K-9 Self-Defense – A Follow Up – Part 2 of 3

If you haven’t read part one of this topic I strongly urge you to do so. Part two will only deal with mid to moderate level methods of dealing with a violent dog attack.

Maybe it’s unnecessary to say, but I strongly believe that learning to prevent and/or avoid a dog attack is far more beneficial than learning the bulk of what’s in this section. If I didn’t feel that way, there would have been no need for me to write part one on this topic.

Furthermore, no one should practice any of these techniques on their family pet. Severe injury or death of the animal could occur, and depending on the laws in your area you could face charges of animal cruelty. In addition, your family pet may resent your actions, and bite the hell out of you in retaliation. Speaking on the dog’s behalf, you would deserve it.

Lastly, there is absolutely no guarantee that anything described below will work in any particular situation; anyone attempting to use said techniques does so at their own risk. However, if you should find yourself in such an unfortunate situation and something I wrote helped you out, please let me know.

Finally, no dogs, mainly my own, were hurt during any of the photo shoots. Annoyed maybe, confused certainly, but the utmost caution was always used to prevent any distress. And there were always plenty of treats afterwards.

Self-Defense Against A Canine

Before continuing, I suggest watching the below video. Though it’s a bit on the long side, this is what a dog attack looks like. Keep in mind that these are trained dogs, and because of their training they mostly only attack the arm of their victim. An untrained dog won’t be so target specific.

In addition note the following:

  1. The force of the attack.
  2. That none of these dogs have an issue with the size of their victim.
  3. The fact that even though some bad guys are armed and even hitting the dog during the attack, this does not deter or stop the dog’s attack at all.
  4. That being high above ground doesn’t stop the dog from getting to its target.

Now that you’ve watched the video, let me tell you something you most likely figured out, but don’t want to hear. Your chances of successfully defending yourself against a hostile dog, intent on attacking you, without suffering major injuries are almost zero. If the dog has been trained to attack, it is even lower.

First of all dogs move faster than humans.

Secondly, their teeth are designed to rip flesh and crush bone.

Third, your screaming and physical efforts to defend yourself may do nothing more than just incite the dog to become even more aggressive.

Lastly, dogs lack the restraining moral dilemmas, or fear of punishment, that may inhibit humans from attacking another person to such excess.

To illustrate how hard it is to stop an attacking dog: there are numerous cases where people have come to the aid of a person being attacked by a dog, and after hitting the dog several times with baseball bats have been unable to stop the dog’s aggressive actions.

I, for one, know of a police K-9 that was shot in the face with a .38 caliber revolver and who still brought the suspect to the ground before collapsing from its injuries. That’s focus and determination for you (the dog did recover, and was retired.)

With that said, you the reader might wonder why I’m wasting my time writing this. Well, any actions you take are better than nothing, and some techniques definitely work better than others. Just remember that desperate times require desperate actions.

Keep in mind though that nothing I’m about to write below is guaranteed to work, and in order to protect oneself one will most likely have to improvise.

Basic Methods

Chemical Weapons

The major problem with any chemical dog repellent is that one has to had the foresight to arm themselves with such a weapon in advance. Since the majority of people don’t carry around such items, in many respects this isn’t worth my time covering. However, since some people have such predilection for spouting off the merits of such items I would be remiss if I didn’t make some comments.

First and foremost, based on everything I’ve read and my own personal experience, they do not work. To be totally fair though, it would be better to state that no one formula works on every dog, and that in most cases none of them work as well as they are advertised to do so. Certainly, many people–my postman for one–claim to have had success with them.

While I would never rely on chemical weaponry, I will concede that some aggressive dogs will be turned away/distracted if you spray something in their face. Even spraying water works very effectively when I need to deter Taiko (my dog) from some bad behavior. However, I believe these results are based more on the dog’s intent and determination, rather than the repellant chosen.

For example, chemical repellents might work great on Fi Fi who is halfheartedly charging at the postman. They may not work so well on Rex, the territorial Alpha dog who is hell-bent on protecting his front yard.

In my experience, I have never witnessed a trained attack dog that was in the least bit fazed by pepper spray or mace. In two drills at the police academy, my dog and I had to walk through a thick cloud of both agents and perform several tasks. While the dog didn’t like it–for that matter neither did I–I think I was much more debilitated than he was. I’m not even sure he was debilitated at all, he didn’t show any outward signs; I on the other had felt like my face was on fire.

I also used to have a German Shepherd with an inappropriate chewing problem, and every repellent I used she licked it up as if were the greatest dog treat in the world–so much for all those guarantees that these things work.

Now, I’m not saying one should not try to use dog repellents before resorting to another course of action. Anything is worth trying. All I’m suggesting, and suggesting strongly, is to not rely on them.

If they work for you, that is great. If they don’t, you had better have a back up plan.

Mid Level Methods

Since my training with dogs is limited, and some of what I know might be outdated, before I started this section I tried to get some input from the professional dog walkers/trainers in San Francisco, where I live. As you might imagine, my inquiries were met with a lot of animosity.

Even when I tried to explain my reasons for writing such an article, and showed pictures of children with dog bites, most of what I was told was that these incidents were all the fault of the owners. I don’t disagree, but that doesn’t help once a dog attack has begun. Even less helpful were the replies that basically asserted there was nothing one could do.

One professional dog walker–and keep in mind that when I say “professional,” I mean this is their sole employment, although they may or may not have had any formal/serious dog handling training/experience–berated me, claiming there is never any reason to ever hit a dog.

When I asked her what she would do if a dog was attacking her and gnawing her leg, she said she would do “nothing.” Yes, that was her answer. She then added that if a dog ever attacked/bit her it would mean that she must have done something to provoke the dog’s behavior. The worst part is I believe she really feels this way.

Mind you, San Francisco is unique among most major cities when it comes to dogs and the attitudes of many of the people who own them. For example in San Francisco, a human does not “own” their dog. Believe it or not, according to a city ordinance, a dog is considered a “companion,” and the human is its “legal guardian.” Of course if your “companion” bites someone you are still legally responsible. Guardianship also doesn’t get you out of a ticket when you explain to the animal control officer that your “companion” didn’t feel like wearing his leash today. But as his “companion,” do I really have the ability to force him to wear it?

Technique #1 – Defensive Stance

This is relatively easy. Basically, all it entails is adopting a defensive position where your face, neck, and groin area are protected as much as possible. The important factor is trying to keep your body relaxed until the moment of impact. By being relaxed, you will have more mobility to react to the dog’s actions–or as we would say in the Aiki arts , “flow” with the dog’s aggressive actions.

Keep in mind that it is almost impossible to meet a dogs force with force. That’s would be like two cars hitting head on.

A better course of action would be to side step, duck, or twist away from the incoming dog like a matador facing a bull, following up the evasion with some kind of grab, kick, or punch (note that these various evasion methods are all utilized to varying degrees of success in the video showing dog attacks listed above).

Another element of the defensive stance is location. If it is possible, place your back against an object such as a car, tree, wall, etc. While this will reduce your mobility, it will also reduce the directions the dog can attack you from.

Verbal commands such as “stop,” “bad dog,” “sit,” and “down” should be attempted at this time, as well as yelling for assistance.

Technique #2 – The Standoff

This is also relatively easy. Importantly, it puts a weapon in your hand that can be used defensively or offensively if the situation escalates.

Basically, the “standoff” is nothing more than picking up an object and placing it between you and the dog. The bigger the object, the better; but in most cases you will have to make do with whatever is immediately available. Do not pick up something extremely heavy or awkward to maneuver, as this will only slow down your ability to use it effectively.

If you’re lucky, the object you select will not only act as a shield, but it may also startle the dog. Being startled may be enough to get the dog to retreat, or at least back down. When we first picked up the safety cone in the below photos, Taiko was very apprehensive about even approaching it. Having really never encountered one, especially one being waved around in the air, he wasn’t sure what to make of it. It actually took several minutes of encouragement to get Taiko to want to play tug of war with it.

This tree branch does not look very formidable but all the smaller
branches on the end make it hard for the dog to negotiate it. The small branches
also allow the defender to thrust the branches into the face of
the dog striking the dog at numerous points all at the same time.


Both sides of the safety cone proved to be effective.
However the larger end was more of a deterrent.

The standoff is really nothing more than applying one of the first rules of any self-defense system: the use of improvised weaponry. Be creative, and utilize every possible aspect of whatever item you may find.

While taking these photos, we discovered that the safety cone was not only good for fending off Taiko, but that my son’s arm could be placed inside off it like a sleeve. In many respects the safety cone functioned in the same manner as the padded sleeve used to train police/military dogs. My son clearly felt the pressure of Taiko’s bite, but the teeth did not penetrate the skin. (The next day my son’s arm was pretty bruised though.)

Obviously, safety cones can’t be found lying around everywhere. However, a heavy coat could be wrapped around the arm and function just as well.

While using the Standoff technique may not stop dogs from attacking, it could slow them down and provide them with an alternative target to bite at. Your objective at this time is to provide yourself with enough time to determine the best way to escape, to determine what follow up techniques may be necessary, and hopefully buy enough time for help to arrive.

Technique #3 – Throwing Objects

This course of action will most likely not stop dogs from attacking either, but it may slow them down, and give you a few fractions of a second to plan another course of action. You may also get lucky enough to get a dog with a high “fetch” drive–like those ball obsessed dogs you often see at the park. In that case, they may switch course and go after the thrown object–although I wouldn’t bet on it.

How effective throwing an object will be depends on the size and nature of the object and your accuracy. If you happen to be a ninja with a pocket full of shuriken, you may do well. However, chances are the objects you’ll find at hand won’t make this defense worth your time and effort.

If you’re going to try this, I suggest sand/dirt, a handful of small to medium sized rocks (gravel), glass bottle, keys, coins, water (liquids), and any food you may have on you.

Technique #4 – Punching and Kicking

For the most part punching and kicking a dog will be a lesson in futility. Chances are that all you will do is antagonize the dog more, and place your attacking limb closer to the dog making it easier for it to bite you.

However, if this is all you can do, than go for it–and go for it with all the focus and power you can muster. Strike as fast as you can, as many times as you can. Don’t stop until the dog is no longer a threat.


This is an example of utilizing the “Standoff” method and
a kick. Since the dog’s mouth is busy biting the cone it
makes the kick a lot safer to execute.

It should be noted at this point that dogs have a higher threshold of pain than we humans. Any striking technique used must be extremely forceful to have even a minor affect. Fortunately, like humans, dog’s do have week spots that can be injured easier than others. While aiming for these will be difficult they are worth your effort. The below are a few examples.

Note: If you’re an Animal Rights extremist, easily offended dog lover, or cannot bear the thought of ever, under any circumstances, hitting a dog skip the next section.

And do I really need to say this again, “Don’t Try This At Home!!”

Target 1 – The Eyes

This of course would be more of a gouge than a strike. I suggest using the tips of your thumbnails and pushing them in and up. This can be accomplished most easily by using your fingers to grab onto the lose skin on the dog’s head, and curling your fingers into a fist.

The goal of this technique is to create enough generalized pain that the dog will retreat or pull back. It may not stop the dog for more than a few seconds, but one can use the dog’s retreating motion to follow up with another technique.

This is also one target I would suggest biting, if that’s the only defense left for you.


In addition to gouging the dogs eyes I also use my legs to push the dog back.

This technique is very good for those coming to the aid of a person a vicious dog has latched onto, although I hear it does not work on Pit Bulls.

Target 2 – The Ears

One thing every dog I’ve ever owned had in common was the fact they all hated having their ears cleaned. They didn’t mind when I started at the top of the ear, but as I got closer and closer to the skull–where all the dirt and wax always seems to accumulate the most–they would whimper, kick, and squirm, making every attempt to get away form me.

There are two main ways to attack the ears. For dogs with floppy ears, (Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, Labs, Bloodhound, etc.), simply grab, twist and pull. Pull the ears behind the dog’s head and use them like reins on a horse.

For dogs with short upright ears, (Shepherd, Chihuahua, Schnauzer, etc.), gouge the ear hole and force your fingers as deep as they will go. If attacking both ears at the same time, squeeze the head to maintain control.

In most cases you will have to do this facing the dog. However, to reduce your chance of injury, the best way to apply these methods is from the rear. This makes this target better suited for those coming to the aid of a dog bite victim, than for those being attacked.

Target 3 – The Nose

I almost hesitate to mention this one, simply because trying to get at the nose places one’s hands way too close to the dog’s teeth. However, a dog’s nose is fairly sensitive and can be attacked in several ways.

Obviously, one of those ways is to kick or punch the nose. Another method is to bite the nose. These methods are pretty self-explanatory.

A less obvious way to is to grab the tip of the nose and twist it. Done properly, one can actually twist the dog’s head. The hard part is maintaining grip as the dog tries to pull away.

The last method is to force your fingers inside the nostrils themselves. If you take this course of action use your other fingers to wrap around the dogs jaw or chin to gain further control. Of course, this places your fingers in harms way, but if you get desperate enough to force your fingers in a dog’s nose you’ve most likely been bitten several times already and are in a fight for your life. Hopefully by this point, your adrenaline would be flowing to the point where you aren’t feeling much of the pain.

Target – 4 The Toes

Just think how many times you’ve accidentally stepped on your dog’s foot. In every instance, the dog has made a yelping sound and made every effort to pull as far away form you as possible.

Now imagine purposefully stomping on a dog’s foot with as much strength as you have. While it may not fully stop the dog, it will cause them pain, and distract them momentarily. Done hard enough, at the right angle, you may even damage the paw to the point where weight can’t be placed on it. This would slow the dog down immensely.

Target – 5 The Testicles

I have absolutely no first hand knowledge of how effective striking a dog in his testicles would be. However, I’ve heard from several breeders of hunting dogs that it will. Unfortunately, these breeders never told me how they came to this conclusion; I never asked for a demonstration either.

Of course, in my quest for the truth I did ask the K-9 training officers at the police academy, as well as Taiko’s veterinarian. All I got were strange looks, a few sarcastic comments, and the normal answer of, “probably not.”

All I can really say on this topic is this; on one occasion while giving a Taiko a bath–which he hates and fights as if I was trying to drown him–I did accidentally hit his testicles. While he “yelped” and give me what I could only interpret as a dirty, look it did not stop him from trying to escape the bathing process. Based on that, I’m going to say that hitting a dog in the testicles, or better yet grabbing and trying to rip them off, may have some effect. Then again, the effect might be that he just gets angrier.

Since statistics show that un-neutered male dogs bite more often than other dogs, it may be worth a try. Of course trying to determine the sex of a charging dog, and whether he is intact or not may not be possible or prudent.

Vital Points

This canine striking point was taught to me by an uncle who happened to raise hunting dogs. These dogs were not house pets, and were aggressive. They would constantly challenge his authority and fight each other. Sometimes during hunts, they got carried away to the point they would no longer respond to verbal commands.

Since the nature of a pack of hunting dogs is such that one dog will incite the others, any hostile challenges to my uncle’s authority had to be handled swiftly and efficiently. In order to maintain control, the effects of his techniques also had to be devastating, or even debilitating (note that I’m not here to judge my uncle or his actions).

As my uncle told me, knowing where to hit is one thing, having the opportunity and ability to actually hit that point is another. That’s the tricky part, and why I debated with myself whether to even share them in the first place.

I’m no expert when it comes to the anatomy of a dog. Since I lack such knowledge, I consulted Taiko’s veterinarian who has over 25 years of experience. While he could not specifically state why this target is so effective, he was able to confirm where specific vital organs were in relation to it. I will mention though, that Taiko’s veterinarian was of the opinion that there is really no specific point on a dog that one could strike that would deter a dog once an attack has begun.

Vital Point #1

Vital point one is located on the side of the chest directly under point where the elbow touches the torso.

This point should be struck inwards and upward towards the dog’s head to obtain the best results. Kicking with the toes, or jabbing with the fingers would be the best way to fit into the space.

Based on my discussion with Taiko’s veterinarian, this point most likely causes damage to the diaphragm, heart, and lungs by compressing the rib cage. Of course, in order to do such major damage the strike would have to be extremely hard and precise.

I once saw my uncle kick one of his hunting dogs in this spot full force, and the dog went flying. After hitting the ground, it took every ounce of effort the dog had left to limp away. The dog died the next day. Now, before I get angry e-mails about my uncle’s actions, I don’t know if he intended to kill the dog or not. But I do know that the dog was in the process of biting his neighbors show horse, and some immediate intervention was necessary. It was either my uncle’s kick, or the farmer’s Remington .30-06.

Clearly the potential of this strike is lethal. However, if lesser force is used, this is a perfect spot to use to force a dog off balance or knock the wind out of the dog.

Vital Point #2

This is also another point my uncle taught me. This one is located where the thigh meets the flank.

It should be struck inwards and upward towards the tail. Once again, kicking with the toes, or jabbing with the fingers would be the best way to fit into the space.

Anatomically, the only organs near this target are the intestines and bladder, so I’m going to have to assume striking here must damage them in some way. However, even Taiko’s veterinarian was at a loss to explain why striking this area would be so effective.

One theory I have,, based on observing a lot of dog interaction in the park, is that this spot is the same spot dogs cling onto when mating or showing their dominance over another dog. It may be an innate reaction for the dog to either drop, or twist around when this spot feels pressure. At least, that’s the behavior dogs exhibit when they are not responsive to being mounted. Like I said, it’s a theory.

Although I can’t explain why this point works, I can attest to the fact that it does. Not only have I seen this point used on unruly dogs on several occasions, I must confess that I’ve also resorted to using it for various disciplinary reasons.

Clearly, none of these situations were defensive in nature, or involved a hostile dog. I should also point out that in none of these situations was the dog kicked or punched either. No, the dog was simply poked. That’s all it took to get the dog to turn around, sit, or knock the dog off balance enough to force it to his side.

While I don’t think this is as good a target as vital point #1, if hit properly it will work.

Technique #5 Forward/Rear Foot Sweep / Leg Lift

This is another technique more suited for someone coming to the aid of an attack victim than people trying to defend themselves. The main reason I say this is that the timing and accuracy needed to hit/grab the target makes it extremely difficult if the dog is attacking you.

Basically the idea is to sweep the legs from under the dog. Done correctly this will destabilize the dog’s balance, allowing for follow up techniques.

A variation of this technique is sweeping and/or pulling the rear legs with your arms and lifting the dog off the ground. In fact, this method has often been taught as the only method to use to control an aggressive Pit Bull or to make it let go of something it has latched onto.

If you’re not the dog’s owner don’t attempt this, unless you have no choice. Even if you are the owner, be prepared for the dog to turn his hostilities towards you. And don’t think you are in a position where the dog can’t get you. You would be extremely surprised to see the flexibility and dexterity a dog can exhibit.

Watch the below video and see how this Pit Bull twists away and eventually attacks the people holding it. It happens twice. Also note that even when the dog is shot at point blank range by the police who respond to the scene, he still manages to run away.

End Part 2

Advertisements