protecting myself while walking against agressive dogs
April 17, 2011 6:54 PM   Subscribe

what can i use to protect myself from unleashed aggressive dogs on my walk to work?

i walk to work through a an open area of public space where people walk their dogs off leash (no other way to walk to work, i am a mother of 2 with no other opportunity in my day for exercise)

i am starting to carry a ski pole. i am shopping for pepper spray, but not sure which of the various options are most effective with respect to concentration and delivery. I need to be able to respond quickly and hurt these dogs.

i had great danes growing up. i love dogs. but in my town there are some really agressive dogs who are not going to be stopped unless they are in pain. i need to be able to hurt these dogs to protect myself. (sorry dog lovers)

two dogs cornered my husband a couple of weeks ago. he held them off with a stick until the owner showed up. the owner put himself between the dogs and my husband and they went after the owner. if the owner had not shown up, my husband would have been in the hospital or dead.

we have talked to the owner, but these are not the only dogs like this out there.
posted by alcahofa to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I lived in rural Michigan, I carried Halt! with me when I rode my bike. I only had to use it once, and it did what it says on the tin, so to speak. It's the same stuff the USPS issues to mail carriers--you'll see it clipped to their bags.
posted by pullayup at 7:07 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is there an Animal Control service where you're located, or some other branch of law enforcement? Does your town have leash laws? Is this an area where owners are allowed to walk their dogs off-leash, or is it somewhere they've chosen to walk their dogs off-leash? I would guess that, in the long run, it will be more productive to get "There are a lot of aggressive dogs running around with no leashes" dealt with then "Please tell me how to hurt these dogs and keep them away from me".

Not to mention that doing something like spraying an aggressive dog with pepper spray is just as likely to make them lash out at whatever they can get to than stop them, and the chances that you're going to hit the dog in the face, while they're close enough to attack, before they actually attack, is not very likely.
posted by kro at 7:11 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'll second the "Halt." I'm a dog walker and rarely (thank goodness) an unleashed dog will come lunging and snarling out of nowhere. I'm glad I carry the stuff...stops the beast in his tracks.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:11 PM on April 17, 2011

Where are you?

In some areas, pepper spray is considered the same as firearms in that you need a license to carry a concealed weapon for it.

One thing you should do is call your local animal control officer and tell them as much as you can about where this peril exists, what time of day and day of the week, and so on. Animal control officers will visit and if they get attacked, they'll capture the dogs and cite the owners. Depending on local law, if they think the animals are dangerous they'll euthanize them.

One time there was a dog in an area where I lived which thought it owned the entire street in front of its home. When I walked by, on the opposite side of the street, it would come all the way over and stop a couple of feet from me growling and barking.

That concerned me particularly because kids walked on that street to go to the local grade school. So I called the animal control officer.

I never saw that dog again.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:13 PM on April 17, 2011

In some areas, pepper spray is considered the same as firearms in that you need a license to carry a concealed weapon for it.

Granted, I'm from Michigan, but I've never heard of this. Some states (I'm assuming you're in the US) do impose restrictions on oleoresin capsicum concentration, size, labeling, etc. Wikipedia lists a few examples. You should probably check with local law enforcement, but you're not going to get slapped with firearms charges for carrying a can of Halt.
posted by pullayup at 7:24 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Halt is a much lower concentration than people pepper spray, so the firearm thing might not apply. Mail deliverers often carry it with them, and you're likely to be able to get it at a bike shop.
posted by BlooPen at 8:00 PM on April 17, 2011

If this is not a place allowing for unleashed animals, you should definitely call Animal Control, since you indicate there are several offenders who are not controlling their pets. In that case, the situation has gotten ridiculously out of hand and it will take some citations to remind them that their dogs need to be leashed. I can understand, as your husband was put in a frightening situation recently, your being apprehensive, and something like Halt migh work for an encounter (I don't have any experience with it myself). But what you need, given your description of lots of aggressive dogs, is a longer-term, more encompassing solution. You can usually call Animal Control or code enforcement anonymously to report violations.

If the area in question allows for unleashed animals, though, like a dog park, I guess Halt is your best bet. But I do wonder how you are unable to detour around this area, which, if it is permitted for dogs to be off leash there, would be the optimal solution for you.

Again, I'm sure your husband's recent experience was traumatic, but it does seem a shame that your first inclination is to arm yourself against these animals. I am a cat person and a little uncomfortable around dogs and yet my first thought was that if there are untrained aggressive dogs just runnung around it is in everyone's best interest to get the owners to leash their dogs. Sems like it would be safer for all the pedestrians AND the dogs if this is a busy, public space with lots of traffic. Which, if it is the only route you can take, it presumably is.
posted by misha at 8:16 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

It is against the law to allow a dangerous animal to run around loose. Doesn't matter if it's it's an unleashed-dog area; if the dog is dangerous, the letting it run around loose is a crime.

The reason you are having problems is that the dog owners who are committing this crime don't seem to care to do anything about it. Protecting yourself against the dogs is a valid precaution, but the correct solution is for the dog owners to start taking their responsibilities seriously -- and the only way that's going to happen is if the authorities get involved.

You need to call the animal control officer about this!

If you don't, and one of those dogs hurts or kills a child, how will you feel?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:00 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have used amonia in a squirt gun to great effect. the dog that used to charge me on my way to work never left his porch after that when I went by. One of the recomendations from bicyclesource
posted by Redhush at 9:16 PM on April 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Pepper spray is your best option, and the choice of postal carriers everywhere. In the meantime, try not to eyeball the dog, as they think of this as a sign of aggression. Don't run. If possible, learn the dogs' names, as they can often be halted by simply hearing their name. Finally, try to not give off a panicked vibe: they really can pick up on that.
posted by Gilbert at 9:34 PM on April 17, 2011

Ask the owner if they know what increasingly happens when the police have to deal with dogs.
posted by rhizome at 9:51 PM on April 17, 2011

A man that ran in a park near my house was very afraid of dogs, and carried an air horn of some kind. It seemed very effective in scaring off any dog that approached him.
posted by nowmorethannever at 11:18 PM on April 17, 2011

Involve the police.

A former girlfriend was attacked by a dog while talking to me on her cellphone. I was 5 hrs away, and didn't even know where she was on her 2-mi daily walk - helplessly listening to the attack was pretty damned emotional!

She got names of the owners, and called the police, who assured her: the dog would not be put down for this first offense (it was a young animal walking with the kids of the family that was surprised, and overreacted, not a vicious serial biter), but the owners would encur 100's of dollars in fines and mandatory tests, plus be required to jump through bureaucratic hoops. All in all, a fairly satisfying police response.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:10 AM on April 18, 2011

Kick them in the face.
posted by joannemullen at 3:53 AM on April 18, 2011

You need to call the police each and every time. Aggressive dogs should be on-leash. (I assume you're not walking through an actual dog run, but just a de facto one.)
posted by jeather at 8:27 AM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

As a bicyclist, I get by fine with my pump, but apparently umbrellas work well for pedestrians. Dogs often hesitate when you pop one open, because it looks like this giant thing came out of nowhere, and if your dog is umbrella-resistant you can still hit him with it.

If you continue to carry the ski pole, remember to jab rather than swing. It's a lot nimbler that way.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:59 AM on April 18, 2011

Call the police and animal control, it's your right to be able to walk down the street without having to fight off aggressive dogs.
posted by Melsky at 9:08 AM on April 18, 2011

Walmart sells small airhorns, and there are good, telescoping walking sticks on amazon that would also give you a sense of security that would be better than a ski pole.

But please do call animal control, or even the non-emergency police number.
posted by lemniskate at 10:52 AM on April 18, 2011

Obviously, the only real answer here is to alert animal control. Carrying pepper spray or an air horn is going to be much more effective than a flimsy ski pole or a stick, IMHO.

Be advised, however; if a dog owner is irresponsible enough to let his aggressive dogs run pell mell through the park, then they will probably also not be the kind of person who takes kindly to you pepper spraying their dog, whether or not the dog is at fault. If you pepper spray a dog, expect the owner to flip out on you. What's more, you need to be very careful that you are not randomly pepper spraying a dog that you merely perceive to be aggressive - not that you have to wait for it to bite you before you act, but you can't reasonably use pepper spray on a dog just because it's barking at you.

I walk my dog in a busy park every day, and I can tell you that irresponsible dog owners like you've described are all over the place; no one I know has a problem calling animal control on them, and neither should you.
posted by Pecinpah at 12:04 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

my husband did not want to call animal control in this particular case because we have just moved into the neighborhood, they live across the street, and we think they have a daughter in 3rd grade my daughter wants to befriend. but i am calling animal control.

i am also getting bear repellant (higher concentration, longer range pepper spray). halt seems to be watered down pepper spray and i want maximum strength.

to clarify some questions above: they are unleashing their dogs in national forest land. but it also happens to be in our suburban county which has stringent leash laws. there are 100's of acres of land surrounding neighborhoods where people unleash their dogs. you can't go for a walk or hike without dealing with this around here. and we live here because we are hikers. it is against the law but so common that many dog owners may not even realize it is against the law in these open areas.

we have tons of dogs in this suburb surrounded by national forrest. so you have the whole spectrum of dogs and owners. 98% are responsible and well behaved. but that 2% of dog owners are oblivious and numerous enough that i will run into them.

on a personal note, i grew up almost literally in a pack of great danes. they barked, we said they were sweet. they growled, we said they were just big babies. they jumped on people and knocked them over, we said they were overly friendly. then one day one of them attacked a neighbor who crossed our property late at night to get to a loud party. stupid of the neighbor, yes. but she still did not deserve to be attacked and nearly killed. like leaving a loaded gun out with unsupervised teenagers. it is not your intent they should use it... but.

so this is why i am scared. i really understand what it means to not get it that your dog is dangerous. and with the number of dogs around here, the probability of the dangerous dog, oblivious owner combo is high.

thank you for all your comments and pushing me to get animal control involved. it doesn't solve the whole problem, but i still need to do it.
posted by alcahofa at 9:30 PM on April 18, 2011

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