Seeing your pooch attacked by another dog is scary stuff. Our first instinct might be to rush to their aid, but it’s important to keep a cool head and exercise caution. Here’s what to do if the unthinkable happens and your dog is attacked in a public place.

Don’t: Panic

It’s hard to say how you might react in a situation of crisis. Panic can be an unavoidable side effect of seeing someone you care about being attacked. Still, your energy impacts the way dogs behave, so it’s important you try and remain in control.

A dog that is angry or fearful and acting out in violence might be encouraged by your panicky behaviour. You’ll have more chance of disarming the situation if you can remain calm and focused. If you’re someone who is quick to panics you might try some meditation exercises to feel calmer generally. It will also help with your day to day dog training.

Don’t: Hold eye contact

A vicious dog will respond negatively to held eye contact. Instead, try to claim your own space by making yourself big and remaining calm and assertive. If the dog tries to bite you, let it bite something on you that isn’t you, like your jumper, then slowly remove it. As a calm, rational human, you are always looking to de-escalate the situation, rather than escalate it.

If the dog is already attacking your dog, continue to make yourself big and formidable. If the dog sees an imposing figure looking over it, it’s more likely to flee.

Do: Know the signs of a dog ready to attack

Dogs rarely attack out of the blue. Usually there are signs the dog is planning on attacking. Is the dog exhibiting the following?

  • Growling
  • Baring Teeth
  • Barking
  • Snarling
  • Lunging

If you see these signs you might want to retreat, slowly, without turning your back. This could be a dangerous situation for you and your dog. Remember, de-escalation is key. You don’t want to show fear or aggression. Instead, remain assertive, claim your space, but back away slowly to protect yourself and your pup.

Don’t: Try to pick up your dog

Reaching into a dog fracas puts you directly in harm’s way. Bending down means you’re at greater risk of getting bitten or scratched. In times of stress, you need to be at full capacity to protect your dog and de-escalate the situation. So fight your urge to jump in and physically save your dog, at least until the situation has calmed down.

Don’t: Expect your dog to act totally normal in the aftermath

After the altercation your dog with have lots of adrenaline running through their veins. They will be in a heightened state, and is likely to react in 3 ways: fight, flight or freeze. While you should soothe your dog and let them know you are here to look after them, you’ll want to be careful with sudden movements and handling them too much, as they may react unexpectedly towards you.

Do: Get the vital details

Most dog attacks end quickly. Try to remain calm, even after you’ve chased off the aggressive dog. Write down the following details:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location

Take out your phone and grab a few snaps of the area. Scour about and see if there are any security cameras near by. This information could move vital later on. If the offending dog is there with an owner, ask for their details as well.

Do: Get contact details of witnesses

Witnessing a dog attack is a horrifying experience. If anyone is around to see it happen, grab their contact details as well. Their perspective may help down the track, particularly if you pet is seriously injured or you need to give a statement to animal services.

Do: Take your dog to the vet

Even if your pooch looks fine, a visit to the vet is essential. Dogs are good at hiding pain, and you don’t truly know what injuries they might be carrying until you’ve let a professional take a look.

Do: Contact your council

If the attack happens during regular hours, contact your local council, otherwise contact the police. It’s important to note that most laws regarding animal attacks are controlled at a State and Territory level, so rules may differ depending on where you live. You may also wish to seek independent legal advice and contact your pet insurer to make claims on medical procedures.

Recuperating after a dog attack

Even if your pet isn’t physically injured after a dog attack, the stress of violence can affect their perception of the world and their future interactions with other dogs and people. With that in mind, you may need to do some recuperative training and re-socialisation so you dog feels calm and happy out and about in the world. The Nest has a handy guide for recuperating your dog.

Start with a walk

Clip on your dog’s leash and take them for a walk around the neighbourhood. Head to the local dog park and sit some distance from the other dogs. An elevated position, like at the top of the stairs or a small hill is preferred. That way your dog has a good view of other dogs running around.

While you sit on the hill, gauge your dog’s reactions to other dogs. Do they get anxious? Try praising them, giving them attention and treats. While their focus is on you, they will be happier and calmer in the environment.

Catch up with friends

Take your dog to meet and greet some other pooches they know and like. Do it in a public or neutral area and gauge your dog’s reactions for signs of fear and anxiety. Use gentle coaxing and treats to re-introduce them.

Slowly coax them back into social situations

It’s best to avoid the area where your dog was attacked. That way, there’s less likelihood of repeat violence. Instead, with your pooch on leash and lots of praise, allow them to greet more dogs, slowly giving them more encouragement and freedom to socialise.

Remember: safety first

Whether it’s a confrontation with a growling dog or putting an end to a dog attack, always prioritise your safety and that of your dog. They rely on you, so keep yourself safe, remain calm, and focus on defusing the situation as quickly and smoothly as possible.

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Liz Walden

Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure marketing for the past 10 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals

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