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Dealing with dog attacks

There’s no two ways about it – there’s been an explosion of dog attacks over the past decade. Experts have a few tips on avoiding or surviving dangerous dog encounters:

  • Dogs hate surprises. If you’re nearing a dog that hasn’t seen you, make low, quiet, calm noises like humming to alert the dog to your presence.

  • Don’t make threatening noises or look the dog in the eyes, both of which dogs tend to interpret as challenges. Calmness and a low-key appearance are paramount when you’re trying to avoid an encounter in the first place.

  • Avoid smiling at the dog, which might consider bared teeth as an invitation to fight. Yawning can calm dogs – they interpret it as a sedate gesture.

  • Stand with your hands at your sides and body at a 90 degree angle from the dog but with your head tilted toward it, so you can keep an eye on its behavior.

  • If you have a phone handy, call for help immediately, being careful to speak in a low, even monotone.

  • Don’t throw objects at dogs. It’s a surefire way to provoke.

  • Don’t run away. Dogs are far faster than humans, making escape unlikely, and engaging their instinct to chase can end in disaster. That isn’t to say you should stick around, though – if you can, step slowly away from the dog, without moving suddenly.
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Pit bull terriers can make affable enough pets, but they have one serious drawback – centuries of breeding mean once they bite, they shake their prey like a shark and don’t let go. In a typical year, around five times as many people are killed by pit bulls as by the next most deadly breed.

Once the dog charges and begins to fight, your tactics need to change.

  • If you have time, wrap a jacket or shirt around your off arm, allowing that arm to take the brunt of the damage while you punch and kick the dog.

  • Punching dogs in the nose is particularly effective. Some people are able to hold dogs’ mouths shut, but this can be risky as it is difficult and opens your hands up to attack if you fail. Hitting the dog in the eyes or nose with a stick or hard object will often drive it away.

  • Try not to let the dog knock you to the ground – being prone is dangerous.

  • Forcing a dog’s front legs apart prevents them from breathing, and can help save your life, particularly if you find yourself tackled to the ground.

  • Screaming can increase the ferocity of a dog attack. Avoid it if possible.

  • If all else fails, roll into a ball and cover your face and neck tightly with your arms or hands.

  • Of course, get treated immediately at a hospital for bites that break the skin, even small ones because dogs can transmit rabies.

According to dogsbite.org, male dogs are six times as likely to attack as female dogs, and depending on the year, 50-60% of all dog attacks are carried out by pit bulls. There is vigorous debate about whether pit bulls are inclined to attack by nature or their owners tend to buy and train them to attack, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Either way, their instincts lead them not to let go once they bite, so be on your guard for pit bulls in particular.

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