Dog attacks: prevention?

If you're walking your dog on a leash and another dog rushes up to attack your dog, what's the best thing that you can do to keep your dog and yourself safe?

My neighbor told me about two disturbing dog attacks had taken place in our Kirkwood neighborhood while I was gone. They were both dog-dog aggression. What I'm hoping to learn is what you guys think could have been done differently by either victim or owner of aggressive dog to prevent these attacks.

Here's what happened:
Scenario 1: My friend was walking her very timid little sheltie on the sidewalk on leash when a dalmation burst through a screen door across the street and attacked the sheltie. The sheltie received serious wounds to her back leg and required 16 stitches. A stent was put in place to drain the wound as it healed. My friend is very slow and somewhat disabled so had little chance to act quickly to get her dog or herself out of the area. She tells me that the lady who came out of the house after the dalmation explained that she's the daughter of the dalmation's owner. She had forgotten to latch the screen door and didn't realize the dalmation had escaped until she heard the ruckus outside.

Scenario 2: Another neighbor, a mother with three young children, was waking their dog aggressive dog using a "gentle leader" head halter which she thought was securely in place. She had the little kids with her. When her dog saw another dog across the street, he charged after the other dog and attacked. He caused a serious injury to the dog's neck that required stitches. My friend said that now the family with the dog aggressive dog is going to "get rid" of their dog. I asked her what she meant by "get rid" of him - are they going to put him down, or are they going to look for a new home - but she wasn't sure.

I wondered in the first case if you might have stopped the attacking dalmation in its tracks by just stepping in front of it and yelling loudly enough to startle it. I'm sure you wouldn't want to get your hands in front of the dalmation's face.

In the second case, I know what I would have done if I'd owned the attacking dog because I've worked with my beagle in this way a little bit. He starts to howl when he sees another dog walking across the street so I distract him with treats and get him to turn his back to the approaching dog. I know the young mother walking with the dog and the little kids would have a very hard time working that intensively with the dog while she has the kids with her. So, in her case, she would have been better to have either taken only the kids for a walk or taken only the dog for a walk - but NOT both at the same time!

It happened to me once when I was walking my dog. A dog came out of his yard toward me and Sunny. I got between the medium dog and my dog and yelled loudly. He went back into his yard. Sunny just went away from him. But I watch now, when we walk by their drive way.

Based on my current knowledge, I'd answer... body block (don't wave hands around as they could become targets) and CLAIM my dog as my property, vocalize with a slow-deep sound (slows the action a bit), send a strong energy to the intruder that they have no right to proceed. It starts with staying alert and aware of what's happening around you. But getting jumped is unexpected and will catch anyone off guard.

(Denise D)
I had two big aggressive dogs come out of a house trying to attack my dog. I pulled my dog behind me and yelled in a low growl telling the dominant dog to "BACK OFF." I was instinctively in a aggressive stance (knees bent, arms wide) getting in their faces while trying to stay out of biting range. The dogs came at us 3 times at a dead run, growling, and deadly serious. I was wishing I had a walking stick or heavy flashlight as I was quite ready to fight them off if I had to. Their elderly owner was useless in getting them under control. He did tell me to "watch out" as they came running at me the third time. I was able to stop them with my voice and aggressive posturing. Wouldn't have worked for all dogs but they weren't after me, they were after my dog. When I made it clear they would have to go through me to get to him they were reluctant to do that. I would recommend using a deep loud voice - you are trying to come across as a big dog they don't want to mess with.

If you have dangerous dogs in your neighborhood you may want to carry a defensive weapon like pepper spray, or one of those big maglite flashlights the police carry. A walking stick or umbrella could also be used to keep then at a distance.

(Katie W)
When I was training for a bike ride and dogs would come charging out of their yards after us we would use our water bottles. Just a squirt in the face, not the eyes, would distract them enough that they would generally turn away. I'm not sure if it would work in a dog on dog situation but it was definitely helpful and lots of people have water bottles with them when they walk.

(Lauren M)
I don't want hurt anyone, but if I can get a kick in before the dog makes contact, I will. Anything to startle or divert the dog, because that dog has focused on one thing. This is also why a body block is good. However, I have had dogs just run around and go from behind. When I have had my dog attacked, and its intense, the only thing I can do is to get him in my arms and use my knees to block and keep turning away from the attacker.

I tried to throw a shoe once, and my friend jumped in the middle of a fight between my neighbors dogs. I don't recommend that! The owner of the leashed dog paused and saw the other dog staring and was weary of continuing down the sidewalk. Before I could get the first word out of my mouth (to tell her to stop, that dog is going to attack her dog!), the loose dog was charging and attacking the dog on the leash. I was trying to think of what to throw (finally my shoe, and not my shirt) while my friend jumped in the middle of it. The owner? He was gardening, came around to the front, took his dog by the collar, lead him a couple of feet, released him, and went back around the house to garden. Not so much as an apology. He didn't think anything of leaving his dogs outside when he was at work or at home. I called animal control once and they don't do anything.

The water bottle is a very good idea. Dog mace maybe something worth looking into.

Scenario, 2, I am not sure of the gentle leader, but the Halti has a security clip that attached the leash and Halti to the lead. A good collar is an important investment. I am not an advocate for choke collars or prong collars, I believe any dog can walk on a lead with out anticipating pain, but for those who have trouble predicting sudden outburst if their dog is startled, or cannot physically turn their dog around if they started to lunge, then I think it may be an investment for a prong on a large, strong dog. So long as they learn how to use one and aren't jerking them around all of the time.

Many people do not know to get their dog's attention before they start barking or charging. There is sometimes too much body language before it escalates. Kids can be distracting, but for that moment that your dog goes alert, you need to take your focus off the kids and onto the dog (replace the behavior with a positive behavior). General dog owners do not know how to read body language. These things need to be covered in general classes. What their dog did isn't unusual, even our dachshunds will suddenly start barking (if they were startled. Sometimes they didn't notice the approaching dog, so yes, sometimes there is no period to read the language, but you can prepare for that approaching dog). They are small enough to be able to turn them around and away from the other dog and get their attention to turn back around and walk by nicely.

That incident happens all of the time, but the dog is on lead and the owner walks by holding on for dear life. Many, many dogs have done this without attack, but if they were off lead, they would! It is sad that the dog did get off lead and was successful. The result is possible euthanasia. If the dog was on the lead, he would still have his life and home. People don't understand the importance of evaluating what could happen and taking steps to prevent it. Cayce doesn't like it when a dog gives her a look she doesn't like. That is quite often the case.

(Chris R)
Always have something to put between the dogs to break up a fight. At home, I'm using the hard plastic cover to the doggie door. It works like a charm. No one - including me - has been bitten. You could also use a plastic trash can lid to block them.

If the dogs are small, you can use your body. You are still taking a chance because a bite from a small dog can still be serious, but you can physically overpower small dogs so they can't kill you like a heavy, large dog could if you used your body.

Have a bucket of water handy in the case of a serious fight. Throw the water on the dogs, and that will often stop the fight because it startles them and takes them out of attack mode.

Walk your dog at least 30 minutes before you take him/her to the dog park. This drains energy so he/she will be less likely to participate or start a fight.

As difficult as it seems, you have to remain calm but assertive. If you freak out, you intensify the aggression. I've seen this with my own eyes as it has made a HUGE difference in Sammie's behavior.

I don't have any experience in this area because I've never had it happen, but I believe I've seen "dog mace" in pet stores. I think it is formulated so that it is not as strong as regular mace. I assume regular mace is too strong for some dogs and could cause permanent damage.

As mentioned above, remaining calm but assertive during a fight is essential.

In Scenario one, I would have stepped between the dogs. I've done this before many times. Its actually one of the biggest things you can do to show your dog that you are the pack leader. Pack leaders decide who and when to fight. Its also their job to protect the lower ranking members. Dog packs aren't like the mafia where lower ranking members do all of the dirty work while the godfather just sits back and points out who gets whacked. 

I actually did this recently. my young German Shepherd, my 4 year old, and I were walking down the street when a small dog (maybe 8 lbs) runs up to us barking. Even though I'm sure my dog would have no problem defending her self from this dog, and that if she did hurt this dog, we would have no legal action taken against us, I still stood between the dogs. I yelled for the small dog to go away and stomped at it a few times. I probably saved this dogs life as my son was getting afraid and trying to hide behind me. But again, it helped show my dog that I was in control. 

Look at the last off leash meet we attended. My dog was involved in no scuffles because she stuck close to me the entire time and was generally aloof to the other dogs. This is exactly how I want her to be. I don't want her to look at all other dogs and people as play machines. Not all dogs and people have good intentions. I feel that she has trully accepted me as her pack leader and looks to me for orders. 

Another example that shows this is the best way to handle these situations was this time when my dog was very small, (maybe 12 weeks) and we were walking past a lady with a larger dog. The larger dog lunged at us. My dog yelped and hid behind me. lol. I was concerned that this was a bad thing because she was afraid of the larger dog but after doing some research I learned that she did this because she had already begun accepting me as her protector.

Now in scenario one, you said that your friend is disabled and stepping between the dogs may not have been the best thing for her to do if she can't physically warn off the dog. If it were me, I'd carry a big stick. She should also just try to be aware of her surroundings. Watch ahead. I understand she probably had no choice in this case, but in general, you should be aware of your surroundings anyway. It really bothers me that her dog got injured. I'd seek legal action against the owners in scenario one if I were her. 

In scenario 2, this is one of the reasons I don't like the gentle leader as a training collar. Again whenever you see me out with my dog, she actually wears THREE collars. One is her leather everyday collar which has her ID on it. The second is a properly fitted prong collar. And because prong collars have the possibilty to break, I have it backed with a 3rd dominant dog collar. However, my dog knows not to lunge. She's felt the correction of a prong collar before and doesn't want to feel it again. All it took was one self correction and she has never pulled again. 

I know everyone isn't ready to invest in the idea of using prong collars or dominant dog collars so here is another method that anyone can use. And that is distraction. If you see another dog coming, you can pull out whatever your dog loves. If your dog is food driven, whip out the high reward treats. By high reward, I'm not talking about the junk you find in the petstores. I'm talking hot dogs, chicken, steak, etc. and throw a party right there on the spot taking your dogs attention off of the other dog and back on you. Or if your dog has a high prey drive. Do the same thing, if you see another dog heading towards you, pull out your dogs favorite tug and have some fun with her. Again showing you are the source of all that is good and keeping her attention on you.

You can say in scenario 2 that the dog was protecting the pack. But I don't agree with this and again, I feel its just a matter of the dog not looking at the owner as the pack leader. 

No ammount of training will correct this. Establishing pack structure is what is needed here. I hope someone finds what I said helpful.

AND… I say avoid them all together. Dog parks require no amount of training before the dog or owner enters. Many dog owners say how well their dog plays. The last walk I went to, a owner was saying how well socialized her dog was, and before they were able to finish the sentence their dog was involved in a scuffle. This isn't to say her dog started it but to say that you can't just trust your dog around anybody who says their dog plays nice. And unfortunately most of the general public who uses dog parks are not avid dog ethusiasts who teaches them selves the warning signs of a potential dog fight.

I've read so many horror stories of dog park fights. I prefer not to deal with them.

And unfortunately most of the general public who use dog parks are not avid dog ethusiasts who teaches themselves the warning signs of a potential dog fight.

I agree that there are a lot of naive dog owners out there, and I count myself among them. I am learning a tremendous amount from this group! I don't have anything in particular against dog parks, but it is very easy to get involved in socializing with the people there and forget to watch your dog to see if he's "playing nice." In a book I read, it was described as being involved in the people agenda and not the dog agenda. When you have your dog out in public, you have to be in the habit of WATCHING (and preparing for) the dog agenda. What's on the dog agenda? Hunting (how many times have you almost been pulled off your feet when your dog lunges after a squirrel or bunny as you were daydreaming?); watching for threats from other dogs if your dog is fearful; hearing "scary" sounds: thunder, firecrackers, etc. My point is: know your dog's agenda and prepare for his reactions. Know how to control your dog and train your dog to watch you (like Jerren points out in his earlier discussion) for direction on how he should react.