If you encounter a dog while walking down the street, panic is not the best defense. Prepare yourself ahead of time to react with minimal harm.
⚠️ Reader Discretion: Describes violent activity.
United States Dog Bite Frequency
It’s a beautiful sunny day for a walk. But the Nextdoor app is filled with reports of vicious roaming dogs that are attacking people and small pets. You may have seen a suspicious stray dog or two yourself.
You are a million times more likely to get bitten by a dog than hit by lightening. To put that in perspective, about 49 people in the U.S. are hit by lightening each year.  Compare this to 4.5 million U.S. citizens per year getting dog bites.  This dwarfs an estimated 83 thousand annual assaults. 
How many people live on a city block in your neighborhood? Would you say about 150? If so, two of them will experience a dog bite this year.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims (in dollars) result from dog bites or dog-related injuries, and the average cost is more than $37,000.
The purpose of this article is not to frighten you into inactivity. But, given the frequency, you must think through how you will handle the situation. Don’t get distracted with text messages or noise-cancelling headphones while walking through the neighborhood or park. Remain alert to your surroundings.
Many people carry a special dog-bite stick, a firm walking stick at least 3- to 4-feet long, a golf club, or an umbrella. Neither provide protection if you drop them or are hesitant to use them.
Confronting a Dog
If you turn the corner and see a loose dog, stop and assess the situation. Walk the other direction if the dog is several hundred feet away and minding its own business. Otherwise, be alert to visual clues:
Can you identify the type of dog? What color is it? Has the dog made eye contact with you? (Description may be helpful later to report it.) Is the tail wagging? Is the tail tucked between its hind legs as though it is frightened? Does it have a collar? Is the owner nearby? Do you hear barking or growling? Is the dog charging towards you?
Dogs love to chase. Their four legs are designed for running. A Pit Bull can reach a top speed of 30 miles per hour (mph). That’s about 100 feet in 2 seconds. The average speed of Olympic gold medalist, Usain Bolt is 23.35 mph in his prime.
You are not faster than Usain. Unless the dog is a Dachshund, Corgi, or has arthritis, the canine creature will quickly catch you in a race.
Check the door handle of a nearby parked car. It could provide a safe haven when unlocked. If you have physical agility and the dog is more than 500 feet (10 city residential lots) away, you might have 10–12 seconds to scale a nearby fence. It helps to know if there is a dog in the yard you choose. In this regard, it is useful to know your neighbors.
When you rule out running and climbing, the remaining option is to stand your ground. There is not one trick for every occasion. Dog temperaments differ. A docile pet sometimes escapes through an opening in the backyard fence.
In an authoritative voice, I once commanded a dog that leapt atop a 6-foot wall, “Get down!” He obeyed. It would be great if we could avert all dog attacks by ordering animals to sit!
Feral dogs may roam and kill small animals for food. This nurtures a taste for blood. A mad dog attacks with little provocation. Here are some things to consider when you come face-to-face with a loose dog.
Do not run from a dog.
Avoid direct eye contact if growling.
Use dog repellant if available.
If the dog is lunging, try to keep it at bay with a stick.
Roll into a ball and remain motionless if you’re knocked over.
Feed the ball of a dog bite stick until you get out of a confined area with it. Things can quickly turn brutal. In an open area, you may need to smack an aggressive dog upside the head with your walking stick or club.
If you are less prone to physical altercation, carry a strong umbrella. The sound and expansion can startle most dogs, with the hope that they will retreat. A downside is that umbrellas are flimsy fabric that a large aggressive animal can easily shred. Mail carriers exercise caution when entering yards and carry dog repellant.