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What to Do if a Dog Attacks You: Prevention and Defense Explained

Written by: Brooke Billingsley

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

Angry dog barking at something or someone

What to Do if a Dog Attacks You: Prevention and Defense Explained

No matter how much of an animal lover you are, there are few things more fear-inducing than being rushed or chased by a dog. Most people don’t know what to do if a dog ever attacks them, though.

There is a lot of bad information out there about how to safely interact with dogs, and it’s extremely important to know what to do if a dog ever attacks you. This skill is important for everyone, but it’s even more important for people who live in areas where dogs are often off-leash and may not stay in their own yards, like in rural areas and towns without leash laws.

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To Prevent a Dog Attack

1. Stay Calm and Upright

If you’re approached by a dog that is acting aggressively, it’s important that you stay calm. Even if you’re nervous, you can’t show your nerves. If a dog is truly aggressive and senses that you’re afraid, it may increase the chance of you being attacked. If the dog realizes that you aren’t going to back down, they may quickly lose interest.

You need to stay upright. If you crouch or sit down, you’re opening an opportunity for an attack. One of the best ways to keep yourself safe from a dog attack is to stay standing.

dog staring at a human in the forest
Image Credit: SasaStock, Shutterstock

2. Stay Stiff and Still

Don’t run! Running will encourage the dog to chase you. You need to stay as still as possible. Avoid looking at the dog directly to avoid the dog thinking you are challenging it. If possible, turn to the side so the dog is on your side and not directly in front of you. This will help protect your vital organs if an attack does occur. Keep your voice low and calm since shouting may be viewed as aggressive by the dog.

3. Provide a Distraction

When it comes to a dog attack, nothing is more important than protecting yourself. If you have something that may distract the dog, it may be best to try to use it. This can be food, or it can be an item like a purse or backpack, water bottle, or jacket. Try to toss the item instead of dropping it near you, as this may encourage the dog to get closer to you.

Do what you can to keep your cell phone on you. If an attack occurs, you will need your phone to ensure you get help. Once the dog is distracted, walk backward away from the dog and get to a safe place.

tossing water bottle
Image Credit: 249 Anurak, Shutterstock

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To Defend Against a Dog Attack

1. Be Firm

If it’s evident that you are dealing with a dog that intends to attack you, use a deep, firm voice to the dog. It isn’t necessary to shout at the dog, but you may need to raise your voice. You want the dog to think that you are big and strong enough to not be worth attacking.

2. Fight Back

While nobody likes to think about hurting an animal, it is necessary to fight back with everything you have if you are attacked by a dog. Try to keep your limbs as close to your body as possible but kicking and hitting the dog may be necessary. Make sure to stay as compact as possible by keeping your fingers curled tightly into a fist and not allowing any opportunities for the dog to grab part of your body.

man holds a stick wanting to hit a dog
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

3. Protect Your Vital Organs

If the dog manages to get you onto the ground, it is imperative to your survival that you protect your chest, throat, face, and stomach. Curl into a fetal position and tuck your head as much as possible if the dog has gotten the upper hand on you. Use your arms to protect your head and neck but aim to keep your fingers curled into tight fists to avoid serious damage to them.

4. Don’t Turn Your Back

Never turn your back on an aggressive dog. Once you are provided with an avenue to escape the attack, try to back away from the dog. If you turn your back, the dog may knock you down again. By facing the dog, you will discourage the dog from attacking you again while allowing you to see an attack if it’s coming. Get to safety as quickly as possible without running. This may mean climbing onto a fence or even a dumpster to keep the dog at bay while you wait for help.

man climbing a metal fence
Image Credit: mooremedia, Shutterstock

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Summing Up

Dog attacks are an extremely frightening experience, and sometimes they are fully outside of your control. Avoiding a dog attack is the best way to stay safe, but if you can’t avoid the attack, then you have to do everything in your power to stay safe and alive. Knowing how to protect yourself will give you the best chance at survival when dealing with an aggressive dog and knowing how to deter an attack is a beneficial skill that can help you and others around you.

Featured Image Credit: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

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