Michael is an avid pet-lover and content writer on topical themes related to dog care, training and behavioral development.

When an Attack Occurs

Pet ownership is so widespread, it’s hardly possible not to come into contact with an assortment of breeds these days. However, some among the canine type have a hushed-up history of aggression. The furry creature may give an impression of docility, but it is actually a ferocious calamity waiting to happen. Brooding beneath that well-groomed surface is a volatile condition akin to a chemical formulation in a lab.

Just waiting for the right catalyst.

What happens when an attack occurs? The owners of the animal responsible will typically go into denial, arguing that their pet is too gentle and cute to hurt a fly. However, the same can be said of grizzly bears and Bengal tigers when they are young. Looks can be deceiving, for sure. But deceived is the last thing one needs to be when faced with a swift and deadly threat.

Some people assume that just because the other dog is neutered, it is automatically safe to bond. Sadly, this is not always the case. There are reported incidents where most of the dogs which attacked others were neutered before the onslaught took place.

An unexpected attack can set in motion a series of problems. Even if the victimized dog survives, the repercussions can be far-reaching for both pet and owner. The costs of treating an injured dog could run into the tens of thousands of dollars especially if delicate surgical procedures have to be performed. Worse still, the innocent owner could be sued on the grounds that it was his dog that started the fight.

Moreover, there are owners who have suffered psychologically after experiencing an attack. They now fear venturing outdoors. There are dogs that have physically recovered from an attack, only to suffer from long-term behavioral challenges they never had before. An incident like this introduces a new level of trauma that could offset their carefully developed training and mar their character; a setback that would take time to reverse.

Of course, the threat of an attack on a dog is not only confined to canines. It may come from a coyote, cougar, or snake. It may literally drop from the sky in the form of a hawk or some other raptor whose menu typically includes animals under 20 pounds (9 kgs) including puppies. However, for our intents and purposes here, we will confine ourselves to attacks caused by other aggressive dogs.

Here are five tips on how to prevent your dog from being attacked.

  1. Understand the threat
  2. Prepare proactively
  3. Be well equipped
  4. Take relevant precautions
  5. Keep yourself informed
Phrases commonly used include 'it just came out of nowhere'.

Phrases commonly used include ‘it just came out of nowhere’.

1. Understand the Threat

When an attack occurs, there is a right way and a wrong way to respond. A wrong response, even if well-intentioned, could lead to grave or fatal consequences. The first thing to understand is that in the heat of the moment, the attacking dog is no longer a domesticated creature. Its primitive instincts have taken over and redefined its identity. The dog is now too excited to follow the script. This is the point where all inhibitions are cast off and what was adorable is transformed into a killer.

What exactly causes an incident like this to have such dangerous and far-reaching consequences? It is the element of surprise. The unexpected suddenness that catches both dog and owner unawares, and they find themselves unable to piece together a defense on time. In many court hearings involving attacks on pets, phrases commonly used by litigants include ‘it just came out of nowhere’. Irrespective of whether the assault was precipitated by an escape from a master’s leash or the discovery of a secret gap in a fence, there is one common denominator. Victims never saw it coming until it was too late.

The other factor to consider is that a dog can detect the presence of fear in humans and in other dogs. Fear or shock may come as a natural reaction in the wake of an attack, but this not only works against the victim by immobilizing them. It also strengthens the determination of the attacking dog causing it to assert itself more fiercely. It is also possible for a dog to assail because it has sensed fear in its own master and is therefore trying to protect him or her from what seems to be a dangerous threat.

Irrespective of whether the assault was precipitated by an escape from a master’s leash or the discovery of a secret gap in a fence, there is one common denominator. Victims never saw see it coming until it was too late.

2. Prepare Proactively

Attacks succeed primarily because of a lack of preparedness. It is easy for a dog owner to take it for granted that nothing unusual is likely to occur since, well after all, ‘nothing unusual has ever taken place in this neighborhood for years’. The possibility of an attack simply does not come into play and people fail to realize how unexpectedly things can turn and how lives can be permanently changed at the drop of a hat.

No one thought the tiny opening at the corner of the fence was that big of a deal. No one factored into their calculations that the animals belonging to those new neighbors across the street had never been properly socialized. No one imagined that that furry shape of fiery rage was going to break free of its master’s leash, without any warning, right in the middle of a serene park. Not until it came bounding toward them with the ferocity of a mad beast.

When an animal charges toward your dog, the first important thing is to control yourself and avoid getting carried away by emotions. When panic takes over, one acts without thinking things through clearly. Such reactions can turn an already unfortunate situation from bad to worse.

If an attack occurs and both dog and owner are caught unprepared, the typical course of action is to grab whatever one can lay their hands on to stop the fight and save their pet. Some will attempt to grasp at the leash or collar of the attacking dog. Some will try to frantically fend the animal off with sticks picked up from the ground or with their bare hands. Others will attempt snatching up their pet or tugging at its leash without realizing that doing so while it is in the grip of an adversary makes the predicament worse.

And it is not just the welfare of the dog that needs to be considered here. In many cases, when a dog becomes a target, its owner is also at risk because they are together and because the owner will typically try to intervene in order to come to the rescue of his or her pet. Owners have found themselves turned upon by the attacking dog and seriously injured because they intervened more out of panic than prudence. Moreover, fleeing from an attacking dog without first mitigating the threat only serves to increase its aggression. It becomes excited once it realizes that its target has now become a moving target.

It is important to understand that though you have a phone with you and contact the police or others for assistance, the swiftness of an attack is such that it is usually too late for them when they arrive. Hence, you must be proactive and have a plan of action prepared beforehand. When it comes to protecting your dog, you need to be both deliberate and intentional.

3. Have the Right Equipment

In an attack, dog owners have been known to use everything from whistles, mace and pepper sprays to shoes, umbrellas, switchblades, baseball bats, and batons. Others have used their own bodies.

However, punching, hitting, or kicking an attacking animal can make it more aggressive and even using any of the above as weapons can be counterproductive if they are used without proper knowledge or experience. What’s worse, any false move to try and break up a fight can further enrage the animal and redirect its focus on you.

What is required here is something that is an immediate deterrent, something that creates a shock factor. Granted, there are statutes in many places which allow one to use deadly force against an animal that is observed to be in the process of chasing or attacking pets, other domestic animals, or humans. There are owners who carry guns to protect themselves and their pets, but walking about with a firearm is not exactly a course of action for everyone.

Due to the fact that an attack happens at close quarters, the use of most items as weapons can easily place the innocent party in danger as well. Even the mist from a pepper spray can be redirected by the wind back upon the owner and their pet.

One solution to this problem is SprayShield® by PetSafe, which is an animal deterrent spray with a strong scent of citronella that can shoot up to a range of 10 feet. It comes in a small portable can and is designed to confuse the attacking animal giving you and your pet enough time to leave the scene without any of the side effects associated with pepper sprays.

Protective clothing like the CoyoteVest helps protect dogs by making them appear formidable to other creatures and if an attack occurs, the material is tough enough to withstand claws and bites. It also has spikes that protect the areas of the dog’s exterior that are often targeted during attacks.

In case you are caught off guard and do not have anything you can use as a weapon, taking off your outerwear (like a jacket), or even a picnic blanket and hurling it over the head of the attacking dog effectively cuts off its vision. The sudden disorientation will compel it to cease the attack. If there is a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby, grab it and direct the discharge at the mouth of the dog. The force makes a biting animal disengage immediately.

SprayShield® can shoot up to a range of 10 feet. It is designed to confuse the attacking animal giving you and your pet enough time to leave the scene without any of the side effects associated with pepper sprays.

4. Take Relevant Precautions

Prevention is always better than cure. Protect your dog by avoiding parks or other places known as danger zones, where unpleasant incidents have been known to take place and there is a lingering likelihood of walking into a nasty situation.

Be on the alert and ensure that your backyard is properly sealed off from external menaces. If you see a wandering dog around the neighborhood, take the initiative and contact animal services. You may be preventing a possible crisis not just to yourself and your pet, but to others as well.

In the US, the dog breeds that homeowners insurance companies typically avoid covering for include Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Wolf Hybrids, mastiffs, and German Shepherds. Some pet-lovers may see this as a form of discrimination. However, there is a good reason why insurance providers will not cater to these breeds. They are considered high-risk because they have a known tendency of being aggressive.

A responsible owner will be careful about letting their pet associate with breeds that are high-risk especially if they already have a history of causing harm. If an owner keeps such a breed, they need to be fully aware of what is involved. The facts indicate the animal has the potential to unleash violence given the right conditions.

If a fight breaks out and the matter goes to court, it is likely that the dog will be seen as the aggressor and the owner held responsible. These matters should be factored into the equation when deciding the breed and behavioral training regimen to adopt.

5. Keep Yourself Informed

Be aware of the existing laws in your territory regarding the protection of pets and other domesticated animals. Stay informed concerning the ongoings in your neighborhood. Know the temperaments of the pets you frequently come into contact with and who their owners are. Whenever you are out with your dog on walks, be observant and attentive. Avoid getting too preoccupied with mobile devices or other distractions. Keep a close eye on what is happening around you.

If a particular dog has been known to attack before, steer clear of its vicinity. If you spot an owner straining at a leash, struggling to bring an unruly dog under control, use a different route. Take note of other dogs that exhibit aggressive behavior unprovoked and ensure that you keep yourself and your pet at bay from all such. There are people whose pets have had known cases elsewhere and instead of resolving those behavioral problems, the owners simply moved into new neighborhoods and brought the problems along with them.

Learn the body language of other animals as a pet owner and be sensitive to how they communicate, especially the silent mannerisms that dogs have. Your ability to interpret body language could help you identify a potential threat from afar and mitigate an attack. Studying body language, for example, can help you tell whether a dog is insecure or poorly socialized.

A fearful dog can launch an attack as a way of defending itself despite the fact that there is no actual or legitimate threat. Here’s an example of how it may play out. Your dog is properly socialized, but the other dog is not. Your dog approaches the other on friendly terms as per its upbringing. However, the insecurity and lack of behavioral training in the other causes it to interpret your dog’s actions as menacing and it immediately goes into the offensive.

There are other subtle signs which may not be readily obvious to the unskilled eye, but can cause a sudden change in an otherwise docile animal. It may be that a dog has marked the territory you are walking into with your pet as its domain and as such feels the need to defend it against intruders. The territorial instinct kicks in as soon as it senses its personal space is being invaded. So take time to familiarize yourself with physical signals that may indicate something is amiss.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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