What do I do when I am attacked by a big dog?
December 2, 2004 7:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm being attacked by a big, vicious dog; what do I do?

I know what to do when faced with a bear, but what about a dog? What's way to stop from dying?
posted by deafmute to Pets & Animals (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wait until it's over, then hire a lawyer.
posted by pwb503 at 7:37 PM on December 2, 2004

Don't run. If the dog has rabies, find a big stick and hit him. If he doesn't have rabies, make sure you're not on his property and call animal control. Scream for help as necessary.

At least, that's what I did when I was attacked by a big, vicious dog.
posted by muddgirl at 7:39 PM on December 2, 2004

Yeah, yeah...I know that snarky comments aren't helpful in the green...

Seriously, though, you should try and talk to whoever's responsible for the dog. Whether they care about you, or not, on a personal level, they're potentially liable for any damage the dog does to you, and they should definitely have an interest in keeping it away from you.
posted by LairBob at 7:40 PM on December 2, 2004

If part of your body (likely a hand or forearm, since those are the most common appendages used in defense) is caught between the angry dog's jaws, you are supposed to push forward into the dog's mouth rather than pulling away. Pulling causes flesh to tear and the dog's grip to tighten; pushing toward the back of the dog's throat triggers its gag reflex, which generally results in the dog releasing.

At least, that's what the experts supposedly say.

I can't imagine a dog would stick around after a blast of pepper spray in the eyes or a good tazing, either.
posted by Danelope at 7:49 PM on December 2, 2004

I assume you are are asking what to do in the "immediate" if being attacked by a large dog -- not "talk to the owner" type stuff.

If that's the case, then I would aim for the eyes, followed by the throat. If necessary, gouge the eyes out and just beat the **** out of the throat, if possible.

It sounds terrible, but if it ever came down to my life versus a dog's life, then the dog's gotta go.

Of course, in a more perfect situation, you should be able to avoid the dog entirely.
posted by davidmsc at 7:50 PM on December 2, 2004

Always carry pepper spray. Pepper spray owns. I run on a hill with many angry, macho dogs ranging from Bichon Frises to Dobermans to savage-looking mutts, plus black bears, and I have little need for anxiety with my military-strength pepper spray. I'm told even the bears can't handle it.
posted by abcde at 7:57 PM on December 2, 2004

I've always fantasized that the best course of action is make a fist and punch into its mouth and down its throat. It wouldn't be able to bite hard and would soon enough expire from suffocation.

Or maybe the trick is to grab its head and pop its eyeballs. Then put one's boot through its throat with enough force to punt it over the house.

Pepper spray is just seasoning for bears. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 8:01 PM on December 2, 2004

Are you really that afraid that you're going to be attacked by a dog? Or is this just a hypothetical question for questions sake?

I'd like to know the statistics regarding how many adults are really seriously injured each year by dogs.
posted by stovenator at 8:15 PM on December 2, 2004

Kick the mother fucker. I'm an animal lover but if faced with protecting myself I'd punt it like a pigskin.
posted by substrate at 8:20 PM on December 2, 2004

It's been almost an hour. What did you end up doing?
posted by bDiddy at 8:25 PM on December 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

What worked for me when I lived in India and was being stalked by packs of stray dogs or angry monkeys: barking back loudly and lunging at them. Seriously. They sense fear more than anything.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 8:27 PM on December 2, 2004

Like everybody else said, gouge its eyes with your thumbs. Apparently it works for sharks and crocodiles also..

I remember a news story about a man who was attacked by a dog and ended up killing it by biting it in the throat with his teeth, couldnt find that on google though...
posted by phyle at 8:32 PM on December 2, 2004

There's always the old cliche about drawing an X from the dog's (or any other 4 legged animal) left ear to right eye and right ear to left eye and hit where the X crosses. Hard.

Then again, I was walking down the street, saw a big german shepard making noises at some guy then lunged and chased him for a bit, then returned to it's original position. I keep walking, the dog looks at me, and - my being in a poor mood at the time - I growled at it.

A yelp and run from it ensued. Nobody ever believes me when I tell this story, so YMMV.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:32 PM on December 2, 2004

Faced with a dog? Do not look it in the eye, which is a direct challenge, but stay facing it, and slowly back away. Do not turn your back until it has backed down and retreated also. That may allow you to get away without an actual attack.

If the dog goes for you, don't kick it. The dog is much faster than you, and will likely bite you hard in places you don't to be bitten.

If you are holding something, like a stick, or a bike pump, or a bag, you can hold it in front of you and maybe get the dog to go for it.

The advice about pushing into the dogs mouth is sound. I speak as someone who owned a ridgeback/great dane/bull mastiff cross, and had to wrest tasty treats from it. Push in and down. The dog can't close its jaw if you push down.

If you grapple, forget about strangling the dog or grabbing its neck. Dogs are built for this and are great wrigglers. You will have more luck breaking/dislocating a leg (eg pulling the forelegs apart).

Most important - make whatever noise you can for help, and stay upright. Once you're on the ground I would say you've had it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:40 PM on December 2, 2004

When I was attacked by a German Shepard as a kid (it lunged at me, breaking its chain), I threw my bicycle at it after it bit me in the calf. That did the trick.

When I was attacked by a nasty little dog while walking out in the country a few years ago, I clobbered it in the side of the head with a large stick that I grabbed off the ground. It remained conscious, to my retrospective surprise, and ran off to bark at me from safe distance.
posted by waldo at 8:47 PM on December 2, 2004

If you have a gun the obvious solution is to shot the dog. I love dogs but to me my life is more valuable than any sorrow I'd feel afterwards.
posted by gyc at 8:49 PM on December 2, 2004

I've carried one of those incredibly loud aerosol boat horn when biking through dog territory. The biggest fiercest dog charging at you with fangs bared and spittle flying will halt with a startled expression, turn tail, and run away from a blast of the horn.
posted by TimeFactor at 9:17 PM on December 2, 2004

I've always fantasized that the best course of action is make a fist and punch into its mouth and down its throat. It wouldn't be able to bite hard and would soon enough expire from suffocation.

Holy shit dude.
posted by Quartermass at 10:11 PM on December 2, 2004

According to Travis McGee, the attack dog's ONLY weak moment is right after it makes its final leap, presumably to tear out your throat. Just at that moment you have to catch it by one of its forepaws, pivot and fall backwards, and use the momentum of your fall plus all the strength of your arms to hurl it past you. According to McGee, "Snatch too soon and it can twist and tear your hands off. Wait too long and it is very hard to throw something that has hold of you by the throat." He recalls an Australian instructor demonstrating the technique, with a dog-shaped sack. "He could throw it a startling distance," he says.

Of course, Travis McGee isn't real. I know that.
posted by coelecanth at 10:51 PM on December 2, 2004

PS: PurplePorpoise, have you ever seen a dog's skull, say a Labrador's? They're about twice as thick as a human's. Punching a dog, assuming it doesn't duck and seize your wrist, would not matter a bit unless you have supernormal abilities. I doubt anything less than a baseball bat or a golf club would be worthwhile. There's a reason our ancestors beat off predators with sticks...
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:58 PM on December 2, 2004

The eyes and the throat are probably your best bet, although you won't have a lot of time to react if it lunges at you. The advice about grabbing the legs seems like it makes sense, but again, that's a lot to remember and execute when you're being attacked (assuming you aren't, you know, practicing.)

What I'd do is look for natural barriers. If you're in reasonable shape, you can probably make it to a nearby fence or a tree or a landscaping wall, and that'd buy you some time. Humans are generally better at climbing and circumventing obstacles than dogs, despite the movies. Unless you're being attacked by a trained show dog, then you're fucked.

What about the groin, too, if it gets on top of you? I imagine a sharp kick would deter even a large dog, wouldn't it?
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 11:05 PM on December 2, 2004

Response by poster: Interesting answers. Thanks everyone.

I ended up letting the dog eat me. I now exist as a series of electrons hurtling through the worlds power lines. I am the ghost in the machine.

Cool, huh? That's my solution: let the dog eat you, then become something more than human.
posted by deafmute at 11:07 PM on December 2, 2004

Yelling At Nothing, re the groin thing: I've owned a big dumb dog (afore-mentioned 110 pound mutt) and the only thing that ever really, really hurt her was a car. A dog that's worked up is a dog that only feels mortal pain. In my experience, anyway. Not to mention that there are a few aggressive, neutered dogs out there, and some of the most vicious dogs are bitches...

And a PPS: any reasonable size dog, from Labrador on up, is chunky enough to knock you over unless you're well braced, and has the strength and teeth to do real damage no matter how you fend it off. Therefore the number one answer is the meta answer - don't be in situations where you can be attacked by a big vicious dog.

The other thing that may be worth pointing out is that anyone who own a large dog bears a heavy responsibility to socialise it properly.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:13 PM on December 2, 2004

joe's_spleen has the right idea: my mother trained greyhounds and always told me that if a dog attacks, pull its forelegs apart to break or dislocate them.

When I was a kid I was chased by a German Shepherd that was determined to eat the cuff of my jeans, and probably more. I ended up climbing a fence and shoving my foot into its mouth until it gave up and ran away -- I reckoned my shoe would withstand any biting the dog could manage. When I got home my shoe was bloody, presumably from the dog's gums or similar. Ugh.
posted by tracicle at 11:24 PM on December 2, 2004

Stick something up its arse.

I learned this from a stand-up comedian on the TeeVee so it must be true.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 11:30 PM on December 2, 2004

You can grab the dog by its collar and twist it, so you have a strong grip. Of course, that doesn't work if the dog is already biting you, but it gives you some power over where its noggin is heading.
posted by subgenius at 11:47 PM on December 2, 2004

My father has a story he wheels out when we drink...about being attacked by a dog in his early twenties...I have no reason to disbelieve.

He punched a running, leaping dog between the eyes...which knocked the dog, clean out...he didn't wait around to know if it died.

I have also heard the legs apart bit - although that seems almost certain to kill the dog.

Of course...your mutt may vary....so use this solution with care.
posted by mattr at 12:28 AM on December 3, 2004

For some dogs like pit bulls, the solution is to pick them up by the scruff of the neck, if you can. This promotes an instinctive response from the dog to go still, as puppies do when their mother picks them up the same way. Cops do it all the time, apparently.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:26 AM on December 3, 2004

I remember in my childhood days that a client of my fathers, who used to breed small vicious little dogs, said to me that if a dog has got you in its teeth: "Yeh should stick yer fingers up its arse, so it lets go of yeh". I'm not sure how useful that is, but I imagine if I was attacking someone and they stuck their fingers up my arse I'd be quite shocked and probably run off.
posted by Navek Rednam at 2:01 AM on December 3, 2004

not much help if the dog is already at your throat, but most dogs (round here at least) know that if you bend down to pick up a stone they should move away. if that doesn't work, next step is throwing the stone. i used to be useless at throwing, but after a month or two when i regularly walked along a dirt track practicing, i became quite accurate.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:14 AM on December 3, 2004

Did you practice throwing at dogs or just throwing?

Some of these solutions sounds like that line in a Bond film about incapacitating alligators by sticking a pen in behind their eyeball.
posted by biffa at 2:22 AM on December 3, 2004

I agree with what i_am_joe's_spleen wrote. I was attacked just for walking past someone's house. Sadly yelling for help didn't work, the dog owner just stood there like a fucktard while their dog* attacked, others just poked their heads outside to see what the noise was and closed their doors again. Think if I wasn't such a non-violent person I would have ripped its head off and used it as a hand puppet.

Stop, look away, avoid eye contact, wait or slowly back up works wonders - this has saved my bacon on a number of occassions. Pepper spray is great, I've used in cases where my dog gets attacked. Legal too when used on animals - least in my corner of the universe.

*a female Staffordshire Terrier who just had pups I might add. Dog used to wander the neighbourhood looking for fights. The dog owner had moved from another city where the dog was a major problem and they were avoiding having the dog taken away. Wonder why ...
posted by squeak at 3:07 AM on December 3, 2004

just throwing, although there were dogs on that road with a bad reputation (which was why i was practicing).
posted by andrew cooke at 3:36 AM on December 3, 2004

is this the kind of dog which has four legs or the kind which has eight legs?
posted by clockzero at 4:02 AM on December 3, 2004

My father was a dog-handler for the military when I was a child, and some of my earliest memories are of massive German Shepherd dogs. The dogs were selected for their aggressiveness and were used to guard high-security military installations. Also part of the selection process was a dog's ability to control their aggression to an amazing extent. They could be turned from huge cuddly puppies to what looked like enraged killers at the flip of a (spoken) switch, and then back again, absolutely reliably. If a dog stepped out of line in even the slightest way, for instance by failing to return instantly when called, it was destroyed immediately, no excuses. That hardly ever happened, though, because the selection process and training of both dog and handler was so good.

Each handler was assigned their own dog that would be kept in kennels on the base. When the dog had been selected and finished its initial training, it was handed over to its handler and that handler would have sole control of the dog until the day it died. That created a bond that meant that the behaviour of the dog could be trusted without the slightest shadow of a doubt.

Those dogs were huge. Much larger than an average sized German Shepherd. Up until I was seven or eight, I would ride around on whichever dog that my father had been assigned, like it was a horse. Years later, I asked my father if allowing me to do that had been safe, and he told me that I was a thousand times more likely to be killed by a domestic dog on the walk to the kennels than I was to so much as be given a funny look by one of the dogs on the base. Now that I've got a couple of kids myself, I'm not sure that I'd be as comfortable as that, but if there was one thing that my father knew about, it was how dogs ticked.

He loved German Shepherds for their temperament and dependability. He hated Dobermans and Rottweillers, because he said that they couldn't always be trusted. Whether he was right or wrong about that, to this day, even though I can't honestly recall ever being even slightly scared of a dog, I'm still wary of Dobermans and Rottweillers whenever I'm close to one, and I certainly wouldn't ever let one of them anywhere near my children. The other day, I heard the expression, "Crazy as a junk-yard mutt," and I instantly had a flashback of my dad holding forth about people who kept Rottweillers as pets.

Anyway, that's the background, so to try to answer the question:

If you were attacked by one of those military dogs, there isn't a lot that you could do. The only advice worth having is to try not to struggle. They are trained to approach and launch themselves at a target in such a way as to minimise the chances of the target escaping using obstacles, or of being injured themselves. Once a big dog has clamped its jaw on you, the major damage is done by the tearing that occurs due to struggling. If the dog is trained to bring somebody down, it won't be interested in ripping them apart, so best practice is to go limp and drop to the floor. The dog will then go still and maintain its hold on you, until its handler arrives.

If one of those dogs somehow went rogue and decided to kill you, there's nothing that could be done to stop it. A team of people holding it back or trying to get in its way would just be a minor distraction. So, basically, in that situation you'd be dead.

You won't be able to outrun it, you won't be able to hurt it enough to discourage it, and you won't be able to frighten it enough to stop it. A gun or a knife almost certainly wouldn't work, because the dog isn't going to stand still whilst you shoot it or stab it. You'd do more damage to yourself than the dog. You won't be in a position to kick it, and the idea that you'd somehow be able to gouge it or hit it hard enough to make an impact is insane. It will just be a large mass of muscle, moving very fast, with complete single-mindedness.

Someone upthread mentioned pepper spray, but that wouldn't work, because it's use would be based on the false assumption that, at that point, the dog will respond to pain or discomfort. Someone else suggested an air horn to make a loud noise. I'd pay good money to see the expression on somebody's face right after they tried that on a dog that had been trained to disregard being shot at by an assault rifle on full automatic.

The moral of this, if there is one, is to never attempt to sneak onto a military base where nuclear weapons may be stored.
posted by veedubya at 4:31 AM on December 3, 2004 [4 favorites]

I don't know if this is true or not, but my dad taught me that if you grab the front legs and spread them like a wishbone - and I mean really spread them, as though you were seriously intending to separate them from the dog - the shoulder blades will fold in and collapse the heart.

Apparently this works for almost all dogs, especially the high-shouldered and large sort of dog that you would really worry about being attacked by.

I would - and do - prefer to avoid such dogs entirely, and/or use effective body language and non-verbal communication.
posted by loquacious at 5:12 AM on December 3, 2004

I got bit by an angry little dog last year. It actually bit me hard and deep enough to draw blood and leave a scar.

If the owner hadn't been on the other end of the leash I would have kicked the shit out of the little fucker.
posted by bshort at 6:14 AM on December 3, 2004

i_am_joe's_spleen - yeah, thats why I threw in the cliche bit.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:47 AM on December 3, 2004

I have also heard the legs apart bit - although that seems almost certain to kill the dog.

And this is a problem how? The damn thing is attacking you. It should be dead.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2004

I have been told to "go limp" as well. If you are knocked to the ground, most dogs will go for your neck. I say curl up face down on the ground and use your arms to cover your head. Your neck and face are covered, and the dog won't feel threatened by you and just walk away. Amazingly, this maneuver also worked for a childhood friend of mine who was attacked by chickens. The horror!
posted by whatnot at 10:22 AM on December 3, 2004

ok, the dog might just walk away. ymmv, of course.
posted by whatnot at 10:23 AM on December 3, 2004

I doubt the "pull the forelegs" thing would work (it won't "collapse the ribcage" as far as I know), for one thing, that will bring the bity part of the dog much closer to your face/neck than you might want.

What I would do if the dog isn't actually attacking you, but is behaving aggressively:
- make yourself as small as possible, hunch your shoulders, assume a submissive posture, don't get on the ground, but you want to avoid looming over the dog at all if possible
- look pointedly down/to the side, lick your lips, yawn (these are "calming signals" that dogs use with each other to defuse aggression, they work surprisingly well when people use them too)
- back very slowly away at an angle to the dog (you can turn sideways, but don't turn your back, turning your back may trigger prey drive)

If the dog is actually attacking you and you have no pepper spray or weapon:
- yelp in a high-pitched voice (this is dog-speak for "I give up! Stop hurting me!" incidentally, this is also a very effective way to train puppies not to bite) and yell for help
- protect your face and neck by ducking your head into your arms
- you can try telling the dog "NO"
- get away or behind something as best you can, but do not run
- kick the dog as hard as you can (some spots to aim for: the heart is located immediately behind the elbow (a hard blow over the heart can at least slow a dog down), the lower jaw (a hard enough blow upward will cause the teeth to crash together and may stun the dog), the back of the head, the front of the neck, the stomach (especially close to the ribcage - you might be able to wind the dog if you manage to kick its diaphragm) - I wouldn't use your arms, your legs are likely better-protected than your arms are.
- sue the owner's ass off and press for them to be banned from owning another dog for at least a few years
posted by biscotti at 10:28 AM on December 3, 2004 [1 favorite]

A crazy linguistics professor of mine had a "surefire" way to stop an attacking dog which I'm sure if more esoteric than effective. What he said to do was, take a white handkerchief (good thing you were attacked in your dandiest suit) and wave it up and to the side. Instinctively, the dog can't resist lunging for it. Then, take a knife (good thing you were attacked in your dandiest KNIFE suit) and slit open its belly.

That said - barring the obvious "don't get attacked" line - a submissive, fetal pose sounds like the best idea so far. Pepper spray ranks second. The wishbone thing sounds sort of silly: doing that to any dog of a dangerous size would just open up your stomach, chest, and neck.

Backing away without making eye contact is a good way to avoid most dogs, unless the dog is truly insane (or worse, rabid).

No matter what, call the fuzz on the dog owner and sue if necessary. Unsupervised big mean dogs aren't legal. It's not fair to passersby, and it's not fair to the dogs. People who beat their animals into a constant rage of fear and hate belong behind bars. That said, once the dog attacks you, use all available lethal force...
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:20 AM on December 3, 2004

How do you stop a big, vicious dog from charging?

You take away its American Exp--

Oh, fuck it.
posted by xmutex at 12:57 PM on December 3, 2004

This has worked for me literally dozens of times over the years with dogs that were working themselves up to charge. Just bend over, as if you were picking up a rock to throw. Optionally, do pick up the rock, and throw it, if necessary.

But in most cases, especially with dogs that have a history of going after people, they remember what the consquences of people bending over to grab a rock can be, and that's enough to send 'em packing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:08 PM on December 3, 2004

I'm surprised nobody has acknowledged that veedubya's response was fascinating and terrifying.
posted by Hildago at 7:52 PM on December 3, 2004

Ok, assuming you are a 6 foot 2 300 pound man. I always assumed, unless we are dealing with the trained attack dogs mentioned above, I could use the standard big fat guy defense method which can work on humans bigger than any dog; Tackle opponent, sit on them.

I love dogs and they love me, but I have read this thread in detail for the same reason I read the zombie attack thread; it's best to be prepared.

Truthfully, I always assumed I could just kick the fark out of a dog, but some have said that won't work, so what about crushing the air out of them?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:29 AM on December 4, 2004

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