Surviving a Dog Attack

My wife has had several encounters with attacking dogs.  She likes to walk/run early in the morning and has had the unfortunate experiences of dogs coming after her during her exercise.  She’s had two little yapper dogs attack her.  While one distracted her, the other came up from behind and bit her ankle.

She had a very scary experience while visiting our family in Washington.  While walking through a neighborhood, a large dog ran after her and tried to take her down.  He bit her several times mostly just tearing her clothes.  My wife ran to the door of one of the nearby houses pounding and screaming for help.  It just happened to be the owners of the dog and they were able to control him and then acted like it was no big deal.  Needless to say, my wife is now very aware of the potential dangers of lose dogs roaming the neighborhood.

Later that week, my wife came across an older man walking through the neighborhood carrying a large walking stick.  He chatted with my wife and mentioned how dogs were a real problem in the area and he kept this large walking stick with him as a weapon to fend off dog attacks.

Dog attacks are far more frequent that one might think.  In fact, the CDC documents just under 5 million dog bites annually in the United States.  Over 800,000 of dog bite victims annually will require medical attention, nearly 400,000 of those victims are children.  Up to as many as 34 people have died annually as a result of a dog bite.  Even with the laws today about leashing your dog, there are still plenty of dogs that run free no matter where you live.

Though you can be attacked by a dog on any day, think of what will happen to dogs if there’s a major collapse and food becomes scarce.  Many dogs will be left behind when their owners die or when their owners leave in a panic in an attempt to save themselves and their children.  Other dogs, who may have been strays but were being fed at least occasionally by the kindness of strangers, will now be left to find their own food.

What You Need to Know

Upon initial confrontation, all dogs want to know three things, who you are, why you are in their space, and who is in charge.  Knowing how to act when confronted by a dog may be the one thing that can prevent the dog from attacking you or at least minimize your injuries.

There are two positions an aggressive dog can take, offense or defense.  A dog that feels threatened will growl and bark while moving away from you.  If this is happening, he is hoping you will also move away.  A dog that is tense with their ears flat against their head is definitely not happy with you.

Dogs will bite for many reasons, but typically they bite in reaction to stress or because they feel threatened or cornered, and scared.  A dog that isn’t feeling well or is surprised can bite.  Dogs bite to protect themselves, their owners, or their puppies.

Tips for Dealing with a Strange Dog That Approaches You

Stand still and stand up straight, keeping your eyes on the dog at all times.  Remain calm.  Try firmly telling the dog to sit or stay.  Slowly step backwards away from the dog.

Talk in a gentle, soothing voice.  Turn to stay facing the dog if he circles you.  Do not let him get behind you.  Do not shout.  Limit your body movements and keep your arms down at your sides.

In a closed space, never make a dog feel cornered!  Gaze at a spot on the dog’s body but not in their eyes.

A dog that appears aggressive is NOT trying to scare you away. They are issuing a challenge for you to come closer or run away so they can chase you down.  Smiling at a dog and baring your teeth can actually be seen as aggression by the dog.

Typically, wild dogs by themselves will shy away from humans, they are simply looking for food.  But in a collapse scenario, wild dogs may form packs and roam the streets.  Packs of dogs become more dangerous and in a collapse scenario, the prey they normally would feast on will be dwindling due to hungry humans hunting in large numbers.

Keep in mind that many dogs can run faster than you. Pull your gun and prepare to shoot as soon as you become aware of a strange dog in the area. The average person can run nearly 20 feet in the time it takes to pull your holstered gun and fire. Dogs run faster than people!

Always carry several weapon options including your firearm, pepper spray, a baton, or even a small stick.

If a Dog Attack is Inevitable

If your attempts to calm the dog are not working and the dog is bent on attacking you, then you will need to be prepared to defend yourself.  This is especially true for a dog that is clearly very hungry.  Look for any kind of weapon to put between the dog and you.  In a frenzied attack, a dog will bite just about anything.  Items you can try include a stick, backpack, book, rake, baseball bat, your knife, etc.  Pretty much anything you can put between you and the dog will work, including your purse or a trash can lid.

If you have nothing else, wrap one arm with a jacket or shirt to protect yourself and hold that arm up as you signal for help or retreat.  Target the throat, face, or eyes of a dog with your knife for maximum impact.  The best way to try to disable a dog quickly and prevent a serious bite or injury to yourself or a victim being attacked by a dog is to attack the throat, face, or jaw muscles.  If you carry a gun, aim for the head or face when firing a smaller caliber gun.  Only aim for the dog’s body if you carry a larger caliber gun.

Try to avoid ending up on the ground with the dog.  You have the advantage while you remain standing.  If you do end up on the ground, protect your throat and face by covering your head with your arms. Roll as quick as you can back and forth along the ground.  This should result in throwing the dog off of you and give you time to get to your feet.

If the dog continues to hang on even after you’ve rolled several times, aim for an eye socket with whatever you have, your thumb or any object will suffice.  Depending on how confident you are in the strength of your hands, you can also put both hands around the dog’s neck and attempt to cut off blood flow to the brain.  If you choose to try this, do not let up until you are positive the dog is dead or it could re-energize and continue attacking you.

Regardless of the type of dog, the best method for surviving a dog attack is prevention.  In a post-collapse scenario, try to avoid places where you have seen wild or feral dogs.  Stay close to camp or inside your home once it gets dusk and avoid going out at night if you can help it as that’s when feral dogs are more likely to be out.  Avoid any areas where trash has accumulated or is being stored.

It is possible to survive a dog attack if you stay alert and follow the precautions outlined for you above. Above all, stay calm, don’t scream, and signal for help if you can do so safely.  If possible back away slowly until the dog no longer seems interested or until you can get inside or get on top of a vehicle or into a tree.  If an attack seems inevitable, do what you can to minimize your injuries and prepare to fight the dogs with whatever resources you have.


More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry