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Peter Vermeeren

Peter Vermeeren x 74 articles

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As a dog trainer and handler many times I get questions from people about how they should defend themselves against a dog attacking them.

This is a very interesting question but it has no instant clear solution. But maybe this article can help you and set you on the right track. First of all before we are going to deal with the techniques and tactics let's take a look at dog handling and training.

There are different types of dogs and different types of handlers/owners. Some combinations between dog and owner work fine and some don't. Those who don't work out are the ones that give problems.

The ones that work fine are those were the owner knows his animal, it's needs and temperament.

The ones that spoil the fun are those who either:

Got themselves a dog to show of.

Don't have a clue about the needs of a dog.

Think their dog is a human.

Need a dog to boost their ego.

Selected the wrong dog for the job.

Next we should take a look at the dogs. There are different races of dogs, each of them bread for a different purpose. A Maltezer will never attack you the same way as a Bloodhound would. Their purpose is different as is their body size.

But within the different races I need to say that every dog has it's own character and temper. Some are easy going, others are nervous, some like to bark and some just bite without a warning.

When buying a dog make sure you know exactly what you want the dog to do for you. Do you want him to guard you (defence dog), do you want him to attack trespassers (attack dog) or do you need company (companion dog)?

When reading the papers and listening to the news we always hear about the same dog races to be the bad ones. They are called dangerous, attack dogs, vicious, etc… and the law is trying to ban those dogs or put restrictions on breeding them. To my opinion this is completely wrong. Most of the time the dog is paying for the stupidity and ego of his owner.

The dogs listed usually as dangerous are : Rottweiler - German Sheppard - Pit-bull - Doberman - Bulldogs - Alaskan Malamutes - Siberian Huskies - Great Danes - etc…

If you take a look at them it is easy to understand why these dogs are on the blacklist. They are all working dogs of considerable size and weight. But if you look at statistics you will find that people are attacked more frequently by the terriers than by a dog of the blacklist. The only difference is to be found in the damage the attack provokes. A 45kg dog with a bite pressure of 750 kg per square centimetre does a lot more damage than a little doggie reaching 10 cm of height and weighing 3 kg.

Well now, how do we defend against a dog that is going for us? first of all if it's a trained police dog 100% sure, than stand still and don't move at all. They are trained to bite when you flee or resist. Lie down on the floor face down or stand still with your hands up. They are trained to recognize these signals. These dogs are the easiest to deal with.

Next type of attacker is the one that is not trained at all. Depending on the type of dog (race) he will go for one target or another.

Wrap your arm in your jacket and offer your arm to the dog. 60% chance he will go for it. When he bites resist a little, that will make him tighten his grip, fall on top of the dog and immobilize him with you forearm (still stuck in his mouth), next stick your thumb in his eye and take it out. Don't try hitting his nose. He will only get more ferocious. Take out both of his eyes before you release him. A 45 kg Rotweiler is very difficult to subdue so don't hesitate, he will not give you a second chance. (I don't like this but i write this to protect the innocent victims of the consequences of stupid owners) If it's a large heavy dog (type Rotweiler) the chances are he will try to get at your legs. They are a little reluctant to get up to grab your arm. If he tries, kick at him and always face the dog. Don't turn around to run away. That will only excite him more and trigger even more his hunting instincts. Call for help, scream and get people to help you, try to pick up stones or sticks and throw them at the dog.

If you are made of the stuff hero's are made off you can try something completely different. In the case the dog come running to you and is alone and barking, run towards him and make lot's of noise while you swing your arms around. This will make you look bigger and you have a 73% chance you scare the dog of. (Only 23% if the dog doesn't bark).

Barking dogs don't bite goes the saying and to some level it is true. A dog barks to warn you or to hide his own fear.

Next and most dangerous categories of dogs are the ones who are only partially trained. They don't respond to commands and don't recognize obvious signals. They go for the kill so to speak. They have enough self confidence to not be scared away but they are not trained enough to stop when the victim stops resisting. These are the ones that make most victims. They are the hardest to defend against. The only option you have is the same you use against an untrained dog. But be aware that those dogs will be more difficult to subdue or to lure into biting in you arm. Some of them are trained to bite in the shoulder or the genitals so be very careful.

If there are more than one dog attacking you than pray. This is the same as being attacked by a pack of wolves. The hunt in group and wile you defend yourself against one the others will circle and take you in the back. Put your back against a wall or car and get a stick try to hold them off until help arrives.

As you can see it is very difficult to defend against a dog if you don't know what you are up to and in order to be able to distinguish different types of dogs and attacks you need to be an professional handler or at least an experienced owner/handler.

The best to take care of all these dogs without killing or maiming them is to use pepper spray. The regular spray sold in your local town will do just fine. These sprays are cheap, they come in different sizes and colours and they are easy to carry and put away. They work against every type of dog attack; they are pretty harmless to the dog and will give you plenty of time to get away. So I suggest that next time you go out for a walk in the park or wherever the chance exists you will be attacked by a dog you make sure to carry a pepper spray.

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Peter Vermeeren is a traditional martial arts teacher for over 30 year. His websites can be found here: and
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MLA Style Citation:
Vermeeren, Peter "Defense Against Dogs." Defense Against Dogs. 01 Sep. 2005 26 Feb. 2018 <>.
APA Style Citation:
Vermeeren, Peter (2005, September 01). Defense Against Dogs. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from
Chicago Style Citation:
Vermeeren, Peter "Defense Against Dogs." Defense Against Dogs
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