What Do You Do If an Off-Leash Dog Approaches Walking a Dog?

Do you know that something as simple as walking your dog can quickly degenerate into a crisis if you’re confronted by another off-leash, hostile and aggressive dog? Well, a similar tragic incident happened in a park in Melbourne in November 2019.

That incident in Pakenham left ‘Coco,’ an off-leash dachshund mauled to death.

Coco attacked ‘Hero,’ a staffy on a leash being walked by his owner. This is not the first time such a thing would happen. And it definitely won’t be the last. So, what do you do if an off-leash dog approaches you while you are walking a dog? There certainly has to be a way to manage this kind of situation.

What to Do If a Dog Approaches You

Knowing how to take control of your surroundings is essential when unexpected situations like this happen. The good thing is the outcomes of these interactions are not always negative.

Sometimes, the approaching dog might just want to say hello to your dog.

How well you know your dog and just how well-trained they are should help you decide if you won’t mind allowing your dog to interact with the approaching dog. But if you’re wondering what exactly you can do to manage situations such as an off-leash dog approaching you while walking your dog, here are a few tips we recommend;

1. Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Body Language

Two things are crucial when walking your dogs;

  • First, situational awareness; and
  • Second, proper focus on your dog.

Chances are your dog will notice the approaching dog even before you do.

When walking your dog, look out for signs, cues, and changes in their body language. Do they appear excited or aggressive? Perhaps they have a history of being very reactive while on a leash. Whatever, it’s always an excellent choice to play it safe by just moving on!

2. Walk Calmly Away from the Off-leash Dog Approaches You While You are Walking a Dog

Walking away is often the safest thing to do for both dogs.

But you have to do this very calmly for two main reasons. Maintaining a calm demeanor will also help your dog stay calm. If you’re panicky, it might also throw your dog off balance.

The second reason is not to provoke the off-leash approaching dog to charge at you and your dog, especially by running. Try as much as possible to be calm, so both dogs don’t get further startled by your actions.

an off-leash dog approaches you while walking a dog

3. Avoid the Urge to Pick up your Dog

If you feel the urge to pick up your do to protect it, don’t do it anyhow!

If the approaching dog appears aggressive and you feel like picking up your dog (especially a small one) is the right thing, try as much to do this as slowly and carefully as you can.

Being rash or too quick with this can provoke the off-leash dog to charge at your dog. It’s like when a dog’s prey instincts are triggered by a squirrel running up a tree. If you must do this, turn your back on the approaching dog to pick up your dog, calmly.

4. Try Directing the Approaching Dog with Voice Commands

As the dogs get closer, you might want to try out a few things to distract the off-leash dog from focusing on your dog. One of the first things you can try is to give it voice commands.

Do this in low but stern tones, and hopefully, you’ll be able to move away with your dog soon enough, or the dog owner might be able to interfere on time. However, avoid yelling or shouting your commands as this may startle both dogs and provoke feelings of fear.

5. Try Using a Treat as a tool for Distraction

Another distraction you can try is using treats.

Consider taking a handful of treats with you while walking your dogs. You can just throw a few at the approaching dog to keep them distracted and buy time for your dog to walk away.

Most friendly dogs will get distracted by this, but it can even work for some aggressive ones. Do ensure you throw them far enough to avoid your dog trying to go get some.

6. Locate and take Advantage of Physical Barriers

Being aware of your environment is vital.

If the unleashed dog continues to approach your dog after all of the tips discussed so far, you might want to put up barriers between them and your dog to prevent a dogfight.

It could be a wall or fence, a car, or whatever you could find to barricade your dog and the approaching dog.

7. Communicate with the Owner of the Off-leash Dog

If you’re lucky and the dog owner is nearby, this can make things easier. You can call out to the dog owner to help you keep their dog under control if you’re wary of the interaction between your dog and theirs. 

8. Avoid Reaching in Between Fights

If after all you’ve done and a dogfight still broke out, don’t try to reach in between both dogs to separate the fight. You don’t want to get bit by either dog. Not in this moment when they’re in fight mode and when their bite would be most severe.

To separate the dogs, you’ll be better off by getting behind the attacking dog, grabbing their bag legs, and pulling them away. What if the attacking dog is latched onto your dog? Consider kicking them in the underbelly continuously till they let go.

And if this doesn’t work, you may need to inflict an injury on the attacking dog to save your dog. Don’t feel guilty about this. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to protect your dog and yourself.

How do I Protect myself When walking my Dog?

Your dog and yourself can be at risk of another aggressive dog while you’re walking your dog. To prevent situations like this, you need to start with choosing the right environment.

You might want to avoid areas with off-leash dogs and off-leash dog parks to reduce the risk of attacks. If you or your dog don’t feel comfortable in a particular area, better leave before an attack occurs rather than trying to squash one when it eventually happens.

Here are a few more tips for you

  • Keep a safe distance between you and the approaching dog.
  • Look out for signs of impending attack such as growling, snarling, raised fur, or a rigid body posture.
  • Move away calmly, so you don’t provoke the approaching do to charge at you.
  • If the dog charges at you, use a stick, an umbrella, jacket, or whatever to act as a barrier between you and the dog’s mouth. And if the dog attacks, curl up in a ball form so you can protect your head, neck, and face.  

Can I Trust my Dog Off leash?

Finally, let’s also touch on the issue of allowing your dog to run free off the leash!

Is this something you should consider? Is it safe for you, your dog, other dogs, and other people? This depends! And if it’s actually your first time, there are probably many questions running through your mind. Some of these include

  • Whether your dog won’t run away.
  • Wondering what happens if he doesn’t come back.
  • Imagine if the dog gets lost or hurt.

All of these worries are genuine.

But if you put all of the right things in place, a time will come when you will be able to trust your dog off the leash. Some of these things include building a training bond with your dog.

While it’s easier to teach dogs to respond to calls and obey their owners off-leash at early stages, it can still happen even if they are now grown-ups. This, however, requires the right level of commitment and enough time to teach them. In our next post, we discuss some of the Most Effective Methods to Retrieve a Dog That Has Got Off Leash.

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