When (several) dogs attack…
Having an encounter with one aggressive dog while you’re out is bad enough, and worse if that dog attacks your own. But what do you do if more than one aggressive dog go after you or your dog?
We’ve already explained what to do when dogs attack, and many of the techniques described there will help. But the complication with multiple dogs is that they will attack as a pack.
In the wild, dogs do this by sending the more submissive dogs around behind the prey while the dominant dogs approach from the front, so the most important thing to remember if you do encounter multiple dogs is to not let any of them get behind you.
Of course, the ideal approach is to never get into a situation where you have to defend yourself and your dog against multiple dogs, and here is where a little prevention goes a long way. Your best offense is your own dog — pay attention to her body language and energy. She will become aware of other dogs in the area long before you do through her nose.
If your dog suddenly alerts by stopping and looking off in one direction, sniffing intently and possibly raising a paw, there’s probably a dog there. It may just be a neighbor walking their dog, but if you have any doubts, calmly change direction.
Next, and especially if you’re in an area known to have loose dogs around, there are items you can take with you on the walk to use for prevention and protection, such as:
A sturdy walking stick or cane, which can be used to claim your space if dogs confront you, and as a defensive weapon if necessary.
Dog repellent spray, such as DirectStop®, which uses citronella and is safer than something like pepper spray for the other dogs, you and your dog.
A backpack, sweatshirt tied around your waist, or other disposable object that you can use as a distraction if a dog does come at you. The idea here is to get the dog to bite the object instead of you or your dog.
Treats or food, which can also work as a distraction when thrown at the attacking dog.
An air horn or very bright flashlight, which can be used as an attack deterrent as well as a way to signal others that you might need help.
Finally, one of the best preventative steps you can take is to socialize your own dog so that he does not become over-excited or aggressive when he sees other dogs. Keeping your own dog calm will keep a situation with an aggressive but distant dog from escalating into an approach and attack.
When on the walk, always know your surroundings, and have an escape route in mind in case you are attacked by dogs — a place that you and your dog can get to quickly but other dogs can’t, like a business (whether dog friendly or not), the back of an open pick-up truck, or inside of an apartment complex or yard with a gate.
Get to know your neighborhood, and if there are any yards with dogs that bark or lunge at the fence when you pass by, try to avoid them. Take another route, or walk on the opposite side of the street.
But… when you are passing a yard with a barking dog, remain calm. Don’t speed up or try to run past — this will just teach the barking dog that its behavior makes things leave “her” territory more quickly, and will make the barking worse.
Get to know your neighbors and fellow dog walkers, and do exchange information about any encounters with aggressive dogs in the area so you can adjust your route accordingly.
If, despite the above, you and your dog are approached by multiple dogs, there are still ways of avoiding a dog attack, and rule number one is to remain calm. Not only can this keep the situation from escalating, it will keep you focused and able to better deal with whatever happens.
Be aware of the dogs’ body language and know the signs of an imminent attack to look for so you can block the dogs before they strike — tension in the body, raised hackles, and ears flat against the head are some of the signs to watch for.
If it does escalate to an attack, know how to break up a dog fight, and use the tools you have brought with you to assist in that process. As Pawfessor Dion explains, always focus on the dog with the highest energy level, and remove this one from the fight first, even if it’s your own dog. Call for help but do not rely on it showing up, and maintain your calm, assertive energy.