Walking a dog can be great exercise for you and your dog, but it can also make it difficult to effect your own personal defense.
In the past we have reviewed some of the potential concerns through a scenario titled “A lovely walk with the dog at dusk” where we described a situation where you a the victim of an attempted mugging by 3 individuals that set-up a clear shooting situation and addressed concerns about controlling the dog.
In that example, you are the intended victim but your pets can be the victim as well.
Attacked while walking my dog
Last night while walking my dog I was passing a dark, green space in my neighborhood and heard a dog owner yell a command at their dogs. I looked towards the sound and about a second later I see a 40-50 lb long-haired black dog crossing the street at just shy of a run, but focused on my dog.
It didn’t look dangerous, but not knowing its intention I stepped between it and my dog and gave it a front kick to the face to stop its progress. That was enough to get it to stop, and a step towards it got it to retreat. But as I started to move forward I could see a German Shepard Dog at full run breaking through the darkness, with an expression like the dog above and growling… again focused on my dog.
Given reaction time and free gloveless hands I may have shot the dog, but that wasn’t an option.
I used another front kick to force the dog wide and past us. I then used the lead to circle my dog to the left, again placing me between her and it. I barked “heh” at it, and it shifted its focus to me for a fraction of a second before beginning to return, still aggressive and focused on my dog. I then barked “heh” a second time to get it to pause and I kicked it again, which thankfully sent it running.
I then refocused on the 1st dog to verify it was still being submissive and saw the owner appear, from across the street and out of the darkness.
My 1st thought upon seeing him was “How is he going to react about me kicking both of his dogs in front of him?”
Thankfully he attempted to collect his dogs and immediately retreat.
This was an “exciting” event but it could have been much worse and it is a great example of many self-defense principles.
1. Always be aware of your surroundings.
Normally when I walk Bailey at night I flash my flashlight across that green space to identify if there is anything hiding in the darkness. Last night however it was really cold, I was wearing big gloves and manipulating the small light was difficult; so I made the mistake of assuming that any threats would stay inside and didn’t do it. FAIL
My neighborhood has both foxes and coyotes (and obviously other dogs) that could also be a threat. Now they tend to be skidish and avoid contact with people, but I should assume that they could be there.
2. Be prepared to act.
I was dressed for the cold, but I couldn’t have accessed my firearm if I wanted. The gloves I was wearing wouldn’t have fit in the trigger guard. My plan was to drop the gloves at the 1st sign of a threat, but a charging dog didn’t permit that to happen. FAIL
On the flip side, the charging dog would have also been too quick for me to draw and deliver anyway, so I would have needed to use unarmed methods 1st anyway and I moved to them without thought. WIN
3. Train your loved-one on how to respond.
I doubt we think of our pets when we think about training loved-ones, and I didn’t do it intentionally, but I’m glad it happened.
I walk Bailey on a 4′ lead which I keep looped over to about 18″. It is short enough that Bailey can’t sniff the ground without pulling.
She has been trained to ignore other people and dogs on our walk (except one friend ‘Rugby’), she also knows to sit when I stop, and is used to me putting her behind me when strange dogs approach. Because of this “training” she sat still while I moved around her and didn’t try to pull or run.
During the encounter I released the loop to give me room to move without hurting her, but looking back I probably could have dropped the lead if I needed too. WIN
4. Be aware of the threats intention.
Much of what I remember from the event involves my analysis of the risk. The 1st dog wasn’t aggressive and easily deterred, the German Shepard was aggressive and initially determined, the owner was scarred and embarrassed. I would have liked to draw on the charging German Shepard Dog but after dealing with the initial attack, there was no reason to. WIN
I was prepared to act as the owner approached, but his focus was on his dogs (which were now in the street) and not on me. Again there was no reason to draw. WIN
5. Scan for additional threats.
I didn’t have to look for the German Shepard Dog, it was in my field of view when dealing with the black dog, but I am happy I was able to not tunnel in on the original threat. When I was dealing with the second dog it had 100% of my focus, but when it started to turn tail I immediately searched for the black dog again and watched the field to identify anything else approaching… like the owner. WIN
It was a scary situation, but turned out the best way possible. I wasn’t hurt. Bailey wasn’t hurt. The other dogs and the owner are Ok. An I didn’t have to draw. WIN
Have you worked with your pets to train them how to react to a threat? And what do you do to prepare for your own self-defense on a walk?