Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dogs: They're on to me

Not all dogs can be as happy as this li'l guy
No really, I mean they are ON to me... literally. Well, at least one dog in our neighborhood is.

How else would you explain the following?

Just a few days after my last post about fences that keep in yappy dogs, I had an encounter with one, except this guy didn't just yap. He growled, ran, and then bit.

His breed was of the Spuds Mckenzie fame; a bull terrier. He ran out of his owner's yard as I passed on the sidewalk in front of his house. The children who lived there were sitting out front having a yard sale, and I smiled at them as I ran by.

Then, I heard them start to yell: "No, Cody, NO!" followed by the unmistakable sound of a dog's growls, and nails on pavement...


I jumped forward, hesitated, then shot forward again - my hesitation came from the brief wondering if the dog was only chasing me because I was running (I have known dogs such as these), but I quickly decided that running was the better option.

As I ran, he jumped and bit me on the leg. I say "bit", but really, it was more of a nip - literally less than a 1-inch puncture, and enough force to generate some nice bruises that would flower the next day. It was very, very minor.

It was enough to shake me, however - as I jogged a few more feet after the children had called the dog off, the Chihuahua at the next house saw me coming and ran to the fence, yapping... and well, I nearly jumped out of my skin (in fact, for the remained of the run I was very jumpy at the sound of any bark).

After that, I wasn't sure what to do. Really, I wanted to just go home, and was worried if I went back to the house that the dog would run at me again. After thinking a second further however, I knew I had to go back and at least talk with the dog's owners - they needed to know what had happened, and I needed to hear from them what they would do to make sure it would not happen again.

So, that's what I did - some people may think that was not enough, but I just was not comfortable reporting the dog to Animal Services based on the minor level of the encounter - it just hadn't been that serious, and while the dog had apparently been excited enough to take a snap at me, it withdrew pretty quickly and had seemed entirely spurned on by my running... once I stopped, he was no longer interested. All in all, I did not think he presented enough of a threat to report.

The incident has, however, made me consider what to do if actually attacked by a dog - it's one of those situations where you think you know what to do, but really don't.

So, here's the scoop - what to do if you have a run-in with an aggressive dog (the article was published on Good Morning America, and has similar recommendations as those of dog trainers who have also published advice online).

What To Do If You Encounter a Seemingly Aggressive Dog:
  1. Stand still. If you keep approaching, the dog will interpret this as an attack
  2. Don't make eye contact. This is a challenge to the dog
  3. Don't smile. The dog thinks you are "baring your teeth" at him. This is an invitation to fight.
  4. Wait for the dog's owner to come and restrain the dog
  5. Respect the dog's wishes! If the dog is barking and growling, he is expressing his definite displeasure with your actions. Don't push the envelope. Most dogs make good on their warnings!
What To Do If You Are Attacked by a Dog:
  1. Don't move! You cannot outrun a dog, no matter how fast you are. Running only provokes an angry dog.
  2. Look away. Staring an aggressive dog in the eyes is a challenge.
  3. Use a soft, soothing tone of voice. Loud, angry-sounding words and screaming only spur on the dog.
  4. Keep your arms to your side, with your fingers curled in so the dog can't bite them.
  5. If he bites you, DO NOT PULL AWAY. This only spurs the dog on. Remain calm. Try to ram a stick, broom handle, etc down the dog's throat to make him gag and let you go. Don't hit the dog. Again, that just makes the situation worse.
  6. If you are on the ground, curl into a fetal position. Cover your head and neck. Lay perfectly still. Usually a still target is boring to the dog and they will retreat.

I hope this advice is helpful, but I'll admit the advice regarding "What to Do if You Are Attacked By a Dog" seems very hard to follow. Our natural instinct is to run, to fight back, and to yell; but this article (and other dog training articles online) tell us that those behaviors are not the best response.

Interesting stuff. I'll try my best to avoid any attacks in the future by slowing down if I hear a dog getting too aggressive, or not contained - usually I just run right by and hope for the best (as evidenced by my "Ode to the Fence" where I just HOPE that the fence will hold).

Now, I understand that hoping for the best isn't good enough - I've got to use my eyes and ears to make sure I don't get in the way of an aggressive dog. And yeah, it sucks that we have to worry about this, but it's better than getting "nipped" in the back of the leg... or worse!

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