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In the context of many recent (Rose N Poos) and long past (Quossum and Sugarfoot come to mind) situations where PF members have had to face the challenge of aggressive dogs while out on walks or at dog parks it seems really important for people to know how to handle (or at least have ideas to cope with) these issues.

The first thing I will say that having you safe is the first thing that you need to consider. Remember if you are a parent of minor children or care provider for an elderly or disabled loved one they will be really adversely affected by you being killed, disabled or otherwise maimed or traumatized. The instinct to protect your dog(s) must be subordinate to the needs of those people around you. Trust me I would be horrified to have one of our dogs maimed or killed, but I am the main financial asset (among many other things of value) to my family. If I saved Lily but I died the rest of my family would have a hard time making ends meet and maintaining their current quality of life.

In no particular order here are things I think are appropriate responses to an off leash aggressive dog:

Drop your leash(es); Your dog is more likely to be able to defend itself if it has a chance to make an escape if it doesn't become aggressive itself. If your dog does respond with its own aggression you can be as much or more of a target if you are holding onto the leash

Scream loudly to startle all of the dogs and recruit help

If your dog is trying to escape try very hard to get a hold on the aggressors hind legs and lift them like the handles of a wheelbarrow. this pushes that dogs center of gravity down low and to keep from doing a face plant they are not likely to take even one foot off the ground. Back away from the dog while you do this. It will make it almost impossible for them to reach around and bite you.

If you are going to carry some sort of spray make sure it is legal to use. For example you might be able to carry pepper spray to protcet yourself but not your dog. Pepper spray can blow back on you or on your dog making you more vulnerable. Canned air ofr an air horn are probably better choice.

Above are things I think are very basic for any size dogs.

More broadly always maintain situational awareness. Keep in mind where there are dogs charging front doors or dogs on tethers but the yard has no fence or has a poorly maintained fence. Avoid passing homes where you know people simply open their door and let their dogs loose on their property. How much car traffic might there be at different times of day that could obstruct your view of what is happening further down the street. Be mindful of your dog's own behavioral concerns and how to manage them. For example I never allow our dogs to greet other dogs when we are out for a walk. One neighbor who is frail and elderly and not so savvy about managing her dog(s) (walks them on extremely long bungy leashes) always asks me why I am walking aggressive dogs when I tell her I don't allow them to greet her dogs. Uh duh lady! First you don't have good control over your dog. Next I don't want my dogs playing around in the street. A number of years ago (when I had the patience to interact with her) Peeves' head came within inches of the front bumper of a car when he broke a sit stay to try to cross the street. Seeing her has become one of my situational awareness criteria. I generally turn around and pick up my pace so I can get away from her if I see her coming towards me.

I hope this is helpful (and you didn't have to pay for it). Add more and ask for it to be a sticky if you think it is worth it.
 

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Love it so far. On the topic of protecting oneself, be aware of the dangers of redirected aggression. Say you are breaking up a situation between two dogs. A dog, when it can't get to the dog it really wants to bite, might spin around and bite you instead.
 

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Very true cowpony. One of the hardest aspects of these situations involve one person and two or more dogs. This is why if you think your dog will choose to retreat trying to get the aggressor to not have free mobility is so important (the wheelbarrrow technique).
 
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Runners and cyclists know all too well how motion can trigger a dog attack.

If a threatening dog approaches, resist the urge to turn your back and run. If it's too late to give distance and keep walking, stand your ground and be confident but "boring." Don't antagonize with eye contact or threatening postures. Use a firm, low voice.

The one time I've had to do this, it worked. But I've felt nervous riding my bike in rural areas ever since.
 

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Peggy that is a great addition. I'll up that to say if your dog is good at giving calming signals that can really help to. Lily is innately excellent at sending calming signals. We have had a couple of mildly uncomfortable events that involved rotties. Both times she turned her back on the dog that was paying attention to her in potentially aggressive scenarios. Once was in a canine exercise with obedience class. Only two teams were participating and the instructors was very involved with the other handler and her rottie who put a hard stare on Lily. She turned her back on the other dog and sat just as I said to the other people that they had to break the rottie's eye contact on her and to cowpony's point when they did so the dog bit her owner, not horrible but enough to be scary to the owner. The other time was in old fashioned novice sits and downs where you took leashes off and did a 1 minute sit and then a 3 minute down with handlers facing the dogs from across the ring. A rottie moved next to us out of catalog order because he had been exchanging hard eyes with a male GSD all day (both were intact males. I knew his owner well enough that she would correct and collect her dog if he looked at all as if he would break his stay, but he clearly made Lily nervous during the sit so she did the 1 minute with her head turned away from him and then did the down having laid down diagonally away from him so far away from heel that I had to take extra steps to avoid stepping on her.
 

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I've been successful just bellowing "no" and "bad" which most dogs understand. I also stand my ground facing them and try to look big. A dogwalker told me she throws a handful of treats at the attacking dog which might be worth a try. If there are a bunch of dogs near my house and I want to walk past them, I tuck a mini airhorn in my pocket.

I live on a cul-de-sac next to an unfenced, open field the local idiots call "the dog park". I have to walk past this field to walk toward or from my house, so I've been threatened a lot of times, but only bitten once. My elderly spoo and I were both bitten last summer when the neighborhood bad-doodle popped out from behind a hedge — the small part of the field that isn't visible — and gave us a chomp before I could react. Fortunately, he wasn't a very hard biter for an 80 lbs dog. His owner chewed me out again, like she did the previous time that he came after us (she's the sort of person who believes that everyone else is always at fault), so I went home seething and called Animal Control. Crazy people still have to obey the law.
 

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Good point about situational awareness. Dog attacks are so sudden, you need to be prepared: a whistle, your phone, a billy club, ANY aerosol spray, treats, no flexi leashes, a reflective vest. My basics as an attack veteran. In every incident I’ve had, the dog has been the target. My husband risked his life to protect our Scottie from two pit bulls. I don’t think I would not have been so selfless out of sheer terror. I’ve thought about this. DH thinks I would have been killed. Do treat it like a PTSD, it damn sure is.
 

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Note: I'm no dog trainer; none of what I'll say or what has been said might work; there are an infinite number of variables in these situations.

...I'd thought about carrying an umbrella or walking stick... If this should ever happen again, my feet are my only weapon...
My late father who grew up as a country boy, always carried a stick when going for a walk. This was with or without a dog, and he loved going on walks well into his 90s. If he was ever attacked and bitten he never mentioned it to me. From evolution, I think most dogs instinctively recognize human weapons: sticks, rocks, and fire, and the brighter ones think twice before attacking. Better to have a sturdy walking than nothing at all.

The main problem I see with using one's feet as a defense strategy is if you lose your footing and fall, you might be toast, especially if there are two large attacking dogs who can maul and bite while you're down. Not a pleasant thought; gives me the creeps imagining it. However I agree that in absence of any weapons and wearing a pair of heavy shoes and good swift kick to the throat combined with screaming NO! HELP! NO! might be the only actions that work in some situations.


... If your dog is trying to escape try very hard to get a hold on the aggressors hind legs and lift them like the handles of a wheelbarrow. this pushes that dogs center of gravity down low and to keep from doing a face plant they are not likely to take even one foot off the ground. Back away from the dog while you do this. It will make it almost impossible for them to reach around and bite you...
I have seen this technique referenced before elsewhere, but it was used with two people handling the situation where the attacking dog has part of the smaller dog in it's mouth in a 'grab and shake' attack.

Person #1 is in front of attacking dog, and grabs the vulnerable dog, while simultaneously Person #2 grabs the hind legs of the aggressive dog and sticks their thumb in its anus. Person #1 then tries to pry out the leg or body of the vulnerable dog. If the attacking dog is merely responding to it's prey drive and isn't vicious toward people, Person #1 can also grab it's collar if applicable and open it's mouth to remove small dog's leg, etc.

My concern is that larger dogs are extremely strong and fast, and if there's only one Person trying to sneak up behind it and do the wheelbarrow maneuver, she'd better not miss when grabbing those back legs or she runs the risk of getting attacked and seriously injured. I think a person would have to be extremely strong and fast to succeed doing that by themselves. Even if there are two people, trying to control a muscular, high aggressive dog like a Pitt, it may then turn on the person. Then what? I don't know, I just know you'd best not fall.

... If a threatening dog approaches, resist the urge to turn your back and run. If it's too late to give distance and keep walking, stand your ground and be confident but "boring." Don't antagonize with eye contact or threatening postures. Use a firm, low voice. The one time I've had to do this, it worked. But I've felt nervous riding my bike in rural areas ever since.
I've read where that works too with threatening dogs that aren't in the attack stage yet.

I've been successful just bellowing "no" and "bad" which most dogs understand. I also stand my ground facing them and try to look big. A dogwalker told me she throws a handful of treats at the attacking dog which might be worth a try. If there are a bunch of dogs near my house and I want to walk past them, I tuck a mini airhorn in my pocket.
Yes! I've read the "look big" technique works even with bears. I hope to never try either.

... My husband risked his life to protect our Scottie from two pit bulls...
Two Pits? OMG. What did he do to stop the attack, and was he or your Scottie injured?
 

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I agree with the drop the leash comments!

I used to bike with my dog as a teenager, and was sternly admonished by my parents to release her from the bike attachment if a bear or aggressive dog ever approached. The theory was the dog would lead the bear to me, and the dog had a MUCH better chance of survival if off leash and able to defend itself. Luckily the only dog who ever approached was a lab, and I ended up hopping off the bike to lead him to his house because he tried to follow us home :) I probably would only release the dog if the bear was making aggressive movements - otherwise "slowly back away and look big" is probably better advice.

I've also noticed how different Annie's body language is on leash, and how constrained. From watching her deal with "difficult" dogs at the dog park, I have a feeling with most aggressive dogs, she could probably appease them out of an attack if she's off leash. On leash, I think it's much harder. Off leash, she also has a chance to run or defend herself.

I agree with Vita's stick suggestion! I considered carrying one after Annie was attacked as a 13 week old puppy by a Chihuahua. Luckily all the aggressive/loose dogs we've encountered have belonged to people in the local short term rentals, so they are never there for more than a day or two.
 

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Person #1 is in front of attacking dog, and grabs the vulnerable dog, while simultaneously Person #2 grabs the hind legs of the aggressive dog and sticks their thumb in its anus. Person #1 then tries to pry out the leg or body of the vulnerable dog. If the attacking dog is merely responding to it's prey drive and isn't vicious toward people, Person #1 can also grab it's collar if applicable and open it's mouth to remove small dog's leg, etc.

My concern is that larger dogs are extremely strong and fast, and if there's only one Person trying to sneak up behind it and do the wheelbarrow maneuver, she'd better not miss when grabbing those back legs or she runs the risk of getting attacked and seriously injured. I think a person would have to be extremely strong and fast to succeed doing that by themselves. Even if there are two people, trying to control a muscular, high aggressive dog like a Pitt, it may then turn on the person. Then what? I don't know, I just know you'd best not fall.
Eep this is triggering a flashback. I lived this once. Three of us needed to break up a fight between a 60 pound dog and an 80 pounder. The 80 pounder was the aggressor.

I and the another person tag teamed the big dog. I tried to grab the two hind feet. In the confusion of the fight I got a leg and a tail instead. (I can't imagine how I would have managed to get a thumb anywhere near the anus of the dog even if it had occurred to me to do so. Things were happening too fast.) The dog was too heavy and strong for me to try spinning, wheelbarrowing, or anything else. All I could do was hang on. My friend thankfully got hold of the collar, twisted it, and jammed her knee up against the base of the dog's skull. This prevented him from turning around and biting us.

Meanwhile the third person got hold of the hind legs of the 60 pound dog and dragged him backwards, out of the fight.

At this point, for added fun, an additional loose dog came over to check out the scene. We left a person restraining each combatant while I captured and secured dog #3.

This is where things got really scary. I headed back down to help with the injured 60 pound dog. Thinking the fight was over, I turned my back on the 80 pound dog, which was still being restrained. Then...the collar snapped and the 80 pounder got loose again. The dog ran at me from behind and hit my knees, causing me to buckle and go down. He then bit my hand. He would have peeled the skin right off, except I was lucky enough to be wearing gloves. Instead he ripped my glove off. He then left me and tore into the 60 pounder again.

We grabbed hind legs again and pulled the dogs apart a second time. Someone got their belt off and used it to collar the 80 pounder. We wrestled him into a pen and left him to calm down there.

Some lessons I took from this experience were:
  • Don't try to break up a dog fight alone
  • You may not be strong enough to restrain a large dog without help
  • Don't turn your back on an agitated dog or get between the combatants
  • Don't trust collars. Get a backup restraint in place ASAP
 

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Eep this is triggering a flashback. I lived this once. Three of us needed to break up a fight between a 60 pound dog and an 80 pounder. The 80 pounder was the aggressor.

I and the another person tag teamed the big dog. I tried to grab the two hind feet. In the confusion of the fight I got a leg and a tail instead. (I can't imagine how I would have managed to get a thumb anywhere near the anus of the dog even if it had occurred to me to do so. Things were happening too fast.) The dog was too heavy and strong for me to try spinning, wheelbarrowing, or anything else. All I could do was hang on. My friend thankfully got hold of the collar, twisted it, and jammed her knee up against the base of the dog's skull. This prevented him from turning around and biting us.

Meanwhile the third person got hold of the hind legs of the 60 pound dog and dragged him backwards, out of the fight.

At this point, for added fun, an additional loose dog came over to check out the scene. We left a person restraining each combatant while I captured and secured dog #3.

This is where things got really scary. I headed back down to help with the injured 60 pound dog. Thinking the fight was over, I turned my back on the 80 pound dog, which was still being restrained. Then...the collar snapped and the 80 pounder got loose again. The dog ran at me from behind and hit my knees, causing me to buckle and go down. He then bit my hand. He would have peeled the skin right off, except I was lucky enough to be wearing gloves. Instead he ripped my glove off. He then left me and tore into the 60 pounder again.

We grabbed hind legs again and pulled the dogs apart a second time. Someone got their belt off and used it to collar the 80 pounder. We wrestled him into a pen and left him to calm down there.

Some lessons I took from this experience were:
  • Don't try to break up a dog fight alone
  • You may not be strong enough to restrain a large dog without help
  • Don't turn your back on an agitated dog or get between the combatants
  • Don't trust collars. Get a backup restraint in place ASAP
Cowpony, that was horrifying. Your example and others illustrate that we haven't found a full-proof way to stop a dog-on-dog attack, and this is hardly the first thread of this type to come up on PF. A member could follow one person's advice or another, and end up badly injured in the hospital.

For this reason I won't be creating a sticky of this thread, but feel free to bookmark it and pass it along when the topic comes again - and it will.

We know what police often do - they just shoot the dog and call it a day, but most states don't have concealed carry weapons laws. I personally knew the sister of a friend years ago who shot dead a loose, attacking Pit while on her early morning walk with her dog. That was full-proof but she could have been arrested if anyone had complained. None did. Personally I like the idea of tazer guns but those are illegal where I live too.

Questions that come to mind now are what do mail/delivery persons do and use to protect themselves? Surely the mailmen (and mailwomen) take a course, and at least some of what they learn could be used to stop an attack on one's dog as well.

If any of you find this or other information, keep those ideas rolling and please post them here. We already have several good ideas, just none that are full-proof. I suppose that's b/c each situation is different. If there's enough of ideas that are least likely to endanger our members, at some point I'll make a compilation and give credit, and make it a sticky.
 

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We know what police often do - they just shoot the dog and call it a day, but most states don't have concealed carry weapons laws. I personally knew the sister of a friend years ago who shot dead a loose, attacking Pit while on her early morning walk with her dog. That was full-proof but she could have been arrested if anyone had complained. None did.
Definitely not foolproof, and potentially deadly. Just a few examples of many:




I agree that all advice offered here should come with an implied disclaimer. What works in one situation could make another situation worse.
 

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Thank you so much for those three articles, Peggy! Smh.

There ya go, nothing full-proof. This is why I use potty pads for my toy poodles, although if I lived in the suburbs with a good fence instead of the city, they'd at least get to play in backyard. Oh well.

Suggestion about a disclaimer noted.
 

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It's good for dogs to be out and about, but since I moved from having an unfenced yard to a condo complex, I have learned the most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings at all times and have your dogs under control whether it be from excellent recall to using a proper lead not a retractable leash.
I am keenly aware of thing such as birds of prey, coyotes (they are here too), dogs, people, cars, motorcycles and bikes.
Basically stay off that phone and enjoy your walk.
As far as deterants well you have to be ready to use them, which requires practice. Pepper spray is illegal to carry here.
I choose to be aware and avoid walking straight into interactions with larger or boisterous dogs. I turn in the opposite direction, or duck off path depending where I am.
Being prepared has saved me from trouble this far know wood.
 

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You definitely must be aware of your surroundings. I had a neighbor with 4 dogs, a pitt and a few pitt mixes. They would allow their dog, one at a time out their front door, and they would watch them as they did their business. As I told them several times it takes 30 seconds for their dog to see me and mine and start their run over. My dog will bark crazy if another dog comes running toward him. (or he did he is better now). Thats all it takes to start a dog fight. (There backyard fence is in disrepair and the dogs escaped a few times) My solution...I stopped walking...not good for me as I really needed that exercise to keep my legs going. Well they just moved, and we have begun to walk again. I think it will take some time for me to move well again. Its just so inconsiderate and preventable. Now I shouldn't sound smug or that it couldn't happen but even when my yard was unfenced not one of my dogs has ever escaped or out of my control. About a year and a half ago I fell while walking my dog as tow other families were walking, one with two big dogs the other with one big dog walking him). I held onto my dog and did not lose control of him while I laid on the ground, lol. I can laugh now the one guy started to come to help me with his pulling dog, I had to say please don't..I hated to be rude when he was trying to be helpful but that would have made a tangle of things. Fortunately i was not hurt and able to get up. More embarassed then anything else except my should has never been quite the same since.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
There will never be a single universally successful method of stopping a dog attack especially if one of the dogs has gone red zone. That dog wants to kill something and probably doesn't care what it kills. Any of the methods described here will work sometimes and not others. Everything depends on situational awareness. If clearly one dog wants to get away then the strategy has to be managing the one who wants the fight to continue to give the other dog a chance to escape. If both dogs are fully in killing mode then you just have to call for help and wait until it arrives to intervene. I know you can manage this sort of scenario with one person, one aggressor and one dog who wants to disengage since I have done it more than once.

I have to note that I disagree with Vita's decision not to sticky this thread. There has been a lot of positive feedback here, including personal experiences where various strategies did/did not work. Most people won't bookmark it and it would not be useful in the throes of an emergency situation. By allowing it to sink into oblivion it will never be seen by non-PF members who are trying to research this topic. They will only get more recent posts or blogs which might be better or just as easily might be worse than this one.
 

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If you walk with a flexi and need to drop it, the heavy hand piece will snap back, scare your dog and be an impediment in fight or flight. If you are legally allowed to use pepper spray, practice with the device. You have two seconds. It can blow back on you, which it did in my case and every crack and cut on my hands were on fire. Poison Control recommended bathing them in Pepto Bismol, big ?? An atomizer of cologne works without all of that.

My husband survived double teaming by pit bulls with heavy leather sneakers and soccer skills. Bless his heart, he never had dogs as a child and there he was, risking his life for our dog. He took our dog to an emergency vet, and she said it was a first time in her experience that the dog was less injured than the owner.
 

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If you walk with a flexi and need to drop it, the heavy hand piece will snap back, scare your dog and be an impediment in fight or flight.,, pepper spray... can blow back on you... My husband survived double teaming by pit bulls with heavy leather sneakers and soccer skills...
Soccer skills! Lol, love it.
 

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If you walk with a flexi and need to drop it, the heavy hand piece will snap back, scare your dog and be an impediment in fight or flight.
If you mean one of those retractable leashes, please throw it away. I'm a retired doctor, since I didn't work in the ER, I only saw a couple of injuries from those things, but two finger amputations was enough for me. They're really pretty dangerous and don't give you good control in an emergency.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I mostly agree that most people should not use flexi/retractible leashes for both the reasons you noted Jbean: poor control and potential for injuries. But I use them under limited circumstances and definitely not for regular walks. I never saw a finger amputation but I have seen people end up with broken fingers from them and I once had Javelin pull the handle out of my hand on a dumbbell retrieve over a jump and as Mfmst noted it went flying, whacked into the jump and followed him to his dumbbell where it certainly hurt when it crashed into his ribs. I checked him over and could run my hands over him and not get an obvious pain reaction. And then I made him redo the work and got him back jumping happily in about ten minutes. It was very upsetting to have happen though.
 
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