I hope you're reading this article because you love reading and not because your four-legged fur-baby was just attacked. If it's the former, phew! Good to hear. If it's the latter, I am so sorry to hear that, and you are not alone. In fact, I'm writing this because our own pup, Mylo, was viciously attacked during his walk on the beach yesterday, and the experience was traumatizing to our entire family. Nothing compares to hearing your dog scream in pain as it's being thrown around and torn into by another dog like a chew toy. It's my hope that should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, you take all the steps necessary to ensure that you, your dog, and future victims are all protected.
What To Do After A Dog Attack
Gather everyone's information. Shaken as you might be, do not run off to safety just yet. Instead, immediately begin gathering the information of the offending dog's owner (name, phone number, address), and information about the dog that attacked your pup (breed, approximate size, coloring description, gender). If you have a smart phone, snap a photo of the animal. If there are witnesses present, take down their information as well. All of this will help you if you choose to press charges. Even if you don't plan to press charges, take this information down anyway.
Note the time, date, and location of the attack. Were you on the beach? At what time of day? Where exactly were you in this area? Take photos. Write it down. The situation can be traumatic, and you might forget exactly where it all happened and how it happened.
Assess and record the damage. After getting Mylo home, somewhere he could be comfortable and calm, we inspected his neck for injury and found several bloody puncture marks. We photographed his wounds and took video of them, then cleaned them carefully with puppy wipes and applied topical antibiotics.
Inform the aggressive dog's owner of the steps you are taking. After getting Mylo cleaned up, we reached out immediately to the other owner and let her know what was going on. We informed her of the bite wounds and their severity, let her know we treated them at home, and informed her that we'd be taking him to the vet to assess internal damage. We wanted to establish a clear line of communication so she'd understand how not okay all of this was/is, and give her the chance to make amends.
Take your dog to the vet immediately. Your dog may look fine on the outside, but underneath their skin is a network of intricate nerves, organs, and tissues that are far different from our own. If your dog was bitten on the throat, for example (like our Mylo was), the potential bruising and internal bleeding caused by the other animal in such a sensitive area could kill him. The likelihood of rabies being transmitted is also an issue. A trip to the vet will give you peace of mind while also ensuring your beloved baby is safe.
Report the vicious dog to animal control. We didn't want to do this. We are huge animal lovers in the Oh Tiny Heart, and the last thing we'd want to happen is for an animal to get put down or taken away from its owner. If we had it our way, aggressive animals would get sent to some massive ranch where they can run around free and not bother anyone but themselves. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of the situation, and as a neighbor and citizen, we need to report dog attacks. What if this wasn't the first time this dog attacked another dog? What if it regularly does this, and its owner just doesn't care + continues to let their animal hurt other pets? Or worse, children? When you report the dog to animal control, they take down all of the information you gathered above, and they keep a record of that dog's attack. They then call the other owner to inform them of the severity of the situation and lay down the potential consequences should you decide to press charges. They do not do anything to hurt the other owner's animal, but they do a sufficient job of scaring the other owner into realizing how real this could get for them and their pet.
Take your dog home & love him. Treats, toys, cuddles, love -- spoil him until his tummy hurts and until he passes out from love. Help him feel safe, take care not to touch his wounds, and make him as comfortable as possible. After the trauma of the attack and being poked and prodded by strangers at the smelly vet's office, there's nothing like being home in his safe space with his family to protect him and care for him.
Optional: Report the vicious dog to the police. We did not take this route (yet), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. If the owner of the aggressive dog seems nonchalant and isn't absolutely horrified by the behavior of his/her animal, this is a good time to get the police involved. Pets aren't bad. Owners are bad. If you are unsure whether or not you should report a dog and its owner to the police, call the other owner to get a sense of how they feel about the issue. If they are rude, don't offer to help in any way they can (such as by covering your expensive veterinarian bill), or are simply unfazed by the situation, take the steps necessary to ensure this doesn't happen to anyone else's beloved family dog ever again. At this point, it is your duty to do so.
Resocialize your dog when he's cleared to do so. The vet or animal control will likely give you a restricted amount of time to quarantine your dog while he recovers. This is to ensure his injuries heal well, and to prevent the potential spread of rabies from the attack. After he heals, make sure to confidently and patiently reintroduce him to other friendly dogs so he understands that his last interaction does not represent the majority of interactions with other puppies. Be patient with him, and do your best to hide your anxiety (if you have it) so he doesn't sense it in you. Make him your priority, and he will heal just fine!
How To Prepare For & Prevent Dog Attacks
Keep a portable canister of mace with you at all times. It might seem scary or cruel to mace another animal, but if they aren't letting go of your pet, this is one of the best non-lethal methods of stopping the attack. Sure, you could punch or kick the dog to try and let go, but in many cases, that still won't work as well as a good spray of mace straight to the eyes and nose. Just take care not to spray yourself!
Be alert. Some dogs attack for no reason. Other dogs attack because they are defending territory, or are simply easily irritable, or don't want another dog in their space. Whatever the reason, be wary of the signs. Don't let your pup sneak up on another dog when their head is buried in a hole they've been digging. Don't let your pup near an animal who is giving warning growls to stay away. Don't let your pup near a dog who is very clearly on high-alert and watching your pup like prey. Your dog is not invincible. Every dog is not nice. And not every owner is perfect like you. As unfair as it is, the world is not sunshine and rainbows, and you should always be prepared (with a can of mace in your pocket) to take action (or precaution) where and when necessary.
Be aware of leash laws. If your dog is attacked while he/she is off leash in an area that enforces leash laws, there's little that police can do to defend you. The situation changes slightly if the offending dog was also off-leash, but if your pup caused the fight by approaching a clearly leashed and dangerous animal, you're gonna have problems. Be wary, and be alert. Only let your dog off-leash if you feel it is safe to do so.
Ask, "Is your dog friendly?" This is one of our favorite questions. It might seem inane to ask every time, but you are being a good owner by doing so. Don't be afraid to ask other owners if their dog is friendly before you allow your pup to interact with theirs. It could save your dog's life, and it could save you and the other owner a whole lot of legal headaches.
Get health insurance. 80% of our emergency veterinary bill was covered by the health insurance we currently invest in for Mylo. Now that this has happened, we'll be upgrading to the 90% version instead. Vet bills are expensive and usually range in the $1,000+ range. We use Healthy Paws Pet Insurance (affiliate link). Better safe than sorry.
What To Do During A Dog Attack
First, let me tell you how we reacted.
Tony and I both reacted in the craziest ways. We weren't prepared for the attack. Mylo had been playing with other friendly dogs just a second ago, leaping and running, fetching a stick we had found on the beach and panting happily. We didn't know this would happen. So when this animal lunged for him and Mylo began to scream for help, we reacted on instinct.
I began crying and screaming, "Please save our dog! Please!" While Tony yelled, "Get your f*cking dog off of him!" Tony lunged for the other animal and put his hands into the dog's mouth to try and pry its jaws off of Mylo's neck, injuring himself in the process, but the dog's jaws were clamped tight. He yelled and cried for help while he worked, trying to scare the dog away with sound alone, but nothing worked. When the other owners finally jumped on their dog, they reacted by trying to rip him away from Mylo, but because it had such a grip on Mylo's neck, Mylo became airborne by his throat. Tony later told me that he connected eyes with Mylo while he was in the air, and Mylo had this look of terror on his face that begged, "Please help me!"
We. Were freaking. Traumatized.
And angry. So damn angry.
I've never wanted to kick or hurt another dog in my life, but I very strongly considered it during this fight for Mylo's life. The only thing that stopped me was the jumbled mess of owners already in the thick of it trying to separate the two of them. How could I help? I couldn't. And my screaming probably wasn't helping either, but how else was I supposed to react? That's my baby in there!
When the dog finally let go, Mylo scrambled to his feet, sprinted straight for me with tears in his eyes, and I cradled him in my arms. Tony ran after him, and we collapsed together in the dirt crying while we held him, kissing him and telling him everything was going to be okay, trying to calm ourselves down so we wouldn't scare him, smiling at him and telling him he was a good dog.
Other witnesses in the area crowded around us to ask how he was and make sure he was okay. I couldn't talk. I couldn't stop crying. I didn't want to be there anymore. I just wanted to get him home. Tony couldn't talk either. We were so upset. He kept whispering, "What the f*ck," under his breath, angry and hurt. One owner tried to reach down and pet Mylo, and our normally sweet puppy reacted by barking and warning them off.
We were lucky that the offending dog's owner offered her information. We didn't think to ask for it. We just wanted to get home.
If I could relive this situation, I would've done the following instead.
Spray the vicious dog with mace. I didn't have mace on me at the time. But if I did, that animal would've gotten a face-full of mace. Let go of my dog!
Take care not to injure yourself. In the absence of mace, Tony's first reaction was heroic. Not many owners would dive hand-first into an angry animal's jaws. And you probably shouldn't either. Especially avoid letting the angry dog near your face, thighs, and stomach. The safest and most non-lethal places for a dog to bite you are your forearms and shins.
Use an object between yourself and the dog to push them away. A stick, a backpack, a blanket -- whatever you can use as padding to push the animal away (in the absence of mace), use it. Avoid injuring your dog, and avoid injuring yourself.
Do not rip the dog away from your pet, or try to rip your pet away from the dog. If, like in Mylo's situation, the offending dog has a death grip on your pet, ripping your animal away could seriously injure him. We are lucky that the dog wasn't able to tear into his throat, but had we pulled on Mylo while the other owner pulled on their pet, Mylo could've been ripped in half. Be careful.
Make noise and cry for help. If you're alone, make as much f*cking noise as possible to call attention to yourself. If someone's nearby, their assistance could be the difference between your dog's survival and an untimely end. You want eyes. You want witnesses. You want help. Call it over while you deal with this crazy animal.
It's Your Job To Prevent Attacks
Dogs will be dogs, and some dogs just don't get along. Some dogs are just plain old mean and unsocialized. Whatever the case, it's your job as an owner to take the steps necessary to prevent attacks, safely stop them while they happen, and do your due diligence after the attack to make sure it never happens to anyone else ever again.
That's why this post exists.
If your animal is aggressive, take steps to prevent him or her from attacking anyone or anything. Muzzle him during your walks so he can't bite. Keep him leashed, and if you see a friendly dog approaching, make sure you yell to the approaching owner that your dog isn't friendly. If you are dog sitting someone else's animal, make sure you ask the owner if their dog is animal friendly or can explore off-leash during your walks. If you are leaving your aggressive dog with a sitter, make sure you let your sitter know that your dog is aggressive and doesn't do well with other animals or people. These are all important and preventative steps that you can take.
We love Mylo more than words can express. His life flashed before our eyes. Everything seemed to happen in this slow-motion blur, and all we can remember is screaming, yelling, and doing everything we can to save our dog.
The idea of this happening to someone else terrifies us. Please, please take precautions when walking your dog or letting him off-leash. Please take our advice and bring a can of mace with you, just in case. And if you have more advice for us or our readers, please drop a comment below and help owners around the world better understand how they can prevent something like this from happening ever again.
The more you know, the better off you and your family are.
Thank you for reading.
For more resources on what to do in case of a dog attack, please see the following links:
PS. Mylo is home with us and recovering. We're looking forward to resocializing him again. At ten months old, our biggest concern is his ability to get along with other people and other dogs. He loves other dogs and loves other people, and he has an incredibly sweet and playful personality. We want to keep it this way for him, and will be reintroducing him to other pups once he's cleared to do so. :)
About the Author: Sherilynn "HeyCheri" Macale is the Founder of Oh Tiny Heart and a multiple award winning digital content strategist. A long-time blogger and social media personality, she founded Oh Tiny Heart after rescuing her pup, Mylo, from the San Francisco SPCA. You can find more about her in her blog and Twitter.
Our luxury dog accessories and products are precision-made sartorial keepsakes and treasures meant to assist both you and your fashion-forward canine in putting your best paws forward. Oh Tiny Heart products are wardrobe favorites that you'll find yourself reaching for first on special occasions and for photo-ready events.
Oh Tiny Heart brand luxury dog product materials are sourced from local mom & pop suppliers in San Francisco. We take pride in supporting family brands from our local community and doing our part to shop small while headquartered in the most expensive city in the nation. Thank you for choosing our little pet store. We can't wait to welcome you to the Oh Tiny Heart Family.
Vendors in our Tiny Heart Boutique are part of a highly exclusive and meticulously curated roster of small and outstanding shops specialized in bespoke and handcrafted dog products. These vendors were vetted for quality, creativity, and precision design. We hope you discover a new favorite pet brand while shopping Oh Tiny Heart, and come to rely on our specialized boutique as your number one stop for all things dog perfection.