Key To Surviving A Dog Attack Is To Stay Calm

FOCUS ON PETS

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A recent column discussed ways of altering the behavior of your own dog when he shows aggression toward people and other dogs.

Encountering an aggressive dog you do not know is quite another issue.

Obviously you would not run up and grab him by the scruff of his neck. He just might grab you by the neck.

The frightening ramifications of this were made clear to me on a recent trip to visit my daughter in Seattle.

I was standing on her front porch and the dog across the street, whom I had never met, nonchalantly walked up to me. He was a mastiff type -- large dog, huge head, and showed no signs of aggression.

The family was attempting to entice him back into their yard. Wanting to help, I put my hand on his head to pet him and then planned to get hold of his collar. Turned out he had no collar. Very casually, he turned his head and somehow had my whole hand in his oversized mouth, and was inserting his extra large, sharp teeth into my skin and flesh.

Somehow, I freed my hand and backed slowly to the front door. The dog followed me. I was totally aware of my helplessness and feared that this dog could easily do serious damage and even kill me.

I got into the house, very shaken, blood dripping from the 10 puncture wounds.

The neighbor said the dog had never bitten anyone before, but admitted he had not been socialized.

What caused his behavior? I did nothing to threaten him.

The dog spends his days in the yard alone behind a high wood fence. He is allowed in the house when family is there.

However, he has no idea of the world outside his yard and house and therefore is unaware of his boundaries. He knows no other people. He was simply protecting his family.

Without some training and socialization, this dog could easily hurt someone else, even a child, and then will be euthanized. And the owners will say -- How could this happen? It is all so unnecessary.

Unfortunately, there are for too many dogs living this way.

If the door and escape had not been right there, what would I have done? Hopefully I would not have panicked. I should have attempted to get myself into a corner or against a wall and rolled into a ball with my head, arms and legs protected and hopefully someone would have come to my rescue.

Because the dog was not wearing a collar, what could a prospective rescuer have done?

And, what if my dog was with me. How would I protect him? Could I have wrapped myself around my dog and protected both of us? Would my dog have gone after this dog to protect me? He would have lost the battle.

When encountering an aggressive dog, do not run. That brings out the prey instinct and he will chase you down. Unless you are Superman/ woman, he will catch you easily.

Do not make eye contact because you would be challenging his dominance and he will fight to maintain his position.

First and foremost, one must try to stay calm and think clearly. Make any moves slowly and attempt to get to a safe place.

Because you want to summon help, don't just scream but use words that might distract the dog and divert him. "No" is always a good word. "Shame." "Bad dog." "Go home." Saying these words loudly will hopefully attract help. It is amazing how often the word "No" really works.

Dogs on their own are not normally dangerous. It is what owners do, or do not do, that makes them dangerous.

If all dog owners would assume the responsibility for their dog's training and socialization, we would all feel safer and people -- and dog -- attacks would be substantially reduced.

Too many people are afraid to walk because of aggressive neighborhood dogs.

That is just not fair.

Trained and socialized dogs are happy dogs and make for friendlier neighborhoods.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@ earthlink.net, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 1521, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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