The art of Kenpo focuses on defending against humans to the exclusion of all other species. However, it still contains powerful tools for dealing with other species. In this paper I will attempt to outline some ideas for defending against canines. I am not trying to provide all the answers, instead I aim to stimulate thought about this topic.
Why Canines? I chose canines as my species of choice because canine attacks are a significant problem. Many people I know have been attacked by dogs at one time or another, and I myself have been threatened by dogs on a few occasions. Dog bites are a serious issue, as evidenced by the amount of information about the topic. This makes defending against dogs a worthwhile study, as they present an actual threat. Canines are also in a size range where they are not unduly protected by sheer mass, as bears and sharks are. This means that effective defenses can be formulated.
The Enemy: Canines come in a bunch of different forms, from mastiffs and wolves to Chihuahuas and foxes. Although the real threat from canines comes from the larger end of the spectrum, with German Shepherds, Dobermans, and wolf dogs presenting the greatest threat I have read stories about people being attacked by feral beagles and rabid foxes. Fortunately, all canines share some similarities that can be exploited in a fight. These similarities include basic anatomy (only the proportions and size of canines differ in any real respect) and behavioral characteristics. It is these similarities that I wish to focus on as the key to victory in a confrontation.
Reasons for Conflict: One of the easiest ways to understand how to deal with a threatening situation involving a canine is to understand why canines attack. In some cases this knowledge can prevent trouble, and in others it can help to understand how the canine is likely to attack. Canines attack for a few basic reasons: territoriality, defense, training, and hunger.
Territoriality: Canines maintain large territories in the wild which are vigorously patrolled and kept free of canines of similar species that do not belong to the individual's pack or family. Domestic canines have been led to believe that an individual human is part of their pack, one of the reasons the domesticate so well, but this also means that they feel required to expel non-pack humans from their territory. Territorial ranges in domestic canines normally follow their owner's property lines, but not always. The simplest way to end a territorial confrontation is to move off the territory. If one must move across a territory then try to avoid the home area (dog's home) which will be more ferociously guarded. If an attack occurs a territorial dog is unpredictable in level of motivation. Some will be quite dangerous, while others may be scared off by a show of strength.
Defense: Canines that feel threatened may attack. Canines that feel that something they own or someone they consider to belong to their pack is threatened may also attack. The best way to avoid this is to stay clear of food and not to threaten either the canine or its owner. A canine attacking because it feels threatened will keep on attacking until it no longer feels threatened.
Training: Some dogs are trained to attack. How much damage they do and what triggers the attack differs depending on training. It is difficult to avoid being attacked by a trained dog unless you can avoid triggering an attack by identifying the trigger. A dog that is trained to attack may, if it is well trained, actually need to be crippled or killed to be stopped.
Hunger: Although the average suburbanite normally does not need to worry about this in a few areas feral dogs may decide that humans are prey. A few wild canines may also in rare cases make this judgment. Wolf dogs may also make similar decisions. Small targets like children are attractive to predators, as are people lying down or otherwise appearing smaller. Many predatory animals judge size based on height, not on bulk, so increasing height by standing may cause the canine to back off. Parents may want to remember that children are prime targets for predatation, as they may need to defend them. The best way to avoid being attacked is to avoid canines with the idea that humans can be prey. If attacked, however, there are a few things to remember. One is that dogs, coyotes, and wolves hunt in packs so be alert for other pack members. The other is that predators are very wary of being injured. An injured predator is a dead one, as it can no longer catch food. A study on the predatation of wolves on moose revealed that the best way for a moose to survive an attack was for it to stand and appear ready to fight. The threat the moose posed often caused the wolves to back down and go after a different animal. This can be used by humans facing canines as well. Running tells a canine that you think you will lose an encounter with it, as well as triggering its chase instincts. Standing and preparing to fight may prevent an attack, and even if it doesn't a hungry canine is more likely to break off an attack after being only slightly injured.
The Canine View of the Cycle of Considerations: The best way to analyze a canine as an aggressor is to use one of Kenpo's most powerful tool for logical analysis, the Cycle of Considerations. When fighting a human there is little variation on how each area of the Cycle of Considerations is treated facing a human I must face the same amount and types of weapons that I have available to me. Obviously training can change this, and the ability to regulate dimensional stages of action, and so on, but before the opponent is identified I cannot assume that they have weaknesses that I do not have, and must assume, for safety's sake, that they have the same strengths. Facing a canine is a totally different proposition. I can immediately, even before I know my particular opponent, know something about the different strengths and weaknesses they have. I know that a dog isn't going to punch me, and that I'm not going to bite a dog. So how does a canine try to control a fight?
Attitude: A canine has an edge in attitude in that years of evolution as a predator has given it sharper senses than our own. A dog can read body language, tone of voice, scent, and so on to determine our state of mind with a fair degree of accuracy. A dog does know if you are afraid. Similarly, it knows if you're not, which can give you an edge. A dog's attitude depends on what motivates it. A dog that is operating under its own motivation can be unsure about attacking, while a dog ordered to attack may be extremely confident. A canine, being a predator, is also very comfortable in a combat setting. Millions of years of evolution have wired a canine's brain for the attack, so it is unlikely to face the doubts that some humans do.
Environment: Canines really aren't bright enough to use their environment much. The most use they will regularly make of it is to use barriers to corner victims and brush or tall grass to ambush victims. Ambush is not a real threat, however, as canines are distance runners who prefer to beat prey in contests of endurance over longer distances (as opposed to cats who sprint from hiding).
Obviously, canines are incapable of wielding weapons they may run across, as they have no hands.
Dimensional Stages of Action: A canine, do to the nature of its weapons, has no real contact stage, instead it immediately hits contact penetration. Without arms, a canine has much less luck at contact manipulation.
Position: Canines prefer to either rapidly change positioning, hitting a victim with a series of strikes until the victim falls, or to engage is a tug of war over a limb with all four feet braced. Canines are pretty helpless if they fall over (although they can get back up reasonably fast), but have better inherent stability with four feet and a lower center of gravity.
Maneuver: A canine, unlike a human, has much less rear mobility than forward mobility. A human can maneuver over short distances quite fast in any direction, a canine moves much faster forward than back. Sideways motion, while difficult, is possible for a quadruped. My best example of this is a horse (which is less agile than a dog) that skipped six feet sideways under me without breaking stride at full canter. It is well to remember that a canine can move forward faster than even an Olympic runner. A canine can close the distance if it wants to, no matter how fast you run away.
Another thing to watch for is jumping. Guard dogs especially can be trained to jump and knock an opponent down. Although this opens up belly targets it is still dangerous, as it allows the dog to strike at one's neck and face.
Target: Canines generally try to knock a victim over before trying to kill it. Biting the legs is common, as is biting arms and pulling. A canine intending to bite as a warning will aim for these targets. Once the victim has fallen over the next bites are directed to vitals, mostly the neck and fleshy areas of the torso. Canines do not actually try to kill larger prey, it is a useful consequence of starting to eat them, so finishing bites may be randomly delivered to available targets until the victim becomes passive. Evisceration is a common cause of death for large ungulates attacked by canines.
Weapon: A canine uses only its teeth in an attack, although it can accidentally do damage with its claws. A canine's jaw and teeth form a very nasty multi-use weapon. It can inflict stabbing wounds with its teeth to any fleshy area, and can also use a bite to manipulate, pulling and tearing. Due to the extreme strength of a canine's neck and jaws it is very hard to directly resist a pulling attack or to force the jaws open. Canines are also hard to shake, I have seen video footage of wild dogs being lifted up and shaken by moose and zebra without letting go. These animals have more powerful muscles than humans I have seen a horse out-pull two humans with its neck, so the likelihood of a human freeing itself from a canine's grasp by shaking is slim. Stabbing wounds can easily be fatal if delivered to the neck, and some larger canines (big dogs and wolves) will use raking blows that act like slashes with a knife.
Canine's claws are duller than those of cats, but are non-retractable and therefore a constant menace. Canine claw strikes are unlikely to inflict serious damage (except to the face or groin), but may be distracting enough to allow the canine to deliver a nastier strike with its teeth.
Angle: Canines must bite at an angle where they can grasp the target. This means that arms held horizontal are easy targets, but remember that a canine is fully capable of rotating its head the 90 degrees necessary to bite anywhere. Individual angles will also differ according to the type of canine - a smaller dog will need to hit a target at a more precise angle.
Cover: Canines don't really understand covering, although a slashing attack will normally allow a canine to continue running past. Other than that it is not likely that a canine will ever cover.
Defending Against Attack: I will now go through the Cycle of Considerations again with a view towards our ability to defend. I will combine my knowledge of Kenpo with my knowledge of the canine's abilities to provide what I hope are some useful ideas.
Attitude: When facing a canine attitude is really, really important. Having attitude is also exactly the same against a canine as it is against a human, so I won't discuss that any more.
Destroying a canine's attitude is basically the same as destroying that of a human - inflict pain and damage. One other tool can be used against domestic canines, however. As discussed before, some canines may be unsure as to the wisdom of attacking a human. Yelling commands like, "No!" may be helpful in causing SOME dogs to experience doubt.
Environment: Watching for walls, trees, benches, tables, etc is just as important against a canine as it is against a human - both may attempt to back you into one of the following. Also, canines may be restricted in their use of slashing attacks when they cannot run past you.
Getting a weapon increases your odds against a canine tremendously. A stick or staff is best, as it can give you a range advantage (as well as an attitude one against some dogs who have been hit before) that a canine does not know how to deal with. A knife is also good, but I believe the extra range to be more important than the extra damage, as a canine cannot disarm you anyway, and many canines (especially the ones who attack people) are used to being bitten by other canines and will be more able to adapt to being attacked with a blade.
Dimensional Stages of Action: Canines function best at contact penetration for their teeth, so avoiding that is a good idea. Remaining out of contact for them and at contact penetration for kicking may be good, as may contact manipulation, assuming the canine's jaws can be controlled. A canine can close distance easily, so an added benefit to contact manipulation is that it forces a canine to back up, which it cannot do as well.
Position: You want to knock the canine down, because canines cannot fight effectively on the ground. You want to remain standing, because instincts will prevent most canines from trying to kill you until you fall. The regular Kenpo neutral is as excellent against canines as humans for the same reasons.
Maneuver: Canines can spin fast and run quickly as discussed before, so it may be a better idea to reserve maneuvering until the canine has started an all-out charge, at which point maneuvering is identical to maneuvering against a human opponent.
Target: (With any luck there are pictures accompanying this somewhere to help illustrate my points.) The best target, as far as I can tell, is the canine's weapon. Not only will a strike to the jaws cause tremendous damage and pain, but it will also render the canine effectively helpless to continue to attack. The jaw hinge of canines is, if anything, more vulnerable than that of humans. The arch that holds the jaw hinge in place extends further and is therefore more vulnerable to breakage, and the jaws themselves are long enough in some types of canines to be used as an effective lever to cause shattering and tooth loss (I recommend kicking the outer parts of the jaws, there's a lot of danger of being bitten trying to use one's hands). Also, the upper section of the jaws contains an intricate system of small bony sheets to support the nasal structure. This system is composed of paper-thin bones and is filled with nerve endings. A solid strike straight down on the jaws from above should shatter the bones and nasal structure, causing intense pain. It may also cause difficulty breathing as the nasal passages will be sealed and blood will begin to drip through them.
A canine's head is itself a decent target for a kick, as a canine's head is normally at or below one's waist level. A canine's throat is also a target, having no more protection than a human throat. A solid strike to the side of the neck should also be disruptive to blood flow to the brain and breathing. Aiming a kick or hand strike at the head and neck of a canine appears to be the way to go. If one enters contact manipulation with a canine the neck can be broken by grabbing the jaws and cranking back as if to make the top of the skull touch the spine. The canine's jaws should be watched when attempting this, however, or you may be bitten.
Another good target is the leg joints. Canines have thinner legs than people, and therefore have joints that are easier to break. A useful thing to remember is that canines carry more weight on their front legs than their back legs, meaning that the front legs are likely to be stronger. However, the weight distribution is such that a broken back leg will be crippling. It is probably possible to break and of a canine's legs with a powerful strike to the knee from the side or back.
A canine's back is protected by its spine (although a club or staff may be able to break that), which is pointy enough that I don't recommend trying to strike it as one might a human spine. The sides of a canine are unprotected after the rib cage, and strikes there will probably do damage comparable to the damage done by hitting a human in the kidneys or gut. The underbelly of a canine is similarly unprotected, and serious damage can be done to it.
Weapon: Man-made weapons are excellent, as are feet. Hand strikes are a little more risky when delivered to some targets, as canines can more easily bite one's hand than one's foot (especially if you are wearing shoes). Kicks have their own set of problems, namely that every large creature regularly preyed upon by canines in the wild kicks to defend itself, so canines have some (several million years) experience with dealing with kicks. Human kicks may be sufficiently different than, say, zebra kicks to mess up a canine's counter measures. All of a canine's targets, when the canine is standing normally, are in the low zone, so kicking can be quite useful for that reason. Lowercase motions are good as they are within the range at which canines function poorly and present bad targets for being bitten.
Angle: The angle to strike a dog at follows the same rules as strikes aimed at humans. It is well outside the scope of this paper to say more.
Cover: Covering is just the same against canines as against humans.
Closing Comments: I recommend that, if attacked by a canine, you first identify the reason for the attack. If it is possible to cut off the attack by removing the reason, do so. If the canine continues to attack try to stop it as it moves in by striking its head. If this fails try to enter contact manipulation and break limbs or the neck.
Obviously, there is a lot of hard data and experimentation that could go into making this paper better and improving upon its ideas. I'd like feedback to improve upon this if at all possible.