Dogs are generally cute, and cuddly, and if they’re adequately trained, and obedient, they’re still animals, and animals can sometimes be unpredictable. Even a well-trained dog, under stressful or unusual circumstances, may be prompted to attack you.
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It may seem like you’re perfectly capable of warding off a dog attack, especially if you’re a dog owner who’s used to dogs being under control, but dogs are surprisingly powerful creatures. Most dogs have strong bites, with some breeds like Kangal dogs biting with a force of 743 PSI. For comparison, the average human can bite with a force of just 150 PSI.
So what steps should you take if an unfamiliar dog attacks you?
Preventing an Attack
First, you can take steps to avoid an attack in the first place. Most dogs would never attack a human unless they feel threatened, or unless they’re dealing with highly unusual circumstances. Knowing that, be careful about how you approach unfamiliar dogs. Don’t approach a dog without its owner’s permission (or not at all, if there is no owner), and ask about its temperament if you can.
Approach from the side and let the dog sniff your hand so it doesn’t perceive you as a threat, avoid staring at its eyes, and be gentle if and when petting it. If you have dogs, you can also work with them to ensure they don’t start conflicts with other dogs.
If you are attacked by an unfamiliar dog, the best thing you can do is remain calm. Trying to run away is the worst thing you can do; you’ll provoke the dog to chase you, and you won’t be able to win. Turning your back encourages the dog to attack, and also prevents you from seeing what’s going on. Instead, remain still and watch the dog’s movements.
Avoid making eye contact or smiling at the dog, which could be interpreted as a challenge. If you have space, get onto the ground and curl up into a fetal position, protecting your head and neck with your arms and hands. Keep your fingers tightly closed into a fist, which should keep your digits safe.
While you’re at it, try speaking to the dog in a calm, soothing voice. Aggressively yelling or reprimanding the dog could incite it to continue attacking, or attack more aggressively. If the dog bites you on any part of your body, you’ll likely feel an immediate temptation to pull away.
However, this course of action can cause more damage as the teeth drag against your skin. It could also encourage the dog to attack further. Instead, try to wedge something between the dog’s jaws to relieve the pressure if you can, or put something between you and the dog like a purse or backpack.
Document the Situation
Hopefully, the attack will not persist very long. The dog may lose interest and calm down, or the owner may intervene and pull the dog off you. After the attack, try to document the situation as best as you can. This way, you can have more information you can use to get proper healthcare. You can also use this information if you end up filing a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner.
For example, get the name and personal information of the dog’s owner, and either jot down a description of the dog or take a picture of it. Note whether it was wearing a leash at the time, and see if you can get any eyewitness testimonies. Depending on the severity of the attack, it may also be in your best interest to file a police report.
Take Care of the Bite
If you have been bitten in the attack, it’s important for you to take care of the wound as quickly as possible. If it appears serious, call emergency services as soon as possible. Even if the bite isn’t serious, it’s still a good idea to have a doctor examine it. If you aren’t going to the hospital, try to rinse the bite thoroughly with soap and water.
Try to confirm whether the dog is currently vaccinated for rabies, and report the bite to your local veterinarian. Over the next several days, pay attention to the wound. If it continues to be painful or if it looks discolored or swollen, it may be a sign of an infection, which means it requires medical attention.
Obviously, in the heat of the moment, it will be difficult to follow these steps to the letter, but the more prepared you are for what a dog attack could look like, the more likely you’ll be to respond in an appropriate manner. Internalize these steps the best you can, and be prepared in case you ever need to use them.
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