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Dealing with threatening dogs

Published August 29. 2011 05:02PM

Dear Editor:

There were three incidents of pit bull attacks in Pottsville at the end of June. After the second incident, the Pottsville paper published advice for dealing with dog attacks. The first two suggestions were, when approached stay still, and if attacked, roll up into a ball. A day or two later, an 80 year old man with a walker was attacked. He certainly stood still. Why was he bitten?

Dogs will be aggressive because, being typical carnivores, they are territorial. The old man was bitten because the dog objected to his presence in his space. Dogs manifest territorialism in three degrees. In the first degree, the dog stays his ground and barks vociferously. In the second degree, the dog charges and may even deliver a bite. These dogs can be corrected, but the third degree expression is where the dog mauls somebody. This is serious and a large dog should be destroyed.

There are some things that can be done to avoid injury. Here is one I used in Barnesville in the summer of 1998. I hope the person who owned a Rottweiler that was chained to a coup next to the RR tracks is reading this so that he is aware of what terrible consequences almost occurred. I was walking east on the RR tracks from the bridge by Lakeside when I encountered said Rottweiler. When it saw me, it lunged ferociously, violently tugging on its chain the whole time. I was glad to get past him. He was very threatening. I walked two miles down the tracks and turned back. I was hoping that I could sneak past unnoticed, but he saw me anyway. He repeated his previous threats. Suddenly his chain broke and he was charging at me in high gear. Rotties have the strongest bite force of the domestic dog breeds. I had no protection on me of any kind. I was about to get the mauling of my life followed by hospital time. There was no way that dog was just playing. This was going to definitely be a third degree attack.

Since he was a domestic dog, I had one chance. Domestic dogs have some respect for humans and just might be intimidated. I jumped toward him pointing my finger to the ground in front of him and shouted, "NO!" as loud as I could. He screeched to a halt and sat down. My bluff worked. I turned and walked away at my regular pace. At 50 yards I turned to look back at him. He was still sitting there with a dumbfounded look on his face. If you sternly look a dog in the eye and point your finger to the ground even without a shout, he will freeze. He may even lower his head. Then you really know you've got him under control.

A dog chained to a coup is an abused dog. Such dogs may not respond to any kind of control. I know a guy who kept a dog chained to a coup to guard the house. One day the dog got loose and mauled a young girl. I guess he was protesting his miserable life.

This technique will not work on a rabid or wild dog. If a domestic dog has at least some respect for man, it will. In a situation where the animal is rabid, you have no choice but to do combat with him.

These were recent cases involving rabid animals. "Kingston, NC, 5-year-old boy subdues rabid fox, July 5, 2007." "Cheshire, CT, Women choked rabid raccoons, Sept. 10, 2007 and May 22, 2011," and Vietnam vet strangles rabid bobcat in Florida, May 30, 2007."

A few years ago, a man in Saylorsburg tried to rescue his dog from a rabid bobcat. He tried choking it and ended up severely scratched on his face, neck, arms, chest, and belly. The dog was so badly injured, it had to be put down. These are actual cases and each time the people did the wrong thing strangling the animal with bare hands or wrestling with it.

What should they have done? If you outweigh it, put your whole body weight on his rib cage. Choking them is too slow and the animal has freedom of movement. When you put your knee on the rib cage, the struggles end in a few seconds. While your knee is on its rib cage, most of your body is not exposed to injury. You won't end up looking like a mummy like the guy from Saylorsburg.

We considerably outweigh foxes, raccoons, and bobcats. Pin them down and place your weight on their rib cages. That is the best technique if you are unarmed and forced into combat. If the animal is much heavier, this technique will not work unless you are much heavier, too.

In the second dog attack case in Pottsville on Market Street, the boy tried to break up a fight between two dogs and got bitten. He probably tried to get between them like a referee, or grabbing one and pulling it away. A technique that subdues cats and dogs is to grab the loose skin on the back of the neck making sure you have a good hold, then lift up getting their feet off the ground. This puts them in a shut down mode and you can control them. This is how their mothers carried them. They seem to go into a fetal position and stay that way as long as you hold them. Any vet will tell you that. Whenever I have to cut my cat's nails, one person holds the cat that way while I have no trouble doing the job. There is no struggling whatsoever. Had someone grabbed the two dogs that way and lifted them up, the fight would have immediately stopped.

I have encountered adolescent dogs who like to practice their predatory techniques. They run around you yipping. You must face them at all times. As soon as you turn your back, you'll get a nip behind the knee. That is the signature of a dog attack on livestock. Dogs are cursory predators and bring down their prey by nipping away at the backs of the legs and sides. I've been bitten three times by these kind of dogs and each time the owner said, "He won't hurt you; he's only playing."

A cat bite is different from a dog bite. Cats have canines designed for penetration. They bite down hard and hold it. Dog canines are designed for slashing. They bite and rip like a puppy tearing apart a newspaper. Cats never rip, but remember, what follows after an angry cat's bite is the raking from the hind claws. Try to avoid them if you can.

Joseph A. Lankalis

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