Last week, Charley and Hollywood went out for their morning walk in the yard. Strolling around, sniffing rabbit poop, looking for birds, giving squirrels the paw – you know, the usual. We came back inside, and only moments later Charley was ferociously barking at the sliding door. My first thought was maybe it’s the landscapers, since Spring is coming. I thanked him for barking and alerting me to something strange outside, but when I came to look, I was quite surprised. Instead of the landscapers I was expecting, it was two great big dogs that were off-leash, wandering about my yard. Charley was just hysterical. He was not very happy that there were dogs on his property and he was most likely protecting me. I wasn’t going to open the sliding door because I knew that could create a problem. So instead, I went to look out the front door and there they both were. They had already gone around the side of the house and were now beginning to investigate the front.
They were approximately a hundred yards away from the front door, but when I came out and stood on the porch, they both stopped sniffing and gave me prolonged eye contact. After 20 years in the business of “dog talk,” I was quite certain in reading their body language that they weren’t stopping over for a pow wow. The large white dog, probably a pit bull mix, looked as though she may have had a litter. The black one was a beautiful un-neutered male pit bull mix. They were most likely a “couple,” on a neighborhood date.
Their body language indicated to me that these dogs could potentially be a threat to any passerby and most especially to someone that would have a dog on a leash. I went back inside called animal control and described what the dogs looked like so that the situation could be addressed. What would we do if my dogs and I were on a walk and approached by these dogs? What would the cute little old lady across the street and her little Yorkie do if they were approached by these two dogs at large?
Here would be a few of my suggestions if you ever run into a situation like this one:
Most importantly – never run. Running will only cause a dog to chase and will likely create more arousal in the dog, especially if he is already in a state of high arousal. Instead, stand still at first. Do the best you can to stay calm and then walk away slowly.
Shout “Go HOME!” or even “Sit!” – Shouting will often make the average dog nervous enough to leave you alone. Although you should be serious and deliver the message with confidence.
For more persistent dogs, I would do the following:
Fill up your pockets!
I always have massive amounts of highly valuable treats on walks with me. Not just boring biscuits – yummy, smelly treats! All of my jacket pockets are full of treats (my coat closet probably smells just like liver treats!). If you are walking and you see a loose dog, throw a big handful of treats at the dog in the hope that he will stop to eat the treats while you move away.
Robin Bennett, author, consultant and APDT Board Treasurer offers this suggestion: Take an umbrella with you on walks – the automatic kind that allows you to push a button to open it. Most times, having an umbrella open suddenly into the face of a quickly, oncoming dog will scare the dog enough to confuse him and cause him to run the other way.
There is also a product called Spray Shield. It’s an animal deterrent that you can take with you on your walks. This is a form of citronella spray you can spray at a dog (think “doggie mace”). The downside to this product is the dog has to be really close which is why I prefer using treats, but if you wind up trying to break up a dog fight, this might help. At Wag, we also carry a safe, humane product called the Pet Convincer. It uses a blast of CO2 to interrupt and redirect. This product could be used for your safety as well as the safety of your dog.
Now that Spring is upon us, there may be dogs just itching to jump the fence and go on an adventure. Hopefully, these tips could help you in time of need. Despite the hype from the media, most dogs wandering off leash likely won’t harm you, but being prepared and calm is key in any case.
Christine Fox, CPDT