- Detect the signs of an attack before it occurs
- If an attack happens, stay calm
- Do not challenge the other dog, but be confident
- Don’t crouch down or pick up your puppy in the middle of an attack
- Respond to the immediate needs of your puppy
- Talk to the other owner and collect important information
- Talk to witnesses
- Contact the authorities if necessary
- Take your puppy to the vet if necessary
- Rest and recovery
- Relax back into your running routine
- Plan play dates with familiar, friendly dogs
- Take your puppy back to the dog park
- Just take it upon yourself
If your puppy is attacked by another animal, this is a real nightmare for every loving dog owner.
However, if you find yourself in a scenario where your puppy may be threatened or has already been attacked, you should know how to deal with this heartbreaking and dangerous situation so that you can protect both your pet and yourself.
Not only should you be able to recognise the signs of a possible attack before it even happens, but you should also know how to deal with the bigger issues – as well as the smaller details, such as gathering the necessary information from witnesses and possibly reporting the incident to the authorities.
And, of course, you’ll want to know how you can help your puppy recover from the traumatic circumstances and heal any injuries.
As hard as it is to imagine your dog in a frightening situation, here’s what you need to know and do if your puppy is attacked or otherwise threatened by another dog or animal.
Detect the signs of an attack before it occurs
When an animal attacks, it usually first displays a series of warning signs that give you the opportunity to leave the situation before it becomes more dangerous. If a dog growls, barks, snarls, bares its teeth or pulls on the leash (if it is on one), there is a good chance that it will attack.
Ideally, you want to avoid an attack in advance (or minimize the risk of an attack), says dog expert and trainer Jeff Franklin , the owner of Cobra Canine .
“A puppy that is attacked by another dog can be a lifetime traumatic event. So, of course, the first thing I try to do at all costs to prevent this is to keep my puppies on a leash (to control the situation if an unleashed dog approaches) and stay as close as possible to the puppy when I go for a walk or a hike, try to pick up the puppy and/or stand between my puppies and an approaching dog,” says Franklin LittleThings. “I don’t take my puppies – and I know that many people won’t like this one – to dog parks or other areas where I don’t know other dogs personally, because the benefit versus the risk doesn’t pay off for me. I can socialise and train my puppies in many other ways. “
If an attack happens, stay calm
While you naturally want to panic if your puppy is attacked, it is incredibly important to remain as calm as possible and show no fear. Yelling at or rushing at the dogs can send the attacking animal into further rage and cause more harm than good. And if you appear frightened, you can make yourself vulnerable. Instead, keep control of yourself, your puppy and the situation.
Do not challenge the other dog, but be confident
While you want to be sure to control the situation, you must also avoid being aggressive. If an attacking dog sees you as an animal that challenges it or even poses a potential threat, it may attack you. Instead, you want to de-escalate the situation by claiming your place. Don’t make eye contact with the other dog, but withdraw slowly and/or place a barrier between your puppy and the attacking dog. You can also spray water on the dogs to stop the fight and make yourself as big as possible. You want to be the quietest and most impressive in the area.
Don’t crouch down or pick up your puppy in the middle of an attack
While your instinct is to protect your puppy by squatting down to cover or pick up the puppy, this can put both you and your dog in even greater danger. Not only can you put yourself in a pose that an attacking dog will interpret as submissive and weak, but you can also put yourself in a position where you can be attacked and seriously injured. Instead, as mentioned above, stand up high and make yourself as tall as possible while stopping the fight, either by slowly removing yourself and your puppy from the situation or using a barrier (or water) to separate the animals.
Respond to the immediate needs of your puppy
If you have escaped the attacking dog, you must first respond to your puppy’s immediate needs.
“In my experience, of course, when a puppy is attacked by another dog, the first thing to do is to examine it from head to toe, look for injuries and treat them as necessary,” Franklin told LittleThings.
Your puppy is likely to be scared, confused and possibly in shock. They can also panic, so they can hit you and even try to bite you just because they’re instinctive. Alternatively, they may try to run away while they still perceive danger.
If you can do this carefully, try to reassure your puppy that he’s safe now by using a calming tone to talk to him. You can also gently caress them or wrap them in a warm and familiar blanket. However, you may not want to do this until you can check for possible injuries that are not immediately apparent to the naked eye.
Your puppy may have been bitten, scratched or bruised during the attack. If this is the case, you must repair the injury immediately. If your puppy has been bitten or scratched, pour warm water on all wounds and apply a clean cloth to stop bleeding and protect the opening. If your puppy has been bruised, he may have a broken bone or internal injury. If you can, pick it up carefully and move it as gently as possible while taking it straight to the vet. If you can, you should call ahead to let them know you’re on your way and have an emergency.
Talk to the other owner and collect important information
When you and your puppy are out of danger and you have considered your dog’s immediate needs, you want to gather as much information as possible. While you may think you’ll remember every horrible detail, the fact is that you can forget things because you’re so upset and the incident may end up as a misty memory that’s hard to recognize.
Make a note of the date, time and place of the attack and anything else that comes to mind, no matter how big or small.
You should also try talking to the owner of the dog that attacked your pet. Although they may also be angry and perhaps even defensive or unhelpful, you should try to get information from them, such as their name and phone number, their dog’s breed, information about the dog’s history of attacks, and any health problems your dog may have.
If the owner is not helpful, write down any details you notice, such as breed, color, size, markings, color and design of the dog’s leash and/or collar, as well as the owner’s description and even the license plate number, if any Go to a car.
If this is safe, you may also want to take a photo of the dog that attacked your puppy.
Talk to witnesses
Once you have written down all the details that you remember and all the information that the owner of the other dog may have been willing and/or able to give you, you should try to find witnesses who may have seen the attack. Ask them what they saw and record every detail. Also ask them if you can have their name and phone number in case you need to contact them in the future.
Contact the authorities if necessary
If the incident was of a serious nature or if you fear that the attacking dog is a danger to others, you should contact the authorities. In some places it is indeed necessary to report such an attack. Contact either your local neighbourhood group, the humane society of the area and/or the police to make the right report and provide all the necessary details. If you or your dog is seriously injured, you can also contact your lawyer.
Take your puppy to the vet if necessary
If your puppy has been injured during the attack, you must take him to the vet immediately to be examined and receive appropriate treatment. Even if your puppy shows no visible signs of injury, a visit to the vet may be a good idea just to be sure.
Rest and recovery
If your puppy was injured during the attack, your vet will not only provide medical care, but will also inform you of what you need to do to help your dog recover. But even if your puppy didn’t need to see the vet, they’ll still be shaken and upset. Either way, your dog needs time to recover and plenty of rest. They may also need help coping with the ongoing trauma of an attack.
“Usually, the psychological effects of an attack are the biggest concern,” explains Franklin LittleThings.
Relax back into your running routine
After an attack, you may have a completely understandable urge to keep your puppy safe in the house forever. But it’s important to get her back into her running routine. While you don’t want to speed things up – you want to be sure they’re ready both physically and mentally – when the time comes, you need to take it slow. You should also avoid the area where you were attacked so that you are not immediately reminded of the past trauma.
First, take a short walk together in your garden or around the area right outside your house to make your puppy feel comfortable on the lead again, then take short walks around the block. Keep an eye on your puppy while you’re out and look for signs of nervousness or panic. Feel free to talk to your puppy and let him know everything’s all right. If a dog approaches, reassure your puppy and even take a moment to stop if necessary. If they do well, offer them praise and perhaps even a reward. If your puppy seems happy with the short walks, you can extend the length of your trips outside and eventually return to your normal route.
Plan play dates with familiar, friendly dogs
When your puppy is comfortable being outside with you again, it is time to introduce him to other dogs again.
“There is no great hurry, but waiting too long is bad. The proper socialization of a puppy after being attacked by very well-trained dogs is the key to success,” Franklin told LittleThings.
If you can, plan play dates with other animals your puppy is already familiar with and who are friendly with your pet. Perhaps start with a play date that involves your puppy and just one other dog about your puppy’s size, and then continue with play dates that include a few more dogs of different sizes.
Keep watching your puppy for signs of discomfort, nervousness or anxiety, and reassure him that you’re there to protect him. If you feel your puppy is too overwhelmed, simply stop the play date and try again another time.
Take your puppy back to the dog park
Your next step is to reintroduce your puppy to the dog park so he can get used to (and not necessarily be afraid or panicky) dogs that are not immediately familiar. As with the first two steps, do it slowly, praise and treat them if they’re doing well, and watch your dog for signs that he’s feeling predominantly angry.
If they are too anxious, stay at the edge of the park for the time being and do not interact with the other dogs yet. If your puppy is more comfortable, approach the other dogs each time you visit the park. When your puppy is ready, have him approach the dogs and introduce himself to the other animals. If your puppy is comfortable with his circumstances, he’ll play with the other dogs again at some point.
Just take it upon yourself
It is your job to protect your puppy and keep him safe so that you feel guilty if he has been attacked. Unfortunately, bad things can happen to your beloved pet that are simply beyond your control. So focus on helping your dog heal, recover and go back to being the playful puppy you know and love, rather than focusing on the horrible things that have happened.