There’s no greater buzz kill while you’re out walking Fluffy than to encounter some huge bruiser of a dog eyeballing your cutie for his afternoon snack. Your job in this situation is to get the heck out of Dodge, but first you need to protect yourself.
If you know a certain area has been dangerous in the past, avoid that area. If you cannot avoid it to get to where you’re going, do as many mail carriers do, and carry pepper spray. If you're leery about carrying a product that harms a dog, carry a dog deterrent that works by emitting ultrasound. Before using either product, however, determine whether the dog really will attack or if he’s simply a nuisance. If a dog comes loping over to you, tail wagging, loose body, eyes wide open, mouth open with tongue flapping, he’s probably just coming to say “hi.” Although this dog might not have an aggressive intent, he might be invading your dog’s personal space, and a fight could ensue. Put your body between this goofy dog and your dog and say “go” or “get away” in a low, commanding voice.
What Not to Do
You can sometimes make the situation worse when you see an aggressive dog approaching you and your dog. Don’t turn your back and run when an aggressive dog is coming your way. His instinct is to chase you. Don’t scream, either. Remain calm and still. Keep your hands at your sides. Don’t look the dog in the eye. Sometimes, if the dog doesn’t view you as threatening, he’ll lose interest and retreat. Back slowly away at this point.
What to Do
If a dog attacks you, put anything you can between the attacking dog and you and your dog. You can use a jacket, a purse or anything you can get your hands on. If you have protective spray or the ultrasound device, use it now. If the dog knocks you down, curl into a ball with your head down and your hands or arms covering your ears. Remain motionless; don’t roll around or scream. Protect your face. Dogs tend to attack the lips, cheeks and nose. If you are being attacked, you probably can't do anything for your dog at this point except to let go of the leash and hope she runs away.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that dogs bite about 4.5 million Americans every year. About 20 percent of the bites happen to children, usually 5- to 9-year-olds. Kids that age tend to do all the wrong things: approach an unfamiliar dog, run and scream, play with a strange dog or pet a dog before the dog has a chance to smell him. Adults who behave in those ways are also more likely to be bit.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.