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Water Cooler: What to do during a dog attack

UPDATED: Thu., June 3, 2021

Dog owners can avoid dog attacks by walking routes ahead of time for dogs that seem aggressive or are off leash.  (Pixabay)
Dog owners can avoid dog attacks by walking routes ahead of time for dogs that seem aggressive or are off leash. (Pixabay)

Dog owners know all too well how unpredictable interactions with other dogs may be. Interactions with aggressive dogs are frightening and sometimes our natural reactions may make things worse. Here are some tips for handling a dog attack, whether the attack is toward you or your dog.

The first preventive step against attacks is to know how to evaluate dog body language. Signs of aggression include growling or baring of teeth, glaring, a wrinkled muzzle, ears that are pressed flat against the head, standing centered or forward-leaning posture, a raised head, and a straight tail either pointed down to the ground or pointed straight up.

Do not approach dogs that exhibit these behaviors. Do not smile at them, as a dog is more likely to think you are aggressively baring your teeth. Avoid making eye contact and do your best to ignore the dog. Showing signs of fear or anxiety such as raising your voice or flailing your limbs tends to ramp up aggression in dogs. Face the dog as you back away slowly. Do not turn and run away as this may prompt a dog’s hunting instincts.

If the dog decides to attack, there are several things you can do. Consider carrying an ultrasonic dog repellent or a dog whistle. These devices emit high frequencies that cause dogs enough discomfort that they may be able to break up a fight or deter an attack. This is also a helpful tool if you own a dog with aggressive tendencies and need to keep off-leash dogs from coming toward it.

Consider letting go of your dog’s leash to allow them to escape. Then put a barrier between you and the attacking dog. Trees, parked cars, bikes, garbage cans, benches and other street-side objects can work as barriers. You can also throw outerwear on a dog’s head, or throw down a bag, food items or other objects as distractions, giving you more time to get away.

If your dog is small enough, you can pick them up if you see an aggressive dog approaching. If you pick your dog up during the attack, however, it may entice the dog to jump at you instead. Do not put your limbs or hands in between your dog and the attacking dog. Always use a barrier instead. If you can’t reach a barrier, you can try to grab the attacking dog’s collar to restrain them. You can also douse them with water as a distraction if you happen to be carrying some.

In the case that you aren’t able to get away and the dog attacks you, protect your face, throat and chest. The safest areas to be bitten are in the shin or forearm. If the dog gets its teeth in you, do not pull away as this will only tear more flesh and worsen the injury. Instead, hit the dog in sensitive areas like the eyes or nose. You can also immobilize a dog by lifting it by its hind legs, or by holding it to the ground with your knees or elbows until someone is able to come help.

Leave as soon as the attack is over. Do not try to go find the owner or further reconcile the situation. Instead, you can report the attack to local animal protection services.

If you or your dog are bitten, seek medical care immediately. Even if you are able to treat the wounds at home, it is important to be tested for possible infection.

Although dog attacks can be unpredictable, you can do your best to avoid them by surveying your walking area ahead of time for dogs that seem aggressive or not well secured.

Rachel Baker can be reached at (509) 459-5583 or

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