Training for defense against dog attacks

This topic came up in another thread and there are several dog threads already but none focused on the training aspect so I decided to start this one. @Steven288 has some experience with this topic and I’m hoping he will join in.

I have had several encounters over the years with both packs of feral dogs and individual threatening dogs. There was also a recent video of someone shooting a dog attacking another person. In all my incidents I was able to extricate myself with words (calm or firm depending on the dog), a rock, stick or swift kick. But I’m interested in training ideas when a firearm is needed. The target is smaller, faster, could be in a pack, or could be latched onto myself or a family member. Traditional firearms training does not really cover these scenarios.

Thoughts and experiences?


When dealing with dogs, I will start by saying “situational awareness” is paramount as in all incidents. Followed by an understanding of the laws of the individual’s state, county, and community.

In most states a dog is considered to be property (wherein a cat for instance, is not). Should a driver hit a dog, he is required to stop, etc.

I would like to share two police shootings that occurred some time ago, but are a good start in examining the topic;

Scenario #1: In Ohio a two man radio car responded to a “vicious dog” call. Upon deciding the dog must be shot, the one officer cleared his back drop while his partner stood off to the side helping to contain the situation.
When the officer fired, his round hit the dog in the head where it was intended. However, the Winchester “Silver tip” round ricocheted into his partner’s leg. This left the partner down, and the dog even more pissed off.

Result: Many Departments using Silver tip, switched. Studies of ammo increased to include tire sidewalls, windshields, and things like thick skull dogs.

Scenario #2: In Los Angeles, a trainee stepped into a front yard on a Domestic Disturbance call through a swinging gate. His training officer was behind him.
The male involved in the call stepped out onto the front porch with a pit bull. The male riled the dog and released it at the officers. The trainee froze. The FTO then shot and killed the dog.
When the trainee was asked why he did not shoot the dog, he answered, “I didn’t know I was allowed to.”

Result: A training bulletin was sent out to departments for advisement. The LAPD Academy added clarification within their curriculum as did other Academies.

More regarding Animal Control resources and responses, and point blank shooting of a vicious dog in a later box.


Good stories for thought. Agree that situational awareness is key!

I was working out on open range land many years back and saw some sheep a short ways away. This put me on alert for sheep dogs who will usually come up and aggressively bark for a bit to show they are on the job.

I didn’t see any and ended up continuing on to my survey plot which was just over a 5’ tall natural berm of earth. The wind was blowing hard over the berm and I couldn’t hear anything over the blowing grass and sand. I put my pack down and proceeded to start my work. Maybe 10 minutes later 3 very large pitbull/Rottweiler mixes pop up over the berm and instantly started growling, barking and snarling just a few feet away from my head. Think we were all equally surprised to see each other.

At the time I did not have a pocket carry sized firearm and couldn’t carry on my waist because of the backpack waist strap so my pistol was 3 feet/1 million miles away in the top of my pack. Also could not carry in a chest rig because discretion was necessary for this work. A firearm carrying outsider would not be welcome.

All I could do was kneel there with my hand on my knife and talk to them calmly until they calmed down. My pepper spray would have been useless with the strong wind at their backs. Not sure how I would have faired if they decided to attack even with the 7 shoot pocket pistol I bought right after returning from that work trip.

Interesting mix for sheep dogs. Not sure how well they tended to the flock but they sure were affective at keeping wandering botanists on their toes! I later ran into their owner who was mad that I was on “his land” and told me I was lucky I didn’t run into his dogs because they would have torn me apart. Threat deescalation is also a very important skill!


Just lucky I guess, may have been trespassing, but unaware if I was. Anyways, I the woods one day, about 16 years old, guy sics his shepard on me. I was screwed, except had a shepard/collie mix growing up, and nobody tied their dogs up back then…Anyways, dog comes running at me, I slapped my knees twice and said “c’mere, boy”…dog stopped, seemed confused, guy was pissed and I skedaddled.
Another day, warned about a dog on the route I was walking, I carried a rock.Sure enough,there’s the dog, ears back, lips curled, teeth bared…3 strikes,dang. Lady comes out, tells me to drop the rock…ooookay, I do, dog is suddenly mellow.
Growing up, we had some crazy dogs in the neighborhood,one used to bite car tires as they drove by,heard its skull hit pavement once. Worst dog was “tootsie”, used to terrify us kids up at the “dead end”.I’m 8 years old, coming down the hill on my bike, and here comes tootsie…crap, I’m not going to get away…so I broadsided that mutt, with the plastic 20" front tire of my Sears bicycle. Solid plastic tire, and I swear that bike weighed a ton…and it was a very effective hit, and tootsie never chased me again.
Couple years ago out walking, a little yippy dog bit my calf and drew blood, and 20 minutes later a former gang banger fighting pitty was letting me rub his belly…ya’just never know.

That’s exactly why I didn’t draw my knife or try to get to the gun. Knew they were startled by suddenly seeing me before they could hear or smell me. I talked to them calmly, made no threatening moves and told them they were being good guard dogs. They eventually wandered off, though one came back a bit later in a much friendlier mood to see if I was still there.

Was definitely on open range and had a permit to be there. But ranchers tend to view the open land they are using as theirs. I respect their viewpoint but had a job to do and a right to be there.

Most my other dog encounters, and even bear encounters, have gone a similar non violent way but have had a couple where the dog was clearly trying to attack me and I had to show it who the Alpha was between the two of us.

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Older and crazy these days, I bark back or meow…whatever works…went to draw once, couple weeks ago, smallish Rottweiler on my daily walk caught me by surprise, but think they have one of those invisible fences. Glad for my reaction, and no over reaction.

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Interesting tid bit. Opening an umbrella at an advancing dog is a trick meter readers and mailmen are known to use,

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I do occasionally carry a silver sun umbrella when working in the desert. Have only used it to chase some overly curious feral horses away once. But good idea for dogs too!

I am usually very mild mannered but can flip the aggression switch when threatened. On a couple occasions I have been charged by what I took to be clearly aggressive dogs. I started waving my hands, cursing and charged right back at them. They usually don’t like playing chicken but that won’t work with all dogs. Some are just convinced they are the meanest dog in town and won’t be convinced otherwise till you hurt them.

As has been said, every dog and every situation is different. Recognizing the situation and assessing the threat level I think are key. Though I need to work on my shooting skills against small moving targets for if I ever get in a situation that can’t be resolved more peacefully.

Here are a few training ideas for practicing shooting at moving targets that might be adapted to training for a dog attack. Let me know what you all think?

Set up a half dozen or so targets in a line starting at maybe 20 yards and ending at maybe 2 or 3 yards. Draw and fire once at the furthest target and keep transitioning and firing one shot at the next closest target as quickly as you accurately can. This might simulate a charging dog.

I have several gravel pits with slopes of varying steepness. Was thinking of getting one of those foam target balls and set it up on the slope. It will keep charging back down slope after each shot.

A target on a wagon or sledge with a rope attached. Have someone stand behind you randomly playing with the rope until they run and pull the target towards you. You can’t draw until the target starts moving. The instructor at my first self defense class had this setup. He would ask you a lot of questions while you were waiting for the target to charge to keep you distracted. It was very challenging to draw and hit before the target hit the stops right in front of you.


I made one of these and it worked really well. :+1:


I like it! The guy holding the pole needs to be very careful not to get ahead of the shooter on those running away drills though.