Last Wednesday I took my son to the Children's Museum downtown. I sent my Mom a ton of photos throughout the day, as I always do, and was a bit surprised I hadn't heard back. Later in the afternoon I tried to call her and she didn't answer. I suspected something was up. I tried calling again about an hour later and this time I got through. I asked (jokingly) why she was ignoring her grandson. She responded in tears, "I'm in the ER."
Oddly enough my first thought was that something happened to my Dad. That wasn't the case though and she proceeded to tell me what happened.
The heat in Florida has prevented my Mom from being able to go out for a walk the last few weeks. The weather was overcast last Wednesday so it was cool enough to go for a quick walk around the neighborhood. Not too far from home she was passing by a house with a pit bull tied up on a leash and harness outside. She passed the house, not suspecting anything would happen, and out of nowhere the dog broke off it's leash and attacked her legs.
He came up from behind so she didn't have any time to react. She actually had mace in her back pocket but wasn't even thinking coherently enough to try and use it since the dog completely blindsided her. She began screaming and she could feel the dogs teeth sinking into her feet over and over. The owners came running out and attempted to pull the dog off of her. The man, who she said was easily 6'4" and quite large, was on top of the dog trying to keep him pinned to the group but the dog repeatedly got away and kept biting my Mom.
Finally the owners were able to get the dog into the house. Neighbors had come out to see what all the yelling was about (the female owner of the dog was crying hysterical on the ground.) One neighbor held my Mom's hand as she waited for the ambulance to arrive.
Of course this all happens when my Dad was out of town. I'm so glad she had a friend meet her at the hospital and stay with her all day, and come over the next morning to get her prescriptions filled and help her around the house. She ended up with 12 stitches and still (five days later) can't walk without being in a significant amount of pain.
I was so mad.
I'm still so mad.
This was the first time something has happened and I've been too far away to help. I was pissed that I couldn't be there. I'm pissed that it happened. I'm pissed that she won't be able to go on a walk again without being afraid of every dog that barks.
I asked some of the running groups I'm a member of what tips they had for dealing with aggressive dogs. I've also done a lot of reading online as I'm now wondering what I would do if it happened to me while I was out with my son.
In general here are some tips that experts (dog trainers, vets, etc.) say to do when facing an aggressive dog:
- Remain calm. Ironic, I know. Dogs can sense fear and if you start screaming and running away it will only trigger their desire to want to attack you even more.
- Don't make eye contact with the dog. This is threatening to them.
- Don't turn your back to the dog. Try to slightly angle yourself to them so you can see them out of the corner of your eye.
- You can try to firmly tell them, "NO" or "sit/stay." Of all the commands dogs might know those are the most common.
- If the dog doesn't come any closer you can try to slowly back away.
- If the dog comes closer and starts to try and bite try to give him something to chew on that's not you. A jacket, a stick, a hat or even your shoe.
- If the dog does attack they usually go for the feet first to knock you on the ground. They are very specific in going for the feet, so they can get you down and then go for your neck and face. A 71 year old woman was just killed yesterday by her own pit bull who used this approach.
- If the dog gets you on the ground cover your neck with your hands and ball up into a fetal position. Try not to scream and wiggle. There's still a chance he can lose interest in you.
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I sincerely hope that you won't ever need to use these tips, but in case you find yourself in this situation maybe they will help. I plan on taking a large stick with me on every walk, some bear spray (it is Alaska after all) and maybe even a stun gun. I used to run with mace and will start doing that again. In general it isn't recommended to use mace/pepper spray on dogs as it can just irritate them more than stop them. I would only use it as a last resort if the dog was actively biting me and I could spray it directly into his eyes.
I've also ordered this cat keychain that could be used against man or animal.
If it came down to protecting myself or my son against a dog I would hate to do it but the best places to target are the dogs eyes and throat. Again, the thought of even doing that to a dog makes me nauseous, but the thought of a dog attacking my son makes me think of doing things I'd normally find unimaginable.
Have you ever had a run in with a dog?