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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Preventing Dog Bites, Dog Bites and Cat Bites

Many of the loose dog calls that we get are from folks who were out walking, or walking their dogs and were "approached" by a loose dog or dogs. And several of the Human Bitten calls are due to loose dogs and someone walking, jogging, or walking their dog.
Unfortunately, there are going to be loose dogs. Even if everyone in America had steel fences, some dogs would still be able to get loose. And unfortunately, many times these loose dogs are not so nice. So, what do you do to protect yourself? How do you prevent yourself or your own dog from being attacked or getting bitten? Here are the suggestions that I offer to people when they make contact with me in the field
My number one recommendation is to carry an umbrella. Did you know that it is illegal to carry a baseball bat or a golf club unless you are going to play baseball or golf? So walking through a neighborhood with a baseball bat or golf club could get you a visit from the local police or sheriff department. BUT an umbrella is totally legal and you can carry it year round. You can use it to shade yourself from the hot summer sun, or protect you from the winter rain. and it can help protect you from an aggressive dog.
I especially recommend the type of umbrellas that have the little auto open buttons. If you are approached by a aggressive or questionable dog, you point the umbrella in the dog's direction and POP it open. Most of the time this will distract the dogs focus from you and/or your dog and sometimes it's scary enough to send them running off.
If it doesn't send him running you now have the open umbrella to help provide a barrier between you and the dog. Yes I know it's a flimsy piece of cloth and wires, but the dog doesn't know that. And it's a lot more than you would have if you didn't have the umbrella at all. Another benefit to umbrellas is they are very light weight to hold in one hand. Leaving your other hand free. If you are walking your leashed dog you can bring your dog in closer to you with your free hand.
If the dog is still bothering you, thrust the umbrella at it and yell sternly and loudly "GO HOME!" Repeat this several times until dog retreats and you can walk away to a safe distance. Don't try to run from the dog. As my friend and fellow Officer 450 says "Fours legs will ALWAYS beat Two".
What if the dog is just not leaving you alone? Poke it with the umbrella! The umbrella is not going to hurt it as much as it biting you is going to hurt. Give the dog a few good jabs. Be stern with telling him to go home. Be angry at him. Tell him he is a BAD DOG and GO HOME. Usually if your making enough noise a neighbor or the owner will hear you and can possibly provide some assistance.
Advice, when you are retreating or walking away, try to do so by walking sideways or backwards for at least a few steps. try to keep an eye on the dog as you retreat. Or get cars or garbage cans between you and the dog. Don't let down your guard until the dog is out of sight.
If your walking your dog and the worst happens before you can react and open the umbrella, use it to defend yourself and your dog.
DO NOT try to pick your dog up or grab your dog or the other dog by the collar YOU WILL GET BIT! DO try to swing your dog away by it's leash and use your umbrella to stab at the attacking dog. Also, trying to put your body between the two dogs will most likely end up in you being bitten. Do anything and everything you can to draw attention to your attack. You also may have to release your dog's leash in order to get a hose or other object to break the dogs up. Again NEVER reach in with your hands to break dogs apart!
Once it's over, if your dog is injured, take it to your vet. After getting your dog to the vet then call Animal Services. If your dog is not injured, this is when you should call Animal Services to report the loose aggressive dog. One important thing you will need to know is the address. Drive your car over to get the house address. If you do not know which house the dog actually came from give the address of where the incident happened. Chances are if they are not the dog owners they will know who the dog belongs to. Give the best description of the dog that you can. Just saying it's a Pit bull or a Big dog is not helpful. If there is no address and no dog description we will drive down the street and not see anything and move on to our next call. Your Animal Services department should be able to advise you of what to do next.
What if you were bitten? NUMBER ONE...Go to the Doctor! I know here in California, Doctors are required by law to report ALL animal bites to Animal Services. Animal bites are a high priority for Animal Services, so if you do not hear from your local Animal Services within 24-48 hours of your bite call them to make sure they received the Doctor's report and have all the correct information. You can also ask what the protocol is for Bites. Protocols can vary by agency, but all domestic animals that bite must go through a quarantine period of at least 10 days. Some incidents require longer quarantine periods, it depends on the circumstances, type of animal and incident. The most important thing is to verify is the Rabies vaccinations.
What if you were bitten by your own dog? It doesn't matter what the circumstances are, even if it was an accident or as many people say "my fault". State laws require that when an animal bites and the skin has been broken, that animal must be quarantined and rabies vaccination verified. Animal Services does not want to take your dog. and even if your dog bites and circumstances require that the dog be quarantined at the shelter. You will be able to get your dog back. Many times your dog can be quarantined at your vet or at your home. Again it depends on your agency's protocol and the circumstances. Like anything else, the more cooperative you are the faster and smoother it will be done with.
If you are bitten by a cat, your or any other, GO IMMEDIATELY TO A DOCTOR! I cannot emphasize this enough. Just a little pin prick bite can and 9 times out of 10 WILL turn into a nasty infection. Cats mouths are very infectious. Antibiotics will be a must. I believe it was 460 who had a little tiny puncture bite on her finger and she was hospitalized because she didn't go to the doctor right away. I was bitten and scratched by a feral cat and left work to go to the doctor. I ended up waiting in the ER waiting room for 4 hours and in that time I had swelling, pain and red streaks starting to go up my arm. Cat bites are bad stuff. The same protocol will be required for quarantine and rabies verification.
This is also why it is very important that your pets be vaccinated and kept up to date on Rabies vaccinations.  


  1. Another technique I've read is that if you're walking with your dog and an unfriendly acting dog approaches (on or off leash) is to sit your dog facing you, and put it's face between your legs and stand still. The idea is to prevent your dog from triggering a response by it's movements and to prevent the dogs from making eye contact. You need a well-trained dog to be able to do this. I did use the technique once when an owner with a pulling/assertive large breed dog was walking by and did not appear to have full control of their dog. I don't know if anything would have happened, but I thought it was a good time to use the technique. If nothing else, it was a training exercise for my dog.

  2. that is a great suggestion about the umbrella - I'll remember that one. My dogs and I were approached by a not so friendly larger dog once while walking and I carry mace, but I'm sure I wouldn't be able to get it open and spray it before any harm would be done - the umbrella is a much better idea. And I had a friend who ended up in the hospital for 2 days after being bitten by a feral cat so you're right, it's nothing to take lightly.

  3. Pretty good info. Lacks in the editing department, though.

  4. Sorry Anonymous, I don't have an editor and I'm not a professional journalist. I do my best but stuff gets passed me. Spell check unfortunately doesn't catch everything. I just hope the basic information and message gets through. Thanks for taking the time to read it and bearing with my poor grammer and spelling! Hopefully my writing skills will be improving over time.

  5. I never trusted anyone who carried an umbrella when there is not even a cloud in the sky.

  6. Those of us who work in the utility industry have been trained to carry an umbrella with us any time we are outside our vehicle. This is especially true if we have to enter backyards. I have not had to use the umbrella yet, but I've heard from others that the popping open of the umbrella really does distract the dog....but you only have a few seconds to react. After that it's just a very flimsy barrier.

  7. Great article. Need this for the research and study im doing.