Defending a Dog Attack

I almost got killed the other day in a horrible rottweiler incident. Well, not exactly, but it was the second time in less than a month that I’ve been at least charged at by a dog that could do some damage to me.

My reaction had been to yell at it, “NO!” and to back away, but other than that I was basically just a slab of meat waiting to be eaten.

I’ve heard a few things about what to do to avoid being attacked, and a few things about what to do if attacked, but they all seem a little to textbook to me - I mean, no matter how loud I yell, “NO!” a dog doesn’t know what I mean if it wants to kill me.

The only thing I’ve ever heard to save yourself if attacked is to block the dog with your arm and when he chomps down on you, level WWF elbow-smash on on its neck in an attempt to kill it, but I think if I did that to a 150 lb rottweiler, I’d just make it angry.

So what’s the poop. Let’s say you’re walking down the sidewalk minding your own business and a killer rottweiler charges out at you from a nearby doorway, snarling and barking and baring its teeth. What are your recourses? Close your eyes and find God? Or is there hope for survival without years of surgery?

*This is probably an UL, but… *

I’d heard that if you’re in a position to grab the paws with your hands (i.e. if it’s springing up at you) you can kill the dog by extending your arms away from you (like you were pretending to become a crucifix, if you get my drift). One of the clavicles pierces the heart (or something). That said, I’m an inveterate dog-lover, so I guess that I’d probably just curl up in a ball and try and shout it into submission. And of course I’d probably die.

I love dogs, too. (I had a thread earlier this year about mine being killed by another dog, but I dunno if I could find it right now.) But even so, if I was walking down the road and a dog came after me, I’d fight it. This might sound awfully strange and perhaps a bit empty, but I have almost no fear of dogs. When I was growing up, there was a doberman on the corner who we had to pass when we got off the bus. That dog, whether he meant to or not, scared the piss out of me. But as I’ve grown older (not to mention bigger than them!), I realize that to me such a fear is irrational; that if it came down to it, the right thing to do is fight the dog, not run from it. For one thing, most dogs can run pretty well - probably faster than me.

But I don’t want to back down from any animal, even if it’s coming after me in anger. That seems awfully dense of me, but that’s how I’m going to approach it, anyway. If the dog is definitely out for blood, I’m gonna lack the smacketh down on him. Gonna have to, anyway. This doesn’t include those dogs who are just coming out to let you know you’re near “their” property; this is for the dogs who have been programmed to kill your furry butt.

I dunno, dogs never really seemed scary to me, they’re small and confused and only have one weapon. I’ve often argues about this with friends who maintain dogs are nothing but highly efficient killing-machines. I still have my doubts, I suspect the paralyzing effect of fear is what gets people.

I’d probably either take out my knife and stab it, or just kick it as hard as I could several times. Failing that, I’d quite possibly die, according to my friends :smiley:

— G. Raven

I’ve always wondered who has the advantage in canine-human unarmed combat.

I feel like it’s gotta be the human – if the human does not in any way panic. The human advantage goes double if the human can tolerate the pain of a bite to a limb. Plus, the human has four limbs with which to inflict damage, while the dog has only his teeth.

The bite-to-a-limb tolerance is important, because while a dog has your arm or leg in it’s teeth, his head is a staionary target. I don’t know what exactly is the best thing to do to a dog’s head – eye-gouging, punching the snout dead-on, punching the dog’s windpipe, or maybe something else?

Also, if you can manage to get your hands around a dog’s snout & mouth, you can gain an advantage. Even hulking dogs have little power in OPENING their mouths, despite their bite strengths. Clamping down on the dog’s mouth and then wrestling it down MAY make it submit (if the dog has not gone 100% Cujo).

Really, though, I’d attempt to use my four-limbs advantage. That is, try to get my licks in before the dog is close enough to use his teeth. IIRC, human beings have a faster reflex reaction time than dogs (sorry, no cite – just remembered info about human having the fastest reaction time in the animal kingdom). Perhaps a shoulder feint will get the dog’s mouth aimed for an arm, and then BLAMMO! Kick the cur squarely in the ribs.

Honestly, I don’t really think this is the kind of thing you can plan out. And in real life, you’d almost certainly have a make-shift weapon nearby, or an avenue of escape available. Of course, THAT would change things dramatically.

I once heard that the best technique is to raise one arm to let it bite onto, then swing the other arm around behind its neck. Once in that position, simply moving one arm in and the other out will give enough leverage to break the dog’s neck. I haven’t tried it of course but it seems theoretically sound.

I know a guy who lifted a dog off the ground by it’s neck and strangled it. But your ability to do this would depend on the size of the dog.

There is nothing small or confused about a 150 pound rottweiler intent on ripping your jugular vein out of your neck.
I’m pretty sure kicking it wouldn’t do much. Maybe a well place stab or gunshot, but I’m not a thug; I’m generally not packin’ heat.

I’ve been to Tibet many times backpacking. I only say this because the Tibetan mastifs are big old nasty guarddogs, and plenty of them roam wild. EVERYONE in Tibet carries a dog whapper. Either a big ol’ honking stick, a two foot broadsword, or a rope with a steel piece on the end (which they spin around and then the steel rod get buried straight into whereever they aim), plus they wear boots.

No one takes on a dog one on one if they can avoid it.

Take on a dog with a weapon, and preferably several.

Dogs in Tibet have no fear of weapons, they merely try to weigh the odds.

Once in a nomad camp the big ol’ honking guard dog mastif broke it’s chain and came at me SILENTLY. The other 10 or so cattle dogs piled in. I went backwards kicking, pulled my 2 foot sword out, started hacking to get some breathing room, 5 Tibets all grabbed sticks and started beating the hell out of the dogs, the owner’s wife grabbed the mastifs chain while the owner used something the size and weight of a baseball bat to repeatedly club that mastif into merely backing off.

Jesus H Christ, never been so snecking scared in my life. I was real lucky and had zero wounds.

Go at the dog hard, with all force possible and get the jugular.

Running away = bad: Dogs are faster and running triggers a prey response in the dog causing it to almost certainly chase you and view you as something worthy of attacking. Often just standing you ground and yelling at it will gove the dog pause.

If that fails…

Everything I’ve heard usually involves giving the dog your arm to bite (better than the neck/face s/he is going for) and then do either the neck thing or pull the dog’s forearm(s) out to the sides (they don’t go that way and at the very least will easily dislocate or break…don’t know about the puncture the heart thing).

That said realize that dogs (particularly big dogs and especially Rottweilers and Pit Bulls and several other breeds) have stunningly strong bites. Crushing the bones in your hand is no sweat, breaking the bones in your arm is possible. Basically you are trying to trade a serious injury for a lethal one.

Also realize that dogs have a surprisingly high pain tolerance. Kicking a determined dog in the ribs or punching them in the face isn’t going to do much. Even if you managed to break a rib and puncture a lung it wouldn’t surprise me if the dog kept fighting (I am assuming a dog intent on killing you and not just out to give you a scare). Whatever you do to that dog make certain it is something truly incapacitating. I’ve heard of dogs getting smacked across the head with lumber and they seem barely phazed.

This reminds me of a scene from an old movie called Continental Drift. John Belushi’s love interest in the movie comes back to her cabin in the mountains to find the place a disaster and John Belushi lying on the floor all scratched up but basically ok. When she learns a Mountain Lion had entered the cabin she asks John Belushi how in the world he fought it off. He responds that he wondered what would stop him if he were a Mountain Lion. The answer? He hit it in the balls.

I’ve had many a dog after me while running, from small to bull mastiffs. I’ve never been bitten. However, I was once told that if the dog is going to bite, stick you arm down his throat. He won’t be doing much biting if he can’t breathe. You may seriously hurt your arm, but that would be the extent of it.

All dogs have an instinct to chase something moving fast. So when a dog chases me while running, I stop and face it. If it’s a city dog, there’s no problem. I can call its bluff. Country watch dogs, however, are another case. I’ll tell you kinda amusing tail if you have the inclination to read it.

I was running down a country road near Peoria, Il., one winter day, when this dog comes hightailing after me, barking quite menacingly. I stopped, turned around, and brandished my fist at it, and yelled at it. It was momentarily taken aback by my brash action, but then gave out a howl that would put the Baskerville hound to shame. I was, quite obviously, quite apprehensive at that point (Read: “scared shitless.”) This dog, I could see, had himself a good inner laugh. His growl was much more menacing than my actions. So, I decided to continue my run. What else was I to do? It sort of ran after me, but I don’t think seriously, when its master finally called it off.

As an echo to China Guy, I would like to submit my own mastif story.

While living in Nepal, I was near a small village in the eastern portion of the country. A Himalayan Mastif (same thing as China Guy’s Tibetan Mastif, I think) came out from I don’t know where (it didn’t bark) and bit me on the leg, clung on and started dragging me away (at the time I weighed 150 pounds!). It was like some sort of bad creature flick. It was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. I thought I was dead for certain.

Fortunately a gathering of villages saw what had happened and quickly came out and beat the dog with their large sticks they always carried until it released me turned on them briefly and then ran off.

I still carry a scar that looks more like a shark bite than a dog bite. Again fortunately, it did not have time to finish its dragging and begin its dining.

There are some dogs you should be frightened of.


This is the only realistic response I’ve seen here. Special Forces (counterinsurgency) teams are–or used to be–taught how to fend off an attack dog. The general theory is that you have to be willing to sacrifice your forearm for the hope of killing the dog by breaking its neck. All of this sounds perfectly sensible in a textbook–until you see an attack dog in action.

I have. Once in life and several times on video. You don’t know speed and ferocity until you see a Rottweiler or Doberman in a frenzy. Sorry to shatter anyone’s illusions, but you wouldn’t stand a chance against a dog when its blood is up. Attack dogs are notorious for not backing down and some will fight to the bloody death. (Others not, you never know.)

Bite wise, we’re talking several hundred P.S.I.–enough to shatter bone. Moreover, I can think of few things more delicate than one’s hand. Attempting to grab a frenzied dog around the throat is more textbook bullshit. If we filmed you trying to do so, you would look like you’re moving in slow motion. Once the dog clamps on to you, good luck trying to get it to release. The subsequent crushing pressure is instantaneous and the damage would render your bloodied hand useless.

I’ve taken various forms of martial arts for more than two decades. I still don’t think I would do well and for those who think they could end a confrontation with a swift side kick, be my guest.

A knife would give you a significant advantage. If you can carry one, consider doing so. Switchblades and front-opening knives are the best, but also illegal. Of course, then you will have to deal with the dead dog’s crazed owner.
Nothing like the protection of a Dodge Ram.


It is the silent ones you need to be really scared of. It is that dog that is truly intent on killing you.

When dogs are hunting they don’t bark or growl or anything because that merely alerts their prey. Most domestic dogs that aren’t feral usually bark or growl at you to let you know they are afraid/mad/defending their territory or some such thing. As a result you have a shot at discouraging the dog without either of you getting hurt.

This isn’t to say that barking dogs won’t attack but just that the absence of such noise tells you something…basically that they really mean business.

The main thing the dog has going for it is that you are terrified.

If you hold out your arm horizontally in front of you, it will invariably go for it. So, I would suggest, wrap your left forearm in some article of clothing (or just bear the pain) and let the dog bite. Now with your right hand you can grab it by the neck, kick it in the balls etc.

In the wild dogs hunt in packs so this is not going to help you much if you are attacked by several.

My neighbor (who is a jerk) had a dog who was very territorial about their yard. When the wooden fence fell down and he would not replace it, the dog decided my yard was his territory too and he’d bark and threaten me when I tried to go out the back door. The neighbor wouldn’t do anything so… one day, with the dog about 20 ft from my door and barking very menacingly, I took my catapult and, without stepping outside, hit it with a pebble squarely on the side. It let out a loud yelp and ran off never to be seen again. My message that this was my territory had been convincingly conveyed.

After this I felt some remorse. What if instead of just scaring it I had really hurt it? I did not see the dog again… After a couple of weeks I asked the neighbor and he said “Oh, it died”. I thought “Oh, no! I killed it!” then he continued “It ran out in the street and was run over by a car” … talk of relief!

So, if the dog is barking at you from a distance and does not immediately charge, a catapult (or a rifle for that matter) may make a good defensive weapon. If it is already biting your left forearm a knife in your right hand could do a lot of damage to the jugular and the belly (as well as the nuts).

The most important thing would be planning and training so you can keep your cool and know exactly what to do.

If a dog is coming after you, kick it in the jaw. From underneath. As HARD AS YOU FREAKING CAN. (I got this tip from a professional dog trainer. A dog won’t “see” an attack from below.) Try to bust his jaw, that’s how hard you want to kick it. Crush it’s throat if you can. A dog that can’t actually breathe is less a threat.

The down side to this is, if it doesn’t work, you’re pretty much screwed. That’s about the worst hit you can put on a dog. Sticking your arm down it’s throat might help. (Dogs over about 90 lbs. have armour piercing teeth. Trained dogs can bite through Kevlar) The 2 foot sword would give you a huge advantage (but just try to tote a 2 foot long sword most places). A big stick, like a walking stick, is a help too. (Kick the dog in the jaw, then smack it in the eyes. Hitting the top of the head is like hitting a WWII steel pot helmet.)

On the upside, few dogs (statistically) really want to attack you. It goes against 12,000 years of selective breeding. (Except in Tibet, where they bred for bloody minded bastards.) Don’t show fear, back down, or run away and you can face down almost any dog. (Even normal Pit Bulls. The ones “trained” to fight are generally homicidal maniacs, not real dogs at all.)

You can face down almost any dog, except the ones you can’t. Then your best bet is to go into a fetal position and cover your head. Then you hope the dog gets bored before you die. Kinda like a bear attack.

Pulling the dog’s front legs apart, good luck. That pisses the dog off and puts it’s jaws at your throat. Just a thought.

barbitu8, The nice thing about bull mastiffs is they weren’t bred to bite you. They knock you down and hold you there. Don’t try to move and you’ll be OK. As long as the dog got the memo about not biting. And dogs can’t read, so even if it did… wow, that wasn’t as reassuring as I’d hoped.

Funny that no one has mentioned mace or pepper spray.
Are they completely innefective?
BTW I believe the movie was actually “Continental Divide”

The key is to always walk with someone else who is slower.

I’ve heard this advice as well. Unfortunately it is easier said than done. If the dog is standing still within range of your boot then great but more likely it is charging in at you and quite possibly leaping at you from several feet away. You now have to hit a moving target a few feet off the ground. Tsunamisurfer, with 20 or so years of martial arts training, might be able to pull that off (or maybe not…he’d have to answer that) but I’m guessing most of us regular Joe’s wouldn’t be able to pull that off.

I’d disagree with this. A bear is one thing. A single human doesn’t stand a chance at all against a bear. Even a knife or a gun may not be enough (I’ve heard people say that most guns just piss a bear off…you need to move into howitzer territory for a weapon that would stop a full grown Kodiak reliably). You do, however, stand at least some chance of fighting off a dog…even the big ones. It may not be a great chance but it exists and in my opinion it’s better to take your shot than to let the dog maul you while you lie there.

I agree if all you are doing is trying to grab the two front legs. I think the idea is the dog is worrying your one arm and you grab its leg with your free hand and try to do your thing.

As Tsunamisurfer mentioned a lot of this is textbook bullshit that goes right out the window when a 150 pound dog is tearing your arm off.

The best advice I can really think of is to keep a cool head (as much as possible…panic is the real killer but I realize there is a primal reaction to getting eaten that is hard to overcome with rational thought). Go absolutely ape on that dog. Knee it in the balls, gouge its eyes, break its legs…whatever you can do then do it. Do NOT be Mr. Nice Guy. Decide on a course of action and do it as HARD as you can. The only constant I know is to give the dog your arm to clamp onto as this gives you the best opportunity and time to try to kill that dog.

Correction: The movie I mentioned earlier is actually called Continental Divide.

        • No, only almost completely ineffective. Especially the cheap ones they sell to people; there’s no pressure gauge on the can, so it can have a slow leak and be completely out of pressure when you go to try to use it after months of carrying it around. The small keychain cannisters are an especially cruel joke; pray your safety never depends on stopping any attacker with two teaspoons of mace.

The police use fresh cans as big as beer cans, because they know that if you have to use it, you usually have to use lots of it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen police-size cannisters of mace for sale anywhere, and I know I’ve never seen anyone else carrying them.

  • I am told by a jughead-turned-cop that the easiest way to disable a dog is to make a fist and face your palm towards you, and let it bite your left arm (assuming you’re right-handed) and then stab it in the chest just off to either side straight in between the front legs with a knife blade at least four inches long. If you have a pistol, you’re supposed to shoot it in the same place.
  • Without a weapon, there is no easy way for a human to disable a dog. A large dog can move its head/necks faster than a human can move his arms. A dog’s neck is mostly muscle; how muscular is your arm? - MC