How to Survive a Dog Attack

Dogs bark to defend their territory.
Dogs bark to defend their territory. (Image: mj0007/iStock/Getty Images)

Dogs attack through fear, to assert dominance when their predatory instinct engages, but you can prevent or survive a dog attack by reducing your threat to the dog and using clothing or objects to protect yourself. Walking past a dog's territory sometimes sparks an attack. Runners and joggers may be attacked because the dog sees them moving away quickly, and reacts as if they are prey. Behavior that shows a dog may bite includes an intense stare, backing away, a stiff tail and tense body, pulled back ears or head and a furrowed brow.

Preventing a Dog Attack

If you're faced with an aggressive dog that you believe is about to attack, you may be able to diffuse the situation with a few simple tips. Dog trainer Cesar Milan advises that you don't look directly at the dog, but watch him from the corner of your eye. Turn your body slightly sideways, and stay as calm and in control as you can. Keep your hands at your sides, or if you're carrying an umbrella, cane or other long or wide object, hold it out in front of you. This makes you look bigger and in command of your space. Don't yell or kick an aggressive dog because this excites his hostile feelings. Don't turn or run away because this can make you look like prey to be chased.

Defending Yourself

A dog who bites can be terrifying, but you can protect yourself from attack and reduce your injuries. When the dog tries to bite, feed him your sweater, bag or any other loose item you're wearing or carrying. If you're wearing a sweater, pull your arm out of the sleeve and and put it in the dog's face. Let the dog pull the sweater off you, and slowly back away. If you're out jogging or running in areas there are sometimes aggressive dogs, it's a good idea to tie a sweater around your waist in case of attack, according to Cesar Milan. If you can't avoid being bitten, the safest places for dog bites are the forearms and shins. Hold your hands as fists to prevent the dog from biting your fingers. Protect your face, throat and chest as much as possible; try to avoid bites to the thighs, which can cause serious bleeding. If you can resist the urge, don't pull away when a dog bites as this could make an injury worse. The Humane Society of the United States says that you should clean dog bites thoroughly with warm soapy water, and see a doctor immediately. After being treated, call your local animal control agency to report the attack.

Surviving an Attack

When faced with a relentless attack from a dog, you may fall or get knocked to the ground. If this happens, The Humane Society of the United States advises that you don't scream or roll around, but curl into a ball with your hands in fists over your ears. Tuck your head in to avoid bites to your lips, nose and cheeks, which are common areas of attack. Stay as still as you can. If you're carrying a protective device such as pepper spray, you may be able to use it to repel the dog and make him stop.

Avoiding Dog Attacks

There are many steps you can take to avoid dog attacks. The ASPCA says that you should assume any dog who doesn't know you sees you as a threat; never approach unfamiliar dogs. Don't disturb dogs who are sleeping, chewing on toys, eating or caring for puppies. If you regularly encounter a dog who barks at you when you're jogging, stop and walk. Running away teaches the dog he has successfully made you leave, and possibly makes him more excited the next time he sees you, according to Cesar Milan. Over time, this excitement can make him want to chase and bite you. Never leave babies or young children alone with dogs, and teach children to be careful around dogs.

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