Taking your dog out for a walk in your neighborhood, park or trail is supposed to be the time you spend with your dog enjoying yourselves and the outdoors. Most of the time, that is the case but there are certainly times when you and your pup may be approached by an unleashed dog. Depending on the circumstance, this can be a very stressful or dangerous situation.
As a dog walker & dog trainer in Toms River, we are often asked what to do in this type of situation. While it really depends on the way the off-leash dog approaches, it also depends on how you and your dog react.
Here are a few things to remember before we delve into the answer:
- Know that it is OK to protect yourself and your dog.
- You just need to do so in a calm manner so you don’t instigate any negative reaction from either dog. Your tone should be low and slow, not fast and high pitch. Your motions should be calm and have a meaning, not arms flailing around willy nilly.
- Loose leash – make sure you don’t draw back on your dog’s leash and cause there to be tension. A tight leash can put your dog on the defense and create a chain reaction for the worse.
- Look around – if you see the owner, nicely ask them to call their dog & put a leash on them.
So, what do you do if you’re approached by an off-leash dog? Here are some suggestions that will help you guide you:
- Redirect them – breaking their forward motion thoughts by telling them to “SIT” or throwing yummy treats in front or behind them, may give you enough time for their owners to come and leash them or for you to ensure your dog is safe.
- Body Block – Lift your chest and make yourself tall with your shoulders wide apart. Keeping your hands at your side bow out your elbows a bit to increase your size visually. While facing the approaching dog, put yourself in between the loose dog and your dog. As the loose dog tries to skirt around you, with smooth motion keep positioning yourself in between the dogs. Growling the word “no” will help to send the message home that you are not to be messed with. Do not turn your back on the approaching dog.
- Sticks – I know some dog walkers who bring walking sticks, fire pokers or umbrellas with them on walks. The sticks can be smacked on the ground to make a loud, distracting noise. Umbrellas can be opened in the direction of the approaching dog to startle them.
- Air Horn – A few short blasts of an air horn may also startle the dog and send them back where they came from.
- Spays – You may want to carry a citronella spray with you on walks to utilize as a backup. We don’t recommend pepper spray because it can cause the dog to become aggressive and if the wind blows back at you, now you and your dog are compromised. Just make sure anything you carry with you is easy to access but doesn’t prohibit you from having free use of your arms and hands during your walk.
- Small dogs – Picking up small dogs may be an option however it prevents you from making yourself bigger and exhibits very strong body language. Drawing your arms upward can provoke another dog to jump at us and it also puts you in danger should your efforts not dismay the approaching dog and he/she attacks the dog in your arms. If all else fails, pick the small dog up and look for a safe place for it – may be on top of a car or a nearby fenced in yard.
We hope you never need to use the suggestions in this article, but it is always better to be educated and prepared in case you are faced with a loose dog approaching you.