Last Monday I went for an early morning walk. About dawn, going down a quiet residential street, I watched a happy suburban couple emerge from their home and bounce down four front porch steps toward an idling minivan. With them came two large black dogs, breed indistinguishable in the thin light. Neither animal was on a leash.
The dogs barked in deep bass that echoed off the houses and came toward me at full run.
This is not the first time I’ve had run-ins with dogs. Once, while on a late night run, a German shepherd jumped the fence of his enclosure and confronted me beneath a streetlight. Another time I was surrounded by a pack of feral dogs while walking near some dumpsters behind a warehouse. On one occasion, an apparently gentle dog, leashed by her smiling owner, bit me on the hand after I asked and was given permission to pet.
But the last attack, prior to this past Monday that is, was launched by a large Chow. It charged silently and, being a dog lover and a peaceful guy, I assumed it just wanted to play. My kindheartedness earned me a terrifying bite on the upper thigh before the owner pulled him off. It went for my groin. I turned and raised by knee to hide the target so the thigh is what she got. After the Chow, I vowed that if it ever happened again I would not hesitate. I’m a dog lover. But I swore that if there was a next time, I would bring all of my defensive skills to bear immediately, without hesitation, and not consign my fate the whimsy of a canine’s conscience.
So, as those two black shapes charged toward me, I deployed my tactical folding knife with 4 1/2″ locking blade, lowered my stance, and yelled involuntarily, “Jesus Christ!” followed by, “You better get ’em, ’cause I’m gonna kill ’em!”
The husband quickly seized one of the dogs, but the wife missed the second. She took off after it, yelling for it to come back. I turned my body and prepared to be ripped apart but not without a fight. I hammer gripped the knife in my right hand, point up, left foot forward to avoid getting my attacking arm locked in its jaws. I could hear my blood in my ears. Fifteen feet short of my position she managed to take hold of the second dog’s collar. It reared up on its hind legs, continuing to bark ferociously and nearly pulling her over.
“Sorry,” she said, as the dog began to settle down.
“Put your dogs on a leash,” I said. I folded and stowed my knife and walked home, glad nobody got hurt.
When I write about dog defense I do so with experience.
Defense vs. Dogs
When confronted by an untrained canine that is not charging, adopt a non-threatening stance. Don’t turn your back, run, or look away. If the animal doesn’t get bored with you and leave the area, utter commands like “Sit!” “Stay!” and “Down boy!” while maneuvering toward a building, vehicle, or other shelter. Lock eyes with the mutt and imagine tearing him to shreds like a stuffed animal. Trust me, this will deter all but the most highly trained and/or aggressive canines. Ever tried to swat a misbehaving dog? They are gone before you can get out of your chair. Dogs are empathic readers of body language.
If the animal is charging, arm your strong hand with a pocket knife, ballpoint pen, etc. Crouch slightly to lower your center of gravity and turn sideways to hide your groin, weak side forward, strong/armed hand to the rear. In my experience, dogs go for three primary targets: face/throat, genitals, or anus. Hold your weapon near your hip and tuck the forearm of your weak arm beneath your chin to protect your throat. Brace yourself. When it latches on, stab like hell.
Do not pull back from the bite — always push into bites, be they animal or human. If you have a light weapon (or none at all), strike downward at the eyes. If you have a pocket knife, slash upward at the throat and chest of the animal from beneath.
If you are yanked from your feet and overwhelmed, assume safety position. Curl into a ball to protect vital areas. Pull your knees to your chest, interlace your fingers behind your neck, pinch your elbows together to protect your face, and wait for help.
Good luck. You’re going to need it.