What would be your advice?

I've got a journo who wants to talk to me urgently: "on the subject of aggressive dogs and what you should do if one threatens you, or a child you're with. I remember talking to someone else about bouncy dogs and his advice was to stand still and act like a tree, but I don't know if this would work with unfriendly dogs." What should I say? "I'm not a behaviourist," comes to mind...! What should you do if threatened?
I remember a great group called Prevent-a-Bite that went into schools and the article was approx - hmmm - 1994 in our magazine. Will hunt out a back copy! Are they still going?
The advice to kids was stand still, don't scream, don't run, get between a bike or something else if they're jumping up. All sensible logical stuff.
Any other tips on what to do when out with a child and you are attacked by vicious dogs? Never happened to me, but guess it's useful to have a plan? Although I don't know how to fly a plane should both pilots die during a flight...
Thank you everyone for your input both here, on facebook and on Twitter (by the way - do 'friend' me on facebook - I'm enjoying it more these days!).
 Here's what I said - hope I did okay!
First of all, it’s best not to worry about this happening as being afraid of dogs is a terrible handicap. If children can get to know a friendly, well socialised dog in a controlled setting they’ll feel much more confident when meeting dogs when out walking.
Here are some rules for kids and grown-ups too!
Never approach a dog when he is feeding, sleeping or tied up.
Ask the owner if it’s okay to pat their dog – never assume it is. Don’t pat strange dogs in cars or in small spaces. Small spaces may make them defensive.
If chased by a dog when cycling, get off, stand still and place the bike between you and the dog and look away. Eye contact is not a good idea.
Try to avoid dogs on their own if at all possible. But if you do and you feel scared, don’t scream, don’t run. Remain calm, avoid eye contact. Stand still, let them pass.
Turn to the side, blink slowly and yawn. These are all calming signals but hard to do convincingly if you are frightened.
If attacked, make like a tree. Act lack a stone. If knocked to the floor, curl up, keep still, stay silent. Become boring.
If you’re not used to dogs it’s hard to tell the difference between a barking, boisterous playful dog and a dog that is being threatening. Being afraid makes us behave oddly and can make dogs behave oddly, too.
In reality the danger of being bitten by a dog is remarkably small considering there are 10 million dogs out there. Hospital records show more people are killed by balloons and slippers. More people end up in casualty in horse related incidents than dog . There’s a great book on this subject....



stormingellie said…
Makes me sound awful but when another dog attacked my Staffie she locked onto it, I kicked my dog in the neck and she let go. Neither was injured enough for vet treatment I was shaking for hours after.
With a child much worse as they are more easily damaged I have heard people say they carry walking sticks "just in case" or "plan" to strangle the attacker not sure how practical that would be.
SimJaTa said…
Any chance you could turn the article around to 'teaching your child how to behave around dogs'? Seems to me these days that is not taught. From my own observations 90% of the time, if children were not running and screaming like banchee's around dogs the problem may not be so great.
The old 'avoid eye contact' may be an idea too.
Best of luck, look forward to reading that one.

cambstreasurer said…
You might like to take a look at




but those are basically about teaching children not to do things that might cause a dog to bite.

I don't think any of it would help someone faced by dogs directed by malevolent humans as described in the Standard today http://bit.ly/dxtYLr
Anonymous said…
I always say, don't walk towards the dog staring at it. This is about the worst thing you can do to a strange dog. You make it worse if you then loom over it and pat it on the top of its head.
Of course, you can approach it anyway you want if it is giving out friendly signals and its body language is relaxed, but then some people aren't so good at reading a dog's body language.
Dogs are like horses in that both can be fearful if someone approaches them head on, staring.
My dog is quite nervous and if someone catches her eye and stares at her, even with friendly intent, she gives a warning bark and is obviously not happy.
However, if someone is totally spontaneous and pats her without really thinking about it, even taking her by surprise, she is perfectly happy.
It must be some instinctive fear that is aroused by the direct approach and the eye contact. Perhaps they think they are about to become prey.
They also pick up on the fact that someone who approaches them that way is not relaxed, and this worries them.
I tell children not to walk towards my dog, but to let her come to them.
I cannot understand why people, not just children, aren't told how to approach dogs.
The usual advice is to hold your hand out but if you combine this with walking towards them, it can be frightening to a dog.
If a dog is aggressive, I would turn sideways on and avert my eyes, and then walk away.
Julia Lewis

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