As a dog owner, you will agree that one of your worst fears, while walking your pet, is encountering an off-leash dog. The assumption is that all off-leash dogs are strays and are likely to attack with the least provocation.
Is this really true?
Turns out not all off-leash dogs are strays. Some are just overzealous mutts that wandered off from their homes. An off-leash dog can approach you, tail wagging, wanting to extend a paw of friendship.
But you don’t know that, do you?
In such an encounter, your number one priority is the safety of your dog and yourself. Which is why you have come to the right place. We are going to equip you with actual tips on how to handle an off-leash dog.
There are two things you need to understand about encountering an off-leash dog;
One, an off-leash dog may lunge at you when it thinks you and your dog pose a threat. Secondly, your dog may be the aggressive one in the situation and decide to attack a harmless off-leash dog.
So in such situations determine which dog is most aggressive. This way you know how to act accordingly.
Which begs the question;
How do you act when an off-leash dog approaches you?
First, evaluate the off-leash dog’s behavior. Does it appear happy, anxious, scared, or restless? Or maybe it has an angry demeanor that you should be wary of.
Here is how to tell a dog’s body language.
An anxious dog will appear fidgety and looking around for a way to escape. It may bark at you but will stand its ground. It will not move an inch because it does not know how you and your dog will react. The tail will be between the legs and the back curved. It is trying to make itself as small as possible to appear ‘invisible’ to the intruders.
Encountering a timid off-leash is no cause for alarm. You only need to walk away and let the dog be. If your pooch barks at it, quieten him down. Toss him some dog treats to keep him distracted as you both walk away.
Ensure you have firm control of the leash if you are unsure of how your dog will react in such a situation. Another way to prevent a fight, if you are unsure of your dog’s reaction, is to muzzle on your dog.
That was easy right?
But what if the off-leash dog is the aggressive one? It is a nightmare you do not want to find yourself in for sure. If it happens, it is still possible to wiggle yourself out of the situation in one piece.
Here is what you will need to do.
1. Do NOT move
Any movement will activate the off-leash dog’s prey instinct to attack. Even if your brain tells you to make the run, do not do it. Stand your ground even when the dog approaches you. This next step can help diffuse the dog’s angry demeanor.
2. Do NOT make eye contact
Do not stare at an aggressive off-leash dog in the eye. This is a sign that you are ready to fight and the dog will lunge at you. Not making eye contact will soon get the stray dog bored and it will be well on its way. If it still refuses to budge, then look away but be aware of its presence.
3. Create distance between you and the dog
Maintain a distance between you and the stray dog for safety. Cross the street and walk on the other side if need be.
If you have a scarf, sweater, or walking cane hold it out in front of you. This shows the off-leash dog that you do not want them to invade your space. If the stray decides to bite, let it bite at the cane or sweater.
4. Keep your dog safe
An off-leash dog will approach you because it is more interested in your dog. For a friendly stray, all it wants is to say hi; both dogs will approach each other from the sides, tails wagging, and a bit of sniffing. When the greetings are over, the off-leash will be well on its way.
If the off-leash dog is aggressive, keep your dog away for safety. You could pick your dog up and place him on an elevated surface like the top of a car. If you own a larger dog, standing between your dog and off-leash creates a safe barricade.
What do you do if the off-leash dog attacks?
A stray dog may lunge at you on short notice. Make sure your face, neck, and chest are covered from an attack. Also, keep your hands fisted to avoid the off-leash dog biting your fingers. Also, protect your upper leg from a bite; a bite to the thigh can cause fatal bleeding.
If at all the dog should bite you, let it be in less sensitive areas like the forearm or shin. A worst-case scenario is encountering a pack of off-leash dogs. If they all attack, get on your ground, cover your face and neck and do not move. It is way better than running.
You never know when you will bump into a stray dog. But when you do, use the above tips to mediate your way out of the situation. Also, if your dog has aggressive behavior around other dogs, consider keeping them on a leash or dog muzzle.