What to Do If a Dog Charges You

Learn how to handle a charging dog and keep yourself safe.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #95

A listener, Nikki Atkins, and her rescue Greyhound, Kimi, were walking in their neighborhood one day when a dog in a fenced yard began barking at them as they passed and then vaulted the fence and charged them. Without even thinking about it, Nikki pushed Kimi behind her, stood up tall, “pulled out the Big Voice and told the Barky Dog ‘No’ and ‘Go home.’” Nikki wonders whether this was the correct approach. This week, I’ll discuss what to do if a dog charges you.

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What to Do If a Dog Charges You

First, let’s kill the suspense. Nikki’s response to the charging dog was clearly correct. We know this because the charging dog stopped and Nikki and Kimi walked away safely, though Nikki had to give, as she puts it so well, “a few more Big Voice admonitions to keep him from following.” Phew.

How Many Dog Attacks Are There?

Second, let’s put dog attacks in perspective. Terrifying though they are, those rip-you-to-pieces maulings are rare, rare, rare. It’s extremely difficult to find reliable information on the number of fatal dog attacks; the most recent figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control cover the 20 years from 1979 to 1998. Over those 20 years, there were 238 fatalities -- about a dozen a year. One one hundred thousandth of one percent (that’s 0.00001 percent) of dog bites were fatal.(1)

Are Dog Bites Serious?

Most dog bites, even the ones that send people to the emergency department, require about as much treatment as the average kitchen accident.

So even though it sets anyone’s heart racing to see a dog rushing them, especially if it’s a big dog, try to hang on to your cool. The odds are extremely good that even if the dog bites you, you won’t be badly hurt.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).