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Notes & Queries: How can you avoid being bitten by a menacing dog?


Plus: Was Neil Armstrong the greatest explorer? Are shiny supermarket apples any good? What are those dark satanic mills really about?

How best to avoid being bitten by a menacing dog?

Dogs always think that they live in a pack, and normally all you have to do to subdue a (psychologically undamaged) animal is to assert convincingly that you stand higher in the hierarchy than he does. If baring your teeth, snapping and barking loudly is beyond you, any gadget shop will sell an ultrasonic device that will bark very loudly on your behalf, at a pitch conveniently beyond human, but not canine, hearing. I've seen such an instrument work astonishingly well on a Greek village dog: dog to hangdog in a second.

Andrew Coulson, Musselburgh, E Lothian

Resist the temptation to lean forward and make propitiatory noises like "Good dog" or "Nice boy". Stand stock-still and look away – some breeds see eye-contact as threatening.

Helena Newton, Ilford

Short of carrying a gun, the best way to avoid being bitten by a menacing dog is to remain still and outwardly calm. Keep your hands well up out of the way (perhaps put them in your pockets), and do not make eye contact. Do not shout. It's best not to speak at all, but if you must speak, keep your tone neutral and quiet. Do not threaten the dog with anything you are holding, or wave anything about. Most dog aggression is caused by fear, and an aggressive dog may have been hit numerous times in its short life, so it will interpret any object such as a newspaper being waved about as a threat. Move away from the dog slowly – usually back the way you came is best, in case the dog imagines it is protecting something ahead of you. Move slowly – you do not want to trip or fall; if you are going to be bitten, you want it to be on your legs rather than your face or neck.


The late Neil Armstrong's voyage of discovery was the longest in history. Does that make him the greatest explorer ever? If not, who is?

With the very greatest respect to Neil Armstrong, he only went slightly further than Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, the Apollo 8 crew who were the first people to orbit the moon and return. In terms of how much further they had travelled than anyone before them, surely they have to take the plaudits as greatest explorers ever.

Not that this should take anything away from Armstrong's monumental achievement, particularly his cool-headedness in safely landing the lunar module in difficult conditions, and his modesty about the whole enterprise. He will for ever be a hero – but so should the rest of the Apollo astronauts, and the scientists and engineers who backed them up.

Paul Varley, Swansea

Agreed. Now, if we relaunched the space programme (N&Q, 30 August) who would be the first people we should send off into space?

Nigel Grinter, Buffalo Grove, Illinois, US

Is a shiny, spherical, bland supermarket apple just as good for us as a mottled, lumpy, tasty one?

Shiny? Sounds like chemicals used to clean, polish and preserve – can't be good. Spherical? Sounds like genetic engineering – can't be good. Bland? Sounds like it didn't get enough nutrients to become tasty, just enough to become good-looking – can't be good. Supermarket? They aren't good for anyone, unless you are a shareholder, or even better, an executive. No, you're definitely better off with the mottled, lumpy, tasty one.

Henry Richards, London

William Blake was a radical Christian, so his dark satanic mills were not the factories of the industrial revolution but the orthodox churches of the establishment. Is this true?

Our subversive English master (a keen atheist) told us the whole poem was about fornication, and that the dark satanic mills were a metaphor for women's breasts. I am unable to think of anything else when this hymn is wheeled out at weddings and funerals.

Charlotte Hofton, Ryde, Isle of Wight

Any answers?

Assuming the skeleton under the Leicester car park is Richard III, were he alive today would he qualify for the equestrian Paralympics team? How difficult would his condition have made riding into battle?

David Nowell, New Barnet, Herts

What do couples who have been together a long time talk about when they go on holiday together?

Pam Laurance, London NW10

• Post questions and answers below or email them to nq@guardian.co.uk. Please include name, address and phone number.

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