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How to deal with unfriendly dogs.

I have about three years' experience as an electric meter reader, which includes rural areas. A very conservative estimate would put me, potentially, at the teeth-end of over 5,000 dogs. In that time I received only four or five minor bites. Listed are a few suggestions to prevent bites from strange dogs.

1. Never turn your back to a strange dog or let it get behind you. (This could have prevented Dianna's bite.) Walk backwards away from the dog. Only the most vicious dogs will attack the front side of an adult human.

2. Carry something such as a walking stick or rolled up newspaper, anything you can use to put in the dog's teeth if it does attack head-on.

3. Don't run. Running triggers their hunting instincts and they will pursue. Chances are even the smallest of dogs can outrun you. Again, walk backwards away from the dog (and its territory).

Dog repellent sprays such as mace are available in some states, permits are needed in others. Check with local law enforcement to find out. Effectiveness varies from dog to dog. Sometimes just the smell from a blast aimed near the dog will work, while others aren't put off until several seconds after many direct blasts in the face.

These are just a few basics. I can't emphasize enough about not turning your back to a dog. For example if you're walking down a road and come upon a dog you're not sure about, move to the other side of the road and keep walking. Notice if the dog is watching you intently with its head lowered. Watch the dog out of the corner of your eye after you've passed it. If the dog starts moving towards you turn around and calmly face the dog. You may be surprised how quickly the dog stops.

Trust your instincts, not a wagging tail. My experience with dogs as a meter reader has given me an overwhelming love and respect for them. As a dog owner you must understand that your dog may be a loving family member and just fine with your friends, but if you see the meter reader and you're smiling on the outside and dreading the bill on the inside, your dog will sense what you're feeling and may be aggressive with the meter reader to protect you from your dread.

It helps to understand dog psychology

I read with interest Diane Osborne's experience with guard dogs. I currently do not have a guard dog for my sheep but have considered it.

Anyone considering such an animal must realize that not all breeds are the same. Pyrenees seem to be less likely to attack, for example. With all of these breeds, as with dogs in general, it is important to understand their psychology. Guard dogs of any breed are very territorial and each individual defines what constitutes his territory. It may be an acre or it may be a square mile and any intruder is challenged. To a dog, a man-made boundary does not exist. A road is not a boundary to a dog. He may well mark his territory on the far side of the road.

As I read the letter, I can think of several things anyone walking in a rural area should do. After all, not everyone is as lucky as Ms. Osborne. She could have just as easily encountered a pack of feral dogs.

The first thing is to always carry some sort of protection. Dog repellent spray, a billy club, an oak stave, all can be helpful in foiling a dog attack. A snake killer .410 is another option as is any type of firearm. Whatever you do carry, be prepared to use it and without hesitation.

Whatever you do whenever you are confronted by a dog, remember your goal is to get away safely, not to confront the animal. Back away slowly so that you are removing yourself from his territory. Do not run. You will be attacked for sure because your actions identify you as prey. Be prepared to defend yourself and never let the dog circle to get at your back. Turn with him so you are always facing him. Don't flail your arms or swing blindly with a stick. If you are forced to strike the dog, make sure you hit and hit to kill or disable.

Ms. Osborn assumed that the dog's bark was worse than its bite. That charming bit of folk wisdom has gotten more people bitten than any other. Any size dog will bite and one the size of a shepherd can pull down a man. Any dog is potentially dangerous and it is impossible to keep them away from humans because as more and more city dwellers move into rural areas, they continue to use for recreation areas which have not been used in that way before. When she was harassed by the dog she was running towards him. The dog viewed that as aggressive behavior. When the dog warned her by first barking and then by approaching, she continued to advance though the animal was growling. As the dog confronted her, she held her ground and then allowed the dog to circle her. Her every action to the dog seemed to be aggression on her part and I believe anyone growing up in an area with feral dogs would tell her so. She can count herself lucky.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on dog psychology
Author:Demattos, Nancy; Jooln, Wayne
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1994
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