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Hello Off Leash Dogs. Meet My Friend Direct Stop.

(Download and print the pdf version of Hello Off Leash Dogs)

Ask anyone who walks DINOS: “What’s your worst fear?” and they’ll all tell you the same thing: Off Leash Dogs (OLDs).

When you’re out walking your DINOS and you spot a loose dog, with no owner in sight, it’s hard not to throw up, just a little, as you mentally run the list of ninja moves you might need to escape untouched.

With that in mind, I wanted to share some tips for dealing with OLDs. But just so we’re clear, nothing works 100% of the time.

The thing about off leash dog encounters is that they’re a little different every time and there are always a lot of variables in play. So what works once, doesn’t always work the next time. What’s safe to try with one dog, may not be safe with another. I know, because these tips don’t always work for me.

I’d be perfectly happy if someone invented a Pop-up Teflon Dog Walking Tent, so that I could lurch down the block with my DINOS, safely ensconced in our own personal fortress. But hey, sometimes these tips do work, so they’re worth storing in the old noggin.

Here they are, starting from the beginning:

INVEST in a wardrobe that has generous pockets or a little dog walking bag.

On every dog walk, you should take the following, in addition to poop bags:

High Value Treats

Cell Phone with Camera and Animal Control on Speed Dial

Direct Stop aka Spray Shield

+ One Bodyguard (it does help to have a second set of hands, just saying)


BE QUIET

There are a lot of loose dogs hanging out in their yards. The very first thing you can do to avoid a confrontation is to slip by unnoticed. I do this two ways:

Cross to the other side of the street, so I’m not directly in front of their property

 Tell my dogs to put a lid on it aka silence those tags


Tip for Leashed Dogs or Dogs Inside Houses: Being quiet helps, even if the dogs you’re passing are inside or on leash. I used to walk a reactive Olde English Bulldog that wore so many tags, collars, harnesses, gold chains, gongs, and sleigh bells that we alerted every dog in the whole of South Philly that we were coming. Not surprisingly, we had to walk a gauntlet of barking dogs and he struggled mightily to keep his cool. It was unnecessary work – we were bringing the dogs to us, when we really wanted them to go away.


ENGAGE YOUR DOG

Sometimes our DINOS are the ones attracting the attention with all that “debating” they like to do. So if you spot a dog before (or after) your DINOS does, be sure to engage your dog. Keep them focused on you, instead of staring or lunging at the other dog. Ask them to “look” at you. Talk to them in a happy, loose voice. Sing them a silly song with their name in it. Put a treat or toy in front of their nose. Do whatever you need to do to keep their attention on you, as you steer them past the dog hanging out in your neighbor’s yard, or while you do a u-turn (see below).  You can flash a “stop” hand signal at the other dog too, just to reinforce the message that you and your dog aren’t interested – thank you very much.


Tip for Fenced in Dogs: If you’re passing dogs that are contained and barking or running the length of the fence, try this: Cross the street to make space and say “Hi Guys!” in a loud and cheery, high-pitched voice. Sometimes that’s all it takes to shut them up and it tells your dog that things are ok.


LICK YOUR LIPS

You need to try to stay calm, if you want your dog to stay calm too, so do a body scan. Are you pulling the leash tight? Relax a little. Are you holding your breath? Lick your lips. You can’t really hold your breath and lick your lips at the same time. Talk in a happy tone. Let your dog know you’re cool.


WHEN A DOG IS FOLLOWING YOU:

In any situation you have to do two things – deal with your dog and the oncoming one.

This is really hard because these encounters typically happen in a matter of seconds, so even the best laid plans go out the window.

I won’t lie: I full on face-planted a few months ago when a total loser  lovely gal opened her front door, which opened right onto the street, and let her dog run out just as I was passing with a reactive dog. As the door opened, I was already moving to the other side of the street, to make some distance, and called “Get your dog NOW!”, but the dog was sprinting and caught up in a second. I tripped on my dog as I was trying to wrangle her and I fell. It happens. So I held on to the leash, as tight as I could while lying on my stomach, and my dog lost her marbles at the end of the leash. The other dog, stood, just an inch out of my dog’s reach, until the gal finally came to get her dog. I was glad I didn’t let go. I had a skinned knee, but neither dog got hurt and I have no doubt that had they made contact, that wouldn’t have been the case. Just wanted to share that even though my brain was telling me to do this stuff, I couldn’t make it happen that time, so I just wiped out and held tight!


FOR YOUR DOG: EMERGENCY U-TURN

Teach your dog to move quickly and calmly in the opposite direction, so that when you encounter a loose dog or a scary person, you can make a fast getaway. Teach them to do this on cue using a phrase and tone you’re most likely to use if you encounter this scenario.

Like “Uh-Oh! Let’s Go!” or “Holy Shit!” Whatever you think you’d actually say.

Here’s one way to teach them this trick and check out Feisty Fido for more, including Emergency Sit.


IF YOU CAN’T GET AWAY:


FOR YOUR DOG: BODY BLOCK

This means getting in between your dog and the oncoming OLDs. Ideally, you’ve taught your dog a great sit-stay, so that you can step directly in front of them to deal with the loose dog.


FOR THE LOOSE DOG: USE THE VOG

That’s the Voice of God aka what James Earl Jones sounds like.

Step in front of your dog and, using the VOG, say:

NO, SIT, or STOP and flash the universal hand signal for stop: a flat outstretched palm.

The goal here is to startle the crap out of the other dog, so you want to really BOOM! If you’ve got their attention, try telling them to STAY or GO HOME. Be fierce, stand tall, say it like you mean it.


WITH THE VOG OR IF THEY’RE STILL FOLLOWING YOU:


FOR THE LOOSE DOG: HURL TREATS

Take a handful of those high value treats you’ve got in your pocket and throw them right in the other dog’s face. The goal here is to startle them, then have them look around for the food, giving you enough time to get away. I’ve had a 50-50 success rate with this, so it’s worth a try, but I’ll be the first to admit, it doesn’t stop all dogs. Patricia McConnell did a test run you can watch here.


Or Toss Pea Gravel at their feet. If you’ve got room in your cargo pants for a hand full of pea gravel, it can be worth carrying some to startle oncoming dogs by throwing this at their feet.


Tip for On-Leash Dogs: Occasionally, I let a few treats slip out of my hand when someone is rapidly walking up behind me and my DINOS and I can’t get away or make space. I’ll just drop a few treats on the sly, so the dog coming up from behind takes a second to sniff around for the food, and I’ve got an extra minute to make some distance.

 


WHEN YOU ARE TRAPPED:


USE TOOLS

If your voice and treats don’t work and you can’t get away (and really, you only have a few seconds to make these calls, so you can just skip to this step, if you need to), this is when it’s handy to have another tool on you. If you frequently walk in a neighborhood plagued with off leash dogs that you anticipate fending off, it’s worth carrying one of the following:

Direct Stop

Umbrella (pop-up)

Airhorn

Shake can

Walking Stick

The idea would be to body block your dog, by standing in front of them, and then use any of the tools you have to stop the oncoming dog. Spray ‘em, pop the umbrella open in their face, throw the penny can at them, blast the air horn, block them with the stick.

I vote for Direct Stop, a citronella spray. It won’t harm the dog, if you have to spray them, so you’re not risking their health. Plus, if their owner is nearby, just the sight of the spray will likely get them motivated to grab their dog, since they don’t know it’s harmless. If you use it, spray the dog right in the muzzle.

I highly recommend practicing with these tools. I’ve heard from dog walkers who have had Direct Stop on them, but in the chaos of the interaction, their brains totally bailed and they couldn’t remember how to use the spray. To build confidence and a higher chance of success, practice unholstering and spraying. By repeating the movements when you’re at ease, you’ll build a muscle memory for that action, so that when panic takes over your brain your body will still remember what to do.


WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS:

Here’s what some people I know have done, to get their dogs away from OLDs:

Thrown them over a fence

Thrown them over their shoulders while kneeing/kicking the loose dog

Thrown them into the bed of random a pick-up truck

I’m just saying, it’s been done.

If the two dogs actually do connect, expect a lot of noise. Dogs sounds awful when they’re in a tussle, but it’s usually far worse sounding then it actually is. Try to stay calm (so hard), but if you’re alone, I do suggest calling for help. I’ve yelled loud enough to get neighbors to come out of houses and give me a hand. Having a second set of hands is worth screaming for.

If you have a helper, break up the fight by: making a loud noise, spraying the dog with your Direct Stop, or finding something to use as a physical barrier to smash/slide in between the dogs so that you can safely separate the dogs. Look for something big, like a trash can lid, a chair, a recycling bucket, anything large and nearby that you can wedge between the dogs. Grabbing collars is an invitation to get bit (your own dog is likely to swing their head around and redirect on you), but sometimes people do it anyway. If you do grab collars, you can try twisting them to cut off air supply briefly. Try holding the back legs instead. When you‘re able to separate the dogs, both parties need to move away from each other, preferably in a wide circle – not straight back – and do not let go of the dogs.

If you are all alone, I’m not going to lie. It’s really hard to break up a dog fight by yourself. I’ve never had to do this alone, but what I know for sure is that when you break up a dog fight, you need to make sure that after the dogs are separated, they don’t go right back at each other. One way to do this, if you are by yourself, is to tie one of the dogs to a fence or post or whatever is there, separate the dogs, and then do not let go of the one you’re holding. Move the dog as far away as you can. If there is any way to tie them up or enclose them (unlocked car anyone?), do it. Call for help, call 911.

I know that sounds super scary, but in all the years I’ve been dog walking and dealing with OLDs, I can say that things rarely get this far (not that they don’t – they do), but for the most part, dogs chase you away from their property or chase after you to play or try to start a little bit of trouble that you can stop with one of those tools.

No matter what happens, it’s best to think about these things before they occur. Have a plan in place. Know the hot spots in your neighborhood with OLDs and avoid them, even if you have to take a less convenient route. Walk at off hours. Bring a friend, so you always have a second set of hands. Drive your dogs to a safe spot to walk them. If your dog is aggressive, use a muzzle,  so you don’t have to worry about them hurting a friendly off leash dog that gets in their face.


TO RECAP:

Give all dogs space by moving away from their property

Engage your dog – keep them focused on you and quiet enough not to attract unwanted attention

If you see a loose dog, try doing an Emergency U-turn and scoot out of there

If you’re stuck, Body Block your dog, step forward and use the VOG

If the dog keeps coming and you feel like there’s no escape, spray them with Direct Stop, blow your air horn, use your tools.

If contact is made, spray the dog or use whatever large object you have access to (from a stick to trash can lid) to slide in between dogs.

Separate dogs and do not let go. Call for help.

Go home and have a beer.

If just reading this exhausts you (sorry it’s so long), I want you to know that it’s ok to exercise your dogs at home, in your yard, or whatever it takes to keep them safe and happy. I want you guys to be as stress free as possible and for your dogs to enjoy life. Some days, that might mean skipping the walk.


Download and print the pdf version of: Hello Off Leash Dogs

I know you guys have thoughts and tips to share on this subject. Please do! We can all learn from each other here at Team DINOS, so if you have a trick, I want to know about it!

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59 Comments
  1. You made me laugh at the image of throwing my dog over a fence! I live in fear of the off leash dog. My eyes are constantly scanning the road ahead and just the other day I spotted two (!?!) running together. Luckily we made an about face and the dogs didn’t see us so we got away.

    March 27, 2012
  2. Great post! I love that you mentioned your faceplant…been there, done that:-) I never thought to silence tags…will try it now.

    We had a stretch of warm weather last week that brought out all the ding-bats with their off-leash dogs. I had SO MANY ‘in your face’ encounters just last week that it was discouraging. It made me not want to leave my apartment. I don’t have a yard so staying home isn’t an option, unfortunately. Your continued humor and candid discussion of the subject definitely takes the ‘edge’ off my anxiety about it though. Thank you!

    March 27, 2012
    • Oh, I fall a lot. That was just the most recent ; ) I just wanted to make sure people know that, no matter how much practice you have, there’s really no graceful, easy way to deal with this!

      And I wish you and Murphy had a private place to exercise (things did get crazy with that nice weather, huh?), but in the meantime, I hope this helps a little.

      Thanks for laughing with me Kristel!!

      March 27, 2012
  3. This is awesome, as usual!! I do as much happy talking as I can to the dogs I have to try to keep them focused and moving with me…not always easy, but, usually works.

    March 27, 2012
    • I’m glad that works for you too! I like to quietly sing silly songs, with the dog’s names in them, as we’re passing something scary. It keeps me calm and the dogs love hearing their names!!

      March 27, 2012
  4. In the one case of ten off leash dogs attacking my dog I did bite one of the dogs on the face. I am not recommending but the screams from bitten Doberman ended things immediately.

    Ghat Andy

    March 27, 2012
  5. The last two times I encountered loose dogs, my “cold dead hands” approach worked well:
    Basically I held an object high above my head while looking at the approaching dog the same way the Late Charlton Heston held his rifle and said “from my cold dead hands”

    One time I raised my walking cane in the air and the last time it was a fool bag of poop. Both times, the dogs looked scared and ran the other way.

    It got me to thinking about all the bad training advice floating around out there and how I might use that to my advantage. I’m wondering if brandishing a rolled up newspaper would keep loose dogs at bay.

    I’ve also fantasized about carrying a powerful super soaker water gun. The direct stop is good at slowing dogs down, but the dog has to already be pretty close. But with a water gun, you might be able to squirt them from twenty feet away. But alas, my back already hurts from all the other stuff I carry – food, cane, direct stop, etc.. The water gun just seems like too much.

    Oh.. I’ve also tossed a fool bag of poop at approaching dogs.

    I haven’t had much luck at tossing treats – the just keep coming. I sometimes carry a raw hide for loose dog who have no owner nearby. Because as you know, if you treat a loose dog, they will gobble the food and come right back. With a raw hide, you might have more time to get away. Haven’t ever used it.

    March 27, 2012
  6. Sorry. It should read “full” bag of poop. Not “fool” bag of poop. Something must be wrong with my keyboard :)

    March 27, 2012
  7. Proper form on breaking up an argument or fight is to hook the back legs and pull away. If one dog is locked onto the other, wait for a release and then pull. This can be done with one person or two. If you are alone you will need to back tie the dog you have and then attend to the other dog.

    [ Reference Nicole Wilde “Getting a Grip on Aggression Cases” – Hands-On Methods for Breaking Up a Dog Fight ]

    It is never advisable to ever grab collars!! I have watched two other trainers attempt to grab collars and come out with punctures on their hands. Please don’t ever try it, ever!

    March 27, 2012
  8. VOG!!! SO LOVE THAT! I used mine the other day and embarrased my 10 year old daughter. She had the balls to tell ME that I was rude after a dog bolted out of the house an tore at me while the owner chirped…”he’s friendly” at me. I JUMPED in front of MY dog that I have been working really hard with. Don’t think my kiddo will opt for THAT lecture again and I bet she keeps her mouth shut next time (or there will be a next time) . Meanwhile I did the….Dance of love (DOL? DOV?) and put myself between said dog and mine and it did not escalate.

    March 27, 2012
  9. Great post! We don’t get a lot of off-leash dogs in our area, though the ones that are off-leash, the owners have just let them out the front door to ‘walk themselves’, and it blows my mind. So many cars, so many kids, so many other dogs… so many opportunities for your dog to hurt or get hurt.
    One thing I’ve found is that a dog is surprisingly obedient to a stranger – with confidence, make any kind of hand-going-up gesture with your fist or palm up (possible treat, even if you don’t have one), and say SIT (VOG, lol)… my dog isn’t a DINOS, so this is more for when a dog is being too rough or trying to jump up on me.
    When i’ve housesat for my neighbour’s dog-aggressive dog, I’ve gone up on strangers’ front porches to get away from the MDIF person, or off-leash dog… especially porches with a railing, it gives the other dog a much smaller opening to get through.

    March 27, 2012
    • I have also trespassed to get away from MDIFs. Haven’t gone all the way up to a porch but I have hidden behind cars parked in driveways.

      March 27, 2012
      • Hey Lexy and SP! I’ve done some crazy stuff on other people’s property to avoid loose dogs too! The porch is a great tip. I’ve also cut through a lot of yards, hid behind cars, walked up stoops, crawled under fences – all with dogs. It was always worth it! ; )

        March 27, 2012
  10. Sherry #

    This article is perfect!! Covers everything. My 20lb. boston is my DINO and I’ve scoped out pick up trucks and low fences to throw him into/over. I walk with a walking stick just because it makes me feel more confident. Not sure it would actually help in an emergency. My scariest OLD experience was a husky who was running at us full speed. I was on roller blades and had my kids plus 3 neighbor kids on skates and bikes (5-9y/o) so I’m trying to protect my dogs and all of these kids by myself. One of the kids alerted me to the dog running toward us and I looked down at my feet and back at the dog trying to guage whether I had time to get the wheels off my feet. I didn’t….,.I fell…I bled. Luckily my VOG was enough to stop the OLD and a nice man driving by took pity on me and got the OLD in his car.

    March 27, 2012
  11. Shelb #

    Fantastic column, as usual–full of good advice and humor. I often encounter OLDs on the wooded trails–thus, no random pickup trucks passing by, usually–and I’m a big fan of creativity!

    March 27, 2012
  12. Rebecca Anastasio #

    I walk with my DINO, Marvin, and my other dog, a large, social, really mellow (but very strong!) American Bulldog appropriately named Sweetums. Twice now when we have encountered OLDs on our quiet country lane, I have put Marvin into a sit behind me and let Sweetums handle the OLDs, once dropping her leash entirely for a very large bullmastiff that came running out of his yard to say howdy. I figured she would either entirely diffuse the situation (which she did), or she could handle herself long enough for me to get Marvin out of the way and tied up. I am hoping this will also help Marvin to watch and learn, or at least see that not ALL strange dogs are out to kill him which seems to be his current belief structure.

    March 27, 2012
  13. DorothyGale #

    I guess I am the only DINOS owner who doesn’t freak out about off leash dogs. Most of the off leash dogs that we encounter are pretty well behaved and go back to their owners when they are called.

    Maybe it’s because we live in the city, but off leash dogs aren’t any worse for us than on leash dogs. Our DINOS barks at them either way. I do a lot of apologizing.

    March 27, 2012
  14. I had an incident recently that came up in the city that was so lengthy I emailed it. In my part of Brooklyn, there are many off leash dogs that are very problematic: you really can’t ever assume an off leash dog is friendly.

    March 27, 2012
    • Thank you so much for your response! :)

      March 27, 2012
      • You’re welcome! I wish I had better advice – this stuff isn’t easy to deal with. Hugs to you and Tia : )

        March 27, 2012
  15. I love the food tossing. I make sure the owner sees it, because obviously it is perfectly okay for dogs to be screamed at, blasted with water, get hit witch keychains but it is completely unacceptable to give food to strange dogs.

    So the next time, the owner spots me, they hurry to leash their dogs to make sure I don’t have the chance to feed them again.

    So that stragegy might not work the fist time you try it on that dog, but chances are good, that the owners will keep their dog away from you bad foodtosser in the future :D

    March 29, 2012
    • The comment I made about not giving food to strange dogs was in conjuction with the dog being walked on leash, by it’s owner. All of the other tips apply to safely avoiding or stopping dogs that are off leash and not under the control of their owners (if their owners are even present) or just plain loose/stray dogs.

      March 29, 2012
  16. Great post. Where do you get the direct stop spray – I’m in Canada – so far I have only found an air horn. I’ve done the face plant and skinned knee along with the drag (my dog is 115 lbs.). I had to grab and pull the back legs of my dog to get him to release the other dog and it worked well – not sure who was more tired! I can definitely relate to all of these accounts.

    March 29, 2012
  17. Ah sweet memory, an owner of two chosen to be scary aggressive dogs didn’t think I stepped stepped out of the way quickly enough on a local footbridge over a river loosed them on me. I did have have 2 throw toys in my pocket from my dog AT home. I bounced 1 toy & threw it over the railing into the river, repeated the process w the 2 nd toy. The scary dogs did not jump in river, they did howl at the railings.

    I did make the mistake of laughing out loud, so the owner beat me with the leashes. As I had ?ruined? His dogs. But I didn’t get bit!

    March 29, 2012
  18. JamesGIRLJones #

    I’ve been practicing my VOG, (I call it getting in touch with my inner James Earle Jones, or for me, my James Girl Jones), and I’ve taken to yelling what I want to say to the owner, but directing it at the dog. Up goes the “traffic cop” hand as I boom out. “Go fuck yourself, dog!” as I take a couple of fast steps toward the dog. Gets the dog to back off and scares the owner, too. Win win!

    April 2, 2012
    • James Girl Jones – amazeballs! Love the name, love the approach.

      April 2, 2012
      • JamesGIRLJones #

        Why, thank you! BTW, I am totally adopting “amazeball” as my new go-to word. I figure if the actions (or lack thereof)onof other owners force me into a situation that I then have to handle, by Dog, I’m going to OWN it! To that end, I have been working on quirky replies to the MDIF battlecry…”My dog is friendly.” Rather than slander my dog’s good name by replying that my dog isn’t friendly just so people will take responsibility for their dog, I’ve been giving responses based on the
        transparent excuses we have all heard, or used!, to get out of other social encounters being forced on her by another. Such
        as:
        “Sorry, he’s got to help me wash my hair”
        “Sorry, his grandma just died.”
        “Can’t stop, I have the runs!”
        “Its not you, its me.”
        “He’s friendly, too, but I am crazy as FUCK!”
        All of these, said in a pleasant, conversational tone as we bulldoze right by

        April 3, 2012
        • I totally appreciate your sense of humor! If you can’t laugh about this, you won’t make it through the hard stuff.

          I bet this would stop some people in their tracks:
          “My Dog has a Sexually Transmitted Disease!”
          If you try it, I wanna know!

          April 3, 2012
  19. Shelb #

    I agree–my dog is not at fault here, and I refuse to make him look like the bad guy. I try to keep my “don’t worry, my dog is friendly!” responses simple–usually, “I’m not.” 8-)

    April 3, 2012
  20. Laura B #

    Great post. I’ll have to keep some of these tips in mind.

    My worst experience was while visiting my dad. I was on his porch (coming back from a walk with my DINOS) when his neighbor’s dog got loose. This dog made a beeline for my DINOS… lunging directly for her throat. Mind you, this dog was about 40 pounds at most, while mine is 65 pounds of muscle.

    Thankfully, my dad was sitting on the porch. He picked my dog up while I grabbed the neighbor’s dog by its hind legs and practically threw it off the porch. The neighbor’s reaction? “Sorry. My son lets him out loose sometimes.” Like it wasn’t a big deal.

    Since then, I make sure I’m alert even when I’m just walking into the house. You never know when a loose dog will intrude into your space.

    April 3, 2012
  21. sick of slackers #

    I usually hike with my two male Nordic large game hunting breeds in the state forest. While it is required that dogs be on leash there, many are not. ( I call it “The Yellow Dog Syndrome” as most of them are yellow Lab type dogs or Golden Retrievers here in “Yuppieville, CT” ) My Elkhound barks a lot at other dogs but is not dog aggressive but my Bear Dog is not at all friendly with other dogs despite countless hours of socialization. I have gotten so sick and tired of having loose dogs come screaming out of control up to mine ( with their owners pleading for the dog to come back and saying such stupid things as “My dog is friendly!!” ) that I have decided to change things up a bit. I usually wear a long hunting knife on my belt, a blaze orange Jahti Jakt gun vest and a Ghengis Khan style fur hat if it’s cold which covers my blue, green and purple hair. Then I tell the owner if their dog makes any kind of aggressive contact with my dogs, I will stop it by whatever means necessary. I now see people grabbing hold of their dogs when they see me on the trails. :-))

    April 14, 2012
  22. So, so helpful. I once hid in a bush with my reactive Mini Schnauzer because a guy with a dopey spaniel on a long lead cornered us. Despite the lunging and barking from my terrified dog, he let out the extender lead so that his dog could get a closer look at the crazy lady in the bush with the out of control little dog and just sneered at me as if I was the one in the wrong. If I’d had a dustbin lid I know what I’d have liked to have done with it….

    I now leave the house seriously tooled up but some great tips here I’ll be adding to my repertoire!

    Thx

    June 4, 2012
  23. I had a client with a sensitive Beagle who cleared an area with off-leash dogs by saying her dog had a contagious disease. It does work!

    July 9, 2012
    • If there an owner nearby to yell that to, it’s always worth a try. It does work some of the time!

      July 9, 2012
  24. Yep, I usually yell “My dog has Rabies!” and people generally start calling their OLDs pretty darned fast after that.

    July 15, 2012
  25. Two OLDs made a run at me with my leashed Pomeranian; the oncoming dogs were big, brown, and it was dusk; I imagined they were pit bulls. I picked up my dog and tried to step up onto a large boulder; my ankle turned, I fell, my pom was thrown several feet away, and the dogs were on top of us. Fortunately, the “pit bulls” of my imagination were in reality chocolate labs who were drooling and wanting to play. I was unable to walk, but I scrambled to my dog, screamed at the labs to go away (which they did, and then I felt guilty for yelling at them). Another dog walker came along and got me home. Saw doctor the next morning and nothing was broken but I had a bad sprain and was on crutches for a week. Not a fun experience!

    July 17, 2012
    • Oh no! That sounds terrible! Irresponsible owners (like the ones that let those Labs chase you) cause us all so much grief. My pit bull, beagle, and I avoid walking in my neighborhood because we’re constantly being chased by unsupervised, loose dogs of all shapes and sizes. It’s just too scary for the three of us! Wishing you safe walks with your Pom : )

      July 17, 2012
      • Stacey #

        I’m in the same situation- feeling unable to walk in my neighboorhood anymore after two unprovoked attacks and many off-leash dogs charging my shy, old, arthritic DINOS. My dogs love walking the neighboorhood and I’m feeling guilty and helpless. How do you deal with not being able to just walk out the door and enjoy a walk?

        July 24, 2012
        • Oh, I feel your Senior DINOS pain. My older dog Birdie has a bad back and it’s not fun for her to get jumped on or chased. I’m lucky enough to have a big back yard now (after many years of city life), so instead of taking walks every day like we used to do, my energetic dog and I play ball and use a flirt pole for daily exercise and fun. We still take walks, but I usually wait until it’s a good time: when everyone is at work, the weather is bad, or when my husband or a friend can come along as a blocker for off leash dogs. I also drive to other blocks or neighborhoods where there are fewer off leash dogs. It seems silly to get in the car to walk your dog, but if it helps make the walk more enjoyable in the end, it’s woth a few minutes in the car every day. It’s not easy, so don’t feel bad!

          July 24, 2012
  26. Just found your blog. This is an exceptional post. I truly wish more rescue groups who utilize volunteers and fosters to walk and exercise dogs did a better job of properly training and preparing their handlers. It also amazes me how few rescue groups (like the pit bull rescue I used to volunteer with, for example) are absolutely clueless about the back-leg grab for breaking up dog fights. I didn’t even learn that until after I left the group and was chatting with a dog trainer/behavior consultant friend.

    Nice job. Many thanks.

    July 22, 2012
  27. Lynn #

    I would have never thought to drop treats to stall an on-leash dog coming up quickly behind us. Brilliant! Thanks :)

    August 10, 2012
    • It’s kind of naughty – the person behind me IS being responsible by walking their dog on leash – so I only do it on very rare occassions when I really need to buy myself a second to get away! I hope it helps you too, if you’re ever stuck in a tight spot : )

      August 10, 2012
  28. Kasey #

    I have very irresponsible neighbors. My dog was attacked by an off leash pitbull, but was only shaken up, not severely injured – though her temperment has never been the same towards large dogs. I am changed, too. I am SO careful that my family sometimes wonders how I manage to walk my dog on a leash in our OLDs filled neighborhood. I always make sure there are two family members with the dog when she is being walked. And I usually try to be one of them.

    Thank you for posting this article. I was wondering if you might write a succinct form letter directed towards dog owners that might be given to them after an encounter/incident. I have a neighbor that does not listen, and WAITS for me to pass by, so that she can let her beautiful large red dog off leash, she claims to be a dog trainer, and reminds me of this everytime she sees me. I have a feeling she is trying to “train” or desensitize my dog, without my permission. I don’t know how to keep this from happening again, and again.

    I have explained to her the pitbull situation, and my dogs tendency to feel threatened. I have even reminded her that it is against the law to walk her dog off leash in our neighborhood. She can do nothing but agree, but is a repeat offender, hellbent on having an encounter. I don’t understand people like this, I have no idea how to deal with them. Please…advise me.

    September 10, 2012
    • I think the best thing to do about folks who don’t care about your safety, nor your dogs’ well-being, nor their own dog’s safety is to just avoid as best you can. Don’t walk by her house. You might even need to walk in a different neighborhood.
      I’m sorry for your troubles.

      September 11, 2012
  29. Rebecca Anastasio #

    OK — here the the worst-case off-leash dog scenario, with it looking like the on-leash dogs will pay the ultimate price for someone else’s carelessness and ignorance. Too damn sad. http://www.change.org/petitions/city-of-austin-tx-stop-the-destruction-of-3-pit-bulls-2-of-which-are-certified-nsar-emotional-support-animals-wrongly-ordered-to-death

    September 30, 2012
  30. Susan #

    Just found your blog and wish I would have found it a long time ago. I have a black lab, Bailey, who walks with me every day. He just turned 3. He is a good socializer, but there is a reason I keep him on leash… safety! We have a little dog who runs out at us every day. We have had words with it’s owner, but that doesn’t seem to do any good. I have never tried the VOG, but will tomorrow! He is such a little monster. I call him “devil dog”. He will follow us down the street, barking at us the whole time. I stopped one day to let them touch noses (my mistake… Bailey wanted to play.. devil dog wanted a piece of him! ) I just end up telling Bailey to “LEAAVE IT!!” and he doesn’t understand why he can’t play. I feel like I am punishing him. OK! Tomorrow’s walk will be telling… I’m going to use my best VOG and a flat hand, palm out and say “NO! Go Home” We’ll see what happens!
    Thanks for your humor and information. What a joy to read!

    October 24, 2013
  31. amanda #

    Thanks so much for this. I walk a small dog who is enthusiastic and a little unruly, he likes to meet other dogs (he never goes off the lead as has little recall) but after a couple of seconds he often snaps or goes for their side or even their neck! I don’t think he is actually going to bite but it freaks me out for sure! I try to read what the other dog is doing, it is mostly larger dogs he has issues with as they can be so boisterous! Basically I feel trapped and so does he, and I have started to actively avoid other dogs (I’m sure this doesn’t help his confidence but I am extra vigilant as he is a customer’s dog in my care! ) I do let him meet nice looking dogs on leads, he is much better then, I just wish people wouldn’t let their dogs ambush us like this!!

    November 8, 2013
  32. jennifer elliott #

    In most neighborhoods your more likely to see the big green waste management trash can then an open car or fence, and if another is running towards you…I hate to say it! THROW YOUR DOG IN THE TRASH…I know its dirty, it will be funny later, but its a pretty safe place!! The dogs wont be able to see each other and no eye contact is less of a threat. The other dog just might stop running and have the old “which way did he go George?” look, get bored feel not so threatened anymore, and leave. Throwing your dog in the trash is only in cases of emergency and with supervision!

    February 13, 2014
  33. hornrims #

    I keep hearing people with off leash dogs telling me that a leashed dog is more aggressive and I should just drop the leash if we encounter a loose dog. I’ve never done this, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this about my reactive dog — that she’s reactive because she feels ‘trapped’ on-leash. Have you heard this? Any thoughts? I’d love to know what you’re experience has been.

    April 21, 2014
    • Dogs display reactive behaviors for a lot of different reasons – excitement, frustration, aggression, fear, etc. Dropping the leash isn’t necessarily going to change anything for some dogs.

      It’s worth noting that many dogs will never be ok with having a loose dog approach them – they just don’t want a strange dog in their space.

      Dropping the leash isn’t always helpful and for many of us, it’s a last resort.

      But dropping the leash – if your dog is reliably social with other dogs, not aggressive, and has an excellent recall – can sometimes be an appropriate choice when approached by a loose, friendly dog that you can’t move away from.

      Here’s a video about that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51ohcISwQJ4

      Hope that helps!

      April 22, 2014

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