T Nation

How to Handle a Dog Attack


Hello good people of the combat forum.

I was just wondering what, in your opinion, would be sound ways to handle being attacked by a dog? Including any methods to de-escalate the situation, any general combat strategies and any specific techniques that work well?

This has thankfully never happened to me, it was just something that crossed my mind. I suppose it is probably as likely as being attacked by a person. In the event that people say that the approach would depend on the individual's size and combat experience I'm 6'2", 215lbs and I have rudimentary striking skills and a worse ground game(2 years of boxing, 18 months of MMA, never competed).

I'm sorry if this has been answered before, but I searched and couldn't find a similar thread. I hope this will generate a discussion encompassing a range of scenarios and solutions.

Thank you for your time.


This has actually happened to me more than a couple of times. The one thing to remember is most dogs will attack straight at you and when they get close jump at you. The first time this happened i just stood still and when the doberman got close enough i front kicked him in the throat. He stopped.

The second time was a German Sheppard. Same theory, only when he jumped i moved to the side and close-lined him.. problem solved. Main thing to remember is they are not strategizing, just reacting. Keep cool and they are fairly easy to deal with.


Having had dogs all my life, I have a tiny bit of experience in this.

It's just remarkably dangerous. I'd rather be attacked any day by a group of four guys than one large dog... that animal killer instinct can be terrifying, and you can't flee as effectively from something so much faster than you.

It really depends a lot on the type of dog and it's method of attacking. If you get attacked by something like a bulldog or bulldog-mix that just clamps on to a body part and hangs on for dear life, you need to go for the nose - the mouth is clamped so tight that they can't breath through it, so if you put your hand over the nostrils, it will let go because it needs to in order to breath.

We did this when a family members massive black lab mix - 120 pounds of muscle - attacked another dog with full intent to kill. I never saw something so amazing in my life - three full-grown men beating on this dog to get it to let go, and it had such bloodlust that it simply ignored the blows raining upon it. Not until it's ability to breath was cut off did it give up the grip on the other dog's neck.

If you're upright, and it comes charging, I've found that knees and kicks to the ribs and face can dissuade them if they're not totally intent on attacking. Some dogs - like collies, for instance, or pitbulls - can be real motherfuckers, and fight like a good boxer, dipping in and out with brutal strokes.

Getting them off their paws is dangerous but can work - their lack of limb mobility and strength means that they can be incapacitated and strangled if need be if you're on top of them on the ground or you have them in a sort of rear naked choke.

Again, this is just my experience after being around dogs my entire life and wrestling and playing with them since I was a little kid. Your mileage may vary, and the best course is to jump over a fence or up a tree and get the fuck away from them if you can.


What they used to teach soldiers in WW2 and Vietnam was to wrap one of their arms in tree bark/thick leather/some other relatively thick material and to waive that forearm around like crazy as the dog came in. The theory was that the dog would go for the rapidly moving (protected) arm and once it latched on you could stab the dog in the throat or belly with your knife/bayonet, or potentially teach around behind the dog's head and break it's neck. Both of these are methods of killing the attacking dog though, and probably not all that practical for civilian use.

Maybe just try carrying a bag of dog treats with you and hope that the dog's sense of smell and hunger overcomes it's desire to do you harm. What Irish said is also sound advice.

Finally, if you do get bit, the best thing you can do is to "feed" the bite; never pull away as that will just result in more bites.


Uncle gave me advice for a pitbull attack once

"stick yer finger up its bum"

To this day I'm not sure if this is a personal anecdote or advice he received


Thanks a lot for the input guys.

FightingIrish the idea of preventing them breathing is a really good one, I wouldn't have thought of that. I've heard of a similar story of a pitbull that had to be submerged in a barrel of water before it would let go of a man's arm.

Sentoguy that is really interesting, thank you. Could you go into a bit more detail on how they would break the dogs neck? I'd have thought it would require a hell of a lot of force.


The first question is why are you being attacked. This will affect the dog's state of mind (what drive it is in). Is it defending his owner, owner's kid or his property (in defense drive)? Is he chasing you (in prey drive)? All dogs are different. Even within a breed there can be huge variances between individuals. Some dogs are fearless, have incredible nerve, and won't quit under pressure. A dog that will die for its owner is not to be taken lightly however, what was done to the owner to make the dog protect him?

I sort of hesitate to provide any techniques or strategies because dogs are not criminals. That is, learning how to defend against a human makes sense since humans commit violent crimes against humans. Dogs don't go around raping, robbing or murdering. The number of people killed by dogs is insignificant when compared to murder. In most cases it was the family dog, a family member's dog, or friend of the family's dog. This is another reason why I ask what provoked the attack in the first place. I mean, if someone asked how to disarm a cop I don't think anyone would give advice about that.

I will say that food (bribery) won't work with a dog that is in prey or defense as those drives are stronger than food drive. It makes sense since dogs descend from wolves and survival is the number one priority. Waving an arm, giving the dog a target, might work but it depends on whether or not the dog has already decided on a target. When you see videos of dogs grabbing a bite sleeve you are seeing dogs that were trained to do that. When you see them hold on while getting whipped you are seeing dogs that have a strong prey drive plus, they are trained and conditioned to not let go because of pain. Dogs that are not trained in this way might just bite and rebite. They might bite and hold but if you try and use your other arm they will let go and bite that arm. Some dogs just have a preference for the face, crotch or leg. The point being that there is a difference between a dog that was trained to attack someone wearing a bite sleeve and an untrained dog or a dog that was trained to just bite whatever it can. That's why they have bite suits.

Sento mentioned pushing into the bite. That's good advice however it only works if the dog is holding onto the bite. If the dog bites with the intention of taking a chunk of flesh out then it won't matter. One more thing: some dogs can bite really hard. Decoys have had their arms broken while wearing a bite sleeve. When those teeth sink in it will hurt like hell and there is a good chance you won't keep a clear head during the initial shock. If you ever see a police video of a suspect appearing unfazed from a dog bite he is probably on drugs. Most people scream, cry, and beg.

One last thing: someone broke a chair over the back of a rottweiler I owned and it did nothing to him. That same dog cracked my windshield with his head trying to get someone. Someone tried kicking him and he caught the guy's leg in his mouth. A so-called serious dog will change your life.


That is all true, but first, the tactics that I mentioned were used effectively on attack dogs in war. Obviously nothing works every time and being attacked by a dog hell bent on killing you (especially a powerful breed like a Rotty) is absolutely a worst case scenario. If you don't have a weapon or ability to quickly get to safety you are in serious trouble and although your chances might not be great, they are better than just embracing your death.


I think some of the military tactics were dependent upon already anticipating the attack as it takes time to find something to wrap your arm with and then actually wrap it. A major problem with military dogs is that they usually come paired with a human who will just shoot you anyway. If it's a sentry dog there will probably be more than one and it/they will alert the guards.


Yes, absolutely dependent on preparing ahead of time. That's why I said they wouldn't be that practical for a civilian. If the dog has a handler, you generally want to try to take out the handler as the dogs won't operate as well without their handler.


Thank you for your reply.

I understand where you are coming from, being hesitant to give out advice, but I can assure you I have no intention of going out and picking fights with innocent dogs! I understand that avoidance is the most important aspect, which is why I wondered if people had tips for de-escalating a confrontation with a dog.

I'm a peaceful, law-abiding guy but I just want to have a reasonable level of preparation for a worst case scenario. It struck me the other day (as I was walking through a dodgy neighbourhood) that if a dangerous dog were to run at me I'd have absolutely no idea how to react.

I am sure dog attacks are rare, but they do happen and I think it is sensible to have some sort of basic preparation for it. I was once walking along a public countryside path near a farm-house with a friend and his dad and a German shepherd ran out, completely silent and leapt and bit my friends dad on the arm. I think the attack was half-hearted, because he retreated pretty quickly, but he made a sizable gash on his forearm. So they do happen, and I'd like to have a basic strategy for dealing with them.


Don't give a dog a reason to bite or attack.


Most dogs are naturally "beta" and if you simply hold your ground, maintain you cool, and omit "alpha" behaviors the majority of dogs will back down. They will test you to see if you are serious, but if you don't cave they will eventually back down. One of my colleagues is a State Cop in AZ (and an instructor at Gunsite) and has stared down many an aggressive dog that he encountered on the job.

This won't always work though and again, if it doesn't you are in serious trouble unless you have a weapon (and even then unless you can scare the dog off with it before it actually attacks, you are likely still going to be hurt or injured). There is a reason why human beings are at the top of the food chain, and it is not because we can physically outmatch animals like large dog breeds.


an interesting topic.

I am not an expert on dogs, but, have encountered them over the years, because dopers love attack dogs. We were serving a high risk felony warrant, blew in the rear door with a shaped charge, and, the first team member made it about three feet down the hall, when he was knocked on his ass by a large doberman. The dog missed his face and bite into the collar of the heavy vest. another doberman came out of the hallway and leaped at a second team member. unfortunately, both had to be shot. The doper had their vocal cords removed so they were totally silent. As everyone has stated they are totally dedicated to the kill, but, it because the assholes train them that way. not the dogs fault.

I have been used as a training dummy before( totally qualified) , wearing the full protective gear (Sheppards) and their bite on your arm or leg is powerful. I can easily see them breaking an arm.

I think this is one of those situation where you need to have some type of prior mental tactical plan, even it is as simple as , "if a dog jumps me , I am going to shut off its breathing (Irish) or stick a knife or Bic pen in its eye. A dog attack is incredibly fast and no time for a brain freeze......some type of weapon will be needed... IMHO


The people who really need to worry about a dog attack are kids, mostly in "bad" neighborhoods. Most people who are attacked probably deserved it since dogs need a really good reason to engage in a fight. Even the police breaking down a door would be considered, from the dog's POV, a legitimate provocation.


This is simply wrong. The two or three times I've had encounters or near encounters, it was due to absolutely nothing that I did.

Two of them happened while walking my dog, and somebody else's dog escaped the yard/got off the leash/owner was a retard who couldn't handle them.

That's like saying the only people who need to worry about interpersonal violence are people who live in the ghetto and lead a shitty lifestyle. Well, ok, they're at higher risk maybe, but that doesn't mean that it can't or won't happen to anyone, anywhere.


As I'm sure you can tell I have very little experience in this topic, but this is exactly what I was thinking.


It actually happened to me a couple months ago, and it could have been a very dangerous situation because it looked to be a big pit that got off the leash, and came barreling at me and my girlfriend's dog, which is a boxer-mix but is only 30 lbs.

I had to kind of do a dance - keeping myself between this dog and her dog, which he wanted to get at - while kneeing the poor bastard in the ribs and yelling/growling in my gruffest voice. Eventually I caught that dog between my knee and a fence post, and then I calmed him down to the point that I was petting him by the time the frantic and fucking absolutely retarded owner (some guido-looking middle aged woman) came over.

After that incident - and I've had a couple others, but they were unrelated - I began putting thought into this.

As a dog lover, I'd much rather hurt the owner than the animal, but if circumstances dictate that it's my pup or theirs, guess which one is getting offed...

As Idaho said, it's almost ALWAYS the owner's fault though.


The dog was attacking your dog it seems, not you. If dogs really were going around attacking people for no APPARENT reason then we would have a lot of dead people as a result.

Unfortunately the facts are that in inner cities pit bulls are extremely popular. Dog fighting is popular. Dogs are not treated well in general. I've been to the shelter in Newark and it does not compare to the shelter in Newington, CT. Dogs that are raised with uncontrollable prey drive will go after whatever moves and what they would consider prey. Children and other dogs are most at risk because they are easy prey. Children's behaviors are also closer to prey than adults. The fidgeting, playing, and higher pitched voices.

Dog fighting is also a rural activity but population density is not as high as cities. Besides, a person out there will probably just shoot a dog instead of letting it loose to become a stray.

The majority of people who are killed by dogs are under 10 or over 60. Pit bulls lead the way when it comes to killing. If you look at the stats for 2013 you'll see that it is common for the dog to belong to the victim, his family or a friend.


I should be more clear. Dog bites are common and can happen anywhere but I wouldn't call that an attack. I guess technically it is an attack but I picture getting bitten by a dog and getting attacked as two different things when looking at the original post. In that context I picture an attack as a dog engaging in a fight.

There is a difference between a dog barking, snapping and trying to bite vs a dog that is coming at you with the mindset that it will kill if necessary. Keeping from getting bitten is a different scenario than fighting a dog.