American Outdoor Guide|September 2021
Dana Benner

According to, each day, about 1,000 U.S. citizens require emergency care for serious dog bite injuries, and more than 14,000 people are hospitalized during the course of a year because of them.

I recently read a story in the local newspaper about an elderly couple walking their dog, a big, old golden retriever that they’d rescued, along a popular trail not far from their home. They are well-known to their neighbors for their daily walks.

During this regular walk, the couple and their dog were attacked by a pack of eight large dogs. Trying to defend themselves and their dog, the man, woman and their dog were injured in the fight that ensued. If it weren’t for an alert neighbor who witnessed the attack and came to their aid, things could have been much worse than they were.

All the attacking dogs were wearing collars and were obviously well-fed, so starvation was not the driving force. These dogs were simply allowed by their owner to run loose, despite the leash laws in the area. When confronted by law enforcement officers, the dogs’ owner showed no remorse; nor did he offer an apology. Charges are pending, but the damage has been done.

Reading this story brought back memories of just one of the dog attacks I’ve been through—the worst one. While walking my daughter’s dog, Brandy, a beagle-basset hound mix, we were attacked by a rather large German shepherd that was running loose. The shepherd came in from my blind side and was on Brandy in a flash, flipping her onto her back and going for her throat. I engaged the shepherd—something that some “experts” say not to do—and the fight was on.

Brandy, who was on a thin-strand retractable leash, took off, wrapping my right-hand index finger in the leash cord in the process. This kept me from reaching for my knife, which was on my right hip. Using my right hand as best as I could—my index finger being pulled back and the cord slicing into it—I grabbed the shepherd’s head and started punching it with my left.

When it was all said and done, both Brandy and I were bloody messes. My left hand had been pretty much crushed by the shepherd’s jaws, and my right index finger had been badly cut and skinned almost to the bone by the leash cord.

I carried Brandy home, and my daughter got her to the vet. She ended up with a lot of stitches, but it could have been worse. (Now, I always carry pepper spray or my .45ACP.)

Sadly, this attack didn’t need to happen. The dog that attacked me wasn’t “wild.” It was well fed and wearing a collar. It was some family’s pet.

When confronted by the police, the owner said, “He just got out.”

This seems to be the typical response, especially where there are strict leash laws.

We read countless articles about being prepared for dangers, both real and perceived. These articles include defense tactics against human assailants, and a few even cover potential dangers in the

great outdoors. However, few discuss a real danger happening right in front of us: free-roaming dogs.

For Clarity’s Sake

Before I get hate mail for what I’m going to write about in this article, let me be perfectly clear: I love dogs. All my dogs have been rescued dogs, as is my daughter’s. I’ve hunted over some of the best-trained dogs ever, and I trust my dog with my granddaughters.

In my mind, there’s no such thing as a bad dog; just bad owners. People who don’t train their dog—and frankly, just don’t care—are the real problem.

Unfortunately, it’s the dog that we need to be concerned about; and it’ll be that way until penalties are enforced.

Feral vs. Family Dog

Before we discuss the damage caused by free-roaming dogs and what you can do to defend against them, we must distinguish between family pets that are allowed to run and “wild,” or feral, dogs. They’re different, and the dangers differ, as well.

According to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), feral dogs are those originally domestic dogs that have gone back to a “wild” state. This is much in the same way the “wild” horses in our country are really descendants of domestic horses left to their own devices. This study concludes that feral dogs have been documented in all 50 states. Although the estimated dog population in the United States is around 74.8 million, it’s impossible to know just how many of these dogs are feral.


While any dog can be potentially dangerous, according to information from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association (JAVMA) and other sources, the following are among dogs perceived to be the most dangerous. Many factors contribute to the perception that these dogs might be more likely to attack or bite humans, so this shouldn’t imply that the breeds mentioned—or all dogs in these breeds—are inherently dangerous.

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