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

Call Animal Control If You Are Charged by a Loose Dog

Finally, once you’re in a safe place you should call your local animal control agency. No dog should be running at large, especially not one who threatens people or other dogs. And the loose dog herself is in danger, too. Even the most conscientious guardians can make mistakes; the dog with a good home should be returned to it, and for the dog who has an abusive home, a negligent home, or no home at all, a shelter may be his only hope for a happy ending.

Well, that was a downer, wasn’t it? Remember, though: Serious dog attacks are rare. We can make them even more rare by socializing our dogs, using humane modern methods to train them, and educating ourselves about their behavior, their body language, and their reasonable doggy needs. I welcome your comments and questions – email dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. And you can talk to me on Facebook, where, amazingly enough, I’m The Dog Trainer. Dogalini is me on Twitter. Thanks for reading, and have a great week.


  1. Sacks, Jeffrey J., MD, MPH; Leslie Sinclair, DVM; Julie Gilchrist, MD; Gail C. Golab, PhD, DVM; Randall Lockwood, PhD. 200o. Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacksin the United States between 1979 and 1998. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 217 (6), 836-840. By the way, although the figures in this article are probably the best available, the breed statistics should be taken with many grains of salt. Both Janis Bradley (Dogs Bite: But Balloons and House Slippers Are More Dangerous [James & Kenneth: 2005]) and Karen Delise (http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/) have published careful analyses of the problems of breed identification.

  2. The National Canine Research Council suggests a distinction between “family dogs” and “resident dogs.” Family dogs live indoors and get good care; resident dogs are the ones you see chained up in yards or roaming loose to guard a house. Family dogs do bite people, of course, but all other things being equal a socially isolated dog who’s harshly treated is more likely to have behavior problems.

  3. On shock fences and aggression: There isn’t solid research on the point, but many trainers have had clients report that their dogs’ aggressive behavior began after a shock fence was installed. Many dogs are left to learn how the fence works by repeated experience of shock (rather than by being meticulously taught to avoid the shock). A dog who rushes to the boundary to greet a passerby and gets a shock may come to associate shock with passersby. On the face of it, that seems unlikely to improve his opinion of strangers near his yard. See Cheryl S. Smith, “What Do You Say When Your Clients Want Electronic Containment Systems?,” Animal Behavior Consulting: Theory and Practice 1(1) (Winter 2006), p. 27-32.

  4. The top speed of a Greyhound is nearly 40 mph. It’s hard to find good numbers for “civilian” dogs, but most estimates I found hover around 30 mph. Usain Bolt’s top speed at the Beijing Olympics was probably about 44 kph, 27.3 mph.

Scary Dog Charging image courtesy of Shutterstock


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).