Dog Defense

We Love Dogs — But Be Smart Too

“Hey, you forgot your walking stick!” A retriever can be a handy dog to have around!

How much danger is there of being attacked by a dog? It depends on how you interpret the statistics. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there are 4.7 million incidents of dog bites annually in the U.S., of which 800,000 require medical care. This means in 3.9 million — about 83 percent of the incidents — the person bitten felt the injury was so minor it didn’t need a doctor’s care.

Of those requiring medical care, some online sources say about 300,000 to 350,000 dog bite cases are treated annually at emergency rooms. Certainly not an insignificant number, but a small part of the total injuries treated. In 2016, emergency room visits resulting from accidental injury totaled about 42.2 million.

Fatal attacks are rare, in the range of 40 to 60 annually. A disproportionate number of those killed were either very young or very old; those least able to either leave the scene or defend themselves. To put this in perspective, in the U.S. in 2016 there were 36,338 deaths from accidental falls, 40,231 killed in vehicle accidents and 64,795 deaths from accidental poisoning.

Statistically lots of things are unlikely, but because people like us are sensible we take precautions. We change batteries in smoke and CO2 detectors regularly, keep first aid kits, fire extinguishers and flashlights handy, fasten seat belts, wear life jackets and carry concealed sidearms — just in case.

The nice thing about a stick is you can calibrate the amount of force. Generally, using it as a barrier and pushing
the dog away is enough, but the stick has plenty of power in reserve if you need it.

Gun Vs. Stick

I’ve partnered with various dogs for most of my life. A dog can be a most useful ally in defending home and hearth. Mostly I agree with the old saying there are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners. Nonetheless in an altercation with a dog, I’m not concerned with analyzing its motives. It may be as harmless as a friendly dog jumping up with muddy paws to say hi, or a lethal all-out attack. The immediate goal is to make it stop. I know some will disagree, but for most dog situations I feel better armed with a stick than a sidearm. It’s kind of the opposite of defense against humans.

Muggers and thugs know a firearm is a deadly weapon and may surrender or flee when the firearm is displayed. They may be less impressed with a stick, though a skillfully used walking stick or cane can be a formidable weapon. Displaying your defensive handgun is likely not going to deter a dog. Plus if you start drawing your sidearm every time a dog jumps up or barks at you, there’s a good chance you’ll lose your permit and sidearm. A handgun is not the best solution to every defensive problem, in spite of what some may think.

If you own a dog it’s your responsibility to provide discipline and basic obedience training.
If you don’t someone else will and they may not be as gentle and patient.

Feral Packs

Theodore Roosevelt’s advice to, “Talk softly and carry a big stick” is as valid today as ever, whether we’re talking dogs or international politics. A hiking or walking stick is already right there, in your hand, as I explain in my Better Shooting column in this issue. It lets you fine-tune the amount of force employed, from using it as a barrier, to a gentle tap, a sharp poke, or an all-out baseball swing. I have a nice balsam hiking stick I like, though it’s a bit light and like all wood it can break. Recently I bought a Cold Steel City Stick. With its fiberglass construction it’s very strong, and the aluminum “scent bottle” grip adds substantial weight.

The most dangerous dog situation, one I hope never to encounter, is a pack of feral dogs. A pack can be anything from two dogs and up. Rather like a human mob, it seems dogs in a pack will do things no individual member of the group would do. If I’m ever approached by an aggressive pack the stick isn’t going to get the call. Before the dogs get close I’ll have the sidearm out and whichever dog is closest and/or most aggressive is going to get shot dead. As will any others who don’t flee. I consider a feral dog pack far more dangerous than wild predators, as the dogs have little to no fear of man.

I recall when I was eight or 10 years old, one winter several farm and village dogs formed a pack and started chasing deer. In those days people didn’t wait for a child to be killed before acting, nor did they ask for any official help or permission. One day the dogs were all gone, and no one talked about them again. Like the dog that bit me once when I was little — I guess they just ran away.

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