Aggressive leashed dog
May 17, 2014 5:46 AM   Subscribe

How to stand your ground when you meet an aggressive large dog?

While walking my dog this morning, a large (perhaps 80 pound) dog on the other side of the street started growling, barking, and literally dragging his owner by the leash over to our side. Everything about his manner indicated aggression to me. After only a few seconds, he was within range of us. My dog tried to avoid him. I screamed "go away" at the dog and kicked him as hard as I could, once, under his chin. Fortunately, this seemed to calm him down, and he went into a scared posture by his owner. I quite angrily dressed the owner down, telling her I was going to call the police and/or pepper spray the dog if this happened again.

My question is: what else can we reasonably do if this happens again? It's scary to think what would have happened had my wife been walking our dog instead of me. Can we really pepper spray a leashed but aggressive dog without risking an assault charge/personal injury lawsuit when the owner gets it too? Is kicking under the chin the best way to stop an aggressive dog without a weapon? Is running an option, or would an aggressive dog just chase us?
posted by deadweightloss to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh dude dude dude, never ever hit an angry dog unless you literally have no other options. If that dog had caught your foot it would have crunched up your toes and a nice chunk of tendons and ligaments like scooby snacks. You got very very lucky today.

I dint know what would work. Maybe a bottle of strong vinegar, water mixed with chilli powder etc will do the trick. If it doesn't do the trick, pepper spray may not help much either.

Avoidance as ever remains the best tactic.
posted by smoke at 5:57 AM on May 17, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'd be inclined to take a video of the dog and owner, whatever else you do. The other person knowing that you've got something to show to the police will likely encourage the owner to intervene more. It will also prove useful if you do end up taking the matter to the police.

There are different types of dog aggression.
posted by Solomon at 5:59 AM on May 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, for a leashed dog the best thing may be to yell at the owner, not the dog. "Keep your dog away! My dog is not friendly!" Lying about your own dog is often the best way to get ignorant owners to stay away.

For loose dogs, some people in my neighborhood carry a big stick.
posted by muddgirl at 6:01 AM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, I walk two 60 lb dogs at the same time and they can't pull me anywhere I don't let them go.
posted by muddgirl at 6:02 AM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

To clarify, the owner was pulling back on the leash, and did not want her dog to come over, but she was ineffective. The dog was not under her full control.

I don't know, but it's a great way to get a bystander to report you to animal control for cruelty.

Are you seriously suggesting this is the relevant concern?

never ever hit an angry dog unless you literally have no other options.

Is this based on something? What other options would you suggest, assuming no weapon?
posted by deadweightloss at 6:05 AM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

What other options would you suggest, assuming no weapon?

Walking away?
posted by DarlingBri at 6:09 AM on May 17, 2014 [13 favorites]

Are you seriously suggesting this is the relevant concern?

You're responding to a comment of mine which was (rightfully) deleted; it was my bad way of saying "never hit an angry dog unless you have no other options". And yes, DaringBri is correct in saying that getting yourself away is the best thing to do; you ask whether that would encourage a dog to chase you, but the owner trying to drag the dog back is still gonna hold them back a little even if they do try, especially if you and your dog are both working together in running like hell.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:11 AM on May 17, 2014

I always carry a sports bottle of water with me whenever I walk my dog and when we go to the dog park. If we come across an aggressive dog I basically spray it in the face by squeezing the bottle. I've had to use it a couple times and it's really quite effective. If nothing else, it gives you time to get away.
posted by cooker girl at 6:20 AM on May 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

To clarify, I do not stand my ground. We keep walking or we walk away from the aggressive dog. Only if we are chased or the other dogs runs up on my dog do I use the water.
posted by cooker girl at 6:22 AM on May 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Walking or running away can be good options for a number of situations, but an extremely aggressive dog may indeed be willing or eager to chase you, and I personally wouldn't want my back towards such an animal. An animal that can pull its owner across the street is capable of pulling the leash out of her hands.

I would back away from the other dog slowly, saying things like "GET BACK" in a loud but calm voice with as much bass as I can muster.

In the situation you describe, if I had access to pepper spray I absolutely would have sprayed that dog before it got close enough for me to kick it. I want to clear that dog away from being anywhere near me, because yes it's absolutely possible to attempt to kick a dog and get bitten instead. After I had sprayed it, as soon as I felt safe I would call 911 and report the situation. When I talked to the police I would give them as many specific, articulable facts as I could:

1) The dog's specific behaviors, such as snarling with teeth bared, loud barking, dragging its owner across the street
2) That I tried to disengage safely by retreating
3) That I warned the owner about 30 feet away that I would pepper spray her dog and her if necessary
4) That I tried to use vocalizations to warn the dog away
5) That I was afraid for my own safety and the safety of my dog

Etc. You don't just say things like "the dog was aggressive," you state the observed facts that led you to believe the dog was aggressive.
posted by kavasa at 6:23 AM on May 17, 2014 [21 favorites]

After my leashed dog was once attacked by a homeless man's unleashed dog and I started carrying pepper spray. I considered carrying a water bottle but I was worried about the dog having time to recover and then come barreling after us and in a situation like that there's no time to back away or issue warnings. That's why postal workers carry pepper spray. To me, my responsibility was to keep my dog safe. End of story.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:37 AM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is kicking under the chin the best way to stop an aggressive dog without a weapon?

Occasionally you will read about a postal worker or other person being attacked by an out-of-control dog, and they kick the dog at about the adam's apple. It sometimes knocks the wind out of the dog, and sometimes kills them. (My city has the 'honor' of being number 1 in dog attacks, so maybe I'm reading about this more than others.)

I'd start walking with pepper spray, but if you don't have pepper spray then a swift kick will work. Either way, I'd call the police as soon as the assault is over right there in front of the owner. It makes no sense to have a leash law if you are not actually going to control your animal, and next time it could be a child or an elderly person, or just someone unlucky enough to not be able to think on their feet as fast as you.
posted by Houstonian at 6:52 AM on May 17, 2014

by all means, take a video, the sight of an aggressive dog completely out of its owner's control will help you when you go to court.

ask the owner "do you have fifty thousand dollars lying around to hire a lawyer if that thing bites me? you know, they don't appoint public defenders for civil cases."

you did just fine kicking it. you scared it into submission. +1 for you.

a spray bottle full of water isn't really effective. a spray bottle full of ammonia, aimed at its eyes, is better. there are even more effective implements than that, but you can only acquire them from a federally licensed dealer - ok, i guess there's still a loophole for shows :-)

never turn your back and run away from a dog like this. it will take you down from the rear.
posted by bruce at 6:58 AM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Assuming no weapon. If the dog is giving you a warning of any sort. You back away slowly, don't make eye contact with the dog, stand side on talk to the dog in a calming voice while in the same voice telling the owner calmly but firmly to keep the dog away from you. Don't run, don't turn your back. Keep backing away, yawning and not making eye contact, telling the dog you are no threat. I am assuming the dog was approaching slowly as it was dragging it's owner. Keep arms, hands and anything easy to bite near to your body, also an outstretched arm can appear aggressive to a dog.

If a dog charges you and you have no other recourse and I mean no other have absolutely no other recourse, you make yourself as commanding no nonsense I am expecting you to obey kind of voice, not angry but commanding as possible you tell the dog to sit. Most, even badly trained dogs, know sit and better command that stop or go away as very few dogs know those. I have used both these methods to great effect.

You dog not kick or attempt to fight a dog unless it is actually attacking you even a small dog can cause nasty wounds and kicking a dog before it attacks may actually cause a dog that is just posturing to attack. While I think pepper spraying or beating a leashed dog would most likely get you in trouble, carrying pepper spray is probably not a bad idea.

These methods are however from about 30 years ago (how did I get so old so fast?) so there maybe more modern thinking out there.

I was taught the first 2 methods by a professional dog trainer my father took both us kids to to get over our fear of dogs, after my brother had half his face ripped off at the age of 6, and I mean off and hanging loose and eyeball hanging out, me holding his face on with a tshirt until the ambulance arrived sort of off. This was done by a neighbours unleashed boxer he showed not a second of aggression before the attack, make of that what you will.
posted by wwax at 6:59 AM on May 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

As a runner, I get confronted by dogs every so often. Far and away the best strategy for me is to point at them and yell "No!" in a very loud voice. Virtually every dog is trained to understand that command. Running away is a very poor solution as even the most friendly dog will give chase (although they won't bite). The only time I was ever bitten a dog ran up behind me and nipped me before I noticed they were there. I've never had to resort to violence, but if I was convinced the dog was going to bite I would do so. If it should comes to blows, you want to kick the nose, throat or behind the head. The top of a dog's head is extremely strong and you won't faze them at all hitting them there.

I've read that you should turn sideways and avoid direct eye contact, but that has never worked for me (although it does seem to work with angry geese). My wife has more trouble with the same dogs that don't trouble me at all. I think because I don't feel much fear of them, I'm certain that if it came to violence it would go badly for the dog and they seem to share my conviction. My wife is smaller and more concerned about the possibility of being injured -- we've considered a pepper spray for her, but thus far my routine of "No!" and "Bad Dog!" has also worked for her.
posted by Lame_username at 7:03 AM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

When the dog was coming toward you, did you ask the owner what the dog's intentions were? That's the first thing I would do...quickly of course.
posted by Dansaman at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2014

It may be a little annoying to carry this around when walking, but here's a technique that I've seen work well as a deterrent for aggressive dogs:

You take an empty (metal) soda can and fill it with rocks or coins, and tape over the opening. Then, if you are approached by an aggressive dog, you shake the can really hard. It makes a jarring noise, which I can only imagine is even more offensive to dogs than humans. Your dog may not be super pleased with it either, but it's a great way to de-escalate a situation like this one.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:40 AM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to run door to door efforts in political campaigns. Certain neighborhood we knew had problem dogs. For the people going in there we would give them about the "No!" trick mentioned above but also give then a watergun. We had no fatalities.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:44 AM on May 17, 2014

In lieu of pepper spray, you can always spray an aggressive dog in the face with a squirt bottle of ammonia.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:39 AM on May 17, 2014

We use avoidance a lot since my dogs were attacked, and I carry pepper spray. but the best method I've found for deterring an approaching strange dog is pretty harmless. Have a pocket full of tasty dog treats with you on every walk, and if an unfriendly dog starts to approach, scatter the treats on the ground in front of him. Gives you and your dog time to get away while the other dog searches for and eats all the treats. Works on most dogs (so long as they don't have tunnel vision and bloodlust).

Tip is taken from the renowned behaviorist Patricia McConnell, her post found here.
posted by vers at 9:48 AM on May 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Turning and running actually incites the chase instinct. Never, ever do that. Ever.

Some things that help:

Talk to the animal. I walk everywhere. I am often aggressively barked at by dogs on patios or in fenced yards. I often calmly say things like "Sorry I woke you. It's a public sidewalk. I have the right to be here. Yes, I know you are bored. etc". One dog I routinely walk past makes half-hearted confused noises at me after I start talking. They don't quite know what to do but they are not nearly as aggressive towards me as they used to be.

Avoid. Walk away but without fleeing. Try to wander off to the side instead of turning your back. If necessary, back away slowly. But do not ever turn your back or in any way flee. It reads that as "you are prey" and it triggers eons old instincts in the animal and just makes them more aggressive and more likely to attack.

Stare the dog down. This will unnerve the dog and will not make you any friends but it tends to cow them.

Convey your position with voice tone and body language and make sure that position is one of confidence, not fear. Signal to the animal that if he/she starts it, you plan to finish it rather than "please don't bite me." Instead, signal "Please don't make me hurt you, dumbass." But do it with voice tone and body language.

Don't yell, screech, run or otherwise signal fear. It just provokes the animal.
posted by Michele in California at 9:49 AM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I quite angrily dressed the owner down, telling her I was going to call the police and/or pepper spray the dog if this happened again.

Call the police now. Walking an aggressive dog that you can't control, in public, is negligent to the point of being malicious and I want this on the books before the next time it happens.
posted by ftm at 10:17 AM on May 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

do not let the threat of a lawsuit deter you from defending yourself against an aggressive dog by whatever means are necessary. the law views dogs as property, not people, so they can't recover damages for pain and suffering, and if the dog was attacking, its owner can't even recover vet bills or burial services. in short, the law elevates the right of a pedestrian not to be attacked by an aggressive dog over the right of a dog owner to inflict his beloved 135 pound pooch on innocent pedestrians.
posted by bruce at 10:18 AM on May 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

[A few comments deleted. If this pushes personal buttons for you and you can't answer in a constructive way, that is fine, but please pass the question by. Also, please don't get into debates with other commenters. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:27 AM on May 17, 2014

[Another comment deleted. Let's not have debates about emotionally-wrought hypotheticals here, folks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:32 AM on May 17, 2014

Don't kick dogs both for legal and safety reasons. As articulated above, if you kick a dog you are putting some delicate bits of your anatomy in range to be shredded by some rather sharp teeth, so it isn't actually that great of a self-defense technique. Also, there is some significant legal
Obviously, no one would advocate kicking animals unless it is required for self-defense. From a purely safety perspective, it is significantly better to have the dog bite your foot clad in a soled shoe than to be bitten on the leg through a thin layer of cloth. Once a dog has a hold on your leg, your ability to defend yourself is sharply reduced.

The person who is at risk of losing a lawsuit in a confrontation between a pedestrian and a violent or threatening dog is not the pedestrian. When I was young, our family dog bit or scratched someone who injured our dog. The dog was in our fenced yard and accounts varied about who acted first and who was leaning into whose property, but the party at risk was us and our lawyer scoffed at the idea that we could possibly prevail in a countersuit.
posted by Lame_username at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2014

Kick the dog, don't kick the dog, say something loud to the dog, dont say something loud.

It's obvious that people have used or will use a lot of tactics to get out of the situation. I don't know if you are looking for actual advice or justification.

Here's my input:

1. Do what you have to, in order to get out of the situation. Now of course, you wouldn't need to roundhouse a poodle puppy in the head, so use your best judgement. Do not try to stand your ground. What kind of idea is that? Just get out however you can. I agree with most people here who say walk away before you need to engage the dog.

2. You won't need to justify what you had to do, if you are being reasonable. But that is a secondary concern. Get yourself safe, first.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:32 AM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the comments.

To clarify some points raised above, I agree walking away is best, but the dog was quite intent at getting my dog, who himself behaves unpredictably around aggressive dogs. In the literally 4 or 5 seconds it took for the dog to be upon us, I made the decision not to run. When I kicked the dog, he was focused on my dog, not me, and I think he was quite surprised. Perhaps one/both of these decisions was incorrect, but my question is indeed how best to defend myself against an aggressive dog should I have to stand my ground, and pepper spray seems to be the winning answer.

Oh, and perhaps I should have called the police on the spot, but I was as angry as I can remember being, and I wanted to get out of the situation quickly.
posted by deadweightloss at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2014

One other thing to do is unleash your dog so it can run away a bit. That really reduces the likelihood of a fight and also gets your legs out of the way. I've done this several times with my dog, who is quite cowardly and will simply hide until the scary dog is gone then come back.

Also pepper spray the crap out of that dog. Fuck it, it needs to learn or be put down. And the owner needs to get a clue. You'd be doing them both a favor if you sprayed them.
posted by fshgrl at 2:03 PM on May 17, 2014

Advice may vary for potentially feral dogs, but the aggressive dogs I encounter in the city are typically that way because they have stupid owners who don't know how to train them. These dogs are, in my experience, very easily cowed by a show of dominant human authority, e.g. as loud and direct as you can muster, "NO!" (On the other hand, I am a larger male, and that may play into it.) Almost always that's been enough to get the dog to sort of stop and be confused, and then a "GO!" or "GO HOME!" gets it away from my dog. I'm oversimplifying what actually happens, but essentially I use my own lifetime of knowing dogs to inform my expectations of these dogs. It may seem like a cliché but you don't want to show weakness or fear. That puts you, broadly, in the category of prey and the dog will react accordingly. Just slide into the mindset of being boss and maybe acting like the dog's peckerhead owner.

(Similarly, I had a ferret some years ago and our dog at the time was always confused at this thing that looked like something small it should chase into a hole turning around and hissing and jumping at her face. It definitely works even if you're just 18 inches long and 4 of that is tail.)

I will say that if it comes to you calling 911, be prepared for the cops to shoot the dog. That's happened a couple of times around here. In one recent case, a person was cornered in their own garage by some loose dogs who had just moved in next door and obviously had no idea of their territory; he shot one of them, and though the owners bitterly complained, the DA filed no charges since he was defending himself on his own property. There are dog lovers out there, but most people who know dogs even a little know they shouldn't be chasing strangers.
posted by dhartung at 5:08 PM on May 17, 2014

If you have any identifying information on this person at all, call your city's animal control department and let them know what happened. They might have gotten complaints about this person before and will take their dog.

If you are ever in a similar situation, call either animal control or the police (and hopefully they'll bring animal control with them).

This person should not be walking their dog and probably shouldn't own a dog. I can't speak for your city but in mine, the city's animal control shelter is usually empty and just has a list of recent adoptees so I'm pretty comfortable asserting that any dogs that they seize end up with better owners.

That dog needs to be re-homed and rehabilitated.
posted by VTX at 4:11 PM on May 18, 2014

Just as another point of concern: Hitting a dog with a stick is not even as easy as it sounds. They generally have much quicker reflexes than humans, and the one time in my life when I felt a need to use a stick to beat off a dog, it easily dodged the blow, and my use of the stick became more "hold it off physically" as I realized that attempting to hit the dog left me unguarded after I missed.

Caveat: this was a smaller dog. I don't doubt I could have hit a Rott, but I'm just saying: Don't feel like a big stick necessarily gives you the advantage over a dog. They are dangerous, leather-armored carnivores, by nature, and you are a naked ape.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:07 PM on May 19, 2014

How big is your dog? I will pick my dogs up and back away while still facing the aggressive dog, but my dogs each weigh under 10 lbs.

Also, keep the number for animal control in your phone. They won't be able to help immediately, most likely, but if you have problems with the same dog over and over, they are going to be the ones that go and talk to that dog and owner. If you don't know where the dog and owner live, ask around. If you know people in the neighborhood, ask if anyone else has had this behavior directed toward them.
posted by freezer cake at 5:31 PM on May 20, 2014

An update: I didn't call the police after it happened in part because I didn't know where the dog lives. Yesterday morning, we figured that out, and I called the non-emergency number for the police. A policeman came to our house today, took my wife's statement (I had already described what happened the woman who answered the phone), and told us he would go talk to the family with the dog, warn them of future consequences if they can't control their animal, and gave me the option of pressing charges, which would result in a $500 fine, which they could presumably then contest in a court. Hopefully this will bring the family to their senses and such an incident won't happen again.

For those who were shocked that I would kick a dog, both I and my wife made sure to mention this detail to the police. So far, we don't seem to be in jail.

I've also attached a pepper spray canister to my dog's leash, so it will always be near my hand when we're outside.

Thanks to those who encouraged the pepper spray and a call to the police.
posted by deadweightloss at 4:23 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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