A 65 year old woman and her 77 year old husband were recently killed by a pack of wild dogs. This didn’t happen in the outback or the African bush. This happened in the United States, in Georgia, on a quiet neighborhood street.
Feral dogs are wild dogs that have not been socialized by humans. These are usually the offspring of household pets that have been turned out by their owners. The United States leads the world in the numbers of pet dogs.
DVM Magazine (February 2009) published an article that stated the ASPCA believes that 1 million dogs and cats could become homeless within the United States due to economic reasons. As financial difficulties press, some owners prefer to abandon their animals rather than euthanize them, thinking this is a kindness.
According to the PBS documentary Dogs and More Dogs (2004), selectively bred wild foxes produce puppies that have domestic characteristics -- in both nature and appearance -- within 2 to 3 generations. The reverse is also true. As dogs are forced to fend for themselves, they will breed with other dogs that display survival traits and produce offspring with these same characteristics – often within the first or second generation.
This means that within a year, one dog can become a skilled hunter and contribute to the numbers of wild animals in a homeless pack. Deaths due to feral dog attacks are shocking, but considering these facts, it is surprising that it doesn’t happen more often.
The following information is provided to give you options to survive a wild dog attack or avoid it in the first place. Recommendations to use lethal force are given in order that you may defend life, but they may not be legal and could cause you to be liable for legal actions later. The goal here is to remain alive.
If approached by a strange animal, there are steps you can take to avoid being bitten and increase your chances of survival. Remember that dogs respond to your body language not the meaning of your words. You must use your body to communicate to the dog that you aren’t a good target.
Carry a repellent with you when on foot. A good dog repellent for aggressive nuisance pet dogs is a mixture of ammonia and hot pepper sauce in a pump sprayer set to half-way between stream and mist. This works best when sprayed into the mouth and nostrils or eyes.
Carry a weapon. These can range from baseball bats, golf clubs, knives or walking sticks. Use your imagination. Any of these can keep some distance between you and a threatening animal.
A strange animal that approaches you should be treated as a potential threat. Don’t ignore warning signs because you think that a breed is always friendly. One sign of aggression is if the animal holds his head level – not high or low. An even steady run – as opposed to a loping gait – means the dog is charging.
DON’T APPEAR THREATENING TO A DOG
Don’t look the animal in the eye. This is seen as a challenge. Avert your eyes. Don’t stare the animal down.
Don’t smile. Bared teeth signify aggression and a challenge. A wild dog will want to meet this challenge.
Stand at a 45 degree angle towards the dog. Present your less dominant side, and keep the dog in your peripheral vision. This signals that you are not a threat and that you are not in a position to attack (which is face forward in dog language).
DON’T DISPLAY FEAR OR WEAKNESS
Don’t turn your back on an approaching dog. This is a sign of weakness to a dog and will encourage the animal to lunge at you.
NEVER run. This will excite the dog’s chase response – and dogs can run faster than you.
Remain still and calm. Hold your position. The dog may lose interest if he does not sense you are afraid. If you panic, the dog may feel threatened or become more confident in his attack.
If you speak, use a commanding tone. Lower your voice and issue commands like “GO HOME!” or “DOWN!” Shrieking in a shrill tone is not using a commanding voice.
If you can slowly do so, fold your arms tightly to protect your hands. If you can’t do this without exciting the dog, keep your arms lowered and your hands balled into tight fists to protect your fingers. If you extend your arms or hands, you are inviting a bite.
Put something between you and the animal. The dog will fixate on this (umbrella, hat, bag, stick) and be lured to bite the object instead of you. Remember, even if the dog bites your arm, that still leaves you one good arm and two legs to get away.
If possible back away slowly (remember not to turn your back to the dog) and try to place an obstacle between yourself and the dog. Climb on top of a car, a tree or some other object that places you out of reach of the animal. THEN you can shout for help.
IF A DOG ATTACKS YOUR PET
Don’t pull on your dog’s leash. If you do, you will cause puncture wounds to become tears. Additionally, your tugging in the opposite direction will keep your dog from being able to defend itself. Let the leash loose. Evaluate the situation. If you have a lethal weapon, use it. If the other animal is small enough, you may be able to use your stick to beat him off of your animal, but not if he is part of a pack. If you aren’t sure you can overcome the attacking animal, it is better in my opinion to use the opportunity to escape. Living is honoring the sacrifice of your beloved pet in my opinion.
IF A DOG ATTACKS A CHILD OR ANOTHER PERSON
Use whatever lethal weapon you have to stop the attack.
Focus on the attacking dog FIRST. Don’t try and tug the victim away from the dog. This will rip the person’s skin and cause puncture wounds to become gashes. Force your own hand and arm into the dog’s mouth. Your larger limb can be used as a lever to open the dog’s mouth and remove the other person’s limb without tearing at the wounds. Keep driving your arm in and downward into the dog’s mouth to minimize damage to your arm. A variation of this is to jam the pointed end of a stick into the dog’s mouth, ramming it down the throat.
In the event that there is a pack of animals attacking a child, cover the child with your own body. Curl into a ball, face down, with your knees pulled inward and your hands locked behind your neck to protect your face, ears and neck. Become a rock to shield the child from further attack.
IF YOU SHOULD COME UNDER ATTACK
Use any weapon at your disposal to stop the dog with deadly force.
Put something between you and the dog. This can be a hat, book, purse, jacket, umbrella, stick, a bicycle or piece of lawn furniture – whatever is on hand. If nothing else is available offer your arm, preferably have something wrapped around it. This leaves you with a free arm and two legs. Offering the dog your arm will keep him from grabbing onto your leg and dragging you to the ground or from leaping for your throat.
If an arm bite does occur, try to hold the arm so that the bite will clamp down on the sides of the forearm or wrist. Teeth puncturing the soft, flat flesh could damage arteries inside the forearm or wrist. Remember to keep your hand balled into a fist to protect your fingers.
Work to avoid getting knocked onto the ground. Keep your balance.
Use your stick to block the attack if you can. If not, shove the stick down the dog’s throat. If he has your arm, he may release his hold at this point.
If you don’t have a stick, consider shoving your arm down the dog’s throat. Shoving your arm down the dog’s throat can cut off his oxygen or make him gag. Pulling your arm away, rather than shoving your arm forward, will increase your injuries.
If the dog has your arm, attack his vulnerable places: use your thumb to gouge out an eye or deliver a sharp blow to the throat. In this position, you can choke the dog until he passes out by feeding him one arm and placing the other behind his head and pulling upward until the neck snaps. Another method is to grab one of the dog’s hind legs and jerk it upward. This will put the dog on its back – a submissive stance. Use the leg as a lever to keep the dog on his back and drag it to a safer place for you. Be careful with this, though, as you don’t want to end up on the ground.
If you get knocked to the ground, try to remain calm and as motionless as possible, unless the attack continues. If the attack continues, curl into a ball and roll onto your stomach, arms over ears, knees protecting your throat. Use your hands to protect the back of your neck by clasping your hands behind your neck. This is a passive position and may end the attack.
AFTER AN ATTACK
Make a mental note of the dog’s size, breed, sex and color.
Wash the wound with warm, soapy water, wrap in a clean cloth, applying gentle pressure to stop the bleeding. Seek medical attention and follow wound care procedures.
Report the attack to authorities and warn neighbors, especially those which are elderly or have small children.
A FINAL WORD
I’m a dog owner. I love my dog, and she is well-trained. I take good care of her, and I respect her dog-ness. A dog left to its own devices will do what dogs were designed to do. When we respect the design and intent of these animals, we can take appropriate measures to keep our families safe.