With over 4.5 million dog attacks in the United States each year, most are from dogs who are your neighbors’ or friends’ pets that were either not leashed or somehow got loose. The rest of the dog bites come from feral dogs. Dogs accounted for 250 deaths between the years of 1999 and 2007, with 900,000 bites becoming infected each year. Believe it or not, dogs are the causes of the most deaths caused by bites, in United States, without counting deaths caused by poisonous insects.
Bites from feral dogs, commonly known as wild street dogs, could lead to rabies. These dogs are frequently starving and have not had medical care, scavenging for food in the trash and dining on infected road kill. They hunt in packs, similar to wolves and neighborhood pets usually take the brunt of their attacks, as do livestock, but all too often a person is in their path and suffer their wrath.
Feral dogs are found in every state, even in big cities, with one woman receiving over 100 bites as she crossed the street. That being said, it is best to avoid any dog that you see wandering alone, or with other dogs. Even if you think it’s a pet, it is best to avoid it and call animal control. Never approach a sleeping dog, a dog who is eating, or a mother caring for her pups. These dogs are on guard and will attack.
A pet on a leash is also on guard and territorial. Never go straight up to a leashed dog, whether the owner is at the other end of the leash or not, and even if they say the dog is friendly. Approach slowly, and put your hand under it’s chin versus trying to pet it’s head. Keep an open hand and don’t smile at the dog. A toothy grin can be a sign of aggression to a dog.
When at a friend’s house who owns a dog, never mistake a pet as a dog that will not attack. Many people have been attacked right in front of the dog’s owners. Approach all dogs with caution, never put your face on his level, do not show fear, and keep the owner between you and the dog, if you sense anything is off.
If you encounter a dog who is staring your down or growling, do not panic, run, or make loud noises. Instead, avoid eye contact, turn sideways, and remain still. Using a deep and firm voice tell the dog “no” or “go home,” while slowly raising your hands and covering your neck. Keep your elbows at your sides and wait for the dog to back off and move away.
If the dog charges at you, remain still. The dog is either scared and trying to scare you off, or your moving around excited them and made them think you wanted to play. Their play will be hard and they won’t stop, but if the dog is growling and barking at the same time, put anything you can between yourself and the dog; your handbag, backpack, shoe, jacket, a trash can, anything. A dog without a collar who is dirty and does not respond to any commands such as “no,” “sit,” or “good boy,” is most likely a wild dog. Take extra precaution by looking at the dogs body language.
Signs A Dog Is Ready To Attack
- Raised Hackles
- Tension in the Body
- Flat Ears
What To Do If Dog Attacks
- Back away slowly
- Do not hit the dog
- Do not throw anything at the dog
- Curl into a ball, if you fall down
- Keep your head tucked
- Curl your hands into a fist, protecting your fingers
- Cover your ears with your arms
- Cover your neck
What To Do If You Encounter A Pack Of Dogs
A pack of feral dogs will split up, with the submissive dogs approach from behind and the dominant dogs come at you head on.
- Find sticks or rocks and throw them at the dogs
- Find the alpha dog, or one of the dominant dogs, and grab them if you can
- Use pepper spray, a knife, a stick, or any weapon type object
- Get up above them, such as on a car, pickup, box, tree, or whatever.
If You Get Bitten
- Wash with soap and water right away
- Seek medical attention
- Watch for signs of swelling, red, and warmth in the are of the wound
- Go straight to the hospital if you are bleeding profusely, or if you can see bone or muscle through the wound.
Complications From Dog Bites
- Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
- Capnocytophaga spp
Treatment For Dog Bites
- Tetanus shot
If you can get the tags off of a dog that bit you, you can report the name and address of the owner, and also find out if it’s been vaccinated for rabies.
All dogs should be approached with caution, from the tiniest tea cups to big feral dogs. They are all animals and as such, have innate traits that cause them to be territorial and on defense if they feel threatened. They only have their teeth to protect them, and that’s what they’ll use.