Encounters with unleased, people-free dog(s)
February 9, 2007 11:57 AM   Subscribe

A friend was walking her dog (a sturdy greyhound-dalmatian mix) on a quiet side street in her neighborhood. She looked across the street and saw a pitbull with no collar (just a bandana) and a wire muzzle.

The pitbull saw my friend and her dog, it crossed the street and the dogs immediately began to fight. My friend used her best alpha voice to try to distract them and she tried to pull her dog away. Nothing worked. Finally she yelled for help and thankfully someone came out of their house and pulled the pit bull away. No one was hurt but the emotional toll was huge; what if the pitbull hadn't been muzzled? What could she have done? And of course then I thought, what would I have done if it were me and my dog (who is scrappy, but smaller)? IF I let my dog go and the other dog caught it, they would be too far away for me to do anything (not that that would be safe anyway) and then there's the possibility of my dog getting hit by a car if I were to let her go. We have had an encounter with an unleashed, somewhat aggressive dog that I scared away by yelling but that (obviously) won't alway work. I am thinking about getting some mace (really a mace-like product) What would you do? What have you done?
posted by nnk to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We had loose dogs in our neighborhood. A neigbhor got attacked, my dog was attacked, two times that required stiches. Everyone just walked with a baton or sticks after that. Noise makers were carried, that high pitch stuff, but I am not sure that works. A good bonk on the nose with a baton will usely send them scurrying, but it might also make them more mad and they may attack you.

Always be quick to call animal control. They will give the offending party a warning usually.
posted by stormygrey at 12:13 PM on February 9, 2007

Contact your local Animal Control: loose pitbulls are a public danger, not just to your dog. I'd carry a big, solid stick too, when walking nearby; a stick strong enough to knock a dog out.
posted by anadem at 12:18 PM on February 9, 2007

Best answer: NNK, your profile does not list your location, but if you are in an American city, there are almost certainly local laws dealing with unleashed/unfenced dogs in and dogs which attack other dogs and people.

Find your local Animal Control office in the governent section of your phone book, or by calling your local police non-emergency dispatch line and asking. Complain about the incident, and call again each time you see the pit bull or any other dog loose in your area.

To answer your question more precisely: In that specific situation, I have determined that I would release my own dog (whom I love dearly, but not to death) in hopes of distracting the attacking dog and run away to find a weapon (bat, crowbar, knife, gun, whatever) as quickly as possible to drive the attacking dog away; or, preferably, kill it outright. Oh, and call the cops on my cellphone.

I have acquaintences who carry a stun-wand when walking their very small dogs, to deal with just this eventuality. He said the mere sound of the spark from this thing was enough to frighten away a hostile pit bull in his neighborhood.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:19 PM on February 9, 2007

To add on to BigLankyBastard's thought, remember the human's safety is paramount. Dog fights can be vicious, try to stay out. I had to get stiches on my ankle trying to pull my poor dog out of the mouth of a big dog named "Killer", which my neighbor swore up and down was the sweetest animal ever.
posted by stormygrey at 12:23 PM on February 9, 2007

Response by poster: to follow up -- when help arrived to pull the other dog away, my friend took her dog and went home. When she got home, she did call the police. We don't know if they got the dog, because we're not sure if the rescuers held onto it or let it go.
posted by nnk at 12:23 PM on February 9, 2007

Echoing everyone else here: Dogs can kill... take the threat seriously.
posted by dcjd at 12:37 PM on February 9, 2007

Your local bicycle shop may sell a spray designed to deter dogs called "Halt!". I have some when I ride, but I've never had to use it. It's a pepper spray though, and if you're not comfortable with that, as an alternative, there's a product called "Direct Stop" that is supposed to be more humane (citronella instead of capsaicin, but I've never heard of it. My mail carrier takes something similar with her on her walking routes.

Nthing the always call animal control when in this situation. Hopefully this doesn't happen to you again.
posted by sephira at 12:50 PM on February 9, 2007

When put on the spot by a strange dog who is aggressively approaching your dog, I've found twirling the loose end of the leash in a big circle effective: most dogs have never seen anything like it and it's unnerving enough to put them off while you back away (still twirling). Practice this in stages with your dog so you don't freak him out too. It helps if you are using a heavy (at least 1/2" width) leather leash vs a nylon lead.
posted by jamaro at 12:54 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I like jamaro's suggestion, never even heard of that.

The aforementioned pepper spray mace works well, but be warned it's hard to aim - pretty much all the dogs, including yours, and any people nearby will also be affected.

My mailman reports the more humane versions, such as the citronela and bitter apple sprays, don't work very well.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:13 PM on February 9, 2007

The few times aggressive dogs have charged me, I kicked them very hard in the snout. This was successful each time. I guess sandals or heels could make this not a viable strategy.
posted by spaltavian at 1:45 PM on February 9, 2007

I'm glad that your friend's dog is ok. While I'm sure that the emotional toll is huge, take heart that it is much less than what it would be if the dog or your friend were hurt or killed.

The other advice here has been good.

How did your friend find a greyhound mix? In my experience, nearly all greyhounds are purebred because of the racing industry's tight control over all breeding and unaltered adults.
posted by jcwagner at 1:49 PM on February 9, 2007

I don't know if this would have been wise/possible in your friend's situation, but we've used the wheelbarrow method successfully when our own dogs have fought. You grab the dog's hind legs and pull it away from the fight. That way it's hard for them to turn around and bite you. Ideally you have another person there to do this with the other dog as well.
posted by kmel at 2:21 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You said your dog was small--when my dog was a wee l'il puppy, I would just pick him up when a loose, big dog came around (I lived in a crummy neighborhood, so we had plenty).

This site has solid tips on breaking up a dog fight. It says that shouting doesn't affect the dogs as they are already riled up; however, if you're alone and can get someone else to help you (especially the loose dog's owner), then that's a value to shouting.
posted by neda at 2:43 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I used to live in a neighborhood where loose dogs were a real problem. One time a dog whose owner was walking it unleashed, attacked my cat. Owner skedaddled before I could get her phone number, and animal control gave me the big ol' runaround ("Sorry, but if you don't know who owns the dog and we don't catch them in the act, we can't do nothin'"). In all fairness, the AC department in my city was so terribly overburdened that my local paper ran an article about it.

The preceding posts have good advice. Sometimes it's possible to keep one's eyes peeled and avoid loose dogs that look like trouble - but sometimes it's not, and best to be prepared.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:05 PM on February 9, 2007

The suggestion to carry a stick isn't a bad one but anything less than a baseball bat will be useless against a pit who has blood in mind. I've owned one an he was a sweet and relatively peaceful dog around children, puppies, myself and my family. He would also tolerate human strangers. He would not tolerate an adult dog or other animal in his presence. I eventually had to give him to a family friend who owned a farm. As it turned out he had to keep him securely fenced in or chained to prevent him from attacking his live stock including adult bulls and hogs. Any animal who can survive a run in with either animal is not going to be impressed by a stick. Pits aren't the only dogs you have to be careful with but you don't want to take any chances with the breed.

I loved that dog and can understand why some owner foolishly won't even consider that theirs might attack. The problem with Pits is that if they do decide to attack they are much better equipped for the task than other breeds.
posted by Carbolic at 3:14 PM on February 9, 2007

Get some Bear Mace.
posted by The God Complex at 3:50 PM on February 9, 2007

A year and a half ago, a pit bull on our road broke its lead, and attacked me and my dog while I was running. I got in front of my dog, got gashed on the knee and hand, and screamed at the dog which slunk away. I got my knee stapled back together and a couple of stitches in my hand. The $5000 from the insurance company eventually made the pain go away.

I was initially ambivalent about pursuing the death penalty, afterall it was the stupid owners fault, not the dogs. In the end someone convinced me by asking how I'd feel if the dog hurt or killed a young child (which was very possible). I then had to go to the town board for a hearing where an order was given and the dog was put to sleep.

My advice is pursue this as far as you can. The dog is dangerous. The foucus has to be on getting a dangerous dog out of a populated area, not on how to protect yourself.
posted by Xurando at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In a dog fight, it's every dog for himself.

Dogs on a leash are prevented from the full range of behaviors, including submissive behaviors, that naturally mediate the beginnings of any dog to dog encounter, including those that become fights. If you hold a leash on your animal, you're in the fight. Against a pit bull, even if you're armed with a stick, that's a foolish position to be in, even if the pit bull appears to be muzzled. Your best bet, and your dog's best bet, by far, is for you to drop the leash. Let your dog run away, or be submissive, or do whatever your dog thinks is the smart bet. You concentrate on protecting yourself, and getting help. After the threat from the aggressive dog is neutralized, hopefully with you unhurt, you'll be in a position to aid your own dog, and pursue remedies to ensure that the aggressive dog is handled properly.

I hate to see any dog put down, but an owner who is muzzling a pit bull, yet letting it roam freely hasn't the common sense to handle such a dog. And in the end, that dog is headed for trouble that is only going to end with the dog's destruction. All you can do, should it confront you again, or in a similar situation, is to limit damage to yourself and your own dog, and pursue effective action on the part of your local animal control officials.
posted by paulsc at 4:35 PM on February 9, 2007

Carry a gun. Shoot the other dog. Try not to hit bystanders or your own dog.
posted by Netzapper at 4:47 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I was in high school I used to walk my dog every night, often past houses with aggressive (yet fenced-in) dogs. One one occasion, a German shepherd (about half again as big as my dog) came running up to us in a threatening manner (I managed to scare him off by yelling). The owner later told me that he would sic his dog on mine if he ever caught my dog shitting on his lawn again. He was off his nut, because I had trained my dog to keep his number-twos to a medial strip in another part of the neighborhood, and he never left home without being on a leash. It was then I decided what I would do if my dog were ever threatened.

I would attack and beat the other dog into incapacity, or to death if I had to. Seriously. Nobody fucks with my dogs.

I would then cry myself to sleep for weeks, because I had to hurt a dog.

(I realize that attacking an angry German shepherd isn't the smartest decision, but (a) I know that, in such a situation, I'd be so full of rage I'd be unable to see straight, so I may as well put it to use, and (b) I imagine it would be easier to get the drop on a dog that's occupied attacking another dog.)
posted by hifiparasol at 5:18 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

We had a staffordshire terrier (sort of like a pit) get a hold of one of our dogs by the neck when I was a kid. My dad simply unclipped our dogs leash, slipped it around the staffies neck and proceeded to choke it unconscious. Meanwhile, of course, it was doing the same to our dog but luckily my Dad got there first. The ensuing shouting match between the various dog owners was more traumatic to us kids.

I used the same method on a malamute that got into our yard and was doing it's best to kill our big male dog with equal success. If the dog is wearing a collar you can just stick something in there and twist and it will have to let go pretty soon. The non-pit breeds are far more likely to turn around and go after a human though, which is what the malamute did. Luckily we had some rope right there and I managed to muzzle it before it got anyone. Then the owner complained that her dog had a scrape on it's nose because I used rough rope! our poor dog had to get 35 stitches, I felt like telling her she was lucky we didn't just shoot it!
posted by fshgrl at 6:32 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Find a squirt gun that doesn't leak and load with it with ammonia.

Small, easy to aim, not much collateral damage. It won't harm the attacking dog, and may even save his life by compelling him to become more sociable.
posted by Operation Afterglow at 6:37 PM on February 9, 2007

Previously. Also, this, linked from this thread.
posted by hindmost at 7:48 PM on February 9, 2007

My mom carries a golf club whenever she walks our dog. She's only had to wave it a couple of times, but it's also handy for breaking ice, poking at interesting things, and climbing steep hills. If you go this route, though, you have to be able to commit to swinging that golf club. It's pointless to carry it if you're not willing to use it.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:28 PM on February 10, 2007

I had just about this exact thing happen to me when I was little. I think I did exactly what you aren't supposed to do. I just kept pulling my dog away from the two german shepherds that were attacking her and hollering for help. It went on for a long time, nobody could hear me or wanted to come out of their houses to help me. Eventually one fellow did, and after he (a full grown man and much scarier to dogs) ran the shepherds off he meekly explained that he had thought my shouts of "Help!" were a TV on in the next room.
posted by shanevsevil at 9:02 AM on February 11, 2007

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