Some places I travel to have stray dogs in the city. Can a knife be used effectively if attacked by one or more of them? I've had creepy close encounters.
It can be used for sure, but there are better options. A knife would require you to be very close to the dog, whilst a stick or pepper spray would provide much greater distance between you and the threat.
Of course, if you can avoid aggressive dogs in the first place, that's better still.
Your primary objective when defending yourself against stray dogs is not to kill the dog, but to
- avoid getting bitten
- make the dog leave you alone
If you fight a dog with a knife, even if you manage to kill it or make it run away, you will likely get a few bites and scratches. Having a stick or pepper spray is a much better option, as it gives you a range advantage. Please note, that carrying a stick or a pepper spray (and even more often, a knife) inside a city might be illegal, depending on where you are. In the outdoors, a stick and pepper spray are usually more legal, but check the laws in your jurisdiction.
What is (as far as I know) legal everywhere, is ultrasonic dog deterrents. They will make even the most vicious dog (and often even larger animals, like bears) run away in fear. Their only disadvantage is that they will not work if the dog is deaf. Still, carrying such an ultrasonic deterrent with you might be the best choice if you are afraid of stray dogs. Their advantages, compared with other options:
- no legal problems (as they are useless against humans, you won't be accused of carrying it with you to attack people)
- it makes the dogs run away, so less risk for you getting injured in the fight
- even if deaf dogs are unaffected, if a whole pack attacks you (stray dogs usually either travel in packs, or don't attack when they are alone), making the majority of the pack run away in fear usually scares those away who would have been unaffected by the ultrasounds.
- knowing that you have it with you will bolster your confidence, which by itself is a good deterrent. Dogs are very good at reading human emotions, and they are more likely to attack those who are afraid.
Knife is not a good idea. It does not give an understandable warning to an animal. When it comes to a warning, they more likely understand a stick-shaped thing. So for carrying, light telescopic baton is more suitable (or any other stick you can comfortably carry around). Remember, at the first place, you want to repel oncoming animal, not to harm it.
Also, besides the limited range of the knife you can be facing legislation problems. In addition to those problems mentioned in other answers, in my country there is a complex legislation "Animal is not a thing" which may lead to a criminal investigation in case when you caused injury to an animal (most prominently to a dog). You may be able to prove that you needed to defend yourself, but you will need to go through the process anyway. I think it is not worth it.
I originally proposed bright pocket LED flashlight switched to strobe mode, but experience other than mine shows that flashlights seldom work reliably for repelling the animals. Maybe it is due to narrower spectrum of their light (partially incompatible with that seen by animals) where incandescent light would do better? (Anyway, incandescent torch light is rare today so it is out of scope.)
From personal experience with packs of stray dogs, especially coyotes, and also having some strange experience, carry a walking cane or staff (if you can).
Dogs, while attacking as a pack, or thinking about attacking, try to do three things:
- Find easy prey
- Limit prey mobility
- Attack prey blind spots
Keeping this is mind, stay moving to wherever it is you’re going. Use your “command voice,” like “I see you dog.” And be mindful of your blind spots.
Avoid places, like alleyways or ravines, which limit your ability to choose where to go.
I’ve found that walking sticks, of any length from cane to staff, are globally acceptable, and allow you to rapidly switch between advancing dogs (or whatever) while keeping you moving.
I also agree that pepper spray, like many other answers state, is very effective. If possible, use pepper spray at range, and switch to the stick if close engagement is unavoidable.
Some places I travel to have stray dogs in the city. Can a knife be used effectively if attacked by one or more of them? I've had creepy close encounters.
Probably, but it's far from ideal. The reason you explicitly mention a knife is because you're a human who knows about knifes. You know they're sharp and they can hurt you and others. When someone near you takes out a knife, your flee or fight instinct might kick in, a dog that's about to attack you won't be scared off by your knife. The knife is not something they know as a threat.
Instead, you have to stoop to their level, use their own weapons against them. You're probably already familiar with one of theirs: sound. This is great, because it doesn't scare other people near you but when used right will scare the dog. As it happens, you probably already carry your delivery system with you: a mobile phone. The great thing about phones is that they can make sounds, many sounds, even sounds us humans can't make (very high or very low-frequency sounds). Another great thing is that this is very cheap, you already own the phone, all you need to do is search for an app aimed at making sounds that deter dogs for you phone.
I'm not going to promote a specific app here, but you should search for something like 'anti dog sound' in the app store for your phone. Then go to a few dogs (start with ones you know) and try it on them. If it works: great, if not: it only set you back a few moments of your time.
A knife is perfectly fine to make human attackers understand to better leave one alone, however a dog will not understand what "knife" means, nor what it does. having 1-2 plastic bags with dry dog or cat food in the pocket, which one can distribute when trying to get away, is the best strategy - because a) it does not involve any violence and b) stray dogs are corrupt and if you meet them more than once, they might still remember your mercy (they remember this for several years).
the only situation where violence against stray dogs is justified, is when they encircle one and prepare the attack. then one has to understand who the leader of the pack is, because when not neutralizing their leader, this will result in hospital - also in this situation dropping food yields higher chances of getting away without a scratch, than trying to kill one of them. unless grown up on a farm and knowing exactly how to do it, it might even be a delusion, that this might be an easy thing to do, because dogs aren't slow.
paying the duty is your best chance to trespass on their territory, when you have to (you're the intruder, not them). this just sometimes might lead to situations, where it can become difficult to get rid of them again, which is still better than violence - which they can only return with violence - and so violence should always be the very last resort, in pure self-defense. running a few times around the block and entering a few houses makes it impossible for them to track you down, even if they already knew where your apartment was.
they can smell your fear; that's exactly why dry food is a good approach. being seen (smelt) as provider for snacks is anytime better than being seen as possible prey. and if it really has to be a weapon, bolas should quite effectively body-stop a single dog... and one should consider rabies (that's why close-combat is an unpredictably dangerous situation). Concerning the suggesting to use pepper spray ...this works in both directions, which is merely depending in which direction the wind blows. do not turn your back on them and try to appear as large as possible. better save than sorry.
Clarification for people comparing stray domesticated dogs with wild bears:
I've found tons of relevant behavioral studies (in German & English): https://www.wolfscience.at/en/research-at-wsc/publications/ and generally, one just cannot claim that a bear would be "highly collaborative with humans", which wolves and dogs are. and this collaborative behavior is exactly why collaborating with them is a pretty sane approach - and this is not feeding wild animals. read closely, I've wrote "when trying to get away", which implies that feeding them should not be the default - but it can help to take shortcuts on the way, which one otherwise would rather avoid.
I mean, other answers suggesting smashing the dog's skull receive up-votes... while answers, which can be backed up with a little research, that merely suggest common sense are being down-voted? this tells an awful lot about this community. stray dogs are still domestic animals. that humans do not consider them as pets, only because they don't have a name, does not matter.
The comparison to postal services is fitting, because territorial invasion is a huge factor... I'd still punch the postman, if he'd spray my dog, only to deliver an invoice, which by itself barely is sane - and only proofs, that some people refuse to realize, that they are the invaders, because they do not realize the territory claimed, eg. by a pack of stray dogs. if they follow one once, one can see where the borderline is, because this is exactly where they will leave off. I find it interesting, that a "trust in authority" answer is the most popular on "The Great Outdoors". SO is rather welcoming.
From my personal experience,
- if you see stray dogs then ignore them and don't try to look in their eyes, they may follow you otherwise.
- If dog(s) are barking at you then don't get nervous, just stay normal and don't try to run, if you run then they will run faster and may catch you and bite.
- Now, if still you are in situation where stray dog are following you, running for you, or trying to bite you, then use bricks. Usually places having stray dogs also have bricks/Stones, make sure target the dog in the head with as much force you can and then run away.
- If you have knife then use it or if pepper spray then better, the aim is to knockdown the dog so that you can run away.
- Also if the dog is not seriously injured and still following you then it is better to jump into someone else's home/shop by climbing/jumping doors if need be.
- In case dog killing is not allowed in your country then as suggested by other, always take High Intensity LED Lights, Pepper spray in your pocket.
I've had several experiences with aggressive dogs, usually while going for a run. It is impractical to carry a staff or cane while running and I'm even less interested in carrying a weapon.
Types of dogs that I've encountered:
Aggressive dogs off of the leash (i.e. careless owner lets dog off of leash because their dog 'never' bites).
Stray dogs (i.e. do not have owner).
With the aggressive dogs (item 1), I do several things:
- Stop and turn to face them so they don't get an opportunity to bite me.
- Yell aggressively at them. Make yourself big and intimidating. You want them (and their owner) to think that their dog is in danger. This will get the owner to get their crap together.
- Slowly back away.
- (Haven't had to do this yet) Kick dog in head.
With stray dogs (item 2), usually encountered in the woods, they generally seem skittish and yelling or throwing something at them keeps them back. Once again be cautious and don't turn your back to them.
I think knife would only be practical if the dog is biting you and won't let go. It is far better to avoid getting bit in the first place. I think kicking would keep it further from biting your face and neck then using a knife would.
NOTE : Do not do any of this, unless the dog is actually being aggressive to you and you think you may be attacked. E.G. off-of-leash and nipping/barking/growling at you from a few feet away. When I encounter a dog off of its leash, but not behaving aggressively, I just leave it alone. I keep my eye on it and go my merry way. There is no need to start trouble.
A Note on prevention: If you are jogging / running and you are passing someone with a dog, announce yourself! I do this for everyone (including those without dogs). I say loudly "Passing left" to give the dog owner a chance to react and pull their dog close. I've been bit by a dog on a leash when I was passing because it was startled.
I'm a knife nut, and I can tell you with 100% certainty that a knife is one of the worst weapons you could have as a first defense against animals with natural weaponry - dogs, bears, lions, etc... - in general.
The biggest issues with it are reach and presence. A knife just simply doesn't have the length to keep you out of harms way. In order to stab or cut a dog, you have to get close enough for it to bite you. That's not where you want to be. A knife also just isn't scary to an animal because they don't understand what it is at all. I've owned a dog that would literally carry knives around by there handles and chew on them. He was totally unaware of any danger the knife posed at all. You really won't be able to scare an animal off with a knife in anyway that you could have scared them off without one.
So, as a recap, a knife won't keep you safe from wild animals, and it won't help you scare them away. With that understood, a knife is extremely effective when it comes to actually killing said animals once they've already attacked you. If you're looking for a weapon of last resort against wild animals in general, certain knives aren't a bad choice. Keep in mind that using a knife as a weapon of last resort against animals in this context 100% ensures that you've already been bitten and are suffering pretty bad injuries.
A knife should never be your first choice for self defense against animals. It just doesn't do any of the things you want it to do as a first choice weapon. It is technically possible to "poke" at a dog with a knife by throwing out some jabs, but you won't really have the reach to make that matter.
A long stick is far superior to a knife for defending yourself against wild dogs. The stick gives you reach. the stick makes you much bigger and therefore scarier. You can bang the stick on random stuff to make yourself much louder without having to worry about damaging yourself or the knife. Most importantly, a stick lets you defend yourself with a much smaller chance of being injured than a knife does.
You haven't said what country you are talking about. Don't try this in Britain - you will end up in jail. In fact don't bring a knife to Britain.
Selling, buying and carrying knives The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is 4 years in prison and an unlimited fine. You’ll get a prison sentence if you’re convicted of carrying a knife more than once. https://www.gov.uk/buying-carrying-knives
Most dogs have an owner. They are used to being told what to do by humans. Know the local words for "sit" and "go home". Say one or other of these firmly (not angrily or shouting). If in doubt say phrases in your own language but with conviction.
Running will cause any dog to chase - Even a small dog can run faster than Usain Bolt so don't do it unless there is a gate or similar very nearby that you can get behind.
Shouting and waving your arms or acting in a threatening manner will frighten a timid dog but it may cause an aggressive dog to attack.
There is only one way to deal with a dog and that is to maintain a calm demeanour and upright posture. Do not try to use dog-language (e.g. by growling - this will cause it to become more aggressive) speak to it as a disapproving human and assume that it will obey.
If a dog actually attacks and is biting you then you have no option - you have to defend yourself. However do so in a calculated way. Control it by grabbing its collar and twisting so as to choke it. If there is no collar grab by the scruff. Then kick or hit in a soft/vulnerable spot. Poke in the eyes, kick in the windpipe, etc.
If you get to this last stage then you are already getting hurt so don't sue me if it goes wrong! It was going to anyway!
A knife is a perfectly effective weapon against stray dogs, provided that you are skilled in its use. However it's not something that you can just pick up and expect to be proficient with. You need to know how to keep your footing, how to avoid being bitten, enough dog anatomy to be able to disable one quickly, be in good enough physical condition to use all that knowledge...
A knife is always a useful thing to have with you, but if at all possible you'll find that the various types of mace formulated for discouraging dogs are far easier to use. Save the knife as a backup for in case your can of mace runs dry and the dogpack is still thinking you look tasty. A gun would be better in that case, but I rather assume you wouldn't be asking about a knife if that were an option, and even if it is, have the knife for when there are more dogs than you have bullets and start with the mace if you can since it's gentler on everyone and everything involved.
If a knife really is your only option, you'll want a set of heavy leather vambraces to go with it. These protect your forearms so you're less likely to be injured if you misjudge your attack and the dog clamps its teeth down on your arm. Armoring the rest of yourself wouldn't hurt either, but forearms, shins, and neck are the most important when dealing with dogs since they don't generally have the ability to puncture your torso.
Also consider finding a dog you can practice with. Most dogs love to wrestle. That's how they play with each other. The hard part is making sure you have a clear set of signals so it doesn't get confused and think it's ok to wrestle with other people who won't appreciate it. But like with fighting humans, the only way to learn how to effectively fight a dog is to do a bit of fighting with a dog.
In short, a knife is not a magic wand that will scare a dog away. If it's your only option it's better than nothing, but you need to put the time and effort into learning how to use it if you want it to give you anything more than a false sense of security.
As pointed out by others, YES, a knife CAN be effective. But, in al practicality, the question should be, what is the
most effective way to avoid problems with stray dogs? The answer depends on lots of factors, but you should consider not going by food, but by car. This is the same solution to avoid beggars in an american city...
As for the problem analysis, the biggest problem is perhaps not being bitten, however "creepy" you might find, but getting infected with
rabies. Bites can be easily stitched, but rabies is a really dangerous disease. In lots of countries, stray dogs are NOT vaccinated. In lots of outdoor places you may, after a bite, not be able to get treatment within 24 hours in a major hospital, where they give you expensive and horrible medicins as a precaution against rabies, without which you may (or may not) die. This is why you should consider getting vaccinated against rabies when going to most countries that are not super rich, where you plan to do a lot of outdoor activities.
Using a knife might as well be the MOST STUPID way of defending yourself against a dog. Others pointed out that wielding a knife will not impress a dog, as a dog does not have the intelligence to understand that such a little piece of shiny metal could be of any danger to him until you actually stab the dog which will cause lots of blood drops flying around, with a high risk of infection, not to speak of staining and ruining your nice outdoor apparel. Blood stains are difficult to wash. Even when stabbed, an aggressive dog will not give up. You will have to kill it. Stabbing the dog also means going really close, so you will end up being scratched and bitten anyway as the dog tries to attack or defend, whatever you name it.
Also, be aware that you can also contract rabies by petting those cute stray dogs, cats, squirrels, etc. And also by being coughed or spit at, i.e. even without being bitten.