Tips for fending off a dog attack
Not all dogs are as friendly as they appear to be.
“Wagging tail, don't go by it,” warns Provincial Offences Officer Robert Meerburg.
“A lot of times they will start wagging their tail and it doesn’t mean they are a happy friendly dog, just that they are an excited dog,” he says.
Meerburg, who works with Toronto Animal Services and K9 Cody, a yellow labrador, spent part of the morning at the training facility for the Toronto police canine unit running me through what to do if you are approached by an aggressive dog on the street.
Both Meerburg and Cody are civilians. Part of their job is training children and adults how to approach and deal with strange dogs.
Crouching down a bit to pat a dog is okay, but keep your arm extended to create space between your face and the dog, he says.
It seems like common sense, but if you reach out to pet a dog and it turns away from you, let it, advises Meerburg.
He stresses that if you are approached by a strange aggressive dog, turning to the side is key — so the dog can’t read your body language. You also want to stare over the dog.
“If you look at them when they are running up it is a threatening gesture,” he says.
The average dog has been told “no” and “down” almost as many times as they have been called by their name, so try using those words in an aggressive voice, he says.
If all else fails, he teaches me some knee blocking techniques to keep a dog at bay. Basically you raise your knee up near your chest to make it hard for the dog to jump at your throat.
Cody, who has a rather fearsome-looking scar on his nose from a tangle with a fence protecting a tomato plant, does not display any interest in attacking me.
If a dog does get you on the ground, tuck your hands behind your neck, curl into small ball to protect your face and your neck and stay still, Meerburg says.
“Turtle in and lay perfectly still… he is going to be running around and sniffing you, but don’t panic.”
Not sure how long I could hold still if a strange dog was running circles around me — I hope I never need to test that out.
Learn more about it: www.toronto.ca/animal_services/