What to do when a dog attacks

(37 Posts)
NotAllIndividuals Sun 21-Oct-18 07:29:36

I've search through other threads and online but I can't quite see what I'm looking for so posting for advice. It would be great to hear from a police officer or professional dog handler.

Yesterday we were walking on a dog friendly beach. Within a 50m section there would be at least 1 or 2 dogs so it's busy. Most dogs are off lead running into the sea, digging, chasing balls etc. and it's fantastic for them. I was chatting to a couple as my dog was playing with theirs when we saw an attack. 2 large but sleek dogs (not sure of bread) were tossing a little fluffy dog between them and biting. All dogs were off lead so the owners were struggling to get in to separate them. The two didn't give up easily but after a couple of minutes the owner did manage to prise the attackers off and the little dog got away. It was walking away so there is a chance the attack looked a lot worse than it was but it did look very bad with the little one being tossed around.

I had grabbed my dog and the couple I was talking to had done the same, then the man went to help separate the attackers. He came back with a cut on his hand but thought it was from a lead slicing into him in the chaos rather than a bite. One of the attacking dogs was muzzled, but honestly I'm not sure that it was during the attack as I don't see how the attacking dogs could have been pulling the little one between them if one was muzzled, so the owner might have slipped it on in the confusion or to bring the dog under control.

I was shaken, not as much as the owners or the dog, but it got me thinking how I would react if this happened to my dog. My questions are; what should you do to stop an attack like this? Is there such a thing as a 'playful' attack where the dog doesn't mean harm? Are there legal things to consider like contact details, witnesses and photos? Is it any different getting involved if it's not your own dog being hurt?

I was thinking about getting a walking stick to help my balance, now I'm thinking it might be protection too, but could I get into trouble, or would it make a dog more angry if it got a solid whack if it was attacking? There's a bit of whataboutery but the beach is not exclusively for dogs so I couldn't help think what would have happened if it was a child the dogs went after, made me feel sick. I want the beach to be a great place for everyone and the off lead opportunity for exercise is doggy heaven, I just want to know what to do if things go wrong.

OP’s posts: |
merrykate Sun 21-Oct-18 08:15:56

I once read that carrying an umbrella and opening it towards the attacking dog can distract it from the attack. I honestly don't know what I would do, but I'm hearing more and more of dogs attacking other dogs and it's frightening.

theboxofdelights Sun 21-Oct-18 08:24:15

I carry Nordic walking poles and would use them, former DH has kicked attacking dogs before (more than one dog and more than one occasion).

fenneltea Sun 21-Oct-18 08:36:06

I think once dogs are in full attack mode there is little that you can do, they can be incredibly strong and any pain they feel by being hit by someone trying to stop them seems to increase the adrenaline and fervour.

There have been several dogs killed on a beach fairly local to us, most involving small dogs attacked by at least two others, but also one labrador. Some dogs such as lurchers and greys have been bred to chase small furry things so it is instinct for them. (not all of them do though, I have a very well behaved one who wouldn't hurt a fly.)

Not allowing dogs to mix in packs if they get too excited seems common sense and owners really should keep dogs known to go for others muzzled or on a lead at all times. Carrying something to ward off potential attacks if you are worried may be sensible, let's hope it never has to be used!

whateveryousay Sun 21-Oct-18 16:41:36

Unfortunately I have a reactive dog, who will attack if another dog touches him. He is always on lead around other dogs, but there has been the odd occasion where an off-lead dog will pick a fight with him.
The only way that I can separate them is to chuck water on his head. That causes a split second of confusion, where he’ll stop, but it’s enough for me to yank him away. So I always carry a bottle of water. Hitting him does nothing, he doesn’t even notice.
I have seen a great video where you are advised to straddle the dog, one leg either side, and grab their collar with both hands from behind, lifting up and twisting as you do. It is supposed to momentarily cut off their air supply, in a non harmful way, so that you can pull them apart.
In practice, I have not had the presence of mind to do this on the odd occasion it’s been necessary.
(I am trying to be helpful posting here, I do everything I can to prevent my dog meeting others, so please don’t attack me for trying to share what I’ve found works! I am well aware that my situation is far from ideal 😐)

missbattenburg Sun 21-Oct-18 17:58:30

Everything I have read, from some pretty respected behaviourists, recommend two owners protect their hands and arms as much as possible and each grab the hind legs of a dog and pull them backwards like a wheelbarrow.

At the right angle, the dog will not have the balance to turn around to bite and will not be have the strength to resist being pulled apart.

Last resort, though.

Try water first. It can be very effective at giving a second or two break in which the owners can lead the dogs away.

Don't do anything to add aggression or tension (shout, hit, noise).

In terms of plaful attack, it's worth remembering that all play is an attack - it is practising the prey sequence (see, chase, catch, kill, dismember) - and can easily get out of hand with an over excited dog. Dogs 'tossing' a little one back and forth is out of hand and so, whether they started as play or not, this is a dangerous situation that needs ending.

Awesomeo90 Sun 21-Oct-18 18:26:20

My dad is a police dog handler. His advice has always been to put a coat, jumper or similar over the dogs head. Obviously you'd have to be careful to keep your hands away from the dogs mouth but it's apparently very effective. Never hit or kick the dog. They don't have the foresight to understand if they stop attacking you'll stop hitting, so it will likely just make things worse.


whateveryousay Sun 21-Oct-18 18:37:20

I will give that a try if I need to, thank you. Sounds like it would work!

ThroughThickAndThin01 Sun 21-Oct-18 18:42:56

I have a reactive dog. When I cuddled a cute puppy at 7 weeks I had no idea! Please don’t judge the owners. My gorgeous human loving boy I just keep on a lead if I can’t see a long way ahead.

But please....don’t kick dogs, you could rupture their vital organs.

theboxofdelights Sun 21-Oct-18 19:03:57

don’t kick dogs, you could rupture their vital organs

I would have no problem kicking a dog that is viciously attacking my very placid Labrador on a lead Through. None at all.

Allstarspookster Sun 21-Oct-18 20:34:14

I was told to loop the lead round the dogs waist, let it slip tight and pull. This is easier said than done! I think missbattenberg's advice is good.

Kicking an attacking dog is not going to help.

ThroughThickAndThin01 Sun 21-Oct-18 20:36:49

Just great thebox. Well done you.

pigsDOfly Mon 22-Oct-18 19:15:27

As the owner of a small dog I'm interested to read the advice on here.

The coat over the head from Awesomeo90's dad sounds like something that makes a lot of sense and something that we could all do even when in a panic. Thanks for that.

dudsville Mon 22-Oct-18 19:23:13

I'm grateful for the few ideas here. I often fear this but haven't experienced it and have wondered what to do. So clothing over the head and or a hind leg wheelbarrow pull?

PosterMoster Mon 22-Oct-18 19:23:16

My dog is never off lead as I understand that the sense is that if you cannot control your dog off lead then they do not need to be off lead. Mine is a Jack Russell and not ferocious but would chase a figment of her imagination for miles so while I think she would avoid people and other dogs in most situations, I cannot guarantee that, or that she would not run off so she is never off lead except in the back garden.

I don't know why any dog is ever off lead on a beach or in a park. In any public space in fact.

missbattenburg Mon 22-Oct-18 19:31:15

I don't know why any dog is ever off lead on a beach or in a park.

Then you have never seen the sheer unbridled joy of a dog running full pelt across an empty beach at sunrise. It's infectious grin

BiteyShark Mon 22-Oct-18 19:34:22

I don't know why any dog is ever off lead on a beach or in a park. In any public space in fact.

Ummm because it's good that a dog gets to exercise properly and that often means being able to run about unrestricted by a lead (even a long line).

Some good tips on this thread about fending off attacks.

Allstarspookster Mon 22-Oct-18 19:42:00

PosterMonster there are lots of very good reasons to let dogs off lead. Mental stimulation and exercise and weight control being just a few. The research shows that most dogs will not stray more than 50m from their owners on a walk and, contrary to popular belief, most dogs will only do about twice the distance as their owners (spaniels may be a frequent exception to this rule, esp young ones).

Dogs have evolved to cover huge distances (15-20 miles a day) at a trot and they are extremely efficient at it. But most domesticated dogs barely get a couple of miles a day so if they can be off lead they may get up to 4 miles a day which unreality is nowhere near enough but better than nothing.

The most important reason I can see for letting your dogs run and jump and play off lead is to prevent early arthritic changes in joints - cartilage has no blood supply, they only way it obtains nutrients is imbibement from the synovial fluid in the joint. It can only do this through frequent loading and unloading, throughout the joint surface. Joints do not wear and tear, they wear and repair through frequent use.

Dogs with the highest incidence of osteoarthritis are guide dogs not because they walk all the time but because they only load a small proportion of their joints when they walk. The more the dogs runs and turns the more of the joint surface is loaded.

Clearly we should all have our dogs under control at all times but it is not that hard to train recall. I have three terriers and they will all stop and return the second I call. I never stop training them to do this.

pigsDOfly Mon 22-Oct-18 19:48:07

The joy my dog obviously feels when she's running across a field after her ball, fur flying in the wind as her little legs fly over the ground, then the sheer joy as she rolls on top of the ball when she's caught up with it could never been replaced in a garden.

She's completely under control when she's off the lead and never strays far from me. I'd hate to deny her that pleasure.

BiteyShark Mon 22-Oct-18 19:55:38

The joy my dog obviously feels when she's running across a field after her ball

Same here. He looks like he's the happiest dog in the world.

Booboostwo Mon 22-Oct-18 21:07:34

In the build up to what you think might be a negative interaction try blocking eye to eye contact by putting a coat or large bag between the two dogs.

If things have kicked off water works well and compressed air even better.

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Tue 23-Oct-18 00:02:50

The first thing to know is how to prevent a fight from ever happening in the first place. Two core things are
a) know how to read a dog's body language - there are all sorts of subtle signs that tell you a dog isn't comfortable and it would be best to call your dog away
b) if you see a dog on lead, particularly if it's a short lead in an environment where most dogs are off lead, it's best to avoid them. Dogs that are wearing a yellow item of clothing / ribbon that says 'anxious' 'nervous' or similar should be avoided like the plague as it's a good sign they're reactive. Eye contact with other dog owners can go a long way to check the other dog is alright.

Scraps can be hard to break up. I've broken up a few scraps in my time, and "momma bear" protective instinct takes over when it's your dog. I'm not recommending it, but I've generally ended up just hauling one dog off the other. It's probably a miracle I've never been bitten. Someone with balance that's less good could slip and end up in serious trouble.

One interesting thing to note is that the noisier the fight is, generally the less damage it will do - it will all be growls, snaps and puncture wounds. The fights that actually do serious damage tend to be much quieter as the dog grabs and holds.

In terms of equipment, an air horn can sometimes be enough to disturb the dogs and allow the attackee to get away. In the case of a 'grab and hold' bite, a break stick can be used, though it wouldn't be without risk to yourself. The wheelbarrow method is a legitimate one, but I'd be concerned about someone with limited balance doing it.

In terms of a 'playful' attack, there are a few things that could be relevant e.g.
- a dog that's big, boisterous and playful, and accidentally hurts a smaller dog during play
- dogs playfighting - which is fine so long as both dogs are enjoying it, coming back in for more, and it seems quite evenly balanced; sometimes it can be alright at first and then get too much for one dog.
- puppies that haven't yet acquired manners - I recently had a 6mo one that decided to hang off my dog's face and had to have its jaws prised off by the owner; my dog was surprisingly good about it. No aggression, no damage done, but still a bite!

In the event of a scrap, I've never had to do more than check my own dog for injuries and wait for the other owner to do the same. If there was anything that required vet treatment, yes, exchange details and get witnesses if available. You can report to dog warden if dog-on-dog, or the police if you're bitten.

MrsTerryPratchett Tue 23-Oct-18 00:08:38

I don't know why any dog is ever off lead on a beach or in a park. In any public space in fact.

Mine is I think a whippet cross (he's a mongrel really). And runs incredibly fast. I can't run with him, no one in my family can. So when he gets off leash it's like watching a spring. He takes off like a rocket. If he wasn't off leash he would never get to run, just trot.

I'm very careful where I do it but I can't imagine never letting him off. What a sad life.

Vallahalagonebutnotforgotten Tue 23-Oct-18 09:40:47

Dogs with the highest incidence of osteoarthritis are guide dogs not because they walk all the time but because they only load a small proportion of their joints when they walk. Really this sound very weird? have you any evidence for this I would be interested

Vallahalagonebutnotforgotten Tue 23-Oct-18 09:43:08

Preventing dogs attacks is the way to go - Understand body language, check where you walk your dogs, constantly be on the look out.

It depends on how and where the dog is attacking as to how to break it up and the type of dog. You would never pull a bull breed and a terrier will be shaking to other dog so there is no hard and fast rule.

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