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How to respond if you're attacked by a Dog

Updated: Jun 12, 2021

You may be reading this because you're a runner, biker, skateboarder, or just curious about what to do in response to being attacked by a dog. As hard as it is to accept, at the end of the day dogs are animals and when animals feel triggered, scared or threatened may feel a need to attack.

Before a dog attacks you, they give off plenty of warning signs. Some signs include excessive lip licking, paw raising, yawning, whining, growling or even a snarl. If you find yourself in a situation with a dog that could attack you:

  • Dogs tail may become stiff - their may be a slight to no wag in the tail

  • Dog may get a wide stance - feet apart and their chest puffed out

  • Ears perked or held back - they are in high alert or afraid

  • Tense Posture - rigid posture and stiff muscles, especially in the neck and back

  • Hackles - raised hair on the back

  • Stalking - a crouch and intense focus on you

  • Shift in body weight - shift forward could mean a lunge is forthcoming

Remember to stay calm and in control because dogs feed on energy:

  • Don't run - this may cause the dogs prey drive to be triggered instead slowly back away while facing in the direction of the dog

  • Don't yell if the dog has not yet attacked- this may make the dog feel threatened

  • Don't hit the dog if the dog has not yet attacked - this may make the dog feel threatened


  • Avoid eye contact

  • Cross your arms

  • Stand slightly sideways

  • Remain Calm

  • Remain Still

If you are attacked by a dog, it's important to protect your face, throat, fingers and chest. If you are bitten, resist the urge to pull away, this may cause the dog to dig in deeper to your skin and worsen the flesh wound. You may have to yell for help or kick the dog in the eyes, ribs or groin to free yourself from the dogs grip. Once you are safely separated from the situation be sure to check with the owner that the dog is up to date on their shots and then go to see a doctor or vet to prevent an infection in the wound(s).

As a dog owner it is essential to maintain control of your dog at all times so that these situations can be prevented. In addition to maintaining control you will want to focus on dog training and expanding your knowledge of the various types of aggressions that can be displayed towards humans or other animals.

  1. Fear Aggression - is when a dog becomes fearful and triggered by a situation and this results in them displaying aggressive behavior

  2. Arousal Aggression - is when a dog becomes over stimulated in a situation and they display this feeling of being overwhelmed through aggression

  3. Defensive Aggression - is when a dog pushes back against any form of pressure, both physical or verbal

  4. Territorial Aggression - is when your dog feels the need to defend their home or space

  5. Possessive Aggression - is also known as resource guarding (with food, toys, bowls, furniture and even owners) because they feel that they own these items or people

  6. Protective Aggression - is usually trained into the dog, this is where they feel the need to protect a person or space

  7. Predatory Aggression - is when the dogs prey drive is triggered

  8. Redirection Aggression - is when a dog bites you because you interfered with their attempts to attack another person or animal

  9. Social Aggression - is when a dog is overly dominant (bossy and rude) or overly submissive (insecure and fearful) when greeting or socializing with other people or dogs

Socialization and training are important for our dogs to get exposure with, so that attacks can be avoided and confidence can be built.


  • Oxley, James Andrew, et al. “Contexts and Consequences of Dog Bite Incidents.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior 23 (January–February 2018): 33–39.

  • Moore, Arden. “Why Does My Dog… Bow?” Vetstreet. Jan. 7, 2013.

  • “Defensive Aggression.” The Marin Humane Society. July 2016.

  • “Food Guarding.” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

  • Waelchli, Jessica L., DVM, and Donald D. Draper, DVM, PhD. “Canine Dominance Aggression.” Iowa State University Veterinarian 59, no. 2 (1997).

  • Fonseca, Gabriel M., DDS, PhD, et al. “Forensic Studies of Dog Attacks on Humans: A Focus on Bite Mark Analysis.” Research and Reports in Forensic Medical Science 5 (Oct. 12, 2015): 39–51.

  • Crittenden, Caitlin, "12 Warning Signs That a Dog May Bite" (Jul. 29, 2019).

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