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I’m a big dog lover but even so, you need to be careful around other people’s dogs. There’s a reason the police and special forces use dogs in their attack teams, because they’re lightning fast, strong and aggressive, and most people don’t know how to defend against an attack. In our neighborhood there’s one particular dog I’m worried about.

He’s a boxer mongrel, and I know for a fact he’s been neglected and stressed out by an owner who has proven to me over the years that there’s more than a couple of screws loose up there. Now this dog is usually chained up, behind a rather large fence, but there’s no question in my mind that if he ever got out, broke free of the chain and out of his yard, there’s a good chance I’m up for a fight when I’m passing by on my morning run.

The good news, is that with a few key strategies, I’m likely to win the fight.

Here’s how to beat an attack dog.

Don’t run away

The first thing I need to make very clear is you cannot run. Dogs have a chase instinct and they will chase you if you turn and run. Even if they weren’t going to attack, by running away they almost can’t help but to spring into action, and with your back to them they will knock you down by taking out your legs or jumping on your back. That’s why we have greyhound racing, dogs are born to chase so don’t give them an excuse. Stand your ground.

Climb to escape

The only time I’d recommend trying to escape is if you’re facing off against more than one dog. If it’s a pack, you stand a very high chance of becoming seriously injured, so your best option is to do what the dogs cannot, and that’s climb. Climb a tree or a fence. Climb onto the roof of a car. They won’t be able to follow you up there. And you most certainly won’t be able to fight off several dogs at once, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Intimidate first

The first step is to remember that dogs can be intimated easily. Make yourself as large as possible, raise your hands over your head and be as scary as you can be. Stomp your feet, clap your hands, yell at them and you may just be frightening enough that they back down. I’d also look around for any rocks or anything you can grab to throw at the dog, something to use as a shield or a weapon. A large stick smashed heavily onto their face or snout will teach most dogs that you’re not one to be messed with, especially if you've got a strike pen.

Stop the bite

If that all fails the dog is going to be coming at you and their primary weapon is the bite. Dogs usually take one big bite and hold on, trying to pull you down so they have the advantage. But you can use this to your advantage too. You see, once they bite that’s their attack done, so your job is to make sure nothing valuable gets bitten, like your neck, face or your groin. Use your left forearm like a shield, and once the dog has bitten you, you’ve got both legs free to kick and stomp, as well as your strong arm to punch and attack back.

Shield your arm

Of course, feeding an attacking dog your arm isn’t the smartest choice, but if it looks like it’s coming to that you are going to want to protect your skin and muscle as much as possible. Take your shirt and wrap it around your arm first, or use a backpack or your handbag to try and bait the dog into biting something that isn’t your arm. Just try not to yank your arm back once the pain starts, this will cause the wound to tear and make it worse. If you’ve been bitten by a dog push towards them, then use your weight to fight back.

Fight the dog

Once the dog has bitten you, all bets are off. The dog is going to continue attacking unless you win the fight. But you’ve one important advantage. Your weight. Most people weigh three or four times an average dog’s weight, and my advice here would be to use it. Push forward and land on the dog, crushing it with your weight. You can easily break a dog’s ribs in this move alone, but it also puts you in a position of power to strike the dogs eyes, head, or to start stabbing it with your knife in what’s best described as the armpit.

When putting this together I asked a friend who trains attack dogs for tricks in fighting back, and he said another good idea is to blind the dog. Covering their head with a shirt or a jacket can disorient it enough to get it to calm down as well. Or you could always try to grab the hind legs and lift it into the air, effectively stopping the dog’s ability to balance.

Get checked out

Once the fight is over, there’s two things to do. I’d recommend going on a set of antibiotics to fight off any infection from the bite, and perhaps even start a rabies booster course just in case. You never know what caused that dog to attack you in the first place, and getting checked out at the hospital afterwards is a smart idea.

Just because dogs can be intimidating doesn’t mean you’re going to lose in a fight, you just need to know the right way to fight back. The only caution I’d leave here is that a dog fight is messy, and you probably are going to end up bitten or worse. Do whatever you can to stop the fight escalating, but if it comes down to it use your size and weight as an advantage to pin the dog down, and you’ll be in the best position to win.

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