What to do when facing a possible dog attack
A rash of recent dog attacks has prompted a response from Trenton for stricter fence and leash laws for bigger breeds. A Jersey dog trainer has some advice about what to do if confronted with a potentially dangerous encounter.
Trainer Matt Tuzzo of Jersey Shore Dogs says for some dogs, territoriality is their game, so try to stay away from their turf if you can, "a dog in his area, and then someone approaching or encroaching upon that area causes the dog to go into an aroused state."
He says another common situation is somebody moving quickly. So if you are running, or on a skateboard or a bike, this can often trigger the dog's natural predatory instinct, which then encourages the dog to then run and chase and perhaps want to grab at whatever it is that is moving.
"Obviously, entering someone's home who has a dog who maybe, let's just say, may be a little uncomfortable with unfamiliar visitors. It is just like any other animal. If you stress it out, it is going to do a set of preprogrammed behaviors that it does instinctually. For dogs, it is either going to mean running away, or barking, lunging snapping...and hopefully not...biting," Tuzzo said.
Tuzzo has some advice about an uncomfortable encounter with a large, menacing pooch.
"Any dog who, first of all, looks like he is actively trying to avoid you, that is a pretty good sign that you should avoid them," he said.
According to Tuzzo, the obvious signs are the ones with which most people are already familiar.
"You know a dog was either trying to avoid you, or one is giving you pretty obvious warning signs, the growling, in a defensively-looking body posture. These are dogs that you should calmly avoid...walking away from," Tuzzo said.
So what do you do if confronted by a dog you fear may attack?
"Standing very still, obviously not making direct eye contact," Tuzzo said. "The first thing for everybody that obviously comes to mind is running away, which is probably one of the worst things that you can do. It is easy to say that, but much harder to actually do it in practice."
Tuzzo said there are no absolutes in fending off an attack. One idea that might work, using a handbag or water bottle if you're carrying them to block the animal's bite. Use whatever you have on hand in order to defend yourself, even a backpack if you can get it off of yourself fast enough, can be used effectively to try and block the dog.
He also suggests avoidance may also be the most prudent path.
"If you know there is going to be a dog outside in somebody's front lawn that is probably prone to breaking through his fence, maybe walk around that house or go a different way if you can," he said.
Tuzzo also says some of the more recent research suggests that dogs do pick up on our emotional states.
"I would imagine that it is probably a lot like with humans. If you are stuck in an elevator with a really, nervous, anxious person, don't you start to feel nervous and anxious yourself," he said. "I would assume that dogs probably can do that too. Certainly a dog being around a really anxious person could potentially probably become more anxious themselves."