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October 20, 2011 at 1:11 PMComments: 6 Faves: 0

Dog Attack Prevention

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

Recently, I was invited to be on Primetime News to discuss a dog attack that happened in our city. Once again, the focus was on the breed, a Pit-Bull, that attacked a teenager and sent him to the hospital. The teenager is going to recover, however the Pit-Bull was shot by a police officer.

As a dog trainer, this story really saddens me as the focus was on the breed. I want to reiterate as I did in the news segment, that all BULLY breeds need obedience training. If you decide a bully breed is one that you wish to have, GREAT! Seriously I mean that. They can be great dogs, but obedience training and socialization for these breeds is an absolute MUST.

These breeds are bred to be strong-willed, stubborn, never-back-down, go-getters and while some of these traits are great,  if not trained, they can be dangerous too! Once again it should go without saying, but SPAYING and NEUTERING is just as important in all pets, but a MUST for a bully breed. They don't need any additional hormones releasing to encourage any aggression to surface.

I wish the media would start questioning the owners of these dogs that attack other dogs and humans to ask if they are spayed or neutered and whether they obedience training and had been socialized to other dogs and people. 

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and one in five dog bites results in injuries that required medical attention. As a dog trainer, I take all dog bites very seriously. I want to share some important safety tips to safeguard yourself, your children, and your pets from a dog attack.


  • Teach children to "always ask before petting" a strange dog.
  • Teach children how to pet gently, I recommend under the chin, not on top of the head.
  • No more than 2 children at a time should be petting a dog, more than that a dog can get stressed and overwhelmed.
  • A child or adult should never shove their face into a dog's face to say "Hello" - and trust me this happens way too often.
  • Children should never ever wrestle, taunt, tease, or rough house with a dog.


  • Never Run Away: Dogs are naturally prey driven, if you run, they chase, and most dogs can outrun a human. Walk away slowly, absolutely no sudden movements, never turn your back on the dog
  • Never Yell: Screaming and yelling can sound like a wounded animal and a dog that is the mental state of mind of "attack" doesn't pause to consider anything other than that. Instead, depending on what the mental state the dog is in, you can stand your ground facing the dog with hands on your hips and legs spread out (as this gives them the impression that you are bigger) saying in a very stern voice "Back Off."; or try to put the dog in a command such as; "Sit." and "Stay."
  • Never Make Direct Eye Contact: Making eye contact is seen as a challenge. In dog language, you're saying "Bring it on!" - never a good idea. Look above the dog's head.

The DO'S

  • Take a walking stick or carry pepper spray on walks: Although not a sure proof way to prevent and ward of a dog, but a walking stick can be a weapon and when dogs see you have a weapon, they will sometimes back off. Using pepper spray to deter a dog is legal, if your life is in danger.
  • Use any type of object between you and the dog: Give the dog your coat or purse - even barricading a bike between you and the dog can help. 
  • Remain Motionless: First try to stand still with arms down by your side and remain motionless, if the dog proceeds to attack you, immediately drop to the ground, roll in a ball with your head tucked into your knees, and cover your ears and the top of your head with your arms and hands. Don't move and try your best not to scream. Play dead.
  • If bitten immediately seek medical attention and report the incident. The dog will need to be captured and quarantined to check for rabies.

I truly believe it is NOT the breed, but the owners who again need to take responsibility in raising a healthy, obedient, and socialized dog.

I hope these tips help keep you, your family, and your pets safe from a dog attack.


Michigan Dog Bite

Dog Bible, Edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, 2005

Now more than ever, dogs are viewed as more of a family member then a furry critter that occupies our house and time. Therefore, more people are taking their little fur buddies on vacations and family get-togethers more often than not.
Quick Note About Cats: If you have a cat and are planning to travel, please reconsider taking your kitty with you. Cats thrive on familiarity and do not except change quickly therefore making the adjustment period painful for everyone. Hiring a pet sitter to come to your house is the BEST option for your kitty :)
To avoid any glitches in your traveling plans, here are some GREAT tips to help ensure traveling with your dog is pleasant, safe and fun.
FIRST - Health Check Up
Prior to traveling, make sure your dog is clear of any parasites or illnesses. Vaccinations should be up-to-date - and you'll need proof of that if you're thinking of flying! Some hotels will require this documentation as well.
SECOND - Pack Your Bags
Don't forget the following items to keep your fur kid happy and healthy on your trip:
Their own food and treats
Bottled water or tap water in a container from your home. Putting frozen ice cubes in a water dish is a great idea to prevent spillage. Purchasing special water dishes that hook onto crate doors will help to make sure your dog has access to water.
Any medications your dog is currently on (take extra in case of travel delays or adjustments)and..
A crate!
A crate AND a crate trained dog will be imperative for traveling. Got both? Here are some tips on determining if your crate is suited for travel:
SIZE. Your crate should be big enough for your dog to stand and turn around in comfortably.
VENTILATION.Make sure the crate has proper ventilation and will not be blocked from air flow.
LABELING. Mark on top of the crate in masking tape or permanent marker "LIVE ANIMAL" and your personal information such as; name, address, phone number (cell) and email address are imperative to have on the crate.
COMFORT. Provide a cushion and a favorite toy for comfort. Tip - Covering the cushion with a pillow case of yours will help give your dog some added comfort with your scent.
With any type of travel, NOT feeding your dog prior to their trip will help avoid episodes of motion sickness.
If your dog ISN'T familiar and comfortable with crate travel, you'll need to plan on training before your trip. If not, you should probably reconsider bringing your pup with you.
THIRD - Hit the Road... or Sky
Tips for Air Travel with Dogs.
Be sure to ask about your airlines pet policy far in advance of the date you plan to travel. Also, keep in mind that some airlines will not take dogs during extreme weather conditions (too hot or too cold) and that traveling with a dog can significantly increase the price of travel.
If your dog is in the cargo area, you'll need a HARD crate not a soft crate. Look for crates labeled "Airline Approved". If your dog is riding in the passenger area a soft crate should be fine as your dog will be required to be under your seat, but not all airline offer this option for small dogs and none that I am aware of will allow large dogs to travel this way.
Tips for Car Travel with Dogs.
Definitely the cheapest option to transport your dog, but it can come with some added challenge.
Depending on your vehicle, you can use either a crate that is seat-belted in, a specially designed seatbelt harness, a car seat for a dog or if you have a SUV or van, you gate off the back of your car for them.
Keep in mind you'll need to stop frequently for potty breaks and to let your fur baby stretch their legs.
NEVER EVER leave your dog unattended in the vehicle.Cracked windows are NOT adequate to cool the car or provide proper air flow.
Cruise/Boat Travel Tips for Dogs.
Check with the cruise company prior to purchasing those tickets to see if they allow traveling with your fur buddy. If your dog is allowed, it is a good idea to get some clarification on the accommodation of your dog such as:
Where does my dog stay? If not in my cabin, can I visit my dog?
Where is the potty area?
Is there an employed veterinarian on the ship?
Do they offer any types of special services for dogs?
Find out the cost of having your dog accompany you - it may be more than you truly want to spend.
Thinking of Traveling by Bus or Train? Unfortunately, with the exception of service dogs, Amtrak and Greyhound do not offer canine traveling accommodations.
FOURTH - Consider Accommodations
Tips For Staying At A Friend or Family Member's Home with Your Dog.
WOW! That is so nice of your family or friend to allow your dog to stay with you on your visit!
However, before you take them up on that kind offer, do the kind thing yourself and consider your dog's obedience training. You should NOT expect family or friends to be ok with a dog you can't control or that is not 100% potty trained.
Teaching your dog some basic mannerisms is imperative if you plan to travel with your dog. Your dog should know and be reliable with their commands. Here are the five basic your dog should know before you consider traveling with them:
Down (Lay Down)
Leave It
Keeping your dog on a regular potty schedule is very helpful while staying at an unfamiliar location.
If your dog is bell trained (rings a bell hooked on a door to notify when they need to go outside to take care of business), remember to bring those bells with you. Hook them on the door of where your dog will be going in and out from and make sure to re-charge the bells (associating treats with the dog's nose touching the bell) so your dog understands the location of their bells.
A well socialized dog is also important if you plan to include your dog in your travels. Your family or friends will be happy to welcome you back with your well mannered dog!
Tips for Staying at a Hotel with Your Dog.
Many hotels are now more accommodating when it comes to having a dog friendly policy. However, you will want to research and check on the hotels canine requirements. Some hotels will require proof of a Canine Good Citizen Certification ( They may also have restrictions on size, breed or both. Be sure to ask the hotel about their potty area and find out about local dog trails and dog friendly restaurants and stores in the area.
If everything checks out and the hotel seems like the place for you, be sure you are courteous of your neighbors in the rooms on your floor and next to you. Keeping your dog quiet is imperative. Take your dog with you whenever possible rather than leaving them unattended. Remember - you are responsible for any damage your dog does to the room. If your dog HAS to stay in the hotel room alone, be sure to crate them to avoid destruction.
If your dog is a barker, they should NEVER be left in a hotel room alone.
Hotels have the right to change their dog friendly policy any time, so help encourage your hotel to keep their policy lenient. Simply be respectful and clean up after your dog.
Finally, expect the unexpected! Make sure to bring your humor when traveling with your dog.& Laughing it off when things get frustrating will help ease the anxiety and tension for the both of you. Always be prepared for delays and go with the flow, this way you can build fond memories and enjoy those travel experiences with your best friend, your dog!

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  • Great advice, Victoria! Whenever my niece and nephew (ages 3 and 2) come to visit, they always want to pet our dog and I have to really watch and guide them carefully so they don't scare her.

    Quick question - why do you recommend petting under the chin instead of the top of the head?

  • Hi Laura....

    For dog's it is all about the "body language", it is their first source of communication. When you go to pet a dog you don't live with on the top of the head, isn't the greatest way to say time you get a chance pet a dog on the top of the will see that their eyes blink rapidly and puppies especially will try to nip, we are blocking their vision when we do this. However, when you live with the dog, this is acceptable because they are use to you. When you pet under the chin, it is invitational and the dog can see exactly where your hand is. The person is not blocking any vision by doing this. Also, I ask kids to bend down to pet my dogs vs. hovering over them....again a more invitational body language to my dogs, I call it the ABC rule (A = Ask, B = Bend-Down, C = Chin), but I never let the kids get their faces in my dog's faces and trust me, my dog's are very well trained, I still don't allow it. I also always put a hand on my dog when a stranger pets my dog, its as if I am saying "don't worry Izzy or Romeo, Mommy is in control, you just enjoy being petted", kinda of like a little reassurance from me that all is good. I do this with very small children of friends of mine that don't see my dogs on a regular basis and I keep the introduction short and sweet. 10 seconds of petting is all a dog really needs as well as a child.

    I always put it this way to my client's, how do we greet each other, we shake hands right? We don't get our hands all up in each others faces, we wouldn't find that acceptable, so why do humans think it is acceptable for another species? Dogs are very visual and reading your movements all the time. I hope that helps. I am glad you liked the advice.....

  • Ahh, that makes perfect sense! I had never really thought of it that way before. I'll have to remember this for when the little ones come to I said, our Lucy always seems really thrown off when they come around. This should help them be able to interact more peacefully. :) Thanks again!

  • Victoria,
    Thanks for the advice. Not too long ago, I had to save/protect a young child, in the community from a potentially fatal attack. Everyone on our street new that this particular dog was nothing to play with and, yes, it was a pit bull breed. When the owner would walk the dog or when the dog walked the owner up and down the street, this dog was very aggressive pulling the owner wherever he wanted to go and did not obey any commands at all. When outside playing with my nephew, the dog would be inside the house absolutely ripping blinds down trying to attack people walking or children playing. The neighborhood was full of children and most evenings after school or during the summer, the children would all come to my house to play basketball, football, skate or whatever else with my niece and nephew. I told the children that if this dog ever got out of his house and was running loose they were to jump in the back of my truck to get away. I always warned them about this dog just about every other day. Well, this particular day this dog got out of the house and was running loose. There were about ten children playing at the time. All of a sudden I heard children screaming and yelling.So I quickly spotted the dog chasing my neighbor's son, who was about maybe three or four years old and was the smallest child outside at the time. I always kept a stick nearby just in case. After hearing all the incidents of dog attacks mutilating children and adults daily throughout the states, you get this image of blood and people being chewed up like sausage meat (don't mean to be graphic but its sad and people need to know the reality of dog attacks) and children suffering due to irresponsible dog owners. So as I'm reaching for the stick nearby I literally see this image and I was thinking, I'm not going to let this happen. Meanwhile, the dog is chasing to the little boy for about 30 yards, biting at the little boy and doing everything he possibly can to sink his teeth into the little boy, so I diverted the dogs attention to me. After the dog saw me raising the stick to hit him and commanding him with authority to get back, he quickly retreaded to his home. Thankfully all the other children remembered what I told them about jumping in the back of the truck. The little boy was running in complete fright, trying to escape from the attack. Luckily I was outside and no one got hurt.. BUT, what if i had not been out there?

    To put a little humor in this, the children looked like the little rascals jumping into the back of the truck, too cute. Speaking of the Little Rascals, I remember during television shows in the 20's and 30's the pit bull breed was the family dog. Several silent movies in that era like Buster Brown, The Pooch and Buzzin Around to name a few, had pit bull (American Bull Terrier) breeds as characters. I say that, to say this I don't believe its the dog breed with the problems, I think its the negligence of the owners. The media stereotyping and scrutinizing specific dog breeds is not fair. So, I feel the media should direct the attention to the owners.

    As frightened as the little boy was, it's sad to know that him yelling was actually an invite for dog to continue pursue. Does anyone think children have a chance against viscous dogs?

  • For most of their history in America, Pitbulls have been known for being the best possible baby sitter for children. It's a shame that some people use the Pitbull's greatest attribute, its willingness to please, to make them aggressive.

    "In temperance tests (the equivalent of how many times your kid can poke your dog in the eye before it bites him) of all breeds the most tolerant was the Golden Retriever. The second most tolerant was the pit bull."

  • Neil~ To answer your question, I don't think any child can truly ward off or protect themselves from an attack. The size of a dog can be very overpowering and truly what can a 4 year old possibly do? Even a teenager won't have the power to stop an attack. You would truly have to be in the right mind set at that very moment to know what to do and react. Most teenagers and children can barely figure out what to eat for breakfast in the morning much less figure out at that very intense moment how to stop a dog from coming after them.

    On a side note to John ~ The Pit Bull was known as the "Nanny" dog for many years and is the only breed to grace the cover of "Life" magazine three times! Sergeant Stubby ( was the "most decorated WAR Dog" and again was a Pit Bull breed.

    I can't say it is the owners. Owners need to understand truly what they need to do when taking on a bully breed....they are unlike any other breed and need EXTRA care and working with and should not be a dog for the mild manner. Spaying and Neutering is a MUST for these bully breeds. Socialization has to be a priority when they are a puppy. Obedience training has to be taken care of. If these criteria's can't be met, then a person should rethink getting a bully breed.

    It is unfortunate that the Pit Bull is of course being bred over and over again for $$ and of course irresponsible owners could care less what type of temperament they are breeding and selling. To them it is all about the $$$ can walk into any pet store and see on their bulletin board numerous ads posted for Pit Bull puppies, and when you take a close look at the pictures, most of the pictures you can tell are taken in a dirty dingy basement, shed or garage. And of course, the parents have prong collars (a spiked collar) on them. Why would you want to put your hard earn money into this "Backyard Breeder"?

    Until the owners are held responsible and the public STOPS purchasing from these so-called breeders, this problem isn't going anywhere....

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