Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
Defence against Aggressive dogs
I do receive many communications regarding aggressive dogs. Many are complaining about people who own them and are striking fear into the local residents. How should you defend yourself if a dog is going to attack you, your children, or your pet? The usual request is information as to what they can do.
Deaths and injuries from dog attacks are increasing day by day. This means the current laws are neither protecting the public nor reducing the number of dog attacks.
In saying that, few people actually use the aggression laws to complain when they are fearful of someone’s aggressive dog. Only if they do, can the authorities take some appropriate action.
Where some have used this method, they complain that if the dog is Spanish owned, then the police visit, sit down for a drink, then leave and do nothing.
On the other hand, in Spain, if a dog does bite someone who then goes to the hospital for treatment, even just for a scratch, if they give the name and address of the owners, then a Denuncia is automatic.
Very often, people are fearful of having to use the authorities because this may make the situation worse. In a recent case, a dog attacked another, which, as a result, needed a vet’s attention. Without using the Denuncia threat, the attacking dog’s owner was abusive and refused to pay the bill. In other cases, people having gone to hospital, have lied, saying the dog was a stray, just in order not to cause trouble. How many children have died or been badly injured because of people following such a course of action?
Until there is a change in the law regarding dog aggression, what can you do to protect yourself from an attack?
The first thing, never run away from a dog; unless you know, you can reach safety in time. If not, try to remain calm and do not look at its eyes. Stand still and let it see you lick your lips. This is a doggy sign that you mean it no harm. Until help arrives, you could wrap a coat round your arm or hand for it to attack. Kicking out at it may make it run away, but for some, it may only make them more aggressive.
German Postmen did previously use Mace or Pepper spray. The problem was they could not always use it in time to fend off an attack. Whilst most of the dogs did stop attacking, a few became more aggressive. There is also the possibility that the memory of receiving such pain will only make it even more aggressive on the next occasion. Because of the wind direction, some Postmen had Mace blown back into their faces, as well as the dog biting them.
Another problem is dog attacks are often sudden and unexpected. From the experience of German Postmen and American Electricity metre readers, they will tell you that on such occasions, it is almost impossible to find and fire the Spray in time. This is even when the Mace is attached to their belts in handy holsters.
For ordinary people, even where such sprays are legal, how many times will they actually confront an aggressive dog during their lifetime? How many, after initially purchasing such products, would actually be carrying it weeks later. Whenever you need it, you never have it handy. For women, it could end up at the bottom of a handbag, where it will be almost impossible to retrieve when needed.
Even though such sprays cause intense pain to humans, they are unlikely to cause them permanent damage. Even so, the law still classes them as a weapon. Just as any weapon, the ownership requires responsible usage, just as if using a gun to protect oneself. In addition, just like a gun, people must keep such sprays out of the reach of children. Even though such Sprays are not normally lethal, they do cause intense pain.
The German Postmen and the American electricity readers faced with regular dog aggression, they now prefer to use doggy language techniques. According to latest statistics, using such methods does seem to have reduced the number of attacks.
Years ago when I used to deliver papers, I came up against the odd aggressive dog on my rounds. For this reason, I always carried a pack of biscuits with me to make friends with them. At one farm, they had two German shepherds and when I rode into the farmyard, the dogs always came to greet me for my biscuits and fuss.
One day whilst handing the paper to the farmer, a deliveryman arrived and I witnessed how the dogs reacted to other visitors; they were indeed frightening.
Similarly, just like the Post and electricity men, they are trying to make friends with the local dogs, instead of creating some cold war. Such methods should work well.
Just the other week my local gun shop offered me Pepper spray in case of any confrontation with an aggressive dog or if I needed to break up a really damaging dogfight. Personally, I thought that both Mace and Pepper spray were illegal here in Spain, but arriving home and looking on the internet, the latter is indeed legal.
However, in all the years of working with dogs, I have never witnessed a real bad dog attack on humans or on other animals. My knowledge is like most peoples, after the event or read about them. Last month a woman horse rider had a pit bull type dog bite her leg, right through her boot. It then attacked the horse’s underbelly and hung on to it all the way to the stables. It took a man using an iron bar to beat the dog off from the horse and make it run off. This is just one of so many stories and where people would have wished they could have had something that would have stopped the attack.
I have no qualms about people carrying Pepper Spray for personal protection. For those humans sprayed, normally the disabling pain only lasts about fifteen minutes or more, for those sprays containing 2% irritant.
Looking on the web, manufacturers of the products say it is 100% effective against people, dogs and even bears. Mind you looking at other various tests and reports, it is not so conclusive. These reports do relate to actual dog attacks where people used pepper spray to deter aggression. In the majority of cases, it seems to work. In a few cases, dogs became more aggressive or the people, firing the spray, received a dose themselves due to the wind.
The one important question for me was that as dogs are not humans I could not find reports to say, if dogs were more susceptible to pain and over a longer period. In addition, could using Pepper Spray on a dog permanently harm it?
Talking to the vet Nasli of the Pointer Clinic in Marbella on radio REM, she was positive it could do a lot of damage from a major irritant entering deep into a dog’s nasal passage. This would mean its use must be as a very last resort.
Some people might prefer to try other products like sonic alarms or Citronella sprays, which are harmless. One report suggests that citronella spray is just as effective as Pepper, but without the harmful side effects. I understand that The Pet Corrector will be on the market soon as a small can that is much easier to carry. The question is that no one wishes to spend time experimenting, they need to know which works best, because on average, how many times do you expect a dog to bite you in your lifetime.
Pepper Spray, even where it is legal, is still a weapon. Possessing it for self-defence brings a responsibility to use it only as a last resort, as when you are in fear for your life or for your family. If the dog attack warrants its use then it must be better to protect a human, even if the dog may suffer more. It would be wrong though to use it on a dog simply because it was barking at you.
Possibly carrying Pepper spray would make you feel less anxious and less fearful. Such an improved attitude would reflect in your body language, which a dog can detect, making it less likely to attack. Most American police officers issued with guns, have never had to use them in their entire lifetime. Maybe like the nuclear deterrent, it is better to have it, in the hope you never have to use it.