Protecting Yourself Against a Dog Attack
Dogs are not called a man’s best friend for no reason. Domesticated since at least 7,000 BC, these animals are our companions, and provide essential help and support for people affected by disabilities.
However, no matter how successfully we have made dogs part of our world; they are still animals and can therefore be unpredictable. Suddenly becoming a victim of a dog attack is one of the most terrifying experiences a person can have.
What can cause a dog to attack an adult or child? When confronted by an aggressive dog, what can you do to protect yourself from serious injury? And if injured, do you have a right to claim compensation from the owner of the animal?
It probably comes as no surprise that most victims of dog bites and attacks are children. Figures from 2012/13 show that there were 6,302 hospital admissions attributed to dog bites and mauling. There have been at least 27 deaths since 2006 due to dog attacks.
Although some breeds of dogs have been bred for fighting and aggression, the fact is that ANY dog can bite or maul an adult or child. The difference between a big dog and the smaller breeds simply comes down to strength, and the damage they can do due to their size.
What to look for – warning signs
Dogs can attack for a variety of reasons and almost always give warning signs that they are feeling threatened or uncomfortable before the attack occurs. The most common reasons for a dog to turn aggressive are:
• The dog is or has been mistreated and therefore is in a high state of anxiety most of the time
• To protect their territory or pack (which for a domesticated dog is members of its human family)
• To protect their possessions (food, toys or water)
• The dog is sick or injured
• The dog becomes over-excited during play
Signs a dog is becoming stressed by certain behaviour and may attack if this continues are:
• The dog moves away from the person interacting with them
• The dog turns its head away (this may be quite subtle)
• Incessant licking of itself or a person
When you can see the whites of a dog’s eyes and they begin to growl and snap at you it means the situation has reached a critical moment – it is highly likely the dog is preparing to attack you. In this situation here is what to do.
• The most important thing to do is STAY CALM. A dog can sense your fear and wants its prey to be stressed.
• Do not look the dog directly in the eyes; they can interpret this as a challenge. Avert your gaze, stand sideways and keep the dog within your peripheral vision.
• Stay still. Running away will only activate a dog’s ‘prey drive’ and they can run a lot faster than you can.
• Stand tall and confident, but remember to avoid eye contact. Claim your space by putting something in front of you.
• If the dog comes up to you, stay calm and in control and let it sniff you. Keep your hands by your sides and your fingers curled inwards and never try and pet or hug the dog, this may be seen as threatening by the animal.
• Say in a strong, calm voice “go home” or “back away”.
• If the dog calms down, walk away slowly, facing the dog and avoiding eye contact.
What to do
If a dog attacks you it is a potentially life-threatening situation.
• If the dog jumps on you and takes you down to the ground, curl up in a ball, protecting your face, ears and neck. Stay completely still and play dead.
• If you are still standing and the dog is rushing towards you, look around for an object such as a food recycling bin or stick that you can put between you and the dog. Your aim is to get the dog to latch onto the object instead of you.
• If there are no objects to hand and an attack is inevitable, offer the dog your weakest arm, preferably wrapped in a sweater or jacket. DO NOT pull away from the bite once it happens at this will cause the flesh to tear. Like all predators a dog will put up massive resistance to anything being taken out of its mouth by force. Start yelling for help and target the dog’s eyes or throat with your free arm.
Once you have suffered a dog bite you need to have it checked by a health professional in case of infection.
If you or your child has suffered personal injury from a dog attack you may be entitled to make a claim against the owner.
On a final note, remember, NEVER leave a young child and a dog together unsupervised. Even the most gentle, trusted family pet can turn aggressive in certain circumstance.