First, just how big is the problem of biting/attacking dogs? So far in 2016, there have been 19 dog attacks in the United States that have resulted in death. In 2015, there were 34 fatal dog attacks (14 children, 20 adults). Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in America. Nearly 1 out of 5 bites becomes infected. Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2015, costing more than $570 million. Dog bites occur every 75 seconds in the United States. Each day, over 1,000 citizens need emergency medical care to treat these injuries. In 2015, pit bulls contributed to 82% of the total recorded deaths, the highest fatality count on record for the breed. In 2015, the combination of pit bulls and rottweilers contributed to 91% of all dog bite-related fatalities. In the 10-year period from 2005 to 2015, pit bulls killed 232 Americans, about one citizen every 17 days. Each year, an American has a one in 50 chance of being bitten by a dog.
Clearly, dogs attacking people is an ongoing and increasing issue in the United States.
Why do dogs attack? In the case of joggers, runners, bikers, etc., it’s because the motion of the person triggers their prey drive. However, not every dog will naturally decide to chase down and bite someone who’s moving too quickly. Those dogs that do have learned to do it — because of human negligence. Some dog owners are not responsible enough to keep their dogs in a secure yard, inside a house, or on a leash. When I ran solo across America in 2006, I was approached many times by dogs that were not properly secured and/or controlled by their owners. At one point I was approached by 3 aggressive dogs while on the edge of a public roadway. Fortunately, I was able to get away without being bitten. West Virginia was the worst state to run across while trying to avoid being bitten by dogs. It seemed like there were loose dogs running all over that state.
If you are ever faced with the situation of a dog pursuing you aggressively, the most important thing to keep in mind is that if you remain calm and in control it throws them off. Maintain a calm and assertive state. This outward calm/assertive energy (regardless of how scared you are on the inside) creates a barrier that automatically demands the dog’s respect by letting it know that you are not afraid. When the dog senses that you aren’t threatening it — and are not threatened by it — it will probably lose interest and the situation will subside. Unfortunately, though, this process is not always possible. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you have nothing to protect yourself:
- Don’t run!
- Don’t smile because to the dog it looks like you are baring your teeth.
- Keep your hands in a fist because if your fingers get bit they will be destroyed.
- Don’t make any sudden movements.
- Use a strong, deep and commanding voice — saying "Back Away!"
- Don't look the dog in the eye. If you do, it will view this as you challenging it.
- If a dog's head is low, he is seriously thinking of attacking you.
- Stand sideways from the dog and don’t turn your back on it.
- Don’t face the dog head on because that looks like you want to fight.
- If possible, distract the dog with another object.
- If the dog tries to bite you try to block it with your thigh. Thrust your leg at it or pull it up and away quickly.
- If the dog does bite you, don’t pull away or it will just increase the severity of the wound.
- If attacked, you should try to get to a stick or another weapon and use it to hit the dog. Although, don't hit him over the top of the head because most dogs have very thick skulls, so this will only serve to make the dog angrier.
- If attacked, fight as though your life depends on it, because it does. As seen in the statistics already noted, dog attacks can be fatal. While you certainly don't want to hurt a dog unnecessarily, you should use force as necessary if you are being seriously attacked.
- Once the dog loses interest in you, leave the scene of the attack slowly by backing away without sudden movements.
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.