Off-leash areas can be brilliant for the socialisation and physical activity of our precious pups. But there are also shared spaces where dogs must, by law, be on a lead and a variety of reasons why some dogs need to be leashed wherever they go.
Having an unfamiliar, unaccompanied canine run up to you while you're out walking your pooch can be a nerve-racking experience. And it's especially confronting for dogs who've had bad experiences with off-leash dogs in the past
Whether it's an escapee or a wandering stray, an off-leash dog approaching a leashed pooch should be avoided whenever possible.
Here are our top tips on what to do to prevent a doggy altercation if you see a loose dog approaching you and your fur-baby.
While these techniques are generally used with great success, each situation is unique, so it's always advisable to use your best judgement.
Assessing the situation
These situations need to be evaluated quickly to help minimise the chances of a canine confrontation. And you'll likely need to process heaps of information in a short space of time: Is the dog-friendly or likely to bite? Are they stray or did they escape from their yard somewhere nearby? Where is their owner? Do they want to come to play with your dog, or protect their territory?
The most important thing to remember is that the approaching dog is likely friendly and only wants to say hello.
Stay Calm and Take Stock
Staying composed is difficult in this type of situation, but the calmer you are, the more relaxed your dog will be too.
It's essential to be aware of your surroundings when out exercising your pooch. The earlier you notice an approaching canine, the more prepared you'll be to deal with any problems.
Check out the approaching dog's body language
A happy and friendly dog will seem loose and bouncy with relaxed ears and face. Usually, you'll notice an open, panting, mouth and that tell-tale waggy tail; the type that moves the whole doggy back end.
But even if a dog appears friendly, consider avoiding them, particularly if you have a nervous, reactive pooch. A peaceful situation can quickly turn nasty if your pup acts defensively. So know your dog and try to read the body language of the approaching pup.
- Body blocking may deter an unattended dog's approach
- Tossing treats away from your dog can effectively distract the visitor
- Tell the lone pooch 'go home', 'stop' or give the 'sit' command to control them
If the unfamiliar pups approach is more intense, with stiff and stalking movements, this can be more concerning.
This body language means the dog has hyper-focused attention on your dog as a potential threat. Be aware of your dog's reaction to this approach which will help you understand the urgency of the situation. If your dog is stressed, they may have sensed that the visitor is unfriendly.
- The block technique can work here too
- The startle technique can keep you and your dog safe but may stress your dog further
- Put your palm out in a stop stance to warn of the approaching dog
Deciding to retreat
Always leave the situation if you can. For instance, if you’re at a park or on the beach, you may have time to go safely before the unleashed dog reaches you. And avoiding contact with the off-leash dog is the best option.
- If you can walk a different way with your dog, do that
- Throw treats at the approaching dog to break his focus and occupy him
- Give a treat to your do to distract him and then keep his attention on you
- Be aware of where the loose dog is as you leave the location
Practicing a safety stay command with your dog means they will stay in one spot while you deal with the unaccompanied pooch. Or cue your dog to stay and step between them and the approaching dog. These are both excellent techniques for well-trained pups.
Encounters with off-leash dogs happen but usually end quickly and without harm. But learning to interpret dog body language will help keep you and your dogs safe and prevent fights. Being prepared for the possibility of an off-leash dog encounter means being mentally prepared with a plan of action.
Some experts also suggest distracting unwanted, unleashed attention with umbrellas or sprays. Still, often this can increase the stress to your dog and may antagonise the situation. Again, we don't recommend this but use your best judgement when it comes to the safety of you and your pooch.
Of course, as a dog walking platform, we always recommend that our walkers avoid any confrontation with other canines. So, it's best to walk familiar routes, know all the exits and choose areas with plenty of foot traffic.