashed animal - attacks your dog?
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Don't attempt to grab a snarling, biting dog anywhere NEAR the head. This is how people get bit when trying to intervene in a dogfight; while most breeds and mutts are medium to small, dogs are far more powerful than you might think, especially if their fighting instincts have been engaged. They will be able to wheel their head and bite you and will have no compunction about doing so.
This is how you get a dog off yours. Like grabbing a person by one leg, grabbing the rear legs of most dogs will completely impair their ability to move and will get them off your dog. Hitting the dog in this instance won't likely accomplish much unless you happen to have a heavy limb or baseball bat handy.
However, they will also likely attempt to attack you while you're doing this. Therefore, once you've grabbed hold and start to move backward, you should spin and ideally - if possible - in the direction of where said dog is turning its head. If the head turns to your left, start spinning to the left. This keeps the dog off balance. Keep going until it stops fighting.
Again, there is gray area here as a brief dust-up between dogs can occur when socializing, which is quickly gotten over and forgotten. However, when a full-on dogfight breaks out, there is the potential that your dog will be devastatingly injured, crippled or killed. In fact, some states provide that if an animal can be killed if it comes to your property and attacks people or livestock. However, any legal justification can become much shakier if you, your dog (or you through your dog) instigated the fight in any way.
When an actual dog fight or actual attack happens, this is when action becomes more appropriate. Again, some state regulations permit killing an animal that comes onto your property and attacks yourself, other people, other animals such as livestock, and almost all self-defense statutes provide for defending one's self with force if presented with a real and credible threat to life or limb of yourself or someone else, which includes your pets.
Again, several million people will suffer a dog bite this year, less than a million of whom will require medical attention beyond addressing superficial wounds. A few dozen will be killed by dog attacks. Arguably, there's just as much risk of encountering an aggressive dog as an aggressive person.
Those potential threats are exactly the reason why many people choose to concealed carry everyday, and how does one concealed carry everyday? First by getting any required training and a permit, and then by getting a solid concealed carry holster. Get a solid concealed carry holster for yourself today!
About The Author
Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.