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Dog Attack: 5 Things NOT to Say

At some point, I'll be able to write about how 2 loose / aggressive dogs attacked me and Mr. Stix from behind on our daily, neighborhood walk, without warning or provocation, in November 2021. Suffice it to say that the dog attack was terrible and traumatic. Yes, we were both injured. Yes, charges (or whatever you call them) have been filed. 

In something my personal development coach calls "empathy Tourettes," many people say things that don't help and actually make things much, much worse -- especially when the trauma is still so fresh. The list will likely get longer over time, but here's what I've got so far for things NOT to say after a dog attack. 

More...

black and white dog with red hearts garland around his neck - Mr. Stix Champion of My Heart - poor guy recently injured in a dog attack

5 Things You Definitely Should NOT Say After a Dog Attack

1. "It could have been worse."

Perhaps intended as an expression of gratitude. The statement comes off cold and dismissive of what did happen. I assure you that the situation was worse / felt worse than you can even imagine. Do not downplay someone else's lived experiences. It's rude and makes you look like a crappy friend. 

2. "I feel sorry for those dogs." 

Nope. Not allowed. Think it? Fine. Say it to someone else? Fine, but do NOT say it to the person who got attacked or whose dog got attacked. You wouldn't express sympathy for a human accused of violent assault or attempted murder, so don't say it about vicious dogs. 

3. "You should have ..."

Again, STFU. Do not tell people what they should have done (or say what YOU would have done). In the throes of an attack like this, you're in survival mode, and arm-chair quarterbacking does not help. 

This rule includes NOT bringing up pepper sprays or walking sticks or other things you think people should carry on walks. 

4. "Have you talked to the owner?"

OMG !!! In what other crime would you expect the victim to make contact with the perpetrator?

I get that people assume the attacking dogs' owner might reach out, apologize, or whatever, but that doesn't happen in every case. Asking about it only reinforces the trauma of the attack and injuries and reinforces the negative impact of the attack not being acknowledged at all. 

5. And, finally, a dog "fight" is not the same as a dog attack.

It isn't a "fight" if the victims have NO hope or chance to defend themselves -- due to the size of the attacking dog(s) or number of dogs. Calling it a fight is the both-sides-ism of the dog world. It implies it was a 2-way street, when it is not. A one-sided fight is an attack. Period. 

Anything to add about a dog attack... ?

If you and/or your dogs have survived a dog attack, is there anything else you'd add to the list of things people should NOT say?

I'm starting to dig into dog bite stats and research. Holler if you know of any good sources for data and such. Thanks!

**

FYI - Wrote this post on a couple of tough ongoing trauma days recently -- tears, hands shaking, heart racing. Physical injuries along with the emotional trauma from the dog attack are affecting many aspects of daily life, and it really sucks! 

The list goes on ... find 6 more things NOT to say in a later post.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Linda Hempler - January 19, 2022

Thank you for sharing this terrible experience with us! I appreciate these reminders very much! Thankfully I have not been attacked by a dog or dogs. My little Chihuahua at 9-months-old was attacked by a mastiff (unprovoked, she didn’t even see him coming until it was too late). Thank god that the mastiff’s owner ran out and was able to get him off my dog (never got an apology or even an offer to pay vet bills), the mastiff’s teeth just missed her heart or she would not be with us today. She spent a few nights at the vet and months of recovery (not to mention the huge vet bill). We were both traumatized. She is now 6 years old and is still (and I believe always will be) afraid of big dogs. But, I digress … my comment is that I am grateful for these reminders because I see how hurtful they could be, and yet I can also see myself saying a couple of those things to someone who had been attacked. Not to be unkind, of course, but trying to show empathy. I see how misguided that would be. So, if I ever know someone in the future that was attacked I now know to NOT say any of those things. I’m so very sorry you had that horrible experience. I can not even imagine what you are going through. Sometimes people just don’t know what to say …..

    Roxanne Hawn - January 19, 2022

    OMG, Linda. What a nightmare, especially with the extreme size difference. I would say that you being there when it happened (even though you didn’t get bit yourself) still counts as you being a survivor. So traumatic.

Missy - January 18, 2022

When my dog was 7 months old, she and I were attacked by 3 dogs running free. We were near my car and I tried to get her inside. We didn’t make it. The dogs pushed me onto the cement and went after my dog. We were both banged up and bruised. Never found the owners. My dog was never the same. She’s 11 now and still scared of other dogs.

    Roxanne Hawn - January 18, 2022

    Just terrible. I’m so sorry to hear about what happened, and its affect on your puppy.

Cathleen - January 18, 2022

Comment #1 comes from people who have no idea! My dogs and I have experienced a number of these unprovoked attacks over the years but been fortunate in not being physically injured. Each time I thought I was going to lose my dog, so yes it could have been worse for us but like you we shouldn’t have to go through this. I hope you and Mr Stix are recovering OK.

    Roxanne Hawn - January 18, 2022

    Ugh! Sorry to hear you’ve been through it so often. We absolutely should NOT have to do through things like this.

Susan Anderson - January 18, 2022

The Kansas City Dog Project used to collect stats – but that was in the distant past and in the service of challenging breed specific prohibitions. I do not know if anyone has picked up the mantle; it’s been a long time since I followed this.

    Susan - January 18, 2022

    Also: https://aggressivedog.com – I’m guessing Michael tracks the research or know who does.

      Roxanne Hawn - January 18, 2022

      Good idea. I did listen to the podcast he did with Laura about her and Vito’s attack.

    Roxanne Hawn - January 18, 2022

    I’ll try to find it. Thanks, Susan.

Kate Riley - January 18, 2022

I’m sorry you and your dog had to endure this attack. The terror of this and the aftermath of emotions and feelings are almost as traumatic as the attack itself.

Since you stated you are researching dog bit stats, I would like to recommend a book. There’s lots of valuable info in it. Although it’s a bit pricey, it’s worth the money. You might also want to reach out to Laura Monaco-Torelli KPA CTP in Chicago, IL. She and her Ridgeback dog were attacked on a walk by 2 loose dogs and she has publicly shared the experience through online outlets.

    Roxanne Hawn - January 18, 2022

    Thanks, Katie. Other pals connected me with Laura’s information about the attack on her and Vito. It took me a while to be able to listen to the podcast she did — because her experience is eerily similar to ours in many ways, and it was hard for me to hear about it. I had to skip some of the details because my hands / arms started shaking from the trauma.

    I don’t see the name of the book you wanted to recommend. Help?

john shuma - January 18, 2022

So very sorry this happened to you and Mr. Stix. Even with the wonderful person that you are, and all of your knowledge and accomplishments it would be impossible to experience the trauma you just did without a mountain of mixed feelings. I would say take it easy and don’t expect too much from yourselves too soon. Even though all of us will be praying that you can get this behind you without permanent scars, please let us know if we can help in any way and do let us know how you are all progressing. Take care and God Bless.

    Roxanne Hawn - January 18, 2022

    Thanks so much, John. We appreciate your ongoing interest and support.

Ducky's Mom - January 18, 2022

Oh, Roxanne, I am so very sorry for what happened! I know it must have been so frightening. I’m glad you’re getting treatment for both you and Mr. Stix. I cannot even imagine what you must be going through. Just know I’m thinking of and saying prayers for you both.

    Roxanne Hawn - January 18, 2022

    Thanks so much.

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