Dr Roger Mugford is an animal psychologist who specialises in the treatment of aggressive dogs. His Company of Animals manufactures muzzles and training equipment to make dogs safe around people.
A dog that has been raised in a friendly environment and trained to obey key rules around people will not want to bite you. Only a tiny minority of uneducated dogs with ,probably, irresponsible owners could pose a threat . How should you react to avoid being bitten? The rules which follow are based upon my 30 years practical experience of dealing with dangerous dogs, plus the results of scientific study of serious incidents such as occurred in Sussex on Sunday.
*Dogs are territorial animals, so they will be more aggressive close to where they live. Move away, slowly.
*Movement attracts interest and may seem threatening . If you are running, cycling or skate boarding, slow down or stop until the dog has moved on.
*If you fear that a dog might attack you , give the one command that most dogs know : SIT! , in a loud, confident voice.
*Many dogs will approach and even jump up at you as an act of friendship or playful interest, not to attack. Learn to read the canine signals which distinguish the two emotions.
*Screaming and excited movement of arms and legs will escalate threats from a dog. Stay calm.
*Look around for the owner and make it clear that he or she needs to take control of their dog, and fast.
*If you have a bag or other object to hand, hold it between you and the dog. My briefcase has saved me from many an attack from my patients!
*Food can quickly turn a foe into a friend. Throw anything edible his way : dog treats, groceries or your sandwiches.
*A useful ultimate deterrent against dog attacks (apart from treats)is a small aerosol “Pet Corrector”, available from most petstores. It makes a harmless hiss sound which distracts animals and is popular amongst canine professionals or people who have to visit homes where they might be bitten by the resident dog.
*If you are bitten, try not to pull away as that will turn a puncture into a more serious tear wound. Revert to the SIT! Command.
*If all else fails and depending upon your fitness and the size and disposition of the dog, either go onto the offensive and kick or hit it, or curl up into a ball and put your hands around your face. Try to lie still and be silent: the dog will lose interest because you are no longer a threat and he has “won”.
*If you have been threatened or actually bitten by a dog, you must inform the owner. If he or she does not show remorse and undertake corrective action (muzzling the dog being an obvious first step), then contact the Police or local authority dog warden service. The UK Dangerous Dogs legislation allows for stiff penalties to be imposed upon owners who allow their animal to be out of control or cause injury to people.
The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act has not made the country safer, in fact the number of reported dog bite incidents has doubled in just a decade. The solution to this emerging problem must lie in educating owners about canine behaviour, and training of dogs about rules of what is and is not acceptable. Just as poor parenting creates tearaway children , so do the extremes of overindulgent versus harsh or neglectful care create dangerous dogs .
Roger can be contacted via www.companyofanimals.co.uk.