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How do you stop a dog coming at you?

Approached by aggressive dog? Remember these 5 tips

Every day in the US, about 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for dog bites. And roughly half of us will suffer from a dog bite sometime in our lifetime. Given these odds, it’s a good idea to take time out to learn what to do if you’re approached by an aggressive dog.

Here are 5 tips to remember.

TIP #1: Show the Dog You are Calm.

While you might be feeling anxious about a dog charging towards you, try to remain calm. Think of these body postures:

  • Stop moving. The last thing you want to do is run away. This will only trigger the dog’s instinct to chase you.
  • Keep arms loose at sides. Don’t flail your arms about.
  • Speak in calm tones. You could try speaking calmly, yet firmly to the dog. Telling it “go home,” or “nice dog,” may help. Use the dog’s name, if you know it.

Above all, avoid sudden movement. Think of slowing down and communicating through your body that you aren’t a threat.

TIP #2: Avoid Behavior the Dog Could See as a Challenge.

Your goal here is simple: make yourself as boring as possible so the dog loses interest.

Don’t touch or pet the dog in an attempt to befriend it. And whatever you do, don’t look it in the eye as the dog may interpret that as a challenge. Keep your body’s side positioned towards the dog versus facing it front on or standing behind it.

TIP #3: Try a Distraction.

If you are lucky enough to have some dog treats with you, throw them at the dog to distract him.

Of course, most of us don’t carry dog treats. You might try picking up a stick or other nearby object and throw it far away. In some cases, the dog may go after the object and leave you alone.

Don’t see a stick near you to throw? Even the act of pretending to pick something up and throw it may send the dog chasing. This may buy you enough time to create space between you and the dog.

TIP #4: Back Away Slowly from the Dog.

Once you’ve averted the situation, back away slowly from the dog. But, do not turn your back! It’s important that you remain aware where the dog is at all times, as they can approach very fast.

Only turn your back and walk away when you are at a safe distance from the dog.

TIP #5: Protect Yourself from an Attack.

If a bite or attack is unavoidable, there are a few body postures that could save your life:

  • Make fists. Keeping your hands in fists will protect fingers from being bitten off. It’s also much easier to remove a fist from a dog’s mouth than fingers.
  • Get vertical. Look for any object or structure nearby that’s chest-high to put distance between you and the dog. For instance, the roof of a car or truck.
  • Cover your head and neck. If you’re unable to get off the ground, curl in a ball and protect your head and neck with your arms.

As difficult as it may be in the moment, do all you can to remain calm and still. Pulling away or fighting back may escalate the dog’s aggression.

What to do If You Are Bitten or Attacked

In the unfortunate event you are bitten by an aggressive dog, seek medical attention right away. Make sure to phone the police or animal control so the dangerous dog can be identified.

Sometimes, the dog bite or attack is the result of a negligent owner. If this is the case, you might be able to seek compensation for your medical bills and lost wages. If you live in Washington State, call Ladenburg Law Injury Attorneys at 253.272.5226 to discuss your legal options.

We have helped many clients file personal injury lawsuits for their dog bites. We also wrote a post about understanding Washington’s dog bite laws you might wish to read.

How To Break Up A Dog Fight — Ask an Expert

How to break up a dog fight

Modern Dog Spring 2023 cover

Have you ever wondered how to break up a dog fight? There must be a safe way you can intervene between two fighting dogs. Apprehensive in Alberta had the same question, so we reached out to dog expert Jennifer Messer to help us.

Q: A friend of mine was walking her dog when a terrier-cross bee-lined towards them, attacking poor Bedlam. Being a typical Beagle, he didn’t fight back—just screamed the whole time she was clamped onto his face. Eventually, they pulled her off, and Bedlam was left with pretty bad punctures. He is recovering fine, but it sounds like he could have ended up dead if the fight wasn’t stopped. I’ve never had to break up a fight, and don’t know when I should try to, or that I even could. Any tips? —Apprehensive in Alberta

A:Gladly. Not all dog fights are created equal. In fact, most spats between well-socialized dogs do not require any intervention at all. Like human arguments with shoving and swearing, spats can appear nasty even though neither party intends serious harm. Dogs with a long and broad socialization history, and who have a good track record of no damage during scuffles, are pretty sure bets for being able to resolve their own disputes safely.

At the other end of the spectrum are attacks like Bedlam’s, where there is a clear aggressor, and a victim who is being seriously injured. Sometimes the victim will try to fight back, and at wo-way fight will ensue. You are right—without intervention, attacks like his can end up being fatal.

Somewhere between these two extremes are fights between dogs that might do each other harm, and warrant some level of intervention. It can be tough to determine if and when they do, but here are some rules of thumb: (1) Dogs who tend to get more and more riled up the longer they scrap, who won’t walk away, or who have done physical harm in the past, definitely warrant a break-up. (2) Fights between dogs of extreme size difference or two females in heat should raise intervention alarm bells. (3) Any fight involving a fighting breed should be stopped unless both dogs are known to be safe scrappers. Fights involving these breeds have a much higher risk of serious injury—these dogs have trouble reading social signals, and often have their own “rule book.”

Intervention between a dog fight always carries the risk of injury, but there are safer and riskier methods for meddling. Here are some options.

Pretty Safe

Any method that allows you to break up the dog fight while keeping your distance is pretty safe. If you can get a hold of leashes without being near jaws, you may be able to pull the combatants apart. If one dog is locked onto the other, you and a helper will have to keep the leashes both taut until the locked dog tries to regrip—you won’t have much time, but if you both pull fast during a regrip you can split up the sort of situation Bedlam was in. Shouting and clapping your hands will sometimes do the trick, but this won’t have much effect in more serious fights—the very ones that need intervention. Failing that, a bucket of cold water or spray from a hose often shocks warriors out of battle. However, most fights don’t take place with cold water on hand. Citronella spray can work, too—but you have to get in a bit closer to use it. And an air horn may startle dogs out of fisticuffs; at the very least it will attract attention, and hopefully some help!


As soon as you move into the dog’s biting range, you are at greater risk of injury. You can try placing an object between the dogs—even a piece of cardboard or netting can buy time to get hold of leashes and move them apart. If the dogs are off leash, then they can be grabbed and lifted off each other by the hind legs or tail—but be warned—dogs can twist quite quickly to bite! Grabbing the jewels of an intact male is highly effective… if you are up to the task. And trying to slip leashes under their waists is another solution for off leash dogs, but, again, even an Olympic athlete cannot react quickly enough to avoid a bite attempt.

Very Risky

Finally, it is very risky to grab collars—they are so close to teeth! For locked-on dogs, twisting the collar cuts off their air supply,and they will eventually release. Another high-risk option for those Bedlam situations is a break stick, a short stick that is inserted from the side between the jaws, and wedged in until the attacker lets go. This is sometimes the only way to get a fighting breed to release his grip. However, this requires expertise.

Breaking up dog fights is a risky business, but knowing a little bit about judging when and how to intervene can only make the prospect safer for you.

Use these expert tips to help you make a judgement call on breaking up a dog fight if you have to, safely. If your dog is attacked at the park read this!

What You Should Do If You Encounter An Aggressive Dog, And Other Safety Tips

These tips will help keep you safe, plus we offer expert advice on keeping your own dog out of trouble.

by Deborah Tukua Updated: December 5, 2020

Running - Stock photography

Encountering a vicious dog bearing fangs while you’re jogging, riding a bike or when your car breaks down can be frightening. There are things that you can do to avoid escalating the situation.

  1. Always stay alert. If you’re running with ear buds, remove one so you’re aware of your surroundings and can hear if danger is approaching.
  2. When approaching a yard with a barking or growling dog, cross the street and walk on the other side to avoid invading his territory.
  3. Never try to out run an aggressive dog in pursuit. It will only escalate the problem. Stay calm, and back away slowly.
  4. Instead of screaming, or yelling at the dog, speak to him in a soothing tone as you slowly back away.
  5. Don’t make direct eye contact. Staring in the eyes of an aggressive dog may prompt him to attack.
  6. If the dog gets too close or lunges at you, place a jacket, handbag or backpack, etc., between you and the dog. If the dog bites into the item, let him have it and take the opportunity to escape. If you’re riding a bicycle, place it between you and the dog for protection until you can get the dog owner’s attention or get yourself to safety.
  7. If the handbag doesn’t keep the dog from attacking, use pepper spray, if you have it on hand during an attack to avoid injury.
  8. If you do get bit, wash the wound with soap and water and seek immediate medical attention. The local authorities will need to contact the pet owner to determine if the dog has been vaccinated. Depending on local requirements, the biting dog may be held and observed for a couple of days to ensure that it doesn’t show signs of rabies.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe, Or From Biting or Harming Others
Walking your dog on a leash in public spaces is an important part of his training, yet it can be a stressful challenge when a variety of people and other pets are encountered along the way.

  • Controlled behavioral training. Before taking your new pet or untrained dog into a busy park, help your dog practice healthy behavior within safe and controlled real life situations that you create with the help of a friend. Once your dog has successfully developed good social interaction with other people and pets in a controlled environment, and obeys basic commands, you’ll both be confident and comfortable venturing into public settings.
  • Keep strangers at bay. When a stranger reaches out to pet your dog, if you’re unsure how your dog will react, take the safest response and ask them not to. If you have an overly friendly dog that likes to jump up on people, keep in mind that his sharp claws can also injure others. The elderly and small children are the most apt to encounter injuries from dogs. If your dog isn’t comfortable being approached by a stranger tell people that you’re training the dog, and to stay back. Put your palm up to visually say stop. When taking an untrained dog into a public setting, unwanted encounters from people can be largely avoided with the use of a “Dog in Training” vest. This visual prop serves as a yield sign, effectively sending the message to those nearby that your dog’s space is to be respected as you work with him in public settings.
  • Walk between your pet and another dog. When a strange dog approaches as you’re walking, allow your anxious dog to change sides, to avoid a direct, stressful encounter.
  • Proceed with extreme caution when it comes to vaccinating your pet. Holistic veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker states, “Evidence is mounting that vaccines, in particular the rabies vaccine, are contributing to the problem of aggression in some dogs. The vaccine appears to bring on chronic rabies-like symptoms in affected dogs. Since rabies vaccines are required by law, insist on the 3-year vaccine and avoid the 1-year shot. Never re-vaccinate a dog who has had a reaction to a vaccine. I recommend you ask your holistic vet for the homeopathic rabies vaccine detox Lyssin after each rabies vaccine.”

Tips for Avoiding Dog Bites and Scratches
Aggression isn’t the only reason a dog may bite. Dogs react and bite out of fear, when challenged or startled.

  • When approaching a dog from behind, make sure he hears you before reaching out to pet him.
  • Don’t get in a strange dog’s face and smile. Bearing your teeth can be seen by a dog as a threat.
  • Playing tug-of-war or wrestling with a dog can encourage aggressive behavior. Keep an eye on children as they play with dogs. A pull on a dog’s ear or rough housing could lead to a sudden, defensive bite or scratch.
  • Teasing, such as taking a dog’s bone or toy should also be avoided.
  • Pregnant or nursing dogs can be extremely protective and territorial. She may be more prone than normal to bite during these stages, so keep visitors at a safe distance.
  • Don’t take your dog to highly-populated, loud events such as rock concerts, air shows or fireworks displays where he may behave aggressively out of fear. It’s best to just leave him at home.
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