It is easy to give tips on how to handle a dog attack in theory, but what happens when you are out walking your dog, and he is attacked?
This is exactly what happened to my friend over the Memorial Day weekend. She was visiting family in a remote part of Pennsylvania when she and her children decided to take their dog Dobby for a walk. Dobby, a chorkie (Chihuahua and Yorkie), was on the leash and literally in the blink of an eye, two dogs ran from a yard, and the one, a St. Bernard attacked her dog.
“It took a moment to realize what was happening,” she said. When she did, she picked Dobby up and started running back to her in-laws’ house. Little did she know at the time that Dobby was not just bleeding, but he was in need of surgery to repair his intestines. There is no 911, no ambulance, no emergency room. So what do you do?
In cases like Dobby’s, there is no time to think, so it is crucial to be prepared. The following are steps you should take before traveling with your pet.
- Research veterinarians in the area. Give a call to find out their emergency protocol.
- Carry a water bottle on a walk. If dogs do get into a fight, spraying water may help you separate them.
- Pack your veterinarian records.
If your dog is Attacked:
Pawsperous Pets.com suggests that if you are unfortunate enough to have it happen to your own dog:
- Do NOT pick up your dog in an effort to protect him. The attacking dog may leap at you instead (in a bid to get at your dog) and you may be seriously injured just for being in the way. If you are hurt, you won’t be able to help your dog.
- Soothe and comfort your dog as best you can afterwards – but be careful. Dogs that are fearful or in pain may bite – even if they’re normally very gentle.
- Get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses – or if your dog is severely injured and in need of immediate vet care, consider giving them your address or phone number, and ask that they drop off their names and numbers there.
- Note any details you can about the dogs, where they live, and their owner. If you heard the owners call them by name, write down the name or leave yourself a voice mail from your cell phone so that you don’t forget. Likewise, note the breed, size, color of the dogs and anything you can about the owner (including license plate number and make of vehicle, if available). Snap a photo with your cell phone if it is safe to do so.
Sometimes the pet owner may be concerned about your dog and will be helpful and cooperative; other times they may try to simply disappear with their dog or will be uncooperative. Do not put yourself in danger; your dog needs you.
- Note the day, the time, and the location. Snap a photo of the location if you can; your cell phone should record a date/time stamp.
- Get your dog to the vet, even if he doesn’t show any external signs of injury. Better to be safe than sorry.
- File a complaint with the local animal control officers as soon as you can. Even if the owners apologize, pay the vet bill, and seem like nice people … file a complaint. If the dog has a history of aggressiveness, animal control can make a decision on what additional steps they may need to take. For example, they may require the owner to securely fence their yard or make sure their dog is muzzled when out in public. If yours is the first complaint then it’s on file should anything ever happen again.
- Be aware that some dogs may need ‘rehabilitation’ after an attack. They may be afraid of other dogs and might even show signs of fear-aggression. If you notice this happening with your dog, consult with a dog behaviorist. He or she can teach you ways to help your dog to become more comfortable around other dogs again. Dogs also pick up cues from their people’s body language … if you stay relaxed, your dog will be more relaxed, too.
Dogs that are known to be aggressive should never be given the chance to exercise their aggressive tendencies. It is the owner’s responsibility to keep these pets securely leashed and under control at all times. If it’s your dog that’s the aggressive one, work with a behaviorist to learn ways to safely manage your dog around others.
Hopefully you will never be in a position where you have to figure out what to do when your dog is attacked by another dog.
Luckily for Dobby and his family, there was a retired veterinarian who lived close and was willing and able to perform the surgery necessary to save Dobby’s life. He is happily recovering at home with his family thanks to the quick thinking of his owners and some neighbors.
Even though it takes work up front, it is better to be prepared as it could be the difference between life and death for your pet.