K-9 Self-Defense

In the February 2008 issue of Black Belt Magazine there is an article titled, “Karate Vs Canines,” written by Loren W. Christensen. I’m sure many readers, such as I, initially chuckled at the thought of such an article, but this is a topic rarely discussed and worth reading about.

My initial reaction to this article was based more on the title itself, and the image it evokes of a karate-ka sparring with a dog. Fortunately, this article is a serious presentation on the topic, and offers the reader some actual techniques intended to teach people how to defend against/survive a dog attack. While Mr. Christensen’s article is only six photo-heavy pages of basic information, I believe the article is worth reading, especially for someone without any knowledge on the topic.

It’s is especially worth reading when one considers the following statistics:

  1. There are currently 74.8 million dogs in the USA.
  2. A survey by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta concluded that dogs bite nearly 2% of the U.S. population, which equals more than 4.7 million people annually.
    • 61% of bites occur around the home (reported cases)
    • 77% of bites involve a family member or family friend (reported cases)
  3. Almost 800,000 bites per year — one out of every 6 — are serious enough to require medical attention.
  4. Between 2001 and 2006, 144 deaths were attributed to dog attacks (National Canine Research Foundation).

Mr. Christensen’s article is fairly basic, something unfortunately prevalent with articles throughout the pages of Black Belt Magazine. I am sure that he has a far greater knowledge of the subject since he claims to have been a US Army Dog handler for 14 months, and I would have to believe he learned a lot more about dog attacks and how to protect himself from them. After all, it’s not unusual for a K-9 handler to be bitten by their own dog–something Mr. Christensen readily admits happened to him–other service dogs, or the random civilian canine they are requested to deal with due to their supposed expertise with canines.

In addition, my assertion that Mr. Christensen’s article provides only basic information is based on my limited exposure to police canines and police canine training (about a year). One of the first things I was taught was how to deal with an aggressive dog. Information I know was not covered in Mr. Christensen’s article. Furthermore, I was also given several long safety lectures, with specific self-defense methods, before donning the padded suit one wears when they help train attack dogs. I’ll be the first to state that these methods are almost impossible to execute during a dog attack, though they are effective in theory.

The dog attacks I experienced were extremely brutal and swift. All I ever saw were charging teeth, and the dogs (German Shepherds, Bouvier Des Flanders, and Belgian Malinois) hit with so much force that there was no way to maintain my balance and/or counter their attack with any sufficient force. Add the pain factor of the jaw pressure, and the fact that the dog is constantly moving in ways people don’t, and the whole ordeal is quite dumbfounding.

Fortunately the dogs I worked with were all highly trained, and only attacked specific body parts (normally the forearm), which made protecting one’s other body parts easier. That is, I didn’t have to worry about being bitten in the face, neck, or other more damageable parts of the body, which is a real concern when being attacked by an aggressive canine intent on hurting you.

The canine attacks I experienced were extremely controlled drills, but they clearly illustrated the lethal potential a dog could inflict if a dog had the intent to hurt someone. Unlike many humans, when these dogs attacked, they were rarely distracted by any actions one made to fend them off, and their intent to bite and pull their opponent to the ground never wavered. The attack was straight on, full force, unrelenting, with no remorse.

The truth is, once the dog was done and had been commanded to stop, they pranced off wagging their tail like nothing out of the ordinary ever took place. In fact they looked pretty proud of themselves.

The police force was not my first exposure to K-9 self-defense either. My first
K-9 self-defense came, from my uncle who used to raise hunting dogs (Bluetick Coonhounds). My uncle needed these skills since he was often dealing with the “pack mentality.” He was fully aware that if one dog attacked the others would join in.

Since being attacked by the pack would most likely be deadly, he knew several places to hit a dog that would instantly incapacitate them. I’m not proud to admit it, but I’ve tried a few of them–light force only–and they work. Just ask any of the three German Shepherds that I’ve owned.

Of course at this point, I most likely find myself in the same situation Mr. Christensen found himself in. That position being that if we share such techniques publicly every dog lover and/or animal rights activist will be up in arms and condemning us for doing so.

For now. I don’t feel the desire or necessity to share such information publicly, so I’ll close this blog entry by referring to an e-book Mr. Christensen offers for sale on the Internet; “Self-Defense Against A Dog Attack,” by Loren W. Christensen at http://www.lwcbooks.com/books/ebookdog.html While I have not read this book so cannot endorse its contents, hopefully the information contained in it will be a little more in depth.

* * *

Loren Christensen, is a 42-year veteran of the martial arts. He has learned the hard way that real fights are far more explosive and violent than karate sparring matches, a lesson proven over and over during his 25-year career as a police officer in Portland, Oregon and a military policeman in Saigon, Vietnam . He has earned a total of 10 black belts – seven in karate, two in jujitsu and one in arnis – and penned 34 books, 6 DVDs and dozens of magazine articles on the topics of the martial arts, street gangs, police-involved shootings, exercise, prostitution and various street subcultures.

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