Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dog Attacks and What To Do

For some reason I'm no stranger to dog attacks., though wish I was.

The first time it happened was over a decade ago.  It occurred at the beach during winter with Angel.  Two  extra large poodle mixes off leash attacked us. (the dogs were big)  Luckily I had a puffy winter coat on which protected me as I tried to to huddle my body around Angel to protect her.  The dogs attacked my back, as I screamed for help.  No one walking on the boardwalk above wanted to get involved. They just all stared, guess they were scared too.  Finally a brave woman jogger ventured down to help.  She took Angel from my arms and ran her to safety while I fended off the large dogs.  Finally their owner arrived to help.

It was scary. In that moment I wasn't sure any of us were going to get out of the situation without serious injuries, or worse.  But thanks to winter those puffy winter coats protected us.  That attack left a fear in me though.  Fear to be out in public places alone with my dog in case another stray dog attacked.  Even simple walks brought on a feeling of apprehension. Truth is not all dogs have good lives, nor are they kindly treated or cared for .  Not all are in safe or secure yards.  There are plenty of aggressive dogs out there.  One never knows when they may encounter one.  And we have throughout the years.

Fast forward to the present.  Cooper loves to go for walks.  And our neighborhood is filled with dogs both big and small.  Most friendly, but a few not so friendly.  Yesterday we encountered the not so friendly.  Once again I was attacked by a dog.  This huge Labrador type mix got out of his fenced in yard, came charging at us and knocked me down right in the middle of the street.  He then tried to get at Cooper.  I screamed for help. But the surrounding houses were all closed up with air condition running.

It took some work but got the big dog off Cooper, enough to be able to grab Cooper and get him into my chest while I fended off the dog with my back.  Threw the bag of poo I had been carrying to try to distract the other dog.  The dogs kid owner just stood by watching. Finally the adult owner came out. She even had trouble securing the dog.  By this point I had already started off down the street toward our house. As I screamed for her to secure her dog and fence so this doesn't happen again.  She looked at me clueless as she had basically missed the whole attack.

I arrived home bruised, scratched, with plenty of cuts and completely shaken.  Just felt lucky to be home. This morning I am extremely sore. My back and hip seemed to take the brunt of the fall, they hurt.

Now questions fill my thoughts, do I call the police and file a report?  Some neighbors feel I should, others thought talking with the neighbors would be a good first step. (no one knows these neighbors well, they live on the cross street so they aren't actually on our street)   While out walking a few weeks ago their young son rode next to me asking what would happen if he rode his bike over our puppy. (he went into horrible detail about what could happen)  So it's not like I want to go near the house again nor even stir the pot by contacting police which could happen. But thought maybe a simple letter would suffice?

Bigger question is how can our neighborhood, or any for that matter, prevent such attacks from happening in the first place?  There is a bus stop near this house, what if it had been a child?

I love animals, especially dogs.  But not all are friendly, that pertains to every type of breed small or large. And even the friendly ones can easily turn aggressive in certain situations. Some dogs need serious training classes, others need secured fenced in yards and most importantly, no matter what....all dogs when outside should be on a leash.  There is a leash law in most states for a reason. As I say on my Woof Wednesday posts dogs are a huge responsibility.  Owners need to not only properly care for them, but also properly train them.  And see to it that they aren't a danger to the public as well.  Just as with children there are a lot of factors such as attention, education, diet, training, time,etc., that go into raising a healthy, well behaved dog.

Yesterday scared me.  And worry that I won't be able to protect Cooper enough while out on our walks.

It was a good reminder of just how vulnerable any of us can be when outside walking in our own neighbors, parks, etc..While we can't live in fear or stop doing the things we love, we can take precautions.  People have suggested items such as whistles, pepper spray, small fog horns, sticks or even items that can be used for distraction to help fend oneself should the situation ever arise. There are a lot of self defense items on the market these days. No matter how safe we think our neighborhoods or towns are it can't hurt to have items that could help protect us as well. Something to think about it.

Meanwhile here are tips from top dog trainer Cesar Milan on what to do if a dog attacks:

1. Don't panic. There's some truth to the old adage that dogs and other animals can "sense fear". If you become agitated and run or scream, you may make the dog feel more confident in his attack, or, worse, you may appear threatening to the dog. Neither of these is a good situation to be in.

2. Make yourself rigid and motionless like a tree. When a dog approaches, stand completely still with your hands at your sides, like a tree. Do not wave your arms around or kick with your legs; the dog may perceive these actions as threatening. Don't make eye contact, since that could also cause the dog to lunge. In many cases the dog will lose interest and walk away if you ignore him.
  • Never run. Running away can awaken the dog's prey instinct to chase and catch animals. He may pursue you vigorously even if his initial intent was just playful. In addition, you won't be able to outrun most dogs if you're on foot. Even if you are on a bicycle, many dogs will be able to catch up to you.
  • Stand sideways to the dog and keep him in your peripheral vision instead of facing him and making eye contact. This will signal to the dog that you are not a threat.
  • Don't open your hands and arms up to a bite by extending them. Keep your fingers curled into fists to avoid getting them bitten. The dog may come quite close, even sniffing you, without actually biting.
3. Give the dog something else to bite. If the dog continues to threaten you, offer him something to chew on, such as your backpack or water bottle - anything but your arm or leg. This may distract him enough to give you time to escape.
  • Another good idea is to carry treats or toys when traveling in areas known to be home to dangerous dogs. If approached by an angry dog, throw your treats or toy away from you. The dog may go after these, rather than you.
4. Face the dog and command, "back away." If the dog continues to behave aggressively, and ignoring or pacifying him is no longer working, face him and sternly command him to leave. Use a strong, deep, commanding voice. You should still avoid making eye contact. The dog may become discouraged or intimidated and leave.

5. If the dog lunges, fight. Dog attacks can be fatal. If the dog starts biting you, you've got to defend yourself. Hit or kick the dog in the throat, nose, and the back of the head. This will stun the dog and give you time to get away.
  • It's okay to raise your voice at this point. Yell for help as you're fighting back. Hopefully others will hear and come to your aid.
  • If you have a stick or another weapon, you can (and should) use it to hit the dog. Don't hit him over the head, though; most dogs have very thick skulls, so this will only serve to make the dog angrier.

6. Use your weight to your advantage. Bring your entire body weight to bear on the animal, specifically pushing down with the hard points of your knees or elbows. Dogs are vicious biters but cannot wrestle, so try to get an advantageous position and break their bones fairly quickly. Get on top of the animal and concentrate force on areas such as the throat or ribs while minding to keep your face out of clawing/biting range.

7. If you fall to the ground, protect your face, chest, and throat. If you're on the ground, not only is it more difficult to fight off a an angry dog, but vital areas on your torso, head, and neck are also now vulnerable to attack. These are the most important spots on your body to protect because bites in these places will inflict the most damage and will have the greatest chance of killing you. Protect your vitals by rolling onto your stomach, tucking your knees in, and bringing your hands (balled in fists) up to your ears.
  • Resist the urge to scream or roll away, as these actions may further encourage the dog.
  • If you are looking for a more humane solution and can manage it, straddle the back of the dog with your partial body weight and apply forward pressure to the back of the neck to immobilize the dog until help comes.
8. Back away slowly and leave the area once the dog loses interest in you. Staying calm and stationary can be a real test of your nerves in such a stressful situation, but it's the best thing to do as long as the dog isn't actually biting you.

Note: Call the authorities. If the dog that attacked you was a stray, he may attack others, too. It's also important to determine whether the dog may have rabies, which can only be determined after capturing the dog. Call the authorities immediately after a dog attack so that the dog can be prevented from harming anyone else and be tested for disease.
  • For dogs with owners nearby, how you handle the situation after the attack has been diffused is up to you. If you've been hurt, you may want to take legal action. Many states have laws holding owners responsible for the actions of their dogs.

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