Defending Yourself against Dog Attacks

dog attack

They might be cute and they might be cuddly but dogs can go from man’s best friend to man’s worst nightmare in the blink of an eye.


Dogs attack over 4 million people in the U.S. every single year. While most are not fatal attacks (usually less than 50 fatalities a year) dogs can inflict some nasty injuries that can cause permanent disabilities.


As preppers, most of us train regularly in some sort of self-defense. However, most are only training to defend against humans. Considering you’re just as likely to be attacked by an animal as you are another human, it only makes sense that we should at least be familiar the basics for dealing with a dog attack.


On today’s article we’ll discuss the best ways to avoid dog attacks, what to do while you’re being attacked and how to deal with the aftermath of this scenario.


Respect their space


Most dogs are extremely territorial. In fact, most dog attacks are actually caused by the victim encroaching in the dogs natural territory. There’s some pretty simple rules that you can follow to make sure that you’re not putting yourself in a position to be attacked.

  • Do not approach an unattended dog – An unattended dog has marked his territory around him. Unless you’re the dog’s owner, you will be an uninvited guest into his territory. The dog has no way to decide if you are friendly or not and there is good chance they may attack simply out of instinct.
  • Don’t pet a dog without letting them get to know your scent – One of the most common dog bite scenarios is when children run up to dogs and try to pet them. The dogs have no idea if these children (who are usually pretty loud) are there to play with them or harm them. If the dog feels threatened, there’s a good chance it will attack. In short …DON’T LET YOUR CHILDREN PLAY WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S DOGS.
  • Don’t surprise a dog – No amount of cuddling, doggie sweaters or diamond studded collars will ever change a dog’s natural animal instincts. When you surprise a dog, you’re inviting disaster. If you’re approaching a dog, be sure they know you are there, walk slowly and let the dog take a few steps towards you to make sure they know you’re there and not a threat.

Warning signs


Preventing a dog attack is much easier than fighting off a dog that is attacking you. Picture this…. you’re in a bar, concert, or some other event and you see that stereotypical drunk guy getting loud, puffing up his chest and getting more aggressive by the second. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this guy is ready for a fight. Dogs are no different. There are several warning signs that you should be able to easily spot if you’re paying attention.


  • Growling – This should be pretty obvious, but if a dog is growling, that is a sign of aggression. Don’t approach a growling dog.
  • Ears are erect – When a dog is in fight or flight mode, his sense of hearing is heightened and their ears will stick up. This isn’t always a sign of aggression, but it does mean that the dog is paying extra attention to what is around them and could be a warning sign of aggression.
  •  Tail is in the air – When a dog goes into fight or flight mode, their tail will go straight into the air. Again, this isn’t always an indication of aggressiveness but it could be the only warning you get before an attack.


Don’t do this…


  • Don’t look a dog directly in the eyes if you think they’re already being aggressive. Many dogs will take this as a sign of aggression on your part and will attack.
  • Don’t let a dog circle you – When wild dogs hunt, they circle their prey in packs to trap them. If a dog is already showing signs of aggression and starts to circle you, follow along with him. Don’t ever turn your back to an aggressive dog or let them get behind you. Dogs are often opportunity hunters, meaning they will wait until their prey’s attention has been diverted or they think it can’t see them to attack.
  • If you are attacked by a dog, your natural instinct is going to be to run away or to fight back wildly. Avoid this. First off, dogs can run faster than you can. Fighting back wildly by swinging your arms or kicking at the dog will do nothing more than escalate the fight and there’s a good chance the dog is going to bite and latch on to that arm or leg.
  • It doesn’t matter how tough you are. A dog will often fight until either it can’t get up anymore or you can’t. They’re not going to back down by brute strength alone in most cases.


Do this…


  • If you are confronted by a dog and don’t have a safe way to avoid it, stand your ground and don’t let it get behind you. Put your hands to your side, don’t make any sudden movements and stare the dog straight in the eyes. More often than not, you’ll win the standoff and the dog will just walk away.
  • If you have a purse, backpack or something else that can be used a barrier between you and the dog, use it.
  • Speak calmly to the dog, try not to show fear or aggression. Calling out to the dog in a passive tone can often times immediately defuse the situation.
  • If the dog does attack, try to stay on your feet. You want leverage against the animal and you don’t want to lost that leverage by getting on the dogs level. They’re much more comfortable fighting at that height than you are.
  • If you must defend against a dog attack without weapons, try to attack easy targets. A quick jab to the eye of a dog will usually end a fight or at least give you time to escape. Kicking the legs of a dog may break them and prevent it from chasing you. Essentially you’re going to have to incapacitate the dog in some fashion rather than just senselessly punching or kicking as the dog likely won’t even feel your blows.


On weapons…


Getting into an unarmed fight with a dog is the last thing you ever want to do. Your best bet for preparing for an animal attack, or any attack for that matter is to be prepared to use a higher level of force than your attacker. It’s advisable to carry a can of OC or pepper spray at the very minimum as it is usually pretty effective on most dogs. However, if you really want to be prepared to deal with attackers of both the 4 and 2 legged variety, a concealed firearm is your best bet. Obviously you should check your local laws and ordinances to determine the legality of any weapon carried on your person.




The aftermath of a dog attack could almost be as much as a nightmare as the actual attack. If you’re attacked by a dog and have to defend yourself, the first things you want to do is get to a safe distance, call 911 and report the incident. The dog could resume the attack, the dog’s owner may become aggressive to you and for all you know, that dog could have rabies or other diseases. You don’t want to take any chances. Get to a safe distance from the animal and call 911.


When the immediate threats have been taken care of, it would be a good idea to file a police report and possibly even retain a lawyer in case the dog’s owner decides to press charges. Document any injuries and attempt to find any witnesses to make sure you are properly prepared to defend your actions.



Do you have any stories about dog or other animal attacks? Please leave us your story in the comments section below!

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