Aggressive Dogs: The Utility of Sticks v Guns

Dog aggressively defending its territory near Powell Creek, Australia. It appears to have some dingo ancestry

U.S.A.-( This morning I had another experience with a dog aggressively defending its territory. I was on my exercise walk. The sky was light before the sun was up. A pair of dogs were in a fenced yard, with their owner. They took exception to my presence. The fence, next to the sidewalk, was only two feet tall, as incentivized by the silly local zoning laws.

I am a dog person. I understand dog body language pretty well. As I passed the yard, on the sidewalk, with a boulevard to my right and the yard to my left, I considered the possibility the medium-sized dog would jump the fence and come at me. It was a worthwhile vigilance.

The dog jumped the fence and came at my left rear. I immediately pivoted to the left, bringing my left fist downward. My fist just brushed the muzzle of the dog, inches from my left leg. The dog was in the process of stopping and backing up, with both the owner and me loudly encouraging it to do so. It all happened in a second or two at most. I never considered drawing the Glock 17 on my right hip. Guns are useful tools to stop dog attacks. Most of the time, their use is not the optimum approach.

The dog needed to be reminded I was a lot bigger than it, and not going to accept a gratuitous bite at my leg. While such a bite was unlikely to be fatal, infection of the Achilles tendon is a life-altering possibility. A dog's health is not worth my tendon.

In half a minute, the pack leader (the owner) had scolded her dog back into the yard. Both of us were pleased with that result. The incident had me reflect on the utility of walking sticks as a defense against dogs.

A bit North of the center of Australia, I had a longer experience with a larger dog. It too was aggressively defending its territory, but the territory was bigger; no owner was available to call it back. It took 10 minutes to carefully extricate myself from its watchful gaze and aggressive behavior. Whenever I attempted to place distance between myself and the animal, it would charge toward me. I had no Glock on my hip, no pocket knife in my pocket, or any easily available rocks. The first was forbidden by Australian law, the second severely discouraged by the same, the third not provided by nature. I was eventually able to use the traffic on the major North-South Australian highway to put distance between myself and the dog.

Somewhat later, after a bit of reflection, I cut a walking stick from a fire-killed sapling. It was to come in handy in a variety of ways. I should have equipped myself with it two weeks earlier.

One of the benefits of a stick as a defense against dogs is almost all dogs understand sticks, while most do not understand guns. It is far better to discourage a dog than to have to kill one. No one will deny a walking stick to a retired gentleman or lady.

Over my life, I have had to discourage numerous dogs. A stick is the best solution, in my humble opinion. A mild whack with a stick will put most dogs into retreat. I am told pepper spray is almost as good as a stick. I have been told it only works on dogs that are not committed to the attack. A couple of times, without a stick, I came close to killing dogs with my Glock. Fortunately, I was able to avoid the experience.

A stick does not have an expiration date, is relatively inexpensive, provides a visual deterrent, and is not affected by wind to any significant extent.

Dean Weingarten with sapling walking stick on the Nullabor plain in Australia

There are wonderful martial arts based on stick fighting. I was taught a few simple techniques by my friend Don Cowling, many years ago.

In most situations, a few simple techniques will suffice. Dogs do not need or appreciate subtlety.

A direct approach is best. Let them see the stick. Use it to ward them off. If the dog is being aggressive, in range of the stick, a blow to the muzzle or head is warranted. You should have a sturdy stick capable of delivering a serious blow. If they are merely defending the outer boundaries of their territory, it will probably be enough.

When more than one dog is involved, the dynamic is completely different. Dogs in “pack mode” think and act much differently than individual dogs. Both the times I came close to killing dogs with the Glock, there were more than one. Discouraging the most aggressive of the pack will often work, but cannot be counted on. Any pack of canines can be a serious threat.

This web site has a good overview of potential problems and responses to canine attacks.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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