I was wondering what would be the best way to protect yourself against a dog attack. I am interested to know what unarmed options there are on the following scenarios:

  1. Against a single rabid dog.
  2. Against a pack of dogs.
  3. Against a fight dog (pitbull, rotweiller, bulldog etc)
  • 3
    A long sharp knife is best. Also steel-toed boots for kicking out their teeth. Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 13:41
  • 2
    Armed or unarmed?
    – Btuman
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 15:45
  • I'm not sure if dogs can smell the fear or you or not but they can certainly detect panic, if the dog isn't rabid - it makes sense to keep calm (this is from my experience with aggressive dogs) - Of course if it attacks first you better be ready to snap its neck or kick it in the face.
    – Reno
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 8:12
  • To borrow a phrase from an old movie, Best block Daniel-san, not be there
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 4:11
  • Similar question but not a dup: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/8233/…
    – Vorac
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 2:48

13 Answers 13


I'm not sure how much you need to analyze this one. Avoiding scary dogs would be a good start.

Dogs attack in a straight line, and they use their teeth (and size/bulk). Other than striking or grabbing the dog's sensitive areas (nose, eyes, throat), you have little option but to bludgeon it with whatever technique you can safely deliver.

Of course this is assuming that you have no option than to beat on the dog. Animal handlers will have a whole range of options they would try first, but that would be best discussed elsewhere (animal handling techniques would be off topic here).

  1. Face the dog and stand your ground. The worst thing you can do is to run. The exception is if the dog is far away and you can get somewhere a close a door before he can reach you.
  2. Speak or yell at the dog in an authoritative tone.
  3. It is usually effective to pick up a stone to throw. Dogs instinctively understand the gesture and when they see you bend over, they will run. If there is no stone available it doesn't matter ... the dog doesn't know that; bend over and pretend. Raise your arm and pretend to throw the stone.
  4. Dogs are impressed by size. If you have a briefcase, lunge forward and swing it at the dog. If you have a jacket, pull it off and swing it at the dog.
  5. Dogs are territorial. Keep moving ... without running. As soon as you are out of their territory they will probably leave you alone.
  6. I have heard, don't stare at the dog's eyes because it makes him feel threatened. Don't know if that is true.
  7. If you have a good-sized stick I would strike the dog as hard as possible on the top of its skull. I have no experience with this, but that would certainly be better than hitting his body or elsewhere. This would apply if the dog is very close and attacking or about to attack.
  8. None of this will work with every situation.
  • 1
    I can't agree with "Dogs instinctively understand the gesture". They may have learned the response to fear something being thrown at them but domestic dogs are more likely in many countries to have learned that as a play response - a ball is about to be thrown FOR them.
    – Andy Dent
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 15:33
  • 3 - Yeah, it is very effective. 6 - Doing this is a challange for wild animals. Some dogs as still like this.
    – Shura16
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 18:09

Some of the above comments are good; some are not so good. I've had police officers tell me what to do, and I saw one of my MMA friends restrain a dog with a Rear Naked Choke, so here is my experience and knowledge:

  • Wrap a shirt or jacket (Preferably a durable, leather jacket) around one arm. If he bites that arm, shove it all the way down his throat, behind his teeth. The dog won't be able to close his jaw, but he won't want to release — dogs are generally too stubborn for that. You'll have a free hand. The other hand will need medical attention afterwards.

  • The best position to be is behind the dog. From there you can apply a Rear Naked Choke. You can choke a dog with it too. I've seen this successfully done in a street fight situation, but I wouldn't recommend it too much, unless you're good at getting position.

  • The best tip is to avoid fighting with any animals whatsoever. They're ultimately better equipped to deal with violence than you are. Generally, animals are armed. Their claws and teeth are good weapons for them. We have our brains instead. Please use that and avoid any harm to animals.


First off if you are attacked by a pack of dogs/wolves make sure you are up a strong tree and stay there and call for help. No martial art can help you against being attacked by packs of wild animals. Unfortunately in real life creatures/people do not each attack in turn so it is not like in movies where you can first fight one then the other opponent. So get up a tree or get yourself in a corner, or some place you can (a) avoid the fight or failing that (b) only need to fight against one opponent at a time.

Fighting a rabid canine or a well trained "fighting" dog will be pretty much the same. At least with one animal you can focus on it. Unarmed is always risky and being bitten is bad, but always keep your more crucial areas well protected, a bite in the arm or leg would be better than the throat, face or groin.

Wrap your jacket or sleeves around your weaker arm so you can use it as something for the animal to take, use the other hand to attack the animal. I would go for crushing the throat as soon as possible and if I can get the animal down i would use my body weight to hold the animal down. But here it can be very difficult as you have a strong fit opponent with sharp teeth, and it will basically be fearless if rabid or well trained.

As slugster said there will actually be a lot of better things to do than attack, so try looking for things on animal behavior and controlling animals.


A long sharp knife is best. Also steel-toed boots for kicking out their teeth.

Don't bother trying to run away because dogs are faster. They also rarely respond to simple pain. As someone else said, it's a good idea to wrap an item of clothing around your non-dominant hand to act as a sort of "shield". Stab the eyes and then cut the throat. Kick the teeth out and hope and pray you don't get bitten in the gooleys. Because then it's game over for you.

I faced a rottweiler once while walking home from school. I managed to kick his canines out, which probably saved my life, or at least saved me a trip to hospital. If I had a knife I would have killed it, but it's probably not a good idea if the owner is a neighbour.

  • what about a roundhouse kick to the ribs with your tibia? Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 13:46
  • How would you even get the angle? Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 15:18
  • well it could be more of a football type kick, using the tibia Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 18:34

Let's assume that noise and posturing have failed to dissuade attack from the dog(s), you are completely unarmed, and the dog(s) in question is of sufficient size to pose a real threat of injury or death.

I think scenarios 1 and 3 will have the same answer. There isn't really a functional difference between the motives for aggression and both a rabid animal and one bred and trained for fighting are going to have difficulty processing pain and disengaging hostility under typical biological and situational norms.

A canine's only deadly weapon is its mouth and teeth (disease is something to deal with at a later time). You want to minimize its ability to do damage to you, while leaving yourself open to incapacitating or killing the animal. Fortunately, as humans, we (typically) have two amazing manipulatory limbs available to us for just this sort of occasion. You will need to be prepared to use one arm defensively and the other offensively (so promptly decide which is which). The defensive arm is going to get hurt. If you had time to wrap the defensive arm with a shirt (or the like) you probably also had time to find another way out of this situation. So, we will assume that you have only a few seconds to react to this dog attack. Whether you are on your feet, or have been taken to the ground, you will want to face the animal in order to adequately defend yourself.

If you can stay on your feet, then stay on your feet. Keep facing the dog while slowly backing away from it. try to keep your stance wide enough that a sudden lunge from the dog won't knock you down or off-balance. Keep your defensive arm ready to fend off an attack, and be prepared to deliver a savage low kick if an opportunity presents itself. If you keep slowly moving away in a sound defensive posture while meeting probing attacks with a painful kick, there is always the possibility you may convince the dog to break off its attack.

Instinctively, a dog will try and attack your throat (unless it has been specifically trained otherwise). You do not want to let a dog get its teeth around your neck (the badness of this goes without saying). When rushed by an attacking dog, you want to be prepared to shove the forearm of the limb you have designated for defense (we'll presume this is your non-dominant hand) as far back into the dog's mouth as you can. You want to try and shove it back behind the dog's cuspids (canine teeth). The cuspids are the teeth designed for tearing flesh and instinctively dogs will thrash their heads from side-to-side when they have a firm grip with their cuspid teeth. You want to push your arm to the back of their mouth and maintain backward pressure (as if you are trying to push your forearm through the back of their head). Doing this puts the dog in an awkward and uncomfortable position, and it will try to disengage and bite again. If you are on the ground, you want to try and prevent the dog from disengaging and getting another chance to bite you. It's far better to have some superficial injuries to your forearm than to let the animal get its teeth on your face or neck.

Under normal circumstance, you might be able to use pain to demotivate an attacking animal, but we a talking about rabid dogs and animals bred for pit fighting. Pain won't be effective in the same way it normally would. If such is the case, we must assume that disabling injury or death are the only avenues left open for the sake of survival. With the dog's mouth busy trying to sort out your forearm, you can either attack the first cervical vertebrae (C1) with hammering, downward blows, or you can try to cripple the dogs legs (via kicking, stomping, or hyperextension of the joints). We are talking about saving your own life at this point, and you must be prepared to use extraordinary means to do so. It may seem cruel, but savagely breaking/dislocating a dog's digits, wrists/ankles, or forelimbs may be your only option. Rabid animals can't think clearly and fighting dogs are used to being hurt on their faces, ears, and neck. You shouldn't waste your time twisting ears or gouging eye's. Striking at the base of the animal's skull (and/or C1) is one of the most effective targets for an unarmed strike (especially with your other arm occupying the dog's mouth), and can easily result in the paralysis or death of the target.

If you are on the ground, you will want to try and stand back up (while keeping your forearm in the dog's mouth if necessary). Once you are on your feet, slowly back away towards a perceived means of egress, keep facing the threat (the dog), hold your defensive arm ready to ward off attacks, and be prepared to meet a lunge with a low kick.

Now to address scenario 2. If you are unarmed, and forced into a life/death confrontation with a pack of dogs which is comprised of animals which individually would be considered a viable threat...well....

A large dog's teeth are fairly comparable to a knife as a threat level. If fighting a single dog while unarmed is similar to fighting another person armed with a knife (while unarmed yourself), then fighting a pack of large dogs unarmed is bad news for you (Julius Caesar bad). The best you can hope to do is get lucky and injure enough them that the pack decides you aren't worth the trouble. The same advice for handling one attacking dog applies, but you also have to be aware of every potential threat (dog in the pack) and be ready to face it accordingly. Unlike kung fu movie extras, dogs know how to attack in concert, and that is where a lone unarmed human is out of luck. In a situation like scenario 2, it is probably best to resign yourself to making them work for it (and subsequently choke on it). Against multiple dogs, it is critically important to stay on your feet (though dogs instinctively try to hamstring their prey).

  • any videos that would demo this 1 to 1 combat? Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 15:07
  • There are some videos out there in the ether, but I don't know where to find them. You need a very well trained dog and handler team to practice and demonstrate this sort of thing safely, and I certainly wouldn't recommend picking fights with strays.
    – Zen_Hydra
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 16:28

"Advocating getting injured" is NOT crazy; sometimes you must take a smaller injury in order to prevent a larger one. This is a fundamental of martial arts. It's better to lose an eye than your life. Unfortunately, the advice to get bitten and then to step on the dog's paw is idiotic and childish.

Apparently Specnaz training against guard dogs involved switching to south paw and indeed using a jacket or whatever in your secondary (i.e. right hand). The point of switching was in order to confuse guard dog's which are trained to go for the right hand, which is most people's primary attacking hand.

  • any links to this?? Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 13:44

Strike it hard on the nose. A dog's nose is very sensitive, so if you can whack it with a stick sharply and quickly, it will be in too much pain to continue. The best sticks to use would be flexible but dense, like guava wood, or else a flexible composite like the sticks the South African police used during the apartheid era.

If the dog is a type that leaps for the throat, you must be prepared to move aside at the last second and whack it sharply on the nose. A strike across the eyes is just as good, but must be sharp and quick, which is why the stick must be a comfortable weight for your wrist strength so you can get a sharp, quick motion.

If it is life or death and you have a sharp instrument, even a pen or your keys, wrap a jacket or sweater on the the non-dominant arm (left arm if you're right-handed, or right arm if you're left-handed) and while the dog is biting the protected forearm, you jab the pen or keys into its eyes or, alternatively, its sides in a 90 degree stabbing motion.

  • Might be helpful to explain a "90 degree stabbing motion".
    – Mike P
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 16:03

Obviously a weapon would help a lot. A strong aggressive dog may not always stay engaged in an attack. The dog might dodge and lounge around and try to bite your sides or jump to get to your throat. Dog may also bite you when you turn away from it to walk away so don't ignore it if it came to you. Kick it, punch it, pepper spray it, choke it, stab it, shoot it, whatever works. Also if you can control the dog's head it can't bite you. Bottom line is you need to win and survive. Ask a K9 deputy as they may have more knowledge of this topic. If you are unarmed in the wild and a pack of wolves decides to make you dinner, you will most likely die even if you are a black belt.


Punch, grab ears and pull them as hard as you can. Gouge eyes, groin and stomach kicks to the rib area. Use your body weight to take down, knee to neck, rear chokes work well also.

To separate two fighting dogs a stick is a nice tool to have but if you only have your hands never get close to the dogs mouths NEVER! But you can grab both rear legs from behind and pull them apart. I have thrown big dogs 10-15 ft using a swinging motion. It stuns them and they forget all about what they where doing. Very effective.


Boxing their ears will work on some.

Here is a quit tip on dog mouth anatomy. Their jaw muscles are on the bottom closing up to the top. If you find your hand in it's mouth. move it back as far as you can and grab the bottom jaw. They won't be able to closer their jaw enough to draw blood.


The method I used against a German Shepherd when I was younger was to raise my hands as if to cover my face and bring my elbows in nearly touching. The dog jumped up with his paws to my shoulders and I then opened my arms out quickly popping one of his shoulder joint. It couldn't walk properly after that and limped off yelping.

I don't know if it was being friendly or attacking, but I didn't want to find out. I was about 14, and I'd use the same method again if it ever came up.


Let the dog bite your forearm or shirt and when it try's to pull back stomp on the front paw's or leg's dog problem gone it will yelp in pain run away or keep a safe distant You.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.