Some Tips To Prevent Dog Attacks

Drayton MichaelCarol Vinzant Drayton Michael, a dog trainer, discourages pet owners from carrying weapons to fend off dog attacks. He spoke to pet owners Sunday at the Tompkins Square Dog Run.

Leave the knife, take a bottle of water.

That’s the advice Drayton Michael, a dog trainer known as the “pit bull guru,” is offering to the citizens of the East Village who are concerned about a series of attacks at the Tompkins Square Dog Run.

After a series of serious dog fights, to which some dog owners reportedly responded by carrying knives to the park to protect their dogs, the community was worried — though not all were sure these fights were anything new in a neighborhood that only a decade or so ago had more pit bulls than the toy breeds that now frolic in the specially segregated small dog run.

“Don’t worry,” said the dog run manager and dog trainer, Garrett Rosso, introducing Mr. Michael to the crowd of about 80 who gathered at an information session at the park on Sunday. “He knows that we’re not the type of dog run where people sit around on the edges and are afraid of certain breeds.”

Mr. Rosso, who is also a dog trainer, explained that he brought in Mr. Michael to show people how to spot aggression and stop fights before they started. Over the last few months pit bulls — or pit bull mixes — have bitten and held onto five dogs, resulting in serious injuries, freaked-out residents, $10,000 of veterinary bills and many times more that in human medical bills, Mr. Rosso said. “Do they have a locking mechanism? No,” he said. “But they have latched on and won’t let go.”

Mr. Michael explained that the best tool against dog fights was not a knife, shovel or any of the objects recently suggested by panicked dog run patrons. Instead, the answer lies in training and observing dog behavior. If dog owners stay within six to eight feet of their dog, have a leash ready and carefully watch for signs of aggression, there shouldn’t be a problem. If you think other dogs seem unsafe, just leave, he advised.

Mr. Rosso originally considered a bite stick — a wooden stake that can pry an animal’s jaws apart. He reasoned that an inexperienced person could hurt himself or herself, other people or the dogs attempting to use the device, which looks like it is used to fight off vampires, not pit bulls.

Instead, Mr. Michael recommended that dog run patrons who are worried about their dogs’ safety carry one of the various dog fight deterrent sprays now on the market that stop fights without physically injuring the dog.

The Friends of First Run board had considered installing a canister at the park, but worried it would freeze or get stolen. If you don’t have one of the dog fight sprays, use water. Bring a bottle of water that has a nipple tip that allows a directional spray, Mr. Michael said. Since few, if any, dog run-goers pack a knife, but a majority carry a beverage, the solution seems infinitely more palatable.

Carol Vinzant is the editor of