Wikivoyage articles have a stay safe section with location specific advice. This article contains general information relevant to many destinations.

Understand edit

Pack of stray dogs at the Red square, Central Moscow

Aggressive (stray) dogs are a common problem when travelling in places such as Asia, South America and some Eastern European countries like Romania, Albania, or Georgia (country) and, in Western Europe, Portugal. The dogs are often feral (and hence not used to taking commands from people) and may be running wild in packs, which can be extremely intimidating if you are confronted by one. The obvious precautions – travel in groups, avoid areas where the dogs are, don't go out at night when they are most active, and carry a walking stick if you must go – will reduce the risks but not eliminate them.

Guard dogs edit

Some guard dogs are aggressive, even to travellers who are merely passing by. While they could be restrained once the owners are alerted and understood that their dogs are causing a nuisance, some advice on feral dogs does apply. However, any actions that hurt guard dogs may lead to legal consequences, unless you are really attacked by them. Remember that these dogs are protecting their territory and trying to assess whether you are going to trespass or otherwise make trouble. If passing the yard they are defending, don't stare at them, don't do anything odd, but try to pass the yard as you would do if they weren't there and you knew where you are going.

If you need to go into territory a dog sees as theirs, the strategy is similar. First, if you think the dog may be dangerous, consider calling the owner by phone, or asking for help from a local. If you need to proceed on your own, and the dog is just big and alert on you, it might be viable to just walk forward in as normal a manner as you can, not staring at the dog. If it comes close you should acknowledge it, stop and let it check you out, still not staring and without sudden movements. You should still back off if it shows it doesn't like your approach.

Such dogs are rarely rabid, but it is possible. Consider being vaccinated against rabies before travelling to such areas. See individual articles here for region-specific information and consult a physician (preferably one with expertise in travel medicine) for advice on vaccinations before you travel.

A stray dog warning sign in Taiwan

Encounter edit

  • DO NOT RUN! – Although it may seem counter-intuitive when you suddenly see an angry, barking and snarling dog running towards you, the most important thing to do is not to turn and run. The dog's natural hunting instincts will kick in, and you are unlikely to outrun it.
  • Stay calm, don't make any sudden movements, and don't look the dog directly in the eye: dogs see this as a challenge and may react by becoming more aggressive.
  • Try to turn sideways on: this isn't necessarily a submissive gesture but is seen by the dog as less provocative. Also, if a dog does attack, this protects your throat and other sensitive areas.
  • Walking backwards away from the dog does also help – it is defending its territory, getting out of it seems reasonable.
  • Picking up a stone with the dog seeing it may helps as well: where locals do so, the dog will remember the last painful incidence of this type. If it does not help, throwing stones, dirt or sand at dogs that begin to approach you is often the last resort. For instance, in certain areas such as Iran, the locals' response on seeing dogs nearby is often to pick up a few stones to throw at them. The dogs will fairly often retreat if they just see you bending over for ammo.
  • Holding a stick, on the other hand, will often increase the aggressive behaviour of the dog. Likewise, they remember this as a painful experience, but they understand that they are in no danger to get hit unless they are close enough. This will make them come closer (than with stones) and remain aggressive instead of seeking shelter or hide somewhere where a stone cannot hit them.
  • If you are confronted by a dog when bicycling a good thing to do is to grab your bicycle water bottle and throw water at the dog. This causes the dog to back off. When dismounting away from the dog, your bicycle can be a useful barrier.
  • If you are confronted by a dog when motorcycling, approach it slowly to upset its timing, then speed up to leave it behind.

Protect edit

Hold an object in front of you

If you're unlucky enough to get attacked, there are a number of things you can do to minimize the damage.

  • If you have an object (bag, coat, umbrella, etc.), you can hold out in front of you, offer this to the dog as it attacks. Alternatively — if you have time — wrap some padding around your arm and use this. If the dog bites on this, keep hold of it: if you let go, the dog will realize that it's not part of you and go for something else.
  • If lawful in your destination, try using a pepper spray and spray it directly into the face. Repeat spraying until the dog goes away.
  • If you get bitten, don't yank yourself away from the dog; its teeth are designed to stop things being ripped out of its mouth, Also, the animal's instincts will be to bite harder.
  • If you have been bitten, clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water and see a doctor as soon as possible; in destinations where rabies is endemic, you need rabies vaccination as a matter of urgency. The incubation period varies from days to many months, so get that vaccination even if you couldn't get it immediately! When symptoms develop, there is no cure any more.

See also edit

Dog attack
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