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Sunday, July 19, 2009

When other dogs ruin your walk...

I like to take my Lab for an energetic leash walk every evening in our neighborhood. Lately, however, we've been accosted by other dogs that are running loose. These dogs belong to neighbors who feel it's okay to let their dogs run outside unrestricted by leashes or fences. It hardly seems fair that I'm being the responsible dog owner and my dog is the one who gets harassed by these nuisance renegades. The other night one of them even ran up and bit my dog on the hind legs. The owner came out and got the dog, but didn't even seem upset at what had happened. How should I handle these situations?

It's too bad that a few irresponsible dog owners ruin it for the rest of us and put our dogs (and ourselves) at risk of bodily harm. Here are some practical tips on how to handle those situations.

When you see a strange dog approaching, assume it is NOT friendly, even if it's a happy-go-lucky Lab like your own. YOU immediately become the assertive pack leader. YOU step out between your dog and the approacher and assert yourself with strong, confident body language and a loud, deep, growly word or two. "Go on!" or "Get!!" usually work well. Make it loud enough so all the neighbors on the block can hear you. In so doing, you may attract the attention of the dog's owner or a passer-by, just in case you need assistance.

Ninety-nine percent of the dogs out there will turn tail and run when they confront a "big meanie" like you. Even an assertive dog isn't looking for a fight with a mama bear.

Don't feel guilty about scaring the wits out of some sweet dog who just wanted to say hi. You are within your right to ward off a confrontation now. You can kiss and make up later if you want.

Do not rely on your own leashed dog to handle the situation. It's up to you. It's your job to take on the strange dog. If that means squirting it with pepper spray or a squirt gun with vinegar water, so be it. If that means kicking the dog away from your dog, (because yelling didn't stop it) then do it.

When the incident has passed, try to locate the owner and explain the situation; she may have been unaware of the problem. If this doesn't work, report the at-large dog incident to the authorities. Meanwhile, face the fact that you're going to have to walk your dog somewhere else. Drive to a nearby park or other safe walking area. No, it's not fair that you should have to pay the price for other dog owners' stupidity. But no one ever said that being right was easy.


Dusty said...

Pepper spray is my favorite dog deterrent. I have on two occasions turned around
potentially menacing dogs while on a walk with my dog. In both cases the dogs immediately ran back to their yards and I am assuming shared the experience with their
owners. Nothing like checking out your dog’s red eyes and runny nose only to find yourself suffering a similar fate. I have never seen either dog again.

Teresa said...

I like to run with my dog and have found that turning to face the approaching dog and loudly and sternly saying "Go Home!" works every time. I had one dog squeeze through the bars of the patio he was out on and come charging after us. I turned, stomped my foot and yelled "Go home". Never saw the dog again.