At first this might be seen a silly title for an article. A dog can be big enough to take on your average male attacker. Even a terrier can make noise and be a distraction when an attack takes place. Another advantage of walking with a dog, my dog is especially good at this, is letting you know about people behind you or out of your sight.
The cases I read and write about indicate that we are wrong to take a sense of safety from having a pet dog walking beside us. I think that it is this reliance on our faithful friend that can mean we take more chances. The threat level can go up because of where we walk them and they offer very little protection.
Is walking a dog more dangerous for women than walking alone? I would answer probably. See what you think of my points to support this.
The Murders of Dog Walking Women in the UK
This week I have looked at the cases of Kate Bushell, Lynn Bryant , Julia Webb. I also wrote about the case of Helen Fleet at another time. All these poor women are subject of unsolved murder enquiries. When I looked online I saw the case of Anne Nicoll. This lady shared care of a dog with her father. At 6.30pm on 2nd August 2002 she was walking the dog in a parkland area of Dundee.
In some dense undergrowth she saw fifteen year old Robbie McIntosh. He was smoking a joint. This 34 year old civil servant knew him. For some reason she apparently told McIntosh she would tell his mother of his drug use.
His response to this was to stab her 29 times. McIntosh was caught easily because he was brutal, evil and more importantly stupid. He gave himself away and DNA did the rest. People from the neighbourhood had said he had the potential for violence early on. I presume that Ms Nicoll knew at least of his potential.
This lady was in this parkland confronting him. It should be said we only have McIntosh’s word that she threatened to expose his drug use. After all he killed Ms Nicoll and other than her dog there was nobody around. Possibly it was just an excuse. McIntosh is said to have had an interest in violent sexual assault toward children. Not adults granted, but nonetheless he was a deviant from early on.
Ms Nicoll was walking not far from her father’s home in Dundee. The area she was walking in is called the Dundee Law. It has allotments ( small gardens) around it. It has trees and a path up to a hill. Her body was found by her boyfriend only about 100 metres from the entrance to the area. In one respect it was not as isolated as many of these dog walking victims. It is however a place that will be quiet and away from dense habitation. It will have restricted view. It will have areas that people can hide in.
Then here is a picture from Google about 100 yards/metres up the path and where Ms Nicoll was as I understand it.
If you look at the locations of the other dog walker murders you will see a similarity of location. In the case of the Devon, Cheshire and Cornwall killings the areas are even more isolated.
Take the dog away from the scenario. Would Ms Nicoll have walked there alone? Similarly if you look at the other cases would any of the victims been where they were killed? You might well say ‘ Maybe’
I say that dog walking probably puts women at more risk because they would often not have even been in these isolated areas in the first place. I further say they wouldn’t probably have been alone. A dog offers more than just an illusion of safety, it offers company. I walk alone but it is much more pleasant with someone else. When you walk with a dog it gives a level of the same thing. You can chat to the dog, you are distracted by the dog.
Women Have the Right to Walk Safely
I am painfully aware of how my point about safety might be taken. Especially in this time in the UK. Women are not to blame for being attacked in an isolated place. They are not to blame if they confront someone’s anti social behaviour and are then attacked. I totally support a woman’s right to go where they want, when they want and have the right to be safe from attack.
Having the right and then expecting the like of McIntosh to respect that is sadly delusional. I have the right to walk anywhere and be safe but I acknowledge that I cannot expect people to always respect that right. I am a big guy with a history of dealing with violent threat successfully and yet I weigh up the risks of situations. I am adapting to that more as I get older.
The Myth of Dog Protection
A dog will normally run away if a bigger dog goes for it. To almost all breeds of dog an adult male is a bigger dog. I love my dogs. They are little dogs. Not tiny breeds. One is a Jack Russell the other is a Bedlington Terrier. Neither weighs more than about 20 pounds ( 10 kilos). The Bedlington was a working, ratting dog. She has a prey drive like a freight train out of control. She warns me of not just people that walk behind but any person she sees. She is fearless when it comes to other dogs. She is a junkyard dog mentality in a small frame. For all that she would be no use against an adult male that I could not handle.
Take a bigger dog like an Alsatian. Now I have had issues with rogue Alsatians. I have had issues with Rottweilers and Dobermans. Even on their home ground they will spook and hide in the face of aggression that shows them no fear. Of course there are specially trained animals that will not back down. There are breeds and individual dogs that naturally will not back down. Just don’t count on all dogs fearlessly defending you.
Not Everyone is Scared of Dogs
From dealing with criminals and matching that to my own experience plenty of people are not scared of dogs. Many people will take no notice of anyone’s right to be safe. Get an offender who has both traits and a desire to hurt you…There is no better target than a dog walker in an isolated place.
The main problem I see though is that the idea of protection actually creates more likelihood of being in a place where it is easier for an offender. Our attitude to the animal is also a factor. We might have a big guard breed dog, however, we have often spent time pacifying that dog. We want the guard instinct for sure yet we also want a dog that is good with visitors and children.
A vicious capable dog is the answer to this issue in many respects. That sort of dog would probably put off all but the most determined attacker. Most attackers would doubtless let you go unmolested and pick on someone else. The reality is that that sort of dog is unlikely to be out and about though because it is unmanageable.
Footnote to Robbie McIntosh the Dundee Killer
McIntosh did the minimum fifteen years that was his sentence for killing Ms Nicolls. In fine modern tradition he was out on licence by August 2017. He attacked another woman who was walking her dog. Linda McDonald was in Templeton Woods, Dundee when he walked past her. She may have sensed something because she stopped and started to turn. McIntosh launched the attack with a dumbbell.
Ms McDonald survived but suffered serious injuries. Unlike Ms Nicolls’ murder other people heard the attack and came to her aid. Templeton Woods is just two miles or so from Dundee Law. Later it was acknowledged that there had been failures in assessing McIntosh’s danger to society.
It is notable that McIntosh chose a lone female dog walker again. Possibly this is his fixation. It was also August. From what I can gather it was earlier in the day and obviously he used a different weapon. As in the case of Julia Webb in 1998, a heavy implement was used to incapacitate and kill. He did drag Ms McDonald off the path into the undergrowth and in the account I read she said her upper clothing had been removed. If it had not been for two admirable passers-by who knows what would have happened.
The amount of people who walk a dog in rural or isolated settings each day must be huge. The amount of serious attacks on women who are walking a dog is very small. It might well be statistically that a woman is more likely to be hit by lightening than be attacked while exercising the family hound. It just bothers me that it might be the case that expectation is high among people that the dog will prevent an attack. If I am right maybe the awful cases that I have read should be highlighted.
What do you think? Should people be warned about the realities of the amount of protection a dog would give them?