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What To Do If A Dog Attacks You

Posted December 20, 2014 in Dog Behavior

Dog bites happen. Fortunately, Dr. Sophia Yin knows what to do to fend off or prevent dog bites. For more from Dr. Yin, find her on Facebook or at!

With all of the dog bite attacks that circulate in the news, you may sometimes worry, what if that were you?

As a veterinarian focused on behavior and an avid runner, I’ve dealt with a lot of dogs charging towards me and threatening to bite. But in spite of working with aggressive dogs as well as running by off-leash dogs on a daily basis, I have only been bitten—minor bites— a few times over the last 20 years. What’s the secret? The number one secret is to stay calm. The more you scream and try to move the more aroused you’ll make the dog. Here are two scenarios.

Two Bite Scenarios
Say you’re running along and a dog comes sprinting out from his front yard. If you run faster you may elicit a chase reflex, the same reflex triggered when a dog sees a cat or a squirrel run by. What you should do instead is face the dog and stand still, like a pole or a tree. Your arms can be folded in front of you so that you don’t accidentally swing them around. 

Most dogs that race to you even aggressively do not have the intention of biting; rather the charge, bark and growl are just a threat to get you to go away. When you stand still instead of continuing to move, they bark and back away and if you step towards them they back away faster. So once you’ve stopped and they realize you’re not going to run away for them to chase, they will generally walk away on their own. But you can also back away slowly in a ho-hum, relaxed manner. Once you’ve built up some distance you can turn and continue on your planned route.

Some dogs run out towards you because they’ve just practiced barking at things that go by and when those people continue to pass, the dogs learned that barking and chasing work. They’ve done this so much without thinking that they have no clue why they are barking at you. They may actually want to play, but in their hyper-excited state, if you yell or swing your arms around, they will get more excited and just grab whatever

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