When walking your dog, most people imagine a tranquil and carefree stroll through the neighborhood. Unfortunately, this scenario isn’t always the case. Not everyone follows the leash laws and understands dog behavior. Even if your dog is very well behaved, not every dog is. Life is unpredictable and loose dogs are more common than you think. This example is one of the most common off-leash scenario people find themselves in. You are walking your dog, an owner is playing off-leash with their dog and the off-leash dog ignores the owner’s commands and runs to greet your dog. Most of the time the off-leash dog is friendly and the meeting goes well and nothing happens. But how can you tell if the other dog is friendly? What if your dog isn’t friendly with other dogs? How do you prevent a possible fight? Here are a few tips in how to handle an unknown approaching dog.
One good rule of thumb to know if the approaching dog is friendly or not is to observe how the dog is moving toward you. If the body is wiggly or moving in a fluid manner, the dog is most likely friendly.
If you see intense staring, a stiff, and tense body, then the dog is more of a concern.
If the friendly dog does make contact with you, make sure to keep the leash loose without tension when the dogs are meeting each other. Always remain calm and the greeting will more than likely go well.
If your dog is not friendly with other dogs or you do not want the other dog to make contact with your dog, the first thing you need to do is remain calm and confident. Reacting nervous could prompt both dogs to react. Ideally, you would want to communicate to the other owner to kindly leash their dog to prevent any kind of meeting. But this option isn't always available. If you are put in a position where you need to react the first thing you need to do is put your dog behind you. Stand tall very confidently and hold your ground. Even take a step forward while telling the other dog to “back off.” Internally project the emotion of (“do not mess with me”) and the dog will more than likely pick up on your vibe and stop in its tracks. The dog may then want to go behind you and your dog. You need to follow through and keep your stance and stay facing the dog. You never want to run away or turn your back on the other dog, otherwise it will approach or chase you. Keep the same confident vibe and tell the dog to back-off. Most dogs will want to avoid a confrontation and will then not approach and walk away. Do not move away until the other dog moves. Begin slowly walking backwards still facing the other dog until it is far away and uninterested in you.
Another technique is to throw something such as a hat or even a bag of poop for the dog approaching to get distracted with and sniff while you are slowing backing up away.
What do you do if a dog is showing signs of aggression toward you? Many times you may come across a charging aggressive off leash dog when you are walking, running, or biking. First thing you want to do is to stop running. Running will only trigger the dog’s prey drive and desire to chase. Walk backwards slowly moving away from the dog. If the dog still charges you, use what you have on you such as a bag, umbrella, or stick as an object for the dog to bite instead of you. When a dog chases you on a bike, sometimes you may be able to out run it by increasing your speed. If this is not an option, get off your bike and use it as a shield between you and the dog. Always keep the bike in front of you. it is always a good idea in general to walk with a walking stick, or carry pepper spray to use in case these worst case scenarios happen.
These techniques are not fool proof and do not always prevent an incident from happening. But we hope knowing how to act in these stressful situation can help keep you and your dog safe. Thankfully these situations are rare and most dogs are friendly. But we still need to be prepared and respect the fact that dogs are still animals and have the ability to bite us and our dogs.