The Hammer

Why Dogs Attack Us and How to Prevent It

Non-Fiction - Animals
242 Pages
Reviewed on 12/03/2017
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

If you decide to read The Hammer: Why Dogs Attack Us and How to Prevent It by Bryan Bailey, here’s some advice:

1) Keep a pen and paper beside you at all times to make notes.
2) Suspend all your warm, fuzzy feelings for dogs in general, and especially about that four-legged buddy of yours who devotedly follows you everywhere, curls up in bed beside you every night, or cutely begs to be picked up the minute you sit down.

Bryan Bailey is about to turn your beliefs that the handsome German Shepherd you trust will protect you, or that your sweet little Yorkie you love to cuddle would never bite you, let alone kill you. And he chooses to do that by shocking you with several heartbreaking stories about folks whose lives were ended or shattered by The Hammer…an aptly chosen word to describe the swiftness of a deadly dog attack. These moving stories, including a very frightening one of Bailey’s own which prompted the writing of this book, are shared before the author expounds on and explains what and why the attacks happened. These stories, and Bailey’s explanations, are the author’s plea to dog lovers to wake up: man’s best friend can very suddenly become his worst enemy.

At the beginning of The Hammer: Why Dogs Attack Us and How to Prevent It, the author lists many pages of names and dates for victims of a fatal dog attack. As he tells us, “Since 2005, over 400 Americans have been killed by dogs, and each year, nearly 4.5 million suffer from bites that require emergency room visits.” He cites many other statistics and when you read the stories and his explanations, the staggering numbers make sense, but are far from comforting. But Bailey’s purpose isn’t just to frighten readers into awareness that beloved Fido’s aggressive tendencies are generic, dating back to his ancestors, wolves. He tried to do that in his previous excellent book, Embracing the Wild in Your Dog. If you read that, as I did, and didn’t come away more convinced you could be attacked by your pet, perhaps The Hammer will hit you over the head with its horrible realities. But, more importantly, what you will take away from this book is enlightenment, knowledge pet owners need to protect themselves, their children and anyone else who might suddenly find themselves faced with your pet’s sudden aggression:

Step 1: NEVER assume a dog will allow you to take anything from it without a fight.

Step 2: ALWAYS walk away from the fight.

Step 3: NEVER assume that you will win the fight.

Sage advice. Following the devastating story of a little girl killed by her grandma’s dog when she fell off her grannie’s lap to retrieve a bit of cheese, an attack which the grandmother herself survived but might not have as she desperately tried to save the child, Bailey states: “Dogs are clueless of our good intentions whenever we try to take something harmful away from them that they wish to eat.

Bailey will remind you of the folly of thinking that only big dogs can kill you: “Of the 74 dog bite fatalities that occurred in the U.S. between 1966-1980, two of the dogs involved were a Dachshund and a Yorkshire terrier.” Surprised? You will be surprised, shocked, disturbed by everything Bailey shares in this very important book. But if you keep your mind open and make notes on The Hammer as you read, you are more likely to remember his advice the next time your pet growls or turns lifeless, staring eyes on you, or your grandchild, or a friend: a hammer-like attack from that pet might be imminent. The life you save by reading this book could be your own, or that of someone you love dearly.

Edith Wairimu

Many people remain uninformed if not oblivious to the possibility of dog attacks on humans, including their owners, yet statistics disclose a perturbing number of attacks on individuals carried out by dogs. In the book The Hammer: Why Dogs Attack Us and How to Prevent It by Bryan Bailey, Bailey covers the uncomfortable yet very vital topic of why dogs attack people. He investigates and explains the relationship between a dog’s biology and its behavior, closely relating it to its ancestor, the wolf. He also includes the reasons that dogs attack humans as defined by their biology. Interestingly, the author distinguishes between the human romantic concepts of responsive or reactive love with a dog’s revolutionary rule of MINE. Further, Bryan Bailey explains what competitive aggression entails and the stages that comprise it.

The aspect that attracted me the most in selecting The Hammer: Why Dogs Attack Us and How to Prevent It by Bryan Bailey was that the book covers an area of concern, even if is unpopular. There are many cases of dog attacks that I have come across, and I felt that I needed a sufficient explanation as to why these attacks occur and how to prevent them. I soon realized that I could not have picked a better book on the topic. Bryan Bailey’s experience clearly radiates from his book. Bailey breaks down aggression into territorial, self-defense and competitive components, and explains how anyone can avoid or prevent an attack in each case. By the end of reading the book, I was well equipped with important knowledge on dog behavior and skills important in preventing possible aggression, and the steps I can take to survive an attack.

Patricia Reding

I can’t begin to tell you how positively delighted I was to find The Hammer: Why Dogs Attack Us and How to Prevent It by Bryan Bailey available for review. Having read his first work, Embracing the Wild in Your Dog, and also having a daughter who is a dog trainer (and with my own dog, and two more that I am “dog sitting” for the day in the room here next to me as I write this), I’ve been looking forward to the publication of The Hammer for some time. As anticipated, I was not in the least disappointed.

Bryan Bailey opens The Hammer with a list of victims of canine aggression, including the date, name, and age of the person who died as a result of a dog attack. The list goes on . . . and on . . . and on. At first I found myself just flipping through this part, but then I went back and took another look, as I trusted that the information was included for an important reason. The names of those from infants (many only 2 and 3 days old) and toddlers to the very old (a number over 90 years, and one at 96) are included. Of course, the natural question is: why? Why all the attacks? What is the cause of the aggression? And the most important question of all: what can be done to stop this? The author opens with some general statistics about dog attacks, and the cost of them from an economic perspective, but as his concern is for you—for people—he quickly turns to explaining, with the use of real life stories, how and why such attacks occur. Bailey discusses what can be done to stop, or at least to try to minimize, the number of attacks. Finally, he offers advice in the event one must ever defend him/herself in an attack (as he once found he had to do while out for a stroll). By providing all dog owners (and trainers) with critical information about the base nature of the “domesticated dog” and its connection and likeness to its ancestor, the wolf, Bryan Bailey is factual, practical, and hopeful.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to every dog owner, any person who ever comes into contact with the pets of another (which is pretty much everyone, right?), and to all trainers. The author’s primary goal is to keep others from being intentionally blind—willfully ignorant. Our believing something to be so doesn’t make it so, but neither does our refusing to believe that something is so make it false. Bryan Bailey urges us all to dispense with what he calls “romantic notions” about dogs, and to begin to have a genuine appreciation for the fact that they are not human, they do not think or feel in the same way as humans, and that they can attack “regardless of any amount of benevolence or love provided” when the conditions for an attack are in place. Please, do yourself a favor, whether you own a dog or not. Do your family—especially your children—your friends and your community a favor if you are a dog owner. Pick up a copy of The Hammer and read it. Cover to cover. Go in with an open mind and you’re sure to exit with an enlightened one.

Romuald Dzemo

The Hammer: Why Dogs Attack Us and How to Prevent It by Bryan Bailey is a nonfiction book that I won’t hesitate to call the psychology of dogs. Well-researched and brilliantly presented, this book starts with a startling observation: “Since 2005, over 400 Americans have been killed by dogs, and each year, nearly 4.5 million suffer from bites that require emergency room visits.” The author moves on quickly to illustrate our blind ignorance regarding the nature of dogs which can lead to dog bites. In this book, the author explores important reasons that dogs — considered for many centuries to be man’s best and loyal friend — can act aggressively at times. Bringing into the work stories from other experts, interviews from victims of dog bites and his personal experience, the author explains why dogs can get aggressive, offers insightful tips and best training skills, and what to do and hope for when dealing with dogs.

Bryan Bailey doesn’t just come across as a dog expert, he proves that he is one, and readers will appreciate the meticulousness of the research, the sharp wit, and the intelligence that guides his words. I am not a dog lover, but this book surely gives me reason to look at dogs differently. I have had two dog bites and have hated a neighbor for keeping a dog they can’t control, but after reading this book, I have gone over to a neighbor for an interesting discussion on dogs. This is the best thing I have ever read about dogs and you don’t need to own one to read this book. If you plan on buying a dog, start with The Hammer: Why Dogs Attack Us and How to Prevent It. The book feels like a walk through a community of dog lovers and their loyal dogs, alongside a master who lays bare the secrets of the hearts of these lovely companions. You’ll love the crispness in the narrative, the excellent phraseology and the awesome message of the book. This book has everything you want and need to know about dogs.