What To Do When A Dog Attacks

When_dog_attacks_FeaturedEven though dog bites are relatively common, full-blown attacks are not. It is important to know, however, what to do in the unlikely event an attack happens.


What type of behavior do dogs normally exhibit before attacking?
There is no one size fits all when it comes to the signals a dog gives before attacking, and while the signs of aggression such as growling, snarling, baring teeth and lunging are easy to read, there can also be signs that are so subtle, such as a moment of tension or a small freeze, they are easily missed.


What do I do if I find myself in a situation with a dog that is aggressing towards me?

  • Avoid eye contact
  • Turn your body slowly to the side
  • Cross your arms
  • Completely ignore the dog
  • Be still for a short period then move slowly away
  • Try to get to a place where there is a barrier between you and the dog.

If that does not work, what do I do?

  • Stay completely still.
  • Without shouting, calmly ask someone nearby to help.
  • If you are in the ground slowly curl into a ball on your knees with your hands clasped behind your neck protecting your head and throat.

Should I try to be friendly with the dog, talking to it in a soft voice?

  • Completely ignore the dog. The more boring you are, the less likely he is to attack.
  • The more you attempt to communicate the greater the chances are of provocation.

Is spraying pepper spray in a dog’s face a good idea?

  • If the dog is not yet attacking you, spraying him with pepper spray might be the trigger for an explosion. As always, treating aggression with aggression only makes things worse.

What do I do if the dog lunges at me and begins to bite?

  • Find a barrier that you can put between you and the dog – a purse, rolled-up jacket or a stick and try to redirect the dog’s bites onto that item.
  • Find higher ground and try to move to a position of height away from the dog. It is much harder for him to bite effectively from below.
  • Try not to scream as this could antagonize the dog further.
  • Cover the dog’s head with a shirt or blanket so that he cannot see. If you block his eyesight for a moment, it might provide you a window to escape.
  • In the very rare event a dog is viciously mauling you (as opposed to just trying to bite or landing a few scattered bites), curl up into a ball on the ground, protecting your head and neck while waiting for help. If you are all alone, you are unlikely to get the dog off you by yourself until the dog loses interest.
  • Try as best you can to not scream or otherwise antagonize the dog further.

If a dog is attacking you, is hitting it with a stick a good idea?

  • Hitting the dog will only heighten the dog’s already sky-high level of adrenaline and energy. Try to act as calmly as possible. If you are witnessing a fight you can end it by covering the dog’s head with a blanket, jacket or shirt. Blocking a dog’s vision will normally cause the dog to disengage.

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  • Patricia Faber

    I have one dog,4 year old female unaltered female Dobe.Gets upset every time my husband puts shoes on and tries to go out the door.Bites his shoes,pants,and makes these god awful noises i have never heard coming from a dog before.Other than that,she is a perfect lady,minds perfectly,gets along great with every animal in the house,kids too!!She is also a flank sucker.

  • Dobemama12

    Sounds like you need a DPCA certified behaviorist. I have a doberman myself and he never exhibits this kind of behavior. It is certainly NOT a breed trait.

  • Julieveggie

    Interesting that you have a golden retriever as an attack dog when they have never killed anyone. I agree that most pit bull type dogs have not attacked anyone but too many have and it's been a public safety issue for about 10 years. As long as the pit type keep making the news, it's going to make your job harder to adopt them out. To be an effective dog advocate you need to follow the ugly-side too. 26 people killed so far this year and a handful of pets are killed everyday by dangerous dogs. Personally I think it unacceptable. https://www.facebook.com/PitBullAwarenessDay/photos/a.147079315434616.36291.146828058793075/433513310124547/?type=1&theater

  • IMHO

    Some of the items in this article are not correct. Many years ago I was sized up by a group of dogs running right at me. If I had not glanced around and picked up a large menacing stick they would have set upon me and shredded me. I picked it up and banged it on the ground and they all turned and ran. Otherwise I believe I would have been extinct.

  • IMHO

    I have used water hoses to spray the larger dog. It works pretty well.

  • In general terms, what is written in the article is correct but that doesn't mean there is a "one size fits all" solution for all situations. Being approached by a pack of dogs, as you have described, provides a very different dynamic than being approached by a single dog. I would have to assume, however, that this article was written with a single-dog situation in mind.

  • dtraut

    I have an altered male shih tzu, of 8 and a half years. hes a recuce dog. hes had issues from day one, he visiously and brutally bites me. many many many bites from this dog !!!! we enjoy each day to the fullest, and i love him with all my heart, id do any thing for him... he wont let me,if i try he bites me. so if he need anything done he goes to his vet...there is so much to tell about Pig-Pig..friday morning he bit me in the face(on the nose) Im locking him out of the bedroom with a baby gate,dont know if this will make it worse, but its for my safey. i lost all trust in him, and carefully co-habate with him now. also have another unaltered male shih tzu(buddy) and a cat (larry) and they all get along fine..... i dont want to put him down, the next bite could be fatal, as this one could of been...i love him so much and could not do with out him, I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO !!!!!!

  • Monique Clark

    get her fixed!

  • Monique Clark

    first of all your comment is irrelevant to this article as this is how to escape a dog attack- not about breeds. second of all stop spreading hate and garbage . what i think is unacceptable is the amount of dogs killed every year by humans....

  • Monique Clark

    i would get some behavioral therapy help, is he like this with all people? or just you?

  • JHoughton1

    Hard to believe pepper spray isn't effective.

  • dtraut

    I went to my vet today. hes giving me some Clomicalm and a Adaptil collar.the pill are suppose to take away the hair line trigger away, so that things wont set him off as much???? and the collar is suppose to soothe him???? we talk for about 45 mins and he thinks this will work for him..... There are so many things i have to becareful, with around him its not just one thing its everything. I just hope these pills will do the trick..... I have to watch him around people too, cause he will get them also....

  • runnindeer

    The fear signal works where people are concerned to. Some people seem to attract dogs who act aggressive toward them and not toward others because they don't like dogs or they fear them. Dogs literally smell your scent and if you are thinking negative fearful thoughts they pick that up and act on it.

  • Greg Michael

    put the dog down. period.

  • Gigi831

    Sometimes it's genetics and sometimes it's training. I work/ train at a facility that specializes in dogs with aggression and other behavioral issues. We do a very thorough eval to determine which and whether we can help the dog or if we suggest putting it down. We only suggest putting it down if it's genetic and can't be fixed. We have an incredible reputation in our county and the surrounding counties. Our facility is respected by breeders, trainers, and animal caregivers from vets to boarding, to walkers. My point is to seek out a place that is well known and a proven reputation. A place that many people can tell you they went and they got great results. So many people think they can do this work, but what I've found is that it's only a few that are truly great at it. Good luck!

  • dtraut

    REALLY, You must not have had a long relashionship, with a troubled soul.....I plan to try to help him first !!!!! I cant just PUT THE DOG DOWN... YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Greg Michael

    No seriously, once a dog breaks skin that is the end of the dog. The liability of having a known biter is too great.

  • Against discrimination

    It was a golden retriever that attacked my pit bull. My Pittie just cowed between my legs and the golden retriever kept lunging at us. Like others said, not a breed thing, it's an individual thing. How you raise your dog is how it acts. Proper socialization is key.

  • Robert Hegwood

    I was once regularly charged by a female german shepherd in my neighborhood who would nip at my legs and heels. I took another path to solve the problem. I started carrying biscuits and bacon when I went out. When she charged, just as she got close, I dropped the treats. In less than two weeks I was her biggest friend. As soon as she recognized me she would run up tail wagging, bumping my hand to be petted...and still looking for biscuits and bacon...which of course I gave her. Solved my problem with her completely and in the best possible way.

  • dtraut

    Well ive lived with him 8and a half years, and as i said hes broke skin millions of times. ive got him on meds now and going to see if this will be a solution to his aggression.... hes not always this way just sometimes..... Im going to give him a chance !!!!! hes the love of my life, and he means more to me than just to give up on him..... WISH US WELL !!!!!!!

  • dtraut

    Hey debbie, wonder if you could answer a few questions? is your dog a shih tzu, did she ever break skin and make you bleed, how much a month is the prozac. my vet put pig-pig on clomicalm its suppose to take the edge off things? but if this dont work id like to be informed so i can have options, i do not want to put him down,and probly wont.... if you could send details my way, id be forever grateful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU !!!!!!!!

  • Paula Sloan Cloat

    No reason to make a dog wait to go out...if they need to pee, they NEED to pee! That isn't "cow towing" it is being a good owner

  • This advice is a good way to get someone bitten far worse than they might from dealing with a biting dog in a professional manner. It's also going to be much more difficult than people think and smacks more of ego-stroking than problem solving.

  • This is inaccurate. Dogs can bite for a wide variety of reasons, and can be taught to overcome negative triggers. One of my former rescues bit two people, one for burning him repeatedly with a cigarette. He's done fine as long as no one sticks a lit cig in his face, and learned to turn to his adopter for defense instead of needing to aggro himself.

  • I've had success doing this with dogs rescued from fighter busts and dogs that were territorial about me going into a customer's home to do remodeling work. Food introduces a variable that breaks the aggression escalation in a productive way and gives the dog another focus. Bacon is a great diplomat, neh? ;0)

  • Julita Solivan Patascher

    hello my eight old papillon has always been a biter, She has bit me numerous times. I sometimes feel she is emotionally challenged as I have had since she was 8 weeks old and have always been loving.

  • Almost Mauled

    I'm not sure I agree with this advice in all circumstances. I think you do have to remain calm and start with the directions above and then play it by ear so to speak based on your abilities and the dog's actions. I had a very large Rotweiler mix start to approach me in the middle of the street near our home. When it kept coming toward me and began to exhibit more and more aggressive behavior, I stayed calm and did try not to look the dog directly in the eyes which only emboldened this dog and he started to lunge. I turned to him and made a loud noise and we stood eye to eye for what seemed an eternity (probably 20 - 30 seconds) when I thought it would be safe to start retreating slowly. As soon as I made any movement to leave, the dog lunged at me again and so I again shouted and stared at the dog with hands ready to defind myself.
    I'm not a small person and if the dog did attack fully, I would not have had any way to get anything between us and I had no intention of falling to the ground with my hands behind my head! As it turned out, the dog finally broke and left and I didn't have to defend myself but if I had follwed the advice above, I am certain I would have been bitten at least and who knows what else!

  • Julieveggie

    This Pit Bull Rescue Central recommends ALL pit guardians to have a break stick. Who would want a dog where it's recommended to have a break stick? RED FLAG for me for most people that have common sense. Since pit bulls have a strong fighting background, we recommend that pet owners also have a breaking stick as a precaution, even if they don't plan to use it in an illegal context. However, please be discreet. Breaking sticks are not something to brag about and the general pubic might have the wrong impression if you walk around with a stick in your hand. Breaking sticks are not illegal, but they are considered dog fighting paraphernalia in certain states and/or with certain law enforcement agents.

    Should Responsible Pit Bull Owners Have a Break Stick?
    Because canines are pack animals, fights are possible in any multi-dog household, no matter what breed of dog you own. A responsible owner should take measures to prevent such fights, but he or she should also be prepared for the worst. The goal of any owner should be to break up a fight quickly and efficiently. The majority of breeds will snap erratically at their opponent, biting and releasing repeatedly. As terriers, pit bulls will usually bite and hold. Contrary to popular myth, this is not some kind of special pit bull behavior; it is merely terrier behavior. As its name suggests, a break stick is designed to break this determined terrier hold. This is the safest, easiest, and most effective way to stop a fight.http://www.pbrc.net/breaksticks.html

    This is very telling Bad Rap( pit advocate group) recommends pits not to be taken to dog parks because of their gameness trait: http://www.badrap.org/dog-parks
    The problem with a pit attacks most guardians and the public are unable to stop it until it's too late. It also dangerous for public to break-up dog fights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZTiGWgQubA Approximately one-third of Mr. Phillips' cases started out as a dog attacking another dog, and then turned into a dog attacking a person. For example: http://dogbitelaw.com/dangerous-vicious-dogs/a-propensity-to-attack-other-dogs-means-a-dog-is-dangerous-to-people.html

  • Julieveggie

    The problem with a pit attacks most guardians and the public are unable to stop it until it's too late. It also dangerous for public to break-up dog fights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZTiGWgQubA Approximately one-third of Mr. Phillips' cases started out as a dog attacking another dog, and then turned into a dog attacking a person. For example: http://dogbitelaw.com/dangerous-vicious-dogs/a-propensity-to-attack-other-dogs-means-a-dog-is-dangerous-to-people.html

  • Julieveggie

    This Pit Bull Rescue Central recommends ALL pit guardians to have a break stick. Who would want a dog where it's recommended to have a break stick? RED FLAG for me for most people that have common sense. Since pit bulls have a strong fighting background, we recommend that pet owners also have a breaking stick as a precaution, even if they don't plan to use it in an illegal context. However, please be discreet. Breaking sticks are not something to brag about and the general pubic might have the wrong impression if you walk around with a stick in your hand. Breaking sticks are not illegal, but they are considered dog fighting paraphernalia in certain states and/or with certain law enforcement agents.

    Should Responsible Pit Bull Owners Have a Break Stick?
    Because canines are pack animals, fights are possible in any multi-dog household, no matter what breed of dog you own. A responsible owner should take measures to prevent such fights, but he or she should also be prepared for the worst. The goal of any owner should be to break up a fight quickly and efficiently. The majority of breeds will snap erratically at their opponent, biting and releasing repeatedly. As terriers, pit bulls will usually bite and hold. Contrary to popular myth, this is not some kind of special pit bull behavior; it is merely terrier behavior. As its name suggests, a break stick is designed to break this determined terrier hold. This is the safest, easiest, and most effective way to stop a fight.http://www.pbrc.net/breaksticks.html

    This is very telling Bad Rap( pit advocate group) recommends pits not to be taken to dog parks because of their gameness trait: http://www.badrap.org/dog-parks

  • Petra421

    This is not about a full-blown attack, but one thing that I've discovered about a dog that bites or tries to intimidate.... stand your ground, don't scream, don't pull away, don't hit. Become a tree. For example, if you are petting a dog & it bites your hand, don't yank away. Don't move your hand. Let the dog have your hand. Odds are it will hold it for a moment, then release. Draw the hand back slowly. It was giving correction as it would to a puppy. If a dog jumps on you & grabs or bites.... be the tree.... it is most often you pulling away, running, & yelling that makes the dog more aggressive. Above all stay on your feet if the dog cannot reach your face. Otherwise drop & cover, but dropping & covering will excite the dog more. Pulling away or it jumping, snatching & falling is what tears. Most adults can withstand a puncture wound & bite. It will hurt (but don't let the dog know) & you will need medical attention if the skin is broken, but it's not nearly as bad a the tears you inflict on yourself or the tear caused by an aggressive dog that continues to jump & snap. Most dogs will quit when they see that are not going to be afraid or be mean or react. It almost surprises them, which tends to interrupt their excitement. HOWEVER, the "tree" method does not apply to a dog that is really aggressive & out of control. In that case, if it's large you won't be able to out run it. The only option is drop & cover... protect your face & neck.

  • Marcie Collins Ewasko

    That's all well and good. But what about a dog attacking several of my dogs? My husband and I were out walking our 3 small dogs at around 9:30 pm, so it was dark. About a block away from home, a pit bull ran out from behind bushes and attacked the first dog, an old JRT. I tried to get him away from the pit, but he wouldn't leave my dog alone. So I picked up my dog. Then the pit spotted my husband who was across the street with my other 2 dogs, ad Brussells Griffon and a Shih Tzu. The pit grabbed my shit Tzu by the head and was trying to shake him, presumably to break his neck. My husband was holding our dog so that he couldn't be shaken. We were yelling for help, and although some people came out of their houses, no one came to help. My husband and I each had our hands on the pit's collar, trying to pull him off, but the collar came free. The pit then let go of the shih Tzu, but then went after my Brussells.Griffon. That's when a man came out of one of the houses and put his shirt around the dog's head, giving us a chance to escape. My husband and I are not young- we are in mid to upper 60's, so running away was very hard on us. The dog most affected was the shih-Tzu. I had to hold him all night long as he was so scared he couldn't stop shaking. What could we have done in this situation? I now carry a baseball bat and pepper spray with me when we walk our dogs. Going out earlier is not an option because of work schedules.

  • Kim Lodewijks

    What do you do when a dog is attacking your dog or you and your dog?

  • Marcie Collins Ewasko

    That's all well and good. But what about a dog attacking several of my dogs? My husband and I were out walking our 3 small dogs at around 9:30 pm, so it was dark. About a block away from home, a pit bull ran out from behind bushes and attacked the first dog, an old JRT. I tried to get him away from the pit, but he wouldn't leave my dog alone. So I picked up my dog. Then the pit spotted my husband who was across the street with my other 2 dogs, ad Brussells Griffon and a Shih Tzu. The pit grabbed my shit Tzu by the head and was trying to shake him, presumably to break his neck. My husband was holding our dog so that he couldn't be shaken. We were yelling for help, and although some people came out of their houses, no one came to help. My husband and I each had our hands on the pit's collar, trying to pull him off, but the collar came free. The pit then let go of the shih Tzu, but then went after my Brussells.Griffon. That's when a man came out of one of the houses and put his shirt around the dog's head, giving us a chance to escape. My husband and I are not young- we are in mid to upper 60's, so running away was very hard on us. The dog most affected was the shih-Tzu. I had to hold him all night long as he was so scared he couldn't stop shaking. What could we have done in this situation? I now carry a baseball bat and pepper spray with me when we walk our dogs. Going out earlier is not an option because of work schedules.

  • TLM

    First off in this article it specifically said do not aggravate the dog any further. Hitting an aggravated dog with a bat or spraying it with pepper spray will only make the situation worse. Any breed has the potential to be aggressive at any time at any location. I recommend that if you can not defend your dogs due to slow reactions don't have a dog. Dogs need the same protection as an infant. They are defenseless in most situations. Although I am for adopting dogs if you have the ability to care for one properly, sometimes owning a dog is more selfish than it is helpful to that dogs quality of life.

  • Jackie Nimmock

    I volunteer at a shelter, my daughter had been attacked and was being mauled by a malamute husky and I used technique I had read about, where I went behind the dog and lifted its two back legs up of the ground like wheelbarrow handles and pulled dog backwards, he let go of my daughter and she was able tp retreat to safety. I felt totally in control of the dog even though it tried to atrack my daughter again, I just went around in opposite direction that it wanted to move in and steered it to an area where I could confine it. Daughter had a lot of injuries but survived. This technique also works when 2 dogs are fighting atrtacking each other ifthere are 2 people each person takes control of the back legs of each dog and moves back in opposite directions.

  • Susan Louise Ginkel Oroviceanu

    I know just how you feel. I had the same thing happen to me and the attacking dog killed my beagle. I now have a fear of big dogs. I swear I have a panic attack now if a big dog comes running up to me. Horrible feeling

  • joe

    Are you for real? People who can't fight off a pit bull shouldn't have dogs?

  • mary

    my tenants dog bit another tenants dog. I told him that Lulu could not live here any longer. I am afraid it will be another tenant or a child next time. I hated to tell him he had to get rid of his dog, but i don't know how he can change the dogs aggressive behavior. I cannot risk one of my tenants getting bit by the dog. Can an aggressive dog be retrained.

  • JudeThree

    we did this when 4 pit bulls escaped at the shelter I volunteer, lifted them like that and it broke up. still terrifying though. Glad your daughter is ok. I've heard of more Husky attacks than other dog breeds lately. I think people don't train or exercise these super energetic animals enough. They aren't meant to be couch potatoes.

  • JudeThree

    that is ridiculous and condescending. It's like me saying someone like you shouldn't have a computer because you are an idiot. This couple is not to blame, it was the owner of the pit bull. These were small dogs, not puppies. You are an ass.

  • JudeThree

    if I had a small dog and a pitbull starts ripping at its head and neck, I am NOT going to be a tree, I'm going to be a person who blows the head off that pitbull, or shepherd or whatever breed.

  • ShilohKB

    I would also like to see more small dog people exhorted to take responsibility for controlling their little dog's aggressive behavior. It is challenging trying to raise a large breed pup to be well behaved when your neighborhood small dogs are allowed to snarl and run at you unchecked to the full ten foot length of their extended leashes on a daily basis. Some of these people even chat with others while their 'sweetheart' growls and barks at you....smh.
    Let your big puppy ( kept firmly at your side) say one woof back though and OhMy....it is a big BAD dog !

  • Rachel Wollman

    So, I work at a boarding and grooming facility and the owner has decided to foster a dog from the shelter. His name is cosmo, black lab/pit bull mix, about 1. Something goes off in his head and he just attacks us sometimes. We can't figure out a pattern, he is happy and playful one second and then just randomly attacks. It has gotten to point where I was attacked yesterday and I have vicious black and blue brushes all over my arms. Any ideas what is causing this behavior?

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