My sister was in the 3rd grade when she was bitten by the neighbor’s dog and now she is now in her late 40’s and her arm still bears the scars. It was a mid-size dog that she had played with before and it had never bitten anyone before. The 4th of July was near and likely the dog was on edge due to people in the neighborhood shooting off fireworks. She was fortunate in that the dog just bit and released once rather than hanging on and shaking its head or biting multiple times.
Dogs have been on my mind recently due to local news stories like:
Dallas to crack down on loose dogs after Army veteran's death in pit bull attack
Woman Bit More Than 40 Times By Loose Dogs
Police Arrest Owner Of Bulldog After Boy Viciously Attacked
Since our school’s martial arts programs are very much self-defense oriented, I decided I needed to look more into self-defense vs dog attacks. While there are no shortage of YouTube videos on defense against dog attacks, I wasn’t sure how to judge the credibility of those videos so I decided to see what was available in books. Once I started browsing Amazon my mind was quickly made up when I saw Loren Christensen had written a book on the subject:
Self-Defense Against A Dog Attack
Complete transparency here, I am a fan of Loren Christensen’s writing. Multiple books of his adorn our bookcase. For those not familiar with him, he is one of the most prolific and respected martial arts and law enforcement writers in America. I will read some of the other books available on this topic, but there’s no question for me - Christensen’s book would come first.
I was around 12 years old when 2 Great Danes came after me at the bus stop. It was winter in Missouri and I was bundled up. Being winter, it was still kinda dark when I went out to the bus stop at the street corner diagonal from my house. There was a church on that corner and houses on all the adjacent corners.
I didn’t spot the dogs in the dark until too late and they had spotted me. I knew better than to run so I started backing away slowly towards the house on the corner directly opposite my house, since it was the closest.
The dogs charged.
I made it into the yard of the house by the time the dogs got to me. I turned my back and walked slowly towards the front door of the hours. Instinctively I pulled my hands up into the sleeves of my winter coat.
One dog had ahold of the cuff of my jacket’s right sleeve. The other kept jumping up against my back raking his large nails down the nylon. I kept inching closer to the door. Just as I made it to the door the rear dog stood on his hind legs placing his front paws on my shoulders, standing he was taller than me. He then started gnawing at the back of my neck. It was cold that morning and I had my collar zipped all the way up so his teeth were not getting to my skin. I reached the door and frantically rang the doorbell. The owner opened the door a crack and I asked if I could come in. He opened the door a bit more and I slipped through. He slammed the door shut with the dogs still outside.
The homeowner called animal control but by the time they arrived the dogs had disappeared. Likely back to the yard they had escaped from.
According to DogBite.org each day, about 1,000 U.S. citizens require emergency care treatment for dog bite injury.
There’s no such thing as a dog that won’t bite. Including yours.
Self-Defense Against A Dog Attack isn’t just some random martial artist writing about dogs, Christensen was a military dog handler.and former police officer. He gives real life examples of his own encounters with dogs including the time he was bitten. The book goes into detail on the different ways dogs bite and the alarming amount of damage they can do.
I really liked how the defenses he presents not only take into account the type of attack but also the risks involved in any one defense technique. The photos are done with an actual dog so you can see exactly what is being explained.
Techniques include not only how to defend yourself against a dog but also how to help someone else who is under attack. This would be especially important for parents and for dog owners who whose dogs are around children. According to the book 80% of dog bites happen in the owner’s presence or on the owner’s property.
The book also provides advice on:
- Use of chemical agents
- Verbal commands
- Defense on the ground
- Dogs chasing joggers and cyclists
- Defending against multiple dogs
- The breeds most likely to bite
- Signs a dog might bite
- The legal liabilities of the owner
If you are a dog-lover, this book is going to hard for you to read. The offensive techniques suggested are going to be upsetting to you. I would encourage you to read with an open mind and weigh how you feel about dogs with the statistics on dog attacks. The idea of deliberately blinding an attacking dog may horrify you but hopefully not as much as the idea of dog biting a toddler’s face. For those of you inclined to let your dogs run around unleashed, hopefully it’ll cause you to reconsider that behavior for the sake of those around you and for your own legal liability.
I don’t hate dogs. The first dog I remember having was a very large Labrador mix and he was never anything but loving to my sister and I (though many of the neighborhood kids were afraid of him). We were devastated when he died. We had other dogs after that and I have a dog today (which has snapped at my youngest child on several occasions). But I do not trust other people’s dogs, especially around my kids. It’s nothing personal. Your dog may be a big baby with you but it is an animal, no matter how much we want to project human traits on it, it still has the potential to bite. You may think you can control your dog but even Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, gets bitten.
So my recommendation to all my students and their parents is to go buy Self-Defense Against A Dog Attack Kindle Edition by Loren W. Christensen, read it, and talk about it with the people in your life. Maybe even gift it to someone you know with a dog inclined to bite or to someone who may not understand your caution around their dogs.
Self-defense is not just a collection of martial arts techniques. It’s awareness and an understanding of how we can try avoid ending up in the position of needing those martial arts techniques to begin with.
+Kevin Bradbury is an instructor at Mid-Cities Arnis and an assistant instructor at Hidden Sword Martial Arts. Mr. Bradbury holds Lakan Isa (Black Belt) in Presas Arnis, Black Belt in Pacific Archipelago Combatives, and Black Belt in Goju-Shorei weapons system. Mr. Bradbury is a certified Knife Combatives under Hock Hochheim and publisher of the The Martial Learner blog.