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How To Protect Yourself From Dogs While Walking: Products That Can Help

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It’s so very important for everyone (including older adults) to get out as many days as possible for a walk. Walking is by far one of the very best forms of exercise for seniors and we encourage you to do it, but do it safely.

This means to use a cane or walker or even a walking stick as needed. It also means to protect yourself from stray animals and off leash dogs. Even a friendly dog who may want to simply jump on you to say hello can knock a senior off balance and cause serious injury.

Does your state have a leash law? Click here to find out.

So whether you are walking in the woods or around your neighborhood, here are some products and tips on the best way to protect yourself from aggressive behavior from dogs.

Protect yourself from dogs while walking by:

  • Choosing walking routes that have no dogs or only enclosed dogs 
  • Not making eye contact if you do pass a strange dog
  • Using an ultrasonic whistle, a spray-based deterrent, or a spray water bottle to drive the dog away
  • Assuming a defensive position if attacked. Never run!

It certainly does not matter if it’s a small dog or a large dog, either one can cause enough injury to someone (especially older adults) if they become aggressive and/or attack.

A dog’s owner often considers their furry pet to be another family member. After all, dogs are supposed to be man’s best friend, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

According to pet resource Canine Journal, the CDC reports that in the United States, 4.5 million dog bites will occur every year. A good number of bites – 800,000 – require medical care. Some of these will even be fatal dog attacks.

Along with children, seniors and postal carriers rank as the most frequent victims of dog bites.

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Clearly, when you’re out walking, the last thing you want to do is to run the risk of an attack by an undomesticated or aggressive dog. You don’t have to become another dog bite statistic, though.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know on how to stay safe around potentially dangerous dogs, even if it’s a little dog.

You’ll learn which protection devices to use and which to avoid, plus the reasons a dog attacks. We’ll also review what to do if a stray or off leash dog ever tries to bite you.

Products That Provide The Best Protection From Dogs

When you take a walk, it’s a good idea to bring a few essentials with you.

You need to have your phone and if you wear a medical alert device, have that with you too. You’ll also need your keys as well as some water. You should also make sure to add a dog attack protection device to that list of must-haves.

Here are three protection devices that can help to stop an attacking dog.

Ultrasonic whistle – A dog whistle like these might sound silent or very quiet when to you when you blow it, but the ultrasonic frequencies the whistle emits are very loud noises to dogs.

Using the whistle is enough to get a dog’s attention. It can possibly make a vicious dog back off, and hopefully give you enough time to get away.

The ultrasonic range won’t cause permanent damage to a dog’s ears, but if you keep blowing the whistle, it will definitely cause discomfort to their ears.

Do keep in mind that ultrasonic whistles also affect other animals in the vicinity, such as friendly dogs and cats.

Along the same lines, air horns will startle scary dogs. A blast from an air horn can reduce the risk of a dog attack by causing an approaching dog to retreat to a safe distance away from you,

SprayShield Dog Deterrent – Another product you can try is PetSafe SprayShield Animal Deterrant. This dog deterrent is a citronella spray. It turns out that not only mosquitoes hate citronella, but dogs do as well. 

SprayShield has a spray range of 10 feet, so there’s no need to get close to the dog and spray. Your best bet is to aim for the dog’s face, spritz quickly, and then get on your way (try not to be facing into the wind when you spray or you’ll get yourself, too!).

*SprayShield might irritate a dog’s eyes, but not for a prolonged period.

Homemade aggressive dog repellent – You can also go the homemade route to stay safe from aggressive dogs. As we said in the intro, a spray bottle filled with water is often enough to get some dogs to say back.

These spray water bottles can clip on to your clothing, belt or leash.

Make sure you keep spraying until the canine runs off, then hurriedly move away from the dog in the opposite direction (but don’t run!).

Walking stick dog protection – Many hikers use walking sticks for balance. Some seniors might walk with heavy canes.

Truthfully, carrying a cane or a walking stick (or even a golf club) for protection against dogs or other animals can be a great way to avoid needing medical attention!

We recommend that if you’re going to use a walking stick, then why not make it one that can serve multiple purposes like this one from Ospuort.

Tennis ball – Okay so this is not necessarily a “protection” device but it can help to turn aggression into play. Tossing a tennis ball can help to divert the attention of the dog. Just don’t throw the ball AT the dog!

Can I Pepper Spray A Dog?

Many people keep a canister of pepper spray on their person when they are out alone in case of human attackers, but what about attackers of the four-legged variety?

Can you use pepper spray on a dog?

You can, but you want to make sure that you have dog pepper spray and not human pepper spray.

Wait, there’s a difference? Indeed, there is.

Pepper spray or mace is named that because the spray contains capsaicinoids. These are compounds in capsicum foods like peppers.

Dog pepper sprays are made with fewer capsaicinoids – only between 0.35 and one percent. Since dogs have such sensitive noses, it doesn’t take nearly as much capsaicin to stop them from biting or attacking.

SABRE Dog Spray is a natural pepper spray specially made to protect people from dogs – without danger to the dog.

It includes capsaicinoids at a rate of one percent. This is more than enough to stop a dog without seriously hurting it like you could if you used human pepper spray.

NOTE – never ever use bear spray on a dog! It is concentrated to 2 percent and designed to stop wild animal attacks. It is very harmful to dogs, even to large dogs like a pit bull or German shepherd.

Can You Kick A Dog If It Attacks You?

It may be a reactive thing to do, to kick in order to protect but this could be the worst thing to do. It may actually end up making the dog angrier and more vicious. After all, a wounded animal is more dangerous!

Also, legally, the owner of the dog (if there is one) may attempt to sue you for harming his dog. It can be a tricky thing to prove that a dog attacked or tried to attack you. This of course depends on the laws in your state.

Why Do Dogs Bite And How Do They Warn Victims?

Animals, even domesticated ones, will always do what they can to protect themselves in what they view as a threatening situation.

The thing is, we may not consider something threatening, but a fearful dog might be certain they are facing a dangerous situation and go into attack mode.

I get it. You could understand it if you strolled up to a dog and spooked them, but if you simply walk by a dog and still get attacked, this can rattle you to your core.

Why would a dog attack you without seemingly any reason?

The truth is that dogs rarely attack without reason and without warning. Of course, it’s up to US to notice the warning signs. As for the “reason” – well, we humans must realize that dogs are not human, therefore they do not think as we do. So, although we may not see a reason for an attack, that is not true from the dog’s perspective.

If you’re on a dog’s property and especially if you’re a stranger, that’s going to raise their hackles. Also, ignoring their warning signs (such as growling and barking) and continuing to approach unfamiliar dogs can agitate them into attacking.

So, too, can locking eyes with a dog. This is a big mistake that unsuspecting people often make – which can lead to attacks. Remember – deep down, dogs are wild animals when it comes to acting on instinct. They are pack animals with a deep ancestry to wolves.

If you look right into a dog’s eyes, he or she sees it as a challenge. Then it’s game on, because they now view you as a threat.

Obstructing your eyes with sunglasses doesn’t necessarily help either, as the dog can’t tell your real eyes apart from the sunglasses.  

Some dogs can also be very protective of their owners and if they perceive that you are a threat, they may attack you.

This protective instinct can sometimes border on obsession for the dog. It may only take you getting too close to some pet owners or speaking loudly for the dog to perceive you as a threat and then attack. 

In your eyes, the dog attack came out of nowhere. But in the opinion of the dog, it was a long time coming. They growled to give you plenty of time to retreat, but you didn’t.

Now, does this necessarily make a dog’s actions right? No, but understanding why dogs behave the way they do is an important step toward keeping you safe when you meet one.

What To Do If A Dog Attacks You While Walking

If the worst has happened and a dog is advancing on you or your own dog, you’ll be terrified. However, it is important to stay as level-headed as possible and keep the following advice in mind:

1. Don’t run if a stray dog approaches you – Our first inclination is to run when a dog comes running at us. This is especially true if it is a bigger dog. It’s clearly a stressful situation.

Well, that may be human instinct, but you must fight your instincts in this case.

The first thing running will do is encourage the dog to give chase. Once triggered, the dog won’t stop until they reach you.

In this situation, you’ve basically become their prey.

If this happens, the best thing you can do is to stand your ground as the dog comes your way. 

2. Lift your knee to your chest – Next, get into a protective stance. One way you can do this is to raise one leg off the ground so your knee is up near your chest.

This keeps the dog from doing bodily harm to your stomach and abdomen.

To maintain your balance, hold your knee up with your hands. 

3. Cross your arms to your face – If a dog is jumping up towards your face, quickly put your arms in an X-shape over your face and hold them there.

The dog would have to bite your arm, pull it away, and then successfully do the same with your other arm in order to reach your face, which takes a lot more time and effort. 

4. Drop and roll – Your third option for protecting yourself during a dog attack is to drop to the ground and curl yourself up into a tight fetal position.

Put your hands around the back of your neck, lean your head down, and pull your knees up as close to your face as you can. 

This is like playing dead when a bear attacks you. Since dogs want active prey, if they realize you’re not going to move, they may lose interest in going after you.

It’s important that you remain as still as possible until the dog leaves. 

Of course, for many seniors these steps may be difficult. After all, you’re being asked to get on the ground, to stretch and bend in ways you probably haven’t done so in years. That’s why we recommend the products above as the best course of action for older adults.

How Do I Stop A Big Dog From Attacking My Little Dog?

Many older dog owners opt to care for a little dog and that’s great because walking larger dogs can pull on their leash enough to take their walker off balance and for a fall!

But what if you’re walking your dog and a larger dog attempts to attack your little dog? What can and what should you do to keep your dog safe?

  • You want to prepare for your dog walking exercise with the same precautions and products that we mentioned above.
  • Try to stay as calm as you can. Dogs tend to know when you are scared or anxious.
  • If possible, move away from the aggressive dog. Hopefully they are on a leash or behind a physical or electronic barrier fence.
  • If possible, pick up your little dog immediately but do not run or turn your back to the aggressive dog. If you put your hand over your dog’s eyes / face it may help to keep your dog calmer. Slowly step away from the attacking dog.
  • If you notice a larger dog coming towards you try the commands “Sit” or “Stop” or “Go Home”.
  • If you carry a tennis ball or dog treats, you can also try attempting play with the oncoming dog. But then walk away.
  • The protective devices we mentioned above should also be in your possession while you are out walking your furry loved one.

We certainly hope that these tips help to protect you and your loving pet.

Conclusion 

Dog bites are rarely unprovoked, but what agitates a dog is not always clear to us humans. Your best means of defense against dog attacks is always avoidance.

If that doesn’t work, use a dog protection device. Also, remember how to protect your body if a dog aggressively approaches you and attacks! 

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