Self-defense: how to face a dog attack

How to defend against a dog attack

In this practical self-defense tutorial, we see what to do when a dog tries to bites us and how to prevent it. If on one side the scenario of the real attack represents a rather rare occurrence (in a civil context), the statistics of the Center For Disease Control say that to get bitten is very common.

Important – We profoundly respect animals: do not harass animals unnecessarily. The indications that we are going to illustrate are to be followed only in extreme cases.

Even if a dog can (proportionately) weigh much less than us, his determination should not be underestimated: they are fast and strong. Starting from this point, as always, we want to share some simple solutions in relation to the context and to our level of martial preparation.

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

How to defend from a dog

The sample scenario:

  • We are in front of a normal large / medium size dog (not trained in combat)
  • We have (more or less voluntarily) triggered in him his predator’s instinct
  • We may be violating his territory, appear to be a threat to someone who is related to him, etc.
  • He is giving us strong signals of aggressivity
  • He is lowering the posture (to cover his weak side)
  • He is growling, snarling, showing his teeth (etc.)
  • He is pointing us and controlling the space that separates us from him

A note by Master Kongling – It is extremely important to understand the signals that the dog is giving us. The case we are talking about is the one where the situation is critical.

Possible risks:

  • The worst risk is to be bitten at parts of the body where bones are thinner or, worse, in areas where the arteries pass
  • The most common risk is instead a painful bite and a possible scar
  • Another “relative” risk is to be infected (in any case, when bitten by a dog, it is always best to go to the doctor)

How to face a dog attack: a solution for each one

As for the punch (read Self-defense: how to defend from a punch), we want to share different solutions due to the fact that, who is very far from the martial practice (even if in good physical conditions) cannot count on advanced skills like:

A note by Master Kongling – These are capabilities that cannot be obtained without a constant and focused practice (read How to start practicing from scratch): they have nothing to do with strength, reflexes, balance (etc., read Natural talent and martial arts).

As we already said in the past articles of this series: being a very requested tutorial, it is worth to offer a valid solution for all levels of preparation.

How a not-practitioner should react

What to avoid in a critical situation with a dog:

  • Let’s do not try to run away (he is faster than us)
  • Let’s do not give him our shoulders (this triggers his predator’s instinct)
  • Let’s do not try to touch him (or worst to hit him)
  • If we do not know him, let’s also avoid to call him

Before the eventual attack:

  • Rapidly understand what has triggered the wrath and let’s interrupt it
  • Move slowly and calmly
  • Look sideways at his paws and never cross his eyes (our eyes must be opened and relaxed)
  • Raise a side guard stance with closed fists (read How to rapidly learn Kung Fu: guard stance)
  • Take off our jacket and wrap it around a forearm (not the T-Shirt, nothing that would obscure our line of sight)
  • Position that forearm (or better, a thick part of pure cloth) as a preferable target (not as an invite); a substitute of the jacket could also be a shoe or a handbag
  • Avoid any kind of tension / vibration; the dog must understand, first, that we see him, second, that we are not a threat
  • Remain still for 1 minute and then try to slowly go away (checking the situation and especially, if the dog follows us or remains where he is)
  • If the dog approaches us, let’s recover the past stance and let’s ask for help (but without shouting or demonstrating too much fear)

A note by Master Kongling – We have to imagine the dog as a child who has no patience: if we ignore him, he will leave us bored, if instead, we continue to interact with him, we will increase his level of aggressivity.

If the dog attacks:

  • If we are standing let’s offer him the covered forearm or the substitute we have prepared (in 90% of the cases, he will target it)
  • Even if it is a natural reaction, let’s try to do not scream, it would push him to struggle stronger
  • While he is biting us, we have to try to maintain enough mental clarity to use the other hand to grab his neck and at the base of his jaw, press hard with the thumb (centrally)
  • This will make him desist from biting because it will cause him to want to vomit (and very easily, this will make him lose much of his aggressivity)

A note by Master Kongling – As Yossi Sheriff teaches (read Yossi Sheriff: real master), a similar maneuver, can also be executed with 2 hands by a third person that from behind blocks the body of the dog (it is possible to pull vertically the collar, use a belt, a rope or to execute a strangle motion). Trying to detach the dog simply by pulling him is not effective, the grip is too firm and the wounds of the victim become bigger.

In the worst case, if we are on the ground and we cannot fight: let’s firmly close ourselves in a fetal position, completely covering our ears, face and neck (laterally with our forearms and backward with our hands).

How a beginner-intermediate level practitioner should react

Maintaining valid what we have already said, let’s see what to do if the dog attacks.

If for a beginner, the solution is the same of a not-practitioner, an intermediate level practitioner, could also try to:

  • Use a jacket to capture the head of the dog (before being bitten)
  • Use a grappling technique to block him
  • When a dog stops to see, easily loses all of his aggressivity
  • When he calms down we can probably let him go
  • Alternatively, without necessarily hurting him, we can lock our jacket on his head (with a knot that allows him to breathe) and lay it somewhere to go to call for the law enforcement

How an advanced-expert level practitioner could react:

Potentially, if we are skilled practitioners, we could even:

  • Do nothing; nothing is more strong than real calmness (caused by real awareness of our skills) and it can be clearly felt by animals; if we are truly indifferent to his threat, he will leave (unless we are threatening someone who has to protect at all costs)

Instead, in a situation where the aggression has already started (and we are in perfect shape, fresh from sparring confrontations, etc.), we could even:

A note by Master Kongling – We have left striking as a last resort (even with a weapon) for a simple reason: when an experienced fighter hits, he concentrates a great amount of power in an extremely small / precise space and time (he strikes to break); who has instead less martial skills, it simply risks raising the adrenaline level of the animal, which however does not feel pain at that moment (making him extremely furious).

The best possible solutions for everyone

We have not directly mentioned them but these are always the most effective options we have:

  • Prevention – Let’s respect the animals and let’s do not approach them, their territory or their “friends” uselessly / in the wrong way; if we find an animal that can be a threat (for us or someone else), let’s maintain the distance and let’s immediately call the law enforcement or the eventual owner
  • A peaceful attitude – A powerful warrior induces fear but a peaceful warrior induces respect, in men and in animals (in any case it must be emphasized that it is almost impossible to pretend to be what we are not)
  • The S.A.F.E. method – Use the 6 Dragons Kung Fu self-defense method, read Personal defense: the S.A.F.E. method

Final notes

A few conclusive thoughts:

  • Dogs may be mistaken about the possibility or not of prevailing in a fight but they are very good at evaluating fear (they literally smell it); if we are afraid it is useless to try to hide it because our sweating is an unequivocal signal for them
  • In the presence of large dogs, never believe the owners (who say they don’t bite or are very good, etc.), we have to require them to keep them under control (as required by law)
  • While the dogs bite they violently shake their heads horizontally to cause more damage and to maintain control over their victim (exactly as some grapplers do), this makes harder to react
  • In the case of a non-domesticated dog, it must be said that the bigger / powerful he is, the more he is conscious of it and this (potentially) can lead him to be much more resolute (if not prevaricating)
  • This tutorial may appear cruel to someone but in some cases, to know the right thing to do, could save a life
  • The levels of preparation we have listed are not generic, they refer to the evaluation of a certified 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s instructor (we cannot talk for other styles, combat systems or martial arts)
  • If discipline, concentration and preparation are superficial, even after 30 years of practice we will not be able to fight effectively; on the other hand, even only after 12-24 months, whoever puts the maximum determination can start to turn into a tiger

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • What would be your reaction against a dog attack?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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