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There’s nothing like the fear that stabs your heart when you see your dog get attacked by two other dogs that are three times her size. For a split second, you’re paralyzed with fear. Your brain tries to process what is currently happening in front of you, but not a single muscle will move.
Then that split second ends, and you spring into action.

You do everything you can to get the two dogs off your four-footed companion. You shove, you yell, you even throw a couple punches in a desperate attempt to free your dog.

One thought crosses your mind throughout the entire brawl and fuels your motivation to rescue your dog: “she can’t die like this!” This very scenario happened to me and my dog Heidi.

Post Attack: How I Keep My Dog Safe On Walks

Post Attack How I Keep My Dog Safe On WalksOne evening, I went on a walk with my parents and Heidi to enjoy some outdoor family time.

Everything was going great, until we walked by this little white house that we later learned housed two German shepherds and a cat.

Before I go any further, I want to take a moment to say this article isn’t meant to degrade German shepherds or their owners. GSDs are beautiful, intelligent dogs, and they make wonderful companions when they’re trained and treated properly.

Anyway, we heard a low growling as we neared the house. It was clear that two dogs were fighting inside. We have just about passed the house – ready to continue our way down the slightly cracked sidewalk – when it happened.

We noticed the door was closed as we walked by the house, so we figured the fighting dogs were contained. We were wrong. The door wasn’t latched!

Two fully-grown German shepherds exploded through the front door, snarling and snapping at each other, until they saw Heidi – a 12-pound Shih Tzu. They lunged at her. My dad was able to pick her up by her harness while fighting off one of the German shepherds. The other German shepherd decided to target me.

The owner of the German shepherds came out of the house screaming at the dogs, but they wouldn’t obey. Then, as if the scene wasn’t insane enough, a rather large calico cat ran out of the house and attacked the dog my dad was trying to fight off!

Long story short, we finally got the situation under control and were able to head back home. Heidi was unharmed, but she was scared.

But some dogs aren’t as lucky as mine was. This is why you have to be prepared.

No one ever thinks that they will be in a similar situation, having to fend off themselves or their pet from attackers. I know I wasn’t expecting it. We live in a small town where not a lot happens, and as I mentioned, I walked Heidi often and I had never had any issues before. A dog attack wasn’t on the top of my list of worries, but it certainly is now!

I’m much more prepared on walks now, and I want you to be just as prepared as I am – whether your dog is large or small – because you never know what’s around the corner. Take it from me, it would be better to be prepared for an attack and not ever have a problem than to be unprepared and have no way to help your beloved pet.

FULL GUIDE: How To Train A Dog To Walk On A Leash

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How to Prepare for a Dog Attack

Being prepared to keep your dog safe on walks is all about being well-equipped. Heidi always wears a dog harness when we go out for walks.

Not only does a harness for dogs prevent her from choking herself when she gets excited and wants to run ahead, but it also made it easier to lift her up, without choking her, when she was attacked.

Another good thing to have along on walks is a dog deterrent spray or pepper spray for dogs. Yes, such products exist. A dog deterrent spray can be helpful and detrimental simultaneously, so you need to be very careful when using it.

It’s great for spraying towards the attacking dogs, but if your dog is surrounded by fierce canines like mine was, you may end up accidentally spraying your own pet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth it to save your dog’s life, but canine deterrent sprays aren’t meant to feel good.

RELATED: Dog Harness Guide: Making Sure Your Dog is Comfortable

Know Thy Neighborhood (and Dogs in It)

Post Attack How I Keep My Dog Safe On Walks
Photo: swong95765

This one is easier said than done, I know, especially if you venture outside your neighborhood on walks like I do.

I can tell you that my neighbors across the street have a Corgi, my next-door neighbors have two Labs, across the way lives a Collie, and down the street lives a Terrier.

I have my neighborhood dogs down pat. It’s the other neighborhoods I’m still learning.

For safety sake you should always walk your dog in an area that you're familiar with. If you're not familiar with your own neighborhood, consider walking your dog in a park or on a trail that requires all dogs to be on leashes. This won't solve all your problems, and there is still always a chance of a dog attack happening, but it will greatly decrease the chances.

Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings

This is the easiest and also the hardest step in keeping your dog safe on walks. I enjoy looking around and taking in the simple things in life (squirrels chasing each other up a tree, birds perching on a bird-feeder, etc.), but I wasn’t always aware of what I couldn’t see.

Now a part of me is always on alert, and you should be too. 

It’s (almost) easy to avoid a situation when you see someone walking their dog towards you. Avoiding a situation you see no hint of occurring – like when the German shepherds came bursting out the unlatched door – is a different story.

The best thing you can do is use your senses. What do you see? What do you hear? Do you have a gut feeling that something just isn’t right? Follow your instincts. They’re generally right. If you notice something that makes you feel uneasy, it's better to be safe than sorry. I wish I had turned around when I heard those dogs growling and fighting in the house.

A Few Things To Keep In Mind

Post Attack How I Keep My Dog Safe On Walks
Photo: Magnus Bråth

Don’t be so quick to judge a dog by its breed. Just because a large German shepherd or a Pit bull is heading your way doesn’t mean he or she will attack. The way a dog acts is a reflection of the way they were raised, not of the dog's breed.

An attack can happen to you and your dog. People all too often say that certain things will never happen to them. But dogs are still animals. They're not self-aware, they're not intelligent. You hear about dog attacks all the time, but you never think it will happen to you or your dog.

Get rid of that thought process. It's false logic.

Anything can happen, and dangerous things happen to unsuspecting people all the time. It doesn’t matter if you have a giant Saint Bernard or a tiny Chihuahua. Your dog is susceptible to getting attacked. That’s why I shared Heidi’s story with you. Stories always stick with people better than facts and statistics.

I hope that sharing my story will show you, and other dog owners, that these things do happen and they can happen to anyone. With a small amount of preparation, that won't take much time or money, you can prevent yourself or your dog from getting seriously injured and make sure to keep your dog safe on walks.

For more tips on dog walking or how to train your dog essential commands, take a look at our in-depth guide and video below. Want more? Subscribe on YouTube!

FULL GUIDE: How To Train A Dog Basic Commands – Step-By-Step Instructions