What to do if a dog attacks

Dogs are part of the family and make very loyal companions, but sometimes they can snap or find themselves in a fight with another dog. While dog attacks are often reported in the news, they’re not that common and can sometimes be avoided but it’s still important to know what to do in the unlikely event an attack happens.

What are the signs a dog might attack?

While all dogs are different, there are some signals a dog can give before attacking. Some of these signs are obvious while others are so subtle that it’s important to read a dog’s entire body and not just its mouth.

These signs include:

  • Growling
  • Snarling
  • Staring
  • Baring teeth
  • Its fur along back stood up
  • Showing the whites of their eyes
  • Being low to the ground
  • Head level with the body
  • Lunging
  • Moment of tension
  • Trying to move away
  • Licking their lips
  • Yawning

If a dog is showing signs of aggression, then it’s time to make some fast decisions.

What to do if a dog attacks you

If you are confronted by an aggressive dog, then there are a few things you’ll need to do:

  • Stay calm – remaining calm and in control of the situation can slow a dog down and confuse them as they want you to be stressed out if they’re planning on attacking you.
  • Turn your body to the side – this will give them less of a target if they end up attacking.
  • Avoid eye contact – a dog might interpret eye contact as a challenge.
  • Don’t smile – smiling at the dog might think you’re baring your teeth at them.
  • Don’t run – this can trigger their prey instinct

If the dog attacks you:

  • Try to get out of the way – gaining height is good if possible, as dogs can’t climb
  • Find a barrier – this can be a jacket, a bag, a shoe, a stick, anything that can be used to redirect the dog’s bites onto that item.
  • Cover their eyes – if they’re not interested in the distraction you’ve offered try using a piece of clothing to cover their eyes with, providing enough of a window for you to reach safety.
  • Whatever you do, keep your neck, face, chest and groin protected if you can.
  • If the dog has bitten you and is not letting go, do not try pulling the dog off as this can result in a much bigger injury.

How to deal with a dog attacking your dog

Dog fights can happen, and dogs often get into disagreements but if your dog is attacked there are a few things to remember:

  • Don’t panic – this can cause more stress in your dog and aggravate the attacking dog.
  • Don’t try to separate them – it will be hard not to get involved but you don’t want to end up injured, too. This can also escalate the attack and cause further injuries in your dog.
  • Distraction – try to distract the attacking dog. Loud claps and shouts might work.
  • Find a barrier – putting a barrier between the dogs can help, but never be tempted to hit the dog.
  • Calling the dogs – you, or the other owner, might be able to get the dogs to back away from the situation.
  • Get their details – while this might be the last thing on your mind following the attack, it’s important to get the owner’s contact details and even a photo of their dog. If there were any witnesses it’s beneficial to get their details, too.
  • Get to the vet – you’ll want to get your dog check out by the vet straight away, so they can assess the damage and provide the necessary treatment.

What to do if your dog attacks another dog

Sometimes our dogs can act in ways that take us by surprise, so knowing what to do if your dog attacks another dog is important, even if you don’t think your dog would snap, bite or attack anyone.

  • Stay calm – just like before, keeping calm can avoid worsening your dog’s behaviour.
  • Distract your dog – call your dog away from the attack if you can, using loud noises, a toy, or treats if you can.
  • Get them on the lead – if they’re no longer attacking the other dog, remain calm and try to place them on a lead. Be careful though as they’re likely to be stressed.
  • Provide your details – you’ll need to give the other owner your details, and it might be a good idea to get their details too.

If a dog has bitten somebody, attacked another dog, has been attacked or is alone and likely to attack then be sure to report it to the police on 101 or report it to your local council’s dog warden.


As responsible owners we are aways looking out for our dogs to ensure their safety, but the actions of others can mean that we cannot protect them against every eventuality - dog insurance can help you to cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your best friend gets injured or falls ill, helping you to provide security for them in case of the unexpected.

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