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Handling a Dog Attack on Walk


Years ago, I was walking my dogs, Malachi and Aquilla, down my neighborhood street when out of the blue, we were attacked by a large dog. It was a terrifying moment and one that could happen anywhere at any time. It also made me very aware of the problems with off-leash dogs and runaway dogs, and is one of many reasons why I started this website so many years ago.

How it Happened:

With two large wolf hybrids at my side, there wasn’t much I feared in my early twenties. The three of us walked down the street together, as we had done thousands of times before, when the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I suddenly felt that we were being stalked, and as I was very unaccustomed to being stalked, I really didn’t know what to do.

My dogs felt it too and kept turning around to look behind us. The street was empty, but that nagging feeling wouldn’t go away. Finally, Aquilla turned and growled, holding her ground as she scanned the road behind us. She refused to move forward despite my plea.

It was a good decision because out of the bushes sprang a huge bull-mastiff, teeth bared, eyes wide and flying through the air, which Aquilla caught full force as she rose up to meet him. The battle was swift, but Malachi quickly moved into action, catching the dog by the throat as Aquilla tore at his hindquarters. The dog beat a quick retreat, but continued to watch us.

We were lucky – the crazed dog attacked us twice more before we made it back to the house. He was driven back both times by my dogs, but just barely…

We called animal control and assisted in the hunt for this dog. Rabies was a very strong possibility due to the aggression of the dog. I came out of that incident unscathed, but my dogs both had injuries and had to be treated while also going into a rabies quarantine. Ultimately, the dog was caught and sadly euthanized, but he was off the streets.

Another incident in a new area

The reason I’m telling this story some 20 years later is because I was recently walking down the street in a completely different area with my two pit mixes, Brock and Bree, and we just had a similar event happen.

A dog followed us for a few blocks. My dogs were on high alert, growling and fearful as we made our way back to the house. Luckily, this dog did not attack and we later found it was a neighbor dog who had escaped after the pest control folks had left the gate unlocked.

However, a neighbor’s dachshund was not so lucky and was killed by two completely different neighbor dogs who had also escaped their yard. The owner of the dog was devastated. He’d been walking his two dogs on leash, the neighbor dogs attacked without warning and one of his beloved dogs was killed. He did everything right and yet his dog was still dead.

Plan Ahead

The thing is, this could happen to anyone at any time. You might be walking a small dog and a coyote leaps out to grab a quick meal. You might be walking a big dog and a smaller (but aggressive dog) comes after you. You may just be jogging and a neighbor dog decides to give chase.

Here are some options for you:

~ Pet Corrector

Pet Corrector is basically canned air, but it’s very loud and it gets a dog’s attention. This is my “go-to” walking device in my neck of the woods. But, if you need something more powerful or have a small dog (mine are large), then you may want to go to dog repellent spray.

~ Dog Repellent Spray

This is one step below pepper spray, which is still very effective. The main difference between this spray and pepper spray is that you don’t have to worry as much if you’re using it in the wind and it blows back on you. We like the PetSafe brand called SprayShield as this is a citronella-based spray that has been tested and reviewed as being very effective on dogs.

~ Pepper Spray

I’m not a huge fan of this product because the chance a breeze will carry it back to you and cause you or your dogs to be incapacitated can result in further injury. That said, HALT dog repellent appears to be effective (I haven’t personally tried it yet).

Check your state requirements before ordering (e.g., these are not allowed to be sold to California residents).

~ Use a Long Leash

I’m not sure why so many people think leashes are bad. They’re not. They are very good for you, your pets, and the safety of the community.

Another benefit of a long leash (we like the 15-ft Check Cords from Mendota Pet) is that it can be used as a deterrent by flipping the leash around in a circle (in a “windmill motion”).

Make sure your dog is accustomed to this – it’s easy to train for and could help you avoid frightening your own dog more than an attacking dog.

~ Hiking Stick

This is one of my favorite telescoping walking sticks. It’s easy to carry around like a stick or use as an actual walking stick by opening it to it’s full length.

Like all good walking sticks, this is very lightweight (and doubles as a snake stick).

I use this when I’m hiking with our dogs in the mountains or on a remote trail.

You can easily use it to redirect an aggressive dog. Sticks are one of your best defenses against an aggressive dog.

~ Ultrasonic Devices

The Dog Dazer is an ultrasonic dog repellent device that I have not personally tried, so I can’t tell you if it works.

I can’t imagine using this around my two dogs without getting both of them riled up. However, I think this could be a great tool for those who are running or walking without a dog.

~ Taser

Tasers discharge a bolt of electricity, which stuns whoever it comes into contact with, including dogs.

This is quite an effective way of stopping an attack, but the biggest problem is that you have to be very close to your subject to use it. That means putting yourself in harms way.

The other benefit to this device is that even the sound of the snap and crackle of high-voltage electricity is often enough to get a dog’s attention and defer an attack.

The ViperTek is pretty popular, but again, you have to be able to reach whatever you’re trying to stun. Also, electricity travels – so if the dog has hold of your arm and you stun it, you may very well feel the jolt as well.

Touch them (or any human) and the device delivers a high voltage shock causing loss of balance and muscle control, confusion, and disorientation.

You’ll need to do your homework before ordering – you should also sign up for classes on how to properly use one.

Tasers are restricted in many states and locales (including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, District of Columbia, Annapolis, MD, Baltimore, MD, Chicago, IL, Philadelphia, PA, Baltimore County, MD, Crawford County, IA).

A Note on Carrying a Gun

I live in Arizona, which is an open-carry state. This means anyone (assuming you are 21 years of age and not a prohibited possessor) can carry a gun on walks or hikes without a problem – as long as they’re in open view (not concealed).

Guns are great, but let’s face it – are you good enough to hit your target under pressure? Are you prepared to shoot an animal?  I’m not.

I would much rather break up a dog fight without seriously injuring either animal (or myself) – and I hope you would, too.

That’s where these other deterrents come in – they are much lighter, just as effective and a lot less lethal.

Deterrents will bring a situation under control and give you an opportunity to get your dog and yourself out of a situation. The life you save using a non-lethal deterrent may be your own.

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