By: Dr. Sally J Foote CABC-IAABC
Today a dog off leash rushed up to me and my on leash dog as we walked down the street. The dog was staring and no lunging or biting, but it was unsettling to not know how this was going to play out. The dog ran off his/her property to come after us. Many of my clients ask about this scary situation so here is some help for you and your clients.
One of the scariest situations to be in where dogs are concerned, is having a large breed dog barreling down the street aiming right for your dog who is innocently walking along side you on leash. Yikes! Now what do you do? You have to act quick but what should one do first to protect your dog and yourself?
Here is a guide to get you through this awful situation. There is not a one way - fits all answer, so use this information and apply it to your situation as best you can. If you are not clear on what to try - call my office. We have guided many clients through this and as a service to public health and safety I I myself have been in this situation and it is really scary.
1. Know your neighborhood. If you have a dog nearby who is constantly running the fence barking, lunging, jumping up or on the fence, that dog is really out to get yours. The gate may be open one day, or the dog may get enough gumption to jump or scale the fence. Too many backyard fences are too short to hold a dog in. I have seen many dogs scale a 6 foot privacy fence. Avoid at all costs walking past this yard. Go different routes. Don't tempt fate. If that is not possible - tell the neighbor that you need them to keep their dog up at the times you are walking your dog. Speak up for what you and your dog need to be safe. This dog is also not having fun - it is aggressing because it does not want this dog around. Happy dogs don't do this!!!
2. For loose dogs - get a bush, parked car, garbage can or some way to be out of the sight of the off leash dog. Move quickly without running! Running will entice the loose dog to chase. If the dog starts heading to you stomp your foot harshly, yell in a deep gruff voice " Go" and holler " Get your dog inside!!!!!!!!!" Make a ruckus to get others out to help and call the dog away. Do not hit or kick at the intruding dog. This may cause redirected aggression on you. After you have your dog home call the animal control and make a formal complaint. All communities have leash laws. They are for public safety. Follow up and be something has been done. It may be the one time this has happened and a remorseful, apologetic owner will be more watchful of their dog. If the owner does not seem to care, make them be responsible to their pet and to the laws.
3. Use a protective tool. This is something that will protect you from a dog lunging and biting at your or your dog if you know the owner of the problem dog is not going to do anything and the law cannot extend enforcement completely. Spray shield (tm) by Premier is a compressed water /citronella spray that will shoot out and confuse an attacking dog giving you time to get away and be safe. You can order this online. Baseball bats or big sticks are not safe or as effective. When you hit the attacking dog, they will likely redirect the aggression on you due to the pain. Or if you drop the stick or hit your own dog, the other dog will be more confident and attack more. An umbrella that you can quickly snap open and use a shield is also very effective. You don't want to hit the dog - use it as a shield.
4. Do not turn your back on this dog. Walk backwards to get away. If you turn away from the dog, many use this as an opportunity to attack.
5. Always wear solid shoes when walking your dog!!!! I have seen many more injuries to people and their dogs in these situations because they were wearing flip flops that slipped off, or were tripped over. Sneakers, boots, or other solid shoes only when walking dogs.
If you do have a caring neighbor with a dog that is aggressing - seek help for this situation from a veterinarian or certified trainer who has experience working with these dogs. Some attacker dogs can learn to be better, and safety can be set up. The "cure" depends on the owners, dogs and environment involved. For more behavior help, go to http://www.drsallyjfoote.com/