5 On Your Side

Don't try to run: Tips to fend off dog attacks

Posted May 16

What if a dog were to come after you? Would you know how to respond?

According to the Humane Society of the United States, more than 900 people are taken to emergency rooms each day after being bitten by a dog.

Raleigh resident Snow Barnes knows the fear of seeing an aggressive dog on the loose. Her neighbor's pit bull mauled her, causing serious injuries to Barnes' arms and leg.

"I saw how that dog was coming after me, and he did not let up, not one bit," Barnes said. "He just dived. He grabbed this arm and pulled the skin, the skin was just hanging off. I didn't have anything to fight him off, all I had to do was just sit there and take it."

Barnes' story isn't an isolated one.

In Fayetteville, a neighbor's pit bulls attacked 66-year-old Amanda McEachern's right arm and left leg.

66-year-old Fayetteville woman attacked by pit bulls

In Linden, two great Danes recently got loose and attacked a woman who was jogging near her home.

Dr. Margaret Gruen, who studies dog behavior at Duke University's Canine Cognition Center, says any breed can attack, and any dog can bite.

"In the moment that you know you're going be attacked, you want to make it as short as possible," Gruen said. "The urge is to sort of run away, and that can often make the situation worse."

Running is a natural response, but Gruen says the reality is that most people can't outrun or even out-bike a dog.

Instead, Gruen says the best response is to get on the ground and pull in your limbs, protecting your head and neck.

While dog maulings are rare, it's important to know that less severe attacks are often preventable.

For example, Gruen says people should not make eye contact when a dog approaches.

"Turning away, being as calm as you can, putting something between you and the dog," Gruen says of things that can help.

Items such as a backpack, bike or umbrella can also serve as a barrier between you and an aggressive dog. They can also make you appear bigger, which could make the dog think twice about attacking.

Gruen says dogs that constantly bark at passersby could suddenly become more aggressive.

Barnes says the dog that attacked her always barked at her from the window.

Many bites involve family pets, and they usually involve someone interrupting the dog when it's eating, sleeping or playing with a toy. Gruen says one easy way to get a toy from a dog is to offer the animal a separate toy or ball.

When should you call authorities?

If you have been threatened or chased by a dog but not bitten or attacked, report the incident to your local animal control office.

This is commonly called a "menacing act." Once a dog has a paper trail of multiple menacing acts, animal control officer might be able to designate the dog as "potentially dangerous," which forces new restrictions on the dog and its owner.

Those restrictions could include stronger containment requirements, sterilization, increased registration fees and more.

If you have been bitten, be sure to follow these steps:

  • Identify the dog and its owner
  • Seek medical care
  • File a dog bite report
  • Photograph your injuries
  • Contact an attorney
  • Begin a journal
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  • Rodney Hill May 16, 11:15 a.m.
    user avatar

    My 7 year old niece was attacked by a (supposedly well trained) police dog while leaving church. Turns out she was the third child the dog had bitten (including its handler's own child). The cop also didn't have the dog on a leash which is illegal in their jurisdiction, but somehow I doubt he wrote himself a ticket. To my knowledge they still have not put the dog to sleep, which is beyond reckless.

    All that to say that you never know what a dogs intentions are. Even if it's never shown aggressive behavior previously.

  • Nathaniel Lincoln May 16, 8:23 a.m.
    user avatar

    maintain dominance be the alpha dog.

  • Kiara Babel May 16, 8:18 a.m.
    user avatar

    More laws to needs to be passed that help victims recover damages and to hold owners more responsible.