Many people have dogs these days. Many dogs are friendly and well trained. Some are not. Their genes wired them with hundreds of years of aggressiveness. Some people train dogs for protection. While noisy little chihuahuas might nip you, it’s the bigger ones that can give you a lot of grief and pain.
To deal with an aggressive dog, it is essential to recognize as soon as possible whether the dog is going to 1) attack no matter what you do, or 2) if it is protecting its property or being aggressive.
If a dog is in Type 1 attack mode, running at full speed and barking wildly, it will not stop. Your only hope is to run away, find a big stick or weapon in a few seconds, or climb something high. Real fast. If you can’t get away, hit or kick its head away from you. If all else fails, sacrifice your left arm by holding it in front of you. The dog will take it and hold on fiercely. This will hurt. A lot. Try to stay on your feet and knee or kick it in the stomach to knock the breath out of it. Or thumb its eyes or choke it while calling for help. This ending will involve many stitches.
In one incident, an unleashed, anger-filled pit bull ran at me barking savagely. No stopping this one. Luckily, I jumped on nearby car until the owner brought the dog under control. I thought I was dead. My heart pounded for hours.
Fortunately, most incidents are Type 2 where your actions will determine the dog’s actions. The first rule is to never run. Dogs sense fear and will enter chase and attack mode. They’ll grab your legs like a lion bites a buffalo’s legs and take you down. Instead, face the attacking dog and show no fear.
The second rule is to never look a dog in the eyes. That is a sign of aggression. Look at its head or tail or feet to show strength without antagonism.
The third rule is do not move. This often causes the dog to stop. An exception to this rule that sometimes works is gently talking to the dog and slowly moving your hand out for it to smell. Be ready to jerk your hand back if he tries to bite it. A dog that smells your hand will generally end the confrontation and you can slowly move away.
Small to medium size dogs make a lot of noise but can be kept at bay with well-aimed kicks. It’s the large dogs that can really hurt or kill you.
The following is an example of how I dealt with an aggressive dog while living in the Bahamas. Many Bahamians have dogs that protect their property by barking, but they are not trained attack dogs. Bahamians cook a lot of soups and dishes in large pots. Instead of cleaning the pots when finished, more ingredients are added and cooked again. After a while, burned food builds up on the bottom of the pot in thick layers called potcake. The black potcake, a mixture of many meals, is scraped out of the pot and fed to dogs. Hence the mixed breed of street dogs is called potcakes.
As a group of fellow workers and I walked along a fence line of a construction site, a medium-sized white dog in a yard on the other side of the fence started barking violently. It’s owner, an elderly woman, tried in vain to calm the dog down. We watched the scene momentarily, then moved on when it appeared the fence would stop the dog. A few steps later the lady screamed as the dog pushed under the fence and approached us while barking violently. I knew better than to run. My buddies stepped back leaving me the closest person to the mad dog. I turned to face the potcake and froze, looking over his head. It stopped six feet away from me, ferociously barking while the woman screamed and yelled, creating a cacophony of chaos. I stood stock-still for two minutes. So did the dog. Why didn’t my buddies do something? I moved to my left. It moved to the left. I moved to the right. It moved to the right. Having grown up as a dog trainer, I wasn’t afraid. The worst that could happen would be a bite and a few stitches while I hurt the dog. But an incident on the job would end up with hours of paperwork about a government employee incident. My face went calm. I stared at the screaming woman and waited. Three more minutes. I did not move. The dog barked and growled but came no closer. Finally, one of the men behind me picked up a stick and swung at the potcake. It yelped and ran back to its yard. The woman apologized and left. All was well and we went back to work, though I shook for a while.