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Date Modified: June 16, 2023

This is the Ultimate Guide to Preventing and Handling Dog Bites!

German Shepherd Attacks Man

What Do We Cover?

Were you enjoying a run at the local high school track, a walk at the dog park, or a bicycle ride down the Santa Ana River trail? Out of nowhere, all of a sudden, did an unfamiliar canine charge you with fangs out, snarling and primed to leap? Joggers, cyclists, and others on foot are always at risk for a dog assault in areas like Goldenwest Street in Huntington Beach, CA. I am injury lawyer, Michael Ehline, and I assist dog attack victims and their families.

I am an award-winning dog bite lawyer, inactive U.S. Marine, and self-defense and firearms expert. I am here today to discuss preventing and fending off dog attacks and dog bite laws from a legal and common sense perspective of one of Southern California’s best dog bite lawyers.

What steps can a dog bite victim or dog owners take to prevent or thwart such a vicious dog attack? Once it starts, there’s a proper and foolish way to handle a dog attack. The best way to fend off a dog attack is to prevent it from happening at all. So, we won’t talk about filing a dog bite lawsuit against the animal owner for now.

Once you are in an impending fear of or perceive an assault, you can stay safer by acting calmly. In some states like Nevada, you can permanently exercise your Second Amendment right to stop a dangerous dog. But this article is written for people living in California, where it is almost impossible for an ordinary taxpayer to obtain a firearm license. (We can talk about pepper spray, too.). Ultimately, our personal injury attorneys will also explain how an injured party can hold dog owners liable in a dog bite case by forming an attorney-client relationship if their dog bit you or your child.

Below, our dog bite attorneys will look at some techniques you can use to de-escalate the situation to avoid severe internal injuries, emotional distress, or, worse, wrongful death. Attorney Michael Ehline explains everything consumers must know to stay safe from dog mauling while alone or walking their dog.

Dangers of Off-Leash Dog Bites

Off-leash dogs are typically stray dogs and rabid dogs roaming around the neighborhood. These dogs can carry all types of diseases. If you or your minor child is bitten, medical bills and emotional harm can be hard pills to swallow. Hence, preventing these dogs from biting at all costs is the primary objective of using weapons like a gun, brick, baseball bat, or pepper spray.

Part 1 – Don’t Encourage A Dog to Encounter You Viciously!

Number one, never taunt a dog, especially when chained up or near the animal’s owner. Invading a leashed dog’s territory may be perceived as threatening and should be avoided altogether.

Pepper spray as an option against dogs

TIP: If the dog is lying down, you should always avoid approaching or bending over the animal.

DANGER!: Teasing or waking a tethered dog from slumber should also be avoided.

Part 2 – Self Defense – Pepper Spray to Stop A Dog?

Many experts say that pepper spray can be used legally as a form of self-defense against animal attacks. It will irritate the eyes of the violent animal and make it back away. The goal here is time to help you escape its snarling mouth and sharp teeth. My research shows that pepper spray remains legal in all 50 states, with restrictions that vary from state to state.

What Does Pepper Spray Do to Stop Dog Attacks?

Bear spray is more potent, but don’t get carried away. Many people think California has outlawed bear spray. You can carry 2.5 ounces of the active product except where prohibited by law. But any kind of pepper spray is capable of repelling most dogs. Capsaicin and other chemical ingredients will irritate the dog’s eyes and skin.

Downsides: The chances of hitting a dog square in the face before it strikes are slim. And if remain downwind, the over-spray can blind you. (It could make a feral dog angrier.)

Self-Defense Only!

You can’t just spray a dog, though. This is for self-defense and a last resort. The spray is painful and could incapacitate the dog for several hours, leaving it defenseless and scared. Dog owners can file criminal charges for animal abuse if they are not engaged in lawful self-defense. So you must only use pepper spray on dogs once they become aggressive and demonstrate signs of an impending attack. (Ears back, tail down, teeth showing, leaping at you, etc.)

Summary: Using pepper spray on friendly or composed dogs could land you in jail, facing animal cruelty charges.

Will Pepper Spray Stop An Aggressive Pitbull or a Rottie?

Glock HandgunYes. Most experts say pepper spray is great against highly aggressive and larger animals like Pitbull, Rottweilers, or German Shepherds. A mace canister’s failure rate of around 30%-40% can render a weak batch ineffective in halting a dog’s attack. A firearm like a Glock 19 with hollow points will rarely fail. Typically you won’t be able to get a loaded gun in time unless the attack happens on your own private property, however.

Dog Bite Victims and Friendly Fire?

You and your loved ones run a high risk of spraying your own dog and rendering them incapable of fighting back or escaping. Even when accurately directed from its small container, mace is a close-in weapon.

Caveat: The safety tab is hard to use under stress. There is no extended barrel, like a gun, with the most convenient paper spray canisters. So your finger can block the spray nozzle in a stressful encounter and blow back on you after being diverted by your fingertip. The stream can also blow back into your face depending on the winds.

Part 3 – Thwarting the Attack – How Do You Reduce Risk of Dog Attack Injuries?

Okay, so you don’t have a gun or a weapon; now what? It would help if you learned how to decrease the risk of or thwart dog bites when a dog is on the attack to defend yourself and others.

Avoid eye contact with dogs
Avoid eye contact with the dog.

Without Making Eye Contact, Face the Dog and Sternly State, “Get Back!”: If the dog persists in this aggressive behavior, you cannot ignore or try to soothe the animal. Confidently say “leave,” “stop,” and “go away,” shoo.”

  • Be like a Marine Drill Instructor; with a deep, command presence, use your voice to convey authority.
  • Always avoid making eye contact with strange or known dogs that appear threatening.
  • The dog often submits or backs off from intimidation and departs the scene.

Defend Against the Attacking Canine Without A Weapon: If you perceive the animal beginning to lunge, this was probably a crescendo that was not instantaneous, assuming you were on foot. With bicyclists, dogs attack out of the blue, and your best option is to rely on speed by trying to outrun the animal and escape the threat over a distance. But these same rules apply. Rule 1 is to try and create distance and not get bitten. So try and arm yourself with a rock, or a stick, use your bike as a shield and bludgeon, etc. If the dog bites you and starts to tear into your ankles, things, etc., you have to fight back, or you could be killed.

  • Constantly the Predator, Never the Prey: Start calling for help loudly without screaming or sounding injured or submissive. Never let the beast sense weakness. Punch or kick the dog in the nose or throat. Strike the animal in the back of the head. Keep the dog away from your face and throat! Try and escape, but walk safely, run backward, and face the animal tactically. The rule in dealing with dogs is “always the predator, never the prey.” Your strength will make the attacking dog or another dog think you are also a predator to be respected. As you back away, you can seek shelter, hop a fence, find a brick or weapon, escape into a parked car, etc. It’s okay to raise your voice at this point. I expect you to act tough to stay alive.
  • As noted, try and arm yourself with anything you can find. The Marines have a motto: “One Mind Any Weapon.” Use your mind and find a weapon, any weapon and strike the dog with it for dear life. Find weak spots. The back of his head is thick and capable of hard strikes. Your goal is to weaken his resolve, not make him angrier. As noted, it’s better to arm yourself in advance with mace or pepper spray. If you are allowed to use a gun in California, this is the best defense to stop an attacking dog permanently.
  • Throw Your Weight Around: Have you ever watched an old UFC fight when a Karate guy takes on a Gracie? A grappler can tie up a boxer or other lunging attackers. Dogs are not grapplers. Think like a wrestler if that makes it easier. Sure, you are already being bitten. Closing the distance and bringing your body weight squarely onto the dog gives you a chance to choke it out. Use your natural hard points, including your shoulders, elbows, or knees or elbows. This is life or death, so you have to become like your enemy. Try and snap the dog’s bones and cut off its vision and air supply. Mount the animal’s back and focus on squeezing the ribs and torso so hard the dog cannot breathe as you hold its jaws shut, pull back, and snap its neck. You won’t always be able to avoid clawing, but you can prevent your face and eyes from being gouged out with basic grappling moves.
  • For Tree Huggers: A more humane way to stop a dog from trying to kill you might be to try straddling the back of the dog using forward pressure on the back of its shoulder area to try to immobilize the animal until someone can help out or the dog tires. Dogs will gas themselves out quickly when stressed and pinned down. If the dog’s owner did file a lawsuit, all he could sue for is the dog’s market value or its veterinarian bills.
  • Guard Your Eyes, Face, and Neck: Your throat or that of your loved one is the natural target of a dog’s muzzle. It’s your responsibility to guard it with your life. Stay on your feet or sprawl to remain in a fighting position. Fighting a rabid dog off your back makes your neck and ripe head targets for their jaws and fangs to do their dirty work. Stay on your feet to prevent the dog from killing you earlier.
  • Methods of Protecting Human Vitals: If you are rendered incapable of defending yourself against dog bite injuries, the fetal position is the best way to protect your vital organs. Rolling onto your stomach, tuck in your knees, and raise your fisted hands to cover your ears, using your forearms to protect your jugular vein.

Caveat: As noted above, do not scream. Never try and roll away. The dog is looking at you as escaping prey. Don’t run off and encourage a more serious injury.

Egress the Attack Scene With Slow Deliberation: Use caution and care after the dog determines you are no longer a threat. Egress slowly away from the attack scene, breathing calmly. This is not easy to do when stressed, but remaining stationary and backing away when safe is the best way to get away and resist more damage.


Dog bites are rarely accidents, and the cost of being chased and injured remains very high.

  • You must avoid staring at the dog or extending your gaze into the animal’s eyes, as this could make the animal take offensive.
  • Keep your face away from the dog’s face.
  • Stay away from dogs you don’t know or recognize.
  • Never shock or surprise a dog.
  • Don’t leave your child unattended around dogs.
  • Never pass off aggressive behavior as “normal.”
  • Always let a dog sniff you before petting the dog.
  • Never dart toward a dog’s face.
  • You must never scream, yell, or run from the canine, as this can cause it to set upon you.
  • Use your body weight and hard points to pin the dog, break its limbs, and cut off its oxygen.
  • If a large dog knocks you over, assume the fetal position, protecting your head and neck.
  • Escape with deliberation.

Part 4 – What Are Some Dog Owner Tips for Reducing Dog Bite Risks?

If you own a dog, it is your responsibility as a prideful dog owner to make sure that your dog does not pose a danger or mauling threat to other individuals or their children.

Following these basic guidelines should help reduce your risk:

  • Spay or neuter your dog
  • Avoid aggressive attack dog training
  • Avoid rough-housing
  • Leash your dog at all times outside the home in an area your dog cannot grab hold of a passerby with its teeth or claws
  • But especially around children, never leave your dog unattended. In any case, it can quickly overwhelm an innocent
  • Please do not allow your dog to roam freely and keep it in a fenced and gated yard.

Dog attacks another dogYou may want to take legal action against the dog’s owner if you’ve been hurt. Many states have laws holding owners responsible for the actions of their dogs attack you or your dog.

Part 5 Warning Signs of Impending Attacks

  • Look for warning signs. Most dogs are not aggressive but, rather, just curious or defending what they perceive as their territory. Thus, to avoid unnecessary conflict, it is important to be able to tell if a dog is playing or is being truly aggressive. While some breeds have been singled out as being particularly vicious, any mid-size and large dog breed can be dangerous, so do not ignore warning signs because you think a certain breed is harmless or friendly. Watch for common signs of aggression (and non-aggression):
  • Growling, snarling, and baring teeth are obvious displays of aggression and should be treated as such.
  • An angry dog may show the whites of his eyes, especially if these aren’t normally visible.
  • Pulled-back ears lying flat against the head are a telltale sign of aggression, whereas normal floppy or elevated ears usually signal a dog’s nonchalance.
  • If the dog approaches you with its body relaxed and with a sloping curve in its midsection, the dog will probably not attack.
  • A dog whose body is tense, straight, and stiff (head, shoulders, and hips aligned) could mean that the dog might attack.
  • A loping gait means the dog is playful and checking you out. An even, steady run means the dog may be dangerous.

Avoid aggravating a dog. Most dog attacks are the result of insufficient containment of the dog, poor training, or taunting. Unfortunately, the world will never be rid of bad owners, so it is wise to be prepared. Common sense should tell you not to aggravate any animal.

  • Never irritate a dog who’s eating or caring for her pups. Dogs are extra-protective during these times.
  • Avoid smiling at the dog. You may think you are putting on a friendly face with a big toothy smile, but an aggressive dog sees you baring your teeth for a fight.
  • Dogs chained or tethered to a stationary object for extended periods are more likely to be aggressive, so they do not come within their reach.

Assume all unknown dogs are threats. In general, the best policy when it comes to dog attacks is to do everything you can to avoid them in the first place. If you see a dog that may be dangerous, stay away.

  • Report any dangerous-looking dogs or possible strays in your neighborhood to the authorities.
  • Teach your children never to approach unfamiliar dogs until they are sure they are safe.
  • By giving all unknown dogs a wide berth until you find evidence that they are safe, you can avoid the majority of dangerous dog encounters.

Part 6 – Steps To Take in the Aftermath of a Dog Attack

  • Treat any wounds: Get triaged immediately if you are scratched up or bitten. Even a scratch from a rabid dog can kill you later after infection. sets in.

Here are some basic first-aid tips for treating dog bite injuries and clawing lacerations caused by a dog attack before seeing a medical professional:

  • Apply Gentle Pressure to the Wound: To stop minor bleeding, try and find a sanitary cloth, gauze pad, or even a torn-off piece of clothing. If heavy bleeding and pressure won’t clot the area after a minute or so, seek professional medical attention immediately, and do not pass. If there is an off-duty or retired medic or Navy Corpsman around, they may even have some Quick Clot in their tactical bag. You must stop the bleeding!
  • Safely Clean the Wound: Try washing the area thoroughly with warm water and soap to cleanse the wounded body party gently.
  • Dress the Dog Bite Wound: If you can find a gauze pad or sterile band-aid, you can temporarily cover more minor lacerations and cuts. For more extensive lacerations, there are larger bandages.
  • Eyeball the wound for several days for the symptoms of any infections. Even a foul odor could be a warning sign. (Look for skin redness, tenderness, excess heat, pus oozing, and excess puss inside the bandages. Get to a doctor right away!
  • Get to the hospital. You must seek medical care after being bitten by a dog, minor injury or not. Sure, there will be some out-of-pocket medical costs. But if you suffer a severe infection, your damage may become a critical health issue. You may require a rabies shot sequence right away after the bite. If more than five years have passed, you may need a tetanus shot and other preventative procedures. Medical documentation will be crucial evidence to winning damages. Sometimes victims can use the pet owner’s homeowner’s insurance to recover damages for the injuries caused. But for a victim to obtain total and fair compensation, they must deal with an insurance company to seek reimbursement for their medical and other expenses like economic damages, including lost wages.
  • Call Animal Control and File a Police Report: It’s essential to find out if the attacking dog was infected with rabies. Also, maybe it has a prior history of being aggressive. Calling the authorities immediately after a dog attack helps prevents the canine from harming another person and allows it to be tested for infectious diseases and euthanized as required by law.
    • If the attacking dog was a stray and no longer fenced on the dog owner’s property, he might harm children and elderly people in the area. Having Animal Control remove the animal help protect your community and assures these dog owners are held responsible for any damage caused, including life-saving emergency surgery.
  • Do preserve your clothing: Take pictures of wounds and other evidence from the dog bite attack. Never launder the bloody garment. This is a huge mistake. This evidence is to use later when you pursue legal action.
  • Do obtain witness names and contact information if the harm is not severe.
  • Locate the Dog’s Owner: Finding the canine’s owner remains crucial if the dog bite is not a big deal. Tell them their dog just bit you and inquire about their dog’s shots, especially rabies shots. If you cannot locate the dog owner, animal control and the police may help you locate them if their dog attacked someone.
  • Seek the Advice of a Highly Experienced Dog Bite Attorney: Get someone experienced in this law to help you and your injured family members. At a minimum, a dog bite attorney specialist should evaluate your strict liability claim over the dog’s actions, being financial compensation recovery experts.

Now you will have official documentation and be able to present evidence showing what happened and how. If your friend or relative owns the canine, filing a police report over the damage caused may not be necessary for most states. In addition to the above tips, you can go here to learn more about what you can do to prevent diseases after a dog attack. Our firm’s experienced dog bite lawyer is also available 24/7 to walk you through the process.

What Victims Must Never Do Afterward?

  • After a canine attack, there are some things victims should avoid. Some actions could harm their claim, meaning they will receive lower or no settlement amounts.
  • When speaking to insurance company representatives of the pet owner, do not offer information. Answer the questions truthfully without volunteering extra information. Any information you provide to the insurance company adjuster helps them determine the settlement amount offered.
  • Do not admit fault in the incident. Consult an accomplished dog bite injury attorney who can determine your amount of error, if any. When you admit guilt to an insurance company adjuster, you can kill your case, with admissions like this often resulting in outright liability denial or settlement reduction.
  • Do not delay consulting a dog bite attack lawyer. Avoid delay because a statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims remains. But there are other reasons to act quickly, including avoiding deterioration of evidence, fading of witness memories, or problems locating witnesses later.

More Dog Bite Prevention Tips:

  • Stay away from sleping dogs
    Don’t tease sleeping dogs like this one.

    Never mess with a sleeping dog or wander near them when they are eating. Especially avoid female dogs caring for their puppies.

  • Teach your kids the mnemonic: “Never run from a dog, be it a tree or a log,” if they ever encounter an aggressive dog.
  • Move away from howling, aggressive dogs till you are no longer perceived as a territorial threat.

Other Warnings

  • The dangerous animal’s owner may reflect the dog’s angry personality, so be careful. Many people don’t care about dog bite laws, or you, for that matter. If you are forced to wound or kill an attacking dog, exfiltrate the location immediately and get hold of law enforcement to avoid further serious injury.
  • Like a human, dogs all have unique personalities. They also have many unpredictable genetic propensities. You must remain alert and be prepared to fight.
  • If you or your canine seem ill within ten days of being bitten by another animal, you and your dog should be tested for rabies at once. If the dog that attacked you or your dog tests positive, you must be administered a battery of rabies shots.
  • Wag Late Rule: The “wag late” principle accepts that most dogs wagging their tail are happy and that a dog on the attack will tuck its tail. Wag Late says all dogs are different, so don’t assume a dog attack is certain by a dog not wagging its tail.

Many of these dog attacks result in severe harm or mayhem to individuals and their children. And the physical and emotional scars may remain forever from these onslaughts. First, you need to understand there are many reasons dog attacks occur. But you can reduce your risk of a dog bite using proper precautions.

Many cases like this end up in a law court with multiple parties fighting over who should pay you for your disfigurement, pain, and suffering. No one wins in the end. Education is the first step in having a hassle-free experience with a man’s best friend and a wolf’s descendant.

Whether you are an animal lover or would rather steer clear of people’s pets, being attacked by a dog can be one of the most traumatic experiences of your life. Dog attacks can lead to serious injuries such as painful bites, infections, broken bones, severe lacerations, and lifelong disfigurement. To complicate matters, if the dog that attacked you belongs to a neighbor, you may feel anxious about pursuing the compensation you need to recover from your injuries.

How Are Dog Bite Damages Calculated?

You may be entitled to payment for your past and future medical expenses to receive the necessary treatment from a doctor. You may also have a claim for lost income, pain, and suffering, and even punitive damages from the attack.

How much compensation you will receive depends on the nature and severity of your losses. The insurance company and the court will review the fact and decide the outcome of each case on its individual merits.

Some of the common types of damages we seek on behalf of dog bite victims include:

  • Medical Bills: Our lawyers will try and obtain money for the hospital emergency room, future surgeries, follow-up physical therapy, and doctor checkups. We also make negligence claims to recover out-of-pocket costs for prescription pain, antibiotic medication (you may have torn muscles and facial disfigurement), and any other potential charges connected to the defendant’s negligence.
  • Lost Wages: Lost income, including lost contracts, is a compensable loss. You can even recover money if you were forced to use your lost sick leave pay or vacation time. If you can no longer work in your job from your injuries, you can seek compensation for duties you did before; you may also be entitled to payment for diminished earning capacity in the future.
  • Non-Economic Losses: There are some intangible damages your lawyer can value. These are things besides medical bills and receipts. These include emotional distress and the attendant pain and suffering. In a wrongful death case and extreme cases, you can receive a large award for loss of enjoyment of life and even post-traumatic stress disorder. This is all something you should be compensated for.

At Ehline Law Firm, our experienced dog attack lawyers can explain your legal rights and being a detailed investigation. When you contact us, we will confidentially speak to you. We will discuss the process for pursuing compensation from your negligent neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance policy, even if you were trespassing then.

If a neighbor’s dog has attacked you or a family member, please get in touch with our attorneys for a free consultation so we can perform sensitive steps on your behalf. Don’t let the statute of limitations expire to sue in a strict liability case. If you do, the negligent or reckless defendants will avoid liability in civil court. Injured people have to act quickly, or they can waive their rights to receive any compensation as a general rule.

When Should You Sue Over Dog Bite Injuries?

Most people do not think of themselves as the type to sue, and many dog bite cases can be settled without ever having to go to court. Don’t expect insurance companies to roll over and throw money at you. Your lawyer must conduct an investigation, get the evidence of violations of regulations, knowledge of provocation, and manage the claim with your care providers to properly prepare your settlement.

If a dog bit you, you should get a free consultation with a personal injury attorney when:

  • You had to see a doctor.
  • You are disfigured in your face or limbs.
  • You had surgery like skin grafts or muscle reattachment procedures.
  • You are generally struggling with mauling emotionally.
  • You had to miss work or take time off work. (Or you can no longer work due to your injuries suffered (permanent disability.).)

Are you thinking about suing? Did you know you may even be able to sue a public or private animal shelter for failing to tell the truth to individuals who adopt shelter dogs that go on to bite? (See Alvarado v. City of Los Angeles.)

Being attacked can cost relationships and quality of life. Never hesitate to seek wise counsel after you are hit with a dog bite. We may be able to help you file a claim for compensation after being bitten. At Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC, we provide a free consultation with a charismatic, award-winning attorney.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Dog Bite Lawyer in LA If You Were Unsuccessful in Safely Thwarting a Dog Attack

If you were knocked for a loop or masticated by a dog, you deserve expert medical attention. But dog bite victims musimmediately consult a severe injury legal advocate to protect their rights to afford this new, unwanted medical treatment. The initial consultation is risk-free and designed to help a personal injury lawyer investigate the facts to see if you have a viable claim.

Accident victims can also fill out our convenient online contact for an even faster response from a personal injury law legal representative after an animal attack injury caused by a dog. Let our aggressive, highly skilled dog bite lawyers negotiate and strengthen your claim. We can handle any matters with private or public parties before you ruin your case!

Everything will be confidential. Additionally, there is no charge unless we recover a satisfactory settlement in the form of money damages from the dog’s owner or controller. Ehline Law Firm employs the best Los Angeles personal injury lawyers, and we await your call 24/7 at (213) 596-9642.

More Helpful Info:

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients.
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Michael Ehline

Top Injury lawyer, Michael Ehline, Esq.
We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.