How to Protect Yourself Against a Dog Attack

by Keri Gardner
Protect yourself from dog attacks by paying attention to dog behavior.

Protect yourself from dog attacks by paying attention to dog behavior.

Dog image by Larisa Epor from

With more than 4 million dog bites reported in the United States every year, learning how to protect yourself against a dog attack is a good idea. One important means of protecting yourself from dog attack is avoidance: If you learn proper behavior around dogs, you can prevent an attack from happening. Otherwise, you can protect yourself during an attack with body positioning, a pepper gun or a stun gun.

Protect Yourself From Dog Attacks Using Preventive Behavior

Step 1

Do not approach strange dogs. Stray dogs, dogs behind fences, dogs with puppies and chained dogs should not be approached. These dogs protect themselves, their young and their territory. Ask permission from the owner to pet a dog, and allow the dog to sniff your hand first.

Step 2

Stand like a tree when approached by a strange dog. Do not run. Remain motionless with your hands to your sides. Lower your head and do not make eye contact. When the dog loses interest, slowly back away.

Step 3

Be quiet. Do not scream or yell. If you must speak, speak calmly and firmly. Remain calm. Do not strike or kick a dog because those actions will prompt his protective instinct to fight back, thus causing him to attack.

Protecting Yourself During a Dog Attack

Step 1

Stay standing upright. An upright position keeps a dog away from your face during an attack. If a dog bites your arm or leg, try to remain motionless.

Step 2

Distract an attacking dog by feeding it an object to bite. A jacket, purse or backpack will give it something to bite besides you. Place any large object between you and the dog.

Step 3

Curl into a ball when a dog knocks you down. Tuck your chin to your chest and place your hands over your ears. Keep your elbows close to your ribs. Do not move or roll, just play dead. If a dog thinks you are dead, he should cease his attack.

Step 4

Deter an attacking dog with a pepper gun or a stun gun. Pepper guns and stun guns can reach a distance of 25 feet, which is enough to contact an attacking dog before it gets too close. Aim at a dog's nose when you shoot. A pocket-size can of mace or pepper spray will disperse the irritant only a few feet, 6 or 8 at the most.

Items You Will Need

  • Mace gun (not spray)
  • Stun gun


  • Do not pet a dog while he is eating or playing with a toy.
  • Do not sneak up on a dog that is sleeping.
  • Don't play aggressive games with your dog.


  • Never run from a dog or past a dog. Predator-prey instincts will likely cause the dog to chase you and can become an attack.
  • Never leave children alone with a dog. Fifty percent of children in the United States will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday.

Photo Credits

About the Author

Based in Michigan, Keri Gardner has been writing scientific journal articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in such journals as "Disability and Rehabilitation" and "Journal of Orthopaedic Research." She holds a Master of Science in comparative medicine and integrative biology from Michigan State University.