DOG TALK: Blog #2 JAN 2020
By Jessica Fox - www.foxswalkingdogs.com

Terror Unleashed!

During my last blog, I gave some tips and advice regarding whether or not to allow your dog to walk off leash in public spaces. Today, I am going to talk about the other side of this equation: what to do if you and your dog are approached by an unleashed dog. For those of us who have leash reactive and dog reactive dogs this situation can be particularly stressful.

1. Avoid

In dog walking, as in football, sometimes the best defense is a good offense. No matter where you and your dog are walking it is crucial to remain vigilant for unexpected situations as they are certain to arise. If you see the loose dog from a distance, it gives you the best chance of changing course and avoiding an unwanted encounter all together.

In a world where we are expected to be connected at all times, it might be tempting to return a phone call or send a quick text message while walking your dog. While this urge is understandable, it is highly unadvisable. Looking up from your screen and being present is not only sound safety advice, but it will give you the opportunity to enjoy spending time with your four legged best friend.

2. Remain calm

So you have remained vigilant and you have attempted to avoid the loose dog, but it either came out of nowhere or it keeps coming. Now what? The most important thing you can do for yourself and for your dog is to keep your composure. Dogs are constantly paying attention to our body language and deferring to us regarding how they should respond in any given situation. They are masters at this, and can pick up on the most subtle of cues, even the slightest tightening of the leash. No matter what is going on inside, take a deep breath, and keep the leash nice and loose.

3. Change Direction

While this bit of advice may seem obvious, a loose dog coming toward you can sometimes cause you to freeze up. It also may seem like it wouldn’t do much in deterring the dog from continuing to come toward you. However, and especially if the dog is coming out of its own yard, the loose dog may be reluctant to stray too far from its home or owner. If your dog is reactive, heading in the opposite direction (while remaining calm off course) will also offer you an opportunity for distraction.

4. Distract

Whether I am walking my own dog or clients’ dogs, I always go prepared with a treat bag containing (of course) treats, pet corrector air spray or citronella spray, and some sort of noise making apparatus like a whistle (an air horn is also useful). All of these tools can come in handy if you are approached by a loose dog.

If the dog is approaching try blowing the whistle or the air horn. This may stop the dog from moving forward and may even send it running in the other direction. If the dog keeps walking toward you, make a barrier between you and your dog, grab a handful of treats and throw in the face of the loose dog. This should stop the dog in its tracks and give you time to turn around and get you and your dog moving in the opposite direction.

5. Drop It

This next tip is particularly for those who have dogs who are leash reactive (biting and lunging at other dogs while on leash). If you have attempted to avoid the situation and then tried distraction but the loose dog keeps coming at you, you may have no other choice than to drop your leash. Leash reactive dogs respond with aggressive behavior because they feel confined by the leash. Often times just by giving your dog the option of getting away, his reactivity will diminish. After dropping the leash and giving your dog an out, you can advocate for your dog by, again creating a barrier between you and your dog, attempting to distract the other dog, and so on until you are able to get some distance. If you are concerned about your dog taking off, this is one of many reasons it is so crucial to develop and maintain a reliable recall with your dog.

In a world where we are expected to be connected at all times, it might be tempting to return a phone call or send a quick text message while walking your dog. While this urge is understandable, it is highly inadvisable. Looking up from your screen and being present is not only sound safety advice, but it will give you the opportunity to enjoy spending time with your four legged best friend.

Join me next time when I will be discussing winter safety tips and indoor activities to help you and your dog beat those wintertime blues!