Most, if not all dog owners will agree that dogs are lovable animals and great family pets that would never harm a soul, but that's not exactly the case for all dogs. There are cases of dogs attacking humans, sometimes resulting in significant injury, or even death.
As a dog owner, it's important to understand your dog, as well as its behaviors and tendencies in order to keep yourself and others around you safe. Proper behavioral training can prevent your dog from attacking and potentially harming another person.
It's important to understand aggression in dogs and why dogs may exhibit aggressive behavior. This can be the difference in successfully avoiding a dog attack.
Aggression in Dogs
Dogs can exhibit aggression in different ways and for very different reasons. Whether you're a dog owner or not, you should understand what might cause a dog to behave aggressively. Without knowing the reason for your dog's aggression, you can't create a plan to modify your dog's behavior.
Common types of aggression include some of the following:
Territorial aggression: A dog is defensive of its home or private space and doesn't like intruders
Protective aggression: A dog protects members of its “pack” - which can include its owners - from another animal or person
Possessive aggression: A dog protects what it feels are its belongings, such as toys, food, or other objects it values
Fear aggression: A dog finds itself in a situation in which it feels fear and attacks when cornered
Defensive aggression: Rather than attempting to retreat when feeling fear, the dog attacks
Predatory aggression: Without warning or exhibiting signs, a dog behaves aggressively
Stopping Dog Aggression
In order to stop your dog from behaving aggressively, you'll need to take note of situations in which your dog becomes aggressive. This will allow you to determine what to do next. There are always underlying causes of aggression. The goal is to find out what these are so that you can correct them. Aggressive behavior is simply a symptom. Preventing future aggression will take time, consistent behavioral training, and maybe even the help of a professional trainer.
Surviving a Dog Attack
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dog attacks occur at a rate of about 4.5 million dog bites per year in the U.S. Does that surprise you? Even if you or even someone you know has never been attacked, you should know how to survive a dog attack if you ever happen to find yourself in the situation. It's better to be prepared and not have it happen to you than to be unprepared and encounter an attack.
If you happen to run into a dog you're unfamiliar with, whether it's stray, feral, or looks like it's probably a pet, it is recommended that you avoid it completely. This is the easiest and simplest way to avoid a potential attack. If the dog happens to charge at you, it's important that you remain calm and standstill. Obviously, this may go against every urge that you have to run at the moment, but it's very important. Dogs are known to charge for two reasons. This is because they're either scared or excited.
If the dog is showing signs of aggression, attempt to put something between yourself and the dog. This could be a purse, book bag, or any article of clothing. While doing so, prepare to block a potential attack. Do not try to hit the dog as this may only cause further aggression. As you're attempting to put space between yourself and the dog, slowly back away while still facing the dog. Do not turn your back as the dog could take this opportunity to attack.
The procedure for encountering a pack of dogs is a little bit different, although you'll likely use many of the same tactics you would if it were only one dog. A pack of dogs will attempt to surround you from all angles and will try to get behind you. If possible, don't allow them to do this. Make sure to have them in front of you where you can see them at all times.
The key here is to identify the alpha or leader of the pack. If you're able to somehow scare off the leader, with rocks, sticks, or anything else that you might have available to you, this will be your best bet at escaping without getting hurt.
If you're able to identify high ground such as a car, tree, or a large object such as a dumpster that you can climb on, slowly back away until you're able to get to it, and then climb to the highest and safest point you can to get away from the pack.
If you're unable to get away from either one or multiple dogs and happen to get knocked over, make sure to immediately curl into a ball with your knees and head tucked in so you cover your vital organs. Be sure to cover your ears and arms, and ball your hands into fists to protect your fingers.
If You Get Bit
If you do happen to get bit, or even just scratched for that matter, the CDC recommends that you clean your wounds with water and soap and seek medical attention immediately to prevent a possible infection.
Dog Breeds that May Behave Aggressively
Although there are certain breeds of dogs that have a higher probability of possessing aggressive traits or behavior due to the way they've been bred historically, any breed of dog can behave aggressively under certain circumstances. Below are some common dog breeds that are more likely to show aggression than others. With that being said, this does not mean that these are bad dogs or that they shouldn't be owned as pets. It simply means that due to their genetics, they have a predisposition to behave in certain ways.
Dogs are conditioned with the desire to please their owners, so most incidents involving aggressive dogs result from irresponsible ownership, abuse, neglect, lack of socialization, and improper training and mistreatment by the owner. If trained properly and cared for by a loving family, these dogs can be just as loving and playful as any other breed of dog. Many dogs on this list were originally bred to be fighting dogs, hunting dogs or farming dogs. While this may no longer be the case, those genetics still exist.
- Caucasian Ovcharka
- German Shepherd
- Alaskan Malamute
- Doberman Pinscher
- Wolf Hybrid
- Great Dane
- American bulldog
- Saint Bernard