A week ago Monday I was at a Home Dog Training Session in Marietta with a new Home Dog Training client and his two-year-old Vizsla named Frankie.  For the most part Frankie was an excellent dog.  He demonstrated some of the “classic dog issues” that included things such as his love of jumping on people when he wanted to say “hello”, crazy leash walking, listening to my client only when he felt like it, and taking stuff from the dining room table.

Learn how to avoid being bitten by a dog

As I just mentioned, these are “classic issues” that, over the years, we have developed “quick fix” solutions to address.  This day was no different than before. I was able to quickly train my client on the proper procedure of gaining Frankie’s focus and communicating his wishes.  Frankie quickly responded and my client was ecstatic about the excellent results he was able to achieve.

I had finished the lesson and was on my way back to the car and my trip home when a neighbor from across the street approached me. She was watching us from her window as we were calmly walking Frankie up and down the street and was amazed at how well Frankie was doing. (I immediately thought of Mrs. Kravitz from Bewitched; but that is another story for another time…) 

She confessed that she had been a little pensive of Frankie and most dogs in general.  This was due to the fact that she had been bitten by the neighbor dog when she was a young girl.  In seeing Frankie, she felt that her negative feelings about dogs could be reversed and asked me how she could avoid dog bites in the future.

I began my conversation by telling her some great news.  The fact of the matter is that almost all dog bites or dog attacks could have been easily avoided.

A big problem that we all face is one of perception. We watch the evening news and are exposed to the stories of dogs inexplicably attacking their owners.  Many times, those people are children.  The news reporter continues by recanting the gory details of the attack.  What they never do is to offer news stories that explain what may have caused the incident or things we could do to avoid such situations.  As I stated earlier, Robin and I strongly believe that most of these terrible and unfortunate events could have been evaded.

Most individuals are bitten by dogs due to the fact that they are unable to properly interpret the dog’s intentions.  They also often inappropriately react as a dog approaches. Dogs have poor eyesight. Because of that, they have to get close to an object to determine its intention. When a dog sees you walking past his yard, he will often bark and growl. This is his natural communication process of letting you know that this is “his area”. He is the one in charge and the “protector of the keep”.

There will be times that he will then run towards you. This is because he needs to “get a good look at you” and give you a smell.  This will allow him to determine if you impose any threat to him or his protective territory.  Unfortunately, this is the time where “things happen” and we get bitten.

We get bitten because we become scared and “assume” that they have already decided to attack and bite us.  Instead of calmly pausing to permit the dog to sniff us, we inappropriately and aggressively respond by kicking them or running away.  Unfortunately, we have just responded to the dog’s inquisitive action with a “declaration of war”.  The dog will now change his nature from passive to “full on attack”.  That is never a good thing.

We constantly tell our clients to CALMLY FACE THE DOG AND STAND COMPLETELY STILL when a dog runs at them.  They can breathe, but that is about it.

The problem is that, besides the kicking, our “natural human response” is to try and run away.  From the dog’s perspective, this will only cause them to chase after us.  Unless you are an Olympic sprinter, the dog will catch you.  When he does, he will be filled with adrenaline and apprehension.  As you reengage him (because he caught you), he will almost assuredly address you in a highly aggressive manner.

Next, DO NOT TRY TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE DOG.  If you crouch down towards the ground or attempt to pet the dog, it can be sending inappropriate signals to the dog.  Remember, he has just rushed up to you, and because of that, could be experiencing a high amount of “fresh adrenaline” and tunnel vision.  Your sudden movements just as he has reached you could be interpreted as an aggressive challenge.  By “trying to become friends with the dog” at the last minute, you are throwing more uncertain behavioral variables into the situation.  You don’t need to do this.

One thing that I teach all my clients is to always FEEL CONFIDENT IN YOURSELF.  This is especially true in this situation.  Again, the problem is that when we see a dog charging us, we become scared.  The dog can easily “read our body language” to determine our frightened demeanor.  Dogs translate this into weakness.  This means that they now have the upper hand in the encounter.  If they need to escalate the situation, we have already told them that they will easily be the victor. So, no matter what you may be feeling, project a sense of strength, serenity, and confidence.

YOU MUST CONSTANTLY FACE THE DOG.  If the dog is “considering the need to become aggressive”, his natural instinct is to find the most appropriate opportunity. Your back exposes your physical vulnerability and gives your dog the highest possibility of success in an aggressive encounter. If the dog begins to move behind you, gradually turn to continually face him.  If you are next to a wall or fence, calmly back up to the fence so that the dog does not have the ability to get to your rear.

USE DOGGIE TREATS TO DIFUSE THE SITUATION. Most dogs love food and are always “ready to take a break for a treat”. By carrying some tasty treats while you are out for a walk where you may run into some “questionable doggies”, you may have the opportunity to defuse an “aggressively escalating situation” into a “never mind event”. Calmly toss some goodies about six to ten feet in front of you as the dog approaches.  As mentioned before, remain tall, still, and confident. Watch the dog, but don’t stare at him.  Chances are, he will enjoy the treat, give you a passing glance, and return to his yard.

If you end up falling to the ground, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GET UP. You should now lie totally still and roll into a fetal position. Do not move.  Most dogs will respond to this action by giving you a sniff or two, become uninterested, and leave the area.

Above all, the most important thing you can do when approached by a possibly aggressive dog is to “REMAIN CALM”.  This will send the correct body language to the dog so that the situation will not escalate. It also permits you to “have your wits about you” so you can make the “best next decision”.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.