If you’ve ever been greeted by the sight of a dog with its teeth bared, ready to attack, you’ll know that it’s not easy to determine how to react. Questions will no doubt flood your startled mind. These could be, is the dog a real threat? Or, will the hound cause serious damage? But, perhaps most importantly, you will need to carefully consider what your next move should be if the dog actually attacks. Fortunately, then, former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson has the answer to this question, and his technique could mean the difference between life and death.
It’s worth noting that much of Emerson’s military career revolved around survival training. And, after his retirement from the SEALs, Emerson has continued to hone his knowledge. Luckily for us, too, the former soldier now shares his expertise with the public, mainly through his books. He also offers demonstrations on how to overcome common life-threatening scenarios.
Most of the time, though, Emerson’s training sessions cover the kinds of life-and-death situations that make headlines and instil fear in people. In his book 100 Deadly Skills, for instance, he instructs readers on how to stay safe during active shootings, hostage situations or terrorist threats on public transport. The one-time SEAL also provides handy tips on surviving in the wilderness – regardless of terrain or climate.
But in 2017 Emerson shared another valuable survival tip with Business Insider. Yes, the military man turned his attention to a scenario that can affect anyone who lives near or with dogs. So this is a more likely situation for most people to encounter when compared to, say, terrorist acts or shootings. Yet the former SEAL was actually showing the world how they can stave off canine attacks.
This is a relatively common problem, after all. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 4.7 million biting incidents involving dogs take place in the U.S. every year. That means a dog will snap at roughly one in every 69 American citizens. Yet although this sounds scary, only a small portion of the victims will require medical attention as a result. In fact, less than a fifth of cases even require doctors’ visits.
Serious bites can land a person in hospital, though, and this occurs in up to 13,000 cases each year. Canine chomps can transfer infections to the victims, too, or the bites themselves can become infected. The latter happens in 3 to 18 percent of dog-bite cases, in fact. And of that small portion, bites will sometimes cause the sufferers to develop meningitis, endocarditis or septic shock, which can result in death.
Then there are the even rarer cases in which dogs don’t just bite, they maul their victims to death. In the United States, for instance, around 30 to 50 people die from dog bites every year. And in many of these scenarios, the victims haven’t just suffered from simple bites. Instead, they’ve been ruthlessly attacked by one or more canines.
For example, on February 8, 2019, police attended dog trainer Elaine Richman’s house to perform a welfare check. This was because Richman hadn’t shown up to teach her canine-centric classes for the past two days. When the officers arrived, though, they found the 66-year-old deceased in her backyard – her face and body covered in dog bites. The cops subsequently confiscated Richman’s two Doberman Pinschers.
That same year, Melvin Olds Jr. took a shortcut through the woods in Highland County, Florida – but never made it out the other side. Later, someone discovered his body covered in upwards of 100 dog bites. Police subsequently caught six pit bulls in traps, and the dogs’ bite marks matched those on Olds Jr.
Yet although Olds may not have known the dogs that attacked him, Richman did. They were her pets, after all. And her situation isn’t actually uncommon when it comes to such gruesome attacks. So this scenario begs the question as to why companion animals would do such a thing to their owners. Well, there are potentially a number of reasons.
According to senior vet Dr. Sean Wensley – of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) – a dog could launch an attack when it feels threatened. As Wensley explained to the BBC in 2017, “The motivation for lots of dog bites is fear.” And he added that territorial dogs might also bite.
Dr. Wensley said, “Others are territorial – if they’re guarding something that they highly value, or defending their favorite resting place, their bed… or if they’ve learned to defend, say, a dog bowl – that can result in aggression.” Another expert added that the changing of the seasons could increase the likelihood of attacks, too.
Carolyn Monteith, a dog behaviorist, told the BBC that the winter holidays can actually bring out the worst in dogs. She said, “Christmas can make it worse as people ask [other] people to just stay with their dog while they pop to the shops.” Monteith also said that owners could get distracted by guests, shopping or events to the point where they don’t give their pets enough attention. This can apparently leave a dog feeling confused or bored, which can also lead to snapping.
Having more than one dog can further pose a problem for owners as well. For instance, sometimes dogs can compete with one another, causing tension between them. This can bubble over and “lead to aggression between the dogs that can potentially be directed at the owner” – according to Dr. Wensley. Therefore, remaining aware of the dynamic between dogs can save a person’s life.
A dog can also attack, the experts say, if it has suffered an overlooked injury or illness. For example, if a dog has joint pain, an owner ushering the pooch to move out of the way could unsettle the animal’s tender area. And so such a move could end with a retaliatory bite. It’s been said a dog that chomps a person might also have, say, liver disease or brain tumors – both of which can prompt unpredictable behavior.
Worryingly, though, children can apparently inadvertently cause dogs to bite them – especially when interacting with pups without an experienced adult nearby. As Dr. Wensley explained, “A small human who behaves slightly unusually, who maybe squeals and tries to cuddle them, pick them up, wave their hands… can make [the dog] quite fearful.”
Yet particular breeds of dog seem to be more likely to launch unexpected attacks. For instance, the CDC gathered data from 1979 to 1996 to see which canines were most often responsible for mauling humans. And in that 13-year period, pit bulls were reportedly behind 66 percent of all fatal attacks. This is despite the breed only making up 6.5 percent of America’s entire dog population.
Next on the CDC’s list were Rottweilers, followed by German Shepherds. Anyone familiar with dog breeds will know that these two, along with pit bulls, have reputations for strength and aggression. Surprisingly, though, the Labrador Retriever also made the CDC’s list – despite these dogs generally having warm demeanors.
Ultimately, of course, there’s more to these situations than just the dogs’ breed. Sometimes, for instance, violent owners – with criminal convictions to boot – will possess these stronger dog breeds. And their own behavior may potentially influence or otherwise explain why their dogs behave the way that they do. If this is true, it shows that there’s a case for nature versus nurture – even in animals.
When a dog bites without mauling, though, the list of the most common offenders includes many smaller breeds. For instance, the most likely to bite – according to the CDC study – would be Chihuahuas, followed by Bulldogs and pit bulls. On the same list, you’ll also find Lhasa Apsos, Jack Russell Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Pekingeses and Papillons – none of which are standard-sized.
But former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson is more concerned with dogs that launch deadly attacks. And as we mentioned, his military training has armed him with a slew of survival skills that he often shares with others. His published books in fact include 100 Deadly Skills: The Seal Operative’s Guide and Escape the Wolf: Risk Mitigation.
Emerson shared his inspiration for writing the latter book with Sofrep.com. He explained in 2015, “My motivators were bad guys – lone wolves – inspired terrorists and hackers. I want good people to be more offensive, more violent, and take more ownership of their personal security.” And the action man claims that most people aren’t prepared for threats to their safety in this day and age.
Emerson said, “When people hear the word survival, thoughts of sparking flint to make fire, building shelters from tree limbs and fishing with shoelaces pop into mind. These are great skills, but they do not match the skills needed to survive current threats… Survival skills for today include cyber threat awareness, active-shooter response, civil unrest and violent action against terrorists.”
And although Emerson tackles these topics in his book, the former SEAL still had a general warning for everyone. He implored the public: “Stop being so complacent. Yes, it’s human nature to become complacent because we fall victim to routine.” Instead, Emerson suggested, people need to “make security a habit.” One of the ways to do this is by being prepared for something as unexpected as a dog attack.
Firstly, though, it’s not always clear when a dog is going to lunge towards you. For while dogs sometimes exhibit the tell-tale signs of impending aggression – bared teeth; snarling – other times dogs might just produce very subtle changes, such as sudden boosts in bodily tension.
In any case, what happens next could be a life-threatening attack. But, fortunately for us, Emerson has come up with his own set of survival tips for such a terrifying ordeal. And he shared them with the world in a 2017 video produced by Business Insider. And, according to the survival expert, the first thing to do is to simply use what’s at your disposal.
Yes, Emerson advises that you chuck any sort of distraction you have in the dog’s direction. He says, “Guard yourself. Take your shirt, your jacket, whatever you have, maybe even a messenger bag or purse. Give that dog something to go after so that it’s not going after any other vital areas of your body.”
Next, the action man says that you should protect your body’s most vulnerable areas, which the angry dog will likely target. He suggests, for instance, wrapping your shirt around your forearm if “you’re going to give a dog your arm [a punch].” In this scenario, the cloth could provide added protection to the forearm’s ulna and radius bones – through which major arteries flow.
Emerson adds that you should present your hand to the dog palm side in too. Otherwise, he says, you’ll be giving the angry animal access to the side where those precious arteries flow – putting yourself in danger. Next, the Navy SEAL advises that you go on the offensive and launch an attack of your own on the dog.
In fact, the former SEAL says you should “punch [the dog] in the nose, in the muzzle.” The reason for such a move? “The nose and the muzzle [are] going to be right there front and center. It’s a big target,” Emerson explains. You can go for other areas, then, but they won’t be as easy to pinpoint in the heat of the moment.
As Emerson explains, “You can go for the eyes and some other areas of the body, but the reality is those are small targets. You want to go for big targets.” He notes that as you deal with the attack, you will be highly stressed – and honing in on an attacking dog’s eyes, for example, probably won’t work.
The action man adds, “When you’re under stress, gross motor skills are about the only thing that are going to work. So that means big movements by you to big targets on the dog. Anything else, you’ll probably miss and give the dog an advantage.” So he advises punching the pooch in the muzzle – or kicking it.
Yet Emerson urges people watching the Business Insider video to kick the attacking dog either near its ribcage or beneath its front two legs. Targeting these areas could end the dog attack, he says, because the animal is “very sensitive under their armpits, just like it is [for] us.” And with that, he has a final conclusion.
Yes, Emerson wraps up by reminding viewers that a dog attack could become a fight for their lives. He says, “If you’re going to fight, fight with a vengeance – and try and make that dog understand you are the alpha.” With those tips, then, the former SEAL hopes to give potential victims a chance to overcome such a harrowing ordeal.
Many of those who viewed Emerson’s advice on YouTube agreed with the military man’s advice, too. For example, one described how one of Emerson’s defense techniques had worked for them in the past. They wrote, “I was attacked by a street dog once. Kicked his nose with my boots. That sucker ran away. It was an unconscious reaction.”
Another person shared a similar sentiment. They wrote, “Good advice. I was once attacked by a dog who came running up from behind to bite me. I swung around at the last second and delivered a round-house hay-maker just as he lunged at me, deflecting him. I then took a defensive stance with my arms spread wide, directly facing him. He was stunned, paused for a few seconds, then retreated to his yard.”
Of course, there are more ways to prevent dog attacks – responsible pet ownership being perhaps the main one. And as many would attest, it all starts when the animals are puppies. Because pets that haven’t been properly socialized often develop the fears that potentially prompt them to become aggressive.
In fact, Dr. Wensley explained this to the BBC in more detail. The senior veterinary surgeon said, “A problem we see is when young puppies aren’t exposed to everyday sights and sounds. Perhaps they’ve been reared on a puppy farm in the middle of nowhere, or in a very rural location, and then someone buys them off the internet.”
So once that puppy arrives in a bustling city or a suburban environment, that rural serenity disappears – and causes problems. Dr. Wensley said, “They’re taken to an urban family environment and expected to understand the world they find themselves in. They can be extremely anxious and fearful – and that will manifest as aggression.”
Spending time socializing in a slew of different environments can therefore reduce this fear in puppies, preventing it happening in adult dogs. Experts also suggest that owners train their dogs early to clamp down on future aggression. So with the right treatment, apparently, pets will be the gentle companions we seek. And, if you ever cross paths with one who is particularly aggressive, you now know how to protect yourself.
It’s certainly worth bearing in mind the Navy SEAL’s advice – and not just about dog attacks. For instance, in March 2019 Arne Murke set off sailing with his brother off the coast of New Zealand – when disaster struck. The German was knocked overboard, in fact, and began fighting the rough waters raging around him. But when his thoughts turned to his young daughter, the struggling man knew that he couldn’t give up. Then Murke suddenly remembered a Navy SEAL’s trick that could possibly save his life.
This potentially fatal situation came about because Murke at the time was on a working vacation in New Zealand with his brother, Helge. And after the pair had spent some time working vineyards in the area, they discovered that there was another job the brothers had to do.
You see, part of the reason for the visit to New Zealand was for Murke and his brother to collect a yacht. The siblings had in fact been authorized to deliver the vessel, named Wahoo, to Brazil from its mooring in Auckland. But soon after the brothers set sail, their trip took a disastrous turn for the worse.
The Murkes were actually sailing south along the coast of New Zealand at around 2:00 p.m. But conditions were tricky; the ocean was rough, sending huge waves lashing at the yacht. A mainsheet onboard had then reportedly come loose, causing the boom to suddenly rotate and push Murke over the side of the vessel.
And as Murke fell from the boat, his arm apparently became entangled in a length of rope. Then, unable to free himself, the 30-year-old was towed alongside the vessel, the raging water surging around him. Yet if that weren’t already terrifying enough, the German was no doubt all too aware that he wasn’t wearing life preserver.
New Zealand’s Herald On Sunday later reported that Murke was then pulled beside the yacht for a couple of seconds. Fortunately for Murke, though, the force of the water seemingly helped to loosen the rope around his arm. So then the drowning man suddenly found himself adrift in the ocean in just the clothes that he had on his back.
Helge, who had seen what had happened, instantly sprung into action too. Yet although he tried to reach his brother, the conditions were apparently just too rough. So by the time Helge tried to deploy a rescue device, the current had already dragged Murke too far out. Helge therefore simply couldn’t get to his sibling to provide help.
The Herald On Sunday also related how Helge in fact attempted to save his drowning brother himself. But as Murke was apparently already engulfed in a ten-foot swell, he proved impossible to reach. And then, to make a dire situation even worse, the yacht’s motor seemingly burst.
Murke, then, was in big trouble: the waters were rough; his brother couldn’t reach him. And with the yacht now immobile due to a mechanical failure, the German was on his own. What’s more, he had no dinghy or lifeline to help keep him afloat, so the stricken sailor was in danger of becoming lost at sea.
Realizing that time was of the essence, however, Murke reportedly quickly came up with a plan. Amazingly, and with the situation working against him, a technique that Murke had once seen used by Navy SEALs suddenly popped into his mind. So the 30-year-old knew exactly what he needed to do to stay alive.
The trick that Murke recalled actually involves a pair of jeans, which, despite the absence of safety clothing, Murke was indeed wearing that day. And it’s a method that the German firmly believes saved his life. So what was the technique that the 30-year-old had remembered from all those years ago?
Well, it seems that jeans, with the clever use of knots in strategic places, can transform into flotation devices. “Luckily, I knew the trick with the jeans,” Murke explained to the Herald On Sunday in March 2019. “Without the jeans, I wouldn’t be here today; they were really the thing that saved me.”
“I saw it many years ago, and I always thought if I ever go overboard without a life jacket I’m going to do that,” Murke recalled. It’s lucky, then, that he remembered the approach with such great clarity. It’s luckier still, perhaps, that he was also able to execute it in such tricky conditions.
As Murke further described, “I took a deep breath, took [off] my jeans, made knots at the end of the legs and inflated the jeans. [I did this by pulling them out of the] water [to] get air inside and then push[ing them] under water. I had like an improvised life vest.” Talk about quick thinking…
So Murke did indeed now have a makeshift flotation aide to help keep him from plunging below the water. His problems, however, were far from solved. The sea was still rough, you see, and conditions were tricky. So, with no flares and his brother unable to reach him due to an immobilized yacht, how would the 30-year-old be found?
As Murke recalled, “The water was breaking over me, and it was getting cold. My legs started to shake. I needed to re-inflate the jeans because they lost a little bit of air; they were twisted somehow.” It’s clear, then, that despite his homemade buoy providing some assistance, the German still had a tough battle for survival ahead.
“I was quite exhausted so I went under,” Murke later explained. “But I couldn’t use my arms [to help stay afloat] because I didn’t want to lose my jeans.” But when he started to struggle in the water, Murke’s thoughts turned to the one thing that he knew would keep him going. Something very important indeed.
“I was under water, and I just thought… Do it for your daughter,” Murke further recalled. The German, you see, had been working in New Zealand to raise funds to support his little girl, a 10-month-old who lives in the Philippines with his partner. The yacht trip, then, was to provide for his family.
As Murke described, “While I was in the water, I was just thinking, ‘I can’t leave my daughter without a father.’ That was the biggest motivation.” So, with the idea of his daughter becoming fatherless spurring him on, the 30-year-old was not about to give up without a fight.
It was this train of thought, in fact, that forced Murke to gather a second wind. He later said, “I managed to somehow get the jeans right and floated again. That was one moment where I really thought I might die if I don’t give all my energy.”
All in all, then, Murke was at sea for around three and a half hours that afternoon. Search and rescue had, thankfully, been deployed pretty swiftly. And a chopper from Hawke’s Bay Rescue finally spotted Murke during their hunt for the German. Or, more accurately, the stricken sailor spotted the helicopter that was looking for him.
“Two times [the chopper] was really close to me, but they didn’t see me and flew away,” Murke recalled. “At that moment, I was really doubting if they were going to come back for me.” The ocean is vast, after all, and the German had no means of alerting his rescuers to his location.
Fortunately, however, the chopper soon returned. As Murke described, “It took another 20 minutes, but, luckily, I could see the helicopter again. They let down the rope, and I was so glad.” So the German was at last safe, and it was in a large part thanks to his improvised flotation device. So how, exactly, did this trick work?
Before going on, however, it’s worth noting that it is, of course, best to avoid situations where you may be in danger of becoming immersed in water without safety equipment. But if the unfortunate ever does occur and you happen to plunge into the sea, a river or lake with nothing but the clothes on your back, you might now be grateful for those garments.
It’s certainly useful, then, to know how to survive falling overboard without a life jacket, just as Murke did. And the pair of pants you’re wearing could actually be key to saving your life if you’re castaway with no sign of help. A simple pair of jeans, in fact, can seemingly be the difference between life and death.
There are, however, several variations of the Navy SEALs’ technique of converting a pair of jeans into a flotation device. Yet they all follow the same basic principles, and all produce the same result. The process is therefore highly adaptable to whichever situation you may find yourself in.
But perhaps the most important thing to remember is to try to stay calm. That will help you to focus on what you intend to do and how you will manoeuvre in the water to refashion your garments. So when you are calm and focused, begin by treading water and continue to do so throughout the process. This movement frees up your arms and keeps you afloat while you work.
The next thing you need to do is, of course, remove your shoes. Whatever shoes you happen to be wearing will in fact hinder your movement or possibly even drag you under, which is the last thing you need in such a situation. And besides, removing them will make it easier for you to take off your pants.
When your pants are off, then, bind the legs together so that they can trap air. The best method is to simply tie the pant legs to each other with a basic double knot. That is, cross the bottom of the jean legs over and pass one leg through the loop, then repeat with the slack above the first knot. Make sure it’s good and tight too.
Once the legs are tied together, close the waist of the jeans or pants. So fasten the zipper and slip the button through the button hole. This will give the air less opportunity to escape the jeans once the legs are full. There are then several ways to inflate the jeans, and each method works well.
The first way to get air into the jeans is what the SEALs apparently call the “overhead” technique. So, leading with the waist band, the jeans are whipped over the head, back to front, to fill the tied-off pants with air. This method reportedly uses the least energy, which is better utilized in other ways.
A second way to fill the jeans or pants with air is what is known as the “splash” method. So, by holding the waist of the pants at the surface of the water, air can be manually pushed into the tied-off garment, inflating the makeshift flotation aide. This techinique uses more energy than the overhead version, of course, but it can be equally as effective.
The final way to inflate the improvised life buoy is by simply blowing air into it. So take a deep breath, duck under the water and inflate the garment as if you were blowing up a balloon. This method is perhaps the most useful for everyone to remember, as it can also be deployed if your flotation device begins to lose air at any point.
Regardless of which method of inflation you choose, though, once the jeans are full of air they are then placed around the head, with each leg wrapped around the neck and the knot placed behind the head. The waist of the pants can then be clutched to the body with your arms to keep the makeshift life jacket full of air.
The principle here is that the air trapped in the garment will float on the water. This, in turn, removes the need for you to expend too much energy staying above the surface until help arrives. And remember, by utilizing the third method of inflation, the air can be topped up if necessary by blowing into the jeans.
Other garments, too, can be employed in the same way. In the absence of, or indeed in addition to, a pair of jeans or pants, a shirt will work just as well. The shirt can, for example, be taken off and tied at the sleeves and neck before being inflated and knotted at the bottom.
You may well have other clothes or accessories that could also double as flotation aides. A sun dress, for example, or a tank top. With the right fastening, in fact, even a canvas bag can turn into a makeshift buoy. It’s actually possible that any items of clothing that can be tied off and inflated will help. Just pray you didn’t opt for shorts that day.
Other practical advice includes jettisoning any objects about your person that might weigh you down. And if you can attach yourself to the makeshift buoys using shoe laces or belts then definitely do so. If you also happen to be wearing bright colors, then be aware that you already have a flag to draw attention.
It was lucky, then, that Murke knew this Navy SEALs technique. Without it, in fact, he may not have made it back alive. “I really want to thank everyone who was involved in the search and rescue operation,” the German told the Herald On Sunday. “They did an excellent job, and I’m very thankful.”
After the ordeal, though, Murke was forced to remain in New Zealand because the yacht Wahoo was deemed to be infested with a marine pest. Nevertheless, his life-threatening experience hasn’t put him off sailing again in the future. He said, “I know the risk, but I’m not scared of it. I’m just going to be super careful in the future.”